Underrated Films, Un-Prolonged Reviews: The Tourist (2010)

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Plot (from IMDB): Revolves around Frank, an American tourist visiting Italy to mend a broken heart. Elise is an extraordinary woman who deliberately crosses his path.

I really don’t see what all the hate here with this film is about. Oh, of course, the boy who tries to find at least one tiny little positive thing he likes about each and every movie he sees doesn’t get the hate, but I digress. I think the biggest problem with this movie is that it was marketed as a “romantic comedy-thriller”, which is a tad misleading. Thrilling? Yes, infact the spy-thriller ingredient to this movie, along with the gorgeous scenery and well-timed action sequences were the film’s best portion, reminding me somewhat of the underrated Bond flick “License to Kill”. The romance element of this film wasn’t as bad as i’ve heard, while their chemistry wasn’t always the greatest I think Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie worked fairly well together, playing off of each other admirably. However, this movie shouldn’t really be classified as a comedy. Sure, it had some nice comedic moments sprinkled throughout, but I think this film works much better when it plays itself straight as an espionage movie. I think it worked marvelously as a modern day spy-thriller, not enough that I give it my most substantial of recommendations, but I believe it works well enough that I should say give it a chance. You might end up liking it.

My Rating: 7/10

Thanks for Reading!

Gone Girl (2014) Review

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Plot (from IMDB): With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

Ah, mystery. Whether it be the investigation of a murder, a damsel in distress, or an affair that sours and goes horrifically wrong mystery, if done the right way, can be a very compelling piece of work. Add in elements of psychological thriller and a sultry femme fatale that feels lifted right out of Hollywood’s Golden Age and you get one hell of a potent combination.

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That explanation, and the phrase “potent combination”, I think personally sums up the very core of this film perfectly. “Gone Girl”, the latest film from masterful thriller director David Fincher, is a complicated scheme of a movie, in the most positive of ways.

Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay to this film which, in my opinion, was the best idea imaginable because, let’s face it, who’s the best person to adapt a novel or story to the big screen than the original writer of the story, seeing as they’d know the story best. I’ve never gotten around to reading the novel as of yet, however I will say this is probably a pretty-near flawless adaptation of the novel, because as I’ve said who better to adapt than the original author? That being said, I think Flynn’s screenplay is one of the best, most well-written screenplays of 2014. The film’s run-time clocks in at just under two-and-a-half hours, however the film never feels forced, never bores, and always keeps the viewer engaged and guessing till the bitter end. While the pacing is slow in parts, I think it adds perfectly to the tension and drama, but then it speeds up like a runaway train rearing down the tracks at thrilling speed when all the dark plot twists and turns come crashing into the viewer. This is psychological thriller writing at its very best, I mean you have every element of fantastic storytelling present here; the cunning and sultry femme fatale, the morally ambiguous (or so it may seem) everyman searching for answers, the psychotic stalker ex-boyfriend, obsession and desire, police procedural investigations and tension, and many silently lurid moments that keep a gripping encapsulation on the viewer.

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The film was directed by David Fincher, whose original style of taut density and flair for bringing out the finest, if not most disturbing, performances from every member of his casts. He’s absolutely perfect to direct a film of this caliber not only because of his almost-Hitchcockian way of creating palpable intensity, but also he’s proven himself to be one of the most original, brilliant directors to come out within the past 25 years, if not one of the finest directors of all time. Fincher has the knack for utilizing one of the best modern cinematographers out there today, Jeff Cronenweth. Cronenweth, however, is no stranger to Fincher’s work – having shot the brilliant cinematography for three of his other works: “Fight Club”, “The Social Network”, and his 2011 remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. Cronenweth has a very imposing sense of lighting and shadowing that I think perfectly embodies this type of story, adding a little something extra that most modern films like this do not possess. The police investigation sequences – particularly the ones shot at nighttime, in my personal opinion, are some of his finest shot work because of the way he utilizes a dark color palate and expressive shadows that perfectly emit a looming sense of danger and paranoia. His father, famed cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who framed arguably one of the greatest films of all time (“Blade Runner”) would be very proud of his achievements and how accomplished of a cinematographer he is. This, in my opinion, is David Fincher’s third best film, just slightly behind his flawless “Fight Club” adaptation, and “The Social Network” at number one, which is one of the finest made films in a very long time.

