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Lucky Bastard (2009)
Walk out with clarity
This was an excellent film that I didn't expect to watch. I thought I'd give it a try, as I have with many other gay-themed films, and turn it off in 15 minutes. But I couldn't. It is a very remarkable character-driven story. Other reviewers here have pointed out that the characters are at times unlikable or that their actions don't make sense. To that I would respond...that's life. And this film was extremely life-like. Certainly, there's some moments of weakness, but the dialog is very well-written and delivered. Dale Dymkoski in particular is captivating. His character is quite unlikable. At different points in the film, you want him gone, and yet your heart breaks for him. That's a great performance. The character growth in this story is something that's rare to see in any film, particularly one on this budget. Story-wise, everything comes full-circle.
As an aside, it irks me to read in some reviews that people were observed to "walk out of the theater." That's a cliché here on IMDb. Every time I read that, I know the review cannot be trusted. It's not a reaction I would expect at a film festival. I'm a lover of film, and I've never seen people leave a theater en-mass, especially one like this. Reviewers should post their review without relying on on others to back up their point of view. People that walk out of a theater do not lend credibility to a review, as they can't review something they didn't bother to watch. And maybe they were just getting snacks.
Lake Placid 2 (2007)
Gives You the Good Stuff
A sci-fi channel flick with Bo Duke; before you even rent/watch the movie, that should tell you not to take the film too seriously. All too often in these creature features, you get jipped on the violence, gore, nudity, and creature effects. Too often, the creature is seen for a total of 47 seconds in the entire movie. None of those things can be said about Lake Placid 2. It's a B-movie with some horrible editing and acting--but it's got all of the stuff that makes a bad movie good. While the CGI isn't always that spectacular (they even had a cheesy CGI plane-landing), the crocs are on-screen just as much as the actors are, and the body count is surprisingly high. It loosely follows the story of the original, with Cloris Leachman in for Betty White (and, actually, she raises herself above the other performances in the film). It doesn't strike the horror/comedy balance of the first film at all, but this is more of a B-movie creature flick than a true sequel. Compared to other low-budget films in the same genre, this one actually manages to rise above most of the others out there, and gives you the good stuff along with the laughs.
Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
Okay...probably a 7, but the pleasant surprise makes it an 8
Really, I think this movie is more an example of an easy target than a truly bad film. In fact, the movie is done very well in many respects and is very entertaining.
Yes, the script is a little convoluted, but that's the genre. The film has a noirish atmosphere centered around a femme fatale. Just like all the old noir classics, this, too, has a screenplay that twists you around so that you don't always know how to make sense of it at first, and it can be a stretch if you think too deeply and try to put all of the pieces together. That's the genre. In general, the script has enough surprises and turns to keep the viewer guessing and, in turn, surprised, without abandoning the viewer.
Sharon Stone is also an easy target. The truth is she looks great and she speaks her double-entendre laden dialog in such a way as to zhuzh it up into something mysterious, sexy and fun.
The direction is more than passable, because let's face it--you have to keep an audience interested in the "did she or didn't she?" question for two hours. In addition to a twisty script and a fun performance by Stone, this is done effectively through the direction by the creation of a noirish atmosphere that is both dark and very stark and modern at the same time, with straight industrial lines to go along with Stone's sexy curves. The frame is always beautiful--press pause anywhere and there is something interesting to the eye.
The film also effectively builds on things that were gimmicks in the first film and turns them into something a little more real, particularly the sex. "Katherine Tramell is bisexual...how shocking!" becomes treated more matter-of-factly here, and typically, the sexuality of the film is used to better effect. It is still titillating, but not done so readily for shock value and buzz as done in the first. I won't say that it isn't still somewhat of a gimmick because, let's face it, this film is supposed to be fun.
And a fun film it is. It may be an easy target, but if you watch it for what it is: a noirish, femme-fatale driven, twisty, sexy, did-she-or-didn't-she who-dunnit, you're bound to enjoy it (no pun intended).
After Sundown (2006)
Give them more money...
I see many independent and low-budget films, and those involved with this film on all levels clearly have talent. The problem with low-budget horror films in particular is that horror is a genre that relies a great deal upon mood. Without a lot of money to put into good film stock, these films often appear digitized and lack the ability to give the same degree of color richness, depth and texture necessary to set an appropriate mood. Lighting is also far less forgiving, which influences not only mood but also the special effects and gore. So, while it is clear those involved in this film have talent, the low-budget nature is often distracting, and left me wondering what could have been. The story has an interesting twist on typical vampire lore with the addition of zombies (and I love a good zombie flick). Throw some more money at these guys, and lets see what they can do next.
Non-Hindi Speakers Stay Away
This movie was awful, and a misleading copy of "The Eye." Additionally, it is awful in a way that American remakes of Asian horror films often aren't. At least the Hollywood remakes are typically slick, bigger on budget, and look pretty. Certain scenes may even be improvements upon the original (and certain films like "Pulse" actually beg for a remake, because they are hardly flawless even though they may have a good concept.) But this movie...it had absolutely no redeeming qualities; many scenes were laughable! A smaller-budget remake (copy?) with no original ideas or twists on the story? That means it must have been done simply to change the language to appeal to Hindi-speakers. That's fine, but there's absolutely no reason for anyone who does not speak Hindi to see this...if you are going to read subtitles, watch the much superior original.
