I think this is probably a good example of a "product of its time", but the controversy lies more behind the idea of the horrors that "cloning" could potentially bring to the world. It all starts with the film opening with a credit sequence, taking you through what "happened" since the cloning of the sheep, Dolly (a real-life occurrence that no doubt inspired this movie). It then brings us to "the near future... sooner than you think". So, almost instantly, we get a hint of "preachy" with this one.
Cloning has become a sort of regular, everyday thing for people. Animals can be cloned, which can lead to plenty of food, but also, playing God and cloning your dying pets. Organs can be cloned for easy transplant surgeries, but so can entire human beings. Thus, the "6th Day Law" was put into place, where human beings are basically the only thing people aren't allowed to clone. Well, as any pot smoker will tell you, there are ways around laws... even if cloning a human isn't as simple as just finding a good hiding place.
We are soon introduced to charter pilot Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his partner, Hank Morgan (Michael Rapaport). They are hired by billionaire Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn), who owns cloning corporation, "Replacement Technologies". The pilots are made to take blood and eye tests in order to prove they are good to fly. Eventually this all leads to the actual ski trip where something violent goes down, but Adam does manage to make it back home, only to see a clone of himself hanging out with his family (along with a horrendous doll that would give Chucky nightmares).
Here, we learn that the dangerous thing about having a clone is having people try to kill you, as there should only be one of you. The other thing is, the idea of a clone retaining all of your own memories, so you start to question your own reality. Before he knows it, Adam is on the run from Replacement Tech. Security agents Marshall (Michael Rooker), Elsworth (Sarah Wynter), Vincent (Terry Crews) and Wiley (Rodney Rowland) as he tries to figure out what in the hell happened to his life. All in all, it's an okay movie for Schwarzenegger fans, but I personally consider it a sort of "nail in the coffin" for Schwarzenegger's prime.
While one can appreciate a lot of the fun clichés we have come to expect from an Arnie flick, there's quite a bit here that overshadows all of that, and in a kind of negative way. First, it just seems like a clear project meant as a message to forewarn the world of the dangers of cloning. Nowadays (22 years later) all of that seems sort of irrelevant. Is cloning real? Sure. But we don't seem altogether worried about making full clones of ourselves as opposed to cloning things we really need for ourselves. I should also point out that I'm no scientist, and have no idea what the limits of cloning are, as it's surprisingly not a whole matter I've paid much attention to. I'm still sitting here thinking "duplicator tech from 'Star Trek' would be neat.
Now that I've probably made myself out to sound not so bright about sciencey stuff, let's get to my final word on the film itself. I think that the film is perfectly passable IF you watch it as a product of its time as opposed to a present-day thriller. You might look at it a lot like someone like me would look at an 80s movie these days - you kind of need to watch it through special lenses in order to enjoy it. I'll also point out that there are MUCH better Schwarzenegger titles out there, if you're on the lookout for that classic Arnie action. My personal favourite is still 'True Lies', but his library is a lot of fun to go through if one is looking to have a good time. This is just on the lower end of it.
I think that after watching this I've really come to realize that I have a certain stubbornness when it comes to the outer space experience. I seem to really need a big screen in order to fully appreciate them. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I understand the vastness of our infinite universe, and therefore the scale of things is something I feel needs to be grandiose. I think that for what this film ended up being, I really missed out on that big screen experience. Much like with 'Avatar', you need that submergence into that world to fully appreciate what the film is doing.
It all starts in the near future, where our solar system is being hit with power surges that threaten human life on Earth. US Space Command informs astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) that these surges are connected to the Lima Project; an attempt at contacting extraterrestrial life, created with his father, Clifford's (Tommy Lee Jones) guidance 29 years prior. For quite some time, Clifford has been believed dead, since all communication with the project has ceased for the past 16 years, after the project reached Neptune. However, once US Space Command tells Roy his father may still be alive out there, he agrees to suit up and travel to Mars in order to try to communicate with his father, along with Colonel Pruitt (Donald Sutherland), Clifford's old associate.
As the mission unfolds, Roy has to prove that he can still maintain the proper mindset while under pressure, made all the more difficult based on his personal attachment to the mission. He's eventually told that if he can't establish any communication with his father, then the Lima Project would have to be destroyed. So there's also a bit of a race against time aspect to this. But having said that, I still didn't find it to be an exciting movie. Although it most certainly has its moments of tension, I think the real draw to this movie is the overall visual aspect. There's a certain amount of wonder here that you don't see much of, and some of its so simple. For example, as scene involving moon rovers that kick up moon dust that gets suspended in the low, low gravity long enough that Roy can run his fingers through it. The film is full of neat stuff like that, and the Oscar-nominated sound design helped bring you into things further.
