Tag Archives: Romance

Review of Natural Born Killers (1994)

16 May

Natural Born Killers (1994) is a thriller/crime/comedy movie, which follows a couple on a killing spree and it’s portrayal in media.

Directed by Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)).

Written by Oliver Stone (Scarface (1983), Alexander (2004)), David Veloz (Permanent Midnight (1998), Behind Enemy Lines (2001)), Richard Rutowski and story by Quentin Tarantino (True Romance (1993), Reservoir Dogs (1992)).

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., O-Lan Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield and others.

From the first frames you understand that this won’t be a conventional movie. I thought „Hey, this has a cool Tarantino-esque vibe to it”, but soon I realised that this is too crazy even for Tarantino, who originally wrote the script, but it was re-written so much he is only credited as the author of the story. Not that Tarantino wouldn’t make this movie, he unsuccessfully tried, but this is not the way he would have made it.

It constantly changes the visual styles, basically using every kind of filter, film stock, digital video format and lens Oliver Stone could get his hands on. If you had asked me before if that sounds like something good, I’d say „well, it might look interesting for 15 minutes, but then it would get self-indulgent and tiring”, but the fact is, it doesn’t. It is fascinating. At first I was a bit confused, especially when it first did this thing, where a dialogue is delivered and then repeated in black & white from different angle and slightly different delivery. When you realize what Stone does there, it’s pretty awesome. It must have been so fun for him to just go crazy and try whatever he wants.

The grotesque visuals also make the violence seem both more disturbing and kind of mesmerizing. So if you like Tarantino’s aesthetics of violence, this is somewhere along those lines. The whole thing feels like watching a really good movie during a bad acid trip.

Woody Harrelson is bad ass in this, a great performance. I have been always not sure about Juliette Lewis, I’ve always seen her as sort of annoyingly eccentric, yet undoubtedly talented. This movie was it, she is one of the greatest actresses of… this generation? I’ve never understood what generation is this and what’s the last generation. So, she’s really good and I can’t believe she’s only 21 in this. No one can pull off this combination of repulsive, sexy and batshit insane, like she does here. She and Harrelson is just perfect as this very stylised 90’s version of Bonnie and Clyde.

Robert Downey Jr. is in this as like an Australian TV reporter with a mullet. Yes, there was a time when he didn’t play billionaire playboys, except for Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin. Tarantino’s script was focusing on this character and although I could see it working, I think it is better this way as we actually follow these serial killers.

And the movie actually has a message. Stone’s tendency to hit the viewer over the head with it actually works to this movie’s benefit. A message that in this age of internet is even more current than back then. Now we idolize every fucking new thing and I don’t think it would be all that surprising if there appeared a movement all about some serial killer. Take the TV show Dexter, if news got out that there is in real-life a guy who kills only criminals, people would go crazy over him, he’d be the second coming of Jesus fucking Christ all over the faces of those who suck on the glorious dick of mass media. That’s right. We’re there, people.

Overall, an excellent and bold movie from a time when Oliver Stone still madecool movies and it’s one of those movies that makes 90’s seem a lot cooler than they actually were. Definitely recommended.

Pictured: 1990’s, when red fishnet shirts were cool… no, wait, I can’t say that. Fishnet shirts were never cool. Although, Woody does rock this one.

Review of The 39 Steps (1935)

5 May

The 39 Steps (1935) is a British mystery/thriller/romance film based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy (1972), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)).

Written by Charles Bennett (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)).

Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft, Godfrey Tearle, John Laurie Frank Cellier and others.

Here’s an early Hitchcock classic, with the familiar theme of an innocent man on the run.

