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Bottle Rocket (1996)
The simplest complex film I've ever watched
But that's a good thing. I actually had to record this to watch it because I wasn't "available" for TV at the time. Now, I'm happy that I did so. I love this film!
I don't know why this tanked so badly at the box office. If you think about it as you watch it, it's very interesting. Of course, many people at the time had probably only heard the names of the actors in the film for the first time, with the exception of James Caan, so it may not have been a star attractor. Maybe that explains it? All I know is that I wanted to watch this again after the first view because it was that good.
Dignan, played by Owen Wilson, is now a film icon for me. His name is not only the coolest name ever, but it alone spells out his dignity, passion, and aggressive will to hang on whatever he can get. Even though Anthony (Luke Wilson) makes a good main character, the film focuses on Dignan, for his actions motivate the other characters and keep the film going. Wilson's performance of this character was probably at his best and it is one of those very rare acts where the actor doesn't become the character, but actually is the character.
As I said, it is the simplest complex films I've ever watched because the scenes are rather mellow and easy, not emotional and touching like most friendship comedy-drama films, but they still leave the audience with feelings. That's why the script is brilliant. It spares intensity from the screen and lets the audience find it for each person itself. It's very hard to achieve that, but Wes Anderson and Wilson do so.
Each character is so well formed. Like Anderson's other movie, The Royal Tenenbaums, you can see the essence of each character just from their appearance, voice, and movement. Only for this one, I cannot quite describe how. The only way to know what I'm talking about is to actually see these characters for yourself.
Almost like a Shakespearean play, every character shown plays a role. Even those who seem minor have an important part, so their appearances aren't wasted. An example is Grace (Shea Fowler), Anthony's caring but cynical kid sister who is deeply disappointed at her brother's chosen destination in life. At first, Anthony's happy to see her, to see that someone understands and knows him like the person he really is. But he sees that, over time, Grace has become unlike that, that her childish deceit has come in the way. She becomes a hard spot in Anthony's life and mind, which becomes resolved for a time by Inez (Lumi Cavalos).
This may be a mere cult hit now, but I have a feeling that it will become something bigger in the future. It's become one of my favorite films and it has a special place in my mind. It's a landmark in comedy-drama and much more. Well done, Anderson.
Great film, but cover your eyes!
And I mean it. Over 2/3 of this movie is infested with blood, guns, and torture. It is obviously meant to emphasize chaos, but still, ugh! Even so, it works through it. "Akira" is probably one of the most mind-provoking films I've ever watched. No matter how profane, shocking, or disastrous the society of the setting is, the ending is godly and relieving, one of the best endings ever.
It being a manga film, a type that I normally don't like, I expected an awful plot, stupid language, and bad quality. However, when I heard how great everybody kept saying it was, I decided to give it a try, and man, was I unprepared, for the violence and awe both. It left me with wide eyes, literally, and that's rare for me.
For you manga-lovers out there, I don't even have to tell you this, but the graphics and animation are great! The features of each characters look so real and expressive, and instead of having the characters' jaws move only up and down like most manga, the characters actually talk! Their lips move like they're talking, not clapping together like when you eat with your mouth open. Now, that's very typical for modern animation, but honestly, I was still impressed.
The themes and symbols of morals were very well-represented and unique, something hard to accomplish for even live-action films. The ending is probably the best. A little child's last words of wisdom stay with you even after the end as they foreshadow the outcome of the city of Neo-Tokyo. After almost 2 hours of horror and profanity, there's finally a moment of beautiful silence and peace as the only 4 surviving characters walk through the ruins.
Overall, it's just such a great film and it keeps you awake throughout the whole thing. So, if you're the action fan, just sit and enjoy this movie and remember one thing: don't let the kids in.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Beautiful, just beautiful
This is one of the most beautiful films I've ever watched. It might as well be a favorite. Wes Anderson is such a talented director with a brilliance that not many people realize. The acting, the cinematography, the formation of the characters and story, they're all so perfect. There's just one word to describe these - beautiful.
