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Reviews by Memento Is Number 1

All reviews - Movies (2)

Scorsese is back, and the verdict is...

Posted : 8 years, 4 months ago on 16 March 2010 08:06 (A review of Shutter Island)

Martin Scorsese, one of the best of the best. If you don’t know his name by now, then you really don’t know anything about film. He has had a countless number of great films, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed, Raging Bull, After Hours (those are my five favorite from one to five) and many more. He has revolutionized filmmaking, specifically in the gangster genre, what he is best known for. But now Scorsese is trying for new grounds with Shutter Island, which was [falsely] advertised as a suspenseful psychological thriller, but really is a detective whodunit scenario. But the true question that everyone is asking, is it good?

Shutter Island takes place in 1954 on an island off the coast of Massachusetts. Shutter Island is a mental institution for the criminally insane, and when one of the patients, Rachel (Emily Mortimer) seems to have magically disappeared to U.S. Marshalls are assigned the case, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo). And what would any detective or psychological thriller be without, and nothing is as what it seems. Things start to become a little bit fishy around the island and Teddy is starting to think new things about the case. There are many side plots but I’d rather to leave those as a surprise.

There are also a lot of other characters that come into play, such as Ben Kingsley as Dr. Cawley, the head of the Island. There is also Max Von Sydow as Dr. Cawley’s right hand man Dr. Naehring. Plus there are all the patients on Shutter Island, the guards, the orderlies etc. And lets not forget Teddy’s dead wife, who he won’t let go, almost haunts him, she is played by Michelle Williams. So what does it all mean? A not to good film actually.

Martin Scorsese can basically do anything, in the simplest of terms, he’s the man. But he knows this, and that was his flaw. I am sure that he has wanted to make a film of this genre for quite sometime now, but he should have waited for better material. But one thing I must say is that one of the few things that the movie had going for it, was Martin’s direction. He really knows how to speak with a camera, he brings it to life enough were you are intrigued to a certain extent. He also knows how to set the mood. With the very first shot, we get a dark, creepy, ominous feeling. Then the music kicks in and you think you’re in for a thrill ride. I give him props for setting this mood, but the mood was false, so I must take away points. He uses all his traditional shots he’s used before so nothing groundbreaking, except for the dream scenes.

My favorite scene in the film is when Teddy is walking through his greatest nightmares. The scene is quite horrific (not scary) and emotional for Teddy. The reason it works is because of Mr. Scorsese’s talent behind the camera. Martin really let’ DiCaprio shine his star in the scene but the way Scorsese gets in there only inflicts more emotions on you. He follows from the side, from behind, does close-ups, and that swift movement from up to down, down to up, left to right, right to left, just amazing. I am an aspiring filmmaker and this is basically direction porn to me. Scorsese, in my eyes, can do nothing wrong as a director, because this movie is just wrong.

The acting even trumps Mr. Scorsese so you know that it must be good. Leonardo is of course good, when is he not. The only flaw with him is his little Boston accent. At times he can do it pretty well, but at times it gets distracting from his acting, which is not a good thing to happen to a leading man. Leonardo is a pretty well known and respected actor and has collaborated with Scorsese before in The Departed, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, and now Shutter Island. I wasn’t a fan of Gangs of New York but liked the other two, and performance wise, it ranks the same, almost. The Departed was his best, then The Aviator, then Shutter Island, then Gangs of New York.

Leonardo plays the role with great in persistence, which is what the role calls for. His emotions are constantly changing, from incredibly sad and depressed, to angered, to detective mode, to violent. Leonardo can play every emotion with skill, especially sad and depressed. I felt Leo was a real person and not just an actor, and that’s when you know you have succeeded as an actor.

