Elijah Wood

Sin City

Year: 2005
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, special guest directing by Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Frank Miller

RYAN’S REVIEW

In the decade prior to the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the first Iron Man movie, comic book films were growing in popularity. You had the properties owned by Fox hitting the big screen with titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. Though only X-Men could be considered a success. You had Warner Brothers still pushing Batman and Superman movies with no continuity between them; they would show up egregiously late to the Cinematic Universe party. Then you had movies like this one. Gritty adaptations to darker comics like 300, and The Spirit. All of these films helped build the momentum that would carry the movie industry into the huge market of films based on comic characters.

Beyond the R rated New Line films featuring Blade this was far and away the darkest of all comic book films that had been released. Not only was it dark but it was violent and graphic in ways nobody had seen before. Twice in this movie Bruce Willis destroys the genitals of a sex pervert, which specifically stood out as a new and obscene type of violence. This movie truly lived up to it’s name with all the evilness going on within the movie. There are sex criminals, cannibalism, corruption, betrayal, prostitution, and brutally satisfying violence. Shot in black and white with specific uses of colors all this sinful behavior is on beautiful display to dazzle the audience. I have never understood why it took nine years to make a sequel and why it wasn’t as successful.

I have never taken the time to see the sequel because I have never heard anything positive about it. I didn’t want a subpar sequel to disappoint me in what I had once hoped would be a successful franchise. I think waiting too long can sometimes hurt a franchise. For example, I couldn’t get into The Hobbit movies because I felt like too much time had passed. The time to make those movies were in a reasonable time frame after The Lord of the Rings finished up when it was still fresh on all our minds. I feel like that is the same reason I haven’t seen the sequel to this movie. Nine years is too long to wait on a sequel and by the time it finally came interest had waned. I wish Robert Rodriguez had continued this franchise in lieu of diving into the Machete movies. However, I have yet to see the sequel and if anybody wants to vouch for it please leave a comment. I only need to be slightly motivated to sit down with it.

This movie is a beautiful adaptation because it looks like the pages of a comic book came to life and started moving around. Shot nearly entirely against a green screen this movie is so clever with its use of color. Only specific items in the film are seen in color and their presence creates such a sharp contrast to the film noir setting, making the movie all the more beautiful. I do not know if the colors show up in Frank Miller’s actual comic because I have never taken the time to read it. Rodriguez is on record stating that he doesn’t really consider this film a adaptation and instead sees it as a transition of the page to the screen. That makes me think that the colors are part of the comic, and maybe one day I will find out for myself.

Robert Rodriguez has always been good at assembling a great cast in his movies and this one is no different. The cast of this movie is truly exceptional in all main roles as well as supporting roles. I have long considered this to be one of the last exceptional movies featuring Bruce Willis with few exceptions like Planet Terror or Moonrise KingdomSpecifically this is before he decided to go back to the Die Hard franchise and destroy the legacy of John McClane. Mickey Rourke enjoyed a nice resurgence in his career around the time this film came out and his role as Marv had a lot to do with that. He was viewed as perfect for the part by creator Frank Miller. In the last of what constitutes the main roles I really liked Clive Owen as Dwight. Owen had burst onto the scene around the time this movie was coming out and just as quickly fell off the map. He is still active as an actor but isn’t anywhere close to the spotlight he found himself in ten years ago in the aftermath of playing King Arthur.

The supporting cast of this movie would just take far too long to cover in its entirety. I think special mention should go to Elijah Wood who is undeniably creepy and evil as the silent cannibal Kevin. Rosario Dawson is overflowing with sexuality as the leader of the Old Town whores, Gail. Benicio Del Toro is barely recognizable in make up for the role of Jackie Boy, which was originally offered to Johnny Depp. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfect as the golden eyed Manute. I think he was a tragic loss but find the replacement actor, Dennis Haysbert a good choice to play the same role in the sequel. Josh Hartnett looks quite dapper in his beginning scene with Marley Shelton and I specifically like how he shows back up in the end as kind of a bookend to a movie that bounces around in storylines. I have always been a fan of Powers Boothe, and he plays a great bad guy. As Senator Roark he is specifically scary with his efforts to protect his sex criminal son, even suggesting that he would make him President. Last but not least I feel compelled to mention Carla Gugino who is just unbelievably hot in this movie. I’m a big fan and don’t understand why she doesn’t have a more stacked career.

