Shutter Island (2010)

 Reviewer: Jeff Burton





Shutter Island begins with a federal marshal, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, arriving at an island asylum for the criminally insane to help recapture an escaped patient. The character's anguished past soon intersects with the present and sets up a strong story that moves in unpredictable directions. The buzz on this movie centered around the idea that Martin Scorsese was paying homage to the great film noir thrillers. The 1950's time frame, the lighting, the music, and the brilliant casting of Mark Ruffalo (he looks like was plucked off a 1946 studio lot) contribute to that impression. but the institutional setting and the psycho-babble from Freud-like doctors put me more in mind of such classic psychiatric dramas as Snake Pit and Spellbound. Speaking of Spellbound, there are a lot of Hitchcockian moments and shots.

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The movie effectively explores the damage man's inhumanity does to the psyche as well as the body. There are numerous disturbing images, but none are included for shock or voyeurism.  All convey the power of brutality to wound minds. If you are sensitive to such things, you might want to consult an inventory of these scenes and language at a site like kids-in-mind.com before watching.

There are a few misses in an otherwise powerful movie. DiCaprio does a fair job, though he spoils the role with an extremely uneven Boston accent. The music (especially over the opening scene) is almost comically overdone. There are a few superfluous scenes making it a tad overlong.

I must being this conclusion by alerting you to a mild, hazy spoiler. Stop reading if you want to approach the movie without the barest hint of its resolution. In the first half, the suspicion arises that the film's premise is the standard Hollywood left-liberal line - that America and American institutions are corrupt and fascistic. The twist at the end turns this idea completely on its head. In fact, one valid interpretation is that the entire leftist critique of America, the anti-anti-communism, the moral-equivalence-to-Nazism rap, all of it is actually a paranoid delusion, a mental illness if you will. I doubt Scorsese meant that, but it's there, nonetheless. And this unintended truth increased my respect for the movie.


Related Reviews:
Martin Scorsese movies
The Aviator (2004)
Shine a Light (2008)

Other Critic's Reviews:
18 Reels
Cinema365



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Movie Trailer: Atlas Shrugged: Part I

Props to anyone who even tries to film an unfilmable book, but this trailer does not bode well. It appears the filmmakers are trying to set up a love story, and some kind of weird industrial thriller centered around trains. It won't work.

The point at which you realize the whole thing fails is when the central character confirms that all he wants to do is make money. It's supposed to be provocative, but it just comes off as off-putting. After 80 years of Hollywood indoctrination into soft socialism, a rigorous defense of capitalism requires more finesse. The most frightening thing about the trailer is that it is an advertisement for "Part 1". For the record, the movie should have been set in an alt-history 1950's.





Movie Poster: Blade Runner


Blade Runner movie poster



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Movie Trailer: The Company Men

I know many men who are unemployed.  I've been unemployed myself at times.  The loss of a job can cause different reactions from different people. If this film is a serious look into those reactions, more power to them.  If not, then you have a gaggle of millionaires feeling sorry for the little guy.  That kind of elitist crap is part of the reason people are losing their jobs in this country in the first place*.


* - The controlling elite class feeling that they understand and should speak for the middle and lower classes has led to the arrogant and disconnected thinking which wrought many problems we currently face. 




Screen Shot: The Lives of Others


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Movie Poster: After Shock


After Shock movie poster



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Movie Trailer: Burning Palms

"5 tales that will mess you up for life."  There's a marketing ploy.  Watch our movie and be emotionally scarred.  Why not just say "Come see our movie.  It's like being brain raped."


If this looks like it is little more than a bunch of ugly people doing ugly things, consider the synopsis:

A subversive tale that interlaces five stories set in Los Angeles, where no taboo is left unexplored as each character careens toward a dark and often comic fate.
Given the condition of our culture, you have to ask exactly what are they being subversive about?  What are they undermining?  The amoral, celebration of diseased thinking and relationships has been the cornerstone of our culture since the 1970's.  It has eroded every aspect of our society.  If you want something that is subversive, shouldn't they promote marriage, faith and education?