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The original score was composed by the well-matched team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who use dark ambient tones and sparse notes of noise that creates this disturbing false sense of hope and joyful disposition that perfectly compliment the gloomy, pitch black tone of the film. Not their finest achieved score, which in my opinion was their Oscar-winning score to “The Social Network”, but it was still however a exceptionally adept piece of work.

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Now onto the rant portion of my review. Ben Affleck. What is everyone’s humongous problem with Ben Affleck? Sure, he’s made some questionable movie choices, but are death threats really necessary? No, that’s just plain stupid – plenty of actors have had bad film rolls or gave bad performances, even some of the finest actors like Nicolas Cage in “Rage”, Bradley Cooper in “The Hangover Part III”, Richard Burton in the insufferably dull political drama “The Comedians”, Matt Dillon in “Deuces Wild” – those are just a few of the many examples. Ben is not alone in this, people. Personally, I think he was the best actor suited for the role of Nick Dunne because he has this almost calm aura of the typically normal everyman. His quietly gripping performance, which was massively underrated I might add, reminded me somewhat of James Stewart’s legendary performance in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” because, like Ransom Stoddard, Nick Dunne was this average, everyday man who was caught up in a heated situation he had to fight his way out of or die trying,  in Dunne’s case though metaphorically speaking of course. But perhaps the finest piece of this film was Rosamund Pike’s incandescent Oscar-nominated performance as Amy Dunne. If anyone out of every great performance this last year deserved to be nominated at the very least, it was Pike for sure. Her performance had all these wonderful elements to it; she had the sultry sizzle of Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat”, the haunting beauty and style of Tippi Hedren in “Marnie”, and the dark mysteriousness of Gene Tierney in “Laura”. It was truly a movie lovers dream, and seeing as the plot and tones of the film reminded me greatly of “Laura”, it works flawlessly! And with Neil Patrick Harris’ performance as Desi Collings, was anyone reading this reminded of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Hedy Carlson and her performance from “Single White Female”? You know, pretty on the outside, but a very complexly hidden sociopath on the inside? Whether you, the reader, sees that or not, I thought Harris’ performance was terrifically macabre, one of the most underrated performances of the year. Heading up the supporting cast with some very fine performances are Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo (and practically his only supporter), Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, Nick’s very casually misogynistic defense lawyer, and Patrick Fugit as Officer James Gilpin, one of the leading police officers working on Amy’s disappearance case.

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In conclusion, David Fincher’s hyper brilliant masterpiece is like a beautiful patchwork quilt: many of the components remind me yearningly of noir films, psychological dramas, and Classic Hollywood, and all of the elements of the film sew together and fit faultlessly as a whole. In my opinion, this is Fincher’s third best film, but admittedly it’s his best shot and best framed one, thanks to master cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth.

My Rating: a mint 10/10

Thanks for reading my blog, everyone!

Nymphomaniac (2014) Review

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Plot: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences, from her very early experiences up to age 50, to the man who saved her after a beating.

**THIS REVIEW IS BASED UPON THE US CUT, NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT**

**REVIEW CONTAINS SOME STRONG LANGUAGE AND GRAPHIC IMAGERY**

Why is it when someone makes a movie about nymphomania, sex addiction, they have to put us through the emotional wringer and make us feel uncomfortable depressed by the time the credits roll? Master modern auteur filmmaker Steve McQueen did the same with his harrowing, thoroughly depressing, and human 2011 opus “Shame”, and now Lars von Trier has brought us his take on the human nature of sex addiction with his two-part explicit, gut-wrenchingly depressing, and somehow still empowering new film.

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Now, you may think i’m nutty when I call a film entitled “Nymphomaniac” empowering, but just hear me out if you will. This movie is about a very serious topic, sex addiction, yes – however, it is also a story about a woman unshamefully reclaiming her given, and deserved, right to sex, to a sexual identity, and to sexual feelings. Yes, it is an extremely explicit film – what with shots and sequences full of full frontal nudity including close ups, masturbation, penetration, oral sex, anal sex, cum spitting, and BDSM (even in the US cut) – but a very important one, an empowering movie that shows that women too should be allowed to express their sexual desires and wants any way they feel comfortable with (as long as it isn’t in an illegal matter or in a way that is harmful in the long run to herself or others), and hopefully this will open the eyes of more great filmmakers who dare to be brave enough to tackle such a tough topic.

