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Bullhead (2012) review
02/18/12 at 01:56 PM by EvilButters
Bullhead is the story of Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) a cattle farmer. He along with his business partners inject their cows with steroids and hormones to achieve the results they desire. The problem is the only thing Jacky injects more than his cows is himself as he's got some sort of chemical compound coursing through his veins at all times. Things begin to go south when Jacky makes a deal to distribute his cows to a well-known yet crooked meat trader. A federal agent is killed amongst their negotiations as Jacky is dragged into the investigation and his disturbing past comes bubbling to the surface.

Matthias Schoenaerts' performance is the first thing that will win you over. The reason why he shoots up so frequently along with what he injects himself with has this really breathtaking explanation. Schoenaerts has a short fuse the entire film and you never know when he's going to explode. That's the beauty of his performance. He's so dangerous yet you can't help but feel sympathy for the guy. Schoenaerts is a ferocious powerhouse that chews you up and spits you out like the most devastating hurricane imaginable.

Bullhead features some incredibly impressive cinematography. Belgium has never looked so beautiful. Those shots of the sky and the clouds that populate every inch of it and those lush moments of taking in the countryside speak volumes. Something as simple as grass blowing in the wind is made to look like this grand accomplishment thanks to how the film was shot. It was interesting to see characters that were out of frame become out of focus and or blurred in some way; whether they were approaching somebody in frame or walking away. It was a masterful touch.

The Belgian drama has a unique sense of perspective, as well. The dizzying staircase sequence near the end of the film is the best example. It kind of goes hand in hand with the cinematography though; a brilliant looking film is even better with distinguishing shots. Speaking of unique, the entire film is one of the more original experiences to grace the silver screen in quite some time. Bullhead does draw comparisons to films like Drive and even Bronson, but the mafia and mobster kind of storyline is presented in this rough, grainy, meaty, and intense package that hasn’t been done before. Bronson is actually a really great comparison. Matthias Schoenaerts put on 59 pounds of muscle for Bullhead and Tom Hardy put on 42 pounds of muscle for Bronson. While the two films are almost nothing alike when it comes to their storylines, they're extremely similar at their core.

Bullhead is an extremely intense piece of cinema that includes a fairly bloody and hard hitting elevator sequence that rivals that infamous scene from Drive. With an incredible performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, gorgeous camera work, and a huge injection of originality, Bullhead should not be missed by anyone especially those who are looking for something different when it comes to movies. This comes highly recommended for those who enjoyed Animal Kingdom, A Prophet, Drive, and/or Bronson.

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Tags: Bullhead, review, movies, Houston, crime, drama
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Safe House (2012) review
02/09/12 at 11:59 AM by EvilButters
Safe House has Denzel Washington return to the role everyone loves him for; that untouchable, bad ass, man of the hour kind of role that he's essentially played the majority of his career. Meanwhile, Ryan Reynolds sets out to try to prove he's capable of being more than a raunchy goofball. CIA agent Matt Weston (Reynolds) has anxiously been waiting to prove himself. He's been babysitting an empty safe house for twelve months and is eager to get out in the field. Matt gets his chance when Tobin Frost (Washington), ex-CIA agent, traitor to the organization, and currently one of the CIA's most wanted fugitives, is escorted there. But things are turned upside down when a group of unknown soldiers attack the safe house and take out the entire team who accompanied Frost. Now in over his head, Matt tries to cope with handling the situation on his own while Frost does his best to manipulate the rookie.

You'll probably notice the visual style of Safe House right away. It makes full use of that raw, gritty style. It's especially grainy at times as fluorescent lighting seems to jump off the screen. Judging by how the movie looks alone, you'd think Tony Scott directed it. But it's actually the English language debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. So it just seems as though he patterned Safe House after Tony Scott's films. It doesn't take long for negotiations to get tense. Those moments in between the mayhem are when Safe House is at its best. It's like a game of tug of war between Frost's way of manipulating and Matt's attempt to stick to protocol while also juggling a relationship. Those moments of panic are explosive; especially the one at the safe house Matt was in charge of and the intense car chase immediately afterwards. Safe House has a way of getting really LOUD when you're totally expecting it. It usually involves a gunshot or six, but it's kind of the movie's way of telling you that some heavy stuff is about to go down.