I have to admit that while this was a visual spectacle of sorts, I still found myself easily distracted. Despite some cool aspects, there is a certain dryness to it, and for the most part, I found it somewhat boring. But this is like saying '2001: A Space Odyssey' is boring. I can't help but feel that overall excitement wasn't entirely what they were going for, so much as they were trying to show the scale and wonder of space. Of course, that pretty much just brings me back to my first thought, though, in that I really wish this was something I saw on the big screen instead. If you can do space right, then the excitement of what could be an action sci-fi movie simply doesn't matter. There's a realism to films like this that I can admire, and therefore, my boredom can easily take a back seat - IF it's on a big screen.
For me, this is another one of those films where I may not have gotten much out of it the first time around, but I feel deserves a re-watch. If I have two hours to kill again some time down the line, I might check it out again in an attempt to appreciate it more. But I'm also not exactly rushing to check it out a second time, or even really recommend it very highly. In a space film like this, you sort of get what you get. It would be more entertaining on a bigger scale, but holds its own for what it is on the smaller screen. I may have found a lot of it slow, dry and tedious, but there was still enough to appreciate that I wouldn't at all consider it to be bad in any way. It's something one has to see and judge for themselves, as it left me somewhat confused on my feelings for it.
To preface this review, let me just state the fact that generally speaking, this isn't the kind of movie I tend to gravitate towards. That doesn't mean I disliked it. On the contrary, I enjoyed it, and I'm glad I finally sat down to watch it. However, it's another title that I can put on my list of respectable films that I understand, but one watch is enough for me.
We all have particular tastes, and I wouldn't typically lean in the direction of a detective film. It's just that something like 2009's 'Sherlock Holmes' is a bit more up my alley than something like this. I liked this, but I didn't love it like most.
The setting is LA, 1937, and the atmosphere is detective noir, fitting the time very nicely. A private investigator by the name of JJ "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) specializes in cases that involve cheating spouses, and his latest target is the chief of LA's Department of Water and Power, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling), who a woman claiming to be his wife suspects of infidelity.
While tailing Mulwray, he witnesses dealings that include a public meeting to see about constructing a new dam to create additional water supply during a chronic drought. Mulwray refuses to build the dam, pointing out potential issues with the land the dam is to be built on. Continuing his tracking, Gittes witnesses Mulwray meeting with a young woman who isn't his wife. The news of the scandal is published, but this prompts the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to step in, and soon Gittes is convinced that Mulwray is being framed, and he, himself, is being played.
Evelyn helps Gittes in his investigation of her husband's framing, but the further the investigation goes, the more secrets are uncovered, and the more dangerous things get. The unknown young woman's identity may be the final piece to a mysterious puzzle involving shady business deals, and further unveiling of whether or not Evelyn can be trusted, especially when her father, Noah Cross (John Huston) becomes a part of things.
So, just how admired is this film? Well, it's often considered the "greatest screenplay of all time", which earned it an Oscar win, along with 10 more nominations, often losing to 'The Godfather Part II', which set the bar incredibly high that year. Further to that, it earned 4 Golden Globes for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor and Original Screenplay and 4 more nominations on top of that. It's seen as some of Polanski's, Nicholson's and Dunaway's best work, and it has its place in the history books of great film, meeting so much of the criteria that makes a film stand out among the rest.
With all of that, along with seeing the film for myself, there's a lot where I can understand people's point of view. Things like the acting, cinematography, stage direction, fitting costumes, atmosphere and vehicles for the era were all things that stood out, and I found it to be a very solid film for what it is, with one of the most heart-wrenching endings I've seen to date (which earned it a lot of points for its bleak reality). Most people know the famous quote "forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown", but you can't quite fully appreciate the context of that without seeing it all unfold for yourself. You will probably like it more than I did, and that's only a matter of taste. It's a very well done film!
Last February, I took a look at some of the many Shyamalan films that I missed along the way. This year, I decided to do more of the same, because let's face it, M. Night Shyamalan is, if nothing else, fascinating in the way he chooses to film things. He has some great titles under his belt ('The Sixth Sense', 'Unbreakable', 'The Visit'), but he's also got those titles that make you wonder what in the hell you just watched ('Signs', 'Devil', 'The Happening'). This title most definitely falls under the latter.