Our hero is a Canadian man, who displays neither a Canadian accent or exceptional hockey skills, but other than that he is very happy-go-lucky type of guy, quite kind, jokes a lot, is totally unsuspicious and stays calm even after a woman is stabbed during the night in his apartment. This is kind of odd, since the stabbers leave after killing the woman. They probably got out of the house and were like „Oh, shit, we forgot to kill the guy! I swear, we’d forget our heads if they weren’t attached to our necks. Oh well, let’s just wait for him on the street, he’ll walk right out of there after he finds the chick with a knife in her back.”

Of course he knows he has to bail and we get a cool transition from a screaming woman, who finds the girl’s body to a train blowing it’s horn. The guy is now on train and the police gets on that train. He escapes and goes to some crofter’s house and the police find him, sure, it’s interesting that they are able to find him this quickly all the time, but even more amazing is the fact that characters keep reading about the developments of this investigation in the newspapers. Multiple times, even during one day. In 1930’s newspapers knew how to work, no wonder now printed press is dying.

Some negative aspects creep up here and there. There’s some sped-up shots during a foot chase, which look just cheesy. We also have the age-old „saved from a bullet by a book” trick, which was even getting old by the 1930’s. It’s not exactly a smart movie, but it is fast-paced and entertaining one and we still this kind of action romances today pretty often.

Robert Donat is very charismatic as the lead. He acts and looks something like a blend of Clark Gable and Brendan Fraser. Kind of goofy, but at the same time very suave and at times malicious. And he has a nice chemistry with Madeleine Carroll as the romantically reluctant female lead.

The last shot is just perfect. Not that Hitchcock’s movies lack perfect shots. Although some film critics tribute Hitchcock with calculating and polishing every single shot of his movie to perfection and knowing exactly what emotion that will bring out in the viewer. I don’t think I necessarily agree, I think it’s more that he was so talented that his intuition was what told him the exactly right way to film scenes. Of course, with years of experience he also developed masterful technique, but this movie was still made quite early in Hitchcock’s career.

Overall, I wouldn’t count this as one of Hitchcock’s definitive works, but it still is a nice little romantic man-on-the-run flick. However, I don’t recommend this as an introduction to Hitchcock’s work and suggest picking up some of his later, more refined classics.

“Shit, man! Though, it would’ve been more impressive if I hadn’t seen that War-vet missing both legs there by the punch bowl.”

Review of The Lords of Flatbush (1974)

22 Apr

The Lords of Flatbush (1974) also known as The Lord’s of Flatbush (1974) is a low-budget drama/romance/comedy film about a street gang in Brooklyn.

Directed by Martin Davidson (Looking for an Echo (2000), Hero at Large (1980)) and Stephen Verona (Pipe Dreams (1976), Talking Walls (1987)).

Written by Stephen Verona (Boardwalk (1979)), Gayle Gleckler, Martin Davidson (If Ever I See You Again (1978)) and Sylvester Stallone.

Starring: Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Paul Mace, Susan Blakely, Maria Smith and others.

Of course my main reason for watching this film was that it’s one of Sylvester Stallone’s earliest roles, two years before his big break with my favourite movie of all time – Rocky.

The movie, I suppose, is set sometime in the late 1950’s as Stallone is a member of a small gang, consisting of four greasers in leather jackets, slicked back hair and low intelligence. And they’re all going to school together, even though none of them look like they’ve been high schoolers for the last 10 years. One of the gang members is played by Henry Winkler, who went on to play his most well-known role as another 50’s greaseball in the sitcom Happy Days.

The soundtrack is really good, which is remarkable, because getting rights probably wasn’t so easy, considering the film’s budget. Although in one scene they really fucked up and put a song with lyrics under a dialogue, so I couldn’t make out what the characters were saying.

Sly looks already really beefy in this, even before Death Race 2000, so I guess he didn’t have to put on much weight for Rocky.

The style is well done, although it has more of a 70’s low-budget movie feel, which contradicts my perception of 50’s. One chick wears hair rolls for most of the movie, I wonder if that was considered cool back then? I’m not a car guy, but there are some beautiful cars.