Movie Trailer: X-Men: First Class

If it wasn't for the fact that there is a new superhero movie being released every other week, this may raise my eyebrows.  When you toss in that the second X-Men film was lukewarm and the third was absolutely embarrassing, I have a hard time getting too whipped up over this relaunch of the franchise. 

As far as trailers go, this one is pretty good though - put together well.




Weekend DVD Recommendation: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Ang Lee's adaptation of Wang Dulu's book from his Crane-Iron Pentalogy is a visual treat and one of the great films in world cinema. What amounts to a mixture of quest tale and love story, the film follows two narrative paths. Master Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat Chow) a legendary warrior retires from fighting to settle down. He gives his treasured sword "The Green Destiny" to an old friend. Before long, the priceless sword is stolen and Li Mu Bai must track it down. He is accompanied by Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) who is also a gifted fighter. The couple have a long history and have shared an unspoken love for years.

Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonLi Mu Bai is also hunting down the villainous Jade Fox, a dark and dangerous foe who killed his master.

In addition to this quest, Jiao Long (Ziyi Zhang) a beautiful young girl gets involved with Li Mu Bai, Shu Lien and the Jade Fox. Jiao Long connects all of the loose ends of the story and proves to have surprising secrets for all involved.

This is Ang Lee's best film. It is the best work from everyone involved. Everything about this film, its look, its cast, its inventiveness, its emotional punch, everything is top notch. When film makers dream of making movies, this is the kind of film they fantasize about creating.


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Friday Rewind: Babette's Feast (1987)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring


Babettes FeastShould I see it?
Absolutely.

Director: Gabriel Axel
Written by: Gabriel Axel
Starring: St├ęphane Audran, Bodil Kjer and Birgitte Federspiel

Rated G


This should be a boring film. The greatest events in the film are internalized, the characters only speak when needed and the whole piece is symbolic. The story revolves around the lives of two deeply religious sisters who restrict their lives to serving their fellow man in the name of God. The two sisters and the citizens of their small, isolated Danish village sustain themselves on a pale diet of boiled fish and bread. They also survive on the memory of the sister’s dead father, a charismatic pastor who bonded the citizens of the village with teachings of Christian piety and sacrifice.

When a French woman named Babette arrives as a refugee from the French Revolution, the two sisters must adjust to the new addition in their lives. When Babette wins the French lottery and demands to spend her winnings serving a real French feast to the aging members of the community the world is turned upside down.

The introduction of pleasure into the village has some amazing results. With this timid plot in addition to the fact that this is non-English language film, most Americans will instinctively move on.

Don’t move on.

This is a beautiful movie and is another perfect example of how film is an art form to be used to move emotions and ignite the mind. It also proves that a story does not need insane plot twists, nudity or violence to be interesting. If a filmmaker takes care to develop characters with firmly set internal conflicts as director Gabriel Axel does in this story, the tale will excite the audience and speak to world.

This film handles Christian belief and theology with concern. The sacrifice of Christ informs each character in this story and raises each from their base selves. It is obvious when someone acts in a negative way in this film that they have taken a step away from Jesus. The handling of Christianity is rarely as endearing as in this film.

Babettes FeastBeyond the direct Christian elements, there are the scenes of Earthly pleasure. The massive feast Babette sets for the townsfolk is stunning. You can't watch the consumption of this meal without wanting to partake yourself. The presentation of the feast is perfectly delivered and defines indulgence.

Earlier in the film there is a scene of seduction that may be the most erotic scene of a man and woman fully dressed and just singing to one another. It is remarkable how much eroticism is produced in this scene simply by playing off a character’s desire NOT to be seduced and remain committed to Christ. These moments of pleasure are so effective because the characters are so restricted in their lives. By playing against the conflict inside the characters Axel is able to create such scenes of unforgettable excess using such simple visual tools.

If you haven’t seen this film, you must. Despite the subtitles, despite the quiet tone, this is a great film that inspires the audience into thought and filmmakers to produce higher quality works.



Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews





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Obligatory Star Wars Post of the Day


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Movie Poster: Conan The Barbarian


Conan The Barbarian movie poster



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Movie Trailer: Black Death

Perhaps I just an old cynic, but I sincerely doubt the godless heathens will be the bad guys in this one.

One thing that struck me about this trailer is the philosophy and superstition of the religious folks sounds an awful like modern day Muslims.  Of course noting that Muslims still occupy a mindset from centuries past is me just being a racist, Islamophobic hate mongering monster instead of just seeing things for what they are.







Movie Still: Lawrence of Arabia

Movie Poster: Batman Begins


Batman Begins movie poster



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Savage Chickens

Oscar Nominee May Bring the Story of Noah to the Big Screen

BleedingCool has confirmed that Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler) is working on a graphic novel based on the story of Noah.
 
Wha?
Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk. It’s there in the Bible – it was one of the first things he did when he reached land. There was some real survivor’s guilt going on there. He’s a dark, complicated character.
I suppose that's one way to look at it.

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Aronofsky has leveraged the comic book...er, graphic novel market before to piece together a film project before.  He did this with The Fountain, an odd but well-made film which was loaded with disjointed scenes and an ending that didn't exactly draw the millions to the box office.  He released the story as a comic after the original attempt at production his a wall. 

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Is this the guy to bring Noah to the big screen?  Well, the man is talented and dang sharp.  This said...

PhotobucketIt’s a great script and it’s huge. And we’re starting to feel out talent. And then we’ll probably try and set it up… It’s the end of the world and it’s the second most famous ship after the Titanic. So I’m not sure why any studio won’t want to make it…

I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.
Oh.  He's still buying into Global Warming...er, Climate Change.  I take back that thing I said about being sharp.

Noah was the first environmentalist.  Uh, what was Adam?  He wasn't exactly strip mining Eden.

Seriously, the guy has one of the most famous stories in the Old Testament and he defaults to thinking the aspect that remotely relates to the proven lie that is Global Warming is the part with the themes that will connect with his audience?  Huh?

Below is the promotional video for the comic coming out next year:





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Centurion (2010)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring


Should I see it?
No - but barely.


Writer/Director Neil Marshall started out strong with two striking productions Dog Soldiers and The DescentThe Descent in particular was a well-shot horror film about a group of spelunkers who get trapped underground with strange alien creatures.  It was a stock horror film at heart but showed Marshall was a talent to watch.

Since that time he's made crap.  No seriously - I mean crap.  Doomsday and The Descent II.  Phew.

With this outing, Marshall finds his footing again and presents an uneven, but sometimes worthwhile film.  Centurion follows a band of Roman soldiers on the run after their legion is wiped out in an ambush.  Weary, frightened and desperate, the Romans are being tracked by Pict fighters through the Scottish Highlands.

Telling a chase story is not an easy task and Marshall falls into the biggest trap set by this kind of narrative.  His story becomes too episodic and doesn't flow naturally.  The solders run, then stop, then something happens, they run then stop, then talk, they run then stop, then something happens...and on, and on.  This leads to a stuttering tale due to a broken pace.  This keeps character development from happening with any depth because every time we get to know anyone, everybody has to get moving again. 

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On top of the episodic nature of the film, this is also quite violent.  Even though this is a film about Roman soldiers and is inherently violence, I was surprised it was so gory. One of the reasons Marshall's film The Descent so good due to his avoiding the expected gore and let the situations speak for itself.  The horror was in the situation, not in the grim violence.  Here we are witnesses to all kinds of slicing, smashing and gouging.  All shown with as much as splash and scream as possible. 
 
Ultimately, this is a misfire which is frustrating given that Marshall has a fantastic cast including Michael Fassbender, Dominic West and David Morrissey.  He also has a subject with great potential.  His story breaks down however and even though he has some good scenes, a pile of good scenes don't always translates to a good movie.

If you're stuck with nothing else to see and are needing to sit through a flick, you can do worse than this.  If you have options, go with them.



Related Reviews:
Dominic West movies
300 (2007)
The Forgotten (2004)


Other Critic's Reviews:
Film School Rejects
Beyond Hollywood


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Screen Shot: Maltese Falcon


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