The majority of the movie is basically Matt trying to prove himself as an agent all while absolutely everything that you could imagine to go wrong does. Safe House is actually pretty damn good for nearly half of the movie. Sure, Denzel is playing a character you've seen him play a few dozen times before but he does it so well and the audience obviously eats it up. So why wouldn't you give the paying viewer what they want to see? Ryan Reynolds makes the most of his performance though. He seems to be the most emotionally invested actor of the film meaning he shows the most emotion and has the most range. The movie kind of gets coiled up in itself with everything it has going for it in the last twenty minutes or so. It's like it couldn't handle the pressure of being a fairly strong action thriller or something. It becomes extremely excessive and it throws a ton of twists at you in this small amount of time. It's difficult to care about any of them when all of the characters feel so similar and you can pretty much see them coming a mile away. The movie follows this certain path that you may be expecting, but then it shifts direction before shifting again and shifting back again. Did you ever see the movie Basic with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson? Safe House was reminiscent of the amount of twists in Basic.

Safe House begins as this white knuckled thriller with a fairly strong screenplay from first time screenwriter David Guggenheim. The action is heavy, the story reels you in, and the performances of both Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds are pretty superb. Everything eventually falls apart though as Safe House falls victim to stereotypical mediocrity. Brutal and intriguing at times and completely frustrating at others, Safe House is mostly exactly what you're expecting and the type of action thriller you've seen done several times before. It's basically a safe bet for success.

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Tags: Safe House, review, movies, action, crime, thriller, Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds
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Man on a Ledge (2012) review
01/26/12 at 02:47 PM by EvilButters
There are times when you can tell quite a bit of thought went into naming a movie i.e. Inception, Super 8, and 50/50. They're titles that perfectly describe the film you're about to see, but have a bit more meaning after seeing them. While other movies jump straight to the point with their titles, which certainly isn't always a bad thing; look at Drive, Moon, and The Crow. All three movies are better known for the acclaim they've received (from both fans and critics) rather than the amount of money they made at the box office. The title of a movie can go a long way, but in certain circumstances it can sum up an entire movie in a handful of words. Man on a Ledge is a prime example of delivering exactly what you're expecting.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-con who is trying to convince the world that he's an innocent man, but that's a bit difficult when you break out of prison after serving two years on a thirty year sentence. Instead of talking to a lawyer or taking the advice of his former police comrades, Nick steps out onto the ledge of a building. He wants the world to believe he is innocent or else he's going to paint the asphalt with his insides. Little do they know that Nick's suicide attraction is nothing more than a distraction. Across the street, Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are breaking in to steal the $40 million dollar diamond Nick was convicted of stealing. But time is running out and Nick can only stall for so long as Joey and Angie run into some unexpected surprises that weren't a part of the plan.

Man on a Ledge just becomes more and more awkward as it drags on. It's as if the movie can't decide what type of story it wants to tell. We follow Nick around for a bit in the present day seeing how the first part of the day panned out before he stepped out onto that ledge, but then we jump back three years to understand why he went to prison. The nonlinear sense of storytelling is fine, but it feels a bit out of place when it's used so early on in a film without ever really returning to that format again. Then the pacing becomes a huge issue. Man on a Ledge is very go-go-go the entire movie and it never really gives you enough time to properly process everything or let you really care about these characters. You're aware of the situation, the heist going on next door, the apparent corruption in the police force, and the fact that time is running out right from the start, but it just doesn't really matter. There's no character development as everybody feels so paper thin. Even Sam Worthington can't keep his American accent going the entire movie as his Australian accent seems much more apparent in the second half. It just comes off as a complete mess.