Here, an apartment complex superintendent named Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) discovers a "Narf" (yeah, that word Pinky was saying about 13 years prior) named Story (again, yeah) in the complex's swimming pool. She ends up rescuing him from drowning, and the two establish an understanding of what she is - a sea nymph who has come to help mankind. Narfs like her are assigned to one particular human to tell him or her that they're meant to do great things or something, and they have to meet so that an eagle can come and take the Narf back home.
Meanwhile, there are creatures called "Scrunts" that are out and about to stop hr from succeeding or something, and there are also monkey-like creatures called "Tartutic" that are peacekeepers of Story's world, and yeah, it's just about as messy as it sounds. There's more too. Like, after Story succeeds in her mission, she can't go home because there's a whole bunch of other people she needs to find in order to do so because she unknowingly is destined for great things... man, I know how much sense this sounds like it's making, and trust me, the movie holds just about as much water (pun absolutely intended)
This, at least speaking for myself, was among the hardest Shyamalan films to get through without facepalming a bunch of times. 'The Happening' is pretty brutal, but this almost falls under the category of "So Bad It's Good". Some of the decisions made simply draw things out unnecessarily, or shine a spotlight Shyamalan's ego. I mean, spoiler alert, but he's the guy (playing a guy named Vick Ran) Story has to find. He's an author who discovers that his writing will one day inspire the American President to change the world for the better.
And then there's the weird shit that I haven't even gotten to yet, like a kid being able to decipher some kind of hidden message by looking at cereal boxes. Or the fact that no one ever questions why Cleveland has a naked, cut up, young lady in his shower. Oh yeah, people find out about her like she's no big deal and just kinda go with things here. It's kinda brutal. Imagine if Elliot's Mom found him tossing a ball back and forth with E.T. and just smiled, nodded and said "You too have fun, now."
So, it's really just my opinion, but I have to say that I put this one even lower than 'The Happening' on my list of Shyamalan films. Indeed, I'd claim this one to be pretty much rock bottom for the guy. At the very least, 'The Happening' wasn't a giant stroke of his ego. Still though, the pair would go pretty well together if you wanna do a night of good-bad movie watching.
The month of May is here, and with it comes that annual celebration of mothers everywhere. This year, I'm gonna show my appreciation by taking a look at some of her highest film recommendations - some of her personal favorites I have yet to see. Don't worry, I'll do something that's actually special for her too.
Anyway, as a reviewer and overall lover of film, I kinda regret to have to admit that Hitchcock is actually a somewhat unturned stone for me. I recall 'The Birds' scaring the crap out of me as a kid (those pecked out eyes, man), and I consider Anthony Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates from 'Psycho' one of the best all time movie villains, but it pretty much ends there. So, for one, I chose this from her list due to it being my "nest on the list" of Hitchcock films I wanted to finally see, and for two, this pretty much sets up next month's catching up theme as well. Hitchcock is most definitely a director worthy of a list of movies I feel a NEED to catch up on. But for now, perhaps considered Hitchcock's best overall film, this is 'Rear Window'.
If you've somehow managed to find yourself under a rock for the past 60-plus years, you've probably missed the countless parodies of this. They tend to be pretty much the same, involving someone in a cast and a wheelchair with nothing better to do than look out the window at his or her neighbors. They spot something mysterious, suspect a horrible crime has gone down, and in the end, often it's all a big misunderstanding, but sometimes not not. Well, it's the same plot here at the source material of all those parodies, featuring Jimmy Stewart in the lead role of L.B. Jefferies; a magazine photographer who's injury comes from an accident at a racetrack while he was covering a story. But how it ends exactly? I won't say, only because for me, it caught me off guard.
Perhaps most intriguing about this movie was that I expected to be laughing through it considering the amount of parodies I've seen of it. Kinda like how I giggled my way through 'The Shining' the first time I saw it, due to the 'Simpsons' parody (by the way, 'The Simpsons' also tackles this one with 'Bart of Darkness'). However, I didn't. This was something I was able to take seriously, have a good time with, and, though perhaps a bit dated on it, even feel the overall suspense with the climactic scene.
It's interestingly shot, and a testimony to how a film can work really well with some sort of ultimate limitation to it. For example 'Buried' featured Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half, but worked great as a thriller. This does the same thing, with all camera angles either taking place within the apartment, or looking out the window. But a lot happens, and I have to give Hitchock some ultimate credit for his creativity here.