But I can’t forget the supporting cast, but none really are up to par with DiCaprio, because it really is DiCaprio’s movie. Mark Ruffalo does substantial, but nothing memorable. Ben Kingsley is the same as Ruffalo, only better. Kingsley would have these little sections of dialogue that I really enjoyed, and he did them well, just not great. He played a good enough antagonist. Everyone else was just OK, but the one performance I found great was Jackie Earle Haley, a personal favorite of mine. He gives another Oscar worthy performance, even though he was only in it a good 5, maybe 7 minutes. I don’t care though, every time I see Haley in a movie I smile. Haley plays a patient on Shutter Island and he is a very damaged man because of Teddy, ooooo (intriguing…). All the patients really outshine themselves because they can play the crazy so well it’s unbelievable. If these actors were acting live on a stage I would think they were truly insane.

So I make this movie sound pretty good, so why such a low rating? Well we have come to why, the script. This is were the movie completely falls apart. The film was written by Laeta Kalogridis based off a novel by Denis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Kalogridis has only written two other scripts, to two other bad movies, Pathfinder and Alexander, so now I understand why Shutter’s was bad.

It tries to be so many things that it just simple is not. It is not a psychological thriller, it barely works as a detective movie, and it certainly does not work as a conspiracy movie, it’s quite laughable actually. It tries to infuse so many different things that it just ends up muddled and confused at what it’s goal is. It tries to infuse Nazi’s, communism, the cold war, spirits, psychotic people, classic detective movies, and many more things. It started off good as a detective film, and then turned into something M. Night Shyamalan would do, which is a huge insult by the way. But it tried to incorporate Nazi’s communism, and the cold war, and it was completely out of place.

Teddy was in World War 2 and had nightmares about concentration camps and it was completely unnecessary. It took place in the 50’s so that’s why the cold war was mentioned, but it didn’t have to be. Plus the BIG TWIST! Oh boy. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that the twist was quite obvious. I, and two of the other three people I saw it with, figured it out in the first 30 minutes or so. The fourth person I was with figured it out ten minutes before it was revealed. So basically, we all figured it out with no problem. They give enough hints to the point were it felt obvious. So really the so called “Big Payoff” really was more like, “Well duh”. Plus by that time I didn’t care about any of the characters.

Another big flaw was the fact that scenes just dragged on too long. Literally, every scene in the film could have been cut a little shorter. And because every scene dragged, the movie dragged on and on and on. It seemed a bit longer especially when you know how it’s going to end.

So Shutter Island, is it a failure, no. But the film is strong in a technical way, acting, direction, editing, art direction, but it fails on the story, so much that it’s not worth seeing in theaters. If this was a See it, Skip it, Rent it scenario, I would say Rent it. Shutter Island is not a terrible movie, but it’s not really a good one either.

** 1/2 (out of *****); Rent It

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A wanna be Training Day, and only 1/2 as good

Posted : 8 years, 4 months ago on 16 March 2010 08:05 (A review of Brooklyn's Finest (2009))

Antoine Fuqua made the astonishing Training Day back in 2001. It was a gritty, hard-hitting, dirty cop movie starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. It’s an absolutely amazing film, one of my favorites. That was his first big movie, since he hasn’t made anything too memorable. I never saw Tears of the Sun and Shooter was alright at best, but still nothing memorable. Now he comes with Brooklyn’s Finest, which looks like a return to Training Day, but does it succeed with its goal?

Brooklyn’s Finest is about three [clichéd] unrelated stories about Brooklyn’s finest. The first story stars Richard Gere playing Eddie, a cop who has seven days until he retires and is assigned to train some rookies. The first time we see Eddie he tries to kill himself, with a unloaded gun. He is depressed, and really has never accomplished anything with his life, especially as a police officer. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

The next story involves Ethan Hawke playing Sal, a father of a big family; he has four kids, with twins on the way. He needs money and will do anything to get it. He is in the opening scene were he is talking to a guy in a car and then shoots the man and takes his wallet. Sounds familiar doesn’t it (the general outline, not the shooting)?