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But I digress from the topic at hand a little there, as this movie is also the polar opposite of empowering in many ways than one. Yes, what I said is true about how this movie, in my opinion, could be viewed as one about a woman reclaiming her sexuality, however it is also a very detaching story of how someone’s life is built up around and unraveled around addiction issues. The duel themes, in my view at least, are very dark yes but they coincide expertly together.

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Another point I wanted to make is a point against the classic “art versus pornography” argument. “Nymphomaniac” is a sexually explicit film in many ways than one, but it is absolutely the furthest thing from a pornographic movie. Even though this is a very very graphic movie, it’s not a pornographic movie for three huge reasons; #1 – This movie actually has a story, a plot. True, some porn movies have a story but not a story with realistic and deeply complex themes. #2 – This movie accurately depicts the plight of the human condition with style, grace, and integrity, and you can feel it deep in the pit of your gut that very wrenching and hollow feeling of emptiness and soullessness when Joe’s addiction begins to worsen and her life begins to unravel itself. #3 – The most important of all: this movie is not erotic or arousing in the least bit. Pornography is made with the intent to turn people on, to make them feel aroused, and unless you’re a sadist or a seriously sick individual this movie will just depress the hell out of you like it did me.

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Now what we have here is another in a line of brilliant woks by master filmmaker Lars von Trier, but does this film compare well to the others in the so-called “Depression Trilogy”, and are both volumes as equally well-crafted? Well, yes and no. The greatest film of the trilogy in my eyes was “Melancholia”, so what we have her in these two volumes represents the second best and the weakest of the trilogy. “Nymphomaniac” Volumes 1 and 2 were expertly written and directed by von Trier in a way only he could; I could see no one else being able to direct a film so gut-wrenching, so explicit, so depressing, and yet so vibrantly and realistically human like he did, and if someone had attempted to make this project other than von Trier I very highly doubt it would be half as great. The characters are so sharp and well developed that every emotion, every piece of dialogue, every iota of pain and pleasure they’re feeling jumps right off the screen and jolts right into our hearts.

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Does this all mean that “Nymphomaniac” is a flawless film as a whole? Not exactly. While Volume 1 was a masterpiece and as close to flawless of a film von Trier’s ever made (besides only “Melancholia” and “Dancer In The Dark”), with its wild kinetic energy, extremely dark humor, and intelligent story, Volume 2 suffers from odd pacing issues in spots, a few dull moments that don’t quite spark in comparison with the first volume, and a few jarring tonal shifts. But that’s not to say it’s a bad film because it’s the furthest thing from a bad film, but it doesn’t quite live up to the first volume. However, I do highly commend it not only for continuing the story in a very great way considering, and for having a shocking conclusion that just fits the film as a whole like a glove.

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Even though a movie has a master filmmaker and writer at its helm, it isn’t much without a fantastic cast of gifted actors. And Lars sure picked a hell of a cast, who include: Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Uma Thurman, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Shia LaBeouf, Willem Dafoe, and newcomer Stacy Martin. The whole entire lot of them gave the utmost tremendous performances (especially newcomer Martin and Stellan Skarsgard), not a bad performance in the entire film, but there is one I absolutely must must must must must must must single out: the brave performance by graceful actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg’s performance as Joe (as an adult) was unbashfully raw, emotionally draining, and unlike anything I have ever seen before in my entire life. I’ve seen some truly great performances, but hers was one of the top of the top greatest performances I have ever witnessed. If someone is able to perform a role like this traditionally, more power to them; but she took the extra mile, turning in a very raw, very explicit, and very brilliant performance that damn near took my fucking breath away. If she doesn’t at least get nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, in my honest opinion, it’ll be a fucking travesty.

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In conclusion, Lars von Trier’s trilogy-closing opus “Nymphomaniac” is definitely not for the easily disturbed, easily depressed, prudish, or easily offended, but if you decide to watch this movie you will embark on a daring journey down the spiraling path of addiction.

My Rating: Volume 1 – 10/10; Volume 2 – 9/10

Thanks so much if you were able to get through this long ranting review, and thanks for reading my blog!