For my own tastes, I'm not sure this one tops something like 'Psycho', but damned if it doesn't pose that dethroning potential. I could see myself growing to love this movie upon more viewings. And the good news is, it's a movie worth checking out more than once. One where you look for the clues to it's ending all along the way. Not quite as strong as 'Fight Club' or 'Sixth Sense' in that... sense, but still. It's a mystery thriller, and it's always fun to do that with those.
I'm very happy that this was at the top of my mother's recommendations this month. She was very much convinced that I would enjoy it, not only for story and performance, but for it's overall execution. She was absolutely right. It's certainly one I'll be revisiting in the near future.
Here's another title of Shyamalan's that I hadn't seen yet. However, in my defense, this movie was spoiled for me long, long ago. Judging by it's trailer, I just wasn't very interested this time around, after being disappointed by 'Signs'. Long story short, I thought it's ending was too convoluted, and... yeah, the whole aliens vs water and doors thing that made no sense. That said, it did a good job of instilling the fear of the aliens, and this movie was on a similar wavelength, but more about strange creatures as opposed to aliens, ghosts or bad anime adaptations.
To keep it very basic, 'The Village' is about a village, looking 18th or 19th century, but never given a year. that is... well, as you read above, tormented by strange creatures. They kinda "Voldemort" the things by referring to them as "Those we do not speak of". And the rest of it is kind of a love story between Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Lucius (Juaquin Phoenix), and their differing needs to head beyond the borders of their village in search of medicine. It's one of those movies that unfolds as it goes, so I'm just gonna stick with the bare basics so as not to spoil a movie that's probably been spoiled for most already, anyway. But JUST in case..
This ends up being one of those interesting movies to go back and check out considering it's star-studded cast of relative newcomers, blending with well-known ones. Included are the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody, and William Hurt just to name a few. That said, the movie itself is just... okay... if even that.
The twist of this one tends to be famous for being disliked. Some say it's painfully obvious and stupid, some say there's no way it could happen, and some claim this as the "beginning of the end" for Shyamalan (though many would argue 'Signs', it was still better than this)
For the most part, I just kinda found this to be a lot of talk and boredom, until it gets near the end. Unfortunately for me, as I said, it was spoiled for me long ago. I can't really imagine how I'd react to this ending if I was blind going in. My best guess would be something along the lines of "neat, but it felt like the easy way out". To me, this was pretty much just bad. It's one I don't feel any need to revisit and search for clues like I did with 'Sixth Sense', or revisit at all for that matter. I'm glad I finally gave it a chance, but it's kind of a throw-away for me.
M. Night Shyamalan, whether you love him or hate him is, admittedly, one of the most interesting directors out there. It's common enough for a good director to make a bad film, but there's something about M. Night that seems to have him split right down the middle. On the bad side of things, we have stuff like 'The Last Airbender', known to be one of the worst movies made in the last 10 years. But then, on the good side, you have deep and thought provoking films like 'The Sixth Sense'. It also seems lately that he has improved his craft with his last few films, according to many reviews.
So, for the next while, I will be putting some focus on this particular director as there's actually a lot of his films that I haven't seen. If nothing else, I figure I'll get a kick out of how cheesy the "bad ones" are. Anyway, kicking things off, this is 'Unbreakable' - one that I've seen before, but barely remember at all. When I did see it, it was very recently released to video, so that's going back a ways.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a security guard who, through the guidance of a creepy dude named Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) discovers something rather extraordinary about himself - he seems to not be able to get sick, get injured, and is, as the title suggests, "unbreakable". Price, a man who's life is heavily influenced by comic books, explains to him that he is the polar opposite. He has a condition that causes his bones to fracture very easily, and has lived a life sustaining some pretty crazy injuries. Although it all seems unusual, Dunn soon begins to believe in the very possibility that he could be virtually indestructible, and explores what else he might be capable of.
The overall story is simple, and the famous Shyamalan "twist" was one that I didn't fully see coming, but once it happened, it felt obvious. You know, one of those "brain fart" endings that'll get you every now and then. This one, at least to me, was never like 'Sixth Sense' where EVERYONE knew full well how it ended. But I was satisfied with the ending as well. It almost felt like the perfect ending to the story the movie was telling. People will often refer to this one as "the other good Syamalan film" ('Sixth Sense', of course, being the other), and I can see why. It knows what it wants to say, and it gets to the point in a good, short amount of time, keeping things pretty simple.
