The Tall Man (2012)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: August 1, 2012
Director: Pascal Laugier

In the town of Cold Rock, the children are going missing and locals are blaming it on an entity from an urban legend, known as The Tall Man. A local nurse named Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) has a child of her own, which is taken in the night. As Julia searches for her child, the truth about the disappearances begins to surface and the townsfolk have a lot to say about it.

I’d never even heard of this film but my girlfriend and I picked it up at a local video store called Bull Moose here in Maine. Jessica Biel has never been on my short list of favorite actresses, but it seemed like it could be good so we bought it.

During the opening of the movie and probably through about half of it, it had me hooked. It had great atmosphere, an intriguing villain in the form of The Tall Man – and a cool-sounding, creepy town. I mean, Cold Rock – how much cooler can you get than that? However, the director and/or story aims to trick the viewer and basically lie to them in order to achieve its hidden message/twist ending. This could have been a decent horror flick but instead it turns out to be a benign sort of social commentary about bad parents.

Jessica Biel was just okay as Julia Denning, and unfortunately she was basically the only character we should’ve cared much about but she even failed to make me do that. If I were you, I’d avoid this confusing and misleading film but maybe it’s worth a single watch on a night when you have nothing else on your plate.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Tall Man

Gone Girl (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: October 3, 2014
Director: David Fincher

Author Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home on the eve of his 5th wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing under mysterious circumstances. After calling the police, Nick finds himself in the middle of an intense media circus as the search for Amy goes underway. Soon, the clues begin to pile up and fingers begin to point Nick’s way.

I went to see this film with a couple of friends last night as I’d been hearing good things about it. I’ve never read the novel it’s based on by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay) but according to online sources, the movie differs only slightly in some ways from the book version. Movies always differ from their book counterparts, though, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.

It’s rare for me to want to watch a hyper-realistic crime movie – they aren’t my thing. Still, all the good things I heard about the various performances given by the actors made me want to check it out, so that’s what I did. Every single one of the actors in this movie, even Ben Affleck, really turned it up a notch. Affleck kept his cool just enough during the film to make me waffle on whether or not he had anything to do with Amy’s disappearance. Rosamund Pike, however, carried this movie with her role (in my opinion). She is not only accessible and sexy – but also terrifying. Another surprise was Neil Patrick Harris in his short role which added a lot of subtext to the film, regardless of how small a part his character played in the overall story.

The direction was great – Fincher hardly ever fails at that (except maybe with Mulholland Drive). The music was low-key enough to not interfere but still added just enough mood for a thriller. The length was a bit too long, however, clocking in at a whopping 149 minutes. The only real reason I’m giving this film four stars instead of five is the ending – which I felt was maybe a little rushed. I dunno if it was due to time, or due to something else – but the entire movie built up the characters to be solid and absolutely believable within the context of the story, except for the last half hour or so, which was unbelievable and completely took me out of the movie. I’d love to see a director’s cut in the future to see if maybe the motivations of the characters were a little more clear before some of the film hit the cutting room floor.

All in all this is one worth watching at least a couple times so you can catch all the little “easter eggs” (like the Scott Peterson novel one of the characters are reading at one point) and nuances in background scenes and in the subtleties of the characters and their actions. Good job again, Fincher – you do great work.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Gone Girl

Brick (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 2005
Director: Rian Johnson

A teenage loner, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), seeks the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin). When it turns out that she was a victim of apparent foul play, Brendan finds himself in the seedy underbelly of a high school crime syndicate run by the notorious and mysterious Pin (Lukas Haas). Brendan must sort through his own morals and reserves of courage if he is to get any answers for Emily’s disappearance.

Brick is one of those films that was always sort of on my radar but never a film I purposely sought out. To understand why, you must understand that as a rule – I hardly ever watch gritty, ultra-realistic crime films. I see enough of that stuff on the news, so I don’t feel much particular need to seek it out in films I enjoy watching. I use films as an escapist sort of entertainment. The image on the movie jacket did little to inspire any ideas I had about the film being anything other than a movie where a girl is murdered.

With that said, I recently watched this at a friend’s house in Vermont. He and his wife suggested a few of us all watch it for a “movie night” of sorts, and I’m glad he did. First off – this is not ultra-realistic at all. This is a blend of Noir and a sort of high-school/teen drama film. You wouldn’t think such a combination would be satisfying or poignant, but you’d be just as wrong as I was. The ultra-stylistic dialogue and the snappy cinematography  and the quirky characters had me intently watching the screen for the duration of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a great performance as Brendan. Lukas Haas is very hilarious and on point as The Pin while Noah Fleiss’ portrayal of a henchman named Tugger had me laughing at several points. This is a dark comedy, for sure – as it still deals with drug trafficking and death – but it’s all set against the backdrop of High School, something most of us can relate to. The noir world that the characters inhabit is very believable within its own context and pretty much everything about the film is enjoyable. If you haven’t seen this film yet, give it a shot. It’s really worth taking the time to watch. (Especially if you like films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Brick

 

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006) Original Theatrical Release: October 20, 2006
Director: Christopher Nolan

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo) along with Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are all assistants to a master magician, all trying to learn his secrets. When something goes awry during a performance and Julia dies, Robert blames Alfred for her death and the two become bitter enemies and eventually master magicians themselves. They are in a magical arms-race, where one tries to outdo the other for supremacy on the stage. When Alfred comes up with a trick the likes of which nobody has seen, Robert becomes obsessed with trying to discover his secret – leading him to dark experiments that no man was ever meant to tamper with.