Interestingly there doesn’t seem to be a lead here, the four guys have more or less equal parts. They each have their own fairly interesting troubles, one is talented and smart, but is wasting his time, another can’t choose between girls and dreams of going away after school, another one is getting married and the fourth one I don’t even remember. But what they all share is being not very likable, they are a bunch of insecure jerks, hiding behind their macho facades, bullying people around them. This for me made it hard to identify with any of them.

The movie has a lot of flaws, but as far as the performances go, they are pretty decent, Sly shows some of his acting chops in a weird scene on a roof, by his character’s pigeon coop.

They try to make the dialogue realistic, but it just comes across as clumsy, when a lot of times it consists of the characters not saying things and just silently fidgeting. Yes, often teenagers do act this way, but it isn’t very entertaining to watch.

It really seems to suffer from it’s low-budget, I think it was supposed to be a fun coming of age flick like American Graffiti, but at times it’s depressing and painfully dull.

Overall, it is an odd coming of age film, that’s not very entertaining, has a nice, satisfying and uplifting ending, but it isn’t really earned. Mostly not a good movie, not recommended, unless you’re really interested in early Stallone’s work.

"Lord's of Flatbush? What? It doesn't make sense!"
"Oh, yeah we got another symbol for free, we weren't going to waste it!"

Review of The Hunger Games (2012)

16 Apr

The Hunger Games (2012) is an action/drama/sci-fi film based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

Directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003)).

Written by Gary Ross (Big (1988), Dave (1993)), Billy Ray (The Shooter (1995), State of Play (2009)) and Suzanne Collins (Clarissa Explains It All (1991 TV), The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996 TV)) .

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and others.

So here is the movie, the marketing tried to tell us is going to be the next Twilight. And that is a fucking insult. Except for its target demographic, there’s nothing these two have in common. Twilight is a characterless romance with a gimmick and The Hunger Games is a cool action drama for young people. Another comparison that is often brought up is Battle Royale and some other similar films, but the survival reality TV wasn’t a new concept even when Battle Royale was made. Why didn’t we draw the line after The Running Man or even earlier Death Race 2000, in an age of constant idea recycling, this is not a serious offense.

And now even more than ever this satire of reality television makes sense. During the contest we get all the staples of modern reality TV, forced romances, very antagonistic characters, fake obstacles created by the producers, sleazy hosts and so on.

It’s also very stylistic movie and I think this could get an Oscar nomination for production design. It is abundant with weird anime inspired/Neo-Victorian outfits for the upper class members of the society and some early 20th century common plain clothes for the working class.

Jennifer Lawrence, who I think is one of the most promising new actresses, doesn’t disappoint here and is solid as Katniss, who volunteers for the game show, after her sister is chosen and thank god, because her sister was a total wimp, she would’ve been dead in 5 minutes. Most of the other contestants are either not given enough screen time to do much (would have loved to see more of Isabelle Fuhrman) or they are just ok.

The adult characters, however, are very fun to watch. Woody Harrelson, is a winner of the games, who now is a drunk mentor for the District 12 contestants and he’s just amazingly entertaining. Also here he looks like an older Josh Holloway. Elizabeth Banks I didn’t even recognize under a heavy layer of make-up that looks like taken straight off of Helena Bonham Carter in Alice In Wonderland. She also acts appropriately over-the-top. As does Stanley Tucci being the overacting host with blue hair, who really knows how to milk the contestants for the right emotions, both from them and audience. Seems like the director told all the adult main actors to turn their eccentricity up to eleven. Lenny Kravitz went the other way though and just put on some golden eye-liner. Donald Sutherland does what he does best, plays a cold bastard.

The main negative point was the way it was shot. At the start of the movie we get some very shaky handheld shots of static things and I didn’t suspect that it was getting me ready for some of the later way more extreme shaking. In order to get the PG-13 rating they decided to keep some of the violence in, but make it totally incoherent. Seriously, after a couple of minutes of seeing stuff that looked like it was shot handheld by Michael J. Fox trying to stand while wearing roller skates, where the wheels are replaced by rotating vibrators, I thought it’s going to be the first time I’ll get motion sickness from a movie.

