The Matrix (1999)

The_Matrix_Poster

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne

Synopsis: A hacker escapes from a simulated reality called “the matrix” and must now fight in a war against the evil machines that enslaved humanity and trapped them in the matrix.

I remember the first time I watched this movie. I could not have been any older than twelve. At the time, I would say about 80 per cent of this film went over my head. As a result, I had always seen this movie as very complex but I remember enjoying it immensely. In the years since I first saw The Matrix, I have re-watched it several times as well as seen its sequels (both of which were rather appalling). My understanding of the film grew and I finally decided to do a review of it for the blog because I think it’s exactly the sort of film that stoners can enjoy.

One of the things that stands out in The Matrix is its high-octane action scenes. The fight-choreography in this movie is not only impeccable but also innovative. The film successfully marries hand-to-hand combat with wire-work and special effects. The fight scene between Neo and Morpheus still impresses me. I know it has been parodied so many times over the years, but think back to when the movie first came out and when you saw the bullet dodge scene. I bet your mouth dropped and that you said some nice things.

Doge MatrixMuch like this

While the action scenes certainly impress, I also enjoy the film because it is a live-action tribute to Japanese animation, notably Ghost in the Shell. The Wachowskis readily recognise the way Ghost in the Shell influenced the style and themes of The Matrix and I appreciate any director who is willing to give a nod to his or her sources. Give credit where it’s due! Not only that, the Wachowskis took a lot of the themes in Ghost in the Shell and adapted them seamlessly into a film that would appeal to a Western market. It’s one thing to simply copy a film, but to take a film’s core and build an entirely new film around it (a film which is very good in its own way) is admirable. If anything, The Matrix displays the Wachowskis’ passion for great cinema and their talent for translating great premises into films that will make a lot of money.

If I were to level some criticism at The Matrix it would only be two points. Firstly, the characters can be pretty hollow at times. Half of the Nebuchadnezzar’s are not developed and when they are killed off you don’t find yourself caring that much. Plus, why is that woman wearing white!!?? Did she miss the group meeting where they all decided to wear black?

Matrix fashionSeriously, sort it out. You look like a twat.

The second point is all the unnecessary violence. I understand that this film requires a lot of violence because of the sort of film it is but why do Neo and Trinity have to kill so many innocent people? Take the scene where they infiltrate the building to rescue Morpheus and they have to get through security. Basically, they shoot the place up and kill maybe 20 security guards in the process. Those guards probably have families. They probably woke up and were like: “oh shit, another work day but I’m sure it’ll be ok.” Then, all of a sudden, two freaks show up with automatic weapons. It’s funny that Neo is the “the chosen one” but displays a total disregard for human life. It’s films like this that show America’s fascination with weaponry and just who scary and distasteful it is….but then again, it was an epic action scene so I guess I can get over it.

High-lights:

  • Mind-bending, jaw-dropping, face-slappingly awesome action scenes.
  • Complex plot and great story-line. I never get bored watching this film.
  • Great tribute to Japanese animation.
  • Some really memorable performances from Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving.

Downers:

  • Just keep repeating to yourself: “the sequels never happened…the sequels never happened…”
  • Flat supporting characters.
  • Maybe too violent in places.

Summary:

It’s easy to see why this film is a defining moment in the sci-fi genre. Up until its release, audiences had seen nothing like it and, 15-years on, there are few sci-fi films that can hold a candle to it. Jesus Christ! 15 years!? This is making me feel old!

9/10

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Great, Sci-Fi

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Romancing the Stone

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Action/Adventure

Cast: Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito

Synopsis: A wussy romance writer goes off to Colombia to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped. There, she gets lost in the jungle and meets a rugged yet brutish Michael Douglas.

