Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Shoot 'Em Up"

Shoot 'Em Up
Directed by Michael Davis
Starring Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Monica Bellucci
Run Time: 87 minutes
Rated R

Although I am very late in reviewing this film as it was released in 2007, I still can't help writing the review after watching it for the first time today. It is very rare that I am a fan of films that are merely in it for the action and has no greater theme than, "Wow, look at what just happened on screen, that was amazing!" To me, though, Shoot 'Em Up took a genre that is both widely sought after by the common populous and criticized by the art community and tried to satisfy both in a very odd fashion. To accomplish this goal, Michael Davis uses a time-honored classic technique: absurdity.

The story is almost irrelevant here because of aforementioned absurdity. It involves a protagonist who may or may not be the Unibomber and a former black ops operative (Clive Owen), a prostitute whose specialty is breast feeding her clients (Monica Bellucci), a man who can be identified by his love of talking, his extremely high intelligence, and his "Flight of the Valkyries" ringtone (Paul Giamatti), and a baby who falls asleep to heavy metal. From the get-go, this film throws out any intention of being completely serious. Instead, it focuses on impossible and fun to watch gunfights that are completely impossible in any way, shape or form without relying on superpowers to explain it. As the movie progresses, the audience's only expectation can be that they don't know exactly what is going to happen next, but they do know that it will involve a lot of bullets, maybe some blood, and most definitely a lot of physical every sense of the word "physical", depending on the scene.

The acting is similar to movies such as Planet Terror, where it simply is not important for the hero to be multi-faceted in his intentions. Clive Owen's character, simply known as Smith, gets involved in the storyline only because he happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time. Monica Belluci is certainly a very attractive woman, but I had hoped they would have done a slight bit more with her character if only to spice things up a bit more. The real pleasure, though, was watching Mr. Paul Giamatti as Hertz. He was a pleasure to watch as his character tried to think one step ahead of Smith and also keep everyone and everything else in line, including his own home life. I must also say that in my personal opinion, after watching this film, I really thought and still think that Giamatti could potentially replace Heath Ledger as the next Joker, if only because I could see him staying true to the character already established while bringing in his own twisted sense of the circumstances.

There's really nothing more that can be said after that. The special effects were great, as they would have to be in a show that does not intend to rely on a gripping story to hold its audience's attention. The music was fun to listen to in-between gunshots (so not very often). And it didn't run too long, outstaying its welcome. This is not a film I would bring the whole family to watch, but for a couple of friends who don't want to think to hard on a Friday night and just want to watch amazing things happen on screen that they can both be in awe of and laugh at, this is the show to watch.

-Jack Jarden

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Lives of Others

The Lives Of Others
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe, and Sebastian Koch
Estimated running time: 137 minutes
Rated R for some sexuality and nudity

A German foreign film, it starts in 1984 East Germany. The secret police of the state, called the Stasi, was charged with protecting their socialist government from possible insurgents by spying and invading the privacy of anyone that they found to be..."questionable". From the beginning, the audience is introduced to Wiesler (Muhe), one of the "best" of the Stasi, trained well in the art of interrogation and surveillance and also dedicated whole-heartedly to his nation and the work they do to "preserve" their way of life. Shortly after watching a play written by Georg Dreyman (Koch), a writer who is liked in both the East and the West and is therefore an asset and a danger to the GDR, and starring the beautiful Christa-Maria Sieland (Gedeck), Dreyman's girlfriend, Wiesler is charged by a minister with the task operating twenty-four hour surveillance on Dreyman's apartment to watch for any potential suspicious activity. Wielser then becomes privy to most of Dreyman's life, especially the parts that have nothing to do with the state.

Without giving too much away, this movie is mostly about how people can feel and connect with others, even in the oddest and perhaps most dangerous of situations where such connections can lead to downfalls. The audience, a voyeur to the lives of the characters in a similar manner as Wiesler is to Dreyman, is able to see and experience emotions that seem downright out of place with what is happening. Not a thriller in such the same sense as an Alfred Hitchcock film, nevertheless, there is always a desire to see what happens next, even if everything might not turn out the way one hopes.

The acting is superb. Muhe plays possibly the most difficult role of the film, having to show a wide range of emotions with as little emotion as possible, and he does it flawlessly. Koch and Gedeck are also fantastic, although their characters are a bit more archetypal and therefore not so much of a stretch.

What can be said about the technical aspects of the movie? The music by Stephane Moucha and Gabriel Yared fits the mood at any given point, foreshadowing future events slightly but always keeping the audience on their toes. And even though nothing there is nothing especially noteworthy about the cinematography, Hagen Bogdanski's work consistently suits the action or inaction of what is happening.

The Lives of Others was nominated for 11 German film awards and currently holds an Oscar nomination. All of these adorations are well deserved. It is definitely a must see film that might go under the radar of most theaters. So go look for it and treat yourself to a real special two and a half hours.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

To Introduce Myself And My Work

Hello there all, and welcome to The Cine-ter, a blog whose only purpose is to review movies and TV shows, both old and new, in such a way that the reader (that's you!) can make well educated and informed decisions about what you will subject yourself to watching. I will try and remain as impartial to this particular form of art as I can, focusing on ideas such as cinematography, script, acting ability, and whatever else comes to mind. This means that instead of simply saying, "Dearie me, that was the worst show I have ever seen!" you will get to hear WHY I thought it was utterly vulgar, mind numbing, and pointless...or maybe it will be good. We'll have to wait and see, won't we?

Now I will tell you the ground rules I have laid out for myself.

1) I will do as much dramaturgical work as I can. Although I may not post all of this in my review, it will make me better educated on why a piece was made the way it was.

2) I will allow requests, if anyone so chooses to email me. However, this does not mean that I will always take said requests because of my busy schedule, but sometimes I may not know of some of the greater films or TV shows out there. Most of the time I learn of stupendous creations through word of mouth. This is as much my readers' blog as it is mine; work with me to make it the best darn creation on the world wide web as we can.

I would also like to note that I am also a co-reviewer for the Broadway Hour, a Seattle-based theater review company of extremely talented and well-educated people who I had the pleasure of meeting in late 2006. So please, click on my profile, come check us out, and be delighted, especially if you live in the Seattle area.

That's all for now. To get myself started, I will soon be reviewing some older movies and shows that have greatly impacted my outlook on what I consider to be art in their respective areas.

Until that time, this is Mr. Jack Jarden signing off.