The Deepwater Dive

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Film productions differ in various ways. Some differences are more noticeable than others. For example on most occasions you can tell if the film was made on a shoestring budget. You don’t even have to wait for it to unfold, you can simply feel it.

In most cases the fact that a film was a low budget production is a weakness. Rarely, the director facing a reality, where he has no amazing special effects to cover mistakes, is pushed to his limits. One thing is for sure – in many films cash  takes attention away from the plot. When you cannot cover mistakes with money, the plot has to be bulletproof.

Deepwater is a 2005 neo-noir film directed and written by David S. Marfield. It is based on a novel of the same name written by Matthew F. Jones and that is  its strongest side. Everything is rough and simple. The acting is rather wooden sometimes and the main characters accent can be annoying, but generally the film is OK. Maybe some people will want to burn me for this but I can see some traces of David Lynch in it. Ironically it is the harshness and simplicity, that pulls this one out of the trash can. After all, it is hard to show true madness with just simple wooden puppets (OK. maybe I’m a being a bit too harsh here, but that is exactly how I felt watching).

As for the story,  it starts as simple as it can. Nat Banyon (Lucas Black) is hitch-hiking in search of happiness. In his case it means getting money for an ostrich farm. It starts getting interesting, doesn’t it? Well after a fistfight in the bar our ostrich tycoon steals a sports car. Just before you start thinking he is a jerk, he saves a car accident victim (Peter Coyote).

Here is where it gets better. The stranger offers a job in return. A simple renovation of an old motel is not a big deal right? A few screws here some nails in another place and a paint job. Guess again. The motel owner seems to be some kind of lunatic mobster holding  entire village hostage. People are terrorized and Police has nothing to pin on Mr Herman Finch. Our hero seems to be the only way to save the day. He will fight the bully in a boxing match. But wait… It all seems so strange… Voices… hallucinations… What is that insane mobster trying to do? Is there a reason behind it all? Check it out for yourself. Again that may not be a really mind blowing production, but it will definitely do for the weekend, with a sip of beer and friends around.

The Triangle Terror Twist

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Some films are masterpieces in their genre, leaving other productions light years behind. Some are there just so you can say “wow, that really sucks”. Triangle is neither of those. It tries to be the old-fashioned horror in a classic cliché sauce. The same ideas: murderer, victims and a paranormal haunted house. Well the spice in this soup is the fact that the haunted house is actually a haunted ship. This idea is not a new one, as 7 years earlier in 2002 at least one Ghost Ship I know about was already sailing the horror sea.

The setting is an essential difference distinguishes Triangle from its older and more known horror cousins. Personally I felt like the ship could as well be heading to Silent Hill. There was something about those rooms and the mirrors. Also, the sensation of being trapped in some sort of evil dimension. You can feel it through the skin. While watching you will for sure get the “don’t go there!” and “behind you!” sensation. After a while comes the “hey, didn’t I see that already somewhere?” feeling.

To close up the fancy introductions Triangle is a 2009 psychological horror film directed by Christopher Smith, and starring Melissa George, Rachael Carpani and Liam Hemsworth. To be honest it definitely is NOT a super production. It will not blow your mind as the director intended. You will either go into the magical world of memories, or simply get annoyed.

This is mainly because of the last puzzle in this jigsaw, which is messing with the time continuum. If you saw Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, you know what I’m talking about. Not to spoil the surprise for all those that have no idea what is heading their way, go and check it out. It will not leave you speechless, unless you are one of those people that never made a remark while watching a film. The only risk you are taking is allowing yourself to go through a vicious circle of “hey, we are almost done here, so before the lights are back on…” and “nooooooo, you gotta be kidding… wtf?…”. All I can say now is ahoy! Is there anybody there? Can you hear me? Hellooooo…

Ken – d*** – Park – d***

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It is natural for everyone to develop an attitude towards life. It is a well known fact, that in teenage years this attitude changes most dramatically. For some of us change comes easy, others treat it as a dull and painful ordeal. Teenage days, for sure, can be described as a crazy roller-coaster ride towards maturity. A ride that for some people may end up worse than just with loosing lunch along the way.

For a group of teens from Visalia, California, life was definitely not serving roses. That can be noticed, when we first meet them. On the day that one of their friends commits suicide. It is a rare occasion to see the picture of teenager from a different perspective, their perspective.

Remember high school? The old divisions will never change. There are jocks, geeks, junkies and all sorts of other groups. They are different in many ways. Want to belong somewhere? You have to pick a group, a uniform and a style. There is however, another important thing to choose and those are your friends. People you spend time with, who sometimes know you better than you own family.

Ken Park is a 2002 drama film based on Larry Clark‘s journals and stories, directed by Larry Clark and Ed Lachman. It tells a story of teenagers, from their point of view. I can assure you, its not a pleasant picture. One thing all of those developing minds share, is dealing with harsh existence. A life of pain and sorrow, that only they can understand. A hell of growing up in a surrounding that does not understand them.

It always is the same old story. You always end up thinking, you found your way. That this new point of view and awareness of surrounding reality is unique. Well guess what… Everybody get through this point in life. Ken Park is one of those films that shows all the negative sides at once. For me, it was too depressing. Another thing was nudity in a ridiculous amount. I don’t mean a flash of breasts once or twice. I’m talking gazillions of penis shots over and over again. Remember that scene in Fight Club when Tyler Durden puts a picture of penis in the middle of children’s cartoon? Well it feels that a greater part of this film is made like that. After some (short) time it starts to be really annoying.

If you are not easily annoyed check it out, but be warned. It is not an easy thing to watch. If you want something that will go easy on a weekend afternoon with a couple of beers that is NOT it. Its more like an annoying journey through a swamp of twisted, sick and and obscene images.

Stay in Bed Being Dead

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One of the various functions of cinema, just between entertaining and shocking, is to carry a moral message. It is, without doubt, one of those things that modern producers keep forgetting. Or maybe, it is the other way around. Maybe, the modern audience is not really interested in watching the silver screen consciously. I am aware of the simplification those words carry, but think about it for a moment. When was the last time you saw a film that was both moralising and entertaining?

This lack of a certain “morality” in today’s cinema is definitely perceived as a chance for some film producers. I bet it feels like seeing and empty space in a parking lot. Just as you see one, you go “hey there is my spot” while driving. Well just like driving, film production can be really tricky. It can either go smooth and easy or you can end up hearing that annoying sound of scratching paint of another car.

The Lazarus Project is an American thriller film written and directed by John Patrick Glenn in 2008. The main character, Ben Garvey(Paul Walker) is an ex-criminal, who tries to straighten up his life. After loosing a job, robbing the bank seem to be the only way to maintain the family. Unfortunately not everything goes according to plan and instead of money Ben ends up with a death sentence.

Where others find their end, Ben Garvey finds a new beginning. Instead of a trip to the after life, execution holds his key to salvation. Second chance comes to Ben in a small town in Oregon. After the lethal injection, he awakes to a groundskeepers position at the local psychiatric hospital.

Now, up to that point everything is going really fine. As the audience you can see the big plan. I mean, I do understand the idea of bringing back the Biblical story of Lazarus. I really think it is a good idea to reinvent the moral aspects of the second chance and redemption in general. Unfortunately, there is nothing further to add to this mixture. There is the moral aspect and that is all. In my book concentrating on only one ingredient in the soup is not enough. To get the flavour right, there is a need for more.

As Garvey sinks deeper into this new reality of his workplace, everything becomes more and more complicated. He learns that coming back to his old home and family is not an option. Talking with patients, brings nothing but a general feeling of nervousness. After some time Ben starts having hallucinations. You can almost feel his growing paranoia, crawling on the screen and gazing right as you. It is that brief moment when SOMETHING SHOULD HAPPEN. Maybe, I watched to many hard core gory flicks, but I missed it. Running around the forest is passée since The Blair Witch Project.

All in all, I understand the good intentions Mr Glenn had, but for crying out loud, adding some cohones to this production would not hurt one bit. With all of that great storytelling, waiting for the grand finale was too damn long. It is there however. THERE IS A SOMEHOW NICE ENDING TO IT ALL. Unfortunately, waiting for it kills all the joy. While watching, you feel like waiting for a bomb to explode. You know it should happen any time now… yes sir…. any minute now…. wait for it… aaaaaaaaaaaand….