Ordinarily, I’m not the sort of guy who likes chick-flicks. In fact, it’s a rule of mine to avoid most chick-flicks. However, I’m willing to break that rule if the movie was made in the 1980s. It was a golden age for the genre, before all the Julia Roberts, Meg Ryans, and Katherine Heigls came along to incite my hatred. I decided to switch my viewing routine up a little by watching a classic rom-com from the 80s. My mother recommended Romancing the Stone so, last Friday, I chilled out, got into my comfy PJs and then got in touch with my feminine side.

Cat LadyWhat my feminine side looks like

I can see why this film is so popular with some women. For starters, the main character is, in fact, a crazy cat lady. She is the most stereotypical female shut-in you can imagine: she writes erotic literature, has conversations with her cat, and throws plates around for no reason. Her erotic fiction isn’t even that good. As a (struggling/failing) writer, I found myself screaming at the laptop and trying to reason with her that she should not under any circumstances hand in the draft to her publisher. Still, part of me was envious. She has my dream life: beautiful apartment in the city and a fuck-off easy job. Plus, Kathleen Turner has the voice I want. It’s like butter mixed with sex.

Butter Sex…Or not

Turner’s voice makes me want to start smoking a pack of 20 a day. Anyway, this film successfully overcame the first of my hurdles that rom-coms regularly stumble at: it has a main character who is flawed but still likeable.

What about the male lead? Well, as far as panty droppers go, Michael Douglas is not the most desirable of men. It’s something that really confused me in Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. The man is, quite simply, swimming in vagina. It’s a mystery to me, but I actually quite like that the male lead in this film is not a super-stud. It gives me hope that one day I too can find someone who doesn’t look like a smacked arse. Plus, when he threw a kilo of weed onto a camp fire and inhaled I wanted to cheer. I wonder if that works.

I think the thing that really stood out for me in this movie is that I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. The plot is ridiculous. I mean, a lady gets mugged and kidnapped by a ten year old and then Kathleen Turner’s character befriends a drug cartel leader after she finds out he’s a fan of her work. Plus, this film has crocodiles and Danny DeVito. Romancing the Stone’s quirkiness is definitely its biggest strength and I think it will be hard to find another romantic-comedy that is as bizarre and unique.

High-lights:

  • Kathleen Turner’s voice.
  • Turner and Douglas have really good chemistry.
  • Danny DeVito can do no wrong.

Downers:

  • This film makes it look like being a writer is really easy.
  • It’s depressing to think I will never have a crazy romance like the one in this film.
  • I don’t think drug cartelists in real life are as friendly as the one in the movie.

Summary:

Romancing the Stone isn’t perfect by any means, but it knows how silly it is and plays into that. It’s a film sweeps you up in the adventure and it avoids a lot of the problems I find in romantic comedies. Romancing the Stone is the sort of film I think most people can enjoy. There is something for everyone: action, comedy, good character development, even a cheeky nipple slip right at the start. Even if you’re not a fan of romantic comedies, this one should still manage to keep you entertained.

7/10

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Comedy, Good, Romance

Jaws (1975)

Jaws

Genre: Drama, Horror

Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw

Synopsis: An island community popular with tourists is terrorised by a man-eating shark that refuses to go away.

If I had to name the one film that started my love affair with movies, it would be this one. I first remember watching this when I was five years old. Jaws was my grandmother’s favourite film and she never missed an opportunity to watch it. She was also of the opinion that a little fear never hurt anyone, even children, and she is therefore directly responsible for my crippling fear of the ocean and sharks.

shark-dogEven the cute ones

However, you have to hand it to her: he did have impeccable taste in movies. Jaws is not only one of the best scary movies, but it is also one of the greatest movies ever made. Period. Who can seriously look at this film and deny its excellence? It has everything: killer acting, killer sound, killer cinematography, a killer shark. It is, simply put, a recipe for success.

If there are two thing in this movie that do not get enough credit, it’s the writing and editing. Have any of you read the novel by Peter Benchley? It’s not terrible by any means but it’s trashy as hell. In addition to a subplot involving the mafia, there’s a storyline in which Hooper bangs chief Brody’s wife. The screenwriters (Benchley himself as well as Carl Gottlieb) did a magnificent job at cutting all the unnecessary baggage out of the film and at writing a film that kept the whole thing simple yet sharp.

