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

 

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Sin City (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2005
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Basin City, AKA “Sin” City, is a vile place of corruption, sex, and murder. Marv (Mickey Rourke), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) are just three hard-boiled characters with intersecting paths who are rays of light standing against the dark. Part comic book, part noir and all thrill – this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is very faithful to the source material.

Since the sequel to this film just came out, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, I felt like I needed to bone up on this film franchise once more before seeing the new one.

The narrative layout of the film is interesting. Vignettes showing each “main” character and their interactions with the film’s secondary characters including villains and allies, makes the world of Sin City seem large and real. Most of the shots in the film are lifted right from Frank Miller’s pages of artwork and the casting was all done very wonderfully, particularly with Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Seriously, look at the guy). You also get to see Brittany Murphy in one of her last good roles before she died….and the same with Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

The special effects are all very stylized, very slick, but a couple of times they look wonky. Most of that was due to the artwork not translating well to film, because of how stylized Frank Miller’s artwork is. The black and white look of the film kept everything very visually appealing. The dialogue was great noir fare, if you’re into noir – but if you’re not into noir at all it may seem hokey and even terrible in spots.

If Robert Rodriguez and/or Quentin Tarantino were to direct a comic book film, Sin City was the perfect choice for them and you can tell that they had fun directing it, which means if you’re like me – you’ll have fun watching it.

If you’re looking for strong women characters, then this typical noir setting probably isn’t for you. The women of Old Town run their prostitution rings with cold efficiency, keeping the mob and corrupt police officers on the level, but that’s about it. Most of the other women in the film gasp and toss their hands against their foreheads while the men do the real work.

The one drawback to the film is that the three main characters – Marv, Dwight and Hartigan – are all fairly similar, making the story arcs seem pretty repetitive. Clive Owen was underwhelming as Dwight. Mickey Rourke nailed Marv (as I said before) and Bruce Willis was great as Hartigan. Rosario Dawson was kinetic as Gail, and Jessica Alba was decent as Nancy Callahan. Also, Elijah Wood was surprisingly creepy in his role as Kevin and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. They weren’t in the film for very long but they definitely added very interesting bits to the story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Sin City

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan

Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), was made an orphan when his parents were brutally murdered in the streets by a common thug. Vowing revenge, as an adult he began training himself to fight before ending up as a student of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) – both in a shadowy group dedicated to eradicating evil called the League of Shadows. When Bruce disagrees with their methods, he takes what he’s learned and finances himself as a vigilante superhero called Batman. With enemies from his past and present arrayed against him, Batman has a lot of work to do to clean up Gotham.

This isn’t your 1989 Batman, that’s for sure.

This movie starts and ends with a bang. There isn’t much time to think about anything except for the awesomeness up on the screen, but there are just a couple of scenes that are a little too slow or bog down the action.

The acting is all top-notch (aside from how anyone looks at Christian Bale’s Batman voice) and the characters from Batman’s canon were all brought to life, more vibrant than any incarnation that came before it. We had the amazing Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred. Not as great was the wooden Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but hey, she’s still easy on the eyes.

Nolan’s vision ties everything together and by the end of the film, we see a story that has been artfully pieced together that leaves us nodding our heads in appreciation as the credits roll. I still think the second film, The Dark Knight is the best in the trilogy, but this is a close second.

All in all, this is a wonderful start to the Batman Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and I’m glad that we’ve gone away from the campy nature of the Batman films of the 1990’s.

Batman is pretty damned serious.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Batman Begins

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: July 8, 2005
Director: Tim Story

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), brilliant scientist, has a theory that there are clouds of cosmic energy that move through space which can trigger evolution. Convinced that one of these clouds will come close enough to Earth to observe and analyze from a relatively short distance away in space, he enlists the help of his longtime friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to help him convince billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to let them use his private space station. He allows it, but only if the research is under his control. Doom then brings aboard his own genetics researcher Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) who complete the team. When something goes unaccording to plan, everyone aboard the space station aside from Doom is hit directly with the cosmic energy cloud, granting them amazing abilities and altering their DNA structures. Becoming media darlings after a rescue, the four researchers must struggle with their newfound abilities and fame as the Fantastic Four.