And then you basically need someone to wake you up for the KABOOM! As I said, this film has a beginning, and a somehow fine ending. The only bad thing, is the lousy middle part that goes on forever. Maybe it was just me running low on patience, but I’d rather not recommend this film to you, unless you have trouble with sleeping. In case you doubt check yourself, if you dare waking up Lazarus.

Lying Lawyers Live Longer

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Street thugs handle their business with fists. Crooks are most likely found on one side of the knife or the other. Simple mechanisms and simple rules. The fittest survive. Naturally there are other predators above them in the food chain. Murderers and hitmen earning their bread with violence, making  gunshot their final signature. They are the ones with hands covered in blood.

All of the above differ only in the weapon of choice and amount of time they spent using it. From this perspective it all looks like a giant Colosseum, right? Bunch of animals relying purely on their instinct. The ultimate joke is that Lady Luck tends to be crewel in her choices. Today’s killer is tomorrow’s victim… and it all happens in a split second… a heartbeat… BOOM…. Lights out…

As you slowly look through the pyramid, you get to the top. Not surprisingly the ones sitting there, have their hands clean. This is because of one thing, and one thing only. Just like their smaller, less developed cousins, they also have a weapon of choice. The weapon is Lawyer, ammunition intellect counted in sharp thoughts per second.

The Lincoln Lawyer tells a story of Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) a certain AK 47 in the criminal defense arsenal. It is a 2011 thriller film directed by Brad Furman, starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Marisa Tomei. The film is an adaptation of novel by the same name by Michael Connelly.

Some adaptations are better than the others. All I can say is that Michael Connelly, author of the original book, spoke highly about this one. In his eyes, Matthew McConaughey captured the true essence of criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. Three words that best describe him are: cold, sharp and ready. McConaughey’s brilliant performance brought to life a man of incredible personality. A man with a poker face and a set of aces up his sleeve. A man who in a different setting could have been a gunslinger or a crusader.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a film made in an old-fashioned way. As you follow the story, you fall in love with the character. You know he is not always playing by the rulebook, but who cares. All that matters is that he is outsmarting the other guy. That was exactly how I felt while watching. Even though the story is dark and depicts a rather unpleasant aspect of life, it is really easy to watch. If you don’t think about it too much, everything “clicks” just in the right moment. I am pretty sure that if you watch closely enough, there are holes and inaccuracies in the script. I leave this part for any bored malcontent who wants to try. However, for all of you who would like to see a Dirty Harry” of lawyers, this film is a must see.

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Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

London Boulevard PosterHonestly, how many times was it? A hundred? A thousand? Millions? Silver screen has seen an insane amount of crime stories. Some of them are cheap and simple, others have that funny notion of hitting you in the face with a twist of the plot, when you least expect it.

Most of the time you get a classic conflict of interests. Gentleman wearing a white hat stands on the side of the Law, representing everything which is pure and Good. On the other side of the barricade we have the classic Bad Guy and all the Evil he can represent.

London Boulevard is a British film noir from 2010. It’s based on Ken Bruen‘s novel of the same name and directed by William Monahan. The biggest names in the cast are Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell, but without doubt Ray Winstone worked hard for his money as well.

After being released from Pentonville Prison, Mitchell (Colin Farrell) wants to change his ways. Its hard to break with old habits and old friends. Billy (Ben Chaplin), who is Mitchell’s former associate, is one of those people. Its like with that stench of cigarettes on your jacket, when you’re trying to quit. Sure its annoying, but you don’t throw out a jacket while walking in a cold night, right?

Mitchell soon gets a job at the Holland Park mansion. He works as a bodyguard and handyman for Charlotte (Keira Knightley), a young film star with complicated personality. Most of the time he keeps the paparazzi and other annoying people away. As I mentioned he wants to change his ways, this does not mean he wants to change his style. Skills learned in his old life are admired by Charlotte, and her friend and manager Jordan (David Thewlis).