While the screenwriters laid the foundations, Verna Fields’ masterful editing really gave the film its power. Despite being about a fucking enormous shark, the film does not show much of it…partly because the fake shark looked like a giant turd. Instead, the film toys with the audience’s imagination by revealing very little. We all know what the villain of the movie is so there’s no need to actually show it; our imaginations can fill in the blanks. In fact, it’s scarier if we don’t see the attack coming. It’s as if the shark is a force of nature, killing ruthlessly and then disappearing without trace. It’s no wonder the film won an Oscar for editing.

Credit has to go to the stellar cast but particular kudos should go to the three male leads: Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw. The interesting thing about Jaws is that, while it is a horror film, it’s also a brilliant character study. Here you have these three men, all from different walks of life, facing off against a 25-foot monster and bringing their own flaws to the picture. Chief Brody is the underdog of the picture. He’s uneducated not only about the ways of the island and its inhabitants but also the shark and the ocean. Hooper, on the other hand, is a veritable expert on sharks and the ocean, but he’s naïve and he admires the shark, seeing it as a fascinating specimen. Quint, finally, is the captain Ahab of the picture: obsessed and reckless. The best parts of the film are when these three men interact with one another. It’s when they argue and it’s when they joke.

I could insert my own joke here but I’m not going to. Instead I am going to post this scene from the film. In my opinion, it’s of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema. This, without question, corroborates everything I have said in this post and displays why Jaws is truly one of the greatest films ever made.

High-lights:

  • Scary as hell. I still don’t go into the ocean.
  • Perfect acting, editing, sound, and cinematography.
  • The Indianapolis speech still gives me chills.
  • A film that shows the power of an audience’s imagination.

Downers:

  • The fake shark looks shit. I can’t get around that fact but this film was made in the 1970s. I’ve got to cut it some slack.

Summary:

What else is there to say? This film is about as perfect as a film could possibly be.

10/10

4 Comments

Filed under Drama, Horror, Mind Blowingly Awesome

Komodo (1999)

Komodo_FilmPoster

Genre: Horror

Cast: Kevin Zegers, Billy Burke, Jill Hennessy

Synopsis: After a boy is attacked by some unseen monster and his parents savagely killed in their island holiday home, a psychologist decides to take him back to the scene of the crime which is perhaps the stupidest thing you could ever do. Turns out komodo dragons did it.

I fucking love monster movies and I’m always looking for new, weird, and wonderful films in this genre to watch. Watching Skyfall the other week, I remember being really impressed by the komodo dragon scene and I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it be good to have a komodo dragon creature feature?” A light bulb turned on in my head and I suddenly remembered that there was a monster movie of this sort: Komodo.

It seems like the 90s was a bumper decade for monster movies. I suspect it was because the special effects team behind Jurassic Park revolutionised the way these movies were made. Suddenly everyone wants to make a film with some sort of monster by using special effects. Unfortunately for some movies, special effects didn’t evolve fast enough and ambitious projects became disasters. I’m looking at you Congo.

congo1No, wait! Look away! It’s too painful.

To be honest, the special effects in Komodo are not actually that bad. There are some scenes in this film where the komodo dragons even look pretty realistic. The trouble with this film, however, is that virtually nothing else is realistic. The acting and the dialogue, in particular, spoil any sense of fantasy. I suppose I should not have expected much from this movie, but it’s pretty jarring when the lead actress asks: “What are these things!?” Bitch! They’re Komodo Dragons! Didn’t you read the script?