I can't remember who, but someone I met before said the characters were lifeless and "dead." I disagree. The Tenenbaums are some of the best illustrated people I've ever met. You can tell who they are just by looking at their appearances and/or movements. Margot is probably the best example. Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't just give her a beautiful face, but also incorporates her movements with such a poetic grace that makes her who she is. It was a good choice to make her a playwright, having a style like this. Her casual hair and furcoat with the simple '70s dress underneath shows the maiden Richie fell in love with. Around her husband, Raleigh, her face is depressing and melancholy, but around Richie, she is a graceful goddess. The definition of a natural American beauty, she is. (pardon the Yoda tone.)
Richie is probably the one I most liked. Luke Wilson plays him with a soft but not shy voice with plain expressions and casual eyes. His somewhat scrunched walking position shows that he's not okay, all that the audience needs to know. From the moment we see him, as child or adult, we can sense that he is special and important to the movie's story. He becomes a special connection between several members, including Royal, Eli, and Margot.
Luke Wilson's vulnerable character just lost a competition of his career because of Margot and throughout the movie, he fights one with life, and almost loses that too, because of Margot. But she helps him at the end and he stands back up. Their affection towards each other marks a centerpiece in this movie.
Though you may sympathize him a lot, I actually found myself pitying Chas the most. The only Tenenbaum offspring to have children, he tries to be a strong father for his two sons, Uzi and Ari, an effort that goes in vain. While he tries really hard to hide the mind weakness that results from the hurt and grief of the tragic accident that killed his wife, he can't help but show it. Symbols are his two sons and their beagle Buckley, who survived the crash. His mind weakness is finally gotten rid of when Buckley dies yet at another accident, replaced by a fireman's Dalmatian, symbolizing the hero that Chas will be in the future.
Eli Cash, the boy next door who grew very close to the Tenenbaums, does so in a not-so-good result. Like all three Tenenbaum children, he becomes successful, but as a drug addict and holder of an uncontrollable mind. His cowboy attire shows his wildness, and throughout the movie he proves himself more than that. His desire to be a Tenenbaum only becomes a thorn at his side and it proves him unreliable and uncontrollable. He finally gets help at the end, and although his ending is inconclusive, the scene with him at the drug rehab leaves a good feeling in the viewer's mind.
The Tenenbaums live in New York, the high class city of today along with the highest jobs and highest dreams, all which the Tenenbaums have. Anderson's choice to put no buildings give a traditional view, to make the Tenenbaums seem simpler then they really are, an action that actually is a good choice for the film. Overall, it gives a sense of modern elegance to the family, a position of aristocracy and nobility that they all live in: the royal Tenenbaums, American nobles.
Overall, this film is not a bad sight for the eyes, literally. Films that reach this achievement are rare, and it easily could have won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (but not Best Picture, sorry) and I praise writers Anderson and Owen Wilson for that. Once again, I repeat: Wes Anderson has created a work of art. Well done, Anderson.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Satanically and creepily well-made
When I just heard the lullaby theme in the title, I freaked out. That theme alone was one of the freakiest thing I'd ever heard. Yet, I didn't know what was to come; the la-la-la was just the starting of it. I ended up watching the best horror film I'd ever seen in my life. Before that, my fav horror film was "Jaws." No offense to Steven Spielburg, but not even that could top this masterpiece.
I was already familiar with Roman Polanski's work before, so I knew what to expect. I was wrong about expecting a good movie. "Rosemary's Baby" is so much more than that. Polanski really made every scene right and good-paced so that we'd still be at the edge of our seats to the end.
Mia Farrow was the perfect actress for the film's brave and young-motherly protagonist. She kept Rosemary's emotions and thoughts right on her face so we know what she's thinking at all times and we can actually join her emotionally in her desperate fight to save her baby from the coven. No one else could have done so.