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Very Sad News, Fellow Bloggers and Readers

So, as you can see my hiatus, as I unashamedly call it, lasted a bit long – but in defense of this my cable company, who shall remain nameless for fear of me ranting and getting sued, has been absolutely terrible with service. I’ve barely had a working internet service for my desktop, which has a 7 year old operating system and has to run on a wired connection, for the past 5 months. But I decided to make my return, sort of, to report some very tragic and depressing news in my life, and life of this blog. Sid, the Mascot Kitty of “It’s A Small Film World After All”, has died unexpectedly of an unspecified disease/illness at the young age of 8 years old. I’ve been absolutely detached since his passing, it was a truly devastating day. He died on December 30th at about 4:14 AM, as he was laying on the living room floor. I was holding him and crying, as I kissed him and told him how much I loved him and how good of a cat he was, and as I told him goodbye and held his paw I looked up into his eyes and he was gone.

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I very much despise to report bad news, but I felt like breaking my hiatus silence to tell my readers that my beloved pet, best friend, and the mascot and driving force behind my blog has passed on. It really pains me greatly to write this post. I had Sid since he was just two months old, after I turned 10. We were both born in September, so we celebrated our birthdays together watching tv while I cuddle him. He really loved to watch “Law and Order Special Victims Unit”, no fooling he would seriously stare at the screen and watch it anytime my mom or I would have it on. This September, as I’ve said, he turned 8 and I turned 18, so we celebrated growing up together in a way. Because we did grow up together. He’s been my greatest friend since I was a little boy, and he was the only cat I’ve ever had that let me baby him unconditionally. I am going to miss him greatly for the rest of my life.

This is the last photo I took of him, on September 24:

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Rest in Peace, Sid the Mascot Kitty: 2006-2014

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Thanks so much for reading my blog everyone, and for being so patient with my many hiatuses.

A Brief Hiatus, Maybe

As it may seem for the last 6 months or so of writing this blog I’ve been taking a quote-unquote brief hiatus, but instead of it being from odd stress here and there and writer’s block this new hiatus is because of no internet access. Starting around Sunday I won’t have internet access for anywhere up to two weeks, which means I’ll basically have to take a forced hiatus. I’m going to attempt to finish up a few promised and or unpromised reviews to post until then, but basically I won’t be able to post anything for a while. Which is something that most of my readers are used to by now but I felt bad and decided to make this post explaining myself.

As always, thanks for reading!

photo by Dominik Gwarek

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Staff Picks #12: Somewhere (2010)

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Plot:

After withdrawing to the Chateau Marmont, a passionless Hollywood actor reexamines his life when his eleven-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.

Why It’s A Staff Pick:

“Somewhere” gets very high marks on my Staff Picks section for three huge reasons; Number One, and very importantly, is because of Stephen Dorff’s incredible, at times near-heartfelt performance. Not only does he have the looks and physique to play a character like Johnny Marco, but he also has the redeeming likeability that a character like Marco sometimes needs and he definitely has the depth and acting ability to perfectly play this challenging role. Number two, and arguably most important, would be Sophia Coppola’s terrific screenplay and delightfully crafted story, which faultlessly mixes emotions of loss and longing with strong subjects like fatherhood that are all the while sobering and rang genuinely true. The third reason for recommendation is the minimalist, almost dense tone in which the scenes of the film were crafted. While some scenes go on and out without much notice and others seem to linger on without too much happening, the strong emotions displayed throughout and the pensive depth of Dorff’s character pierce the heart and senses all across the entire movie.

My Rating:

8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

Staff Picks #11: Salinger (2013)

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Plot:

An unprecedented look inside the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye.

Why It’s A Staff Pick:

Forget what you know about JD Salinger, no matter how much or how little you know about him, for a moment. Even if you’ve never read his work, like myself, if you know at least a thing or two about literature history you should know somethings about him. You’d know that he was highly reclusive for the majority of his life, that he wrote one of the most controversial yet critically praised novels of all time (“Catcher in the Rye”), and you’d probably know that his main character from “Catcher” Holden Caulfield’s quote-unquote unique ideals inspired Mark David Chapman to assassinate John Lennon. This movie is included in my Staff Picks list because if you don’t know much or anything about Salinger and want to take the opportunity to learn, this documentary is absolutely perfect for you. Although the sequencing of events is a tad odd to get used to at first, the film goes into copious amounts of detail about his early life, his life during and at the end of WWII, the writing and inspirations for “Catcher”, his later more reclusive life, and even plenty about his final years – all with fantastic interviews from fans, friends, colleagues, and admirers. While I did have a problem with the amount of dramatic reenactments that this documentary had, it is still a brilliant and well-crafted piece about a truly original and fascinating individual.

My Rating:

8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!