Make Your Picks

Zed's Reviews

→ in
Tools    







Bram Stoker's Dracula Francis Ford Cappola1992

I remember enjoying this a lot when I was younger. I'm a fan of the vampire genre and all the excessive blood and theatrics use to entertain me. But apparently not so much anymore or maybe I'm just use to better quality effects. Maybe it has just aged badly, it was released in 92'. Some of the magic has definitely worn off.

Dracula was a Christian knight when he was a man, fighting in the name of God. He renounces his faith after the death of his wife Elisabeth and becomes a vampire. Four hundred years later he finds a woman who could be a reincarnation/bares a close resemblance to his love and he falls in love with her. She happens to be the wife of a law firm clerk who's visiting him to sell him property.
This is a much more passionate and perverse story as far as vampire stories go, it is like most vampire stories because it does follow the basic vampire story guide lines, vampire seduces girl, vampire is hunted etc. The delivery of the story is where I find problems, some scenes didn't flow and felt as if they were cut up and re-arranged too often, although I enjoyed the story itself.

Anthony Hopkins presence over shadows the rest of the cast. A charming, intelligent and gritty Van Helsing, he could have been a vampire he was so other worldly. Gary Oldman comes in second as Dracula, but only just. His performance was passionate and made for a believable four hundred year old vampire. I couldn't stand Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, I don't like to make such harsh judgments, but every line sounded forced and after a while they became boring and hard to watch.

All of the make up, props and scenery are excellent. A lot of time and effort went into all the small details. Dracula as an old and young man look the part perfectly, other worldly and charming. As a monster, bloody and gruesome. The only complaint I have is some scenes didn't work as I believe they were intended to. Such as over-the-top waves of blood and corny scene transitions like eyes turning into moons, didn't work for me and looked out-dated or not done right. If they were intended to add theatrics, they might have, if they were timed better or done with better technology.

If you can look past some corny effects, Keanu and Winona's poor acting and a few disjointed scenes this is a rich and passionate version of Dracula that is worth seeing.

__________________






I like this version of the Dracula story, though it's been a long time since I watched it. I have to say that I don't agree with your opinion of Hopkins at all. I thought he was pretty hammy, it seemed as if he and Gary Oldman (the master of OTT performances) were locked in some kind of titanic struggle of overacting. Great fun I'm sure, but I wouldn't say that Hopkins overshadows the film.

Also, I thought that Winona Ryder was pretty good, though I agree that the accent made much of her delivery sound stilted. And as for Reeves...





Adam Resurrected (Paul Schrader 2008)

I'm a fan of Jeff Goldblum, even his lesser and smaller roles. I have been waiting for him to have a lead role for a while, unfortunately this wasn't the film I hoped it would be. Goldblum makes good with his character all the same.

The plot is alittle hard to follow and even when its over some aspects are open to interpretation. Adam Stein (Goldblum) is a Jewish clown/preformer who survived WWII at the mercy of a Nazi commander (William Defoe) by imitating a dog for the commanders entertainment. During that time his family were sent to the gas chambers. We find Adam in a institute for holocoast survivors years later where he is treated like a celebrity, preforms miricales and has a sexual relationship with the head nurse. All until a new resident changes things for him and makes him deal with his painful past.



Adam Resurrected begins with mystries that you presume will be explained as the movie plays out but not much is revealed in the end or at least not clearly. In the end your left with a bunch of strange scenes that you have to make sense of yourself. The only redeemable thing about this film is Goldbum's performace, even if his Jewish accent is hard to understand at times, his character is entertaining and passionate.

Worth watching to see Goldblum but thats all.






Gigantic
Matt Aselton
2008

Zooey Deschanel has her own style, arty, aloof and quirky. In some movies it works for her and I enjoy it, but it seems to me shes trying to use this character in every film shes in and now its just getting boring and pretentious. I don't mind Paul Dano, I've only ever seen him in There Will Be Blood and he was excellent in that. The trailer had me expecting more then this little indie/arthouse film delivered.

Brian (Dano) is a young bed salesmen who's trying to adopt a young Chinese baby when Happy (Deschanel) falls asleep on a bed he's selling. There relationship, crazy families and personal insecurities follow, that is really all there is to it. There is also an unexplained sub-plot that makes no sense and isn't explained about a homeless man, possibly a hitman who repeatedly attacks Dano, like I said made no sense.

