Monday, February 22, 2010

Shutter Island [2009]
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island.

I went into this with fairly minimal expectations. Other than 'Casino', i've never been much of a Scorsese fan, 'Shutter Island' though seemed like it could be a decent thriller judging by the trailers, so i gave it a go.

Although i knew the film wasn't going to be "scary" per se, the trailer did make me think i was going to be in for a film that could make my spine tingle a little. Unfortunately, i quickly realized i had misjudged the film. There was nothing "eerie" or "scary" about the film or the island the characters inhabited, so i was a little disappointed with that. The film does have a strong sense of "danger" in it though, so there was good use of tension in some of the moments throughout the movie. Sometimes though, they did get bogged down by clunky pacing which rears it's head a little too much throughout the story. Atmospherically, i would have liked something a little stronger as well.

There was an obvious Kubrick inspiration in the films look and sound. The music was strong and foreboding [similar to The Shining], and fit the setting well. The movie also had a strong visual style that i enjoyed, though i do think it fell a little flat during the dream sequences. I wasn't feeling very "transported" during those parts, especially the scene involving Dicaprio's character and his wife in their apartment. I felt as if i was supposed to be getting a strong emotional impact during that scene, and it didn't do much for me. The flashbacks worked better i think. As much as i enjoyed the overall score and cinematography, it did feel a little ripped off. The Shining just kept popping up in my head over and over.

What stood out the most for me was the acting by the ENTIRE cast. Everyone from the main cast members to the minor roles by mental patients really kept me interested in what was going on. A lot of familiar lesser known actors show up throughout the story, all of them being very memorable. Mark Ruffalo, who i don't mind as an actor, did well, but seemed slightly bored when compared to everyone else. Ben Kingsly and Dicaprio were great as usual, especially Dicaprio who completely embodies his character.

As the film drew closer to it's end, i thought i would rate it 2.5, but as the "twist" unfolded and as the story came full circle, i decided to jump it up to a 3. The final section of the film, especially the disturbing flashback sequence and Dicaprio's character finding the "truth" really showcased each of the main cast members abilities as actors. Ben Kingsly especially had me completely hypnotized during the final scenes, trying to convince Dicaprio's character of what was really going on. The very last scene where Dicaprio makes his "choice" was also a great way to end the movie.

It was an enjoyable enough paranoid thriller, that was elevated by a fantastic cast and strong final act. The story did get a little convoluted in parts though, and i did feel the movie could have packed a bit more of a punch both in story and tone. Overall though, i can't help but feel like it all fell slightly flat as a complete package. Certainly watchable, but give me something like The Shining [which it wanted to be] over this any day.

Wait for DVD.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Best Albums of The 00's
I did my top 10 of the 90's last year, now i'm going to give you my top 10 of the last decade [2000-2009]!!!!!!!

Honourable Mentions:
A few of these could be swapped around on my final top 10 list. As it stands though, they just missed out. I did enjoy these albums a lot though. There are a few other albums i enjoyed, but don't LOVE TO DEATH that i'd still recommend like...

Auf Der Maur Auf Der Maur
iiO Poetica
Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz
Bjork Vespertine
Kanye West 808's & Heartbreak
Jessica Mauboy Been Waiting
Brandy Afrodisiac
MGMT Oracular Spectacular
Daft Punk Discovery

Now, THE TOP 10!!!!!...........

10. Madonna American Life [2003]
This album got a bit of a mixed reception. Lyrically it can be a bit silly in places [the title song], and some would say she goes a little overboard w
ith the electronica. Personally, any "silly" lyrics were made up for in other songs featuring very personal and well written lyrics [Xstatic Process], and i LOVE electronic music, so when used heavily in certain parts of the album, i think it sounds pretty cool.
All her albums throughout the last decade have been g
reat, and although something like 'Confessions On A Dancefloor' is a more obvious choice for this list, i'm going to go for something a little more low key. I love it.

09. Aaliyah Aaliyah [2001]
One of the best mellow r&b albums i've heard. It's a shame she died soon after releasing this, it would have been cool to see what else her and Timbaland could have come up with. There's some nice darker production on a few of the tracks [We Need A Resolution] and other songs that showcase her warm and smooth voice [I Care 4 U]. The album also features one of my all time favourite songs ever, 'Try Again'.

08. M.I.A. Kala [2007]
This type of music is either murder to your ears, or something you LOVE playing full blast. Either way, you can't deny how original M.I.A. is, and if you can understand her through her accent, she's very political too. Would love to see her live one day.

07. Boomkat A Million Trillion Stars [2008]
The album that never was!.....released only via iTunes, this underrated sophomore album by Boomkat completely went under the radar, and is only known amongst the small handful of fans the group has online. These guys have always been my special little secret. I pray they release more music in the future.

06. Silverchair Diorama [2002]
I got into this album only recently, though i was aware of the singles for sometime. Great rock album, it's rare i come across a rock album that i like from start to finish. Their most consistent record. 'After All These Years' is amazing.

05. Peaches I Feel Cream [2009]
I could have put one of a couple of her albums here, but with 'I Feel Cream' she really hit her creative peak. It's the first time she collaborated so heavily with other acts, and it really worked in her favour. Not one song on this i don't like.

04. Lady GaGa The Fame Monster [2009]
An album that has been my life for a year and a half. It all started with 'The Fame', and then branched out even further with 'The Fame Monster'. This double album has got me SO excited for what GaGa will give us in the future, she's incredible.

03. Gossip Music For Men [2009]
I went on and on about this album throughout 2009. I almost feel as if there's not much else i can say. Gossip finally reached their deserving level of success with this record. An amazing mix of indie rock that you can dance to. Beth Ditto is fucking bad ass.