The ending is probably one of the best climax ever filmed in history, somewhere right below "Taxi Driver." I think they made a good choice not showing the baby. Rosemary's reaction alone was enough to show that something was wrong with it. Had they shown it, all our shock would have spilled out no matter how freaky it looked and the film's macabre-less suspense would have been ruined.
The shock still continues to the very end, when Rosemary decides to accept her Antichrist son. She wanted this baby her whole life and she's going to love it, even if it's the son of Satan. Everyone would gasp at this and think that surely she doesn't know what she's doing, but she does. And this makes the film's theme be not about religion or good and evil at all, but just that a true mother's love must reach beyond all obstacles, even a relation to evil itself.
Shanghai Noon (2000)
Good movie with great acting but still lacks that thing that makes it memorable
Truth be told, I was expecting an incredibly dumb gay western film. But once I saw it, I was surprised at its good story structure and theme.
Though I'm not a regular Jackie Chan fan, I actually enjoyed watching the guy in the film. Honestly, I don't know one bit about him, just that he's famous for doing martial arts films, and this is actually just the second film I've ever seen with him in it. And I've gotta say - not bad.
And Owen Wilson was the perfect actor for his part. I mean seriously, nobody else could fit the role. He's not the best actor in the whole world, but he certainly took the right turn. He's got the looks, the attitude, the moves, the voice, and even the right hair. His character, Roy O'Bannon (a.k.a. Wyatt Earp) is a cool cowboy, robber, and gunman who's all wild west but still a bit wimpy for his taste. He is shown as ambitious and talented (in being a cowboy) but not hard or serious and thoroughly a slight disappointment to his land, like Chon Wang (Chan). Wilson was able to put both the toughy and the whiny in him in all the right parts and situations. He was even able to show the dynamic change O'Bannon went through at the end. He went from coward to hero without a flaw and still managed to be humorous.
What I didn't like most of all was that they put background rock music in an 1881 setting. Sure, it didn't change the film much and the audience needed at least some connection with the modern world, but Wilson was already taking care of that. They at least could have taken out that "Cowboy" song, which is now stuck in my head, by the way!
This sounds like a great movie, but as my title suggests, it's missing something. I don't know what it is. Perhaps it was the script, which was actually OK. The film somehow lacks that awe and "wow" that makes a movie memorable. Maybe it's just me, but that's the best I can verify it. Something's missing.
Overall, it's an enjoyable film with great structure and form with a great theme. I hope you enjoy it. I sure did. I'm gonna try watching Shanghai Knights now, it's really got me wondering what happens to our characters.
The Haunting (1999)
Tried to take it far but didn't
This movie wasn't necessarily scary, but it was mysterious and freaky, I'll give it that. The set designs were great; they really gave the spooky haunted house feeling. The artistry of the multiple statues in the house was good, too. The cinematography was OK; the lighting kind of weakened it. And the acting was good. They weren't the best, but, fairly talented.
However, it was disappointing. The script was, I guess, OK, but the rest - the story, the children's tale, the drama - were all things to frown at. A few of the actions there were really unnecessary, some of the elements of the house that "welcomed" protagonist Eleanor (Lili Taylor), I could see was sort of copied from Rosemary's Baby, as I said - were unnecessary. I think they were put there to make intense moments in the film or "take it far," But as my title suggests, they just couldn't.
Let me state some examples (if some of these were in the book, I can understand why they were there. If not, then I cannot). Near the end, an enraged Luke (Owen Wilson) suddenly went mad, tearing away at Hugh Crane's portrait with a candlestick and then raving away that they should burn the house down, thus angering the spirit of Hugh Crane. This gets him killed. First of all, I don't think they should have gotten him killed. Luke was just a "fellow insomniac," as he likes to quote so much, with opinions and reputations no worse nor better than any of the other characters in there. He had no reason to die. It wasn't going to alter the film so much, nor was it going to teach anything, and it wasn't going to make it better or more intense. In fact, it just made it worse. I was thinking, "whoa, why'd he just do that?" Even so, if he really had to die, then he could've done it in a better way, instead of that random, suddenly-going-mad drama (that was very unlike him) that he broke into. The part where the carpet drags him to the fireplace and he is smashed (or gorged) by that chimney opening thing was scary, but honestly, if the film went like it was supposed too, it wouldn't have to have been there.