And I do plan on seeing the American remake of "The Eye," even though I know that it can't be an improvement upon one of my favorite horror films. At least, however, I don't expect it to be the insult that this film is.
The bad makeup job and hair cover on the "bald" cancer kid gave me the chills, for all of the wrong reasons.
Good cinematography does not a good film make
I think that many movies are misjudged here on the IMDb, particularly those within the "horror" genre. For some people, horror should be funny, while for others, humor in horror ruins a film. Some people are gore fans, and others favor suspense. When horror has so many different faces, the viewer ratings here on IMDb reflect opinions from those going into a film that will inevitably be disappointed, because their definition of "horror" is not what this particular horror movie happens to be...hence middling scores on a great many horror movies here on IMDb, as well as very mixed comments from viewers. I try to judge a film based on its own merits, rather than my expectations going into a film...and sometimes when my first impression is to be disappointed, I find other value in the film when I realign my expectations to view a film for what it is.
I have to say, that this film is not really a "horror" movie. And that is OK. It is a drama that departs from the original horror film. And that is fine too. What is not fine, is that this is not a particularly interesting drama. While it is filmed and framed extremely well, pretty pictures don't substitute for an involving story and characters that you care about. For the most part, this plays like a TV drama. While the final scene is good, that doesn't make the film worth-while. I'm a viewer who can find good in most films, and I can find good in this film as well. All the same, I have to say that the good isn't worth it, and this is a film that is completely worth skipping.
For a more worthy title worth your viewing, check out "Another Heaven" by the same director. While not a perfect film by any means, it is entertaining, and your time will be better spent.
Riding the Bullet (2004)
A Real Roller-Coaster
It's interesting that this film's central image and namesake is a roller-coaster, because that is exactly what this film is. It makes you laugh, produces some scares and excitement...and maybe even a tear or two. Unfortunately, if you've ever ridden one of those old wooden roller-coasters like "The Bullet," you know that they also bounce and trounce you around and can give you a little bit of a head ache--and that's also what this film does.
It's really difficult to keep a viewer hooked when the film tries to be so much--it's a comedy/horror/romance/drama. In the end, it goes for the same tone as some other Stephen King adaptations like "Stand By Me" or "The Green Mile"...even though it didn't begin that way. Even so, it's a fun ride, kept on the track due to a host of strong performances. I was expecting the usual greatness from Jonathan Jackson and Barbara Hershey...but even David Arquette was good. Add in a nifty soundtrack and good cinematography, and it's a thrilling up-and-down, twisting ride. The only problem is on such a ride, one wants to be left with a sense of that thrilling experience--the exhilaration--and not, however touching it may be, a saccharine voice-over of an ending.
After an interesting (though seen before) opening, this film sinks into blandness. It tries to be moody and foreboding without going for the cheap scares, but the proper tone is never really established. That may be because the very conceit is just a little over the top. Every time the newspaper appears, the spooky music cues, the actor's eyes get wide, and he steps trepidaciously towards the ill omen and you feel as though you are waiting for something to jump out at you...but the truth is, there's nothing really that scary about a newspaper. I don't believe that everything in a movie needs to be explained or make sense, but when things are left unexplained, it should be done to good effect. That's an effect this film never achieves, try as it might.
Makai tenshô (2003)
This film could have been astounding. As it is, individual scenes are still quite amazing to watch, but overall, this film falls far short of the greatness that it could have been. I'm not sure whether the fault is that of the director or script writer...but what I can say is that the cinematography along with some of the concepts are amazing. This film could have been so much more. The scene in the wheat field (or grass, or whatever it was) speaks to what this film could have been. That scene is involving and original, creating the mood that most of this movie aspires to, and I would say that scene alone is definitely worth the rental. However, unfortunately this movie is more visible for its shortcomings. What is an intriguing and original concept--Bhuddism vs. Christianity, of sorts, with the "resurrection" idea in Christianity allowing for a plot that I haven't scene before...falls short. The filmmakers don't take the play on Christianity that they could have, and the film, after a remarkable opening, wreaks of a PC mentality. Moreover, while individual scenes and the camera work are great, the characters and situations are hard to follow. I want to believe that is my Western sensibility and non-understanding of Japanese history, but this movie seems to me like a lot of Hollywood productions that look very pretty but fall short as far as story and continuity is concerned. It's still worth a watch...but I can't help feeling a deep sense of regret that this movie wasn't as great as it could have been.
A Relevance Unmatched
I don't recall a film which so deftly shows the emotional destruction of war, as mirrored in one single marital relationship. The focus of the film is the union between Ullman and Von Sydow--the two are in every scene. Through the course of the film, they experience a role reversal--one has the strength of survival and the other is reduced to emotional escapism through dreams. Both will lose a measure of humanity, but one to a greater degree than the other. The characters and the viewer go through periods of fluctuation in regards to closeness--the camera pulls out and away, sound disappears, words are lost, only for the camera to return to painterly closeups of its facially expressive stars. The confusion and fluctuation may make this film hard for some viewers, but this is all purposeful under the master hand of Bergman. I think the use of a "fake" war makes the film timeless, as relevant today as ever before, and by focusing on the human relationship through war, makes the film relevant to everyone. The pair could be anyone. The film is not grounded in place or time, but rather in emotion. A unique and effective war film, unlike any other. Bergman's films are virtuosic in presenting human relationships--that he would bring this to a war film is masterful.