Looking back on it, none of the characters are that impressive. The main character is this emotionally fragile kid. Sure, you’d be fucked up if you saw your parents and dog savaged by a giant lizard, but I doubt you would go full-on Lord of the Flies like this kid does. Also, I’m about 99.99% confident that you would not return to the place where your parents were killed. The chances of you forgetting that giant lizards ate your parents are slim to none. Plus, the lead make actor reminds me of a serial killer. There’s something creepy about the way he talks about his wife’s disappearance…like it was actually him who killed her and then the dragons conveniently showed up. That certainly would have made for a more interesting twist.

While the film does suffer from flaws, I still found myself enjoying it. Komodo is the sort of film that becomes tolerable if you can dial down the voice in your head that’s telling you its crap; and it can be quite fun if you can silence that voice altogether. As far as monster movies go, I’ve seen much better. Then again, I’ve seen much worse.

Jaws 4So much worse

High-lights:

  • The komodo dragon is so under-represented in creature features so it’s good to a movie about them.
  • Not bad graphics.
  • Some pretty jumpy moment.

Downers:

  • The acting and dialogue bring the movie down. It’s odd: some of the actors are well-known and have done better things. I mean, the lead actress was in Law and Order for years!
  • Poor dog…now I’m sad.
  • I think the movie is supposed to be a metaphor about how oil companies are evil, but Komodo seems like a weird platform to voice that message. Surely the message should be: komodo dragons are awesome?

Summary:

Komodo is the sort of film you might want to watch on a rainy afternoon, or late at night when no-one else is around to judge you for your silly choices. If you do decide to watch this movie, just make sure that you leave logic and reason at the door. If you don’t, this movie will seem like one giant mess. I mean, this movie IS one giant mess but you tend not to notice as much when in the company of Mary Jane.

6/10

5 Comments

Filed under Good, Horror

Passion (2012)

Passion

Genre: Erotic Thriller

Cast: Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace

Synopsis: An assistant is in a love-hate relationship with her advertising executive boss, who proceeds to humiliate her and then make out with her. Throw a murder in the mix and it all gets out of hand.

To be a successful erotic thriller, a film has to do two things. The first is titillate. A thriller cannot be called erotic if it doesn’t cause a certain amount of tightness in the trouser-crotch area. The second is thrill. The plot needs to grab the audience by the balls and not let go. It needs to keep viewers entertained and keep them guessing. Sounds simple enough, right? So why is it that Brian De Palma’s film Passion fails to titillate and thrill? Well, for the titillation part, perhaps it’s because it is a German film and we all know nothing sexy ever came out of Germany.

lederhosenI rest my case

OK, that’s not true. Watching the German football team play in the World Cup has convinced me that the country is full of stud-muffins but that doesn’t change the fact that this film is not sexy. It recycles a lot of the traditional erotic thriller fair such as lesbianism and aggressive vadge-banging so good the couple clearly forgot to use protection. However, at no point did any of this get me hot under the collar. I am tempted to say that the film’s central problem in the boner-inducing department is that the eroticism feels forced: it’s De Palma telling you what should be sexy by relying on conventional and well-worn formulas. Passion takes no risks with eroticism. I think back to Drive and I remember that scene in the elevator when Gosling kisses that lucky bitch and then pummels the shit out of the guy. That was hot…probably because it shouldn’t be. Erotic thrillers are successful when they push boundaries. McAdams and Rapace making out in the back of a limo pushes no boundaries.

So, the film is not erotic. Is it thrilling? Well, not really. The film is basically about women being mean to one another at work. If I wanted to see that I would just show up to my regular job and spread some shade amongst my female colleagues e.g. “so-and-so called you a bitch,” “what’s-her-face slept with your boyfriend,” “that chick over there said you smell like bad-decisions and week-old happy meals.” I could go on. Point is, there’s nothing terribly exciting about people hating their colleagues. That’s just everyday life. By the time the murder actually happens in this movie you’ve stopped caring and you’re just shouting at Noomi Rapace to fucking quit her job. Seriously, why is she still there!?