Dano and Deschanel give decent enough performances, only John Goodman, who sneaks in as Deschanel's eccentric father is really entertaining but he's only in a few short scenes. There is some nice imagery which tends to come with indy films and a few scenes are interesting but none of it really sticks together and after a while I found myself getting bored.

Arthouse and indy films can be be great because of there unique approach or they are pretentious and have little or no substance, this is mostly the latter.







The Killing Room
Jonathan Liebesman 2009

I presumed this film was another cheap Saw imitation and I dismissed it immediately. I noticed Nick Cannon's name on the cast list and that put me off even more.
ChloŽ Sevigny, Peter Stormare and especially Shea Whigham on the other hand did interest me. So I ventured on and Ill admit there were moments The Killing Room had my full attention and seemed like it was building to a triumphant climax. But for the most part fell short when it counted.

Military psychologist Ms. Reilly (Sevigny) is the new member of a team of scientists conducting secret experiments headed by Mr Phillips (Stormare). Four volunteers (Cannon, Clea DuVall, Timothy Hutton and Whigham) believing there involved in a typical public research experiment enter a white room unaware what is going on behind the scenes. It doesn't take very long for them to realize they are in over there heads, a series of 'questions' are asked of them and depending on there answers and actions decides who lives and dies. The Killing Room is cold and calculated in a way that the Saw series isn't because you know who is behind the scenes from the beginning and they aren't your typical killer cliches. Also because there is some genuinely good acting and chemistry between the cast. The Killing Room doesn't rely on blood and gore to scare you. Where the movie ultimately fails is two specific areas, the first is the script that just isn't clear enough in some scenes, leaves you wondering what was just said. The second and most important is plot, the whole film moves towards a revelation that just isn't as satisfying as it should or could have been. They could have done so much more with the story, you can't help but feel disappointed.



Considering the director Jonathan Liebesman's back list The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
and Darkness Falls its surprising this film had anything going for it at all. Maybe its the cast that makes a difference. Peter Stormare plays the bad-guy with his heavy ethnic accent and even though its what we almost always see of him, it works for him in this role. ChloŽ Sevigny is a good actress and makes good with her part although I can't think of anything shes been in since the controversial indie flix The Brown Bunny. Between Shea Whigham and Timothy Hutton I felt chemistry and most of the drama. Luckily Nick Cannon barely speaks or even acts through out the entirely of the movie which is obviously a good thing.

Definitely low budget since the whole movie is filmed in a single room. There is lots of silence and quiet at which time you are left staring at walls and floors, the silence and empty room do create a rigid and tense atmosphere. Some of the quick action scenes don't work that well.

For a movie I wasn't expecting very much of in the first place, I enjoyed most of it. If more time and effort had gone into the script that would have improved things a great deal. If the same time and effort had been given to the plot itself it could have been a great psychological thriller, there was potential to push the subject matter a lot further.




Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino 2009



I give credit where credit is due and there is something good here. But this is far Tarantino’s masterpiece and I believe who ever coined that phrase was only creating misleading hype. In fact this movie was marketed on the back of a lot of misleading hype but that doesn't take away from some great scenes, unique and memorable characters and a killer soundtrack.

Ill begin with my first gripe. Inglourious Basterds is probably one of the worst marketed films I've ever seen. Not to sound shallow I appreciate what the film is about but this isn't a film about the Inglorious Basterds, the American soldiers behind enemy lines killing Nazis, that take up every bit of add space I've seen for the last few months. I haven't seen any bit of media that indicated Mélanie Laurent is a central character. I've been reminded constantly that this is an action film, every trailer is fast paced and energetic, blood, gunshots and insanity. No brains all actions, which this film definitely is not. Like I said not too sound shallow but I feel I was truthfully mislead. I'm not stupid I know that a lot of trailers are misleading but I felt they completely ignored what the film is actually about. Had I ignored all the media hype and trailers or if they had accurately advertised the film I would have enjoyed Inglourious Basterds much more.

I got bored. Even after my second viewing, to insure I wasn't biased the first time round, I still wasn't that impressed. I noticed there were moments the actors even seemed to be looking awkward, intended or not I shared that awkward silence. Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise is more or less only dialogue, Glen Garry Glen Ross the same. Even Pulp Fiction has many scenes that rely solely on conversations. But I don't usually lose interest and I did during both viewings. Don't get me wrong there are fair few cleaver scenes, some great scenes but they are separated by so much unnecessary speech. Especially the indulgent 'movie history' conversation, I didn't understand much of it and I doubt many people did.

Apart from being bored I just don't think Inglourious Basterds is half as good as people have either told me or I've read about it. The long, sometimes pointless dialogue but mainly the story itself wasn't very satisfying, I'm not saying there aren't some great scenes but again they were just spread out and oddly placed. So out of place that I didn't feel like I was along for the ride. Not comfortable enough for you to get to know any of the characters or get connected to the story. I couldn't help but compare Inglourious Basterds to Pulp Fiction, Tarantino's most recognized work. In my eyes they just don't compare, how I felt after walking out of Pulp Fiction compared to this time around just doesn't come close. Pulp had both substance and style while Basterds tends to be more of the latter.

Finally what I did enjoy. There are some truly clever scenes and characters. Lets start with the Basterds themselves. Brad Pitt, Lieutenant Aldo Raine, aka "Aldo the Apache", this isn't one of his best performances but it is one of his funnist, just about every accented word got a laugh. Towards the end when he speaks Italian, classic. Eli Roth, Til Schweiger and the rest of the Basterds do well enough but they get so little time on screen that you don't really know. I only wish the Basterds had more time on screen. Obviously the best performance is Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa "The Jew Hunter" who is so disturbing with his charming demeanor and big grin you can't help but enjoy just about every minute hes on screen. I was surprised to see Mélanie Laurent among the cast list, let alone that shes actually one the central characters. I'd just seen her in Paris last year. She was unsurprisingly enjoyable. The cameos were a bit of fun but just felt like last minute additions.

Where Tarantino shines is his scene delivery, building tension and making simple situations complicated. Every scene in which "The Jew Hunter" is interrogating creates this tension. You can't help but appreciate it. Just about every scene of Waltz's is magic. I enjoyed most scenes but they didn't feel complete, they lacked the punch of Pulp. Stillfunny and very clever but just not enough to astonish me. Most of them felt like he was trying too hard. Its like when you know someone is cable of better, it is still great material, better then a lot that is out there but you just can't help but feel it could have been better.

What I enjoyed most was the sound track. At every significant or action scene the music was a highlight, always coming in at the right moment and adding to the scene. Especially Cat People (Putting Out Fire) by David Bowie, really a great scene.

Inglourious Basterds could have been a great movie, could have been his masterpiece, it had all the right ingredients but it just wasn't put together right.






The Soloist
Joe Wright 2009

Ill be honest I wasn't that interested in seeing The Soloist mainly because I don't like Jamie Foxx but I thought 'at least Downey Jr is in it' and ended up seeing it all the same. The Soloist wasn't disappointing but it wasn't breathtaking either. A heart-warming story, some better then expected acting and lovely music. What I didn't like was that it lost speed just over half way through, to be fair it was relevant to the story but at almost two hours long
I was underwhelmed.

Steve Lopez (Downey Jr) is an unpassionate journalist who meets a homeless schizophrenic
man, Nathaniel Ayers(Foxx) playing violin on the street. Noticing his talent Lopez takes an interest in him, at first to write a column about him but as he gets to know more about Nathaniel he becomes his friend.



I found myself becoming more and more engrossed during the first half of the film.
There are moments during the The Soloist that you get a very real and frieghtining look at the mind and motivations of someone suffering with paranoid schizophrenia. The real crux of the story is how Lopez relates and begins to understand Nathaniel, even though Nathaniel is eccentric and distant. This is where Foxx actually gets it right, the frightened look in his eye, energetic movements and constant self talk are scarily convincing. Downey plays a character similar to what has become typical of him in last few movies, confident, in your face professional type who is willing to go the extra mile to do the job or get the story, every bit as good as Foxx in my opinion. The Soloist explores how hard life is everyday for people living on the street, how a young musical prodigy in his second year at university can end up a bum on the street talking to himself. Captivating and unique but the story starts to unravel mid-way and loses that energy it had going for it when a key plot point becomes clear, I won't give that away here.

Despite the storytelling losing focus, Foxx and Downey never do. This is a a heart-wrenching story that is worth your time.