And especially so, what was the conflict between Hugh Crane and Nell? At one point she says that he wants her, then later it's revealed that she is one of his great-great granddaughters, indicating the obvious fact that Crane won't let her go like he didn't let his other "children" go. But sooner or later (or the middle of that), Nell sees herself pregnant in the spinning room illusions. Now what? He wants incest with her too? Even if that pregnant thing has got nothing to do with Hugh Crane or her, it's too random. Why'd they put it in there? And if it's not random, that some of the hidden facts in there set if off, then I demand an explanation telling exactly why.
Overall, I would have enjoyed this film if it didn't have such excess intensity. Anybody else would have. I wish I'd seen the original film based on the book (which I haven't read yet). It sure would be nice to watch as a light fantasy-suspense entertainment, but don't expect too much out of it.
Heat Vision and Jack (1999)
Kind of stupid, but insightful and funny
The first word I thought about after watching this was "ugh." No offense to Ben Stiller, who I actually like, but I've got to say, it could have a LOT better.
First of all, the villain was a little out of control. It had a stereotyped "robotic" tone to it. I could see why he called humans "monkey-sluts," but why and how would an alien even know the name of a strip club? And honestly, Jack Austin (Jack Black) could have figured out a better way to escape jail. If he had a doggy whistle with him all along, gosh, it doesn't need a super-sized brain (or the sun to power it) to use it in the first place.
But I must say, it had some very creative insights. Heat Vision's (Owen Wilson) opinion about a round universe was widely in-depth. Whoever this Doug was, he mustn't have been such a dummy after all. And Jack's connection to the sun with his rival-like urgings and speakings is totally out there. And Ben Stiller has more to show.
Still, my first reaction to it was "stupid." Plus, I'm not quite sure if I like the idea of a motorcycle that both swears AND gets turned on by women. It was pretty funny, I'll give it that. But the only reason to watch this and actually enjoy it, I think, would have to be if you're really, really, really, bored and in desperate need of an action film.
Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
Fast-paced and intense, but ...
... badly made. Now, I've read how harshly people criticize this film for its unrealistic scenes and bad soundtrack, so I don't want to go jumping too far.
I've got to say, I remember watching this wide-eyed, which is very rare for me to do. I actually even remember muttering "he's really done it" when Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) parachuted by the demolished angel statue, which was very strong symbolism, by the way. The part where he fooled the hunter by putting a glove on the machine (whatever it was called) and came rushing out of the snow shooting in fury made my mouth open. I was really impressed with the scene where Burnett hid himself in the grave pit under the corpse to evade the Serbians (or Croatians? Can't remember). Everyone on his team knows where he is. They can see that the gunmen are passing by him when he is clearly under their feet. But even they don't know quite if he's alive or not. Nothing is sure until the sigh of relief when he appears alive under the dead man. It's shocking and relieving at the same time.
Not to mention, this is the first drama I've ever seen Owen Wilson do. I never really took him seriously as an actor, but after watching "Cars," I was interested. Watching this, I noticed that he's good at making expressions. He knows when to look angry, when to look unsure, when to look smitten, and when to look cool. He's actually quite good at drama. Wonder why he stopped, hmm.
However, this film could have been equal to "Platoon" had it had a better script and cinematography. I didn't mind the camera shaking so much, but honestly, the monotonous and unchanging lighting kind of made the situations and moods in the film less enjoyable. And the script! The script was really what made it a disappointment. It went too fast and it was just ... unmoving. It's as if they tried to make this so clear that they just spilled it all out so there's nothing left to think about.
