Tag Archives: A- to A+

Movie Review: Room (2015)

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    Rating: A-/ Room is a pleasant surprise; a film that lives up to the novel on which it was based. Most of this is due to the two fabulous leading performances, including some of the best child acting I’ve seen in ages by Jacob Tremblay, who plays Jack, the five year old protagonist. While Brie Larson, as Jack’s mother, nabbed a best leading actress Oscar for her role, I couldn’t help but think Tremblay should have gone home with one of those suckers. As my dad, who reluctantly saw this movie with my mom and I, said, “To Hell with Leonardo DiCaprio. Give this kid an Oscar!” Continue reading Movie Review: Room (2015)

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Movie Review: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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Rating: A/ I haven’t read a Roald Dahl book in ages, but I remember them being among my favorites when I was a small child. I liked The Twits so much, in fact, that I read it twice- once to myself, once to my brother. Dahl is a bit of an enigma; he’s a brilliant storyteller but at the same time it’s hard to picture his children’s books being published in this politically correct day and age. He spins tales that are dark, often frightening, and sometimes venomously mean; fables to curl the toes of sensitive children. Continue reading Movie Review: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

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Rating: A- / When Tangled first came out and the promos started pouring in, it really didn’t look like my cup of tea. It seemed to me like an attempt to replicate the success of Shrek and other hip, self-aware fairy tale satires. Frankly, I had had enough of Shrek and it’s sequels. Not only that, I had had enough of the whole screwball fairy tale reimagining genre. But Tangled wasn’t the movie I expected it to be. It was a take on fairy tales, in a sense; in particular one fairy tale (Rapunzel,) but it was also charming and sweet and featured one of Disney’s most eerily effective villains. Not only is Tangled a good movie for the kiddies, it might just win the hearts of the grown-ups in their lives too. Continue reading Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

Movie Review: Stardust (2007)

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Rating: A/ Once in a while a movie comes out that’s just plain fun. Stardust is such a movie. If there was ever a film that was able to invoke the spirit of The Princess Bride while still managing to bring something new and interesting to the table, Stardust is it. It’s a simply magical romp featuring witches, princesses, spells, and crusading sky pirates, a hip, funny, a raucous fairy tale with some genuinely scary moments and a unique sensibility all it’s own. Continue reading Movie Review: Stardust (2007)

Movie Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

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Rating: A-/ Jurassic Park is an unmitigated delight , a big, riotous, cheesy blockbuster that nonetheless has an element of believability that Jurassic World lacked . Among all the creature-feature action and dinosaur carnage is a surprisingly careful attention to characters and relationships which along with the for-it’s-time astonishing special effects makes the film a bona fide crowdpleaser.The dinosaurs are, of course, the main attraction, but the characters are also well-developed for this kind of movie, and as far as films about dinosaurs in modern settings go Jurassic Park is only about 1/10 as stupid as you might expect. Continue reading Movie Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Movie Review: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

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Rating- A / Even though it seems fairly tame by today’s standards in terms of violence, language, and sexual content, it’s easy to imagine Midnight Cowboy making waves in 1969. Both controversial and extremely daring for it’s time, the film, based on the novel of the same title by Leo James Herlihy, deals with hot-button issues such as prostitution, rape, homosexuality, and childhood sexual abuse. And it transcends the constraints of time and setting to tell an incredible story of innocence lost and outcasts eking out a hardscrabble urban existence that is both archetypal and vitally original. Continue reading Movie Review: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Film Discussion: Spider (2002)

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Rating: A-/ ***Warning- This is more of a comprehensive discussion of the film Spider than a actual review. Spoilers should be expected.*** First off, I adore Ralph Fiennes. I really just love the guy. I think he’s one of the best (if not actually the best) actors of today. I just rediscovered the greatness of Cronenberg’s psychoanalytic thriller Spider, I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about why I think Spider was one of Fiennes’ best performances and one of his most daring film endeavors. I’m also going to discuss what made Spider so great and look at the layers of meaning the psychology of this film provides. Let this be my last warning; this is going to be a spoiler laden post. If you haven’t seen this film yet and want to, avoid this review like the plague. Thank you.