This is one of those films that sort of flew under the radar. Christopher Nolan hit it big with Batman Begins, but not many people even remember this film or talk about it despite its star power and cool premise. It also came out at the same time as another magician-centric movie called The Illusionist, which some folks consider to be the better film between the two magic movies.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla was a huge bonus in this movie for me, as well as the always-lovely Scarlett Johansson’s role as Olivia Wenscombe (ironically also a secret agent in this movie, just like she was as Black Widow in Iron Man and The Avengers respectively)….but those are just on a personal level. Bale and Jackman are great at going head-to-head with each other and this is one of Jackman’s best serious dramatic roles to date. It has a heavy sci-fi theme that once you get into is actually really great, and it ends up unfolding like a sort of parable.

Go see it for the actors. Go see it for the great direction by Nolan. Go see it for David Bowie and Michael Caine. It’s good stuff. The only downside, for me, was that it was maybe a little too long in letting the story unfold but on the other hand,  it constantly keeps you guessing and keeps you on your toes.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Prestige

The Village (2004)

The Village (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: July 30, 2004
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Covington, Pennsylvania. Population: Sixty Souls. An evil force lurks just beyond the borders of the sleepy town and a treaty is in place as long as Covington’s citizens never stray into the forest. When a young man from the village, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) decides to test out the reality of the treaty – he is injured, prompting the town to send one of their own, Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), to get medicine from a town beyond the forest. She must survive if Lucius is to live, in a race against time. However, she is blind…and the creatures of the woods hold dominion there.

I had been excited for this movie when it came out. I ended up seeing it in a little theater in Canada with some of my friends.

One thing I DID like about the film was that it was appropriately creepy for the most part. The most menacing and scary movie villain is the one you don’t get to see. The fear of the unknown pervades the opening of this movie but ultimately doesn’t stick with it.

True to form, M. Night Shyamalan throws in his “twist” ending and some might like it, others might hate it. I, personally, thought it was a neat ending but the logistics of it made my head spin if I thought about it too much.

The script seemed a little weak with stilted dialogue, but it’s hard to get period-dialogue right.

This is a movie that could have been really neat. Almost all of the elements were there. It’s not the worst Shyamalan film I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly not the best.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Village

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a successful publisher who inherited the majority of his father’s money and business and lives a carefree life where nothing ever goes wrong and everyone caters to his every need. During David’s posh birthday party, his friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee) shows up with who could very well be the girl of David’s dreams – Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). David has to decide if she’s worth changing his life for. However, there are consequences to every action, and a very manic and depressed “fuck buddy” of David’s, named Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) waits on the sidelines in quiet anger and desperation.

Let me first tell you that I am often not a fan of Tom Cruise. Or Cameron Diaz. Or Penelope Cruz. About the only actor I initially liked in this movie in other projects is the amazing Jason Lee.

None of that matters, though, because this movie completely blew me away.

It’s a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) in which Penelope Cruz reprises her role. Many think that Abre Los Ojos is far superior, but to each his own. I felt that Vanilla Sky hit harder with me under Cameron Crowe’s direction.

I rented this one night on a lark, not really knowing what to expect. Tom Cruise turns in one of the most memorable performances of his career, donning makeup that makes him look disfigured throughout the film when he’s not wearing the facial prosthetic/regenerative mask. Cameron Diaz has mostly unimpressed me (aside from There’s Something About Mary) but she was perfect for Julie Gianni’s moody, depressed character. Jason Lee was awesome as Brian, the best friend character….and Penelope Cruz was charming as the independent Sophia. Oh, and KURT RUSSEL. Seriously.

I have seen this movie so many times that I can quote it by heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The music was amazing (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film), the cinematography was gorgeous.

This is a highly underrated film and didn’t get much attention when it first came out. I think it has staying power and an extremely strong message that I definitely identified with. It’s commentary on life, on love, on material possessions and existential thought. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Vanilla Sky

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)

Original Theatrical Release: November 21, 1997
Director: Clint Eastwood

This film was based on a novel by John Berendt , of the same name.

A New York journalist, John Kelso (John Cusack) travels to the slower-paced Savannah, Georgia to write a feature for Town And Country Magazine on the massive annual Christmas party that Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey) throws. After the party, Williams kills his violent and childish lover, Billy Hanson (Jude Law) and claims it was self defense. Sensing a hit-story and novel, Kelso stays in Savannah to cover the trial and ends up meeting all sorts of wacky characters including an African-American transvestite night club performer named Lady Chablis (Who plays herself) and a vocalist named Mandy Nichols (Alison Eastwood) whom John has a romantic interest in.

PHEW.

With a crazy cast of characters and a long-winded, potentially boring story…certain things have to come together for the film to be successful. Clint Eastwood’s direction seems to capture the essence of the slow, down-to-earth southern lifestyle of Savannah, Georgia. The movie sometimes follows too closely to that pacing and seems to lead down roads that go nowhere, blissfully taking its time in its own atmospheric qualities, which thankfully are good more often than not (the graveyard scene, anyone?).

I’m a huge fan of Spacey and Cusack, so I admittedly would watch almost anything either of them are in (probably even porn, if it existed…JUDGE ME NOT), but I think Spacey’s performance in this film almost borders on being a parody, which actually works. The man’s a genius, I’m telling you.

Cusack, while I love the guy, didn’t really turn in too much more than we usually get from him. The character in this movie is almost the same one from 1408 (which obviously came out later on), but you can’t help but watch the man work.

I think whether you like the book or not, the movie is a different animal. The atmosphere of the movie is the star and Eastwood did a good job with it.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil