Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Tom: 
Reservoir Dogs,1992,USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino 
Stars: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth & Steve Buscemi
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''Go ahead and be scared, you've been brave enough for one day.''

In my 'Django Unchained' review last month, I stated that every Cinephile goes through a stage of Tarantino fandom. I went through mine a few years back when I used to watch his films on repeat, but I am not the Tarantino fan that I used to be. Sure, I still love the guy and get excited for his films but I have just moved my fandom to the filmmakers that he emulates. While my passion for Tarantino cinema has declined slightly one thing has stayed constant, and that is my undying love for this film which is, in my opinion, his greatest film, 'Reservoir Dogs'. I decided to rewatch the film for about the 7 millionth time today, after playing its disappointing Video game.

A group of six criminals are assembled to partake in a jewelery heist, but not all goes to plan as the simple robbery is crashed by the cops, as the remaining criminals are left to figure out who the police informant is.

'Reservoir Dogs' is the film that arguably revitalized modern Independent Cinema, with 'Dogs' Tarantino created one of the coolest films of the 90's and one that's sheer brilliance continues to shock and entertain audiences. From the terrific opening scene which shows a group of guys sitting around deconstructing Madonna's 'Like a Virgin' and the necessity of tipping, you are hooked and through his thought provoking and incredible Screenplay, Tarantino has you on edge through the entire duration.

Tarantino is a great Director, there is no doubt about that, but he is a ten times better screenwriter in my opinion. He has yet to pen a script that I did not love. 'Reservoir Dogs' make be perceived to be an action film but it is really the opposite of that, its a dialogue heavy character ensemble and that is one of the reasons I adore it so much. Honestly I am not the biggest Action guy in the world, I much prefer character based films, Hell I would take 'My Dinner with Andre' over 'Die Hard' any day of the week. 'Reservoir Dogs' is one of those rare films that can mix both elements perfectly, while its grounded in conversation between characters it does features moments of notorious violence which have been subject to ridicule from censor boards over the years. Tarantino treads the line perfectly though and never lets his film become to gore heavy and mindless.

I always have to praise a film that can build tension and suspense through simple words, Tarantino does this incredibly with this film, the last half of the film is nail biting brilliance an unforgettable cinema. Tarantino's Direction is also brilliant as he includes plenty of little quirks that he has continued to use for his entire career, the glorious tracking shots, the musical irony and the unexpected juxtapositions, This has to be one of the best and most mature feature film debuts in recent history.

The film features what has to be one of the coolest casts ever, Harvey Keitel plays Mr White and is as awesome as ever, as is Tim Roth as Mr Orange. Chris Penn is fantastic and one of my favorite Actors Steve Buscemi is phenomenal as Mr Pink whom has always been my favorite character in the film. My only nitpick from the cast is Michael Madsen as Mr Blonde, I know he is probably the most iconic character from the film and is part of the films most famous scene, but I just think that Madsen is a terrible actor who just tries way to hard to be cool and badass and he never pulls it off. Lawrence Tierney is good as Joe, Tarantino has a fun little appearance as Mr Brown and Eddie Bunker is pretty much a non entity as Mr Blue.

I adore 'Reservoir Dogs' It is hands down my favorite film in Tarantino's great body of work and one of my favorites of all time. Terrifically written, brilliantly Directed and greatly acted, 'Reservoir Dogs' is the definition of Cool.


*****

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Room 237 (2013)

Tom:
Room 237,2013, USA
Director: Rodney Ascher


''Why would he make the Movie so complicated ?''

Anyone who knows me, is probably aware of the fact that 'The Shining' is my favorite film. This is the film that I credit for my passion in cinema as it is when I first saw it my life was changed forever and I had truly found my greatest love. Maybe its a bias call but I do regard 'The Shining' as one of the greatest films ever made, I have obsessed over all elements of this film for several years now and it has never failed to mystify me. So you could imagine my excitement when I heard there was a feature length documentary coming about people who did the exact same. It was a long wait but today I finally got my chance to see 'Room 237'

Several Film specialists and avid admirers speculate about the secrets, theories and hidden meanings from Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 'The Shining'.

I am a person who can not help but get caught up in mystery and conspiracy theories, Which is one of many reasons I adore 'The Shining' so much, because the mystery of the film exceeds its narrative. There is so much more to 'The Shining' than the casual viewer can detect. Some may say all the theories that stem from the film are ludicrous and false, but I don't think they know just who Stanley Kubrick was. Kubrick was a perfectionist who was in complete control of his projects, and by complete control I mean every single placement of every single item we see on screen. There is a meaning to all his mise-en-scene and thats something that ocassional may not be able to grasp, but filmmaker Rodney Ascher does.

Ascher's dedication and passion for this film shines through in every scene. The film is incredibly thoughtful and detailed and really doesn't leave any stone unturned. Ascher investigates several different viewpoints of the film with inquires from intelligent and well spoken film historians. Ascher has to be praised for his work here as not only is it very well crafted and put together, it is also terrifically edited and transitions to each new theory seamlessly.