When we first meet Spider (Ralph Fiennes) as he gets off a train, he seems very small and vulnerable, one of society’s undisputed outcasts. Nicotine-stained fingers, raggedy old coat, stubbly, bewildered face- he looks like he wishes he cold just sink into the ground and disappear. We can also see clear as day that not all is right with him psychologically, as he continually mutters incomprehensibly to himself (turn on your subtitles!) and doesn’t seem totally cognizant of his surroundings. He’s definitely out of his element, and rightfully so- Spider has just been released from an insane asylum that he was committed to since childhood, and is being placed in the care of Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave,) a crusty old woman who owns a halfway house for the mentally disturbed.

The house could use a spruce-up and Mrs. Wilkinson could use some work on her bedside manner. She treats the patients like naughty children who constantly need to be berated and told off. Spider begins reexamining events that placed him in the care of the state by becoming an ‘observer’ of his childhood, following his boy self around the familiar streets of his youth and sitting in on conversations between people that occurred at that time, and some that didn’t. This is where the brilliance of this movie lies, for as soon as we are introduced to his parents (Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne) we are immediately placed in the shoes of an unreliable narrator. While his mum is long-suffering, beautiful, and kind, his father Bill is a philandering alcoholic and all around jerk who Spider competes with for the affections of his mother.

In a series of events that young Spider couldn’t possibly have been present for, we find that Dad is screwing a local floozy named Yvonne (also played by Miranda Richardson) and that they kill Spider’s saintly mother when she catches them making it in the garden shed. These scenes, and the subsequent scenes where Yvonne takes Mrs. Cleg’s place as Spider’s new ‘mother,’ are ludicrously over-the-top and almost cartoonish in nature. Juxtaposed with the hyperrealistic scenes where Spider himself is present, these parts seem to make no sense unless you take them at face value- that Spider is making them up. That they came out of the mind of a naive, inexperienced, and mentally ill man who has spent most of his life in an institution.

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Yvonne (despite being played by the same actress who played the mother) is slutty, coarse, and rendered with make-up and costume design to be actually fairly unattractive. The infinitely well-meaning Mrs. Cleg is superior in every way to this common street whore; of this Spider is convinced. So he sets out to murder Yvonne by turning the gas stove on as she sleeps, only to find he has murdered his mother and ‘Yvonne’ as he knows her never existed. Yes, maybe he was jokingly flashed by a woman similar to his incarnation of Yvonne (in fact, ‘Flashing Yvonne’ is played a by a whole different actress than Richardson, Allison Egan) and his mind did the rest of the work. Building upon this event he created the ultimate harlot, the woman who would stand by as his dad killed his mom and insist he call her ‘mother.’

So what do I think? I think Spider’s oh-so-virtuous mother became alcoholic and bitter, creating ‘Yvonne’ in his mind and causing him to believe that his dad murdered his mom and replaced her with an uncaring, promiscuous duplicate. Spider obviously has the hots for his mom on some subconscious level, brushing her hair and watching her put on make-up adoringly and eyeing her as she tries on a slinky nightgown. She became boozy and hard due to her marital problems with her husband and his love of going to the Dog and Beggar and drinking. Someone had to be blamed, and the issue had to be put in more black-and-white terms so Spider could understand it.

There’s only one thing about this movie that confuses me, and that’s the scene where Spider’s in a restaurant looking at a picture of a green Yorkshire field. Suddenly he’s standing in a field identical to the one in the picture,  hanging out with a couple of old men who don’t particularly seem to have their mental faculties. I think that he met the men at the asylum (I believe one of these guys was the one wielding a piece of broken glass in the flashback.) He imagined them in a grassy field and used some of the dialogue he had heard from them in the scenario. I’m also very curious whether Spider realized what he had done to his mother (he does refrain from braining Mrs. Wilkinson, who he imagines as Yvonne, with a hammer) or whether the big reveal was just a tip-off to the audience and Spider is as lost as ever.

I don’t think it should be surprising to you that Ralph Fiennes is incredible in this movie. He shows a gift for portraying debilitating mental illness with a nuanced sleight of hand that is not generally present in these kinds of performances. So that’s it. I’ve explained why I think Spider is one of the more complex psychological thrillers I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve offered some explanation to the meaning of the events presented in this movie. Liked this discussion? Have any thoughts? Want me to write another like it? Stop by and tell me in the comments!

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