The third story is about Don Cheadle who plays Tango, an undercover cop starting to get confused whether he is a cop or criminal, and wants his old life back. OK, so that ridiculously sounds familiar. A side player in Cheadle’s plot is Wesley Snipes in his return to the screen role as Caz, Cheadle’s boss (not cop, but criminal). Snipes hasn’t been in theatrical released movie since Blade Trinity back in 2004, but he doesn’t give us anything memorable. So now that the [clichéd] plot is out of the way, let’s focus on the specific aspects of the film.

The direction from Fuqua, I’m not going to lie, is pretty admirable, except for one slow-motion walk to the camera, only flaw honestly. He has some beautiful tracking shots of Brooklyn, some following shots in front of, and behind, the actors, which could possibly be my favorite shot. He never really gets to close to the actor, and gives them space to act freely, which was the strongest point in the movie. So not only on a technical level did Fuqua do good, but he also did good on controlling the movie. He let the actors work freely but without letting them get too overdramatic, which is perfect! So Fuqua, if he chose better material, could have made an Oscar winner. Instead he falls into a pit of clichés and this work will be forgotten, quite a shame.

The simple and plain best part of this film is the acting; it’s quite phenomenal, for the most part. The star in my opinion, which comes as no surprise, came from Ethan Hawke. He is one of my favorite actors, slowly climbing up the bar, and this just adds to his great career of acting. He has acted in tons of films, like Dead Poets Society (1989), Alive (1993), Before Sunrise (1995), Gattaca (1997), Hamlet (2000), Tape (2001), Training Day (2001) in which he received an Oscar Nomination, Lord of War (2005), and my personal favorite of his, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007). He has played a bunch of different role but this cop role of his is a combination of Denzel’s and Hawke’s in Training Day. He is a good-soled cop but his morals are confused and is border-line dirty. Hawke plays this role with great persistence, he is a family man in need, a tough cop, and a good man confused. Every scene with him really lights up the movie, he surpasses Gere, Cheadle, and Snipes. He nails the role plain and simple.

Cheadle also brings a good spark to this clichéd role. This character has been done, over, and over, and over again, and it is quite tiring. But Cheadle brings something fresh, trueness if you will. He feels like one of the few “real people” playing this role. There were times when he went a little overboard, but I feel that’s the writer’s fault, not Cheadle’s. He has a lot of emotion that he lets out in little balls, scene after scene. He was probably the third main as far as screen time goes, maybe second over Hawke, but he definitely stands his ground is worth the watch.

Now the disappointing part in the acting department. Richard Gere really did have the main role, and though he did adequate, he did nothing special especially when compared to Cheadle and Hawke. His character was… distant, and that was not just the writer’s fault Gere didn’t bring his A-Game to the table making me like him. I really didn’t care what happened to Gere and left me emotionally distant. He does what any other semi-decent actor would do in a role this overdone. Gere could have been out casted by so many different, better actors. I am really disappointed, but overall he still did a good job.

Now comes the big flaw in the movie, and most movies nowadays; the script. To me, if a movie doesn’t have a good script or story, there is no movie. You could have fantastic acting, directing, cinematography, editing etc. But if the story is weak, the movie is weak. This years Shutter Island is an example of how I feel about this, well made movie, very bad script.

Brooklyn’s Finest was written by first time movie writer Michael C. Martin. I think in preparation of this film he sat down, watched every cop movie ever, took notes, and ripped them all off. There is not one original thing about it. It really is a very strong character drama, but it’s far too long. I lost interest about half way through and couldn’t wait for it to end. He didn’t do Gere’s character justice, it was a bad lead. Also the terrible clichés can’t stop talking about it because it was the biggest fault in the movie. Also the fact that nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes or so is problem, especially since it’s a cop movies. Cop movies should entertaining and be exhilarating, this fails.

I wasn’t expecting much in the first place but I got even less. It’s a good character drama but fails in the most important department, the script.

** ½ (out of *****); Rent It

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