And ugh, the soundtrack! They played heavy metal rock at all the wrong moments (as if they're were any other type of music.)
Overall, this film was very entertaining and action-packed. If only the script was a lot better ...
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Okay, I guess I should know the "Starsky and Hutch" 70's show to truly understand this movie. But judging by my thoughts, the film was a little, well, disappointing.
Sure, it was funny and there were some jaw-dropping moments, but I expected more. Sure, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are meant to tickle some funny bones, and sure, it's a buddy-cops action film. I love to be entertained by comedy and action, but I still expected more.
When I say "more," I mean more form. The film just kind of rocked back and forth instead of really developing. Once you see an action sequence, you expect something to "resolve" or calm that sequence, but no, instead it's another action sequence. It goes on and on until one stops for a disco dance battle or a three-way kiss. See what I mean? So basically, all this film is missing is better form to get the film going.
However, just for laughs, one thing to praise this movie for is Wilson's effort in his Korean (in the Russian Roulette scene). Of course, he only says 3 or 4 lines, but they're pretty accurate. Now, I don't know the language well myself, but compared to most other people who try, his dictions actually sound clear.
Bottle Rocket (1993)
Wilson brothers are great
This short was great. It's actually the first and only Wes Anderson work I'd seen, so I didn't know what to expect. But it was surprisingly well-made. Obviously not the best, but for a low budget screening, the cinematography was good, the dialogue was pretty good, and especially the main actors were good. Sure, they weren't Humphrey Bogart or Robert De Niro, but I thought they did great for first timers. Honestly, I was surprised that it was their first time. Of course, I did have an admiration for Owen Wilson before.
Overall, this short was better that I expected. I know Anderson's work now and I know the writer side of Owen Wilson. I'll see even more when I see the feature length version - this film made me want to see it.
Cars and society
I had never really watched (or in this case, heard) Owen Wilson before, so up until recently when I saw this film, I didn't think much of him, just a "dumb blonde" (in a man way). Needless to say, this film changed my mind.
But what I really saw as interesting I don't think most people saw as interesting. The film was implying something about our society, which is probably what makes me like it so much. And it's all got to do with the object of the title: cars.
Cars surround us. They're displayed in TV ads, mag ads, Internet ads, and public. We love them for their speed, style, and power - everything that hotshot racecar rookie Lightning McQueen (Wilson) has, which is why he makes such a good symbol as a pop icon and the "hottest new thing." In our society, we're into the "hottest" things, like celebrities, music, action films, iPods, and, well, cars. We can't love these things enough. It's like a jungle of these that we live in, so full and thick that we can't turn without having to see these things.
This jungle may be, in fact, too big. It's so full and thick that we can get lost in there. "Cars" is implying that we have to watch our way in order to not get lost from the things that truly matter: family, friendship, and love. Lightning finds these things in Radiator Springs, which symbolizes all those. The cars there may be slow and a little "rusty" around the edges (all over the edges literally for Mater, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), but as Doc Hudson (Paul Newman)says, "they're good people." The fact that the town is forgotten and off the map implies that in that society, love itself is forgotten. But the fact that the citizens still remain there, faithful to the cozy city, shows that it's not lost, and can get back on the map, which it does.
The first time I heard about this film was in the Parade magazine - when they were reporting that Paul Newman was to lend his voice to it. Despite the fact that I loved Pixar, I was thinking "oh no." It was to be their seventh film and, well ... I thought they could do a bit better than talking cars (they didn't put that in the magazine, but what else can it be about?).
In fact, I was still thinking that in the theater. The beginning was even starting to kind of tire. I was thinking "oh man, why'd I come here?" But that was immediately erased. Like all Pixar films, the graphics were eye-popping, the jokes were comical, the dialogue was great, and the characters stood out. Lightning McQueen was already gaining my interest as the first Pixar protagonist whom you just want to slap on the face. Paul Newman brought that usual acting talent that we expect in him all the time. When I got out of the theater, I was mainly thinking "wow" and "that was great!"
