QUICKIE: The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004)

Remember in Adaptation, when Charlie Kaufman's brother is writing this ridiculous, meaningless screenplay that he somehow finds compelling beyond belief? Well, The Machinist isn't nearly that bad, but it gives you an idea what kind of movie it is. While an excercise in decent pre-production without a doubt, the production itself exists as mere volume to me. I'm sure it is a matter of personal taste, because I am not into the oversaturated style that makes the movie look like David Fincher's leftovers, and I really despised one of the most typical, plodding musical scores I've heard this side of Meet Joe Black.

Brad Anderson's directing seems to have quelled the actors' performances - Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh are incredible, but every so often they appear forced into acting a way they don't feel is quite right. I respect Bale's dedication to the film. His bodily deterioration is even more impressive than DeNiro's weight gain for Raging Bull.

Throughout the entire piece, there seems to be little reason for any of the events, but Trevor Reznik (Bale) is too intriguing a character not to keep watching. After what seems like too long and all is said and done, however, everything feels pointless.


QUICKIE: Intermission (John Crowely, 2004)

Life is what happens in between. That's the tagline for this film about how a single break-up between two lovers results in a chain reaction of events that normally would appear unrelated. I'm pretty hip to the notion that even the smallest things we do or don't do can change the course of our lives - I don't really need it explained to me again. I am thankful, however, that Intermission didn't talk to me as Donnie Darko did - as if I was a small child with no comprehension skills. It was actually rather subtle.

I was looking forward to Intermission for the performances of Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell, both of whom yet again hit it out of the park and into the bay with some stellar acting. The filmmaking is nothing spectacular - the handheld-zoom-zoom-whatever style that director John Crowley utilizes is not as compelling as he might think it is.

There is certainly some quality to be found... you may want to decide for yourself. If anything, there are a few fun scenes sprinkled hither and thither.


REVIEW: The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

I have been anticipating this film very highly ever since I first saw its trailer, which made things look like they could play out as either a good and poignant historical action film or a cheesy melodrama. Finally it opened wide, and I've got to say that it was ten thousand times better than I could have ever conceived.

This new world of filmmaking is explored with a nearly unbearable, delicate beauty that strikes not just the core of its reasons, but every single molecule, cell and nucleus of the fruit. It is patient in a perfect way. One could call it slow-paced, but not once did I feel anything but enraptured in all its wonder and glory.

The portrayal of everything from the lands and vessels to the clothing and language is so authentic that the very instant the film began I felt like I was truly among this past age. This portrayal also allows for an uncompromising view of the reason America is what it is today compared to the virgin land - the Eden - it once was. There are so many complex subtexts in the beyond-brilliant script that to describe them here would take hours. Each and every theme deals with the persistence of human survival and how we perceive our own way of living - how it should be and why.

When it comes to the things we watch for in all films, The New World is more than on top of its game. The cinematography is quite literally breathtaking, the art design surpasses all form of expectation, the score accomplishes everything it aims to and more, and the acting from every last cast member is superb, especially from the leads - Colin Farrell, who I will love to death in anything no matter what (except maybe S.W.A.T.,) newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher, veteran Christopher Plummer whose improvements never cease, and Christian Bale, whose good (really, really good) performances I'm finally getting around to.

The perspective taken by director Terrence Malick, whose other works I am unfamiliar with, is one deserving of endless praise. He does not look at these characters through the eyes of a modern person who has experienced the earth of the newborn millennium the way many other movies do - for example, Disney movies like Tarzan and Pocahontas II. When Kilcher's character is brought to England, the world we see is not familiar, rather it seems much more strange than the tribal world of the natural Americans. This is the new world for her, and the feeling is mutual for the audience.

The New World is by far one of the most amazing films I have ever seen, right up there in the ranks of 2001: A Space Odyssey (that's right, I said it!).