That’s not to say that Passion is a complete waste of time. It does have hints of glory. For instance, the scene where Noomi Rapace has a panic attack in a lift was very good but then it gets a little OTT when she crashes her car. Also, the random scenes in German were very good and displayed a lot of the actors’ talents when playing roles in their native language. The best scene, however, is when the two main characters go to a private runway show and some model stacks it. If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there is nothing funnier than watching good-looking people hit the floor like a sack of shit.

Model falling downSee what I mean?

High-lights:

  • I seriously laughed for a good five minutes when the model fell over. It’s even funnier when you realise there is a camp German guys shouting abuse at her.
  • The film kind of makes you realise that your job isn’t so terrible.
  • Screaming at the screen: “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL IN THIS JOB!!??”

Downers:

  • Eurotrash houses…makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
  • Idiotic characters. “Isobel, are you alright?” OF COURSE SHE’S NOT FUCKING ALRIGHT!!!! She’s popping prescription pills like they’re pez!
  • Rachel McAdams really can’t handle the scene where she describes her twin’s death. It’s so stale.

Summary:

After a stint of watching erotic thrillers, I think it’s time to put a pin in it but it’s a shame I didn’t end my marathon on a high-note. I mean, was certainly high but that’s not the same thing. Passion is a very run-of-the-mill thriller that does not excite it audience. Instead of doing anything controversial or interesting, the film simply relies on the old “bisexuals are serial killers” theme. It’s bland and forgettable. I was hoping for more from De Palma.

4/10

3 Comments

Filed under Meh, Thriller

Stay Alive (2006)

stay alive

Genre: Horror

Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz

Synopsis: A group of hot, young adults all play a video game. Unfortunately, the game is haunted and the game’s central villain begins picking them off one by one.

There have been many attempts over the years to turn video games into movies: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat etc. For the most part, these adaptations have been unsuccessful. Stay Alive is a little different in that it’s not an adaptation, but a film that centres on the characters playing a haunted video game. It’s like an updated Ringu. Whoever made the film, however, has clearly never played a video game. In fact, whoever made this film has obviously never opened a history book or developed any idea of how decent people act in real life situations.

So what is this video game about? It’s about a serial killer. A fictitious one? No. A real life serial killer….wow. That has got to be one of the most inappropriate things to ever happen. Can you imagine someone making a video game about Jeffrey Dahmer or Fred and Rose West? It’s just something you should never do! OK, the serial killer in the game is a historical one but that hardly makes it better. The killer’s victims were still real people and I don’t think they would appreciate their killer being celebrated in a video game…if they know what that is. So, who is the serial killer in this film?

Elizabeth_Bathory_PortraitDis bitch

Elizabeth Báthory, a 16th century noblewoman who supposedly slaughtered dozens of young and fertile wenches and then bathed in their blood to keep her youthful looks. Fucked up, right? Yes, she was an awful human being but the makers of this film didn’t even do that good a job of researching her life. In fact, the characters just spread lies about her and put her in New Orleans, which, may I remind you, did not fucking exist in the 16th century! Aaaaah, historical accuracy rage. Hollywood writers, I implore you, research your characters thoroughly.

Hocus Pocus

So what else is wrong with this film? The characters! All of them are terrible but special mention goes out to the one played by Anna from The OC aka Penny from the Hanson song, ‘Penny and Me Tonight.’ I refuse to call her by her actual name. She’s the sort of person who takes photographs at a funeral. Who does that!? No-one because it’s fucking rude, and borderline psychotic. Frankie Muniz is in the film too and it’s funny yet rather depressing to see how his cuteness as a kid in Malcom in the Middle did not continue into adulthood. Milo Ventimiglia is the only actor to come out relatively unscathed and that’s because he’s killed off before he has a chance to get annoying.

High-lights:

  • A lot of the annoying characters get killed off.

Downers:

  • How are all the characters playing the video game on one screen if it’s first person?
  • Seriously!? A video game about a serial killer?
  • Stop taking photos! You’re at a fucking funeral! Show some god damn respect.
  • The historical inaccuracy makes my blood boil.