The other problem this crime thriller has is the fact you never really know who to pull for. You've got three people trying to pull off a heist claiming it's to prove one of them is innocent of a crime they went to prison for while an unsolved investigation concerning the police force comes up during Nick's suicide attempt to let them know that somebody on the force has been working for David Englander (played by Ed Harris and who was the main reason Nick went to prison) the entire time. Without much depth to the characters, you never really want to see either side succeed. Through all of Nick's pleading with negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the wire he's wearing in his ear becomes blatantly obvious. So her shock and surprise to its reveal later on seems more sarcastic than anything. To make matters worse, things stay this way nearly the entire time until the closing moments where every question you have is answered in the last five minutes. Man on a Ledge has some of the worst pacing to ever make it to the screen.

The only real redeemable factor of the movie is Ed Harris, but it's more of his character being so bad and cheesy that he's good. The scene where his character is introduced where he's given a watch by a colleague is hilarious for all of the wrong reasons.

Man on a Ledge is a combination of many movies you've seen before and it feels that way. It's a mishmash of ideas taken from movies like Die Hard, 16 Blocks, and Hostage. Oh wait; maybe it just borrows ideas from Bruce Willis movies. With its ridiculous pacing and even more incongruous ending, Man on a Ledge will invoke you with the urge to use some of that nonlinear storytelling to go back to the beginning of the movie and push Nick off that building yourself to help prevent you from seeing such buffoonery.

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Tags: Man on a Ledge, review, crime, thriller, movies, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks
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Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2011) review
12/01/11 at 10:54 AM by EvilButters
I wasn't even aware there was an original Elite Squad until after I had heard about and had access to Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. The Enemy Within has been receiving rave reviews from pretty much everyone who has seen it. This is the type of movie that sucker punches you in the gut and you never see it coming, but all you can do is smile because that rush is unlike anything else you've ever experienced. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within makes full use of the term, "thriller" before turning it upside down and inside out and doing it all over again in a two hour time period.

Some rather interesting camera work is utilized throughout the film. You take notice of it in the very first scene as the camera catches every crack and break in a pane of glass as a car is riddled with bullets. Slow motion is also used in a refreshing kind of way mostly because slow motion has looked the same way since 2006 when Leonidas kicked the messenger into the pit in 300. While this was probably done in a cheaper way since the budget wasn't nearly as big as it was in a film like 300, the fact that it was done differently is what makes it noteworthy. This feels more raw and less polished. The "size of a tangerine" scene is fairly awesome, as well. The scene is frozen at one point, but you see that scene from two different perspectives.

Taken, Man on Fire, and The Man From Nowhere; these are a few of the films the action scenes in Elite Squad: The Enemy Within may remind you of. Those scenes when everything hits the fan are the main reason to see this film, but everything in between is so tense that you find yourself easily getting absorbed into all of the events that are going on. Corruption is fascinating in a very disturbing kind of way. This is Nascimento's (Wagner Moura) story, so he's pretty much your guide through this journey as he's removed from BOPE (the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police) and struggles to survive in Rio, but the way his story ties in with the stories of Matias (André Ramiro) and Fraga (Irandhir Santos) is rather brilliant as they're both involved with Nascimento in more ways than one. The bloody brutality of the film seems to be lurking around every corner even when things may appear calm.

In The Boondock Saints, Paul Smecker (played by Willem Dafoe) yells, "There was a firefight!" during one the most extravagant shootout of the film. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within almost seems to redefine that term. While there isn't a lot of property damage in the film, people get wasted left and right and blood sprays into the air whenever a gun is drawn. People get the hell beaten out of them before being lit on fire and dead bodies are burned as their teeth are pulled to hide their identities. There's a grittiness to Elite Squad: The Enemy Within that many films have barely scratched the surface of.

Remember when you first saw The Empire Strikes Back where you had this fairly awesome movie on your hands that left you with this rather huge cliffhanger ending? Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is similar in that aspect. Elite Squad is obviously going to be at least a trilogy, but it'll be one of those things that will be less of an issue when you don't have a long wait between films. In the meantime though, it feels a little cheap.

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a lot like City of God if it was on steroids; there's more action, more intensity, and bigger payoffs. Its biggest flaw is that it doesn't end and is obviously just building toward the next sequel. With an excellent cast and eye-catching cinematography, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a compelling look at the underbelly of society that's a must-see.