The special guest direction from Quentin Tarantino seemed more like a favor to me than anything else and it turns out it was. Rodriguez did the soundtrack for Kill Bill Volume 2 for one dollar and Tarantino returned the favor by directing a scene in this one. This was during the time I specifically began to despise Tarantino and thought he brought nothing to the table. He directs the scene in which Dwight is driving the bodies to the pit and he has a conversation with a dead Jackie Boy. I didn’t think the flashing colors worked with the continuity of the film and I felt the whole scene was too full of dialogue. That’s Tarantino’s thing though, give him a window and he’ll drone on forever with needless conversation.

This movie wasn’t the start of something greater as I had hoped but it stands on its own just fine. The sequel came out far too late and without the same enthusiasm that was put behind this one. Again, I haven’t seen it so anybody who has please share your thoughts. I think this movie is one of the finest adaptations to a comic I have seen and it was an important film for the future of the comic book era of films. I don’t know what went wrong with the sequel and can’t vouch for it but this movie is easily worth your time. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you have an appetite for something devious than you can’t do much better than this one.

NEXT MOVIE: The Sixth Sense (1999)

 

 

Advertisements

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2001
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel) Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I will never forget the first time I saw this movie.  It was probably one of the most awesome experiences I have ever had as a film viewer and I didn’t even see it on the big screen.  In fact this film had been available on video for some time before I rented it.  I had somehow made it eighteen years in life without having read the books. I also managed to work in both a theater and video store without having seen this or even paying it any attention despite how big it was.  I was young then and my choices in film had a lot to do with either who starred in the film or who had directed it.  I didn’t know Peter Jackson and there was no name in the cast that jumped out at me.  Had I even known of the books I might have felt differently but I specifically remember feeling I was above this silly movie about wizards and trolls that was based off some old book.

I had recently graduated high school when I rented this movie one day in the late summer of 2002, and I can’t express enough how much I had no idea what the movie was about.  I took it over to a friends house one day to watch it while we got high.  Shameless I know, but I was eighteen and times were different.  Amber was with me (yes, we are high school sweethearts), she was only my girlfriend then and the friend whose house we went to is one we are still close to today.  I specifically remember telling him, “I don’t know if this is going to be any good, if it sucks we can just watch something else.” Now maybe it was the weed, maybe it was the special effects, or maybe it was just that the movie was THAT damn good but I remember seeing it for the first time as practically magical.  I was interested in the movie immediately but once the wizard fight began between Gandalf and Saruman I specifically remember my jaw dropping and I don’t know that my mouth closed for the next two and a half hours. I do not know how I managed to make it so long and be so into movies and not know anything about this film before that day.  I had a good friend I worked with in the projection booth at the theater and I remember he would prattle on and on about this movie.  We usually had great conversations about films but for whatever reason when he talked about this one I would simply nod my head and work while he talked about it. Whatever the reason I am thankful for my ignorance on that day.  Not knowing what was going to happen next made this movie so incredible.  I was on the edge of my seat for the entire film and exhilarated by the experience.

I may have had a special experience watching this movie but I am not special in feeling that connection to it.  This trilogy was one of the greatest undertakings in film history and it was very successful.  It no doubt means something to millions of people and has influenced countless viewers. The book this movie is based on was published in 1954 and already had a huge fan base before gaining a new audience through the film. To this day I have still never read the books despite how much I love the story, and it’s specifically because I love these movies so much. Books are always better.  There is just nothing a film can do to literally put you inside of the story with the thoughts and feelings of the characters.  The greatest movies find ways to convey that feeling to you, to a lesser extent, but it cannot be matched. I ruined Game of Thrones on HBO by reading the book series and I would hate to do the same to these films.  As I understand it, as far as film adaptations go, the Special Extended Cut for these movies is about as good as they get.  I hope so but will never risk finding out for sure, these movies mean too much to me.

