Posts Tagged ‘dvd review

01
Apr
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Mist

The Mist poster

Best. Horror. Movie. Ever.

Starring Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, and William Sadler. Directed by Frank Darabont. Based on the story by Stephen King.

This Darabont likes people being held captive, doesn’t he?

“The Mist” is about a small New England town (where King’s stuff always happens) that is taken over by a mist that comes from the lake. The setting for much of the story is the Food House supermarket where artist David Drayton (Jane) and his son, along with lawyer/neighbor Brent Norton (Braugher), new teacher Amanda Dunfrey (Holden), mechanic Jim Grondin (Sadler), and others are holed-up while the mist surrounds them. After a tentacled “something” drags Norm (Chris Owens) into the mist (“lunchtime”), sides are chosen and the pressure builds. Will the mist clear? Will they make it out alive?

What I really enjoyed about this movie was that it was about the true nature of horror: the psychology of personalities in conflict. Drayton doesn’t want to lead, but he’s the only one who is seemingly “sane.” Ollie (Jones) goes from being a “nobody” to answering the “heroic call-to-action.” But, there is the other side of the coin as well: Brent doesn’t believe in the “creatures” that Drayton talks about, and decides to lead a group of people in the mist. And there’s Mrs. Carmody (Harden), a god-fearing religious fear-monger who begins converting others in the store, one after another, to the “fact” that she is a “vessel”; a psychic tuned into God’s Wrath.

I will also give credit to Greg Nicotero, who helped create the monsters for “The Mist.” One looks like a dragonfly mated with a scorpion that can “shoot” a string from its tail that will burn through anything. There’s also a spider that looks like it was mated with a porcupine that has the same type of “string.”

And yes, Frank Darabont did a great job. This is easily one of the best horror movies of the past decade. While “Shawshank” and “Green Mile” may get more press and interest, that doesn’t make this any less of a movie. I really wish that I had seen this in theaters…

Of note I watched this film 3 times this past weekend; once for myself, and twice with friends. I do recommend seeing it if you’re into the “terror” part of horror movies. Yes, there is some gore, blood, and violence, but this is horror done correctly. Also, I watched it in black and white, with the introduction where Darabont goes on about offering the initial color version, and the same in b&w. I like both.

Either way, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for a good hour.

My grade: A.

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27
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: Once

Once poster

Sing with me now!

 

Starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Written and Directed by John Carney.

 

The movie is literally about the music.

 

Set in Ireland, Guy (Hansard) works for his father fixing Hoover vacuum cleaners. His last relationship ended for reasons unknown, and that she lives somewhere in London. During lunch and at nighttime he performs songs on the corner of a busy street to keep his artistry going.

 

Girl (Irglova) does varied work (she tells him one day that she got a job cleaning a house). She lives with her mother and her two-year-old daughter. Her husband is still in Russia, and things aren’t working out between them. She demonstrates to Guy that she can play piano as well as sing.

 

Outside of this, there really isn’t too much story involved in this movie. And as much as I really wanted more of one, it would have possibly detracted from what the movie is: a showcase of two incredibly talented artists. Yes, they both do a good job a stringing a small story around two people who need each other for the time they’re allotted, but that’s not really the reason one sees this film.

 

The music. It’s all about the music. From his songs (“Say It To Me Now,” “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”) to her songs (“If You Want Me,” “The Hill”) to their collaborations (“When Your Mind’s Made Up,” and the hit “Falling Slowly”) I was incredibly impressed with the songs and how well both worked together.

 

And that’s really what the film is about. If you’re a fan of music, as well as indie films, you need to check this one out. Of  note their Academy Award-winning song, “Falling Slowly,” is available as a free download on the DVD (PC DVD-ROM).

 

I’ll put this in my collection, somewhere around “Almost Famous.”

 

My grade: B

15
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others

Back in the GDR!

Starring Martina Gedick, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, and Thomas Thieme. Directed and written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

This film resonated with me.

The place and year: East Berlin, 1984. The German Communists have the Stasi, their Secret Police, who make it their job to know everything about everyone. Enter Hauptmann Weisler (Muhe), a Stasi who is good at interrogation. His boss Grubitz (Tukur) gives him a new assignment, coming from Minister Hempf (Thieme): find out whatever possible on playwright Georg Dreyman (Koch). After Weisler “bugs” the apartment he personally listens in on the playwright’s life and discovers the Hempf is forcing Dreyman’s girlfriend Christa-Marie (Gedick) into having an affair just so she can continue living her life of being an actress. Weisler then talks with Gribitz, who tells him that Hempf cannot be recorded. This changers Weisler’s opinion on what he’s doing and what’s going on, as well as how the events will unfold.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was its gritty historic reality. The filmmaker quickly made understood the what, when, where, why, and how of the story. I was also impressed when I found out that all the equipment used by the Stasi was authentic; the props manager had gone through interrogation before and went to museums and private collectors to get them for the film.

Another theme that resonated with me is that of art vs. political culture. In the film Dreyman is the leading Socialist playwright who is so because he doesn’t write anything controversial. His friend and mentor Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert) was deemed “too harsh” on his social criticisms, and had been blacklisted for the past 5 years. His girlfriend is given the opportunity to save her life and continue acting if she “rats” him out. The situation is not unique just to Germany; several cultures have had their moments in time when art and political commentary are sacrificed for what their government feels is “the greater Good.”

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. While the ending was a little happier than I would have imagined, I liked it nonetheless. So if you’re into historic or political thrillers, this is one you need to catch.

Of note, the film is in German with English Subtitles available. 

My grade: A

11
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: Black Snake Moan

Black Snake Moan

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake. Written and directed by Craig Brewer.

In a small town in the Deep South, Rae (Ricci) and Ronnie (Timberlake) are getting it on before Ronnie is shipped off to war. We come to find that Rae is a white-trash trailer living nymphomaniac who was sexually abused during childhood. After a night of drugs, alcohol, and sex, Rae is left with a beaten face on the side of the road.

Enter Lazarus (Jackson). His wife Rose just left him for his slightly younger brother and now has to fend for himself by selling veggies from his garden and on occasion, playing blues music with one of his guitars. After throwing all of Rose’s stuff in the trash he finds Rae on the side of the road, barely alive. He takes her in and “nurses” her back to health, albeit with a padlocked chain around her waist connected to a radiator. Lazarus takes it upon himself to cure her through “scripture” and that maybe, by doing that, he can cure himself.

I really did enjoy this movie, but I don’t know if I can entirely recommend for this reason: you have to be “on the boat” with this idea. To watch this movie is to engage an interest in spirituality, recovery, and redemption. If you’re not into those themes, you may wanna pass this one by.

The blues wraps through this cinematic piece because of it’s relevance to the themes: Heaven, Hell, God, the Devil, sin, and forgiveness. These themes mark the music, which in turn becomes the backdrop to everything going on. If you’re into blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker, then you can relate to this film.

As I’ve said before, I enjoyed the entirety of this. The beginning was a little slow, and I’m not a big fan of the culture, but I love the blues and spirituality, so those even out. Jackson, Ricci, Timberlake and company do a great job in making the world believable (if again you’re on the boat with this idea).

My grade: B+