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Tags: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, movie review, crime, drama, thriller, sequel
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Tower Heist (2011) review
11/04/11 at 01:45 PM by EvilButters
Brett Ratner isn't exactly a director people love these days. After the below par Rush Hour 3 fell well below expectations and X-Men: The Last Stand genuinely pissed off comic book and movie fans alike, it's difficult to really get excited about anything he's a part of now. So along comes Tower Heist where Ratner teams with Eddie Murphy, another example of someone in Hollywood people have grown sour on, to assemble a movie that seems to have thrown together a wide assortment of middle class actors that hope to capture the same magic the Ocean's Eleven movies did. Sometimes you can predict a movie at face value and what you see in promos is what you get with Tower Heist.

Tower Heist did seem to finally get going in the middle of the movie; it showed signs of heart, jokes actually felt a bit more on point, and the story was progressing nicely. Unfortunately, it's sandwiched between an extremely lame opening half hour or so featuring what feels like nothing but rectum and feces jokes and a really stupid final half hour that is just too over the top to believe or actually pull off. Peña and Murphy seem to be in a competition with one another on who can say the most ignorant things that come to mind while Broderick falls victim to the same character flaw despite showing signs of intelligence in more difficult areas. Casey Affleck doesn't do a whole lot other than worry about his pregnant wife while Ben Stiller puts in one of the tamest performances of his career. Nearly all of the characters felt flat and underdeveloped. Despite having their own quirks and brief background stories, they all seemed to go in the same direction which was blurting ridiculous one-liners to try and make the audience laugh rather than try and move the story along.

There is some good buried in the middle of the movie though. The entire Lester (Stephen Henderson) subplot is the closest Tower Heist gets to developing any sort of heart even though it feels like it drops the ball as soon as it tries to pick it up. The conversations the team has before the actual heist take place are easily the funniest segments of the film; the lesbian conversation and Lego layout scene with the "Webster" line specifically. Gabourey Sidibe is used pretty sparingly in the movie, but seems to do the most with what screen time she does get. She's genuinely pretty funny nearly every time she shows up. Téa Leoni probably gives the strongest performance though. Special Agent Claire Denham is an FBI agent that does everything by the book and puts her job before anything else, but it's obvious she develops a soft spot for Josh Kovacs (Stiller). The scene where she and Stiller get drunk is charming in this awkward sort of way.

Tower Heist would actually be pretty decent if it wasn't for how everything is resolved at the end. What the team ends up stealing, how they get it out of the hotel, where it ends up, and what they do with it just ruins anything you may have liked up until that point. Nearly every actor that's part of the main cast at least has one line that will make you smile or laugh out loud, so everyone gets their moment to shine. It doesn't save a shoddy movie that can't find its footing in the story department though. With more downs than ups and one of the most unfulfilling conclusions to a movie in recent memory, Tower Heist comes off as nothing more than a generically ghetto version of Ocean's Eleven.

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Tags: Tower Heist, movie review, action, comedy, crime, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy
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In Time (2011) review
10/29/11 at 08:20 PM by EvilButters
It seems like Justin Timberlake has gotten a lot of media attention for his acting since The Social Network, doesn't it? His name is pretty much a regular thing in media anyway, but I think The Social Network was around the time people began to take him seriously as an actor and not just that guy who used to be in N*SYNC. In Time looked to have a lot of potential. A futuristic thriller where currency is measured in time with Justin Timberlake getting a stab at the lead. Like most, I was skeptical but the trailers reeled me in. Regrettably, In Time proves that an interesting concept can't always go as far as you'd like it to.