Overall, a good movie, I liked it and could recommend basically to anyone.

Pictured: Jennifer Lawrence interviewed by Meryl Streep on the set of The Iron Lady.

Review of Julie & Julia (2009)

31 Mar

Julie & Julia (2009) is a biography/romance/dramedy film about the real-life chef Julia Child and a blogger Julie Powell.

Directed by Nora Ephron (This Is My Life (1992), Bewitched (2005)).

Written by Nora Ephron (Silkwood (1983), Hanging Up (2000)).

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch and others.

You might ask why I’m reviewing this movie? Well, because in a way it is a horror movie. It’s about a huge and demented Meryl Streep destroying lives… sort of.

Right at the start I have to say that I totally understand that I am not the target demographic for this movie, but then again, I think a good movie can be enjoyed by anyone. However, I definitely did not.

The movie is split into two storylines. One is about Julia Child becoming a cook and writing a cook-book in the 50’s. And the other one is about Julie some-last-name, who is writing a blog about cooking everything in Child’s cook-book. Isn’t that an exciting premise? No, it is not. Due to having these two storylines it is way too long for a romantic comedy. And too short for a biographical drama.

Main problem of this movie is that neither Julia or Julie are likable. Julia is just loud, obsessive, insensitive, self-centered and overall obnoxious, although Meryl Streep does make her at times charming and the tallness is definitely done very convincingly. And Julie is a whiny, obsessive, self-centered and hysterical bitch. No wonder Julie idolizes Julia that much.

When Julie starts her blog she writes that she doesn’t know if anyone reads her posts. What kind of blog site is she using? Wewonttellyouifyougetanyviewsorcomments.com? And you’d think that her being a blogger would have helped me identify with her, but I really don’t care about a relatively wealthy 30-year-old woman, who is obsessed with Julia Child and moaning all the time with tears in her eyes. She is a person I would hate in real life. To give her credit she does admit she is a bitch.

So I was left to identify with the husbands, who are in both cases very supportive, normal and nice and have egocentric wives.

Closest I got to an emotional response was when I started feeling hungry or that one scene when the characters are watching a funny SNL sketch on TV.

It is in a way a success story, but it lacks any impact. Oh, you live in a cool apartment in New York and have enough money to keep making these exquisite foods every day? That’s so awful, I hope you’ll get a publishing deal, so you can start living a normal life.

Overall, this movie is shit. Not entertaining, not moving, not funny, not worth seeing.

"Yeah, that's right, what's for dinner, you self-absorbed bitch?"


Review of Black Butterflies (2011)

11 Mar

Black Butterflies (2011) is a Dutch drama/romance/biography film about the life of South-African poet Ingrid Jonker.

Directed by Paula van der Oest (Moonlight (2002), Zus & zo (2001)).

Written by Greg Latter (Cyborg Cop (1993), Dangerous Ground (1997)).

Starring: Carice van Houten, Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham, Grant Swanby, Candice D’Arcy and others.

I can’t quite figure out why is Netherlands is making an English-language film about South-African poet, starring Dutch and Irish actors, but I don’t even give a shit, because this movie isn’t worth caring.

I kept wanting to see more Rutger Hauer, since he is the only reason I watched this movie. This is no Blade Runner so all you get is him sitting and being an asshole father of the main character. He is still great, but did not meet my expectations. Interestingly, after seeing this, he is still the only reason to watch this movie.

They use a line here, that reminded me of a better movie I could be watching – X2. At one point a character says „You’re beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise”, excuse me, but I prefer Ian McKellen saying this.

