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All reviews - Movies (44) - TV Shows (2) - Books (1) - Games (11)

Synecdoche, New York review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:29 (A review of Synecdoche, New York)

Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. When I walked out of the New York theater after I saw it the first time, I didn’t know what to think. I felt something, but I didn’t know what. My mind was focused on the burning house and the series of illnesses that Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suffers. I thought about how clever it was to hide an event such as the burning house right under our noses throughout the whole film, and yet we’re still heartbroken at what happens because of it. And then I saw it again. It is a masterpiece--finely crafted and intricately layered--that rewards multiple viewings. Kaufman, the director and screenwriter, has shot for the moon, knowing full well that he would never make it, and shows that he has accomplished exactly what he wanted. Caden’s life is theater. He gets a MacArthur genius grant and sets off to create “something real.” So, of course, he hires actors to play real people. And then he hires actors to play the actors playing real people, and eventually hires an actor to play himself (who understands Caden better than Caden does). But he is distraught. Caden is stuck in his anxious state of being, forever dreading his inevitable death—stuck worrying about his daughter, his wife, his lover, his health, his play... his play... his play... all the while aging without even noticing that life is passing by--whether he pays attention to it or not.

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Aguirre: The Wrath of God review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:27 (A review of Aguirre: The Wrath of God)

Don Lope de Aguirre travels down into the heart of the jungle in search of El Dorado. This is a tale of madness, treachery, and greed--and it is (one of) Herzog’s masterpiece(s). Kinski’s performance is both mesmerizing and menacing. Beautiful and poetic imagery inhabit each frame. When I first watched it, I was hypnotized from the start with the impressive opening shot of a huge mass of Spanish conquistadors and their native slaves working their way through treacherous mountain ranges and swamps--all with the dreamlike music of Popol Vuh droning in the background. But it was the end that really pulled me in: a shot that spins uncontrollably in a whirlpool, and all we see is the delusional Aguirre in a childlike battle with tiny monkeys. Power struggles and deceit infect everyone on the raft. When will it end? How will it end? Everyone but Aguirre seems to know.

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Eraserhead (1977) review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:24 (A review of Eraserhead (1977))

Truly the most terrifying film I’ve seen to date. This film is David Lynch’s bizarre nightmare made real for all of us to experience. Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is having a child. This is a life-changing experience for him, but not in a good way. His child is deformed, alien-like in its demeanor. It almost looks like a leech, and it sucks the life out of Henry. If you’ve ever seen a David Lynch movie, you know that his storytelling is anything but normal and that really keeps the feeling of a nightmare, with this weird dream-logic sulking under every element of the film. The Man in the Planet, the Lady in the Radiator, the unsettling encounter with Mr. and Mrs. X—moments and images that are forever ingrained in my mind. If you have been thinking about having a child, do yourself a favor and skip this movie because you may never again want to.

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My Dinner with Andre (1981) review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:23 (A review of My Dinner with Andre (1981))

If you would have told me that my new litmus test would be a film consisting of a conversation between theater director Andre Gregory and playwright Wallace Shawn, I probably would have believed you, honestly, but only after some serious discussion--which is exactly what this movie is so great at. Andre has been feeling disillusioned, and so his directing has been put on hiatus. He has been travelling to remote places, visiting with people who do not speak his language and participating in bizarre rituals in order to find something meaningful to re-spark his life again. However, things haven’t been working out quite like he’d planned. But slowly, Wally starts to chime in on some of Andre’s insights and we see that most people are in that same rut, trying their hardest to block out the imperfections of the world. A riveting conversation about the nature of reality, what it means to be human, the need for connections in the bizarre alienation of city life, technology, and love. This movie is a wonderful spark for intelligent conversations about things most people don’t spend a lot of time talking about, but really should.

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Seven Samurai review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:22 (A review of Seven Samurai)

Widely regarded as a masterpiece, I went into this movie with high expectations, all of which were exceeded. Kurosawa tells the story of a group of unemployed samurai who are enlisted to defend a poor farming village in the mountains from being raided by returning bandits. But there is a catch—the samurai must work for free. Most villagers do not expect them to find anyone willing to help, but the determination of one of them catches the attention of Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura, also wonderful in Kurosawa’s Ikiru), a noble and big-hearted ronin with impressive skills. With his help they assemble six more warriors, each with their own distinct personality, to help prepare the village for defense. The film gives great insight on the traditions of ancient Japan, meditations on morality, and the nature of war and death. When the end of the film comes up, you are so connected with the many characters that you can’t help but relate to the somberness of Kambei—when is the safety of a village worth more than the life of one close friend? A very powerful film, worth watching for Toshiro Mifune’s performance alone.

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Valhalla Rising (2009) review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:21 (A review of Valhalla Rising (2009))

This film treats its audience intelligently, and starts in medias res--we are shown One-Eye, silent as always, tied around his neck to a post in the middle of a mud pit and forced to fight two Viking-looking warriors. He brutalizes them. Money exchanges hands and One-Eye submissively allows himself to be transported back to his cage. We are left to piece the clues together ourselves, but Refn has a clear theme: obsessions with power. One-Eye is almost superhuman in his fighting abilities but when he is freed he is ineffably calm and collected, and no one dares to question his power--not even the group of Christian warriors that take him along for their journey to the Crusades. Without giving too much away, they never make it to the desert and the story gets more bizarre as the speaking characters lose their grip on their sanity and power. Everyone but One-Eye is lost and he has no answers for the Crusaders, though they see their fates in his eye, and his eye says to them: “You are all going to die.” The movie is an eclectic mix of anime-, western-, samurai-, and epic-styled films, and the mix serves it well. When I show this movie to friends, I don’t expect them to like it, but they’ve all been as mesmerized as I have. Mads Mikkelsen is to thank for this, saying so much without saying anything at all.

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Memento review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:19 (A review of Memento)

Probably Christopher Nolan’s best-known work before he directed The Dark Knight. It tells the tale of Leonard who, after a traumatic head injury, can no longer make long-term memories. But this is a very clever film because the whole story is told in reverse-chronological order with black and white segments peppered between scenes of a telephone conversation between Leonard and a mystery man. Watching this, you are as confused and suspicious as Leonard is because you can never be sure if you’ve met someone before or if this person is taking advantage of you. All we can do is trust Leonard and his notes, which isn’t much at all, as he often admits to himself. Leonard becomes a tool for vengeance with his one goal tattooed on his chest—John G. raped and murdered my wife. Find him and kill him. This is a very successful and cerebral film that examines the fallibility of memory and the limits of vengeance. Seek it out.

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My Dinner with Andre (1981) review

Posted : 6 years, 10 months ago on 21 September 2011 01:56 (A review of My Dinner with Andre (1981))

It seems ironic at how little I have to say about such a wordy film, but it's just simply brilliant.

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