District 9 Neill Blomkamp 2009



District 9
, has some substance and the imagery and CGI are amazing in there own way. But I don't think it deserved the 'blockbuster' reputation it gathered and would have been more appreciated in a art house theater rather then at the box office.

I heard so much about this film in the last few months, I've seen the posters everywhere and watched that first teaser trailer that started all the fuss over District 9. Ill admit it all had me engrossed, the imagery was shocking and new, that shot of the space ship hovering over the horizon really impressed me. I gathered this was going to be something big. But it wasn't. Its not a huge or overwhelming story. This is an intimate and small story, a humanitarian tale. Not that its a bad thing I just didn't expect it and I doubt many people did. So like in my review of Inglourious Basterds I think the advertising has got it wrong again, this movie would have been much better without it.

Another problem I had with District 9 is that sometimes I felt like I was watching an amature film. The documentary style is one of the reasons for that. But mainly some of the props were unconvincing and looked obviously fake. I'm a big fan of Sunshine another science fiction movie with a low budget the special effects were done with tact and I never noticed. But during District 9 they stuck out between the better effects. District 9seemed like a mash up of other movies, the raw handy-cam and unknown actor style of
Cloverfield, the spaceship looks like it came straight out Independence Day, the narrative itself resembles the plot of E.T and maybe just a hint of The Fly. Overall I just wasn't that impressed when I walked out of the theater or at least not as much as I though I would be.

The 'prawns' are one of the most convincing aspects of District 9. The CGI is first class, the way the prawns interact with the environment and real people looks life like. Especially there glass-like eyes, its hard to believe they're computer generated. There spaceship that hovers over Johannesburg is the other impressive piece of CGI, the way the documentary style footage shoots it, really looks realistic. Ill admit I never got bored with these things.

Towards the end the action speeds up and there a few minutes of suspense. I enjoyed those few minutes but apart from that the only thing I liked apart from the CGI was the message, ' human beings are scared of what they don't understand ' this message could have worked just as well with an all human cast, the aliens are only there to get the public interested. In that way it does what good science fiction should. I expect most people will be more interested in the aliens themselves and not whats actually taking place and therefore missing the message altogether.

A strong underlying message but a weak movie in the end.







9
Shane Acker 2009

So this is the latest Tim Burton-esq animated film, even though he only produced, not directed 9 it definitely reminded me of him. I had heard it lacked depth and too some extent that's true but there is no lack of imagination. If you take the time to notice how much effort has gone into the small details, 9 is brilliant.

This is how the story goes, bare with me because its far from a typical narrative. A scientist brings to life nine dolls because human beings are at war with machines and all organic life is dying out. We meet the 9 possibly years after the war and follow them as they try to survive against "the beast" and uncover the mystery of there origins.
The only way I could think of to describe it would be Tim Burton's version of Toy Story. The machine/industry vs life/soul theme reminded me of Fern Gully.

Looking at 9 from a purely artistic standpoint, it is a masterpiece. The animation is subtle but heavily detailed. Every character has been well thought out in reference to there part of the story. For example doll 9#, they are all numbered, is well made, with copper and a zip, but number one is rougher and made of steel, every doll differs. But like I mentioned only if you take the time
will you notice because 9 is so subtle, it never flaunts itself like the majority of modern animation but leaves it to you to pick up on the finer points. The "beast" and machines are particularly creative, bone, machine and other bits and pieces fused together in steampunk style make for some truly harrowing enemies. Everything from the WWII style post-apocalyptic themed world to the black and white flash backs are beautifully designed.

I don't know if its by accident or design that the characters and story don't have much depth, not much to think about apart from what you see in front of you. In some ways this works for the story since the main characters haven't been alive for very long and are really only dolls, and because they would prefer you focus on the animation rather then any emotional attachment. After saying that there are some deeper themes regarding life, technology and the soul but there pretty broad and you won't hear from them until towards the end.

My other problem is with the voice acting.
Elijah Wood is the voice of the central doll 9#, his voice works for the character, the ambitious, curious doll. The rest of the cast is kind of generic and could have been replaced without you knowing the difference and also because they don't get much chance to speak. Especially Jenifer Connelly who I didn't recognise at all. Grispin Glover, who has the most unique voice is wasted on a character who only utters a few words here and there and could have contributed so much more to the uniqueness of his character.

The originality, creativity and thought that went into 9 make up for its few short comings.