The main character is this young woman, a poet. It is hard to care about her, since there’s only a few seconds throughout the film, where she is not totally unlikable and stupid. Also you must possess a certain self-indulgent idiocy to write your own poetry all over your walls. That being said, I think Carice  van Houten did a great job portraying this horrible bitch.

But I have to ask what is the purpose of the film? Is it to show this despicable person writing half-decent poetry and having some social significance? In that case I think she would be better off as being remembered only by her poems. At the start of the film she is a spoiled bitch with daddy issues and by the end of it she is a psychotic bitch with suicidal tendencies. Am I supposed to feel sorry for her? I’ll never know.

It’s rated 12, but that is bullshit, it is an R movie, first of all I don’t think teenagers would like this movie anyway, it’s more for hipster chicks in their twenties, who would see a folk-heroine in Jonker. And even more than that, it has sexual overtones all over it, but of course they suppose putting an orchestral score to a sex scene and once in a while cutting to the poetry on the walls makes it tasteful and beautiful. No, it does not.

I can’t quite figure out why is Netherlands is making an English-language film about South-African poet, starring Dutch and Irish actors, but I don’t  even give a shit.

Overall, pretentious crap, a proof that not everyone’s life is worth to be made into a biopic. Not recommended, except if you really want to see Rutger Hauer being a mean daddy.

"I don't really need glasses. The moustache is also ironic. And I like Terrance Malick's movies."

Review of Bedazzled (1967)

7 Jan

Bedazzled (1967) is a British dark comedy/fantasy film, that tells a story about a miserable man that sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven wishes.

Directed by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Blame It on Rio (1984)), who is mostly known for his work on musicals.

Written by Peter Cook (Yellowbeard (1983), Derek and Clive Get the Horn (1979)) and Dudley Moore (30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)), who both are the two leads of the film.

Starring: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Raquel Welch, Eleanor Bron, Barry Humphries and others.

I must say that I saw the remake with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley before this. And I like it a lot, I can see why it wasn’t critically acclaimed, but still I enjoy it every time I watch it.

So I thought I’d like the original at least as much. But I did not.

I mean, yeah, some parts were ok, like the joke they reused in the remake, when the protagonist wishes for a lollipop and Satan just takes him to a shop. Again I smiled at that. But I found odd the weirdly nightmarish tone.

Say what you will, but at least in the remake I really believed the main character would want to sell his soul, but here the motivation to make this faustian deal didn’t convince me.

There’s not much of physical transformation, so Dudley Moore has to do these relatively different characters using just his acting, that’s a chance to show off his acting, but I wasn’t too impressed. Peter Cook was more convincing as the Devil himself, doing his best well-meaning millionaire playboy impression. Liz Hurley is a hotter Satan, though. There’s not a total lack of hotties, Raquel Welch is just stunningly beautiful.

The film is unnecessarily blunt with the problems protagonist’s wishes present. And in most of them the love interest even barely shows up. Like, for example, there’s a scene where by mistake Dudley Moore is turned into a fly and then it proceeds to a scene that attempts to combine animation and live-action and the result is just miserable.

The grim tone and unnecessarily large involvement of Christianity in combination with dated satire,  overall mean-spiritedness, left me feeling just depressed and that isn’t what I want from a comedy with a concept that’s this gimmicky.

Overall, I found myself bored and getting angry at the movie as it went on. It wasn’t funny or thought provoking or anything I would expect it to be. Definitely not recommended. Stick with the remake. Sure, it’s stupid, but at least it’s fun.

I'll take the Satan that's on the left, thank you very much.

Review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

25 Nov

Could have gone a bit easier on the airbrushing.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) is a romance/fantasy/drama film and is the latest entry in the Twilight franchise, based on the novels by Stephenie Meyer.

Directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls (2006), Kinsey (2004)), who has won an Oscar for best writing for Gods and Monsters (1998).

Written by Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up (2006), Dexter (2006 TV)), who has also written all the previous Twilight movies.

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and others.