I have always felt this movie was a glowing example of the possibilities offered by the future of film making. It was released so soon after the turn of the century when seemingly everything in the world was changing rapidly and this film was above and beyond practically everything that came before it.  It was a classic and well loved story brought to the screen with some of the greatest production work and special effects any of us had ever seen.  In some ways I don’t think it would be out of the question to put this trilogy next to Star Wars in what it did for the movie industry.  Animation used with motion capture suits was new at the time and the great lengths the production crew went through to design costumes, sets, and props were really exceptional.  The locations chosen to film in also went a long way in making the movie feel so real.  I know it has become a common dream vacation spot but for most every day people at the time New Zealand was a place many knew nothing about.  It sports incredible landscapes that really brought to world of Middle Earth to life in a way that probably couldn’t have been done anywhere else.

As great as everything looked in this movie, and as great and exciting as the story already was there is still no end to what can be said about the cast that brought the characters to life.  Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan were all great as the hobbits and became more and more likable as the series progressed.  Hobbits can seem pretty lame at just a glance because they’re just these little people who keep to themselves.  I  have always maintained that the hobbits are the most awesome of all the people of Middle Earth though.  The Dwarves are always bitching, the Elves are all high and mighty, the Men have a displaced sense of pride and arrogance while the Hobbits are simply happy go lucky little people who are content to eat,smoke, and drink their lives away happily.  These four Hobbits we see are the ones who get thrust into action and prove their people are more than meets the eye.  I don’t know that there was anything more uplifting in these films than seeing these Hobbits rise to action every time shit hit the fan.  These are seemingly little and defenseless people but every time the action gets going they are right there in the middle of it and throwing caution to the wind with acts of bravery that are nothing short of inspiring.

While the Hobbits might be the most unlikely badasses of all time there is no mistaking Ian McKellen as Gandalf for anything but the baddest of all badasses.  He has such a wise and grandfatherly quality to him until he throws down.  Whether he is dropping bridges with the banging of his staff or he is wielding a sword that suddenly came out of no where he is straight up the biggest badass in this movie. His battle with the demon before seemingly falling to his death is one of the most awesome scenes I have ever seen. When he stands his ground and screams “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!” you can practically feel his intensity straight through the screen.  It convinced me right there and then that Ian McKellen was and is one of the most awesome actors out there. I knew before seeing this movie that Gandalf didn’t die because I had waited so long to see it I had already seen him in previews for the next film, but the weight of that scene was still impossible to miss. So much changes when Gandalf decides to send them on without him and nothing is lost in the power of the scene by knowing that it’s coming.

I knew absolutely nothing about Viggo Mortensen prior to his role in this series and I would argue that without this series his career offers very little.  I think he was great in A History of Violence and he has made a couple other noteworthy movies but without playing Aragorn none of that would have ever happened. This was probably the best it will ever get for him but there is nothing wrong with that.  These movies will live on forever in popularity and he was absolutely incredible in all three of them.  The same can be said for Orlando Bloom although his efforts to make more of himself didn’t come with any lack of opportunity.  He got more roles thrown his way than any of the other actors yet still manages to be unsuccessful outside this franchise.  You can say that he had something going with Pirates of the Carribean, but I won’t. I attribute the success of that franchise to the child audience that loves pirates and it did nothing to prevent him from being typecast into that type of sword weilding character.  In truth I cannot stand Orlando Bloom but I never see Orlando Bloom in this movie, only Legolas, and Legolas was awesome. I like John Rhys-Davies and have since seeing him in Raiders of the Lost Ark as a child but I never really cared for him in this role.  He plays the Gimli the Dwarf, and as I mentioned in my review of The Hobbit, Dwarves blow.  They might bring their A-game to battle but otherwise all I hear them doing is bitching about everything under the sun.  

My favorite character in the film, after Gandalf of course, is that of Boromir.  Boromir was a man, altogether different from the kind of man that Aragorn was because Aragorn was a Dunedain.  Borormir could help but fall victim to the problems that plague regular men, being greed and arrogance.  He faltered a bit at the end and spend most of the journey under the suspicious eye of Gandalf and others but he was a man without fear.  He lost it altogether when he tried to take the ring from Frodo but the ring had managed somehow to poison his mind.  All that meant nothing when he joined the climactic battle and fought as bravely as any man in the entire series.  All these guys had great moments in battle but Boromir put his life on the line to single handedly take on a never ending assault from Uruk-hai warriors. He wasn’t just fighting off orcs to protect the Hobbits, he was fighting the biggest meanest enemies in the world and doing it despite taking arrows to the chest and stomach.  Boromir’s final fight to the death has always been one of my favorite scenes of the movie because it captures what so much of what this movie is about, being bravery and heroism. This all makes Boromir an awesome character, but I think what made him so great in the movie was the fact that he was played by Sean Bean.  Bean is a great actor but is really at his best in this kind of role.  He was exceptional as Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones

I have gone on forever about this movie that…well goes on forever but there are still a few to cover.  It would be unfair to discuss this movie without mentioning some of the great performances in smaller roles.  Christopher Lee is like a machine when it comes to acting, continuing to act into his 80s without slowing down at all. He was a perfect fit for the villainous wizard Saruman and it is probably the role I will most remember him for when his career is finally at an end.  I have never thought Liv Tyler was a very good actress but she just looks the part so well for this movie.  She actually has really elvish features and the role didn’t call for her to really do too much acting.  Cate Blanchette on the other hand is a terrific actress and brought skills as well as beauty to her part.  She has a very graceful and angelic look.  Hugo Weaving was a rising star around the time this movie came out because he was part of The Matrix franchise.  When this movie hit the screen The Matrix had not yet destroyed its popularity with those horrible sequels.  I have liked Weaving in nearly everything I have seen him in and I think he was great as the most powerful Elf in this movie.

This is a great coming of age film that I watched during a time when I was coming of age.  It had a significant influence on me during a time when significant influences had the greatest impact.  From this film and series I learned about honor, bravery, and perseverance.  I consider the lessons I learned from these movies to be invaluable and I try to keep them close to heart at all times. I think this is the type of movie that touched many people in a similar way and will continue to do so for years to come.

This movie kicked off an incredible adventure that gave viewers three years worth of excitement.  I think this movie is far and away the best complete film of the series.  I think there is plenty to enjoy from both of the sequels but the intensity isn’t there throughout as it is in this one.  The second film has an incredibly long retarding point in the middle as it takes them forever to reach Helm’s Deep.  The third movie might have been the greatest but it just took so long to reach that epic battle in the end, and then the movie drags on forever afterwards.  This movie might have left us all hanging at a critical juncture but when all these films are put together I think it stands above the others.

These are incredible films that were popular all over the world. The adventure all started with this one and I think it started everything off perfectly.  I think this is an awesome movie and even though it demands so much time to watch it I think it is worth every minute of that time.  If you haven’t seen these movies then you have missed out and have a lot to look forward to. If you somehow missed these movies then I would suggest watching the special extended cuts.  They add about three hours to the series collectively but that extra time makes the story so much better and more complete.

AMBER’S REVIEW

The first time we ever watched this I was in a fun, teenager state of mind and I was absolutely blown away. I never even wanted to watch the movie originally. I thought it looked uninteresting to me from the trailers. One day at a friends house we all got completely sucked in and watched the entire thing. It was also one of those first movies that really took cinematography to a whole new level. Remember this movie was before Avatar. I think I still really like this movie, because as much as I dreaded watching it for the blog (only because it is a never ending movie) I found myself getting re-sucked into it. It is a good movie about perseverance for the good of people you don’t even know.

lord_of_the_rings_the_fellowship_of_the_ring_ver4_xlg

NOOOOOOOOO! Group shot. Let’s see how many characters we can fit on the poster! I will say this is the best job I have seen at putting this many people on a poster, but I do not like it. The fade is seriously abrupt at the end of the photography where the title starts. And also, Frodo is like a deer in headlights on this poster. And it just makes me mad. More at Tolkien, because the real hero has and always will be Sam. Not a fan of the poster, but I do however like the typography of the title. It is recognizable and you know what movie this is just by seeing it. That’s what makes the title so strong. Otherwise, boo. They broke my poster code so I can’t give this one my praise.

NEXT MOVIE: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Year: 2004
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Written By: Charlie Kaufman

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the most interesting films I have ever seen, if not the most interesting. It is like no other movie ever, a true original delivered by one of the most out of the box writers out there.  Charlie Kaufman is on another level when it comes to writing – he is a genius.  This movie is a great example of how imaginative and different he is; it is such a crazy movie. He is more known for his other films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, but this has always been my favorite of his films, with Adaptation being an extremely close second. On the DVD cover Peter Travers of Rolling Stones magazine is quoted describing this movie as “A smart, sexy, and seriously funny comedy.” That leads me to wonder if he actually saw the film.  I would hardly call it funny at all much less describe it as “a seriously funny comedy.” This movie is about love and loss, pain and heartache, and the emotional roller coaster relationships tend to be.  I find myself having difficulty trying to categorize it because it is so different than everything else. I considered leaving it as a lone “uncategorized” film before settling on just creating a new category for “love story,” but never once considered placing it in comedy.