It was really difficult to get a read on this movie while you're sitting there watching it. You can usually get to the point where you're familiar with the projects certain actors choose and whether you're a fan of their work or not. In Time was all over the place. Olivia Wilde was the first sign that this probably wasn't going to go well. As I've mentioned before, Wilde is amazing on "House MD" and is incredibly talented but her range seems so limited in the movies she chooses to be a part of. Alex Pettyfer was another name I wasn't pleased to see. His outing in I Am Number Four wasn't really anything to be proud of. Now that I think about it, I Am Number Four and In Time are pretty similar; glow in the dark arms/hands, an interesting concept leading to a disappointing result, and both films being in the sci-fi genre among other things. On the other hand though, Justin Timberlake is a pretty decent actor. As a big fan of The Social Network, I was eager to see Timberlake stretch his acting legs a bit more. He's easily the most charismatic character of In Time by showing the widest range of emotion. Amanda Seyfried eventually breaks out of her shell, but she spends half the movie being too rich to really have any need for emotion or do anything remotely noteworthy. I was excited to see Cillian Murphy as he's usually very memorable, creepy, and/or absorbing in some way with his performance but he was just as dull and flat as nearly everyone else around him.

Nearly every character of In Time fails to have any sort of personality. There's no character development and calling them one-dimensional is a bit of a stretch since they barely qualify as that. While it does make sense for the rich to be devoid of emotion, you'd think others would be able to show a little more personality. The odd thing is I hear many people calling this movie "futuristic," but nothing is really futuristic about it other than time being the currency and the timekeepers cars being stolen from "Knight Rider". Having a glow in the dark clock on your arm that counts down to your death doesn't count either. Frank from Donnie Darko is insulted. There are a number of plot holes and inconsistencies, as well. The model car being used in the car crash scene along with never really finding out what happened to Will Salas (Timberlake) father despite Raymond Leon (Murphy) referring to him constantly and hinting at revealing something huge about Will's father early on. The main issue is that nothing really sticks out.

The standout scene from the film takes place in a hotel room in the second half of the movie. Will and Sylvia (Seyfried) are hiding out when Fortis (Pettyfer) and his minute men bust in trying to get a piece of the couple's 10 year reward. Fortis and Will "play to zero" and the end result is easily the most entertaining portion of the movie. Youtube that scene in a few months and you'll be golden. It's interesting since In Time reminded me quite a bit of Repo Men. Not so much in tone or in subject matter, but in the way that each film took a concept that was fairly unique and completely blew it.

In Time feels like it was never fully developed. A fascinating idea and a good message lies somewhere buried underneath all of the cliche garbage that seems to plague the movie from beginning to end. There are a handful of plot holes, most on-screen characters are too similar to each other to really have a distinguishable personality, and toys being used in an elaborate sequence early on basically squander whatever interest in the movie you may have once had. The whole experience is left feeling bland and doesn't ever really feel like the exciting portion of it ever really kicks in. In Time is not only a disappointment, but walks the line of embarrassment.

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Tags: In Time, movie review, sci-fi, thriller, crime, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried
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Drive (2011) review
09/15/11 at 08:42 PM by EvilButters
Nicholas Winding Refn is a name I had never even heard of until 2009. That's when the action/biography film Bronson was released and I was introduced to both Refn and Tom Hardy. If you know me or have been reading my reviews for a decent amount of time, you've been hearing me rave about Bronson for awhile now. It's a fantastic film that made me a fan of both Refn and Hardy for life. As I'm still working through both of their filmographies (I'm still dying to get to Refn's Pusher trilogy), all of that was put on the back burner for what's happening now in the present. Refn's new film Drive has been unleashed upon the world and sweet monkey-slapping Jesus is it glorious.

Driver (Ryan Gosling) has the uncanny ability of making something as simple as driving look like an art form. The things this guy does with a car are unbelievable. He spends the majority of his time working at a garage under the tutelage of Shannon (Bryan Cranston), but Shannon is also his partner. Driver lends his services to robberies to make some extra cash, which is where Shannon comes in. Then there's what Driver does part-time (it's more fun if you find out what that is for yourself). Driver seems to have things under control until he meets Irene (Carey Mulligan); a married woman with a kid whose husband is in prison. Driver begins to spend a lot of time with her and basically falls for her right as her husband is released from prison. That's when things get messy quick and Driver winds up in over his head.