Being a Marvel movie, I was pretty excited for this film when it came out. Up until then, we’d had a pretty decent Spider-Man movie as well as Blade and X-Men. I thought the Thing looked a little cheesy, but figured it’d be okay up on the big screen because he was being played by Michael Chiklis. Chris Evans seemed perfect for the character of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jessica Alba didn’t initially sell me on being Susan Storm, but she’s hot so I figured I’d give it a chance. The guy who played Reed looked like he’d do well enough.

I was right about most of those initial thoughts. Michael Chiklis DID play Ben Grimm exactly how I’d want him to be played, but regardless of how well he acted…I have to say, that rubber suit was kind of atrocious. Not saying I wouldn’t love to wear it as a cosplay or something like that. It’s made really well but for the big screen in a movie that SHOULDN’T be full of camp, it added a sort of cheese factor that carried through to the rest of the film. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Johnny Storm. Jessica Alba was hot, but was not Susan Storm (and there was some controversy because of her being cast as Susan Storm and the fact that she’s not mixed-race in the comic books). Ioan Gruffudd (crazy name!) was just okay as Reed Richards.

I loved Julian McMahon’s acting and presence in the show Nip/Tuck, but as Victor Von Doom…not so much. I never really thought of Doom as a whiny socialite, like Tony Stark from Iron Man without the class. It didn’t work.

On top of that, we had a story that while initially starting out not that bad meandered all over the place and didn’t really provide much in the way of action for an action film. The end battle with Doom was extremely anti-climactic and I didn’t feel like I’d used my time well by watching the film, aside from my unhealthy obsession with Jessica Alba.

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

Give it a watch if you haven’t….see how it is compared to the upcoming 2015 reboot by Seth Grahame-Smith and Josh Trank. It’s still Marvel, after all. (Just don’t watch the second one with Silver Surfer…Jesus, that was bad).

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Fantastic Four

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: October 21, 2005
Director: Shane Black

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is a bumbling thief who ends up masquerading as an actor for an audition to escape police. Getting the part, he is to be trained by a police officer known as Gay Perry (Val Kilmer). Harry soon finds himself at the center of a murder mystery that puts not only his own life in danger but also that of his childhood sweetheart, Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan).

This film, before Iron Man, was supposed to have been Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback role but for whatever reason, it didn’t do too well at the box office and only enjoyed a cult following after it was released on DVD.

With a lot of noir elements and a lot of charm, this movie is great during the first half but then gets super-bogged down toward the end and almost feels like two different movies, which is probably why it didn’t do too well initially.

Robert Downey Jr. is in fine form here, and you can see why he made such a comeback (eventually). Val Kilmer also turns in his best performance, in my opinion, since The Salton Sea.

Other than slight pacing problems at the end, this dark comedy is sure to engage you at least for a while, especially if you’re into Raymond Chandler.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

 

V For Vendetta (2005)

V For Vendetta (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: March 17, 2006
Director: James McTeigue

A shadowy and theatrical freedom fighter, only known as V (Hugo Weaving), wages a war with terrorist tactics against a corrupt and totalitarian government. When he rescues a girl named Evey (Natalie Portman) from some also-corrupt secret police, she becomes entangled in his endeavors and may be the best ally he’s known.

The first half of this film opens up with a lot of panache. I was caught up right off the bat with the atmosphere and the established setting. This carried me through all the way to the middle of the film where I felt that the movie was bogged down a lot and lost its frenetic pacing.

The source material, of course, was Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name and the film managed to evoke most of what Moore was trying to accomplish, but in the end, I think, the source material always does things that a movie cannot. Also, the graphic novel focused more on V’s attempts to enlist Evey to carry out his legacy, whereas the movie, I felt, showed that he cared about Evey’s involvement but ultimately wanted to inspire a revolution rather than solely rely on her.

The two works are completely different in my mind, which is something I always try to do when looking at one work which is based on another work. I think overall, the film managed to capture some qualities of the graphic novel but it was ultimately the Wachowski’s own message that came across.

The action scenes were all well-done and there wasn’t a terrible amount of CGI. Hugo Weaving was the best thing about this movie because I never envisioned V’s dialogue being able to be correctly brought onto the screen but he did it with great skill. Natalie Portman was lovely and talented, as usual and it was great she was willing to shave her head for the role. Kudos.

This is a great film, and could have been exceptional but for the mid-movie backstory dump that slogged the film down. Still, go watch it, it’s a lot of fun.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For V For Vendetta