This movie is more like a journey than a story. It’s a journey through the mind and memory that is made perfectly.   Charlie Kaufman really outdid himself with this one, and Michel Gondry did an excellent job funneling Kaufman’s ideas onto the screen. I am not familiar with Gondry but this movie alone makes me interested in anything else he has ever made.  He had a great cast to work with on this film as well.  I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey’s efforts to take more serious roles and I think this is his best one. He does an excellent job in this movie and he deserves more recognition for the role.  Opposite Carrey was Kate Winslet, who is such a wonderful actress.  She is beautiful even with those awful colors died in her hair and she brings her talents to the screen in top form.  She is probably one of the most natural actresses I have ever watched and she has the ability to really bring a character to life in unique ways.  Kirsten Dunst is on hand in this movie as well with a great scene where she is braless in a tank top.  I have always admired Dunst, although I think her greatest performance was her first one, when she was a little girl in Interview with a Vampire. Dunst doesn’t do enough movies of late and that is a shame, I have liked many of her films.  Elijah Wood was trying to distance himself from the role of Frodo Baggins around this time to avoid being typecast but I think he made a mistake choosing this one.  He plays such a creepy guy that I think it hurt his image. He then went on to play an even creepier guy in Sin CityI think Tom Wilkinson brought a lot to the film with his role as the doctor who specializes in erasing unwanted memories. Mark Ruffalo did a decent job but nothing distinguishing and I haven’t figured out quite what people see in him as an actor.

This movie has such an interesting story and we can all relate to it.  Who hasn’t been through a messy break-up they would love to forget.  Who hasn’t lost a loved one and been overwhelmed by the grief and heartache? When Carrey’s character finds out what his ex has done it hurts him, he feels the pain of that loss and can’t live with it.  He decides to go through the same procedure and realizes in the middle of it that he made a horrible mistake.  When we exit relationships the reasons for the break-up are the freshest things on our mind and it seems like erasing them would be an easy decision.  It comes with a cost though, Carrey soon gets to the memories that made him fall in love with Winslet and he isn’t willing to sacrifice those. He desperately does everything he can in order to save the love of his life from being erased but ultimately fails, sort of. I think the overall theme of the movie is that true love finds a way, and it does as we see.  Sometimes certain people belong together.  Relationships are a rocky business and they can sometimes take all our strength to persevere.  I think it takes an understanding of that in order to make a relationship work, and all too often people aren’t lucky enough to figure it out.

This movie taught me a lot about love, and even more about relationships.  In an interesting way it has always had a strange ability to make me fall so much more in love with my wife and that makes me appreciate it even more.  This movie doesn’t hold a spot in my favorites of all time but I do think it is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen.  I love this movie and encourage anybody I can to see it.  I know very few people who have seen it though so I would like to take the opportunity to encourage anybody that reads this to go out of their way to see it.  It starts off kind of slow but quickly turns into something completely different, it is an awesome movie that is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ah, finally. We get to my list of all-time favorite movies. This is in my top five. I love this movie with all of my heart. I asked myself what I would say about this strange, original movie and here is what I think. I am not a huge fan of romantic comedies. I don’t really like the same ol’ same ol’ storyline that you can practically predict. Instead, I like the movie that shows what love is really like. This movie is a love story, but not in the classic way. It is a love story in a true way. The way that real love is nuts. You do things you never thought possible when you are in love. Love is absurd and makes people nuts. This film shows that.

This movie always makes me love Ryan more than I already do. I know how we were at first. All crazy in love. If there were such a technology such as memory erasing, we both would have done it already. But, in my heart I know without doubt we would find our way back together, somehow. It’s sappy, but it’s true. I love this movie so much because it reminds me how much I love Ryan.

Of course I think you should watch this film if you haven’t already. It is clever and witty and includes all the little details that make a movie worth watching and re-watching.

NEXT MOVIE: EuroTrip (2004)