Drive was able to get Refn the best director award at Cannes and it's easy to see why. The story is an incredible balance of character development, building tension, and exquisite acts of brutality. The way Refn portrays all of that is pretty astounding. There's this winding perspective that's used several times in the film where we see someone walking down a long hallway or the aisle of a grocery store. It's a continuous shot as we always have our eyes on whoever is making this journey. It's simple, but memorable. The imagery in Drive is also incredible. The violence hits you like a ton of bricks and pretty much comes out of nowhere. There's a scene near the end of the film where Driver is sitting in his car with his shoes splattered with blood. It makes you contemplate whether the character is dead or not; the rich colors, the blazing sun behind him, and the lack of movement. The way Drive constantly parallels The Scorpion and the Frog is just icing on the cake. Everything about the film is just so absorbing.

Ryan Gosling is really fantastic in this. He's a man of few words, but is more than happy to illustrate that actions speak louder than anything he has to say. But it's not like he doesn't have dialogue. He's just quiet, but in the way that makes you unsure of what he's actually capable of. Driver is unpredictable and Gosling portrays that really well. Menacing at times and downright scary at others, Driver has the best intentions in Drive even if the way he shows it is a bit unorthodox. It was also great to see Bryan Cranston have a supporting role. As a huge "Breaking Bad" fan, it was really entertaining to see Cranston take that intensity that he's known for on the show and bring it into another medium. Ron Perlman treads familiar ground in his performance, but still manages to steal quite a few scenes. Meanwhile, Albert Brooks is just as mesmerizing. He's a businessman first and just wants to do what's right for business, but isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Carey Mulligan is the only one I'm still kind of up in arms about. I swear she just cries in every movie she's in yet she always manages to be a part of really spectacular films, so that has to say something.

The car chases are enthralling. I know nothing about cars and generally don't really care too much about them. Popular car movies only appeal to me so much because I'm just not that into cars; plain and simple. Drive was at least able to trigger that interest. You see kids; extreme acts of violence are good for something after all. The opening car chase leaves you craving for more as it’s both strategic and captivating. The one later on is a bit more rewarding as metal scrapes against metal and wheels go flying through the air. The violence in this is pretty heavy; blood paints walls on several occasions, there's one of the most graphic head shots ever, and the elevator scene will probably make you curse out loud. It's pretty amazing if you're into that sort of thing, but could be a turn off if you're not.

Drive is essentially everything Faster should have been; violent when it needed to be, calm yet intriguing in its slower moments, a fantastic cast all around, and an intriguing story. Its 80s inspired music along with the typeface used in the opening and ending credits makes Drive feel like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City if it was turned into a movie. Drive is an unusual experience that toys with your emotions. It's borderline heartwarming in its first half while sending your adrenaline through the roof during the car chases. Its violent second half leaves you practically gob smacked. Drive is intense, brutal, and explosive. Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling have delivered a frontrunner for the best film of the year.

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Tags: Drive, movie review, crime, drama, thriller, Ryan Gosling, Nicholas Winding Refn
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DVD review: The Perfect Host (2011)
09/02/11 at 04:26 PM by EvilButters
Films with a twist are a strange animal, aren't they? Certain filmmakers have made a career out of it like Christopher Nolan and M. Night Shyamalan while films like Oldboy and The Usual Suspects completely rely on a twist to give everything a bit of a deeper meaning. But when does it become too much? If a film has more than one twist is it overkill? What about the ones with several? Getting tangled up in swerve after swerve probably isn't a good idea. That's one of the reasons most people hated Basic. Maybe it's a guilty pleasure of mine, but I almost always enjoy a movie with a good twist or two in it. And frankly, The Perfect Host is unlike anything the films it may share traits with.

Everything seems like an open and shut case as the movie begins. John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) just robbed a bank and is looking for a sanctuary of sorts to take cover in until the heat blows over. He stumbles onto the home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), which happens to be a rather extravagant home. Warwick is preparing for a dinner party and eventually lets John in after John convinces him that he's a friend of a friend. Push comes to shove and suddenly Warwick is up to speed and John now has the upper hand. But things aren't always what they seem and it just so happens that John walked right into Warwick's trap. The night only gets stranger and stranger for John as Warwick's insanity takes center stage.