QUICKIE: 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2003)

This film is extremely similar in structure to Alex Garland's premiere writing outfit, another Danny Boyle film, The Beach. The way Garland writes aims to present exaggerated characters and situations as representations for more encompassing realities. In both this and The Beach, however, things are taken too far into the realm of the unbelievable to drive home pretentious points, and here the brilliant re-imagining of zombie significance as metaphor for our actual nature is only driven home during a small portion of the film's running time. The rest is occupied by action sequences that seem to glaze over the poignancy of the story and other sequences that have become mainstays for the highly versatile Boyle.

The visual style of the film is an organized mess that reflects the script in remaining very obvious, but I give it credit for some innovative compositions that flow well within the intentionally choppy scenes. Three things that are fantastic about the film are the special effects, makeup and music. I do think, however, that Boyle (or whoever handles it for him) needs to pay closer attention to the ADR - his films frequently feature voices over mismatched mouths.

I have yet to see a Boyle film that I truly love. The Beach intrigues me for its subject matter and unique style, but ultimately fails to bring it all home. I would also like to see a Cillian Murphy film that I like. I've come to quite like his acting but all of his films seem to be rotten!


REVIEW: Red Eye (Wes Craven, 2005)

I felt like I had already seen most of Red Eye. The previews were enticing, presenting a seemingly original story through a chance romance, then flipping it upside down into a sinister predator versus innocent prey relationship. The film doesn't go much further than this, rendering the plot points stale. I would have much rather seen this without knowing of its storyline, though I suppose I cannot discredit the film itself for a revealing ad campaign.

I suppose it's nice to see Craven putting his hands to different kinds of thrillers, and I can give him props for not going the now cliche 'sleek' route with this, but his compositions are rarely all that good and he relies too heavily on tight shots. The few wide shots we see are begging for more exposure. Craven also uses very simple techniques to progress the storyline and entertain and lead the audience. He's frequently sprinkling the environment with caricature characters the way Spielberg might (but here they're used much to a much worse end). He even leaves Cillian Murphy's cabin light on in the plane, when everyone else's was turned off, to make him stand out with perhaps the most obvious subtlety possible.

The rest of the cast is unfortunately mediocre. I love me some Rachel McAdams, but this is the first time I've seen her fail to believably deliver stilted dialog (someone get this girl a good script, please!) Brian Cox does what he can as McHottie's father while looking more like James Lipton than ever.

I did not begin to enjoy the film on any level until the final third finally beefed the story up a bit but dropped the ball even further technically. Overall, Red Eye left me dying for Harrison Ford to show up and tell it to get off his plane.


REVIEW: Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

I was really looking forward to seeing this. So much so that I sheltered myself from any exposure to its contents or subject matter. For all I knew it was a fictional work about a man who despised modern society and went to live in the forest. Well, aside from the fiction aspect, I suppose that's one way to describe what it actually is.

Instead of being a film that helps us understand what Treadwell was doing and why, its more a film about the director, Werner Herzog's own views on Treadwell and his exploits. Herzog picks and chooses which footage to use mostly by looking for what's pretty as opposed to what's important, and the few times he does show us something important he intrudes with an opinionated narrative. The talking heads segments in which Herzog interviews people who were close to Treadwell are even worse. It becomes evident early on that none of these people came close to understanding Treadwell. Some associate his actions with religion while others, including his own parents and last girlfriend, view it as the culmination of a downward spiral. The most disgusting series of interviews, however, comes from a friend and ex-girlfriend of Treadwell for she simply covets the posessions he left behind while hiding from the truth of his demise.

Speaking of Treadwell's demise, when Herzog isn't imposing his own views and the ignorant views of others on us, he's spending far too much time romanticizing the death when he should be focusing on the meaning of the life. Treadwell understood something that so few do. He truly believed in it and more than happy to be out in the wilderness protecting the animals. During the off-seasons he would spread the word of the importance of nature without gaining personal profit. There is so much beauty in Treadwell's life that would take me pages and pages to describe in my own words and his footage is one of two reasons garnering a relatively high rating for Herzog's documentary (the other reason being the wonderful soundtrack.) I would have much rather seen a compilation of his most important footage and nothing more, and I'm sure he would rather it have been that way also.