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Wanted, 2008 – Review

Posted by LiveFor on July 16, 2008

Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman
Running Time: 110 minutes

Score: 9/10

Another great review from Steven.
A flawed, but beautifully orchestrated assault on the senses. A fantastic summer action flick, and nothing less of what I’d expect from Timur.
Wanted, based off of a graphic novel along the lines of Sin City and V for Vendetta, is the tale of Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), and his introduction to the mythical, secretive and ancient assassins’ guild, The Fraternity. Wesley is hilariously introduced as a nobody, with an out of body, auto-narrator guiding the story, somewhat akin to the show Scrubs. From there the film picks up running and doesn’t let up until the final bullet finds its resting place.
Wanted is directed by the masterful Timur Bekmambetov, the Kazakh filmmaker behind the Neo-Vampire Russian language films Night Watch, and Day Watch. People will at once compare this to Fight Club and The Matrix films. However Wanted is much more akin to Bekmambetov’s previous work that expands and borrows from the aforementioned films. Think of Wanted not as a blatant rip-off of these films, but an evolution. Bullets curve, wax heals all wounds, and the ultimate weapon is a vat of peanut butter mixed with gasoline. Wanted uses every trick in the action film checklist, and turns these elements up to 11. Sex Appeal, check, Car Chases, check, Extremely High body count, check, Double Crosses, check, gallons of blood, check, an unlikely “hero”, check.
Wanted is ripe with all of these and more, the story is nothing what it seems, and you simply need to wait till the end to the satisfying conclusion which contains, an infamous line, to see how it all goes down. It’s a bloody, adrenaline pumping, sickly funny, and blood curdling romp down a lane less treaded in cinema today, and frankly its the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since Hot Fuzz last year.
Discuss in the forum.

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No Country for Old Men, 2008 – Review

Posted by LiveFor on July 15, 2008

Director: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
Running Time: 122 minutes

Here is another great review from Steven.

Let me start by saying that No Country for Old Men is not your typical movie. It is not your typical thriller and it’s not your typical plot setup. Nothing can prepare you for its onslaught of biting reality, in a world where people do get fucked over by the bad guy, in a world where nothing is sacred. It’s a vast, reaching masterpiece by the acclaimed Coen Brothers, (Fargo, The Big Lebowski), and it is by far not only their most mature work, but it will be their masterpiece for all other films to look up to and aspire on all paradigms. Not only on the dramatic level, but No Country breaks ground in cinematography, characterization, sound and storytelling. You have never seen a film quite like it, and you probably never will until you take the plunge into No Country for Old Men.

No Country for Old Men is the twelfth effort from Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and Barton Fink. They’ve adapted the novel by the same name into a film that breaks all boundaries. If you’ve read the book you’ll be happy to hear that it follows almost to the letter, exactly what occurs within. The first thing that No Country does right is that it’s a faithful adaptation, something several films strive for.

The movie is about Llewelyn Moss, Sherriff Ed Tom Bell, and Anton Chigurh, three characters with different agendas, who are all after something different. The film starts with Llewelyn, a Texan Vietnam vet who lives his life like any Texan does. It begins with him finding a stockpile of cash from a heroin deal gone wrong. He takes the cash and runs, with Anton Chigurh a hired hitman from hell, crawls out and seeks to take what is rightfully his. Ed Tom Bell is the catch-up, he attempts to figure everything out before it’s far too late.

The movie isn’t about what happens, it’s about why it happens, it’s about things deeper than the surface. In order to enjoy this movie you need to dig deeper than the surface of things and think about why which characters made the wrong and right decisions. It’s not something you can simply follow casually and hope to understand, it’s a beast that challenges you as much as the on screen characters, and if you do, you will be rewarded for a message deeper than the general populace can comprehend. It’s expertly written and shot, it’s why it won the Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay at this years Academy Awards.

The camerawork is superb, providing sweeping, gritty brutal shots of the American south-west in the 1980’s. There is very little music in this film, only about 12 minutes total for the 122 Minute run time, but what’s here is sound. Not “Bang” “Kazam!” but sounds like you would hear in the situation. A gunshot is heard shuddering throughout the neighborhoods, boots clod, metal clangs, and wood breaks with a nice crisp. The sound may seem like something that shouldn’t be given such a priority, but it helps build the tension and suspense that’s required for a story such as this.