I know that this game is not as popular as most other games such as "The Sims," "Final Fantasy," or "Halo," but it's got my liking. I've played 7 out of all the Nancy Drew games and so far, this one is definitely my favorite! Nancy Drew is staying at a Middle Age mansion to find out the reason behind the strange happenings of the lady-of-the-house. Like the books, it's filled with puzzles, games, mysteries, suspicions, and not one, or two, but three secret passageways! The characters, though they don't look it, are very real with their dialogue. It's also got superb animation and realistic CGI artwork. Trust me, even if you don't like the book, you'll love this game.
Taxi Driver (1976)
This is one of those few films in which the word "masterpiece" can apply to. I read the screenplay and watched the film just last year and already it is my ultimate favorite. It's not just a landmark in filmdom, it's dark art that you can't help but marvel at. Martin Scorsese did a marvelous job. Ever since I watched this film, I completely idolized him.
You could say that it is one of a kind, or maybe first of a kind. It's not the typical drama, it's not a traditional film noir, nor an actual suspense, or even truly a crime drama. Yet it holds all those genres. It takes a bit of everything to create an existentialist themed genre of its own - it's the origin of its own kind.
About the plot, the situation in the beginning is quite simple but not bland. Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) is a marine veteran who just came back from Vietnam and is dealing with insomnia. He takes the job as a cabbie to at least be doing something in the night, and eventually, that's what he becomes, an animal lurking in the dark. Other than his few cabbie friends, he grows lonely and finally gets a chance to have a real friendship with Betsy (Cybill Shephard), a campaign worker, but drives her away after taking her to a porn film. Once that happens, Travis becomes even more isolated and the mentality and restlessness of his mind starts and the intensity that makes this film a masterpiece begins. It ends with destruction and shots of the heroic turmoils of the great urban martyr.
It's a very hard film to understand. I admit, I was somewhat bewildered at the end, too, and I still am. Even so, I was left with great feeling for the film, that sense of shock mixed with awe and provocation. That's why I love this film - it makes you feel. If not enjoy or think like a movie is preferably "supposed to have," everything about it makes you feel something, whether it be amusement, bewilderment, anger, or shock. The lighting, the transitions, the quotes, the movements - the brilliant parts, like the acting and the music - they all make you feel. It's like a contemporary film noir, only in color.
Speaking of acting, Jodie Foster did so well playing the presumptuous but not yet grown up hooker Iris. She didn't go for the stereotype, like even adult actors tend to do. She didn't just choose the dirty, street-toughened whore type as one would see prostitutes like. She played what she was - a little girl. She visualized the purity and special quality that makes her character stand out to Travis from the gutter city she lives in. She did so well in achieving this that she not only got nominated an Oscar, but also captured the interest of a real life madman. You can't go much further than that.
And of course, Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle. I may idolize Martin Scorsese, but I absolutely worship this actor. All those critical praises about his performance in this film: the brilliance, the realism, the depth - they're not even close. The name "Travis Bickle," is like a second name for him because he portrays his nature so well. It fits with the isolationist mood of the film. It's so real that it seems like he's the only character there. Nobody can say "You talking' to me," in a righter way. In my mind, he is not just the legendary actor Robert De Niro - he is Travis.
And the music is absolutely brilliant. The last works of Bernard Hermann (God bless him) have mixed moods. The main theme is soothing and jazzy but also deep and full of character and the other title theme is so chilling and ominous, though not in a horror or suspenseful way. It doesn't just add beauty to the film, it rises its character and flows with the plot. The movie simply would not be itself without the music.
Also starring Harvey Keitel as Iris's pimp and Leonard Harris as senator Charles Palantine, the film just flows like one great wave; small at first, then ascends greater and greater, until the big splash of rash destruction at the end.