The movie is mainly a cat and mouse game between John and Warwick. John Taylor initially comes off as a selfish, despicable lowlife but there's actually a pretty interesting back story to him. Warwick's story is just as interesting. He's classy, quirky, and charming in an awkward kind of way. He has this Jack Torrance quality to him that draws you to his character. His antics are what make the film as good as it is. It'd be like injecting Rubber's outlandish qualities into the first half of The Human Centipede before the actual human centipede comes into play. The Perfect Host is a dark, humorous, and spellbinding journey.

The music also compliments the visuals so well. The quieter and more orchestral sounding pieces not only match the class that Warwick is trying to project, but also make his darker intentions put you a bit more on edge. Not that anything is relatively terrifying in The Perfect Host, but everything is so outlandish that you're not entirely sure what to expect. The music tends to get more over the top to match Warwick's spiral into madness, which is a superb quality for a film like this to have.

The Perfect Host may be a bit overwhelming to some. The way the film is constantly twisting and turning in directions you don't expect may come off as a little tiresome, but it is really fantastic if you're a fan of unpredictability. Things you've thought you've figured out unravel to reveal you only knew part of the story. It's as if The Perfect Host has a never-ending amount of layers that's driven by the rather incredible performance of David Hyde Pierce and the equally impressive Clayne Crawford. The Perfect Host won't be for everyone, but to the ones it does speak to is some of the finest bat$#%! insanity to ever be filmed.

The DVD is mostly bare bones when it comes to special features. We get a Making of featurette featuring writer and director Nick Tomnay. The feature is about eleven minutes long and features Tomnay talking about the film spliced with scenes of the film. There is some interesting stuff in there like how The Perfect Host was originally a short, black and white flim that was shot in 2000, only taking 17 days to shoot the film, and Clayne Crawford putting a rock in his shoe to keep his limp up throughout the film. Tomnay also tells us how David Hyde Pierce came aboard and discusses how important the music is to the film. Then there's the four and a half minute featurette HDNet: A Look at The Perfect Host. This is mostly just a highlight reel from the film along with David Hyde Pierce talking about it. Throw in the theatrical trailer and that wraps up the special features.

The Perfect Host is rated R for language, some violent content and brief sexual material. It's presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital sound with optional Spanish subtitles and has a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It's approximately 93 minutes long and should be available in both retail stores and most online retailers now.

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Tags: The Perfect Host, movie review, DVD review, crime, drama, David Hyde Pierce
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Blu-ray review: The Killing (1956) Criterion Collection
08/21/11 at 06:49 PM by EvilButters
How often do people actually seek out the early works of well-known directors? Are fans of a certain director actually interested in seeing absolutely everything in their filmography? Answering these questions is probably easier with a movie lover in mind, but is a bit more difficult if you consider a casual moviegoer. A director like Stanley Kubrick is best known for films like A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Shining, but Kubrick dabbled in crime and film-noir long before he gained any recognition from anyone. The Killing is just that; film-noir that is one of Kubrick's first full-length features before he was ever even a blip on the radar.

One of the more intriguing aspects of The Killing is that it features a nonlinear narrative. It's told out of chronological order. A good portion of both Quentin Tarantino's and Christopher Nolan's résumés are filled with nonlinear films. The story takes something simple and puts a slightly complicated spin on it. The film revolves around a robbery at a racetrack, which sounds straightforward enough. The way The Killing gets you to that point is something unique though. You're continuously strung along as Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) masterminds this elaborate plan that takes more than half the film just to set up and get all the right people together. There is so much riding on the plan going right and such an emphasis on the money everyone is going to receive if they pull it off that you expect something bad to happen when it finally comes time for everyone to play their part. The film gives you all the players up front though. All the cards are on the table as far as whose involved is concerned, but the robbery and its aftermath is where the payoff truly lies.