So far everything is going swell. Mitchell has a job, Charlotte has a bodyguard and Billy… Right… Billy has a Boss. His name is Rob Gant (Ray Winstone) and he is one of the best played Mobsters I’ve seen in years. Aggressive, unpredictable and Evil, or rather EVIL. One of those Kings of the Underworld. He can spare a life, but why bother while there is a loaded gun at hand.

This is one hell of a story. Sure it is simple and as old as the hills, but the way it is told is truly brilliant. If you are one of those people, who like good old-fashioned gangsters, you are in for a treat.

One more thing. Last but not least comes the Soundtrack. It’s like a topping of a good cake. It melts on it all, adding flavour and even a cherry on top. It suits this film, just like a gun suits Farrell in his final scenes.

Enough talking ladies and gentleman… Take a bite of the action cake…

Say Hi to “Sy” the Photo Guy

One Hour Photo PosterHow many times a day do you get others to work for you? I mean all the little people. Little people doing those little things you normally don’t notice at all. Those people that are just there, like the guy at the gas station, at the hot-dog stand or at the supermarket. How many times do you look them in the eyes? No, not just the usual wallet – face – watch – door routine. I mean looking directly into their eyes.

You pass them on the street all the time. They are the ones bringing you Menu at the restaurant, helping you to find the desired item at the supermarket or driving you home after a long night of clubbing. How come you never notice them? Probably because nowadays everybody minds their own business. But take a minute to consider how much you know about those people and how much they know about you. Maybe you’ll notice there is something strange behind their learned, professional smile. Maybe there is something scary… Something insane…

One Hour Photo is an American psychological thriller written and directed by Mark Romanek in 2002, with the leading role brilliantly performed by Robin Williams. The story concentrates on Seymour “Sy” Parrish, who works at the one-hour photo developing lab in one of the local supermarkets. There is nothing special about “Sy”, you might say, and that could be the truth. Like all of us, he wakes up, goes to work, after which, he gets back home to his private life. Without thinking to much about it, that is what most people would expect him to do, right? Well, what if “Sy” simply does not have a private life to come back to? What if his simple work became the very reason for his existence, a chain of mundane activities, holding all of the broken pieces together? What if somebody would break that chain?

In his “special” way Seymour Parrish is a family man with loads of friends. Except… they are not his family and not his friends. At some point the relation between a service provider and his clients becomes twisted and distorted. Lacking a private life of his own, Seymour Parrish develops a fixation on private zone of his clients. In his twisted dream reality, he is “uncle Sy”, part of the family. And what happens when there is something bad happening in the family? Naturally, other family members need to step in and help their loved ones…

I guarantee this will be the Robin Williams you have never seen. After all of the comedies and dramatic roles, this is something new, something fresh.  Oh, and one more thing. It was pointed out to me that the trailer posted here, does not show the true atmosphere of the film. I have to say that indeed, it is too fast and violent. One Hour Photo is more like a “picture of madness that takes time to develop”.

Be warned. After watching this film, you are likely to get a strange feeling crawling down your spine, when you hear certain expressions. Expressions like:

Would that be all Sir?

Thank you and enjoy your stay…

How is the family?

Remember to visit us again…

Everybody Comes to Rick’s

Just as I promised previously, its time for one of those classics, that have a special place in every film addict’s heart. Its one of those titles, that should immediately ring a bell. For me, and many others, it is a pure essence of Classic Cinema. Like a Mona Lisa to the art of Painting, Casablanca is an icon in the world of Cinema.

Having its premiere in 1942, Casablanca is a mixture of drama and romance. Directed by Michael Curtiz with the leading roles of incredible Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman accompanied by some other big names like  Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson.

Casablanca, during World War II, is a gate to better life in America, for all those running from the German troops. Rick  Blane (Bogart), owner of a small nightclub and gaming spot “Rick’s Café Américain”, is known for his connections and ability for arranging things. In order to leave Casablanca and start a new life in America, one needs exit visas. Naturally the commodity worth a new life, has an enormous price in money and is really hard to obtain.  

There is a fact given to general notice, that two German couriers were killed and their documents stolen. One od Rick’s guests, Signor Ugarte (Peter Lorre), gives him some letters of transit for save keeping. He intends to sell them, but before that happens, he gets into a shooting with the police.  