Summary:

I can’t believe I wasted 90 minutes of my life on this steaming turd. If you want a scary video game experience then do yourself a favour and play Resident Evil or Silent Hill because this movie should be avoided at all costs.

1.5/10

5 Comments

Filed under Crap, Horror

The Goonies (1985)

The_Goonies

Genre: Kids, Action/Adventure, Comedy

Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman

Synopsis: A group of kids go on an adventure to find the treasure of One-Eyed Willie, a legendary pirate.

I think everyone has that one film from childhood that they treasure above all other films. This film will be the one that is passed down from generation to generation. You will sit down with your kids, all huddled together on the couch, and put on that classic and all bask in its wonderfulness. For me, that one film is The Goonies. Quite simply, there is no better film that both adults and kids can enjoy.

I can’t exactly remember the first time that I saw this movie. In a way, I feel like The Goonies has always been a part of my life and I can see now how it has had an impact on me. It’s part of the reason why I really want to see the Oregon coastline and why I love those white wooden houses that just scream Americana. It’s also impacted my fashion sense (I own the type of yellow rain coat Mikey wears). Interestingly enough, watching the movie at 25 I can see how much it influenced my sense of humour. The humour in this film is crude and twisted but well-timed, sharp, and, in a way, nostalgic as it feels like comedy that belongs in a bygone-era of kids’ films. Hell, what sort of kids’ movie nowadays makes fun of childhood obesity!?

Truffle Shuffle

Advice I live by

It’s funny how my appreciation for the movie has changed with age. When I watch the movie now, I am taken back by the razor sharp script and the amazing performances given by the young cast. As a child, however, I fell in love with the film’s spirit of adventure. Here you had a group of friends setting off, facing danger, solving riddles, and narrowly avoiding death. It was the sort of life I dreamed of. Unfortunately, when you grow up in rural England the only real danger you face is needle sticks in the graveyard during the town’s annual gypsy festival.

Gypsy

Cross my palm with hepatitis

That sense of adventure and danger is exactly what kids’ films need nowadays. I read an article recently that suggested that The Goonies and E.T. were the perfect kids’ films because they presented a real and genuinely terrifying danger: death, abduction, torture and scientific experimentation. Modern kids’ movies don’t compare. While engaging a child’s sense of wonder, The Goonies and E.T. was able to keep audiences and kids at the edge of their seat by showing universal and innate fears. It’s also partly the reason why audiences became more emotionally involved in film and sympathised with the characters to a greater extent.

I have to say that I agree with this theory. I always forget that the villains, the Fratellis, try to stick a child’s hand into a blender. That’s about as fucked up it can possibly get. Moreover, the same kid gets locked up in a freezer and a car boot with a dead body, easily one of the funniest moments in the movie. I think that’s probably one of the greatest things about The Goonies: it never patronises its audience, even though the target audience is children aged about 10. It’s a movie for smart and precocious children. If you watched and loved this film as a child then I can almost certainly guarantee that you are awesome.

High-lights:

  • The best child acting I have ever seen in a movie and all the kids are likeable. Even the girl with the least screen-time has some cracking one-liners.
  • I love Chunk. The scene where he tells the Fratellis about all the bad things he has done is comedic genius.
  • Cyndi Lauper soundtrack!!! 80s awesomeness overload.
  • The seen in which Corey Feldman speaks Spanish to the maid is brilliant.
  • A wonderful sense of adventure that charms adults and kids alike.

Downers:

  • I honestly can’t think of any.

Summary:

In my mind, there is no greater movie more worthy of the “mind-blowingly awesome” label. This is a film that will always bring a smile to my face and I honestly can’t wait to share this movie with my children. If they dislike this movie then it’s off the orphanage with them. No child of mine will criticise The Goonies. I’m sure that won’t happen though. How can anyone criticise a movie that has a song from Cyndi Lauper in it?

10/10

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Comedy, Kids, Mind Blowingly Awesome