Josh Brolin does a faithful job with Llewelyn, playing the American everyman who makes the choices that you might make given the circumstances. Tommy Lee Jones is a natural fit for Ed Tom Bell, and he does it with gusto. Sorry, but the real star of the show is Javier Bardem in his now iconic role as one of the most intimidating, ruthless, and now infamously parodied Movie Villains of All Time, Anton Chigurh. Anton is meant to be a figure for Death incarnate, his tone of voice, to the way he walks exhudes darkness. He is a sociopath that only believes in fate, and decides on the flip of a coin. His performance as Anton nailed him the first Acting Oscar given to someone from Spain, and with good reason. He is simply terrifying, everytime he appears you fear for your life, as well as the innocent animals, women, children, men and gods that are present in the room. He has a creed, but one that doesn’t allow him to kill on the level of other gung-ho icons of the past. He has a method; he uses it, and lives it to the finest degree.

Overall, No Country for Old Men is a stunning, visceral masterpiece, and if you don’t enjoy it than you may not be mature enough to embrace the world for what it is, because this should be the way films are made.

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There Will Be Blood, 2007 – DVD Review

Posted by LiveFor on July 13, 2008

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Martin Stringer
Running Time: 158 Minutes

Score: 9/10

Here’s another review. This one sent in by Steven (Could you let me know where in the World you are?). I’ve still got to watch this one. I can’t wait. On with the Review.

An awe inspiring epic from the mind of Paul Thomas Anderson, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

For the longest time I’ve wondered about There Will Be Blood. Ever since It garnered 8 Academy Award Nominations, and lost a majority of them to No Country for Old Men, (A film which I hold dear to my heart) I became curious. I wanted to see this elusive film. Unfortunately I missed all of the screenings locally, so I had to wait till it came out on DVD. Unfortunately, when it did, I was knee deep in my own performances that I didn’t have time to search for it. 7 Months have passed since the movie came out in theatres, and finally I’ve been able to thoroughly view Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterful film, and I can finally say that it lives up to most of the hype. Most of it anyway.

There Will Be Blood follows the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an aspiring oil tycoon. It demonstrates his rise to power, and his penultimate destiny as a sinner. The film has a vast scope in that it doesn’t hold a particular biasedness on any of it’s characters. Daniel, his son, his brother Henry, and Eli Sunday (a wonderful Paul Dano) are all held accountable for their actions, and while the story may favor Daniel, it ultimately lets you make up your own mind about what sort of person you think he is. The general perception is that he is nothing but a greedy, but wise con and that he deserves to die alone. However some people have connected with Daniel, and realize that he is only misunderstood. This is the power of Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing, he is fully aware of how his characters are terrible, terrible people, but he casts them in no sort of shadow that would make you believe. It doesn’t force it upon you like a typical film sets up a “Good vs. Bad” scenario. It’s the strong characters that help reaffirm this decision. I’ll get right down to it. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in this film is the best performance by a lead actor that I have seen out of the past few decades. There are few actors that can truly become another person like Daniel can. He truly is a greedy son of a bitch, and the entire film is his playground. He lies, cheats, backstabs to get his way, and its done in a fantastically cynical way. He knows what he’s doing is terrible, but he doesn’t care who stands in his way. He has no regard for anyone in his plans, and they are only pawns to assist him to get what he wants. Even if the film doesn’t appeal to you, I urge you to see There Will Be Blood if only for Day-Lewis’ performance. The Oscar was well deserved.

Paul Dano (of Little Miss Sunshine fame) also takes a surprising, but notable turn as Eli Sunday, the false prophet/healer that sells Daniel the initial plot of land that begins the film. He is fully confident in his abilities to spread the gospel of his church, and attempts to help Daniel in a daunting scene. Dano manages to hold his own against the powerful Day-Lews, and gives a good performance.

The music is also fantastic, almost eerily, juxtaposing every grim and dark image with a beautiful exposition of orchestration. It works to great effect, as it builds tension, and gives the entire film this eerie, “You know how this is going to end” tone. The music helps build all the way to the films ending, which most people find terrible and ill fitting for the character, I find it a sweeping end to the saga of Daniel Plainview.

The film isn’t perfect however. There are quite a few filler scenes with Daniel simply speaking and toying with certain characters. However this doesn’t detract majorly from the film, I feel that some of these scenes could have been cut to help brisk the pace of the nearly 3 hour film. All of these scenes serve to draw Plainview out more, which is absolutely necessary, but a few of them tend to drag. I feel they could have shortened it to a brisk 2 hours, which would not only gain more viewers, but it would reach a wider audience.

Overall, this film is a great example of Modern American Filmmaking at its finest. It ranks up there with No Country for Old Men, The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and 3:10 to Yuma, as a return to the great western genre that we seem to be looking towards again.

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