Since I am not a 15-year-old girl or a 40-year-old house-wife, I’m neither the target audience or a fan of the series. But as each movie got more blatantly stupid, they also got more entertaining, so I naively thought I actually might have fun watching this, in a “so bad it’s good” way. Sadly, it just got the “so bad” part right. Although at times it was really hilarious, for example, when Bella says she wants to name her daughter Renesemee. Really? You’re gonna go with that?

I don’t ever remember myself being more bored in a movie theatre. The movie achieved almost amazingly slow pace, kept me yawning constantly and to entertain myself, I often danced in my seat. To an orchestral score. At times I felt really depressed and wondered how they didn’t realize, they’ve made this concentrated mixture of over-the-top melodramatism and absolute boredom.

The acting is not good. There’s nobody that feels like a real person. Booboo (what kind of name is that?) Stewart is so incredibly bad. His character is written like he’s 10 and he delivers the lines likewise. Robert Pattinson is as always, looking like he’s in some slightly uncomfortable pain, but trying to hide it. Taylor Lautner is as usually stumbling around as a caveman, varying between his two emotions – “I’m strong and angry (like Hulk)” and… well, no, he has no other emotions. Kristen Stewart most of the movie does a “It’s ok, I’m fine, guys” routine and from time to time cries, letting the special effects department do most of her acting with CG body shrinking and some make-up shadows on her blank face.

The character Jacob is just fascinating to me. The first scene of the movie is one where it takes barely 5 seconds for him to remove his shirt and reveal his physique. I still don’t understand, why he’s the most muscular of all the “werewolves”? And why does he only take off his shirt and let the short pants get shredded to pieces? Does he pick up the shirts afterwards and go around, while Donald Ducking? And what do the fans see in this character? He’s rude, constantly angry, lives in a wooden cabin with a bunch of mexicans, who act like college frat-boys, skilled only as an auto mechanic, thinks that he is better than this other guy, Edward, who is protective, nice, doesn’t look like he’s on steroids, lives in a nice house, is smart and well-mannered, but is a vampire, which obviously is so much worse than turning into a huge wolf. And he wonders why Bella didn’t choose him, get over it!

There is basically no action in the movie. 80 minutes in,  I was so desperate, that a scene where Jacob kicks a motorbike across a driveway seemed cool now and, of course, the naive me thought that now the action will start, but what I got next was a cartoon, where a bunch of incredibly awful looking CG wolves got together and talked. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. On the other hand, the scene was so unintentionally hilarious, I loved every second of it. After that it goes back to the sluggish drama. Then there is another action scene at the end, but since all the wolves look the same and the vampires are so fast, that all you see is a blur, it becomes an unsatisfying mess.

This anti-feminist movie also keeps pushing the same old shit into my face, as if I’m supposed to care, that this indecisive little bitch, Bella is not having as much fun as she had expected from her rich and handsome boyfriend, who is concerned that he might be fucking Bella too hard. Even though, Bella likes it a bit rough. As we all know, every girl’s dream is to wake up in a bed that is demolished from the amazing sex she’s had. Women like to preach that they never watch porn, but it seems like this isn’t that far from that, just less graphic and more like food for imagination. And then, when it has to abandon the whole “no sex before marriage” thing, it goes into an idiotic pro-life message.

After the credits you see that vampire council again and I really want to know if in the books they’re written just as gay as they seem in the movie? The biggest reason, why I despise this franchise is because they just keep destroying the vampire mythos and all these young people who have never seen any cool vampires will think of them as these lame, sparkling weirdos. That cannot be forgiven.

I could keep pointing out other details, but I’ve been rambling on for too long here, so I guess I’ll leave that for next year.

I don’t recommend it to anyone, although if you watch this at home you can riff on it pretty easily and have fun. Definitely the worst of the series. I died a little inside, while watching it. Seriously, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

Bella just kept wishing they would play more chess on their honeymoon.