It was interesting being able to see a character walk through a house in one continuous shot without walls obstructing our view. The ability to go through walls thanks to the way the sets were built gives you an interesting perspective. There's also another scene where George (Elisha Cook Jr) is first shown talking to his wife Sherry (Marie Windsor). They re-locate themselves several times during the scene in the same room, but the camera is always strategically placed to make you feel like you're sitting right next to them and actively part of their conversation. The digital restoration can probably take credit for this, but I don't think I've ever seen a film this old look this good. The film may be lacking color, but it's still crisp and clear. The lighting is fantastic, especially in the scene where the clown mask comes into play during the robbery.

I've always had this thing about gangsters. I think a lot of people do otherwise gangster movies and the crime genre in general wouldn't be as popular as it is. But that cliché gangster voice is just incredibly entertaining to me. It just reminds me of Rocky and Mugsy from "Looney Tunes." The Killing is filled with guys that talk like that and it's incredible. The narration just made it feel all the more genuine, which is odd since apparently Kubrick hated adding the narration into the film. That criminal atmosphere just speaks to you in ways other films don't. There's quite a bit of dialogue in the film that does the same. It'll probably sound dated to most, but that's the way gangsters should sound. "Standin' outside the door measuring the keyhole," and “That’s a pretty head you got on your shoulders. You wanna keep it there or carry it around in your hands?” are things you'd never hear anyone say these days.

As Johnny Clay first has everyone gathered and they're discussing the plan for the robbery, there's this big roundtable discussion. It's littered with booze, chain-smoking, and wise guys getting slapped in the face. It's fantastic. But the way the scene is filmed, the way it makes you feel like you have to lean this way or the other to see around somebody else's head to get a glimpse of whoever's talking, is very reminiscent of the war room scenes in Dr. Strangelove.

The Killing isn't going to change your mind on what your favorite Stanley Kubrick film is. It will, however, reveal that Kubrick had a unique vision of cinema even when he was first starting out. With a compelling cast, an engrossing story, and a straightforward but completely satisfying conclusion, The Killing is incredibly solid from beginning to end.

Special features on Criterion Collection releases are referred to as "Supplements" and The Killing has plenty of them. The unique thing is that an entire full-length movie is included as a special feature. Stanley Kubrick's film Killer's Kiss (in a restored high-definition digital transfer, of course) is on this Blu-ray in its entirety along with its own special features. Geoffrey O'Brien, a movie critic, analyzes Killer's Kiss in a nine minute featurette. He basically spends that time comparing Killer's Kiss to the rest of Kubrick's works. The trailer for Killer's Kiss is also included. James B. Harris was a producer that partnered with Stanley Kubrick on several pictures including The Killing and formed Harris-Kubrick Productions. In this twenty-one minute featurette, Harris tells the story of how he and Kubrick became partners along with how The Killing originated, the differences between the movie and the novel, Sterling Hayden joining the cast, and quite a bit more. It's pretty fascinating and filled with tons of behind the scenes information. Next up are two excerpts from the French TV series Cinéma cinémas featuring Sterling Hayden in an in-depth interview from 1984 that totals around twenty three minutes. Hayden goes into detail about his entire career and admits to not knowing what he was doing the majority of the time. He also makes it a point to say that he has no idea what Kubrick saw in him while having one of the worst days of his life while trying to film his scenes for Dr. Strangelove. Poet and author Robert Polito discusses Jim Thompson's collaboration with Kubrick in a nearly nineteen minute featurette. Thompson collaborated with Kubrick on the screenplay for The Killing and is credited with "additional dialogue" in the credits. Polito mostly analyzes the film while pointing out similarities to Thompson's other works. Lastly, the trailer for the film is also included. As an added bonus, a booklet is included with the film featuring an essay by film historian Haden Guest and a reprinted interview with actress Marie Windsor.

The Killing Criterion Collection Blu-ray is not rated, features a new digital restoration of the film, is available in monaural sound, and is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. It is approximately 84 minutes long and is a black and white film. The Killing will be released this Tuesday, August 23rd and should be available in both retail stores and most online retailers.

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Tags: The Killing, movie review, Blu-ray review, crime, film-noir, thriller, Stanley Kubric
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