I pretty much have prior knowledge of all the theories investigated in the film,but there was still a lot I learned from 'Room 237'. Little details that will now influence every future viewing of 'The Shining', for example the disappearance of the chair in the scene where Wendy checks up on Jack's writing, I have seen the film at least 7000 times and have never picked up on that. Same with the Minotaur poster in the games room, these little details have made me appreciate 'The Shining' even more (if possible)

A few of the notable theories that are heavily investigated in the film are:

- Kubrick is alluding to the Genocide of the Native Americans, which has always been a fascinating one for me and there is definitely plenty of evidence to back it up.

- Kubrick's concern with the Holocaust, This idea is one that I feel is very prevalent in the film. The film does a great job backing this one up with plenty of incredible hints. The scene displaying the transition of the Torrances' luggage to the group of people may just haunt me forever.

- And the most famous one, Kubrick giving subtle hints that he filmed the Apollo 13 moon landing. Call me crazy, but I have always thought this is true, I have spent hours researching this and there is just so much evidence to prove its truth, and the revelation about why Kubrick chose Room 237 was truly mind blowing, I wasn't aware of why Stanley really changed the room number. Room 237 = The Moon Room.

Being a huge lover of 'The Shining', there was very little chance that I wasn't going to enjoy 'Room 237', and I was not disappointed at all. I had a truly great time and was constantly enthralled, I didn't think I could learn anymore about 'The Shining' but Director Rodney Ascher proved me wrong. This review has just skimmed the surface of this film, if you are a fan of 'The Shining' this is a must see!

''Some Films stay with you forever...and ever... and ever...''

****

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Punch Drunk Love (2002)

Tom: 
Punch Drunk Love,2002,USA
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson 
Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson & Phillip Seymour Hoffman 

''I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.''

'Punch Drunk Love' provides a very peculiar dynamic for me personally. I don't really like to use the term 'hate' when referring to a person, So I will say that I very strongly dislike Adam Sandler as an Actor (I obviously dont know him as a person, he seems like a dick but I digress) on the other hand, There are few people I like or admire more than Paul Thomas Anderson. This film features what is possibly the most lop sided Director-Lead Actor combo I can recall and it probably shouldn't of worked, but it is a true testament to the incredible talents of PTA that he was able to create a border line Masterpiece.

Barry Egan is a lonely and quietly depressed man who goes through life running a small business and being hassled by his seven sisters. Barry meets a mystery girl who strikes up an instant attraction to him, but Barry is embroiled in a turmoil with a crooked phone sex line.

I wont say that 'Punch Drunk Love' is my favorite PTA film and I wont say that it is his finest film, but I will say that this film, more than any other, completely showcases PTA's incredible talents and range as a Director. Anderson manages to create a film that is Funny and tragic, heart warming and heart breaking, disturbing and entertaining, thrilling and romantic. Any filmmaker can throw all these elements into one film but very few can make it work, and even fewer can create a film of this caliber.

I first saw 'Punch Drunk Love' about five months ago, and while I liked it, I have referred to it as my least favorite PTA film ever since, that was until today. I dont believe I can fully state how much I adored this film on a Re-Watch. Its such an immensely beautiful and frightening journey that you can't help but be utterly enthralled.

PTA is an incredible Filmmaker, not only is he one of the Greatest living Directors, He is also (In my opinion) The finest Screenwriter working today, and maybe ever. Like Stanley Kubrick, PTA is incredibly passionate about the medium and has an incredible attention to detail and provides so much thought with all of his films. PTA has pretty much perfected the character study through his career, and 'Punch Drunk Love' may be the most shining example. The character of Barry Egan may just be the most intricate, enthralling and interesting character that Anderson has ever created,which is really saying something when this is the guy who wrote Daniel Plainview, Freddie Quell and Dirk Diggler. 

'Punch Drunk Love' excels on all the technical levels. As alluded to above the film is incredibly orchestrated by Anderson. In addition to that, it is beautifully shot by Cinematographer Robert Elswit, who creates some stellar images and sequences from the ordinary locations. I loved the Editing by Leslie Jones and I really appreciated the inter cutting of the surreal images when there is a shift in the tone. Jon Brion's score is beautiful and only improves the events taking place on the screen.

For the last five months, whenever I have been elaborating on my disdain for the work of Adam Sandler, I have always had to make the distinction that he has had one great showing, Now having rewatched said performance I will have to defend it even harder. This is a truly remarkable showing and the film that Sandler was put on this earth for. It completely baffles me to think that this is the same guy who starred in 'Jack and Jill' as well as several hundred other shit films, I guess it is only PTA that can make him watchable. Sandler is well supported by the likes of Emily Watson, who is just enchanting in this film, and the always incredible Phillip Seymour Hoffman who is fantastic as per usual.