Captain Renault (Claude Rains), a friend of Rick’s, who also is the Chief of Police, informs him that a resistance leader from Czechoslovakia, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), is in Casablanca. In order to leave to America Laszlo will need an exit visa, but Renault has been ordered by Major Strasser of the Gestapo (Conrad Veidt), to keep him in Casablanca.

To Rick’s surprise Laszlo arrives at his club with Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), who knew Rick when he was in Paris. Now it is certain that all of Rick’s cynical approach to life is caused by a broken heart and a love affair he once had with Ilsa. How will it all end? I leave that to all of those, who enjoy a good classic piece of Cinema. 

Under the Stars of Vienna

Greetings from Vienna! To quote a forgotten celebrity “Oops! …I Did It Again”. My not so mysterious disappearance was caused mainly by finishing studies, moving from Denmark and yep, guess I got a bit lazy again. Thanks to some unexpected time on my hand, I am back with new film reviews. This time the reason that kicked me out of lazy-land was an event I simply could not miss. It was a film festival taking place here in Vienna called Kino unter Sternen or, for us foreigners, Cinema Under the Stars. The idea is just fantastic in its simplicity. A nice, big screen next to the fountain and beautiful St. Charles’s Church at Karlsplatz and a crowd of cinema enthusiasts.

On the day I visited the festival with E, we had a chance to see two films. One of them was a 1951 classic entitled The Gentleman in Room 6. Its convention closely resembles a dream vision or rather a nightmare. The viewer is forced to participate in the entire plot as seen by the main character, but in a way “from the passenger’s seat”. The claustrophobic feeling of anxiety is brilliantly strengthened by the camera play.  At the pick of this paranoid vision, the identity of the main character is revealed. By the time we get there, it is almost hundred per cent sure who to expect. I won’t spoil the surprise like some other bloggers out there on the web, check it out yourself. The other film, entitled Nr. 7, was a Para-documentary about citizens of Vienna. It was made in a rather mocking, but still positive fashion. My guess is, that it was made to portray the great cultural diversity of this beautiful city. Participating in the open air cinema like that was a great experience and we will have to try it again.

P.S. Unfortunately the other time we tried to watch films under the stars, weather had different plans and did not permit us. Luckily I had a copy of that classic film stored in my collection. Here is a picture from the Kino unter Sternen Facebook profile, as a teaser of   goodies to come next time we meet. Any guesses?

When Beauty Meets a Beast

We all have drives. Whoever tries to deny them, sooner or later, ends up confronting his inner demons. There are different things motivating us. Sometimes it’s a pursuit for money, love, and sometimes a need to improve. Yes, some of us are driven by an urge to make their lives better. I personally like films depicting such individuals.

There is something magical about the ultimate freedom we all have. Think about it. We all wake up day after day, study, go to work. We all proceed with mundane activities, without really considering to break the vicious circle. Most people sealed in a convention of the play, become attached to the role they are playing. It suddenly becomes hard to look beyond what we have, and reach for what we desire.

Now imagine that at some point of your life you do something totally crazy. Imagine that all of the sudden you stop playing by the rules. This essence of life changing force, is captured in the film I am about to recommend you.

American Beauty is a 1999  drama directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. It tells the story of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) and his family – wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening) and daughter, Jane (Thora Birch). Burnhams are a typical American family, living in a typical neighbourhood and having typical everyday problems. Lester is not satisfied with his job, Jane is not satisfied with Lester as a husband and Jane, their sixteen-year-old daughter, is not satisfied with both of them. Burnhams have typical neighbours: a retired violent US Marine Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), his teenage drug dealer son, Ricky (Wes Bentley) and depressed wife, Barbara (Allison Janney).

Everything starts with a kick, when this boiling Molotov Cocktail gets a spark. Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) is Jane Burnham’s cheerleader friend. When she is added to the equation, everything becomes one big emotional explosion. Lester starts having sexual fantasies about his daughters’ friend and develops a drug addiction. Carolyn has an affair with her work rival and starts shooting practice.

Where can that lead? I will not spoil the grand finale, but I can say that blackmail and weight lifting are the appetisers. Be sure to check out for yourself and enrich your DVD collection with a copy of  American Beauty.

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