Of course, being a Shyamalan film, it also has his typical dark setting with stiff, robotic characters. Bruce and Jackson can both lend themselves to this easily, which is no insult to their acting, but they can use the atmosphere to their advantage. The only performance that really made this "robotic characters" thing stand out was Dunn's son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). No seriously, go to YouTube and check out the weight lifting scene. The kid just consistently looks like he's trying to catch flies with that gaping mouth. I'm not blaming him, he was a kid, but I gotta say he was directed poorly. Perhaps a little nitpicky on my part, but there it is. Otherwise, the movie makes for a cool story, and does a good job at keeping your attention as these characters develop.
In 2019, a sequel film called 'Glass' will be released, with a returning cast of characters. It may or may not be too late for this, but it's my understanding that 'Split' has already touched on being in the same universe, and he's gonna be in it as well. This can only mean one thing - 'Split' is coming next week!
If you're in the mood for some classic, clean humor from back in the day, you may wanna check out this film. Sometimes the crude humor I love so much just needs to take a back seat, so I decided to see this for myself, understanding that Don Knotts is capable of providing some nice, goofy humor instead.
As Luthor Heggs drives along during the opening credits, he appears to witness a murder taking place in front of the supposedly haunted Simmons mansion. He heads straight to the police station o report the crime in a pretty hilarious overexcited manner. Honestly, if there's a classic actor who does overexcited well, it's gotta be Knotts. He's like a big kid. Anyway, during this, the would-be victim comes in with his wife. It is revealed that it wasn't a murder so much as just an angry wife who popped him over the head out of anger. She arrived to jail her husband.
The next morning at his typesetting job, Luthor overhears his coworkers making fun of him. In an effort to increase the paper's sales, Luthor's coworkers get him to stay overnight at the Simmons mansion on the 20th anniversary of the murders that have taken place there in the past. Not to be bested by his asshole coworkers, Luthor goes for it. As one might imagine, the night doesn't go well for Luthor, and is chock full of classic spook house elements.
The film seems to mainly serve as a lovable loser story after this. As we route for Luthor, he has to face a whole bunch of skeptics who don't believe any of the experiences that Luthor had while he was in that house. He even brings people back to the house to prove himself, but the house goes Michigan J. Frog on him (goes silent and does nothing special).
It's got a lot of funny slapstick moments, and it's a lovely light comedy for those looking for a decent classic. Being that we're approaching Halloween, it can be seen as a fun thing to watch with the family for the occasion. It focuses far more on the comedy than it does the spook house stuff, but for 1966, it doesn't do a bad job at the horror/comedy elements at all when it gets the chance. What more can be said but "Atta boy, Luthor!" (a running gag throughout the film)
This one has actually been on my "to-see" list for quite some time. I mean, it's a heist movie featuring magicians, so it was always this different and cool concept I enjoyed the looks of. A "right up my alley" kinda thing.
The movie opens with four separate magicians, Danny Atlas (Jess Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henly Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). They each show off their unique skill sets to the audience, and each receive a mysterious tarot card, calling them to meet at a specific spot.
Upon meeting up, they come to realize that they have been lured together in order to team up, and deliver a grand performance one year later in which they "rob a bank" as part of the act. This sets an FBI agent named Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), and Interpol agent named Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) on their tracks.
Also joining the cast is the man funding the Four Horsemen (as they call themselves), Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and a fomer magician who now reveals secrets of the trade on his YouTube channel, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). Each of them seem to serve as sort of neutral parties, going at each other, while there's a whole bigger picture to be seen.
If I'm honest, the movie managed to confuse me in places. Often times, I found it moved a bit fast or got a bit convoluted with the varying characters to keep track of. It all leads up to a pretty good twist in the end, though, so that likely has a lit to do with the few "what the hell just happened" moments. That likely has a lot to do with it. And even the ending itself is something that'll either blow your mind, or that you predict from the get-go. When all said and done, the twist could feel like a total cop-out to some.
Negative aspects aside, however, there's a lot to enjoy about the film as well. The Four Horsemen's stage presence is pretty convincing as professional magicians as opposed to just being the actors playing these guys. I thought the coolest thing in the movie was probably Eisenberg's first magic trick, in which he totally got me. Yes, there is an explaination for it, I'm sure, but it was still really neat to think that a movie would go to those lengths of illusion for its audience.
All in all, I have to say I enjoyed it. But its definitely on that long list of movies that I'll need to go back and watch a second time at least. It's the type of movie where you'll no doubt pick up various clues along the way upon re-watching it.