I apologize for the fact that this review has basically come off as a love letter to Paul Thomas Anderson, but this film is a prime example that he is an incredible filmmaker. This is a tour de force filmmaking effort that is perfectly Written and Directed by PTA. A fantastic film that I appreciate so much more after a re-watch, and Incredible character study and an intricately constructed piece of work. Bumping my 3.5 rating up to a 4.5. I love you PTA!


****1/2

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Master (2012)

Tom: 
The Master,2012,USA
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson 
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman & Amy Adams 
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Freddie Quell: What do you do?
Lancaster Dodd: I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you.

Finally....

I don't believe there has ever been a film that I have anticipated more than 'The Master', but a personal review on this film would be incomplete without chronicling my journey to get to this very day. Several months ago, I had tickets to go with a friend and see this film in 70mm and a live Q & A with PTA (In person!) A possible once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to miss due to a prior engagement, It is truly a heartbreaking experience when you have a chance to see one of you're idols (In person!) and have to miss it. In disarray I was able to take solace in the fact that this film would hit Australian cinemas on November the 8th, I was so excited that I finally got a chance to see this film. Then the 8th came around, AND IT NEVER CAME OUT! This is when I got pissed because I all I wanted to do was watch 'The Master' and fate kept fucking me over. Every solitary day, from then onwards I would search Piratebay for a copy of this film, So desperate to see it, IT NEVER CAME! I searched the darkest bowels of the internet in hope that maybe somewhere,somehow someone may have a copy of this film, This went on for three months until one day a torrent popped up and 'The Master' had hit Piratebay! I was over the moon in pure excitement, but then I found it was Italian and the search continued for another month until this Sunday where FINALLY a torrent popped up and my dreams had come true. The Download took 30 hours but today was the day that I finally got to see this film. Surely this film could not live up to my monumental expectations, right ?

Freddie Quell is a Naval Veteran who has adopted a chaotic and animalistic personality and tendencies following his service. In disarray about his future, Freddie meets Lancaster Dodd a cult leader who takes a shine to Freddie, and welcomes him into his lifestyle.

I had the obvious fears going into the film, that 'What if I dont like it ?' luckily those fears were dashed instantly as I will proclaim 'The Master' a Masterpiece! Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my hero's and I adore all of his work, maybe a big part of that is that he is almost like the modern day Stanley Kubrick (My Ultimate hero). The two things these incredible filmmakers have in common is that they can tell a compelling tale through visuals, they aren't filmmakers who need to hit their audiences over the head with their intentions in the form of throw away dialogue. 'The Master' may be PTA's Masterpiece when it comes to visual storytelling, There does not seem to be a single second that is wasted in this film, Every little tiny detail is all part of the giant plan and you are never willing to take you're eyes of the screen even for a mere second.

'The Master' is thought provoking cinema, at its finest. It goes without saying that this isn't a film for everyone, it is a film that requires thought, which seems to be a dirty word when it comes to Modern cinema (what with Michael Bay working and all) If you are willing to devote you're full attention to this film for 130 minutes, I believe that you are truly in for something special and fully rewarding, from a master filmmaker who is in full control of his art.

The film draws some obvious inspirations from Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard, while it is implied that Lancaster Dodd is in fact the leader of a cult that highly resembles that of Scientology, PTA never beats you over the head with comparisons. The film is incredibly written by PTA, as I stated above, he does not make films for people who aren't prepared to get emotionally invested or ready to think. The screenplay is full of some brilliantly enthralling and thought provoking, the scenes which showed interactions between Freddie and Dodd were some of the most compelling I have seen in a long time. Though I wasn't able to get the full effect due to not seeing it in 70mm, I still thought this film looked absolutely stunning, Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. did a fantastic job. Johnny Greenwood is incredibly effective, its harrowing and sombre style fit the film to a tee.

One of my main attractions to this film was actually Joaquin Phoenix, who has been one of my favorite actors for a long time. After hearing the unanimous praise for his showing in this film I was so excited to see it for myself, my verdict is that Phoenix has given his Magnum Opus, a PERFECT performance. Phoenix completely transforms himself in this film and its incredible to see, his facial expressions, posture, voice, everything is just spell binding. I really cant describe just how good he is in this film, it has to be seen, In my opinion its the finest performance of 2012. The Principal cast is rounded out by another two of my favorite actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman who gives another phenomenal performance (which is like saying the sun rose today, its a given) and the amazing Amy Adams who gives yet another career defining performance. All three actors are just truly great and deserve all the praise they have been given and then some.

'The Master' is a incredible film, It features everything necessary to create a great film, its thought provoking, masterfully directed, incredibly written and performed to perfection. It was a long road to get to this day, but once again PTA did not let me down. The 'Master' is a masterpiece and in my opinion the second best film of 2012, I look forward to many more viewings in the future.

*****