02. Nelly Furtado Folklore [2003]
A truly talented artist who doesn't get enough credit imo. It's a beautiful album filled with hooks and catchy melodies. Every song is unique and perfect in it's own way. If you like folk music, you'll LOVE this. The last track on the album, 'Childhood Dreams', is gorgeous.

01. Fever Ray Fever Ray [2009]
It's amazing how long it took for this album to finally click with me. It's also amazing how fast it completely consumed my brain when it finally hit me in the right spot!!!! It's a haunting and moody electronic album with some amazing production sprinkled throughout some of the songs. I can't get enough of it, i absolutely love it to death.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Daybreakers [2009]
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Niel
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers

Daybreakers has had a strange run at the cinemas. It has received some decent reviews over in the U.S., yet American audiences seem to really hate the movie. Because of such a bi polar response to the film, i wasn't sure what to expect when i sat down to watch it.

As a vampire fan, i was excited to see what kind of spin they would put on the films storyline. I was pleasantly surprised at what they came up with. The premise was original and the vampire world they created was interesting. What the film was missing however was SCOPE. The entire world is over run by vampires, and it was a shame to see the movie only show glimpses of one city and the vampires who lived in it. Most of the scenes in the vampire world take place in a high rise city building, so the vastness of how huge the "vampire epidemic" was felt a little lost on me. It would have been interesting to focus a little more on the day to day lives of what it was like to live in a vampire world, because what we did see was definitely cool.

The characters in the movie were also a little underdeveloped. Like the storyline though, they were serviceable enough, but could have been fleshed out more. Ethan Hawke seemed a little.....bored. The only characters who offered any sort of meat to the scenes were Willem Dafoe and the scenes involving Ethan's character and his brother. Everyone else was just on auto pilot. The acting itself was fine though, so it didn't take away from the over all enjoyment of the movie.

There's some good direction in Daybreakers, some nice ideas and an interesting story. It never seems to reach any major heights though due to the constant way the film holds back. If the storyline and characters had been fleshed out more, it could have been a more entertaining experience. The odd abrupt ending also felt a bit rushed as well. The whole thing felt as if it was done in a very limited time frame.

The movie was decent enough though, and if you like vampire action there's bound to be something you'll like here. No need to rush to the cinemas to see it though, save it for DVD.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Favourite Films Of All Time! #15Return To Oz [1985]
Directed by: Walter Murch
Starring: Fairuza Balk, Jean Marsh

"Your Majesty! SHE has returned to Oz!"

Fuck The Wizard of Oz!..............there, i said it, words that people gasp and raise their arms in horror over.............fuck The Wizard of Oz!. "How could you?", some of you may be saying?, i'll tell you how i could!. Wizard of Oz is a bore fest, a very nicely acted, very nicely filmed bore fest, but a bore fest nonetheless. As a kid, i tried to watch it, i could never get through it all. As an adult, same problem. The movie just DOESN'T click with me at all. I've tried and tried, and it just ain't gonna happen. What did click with me though was the 1985 sequel, Return To Oz, i'll tell you why.......

In Return To Oz, Dorothy [Fairuza Balk] comes back from Oz and can't stop talking about the other world she visited. Her family think she's nuts, so they admit her to a mental ward, hoping that electro shock therapy will cure her of her "crazy ways". Dorothy's stay at the hospital is short lived, when she is suddenly pulled back into Oz, as she tries to escape from her new zap happy home. As Dorothy ventures into Oz once again, she soon realized, Oz ain't what it used to be. In fact, Oz is completely fucked up. No more singing midgets, no more sweet skipping around townsfolk, and no more shiny yellow brick road. Oz is scary, Oz has new evil inhabitants, and soon Dorothy finds out that she's gonna need some balls to live past a day in this "new" place. Bitch doesn't need a little dog, bitch needs a gun!.
As well as trying to stay alive, Dorothy makes some new friends in Oz. A pumpkin head man, a moose mounted on a wooden trunk [don't ask, it's confusing i know], a new fatter tin man, and a talking chicken. As you can see, Oz has become a bit freaky.

Ok, forget everything you knew about the old Oz movie. That was a film that gave children rainbow dreams and gumdrop smiles. 'Return' however gave most kids NIGHTMARES. I was one of those kids!. Seeing Dorothy get chased down by hunchback men with elongated legs and arms, wheels where their hands and feet should be, and hideously creepy voices, caused all sorts of ghastly imagery in my mind. These scary fucks were called 'Wheelers'. Ask ANYONE who's seen this movie about what stood out the most, and they'll most definitely say "the fucking wheelers!". The creep factor doesn't stop there. There's also an evil Queen who lives in Oz named Mombi [Jean Marsh]. At first she's all lovely and sweet, but soon Dorothy realizes that Mombi actually likes to COLLECT PEOPLES HEADS and store them in glass cabinets in her castle. Not only does she store them, but she REMOVES HER OWN HEAD and wears the others depending on how she feels that day. This bitch is seriously messed up!. There's one scene where Dorothy tries to escape Mombi's castle, and finds herself IN the "Head Room". There's womens heads lined up all along the walls, when they hear Dorothy IN the room, they all OPEN their eyes and glare down at her!. Honestly, what kind of sick fuck makes shit like this for kids?
Upon it's release, it didn't do too well. It flopped at the box office, and parents found it to be "too disturbing" for children. Funnily enough, 'Return' is much closer in tone with the actual Oz book series the films were based on. The books themselves [which i haven't read] do have a more darker streak to them, which was completely thrown out the window for the 1940's original.
I make the movie sound like it's a horror fest, it really isn't, it won't creep you out as an adult, it's just got a few eerily wacky qualities about it that play on a child's imagination a lot more. I don't know how many times i've heard grown adults say, "my God that movie freaked me out as a kid". It really was trippy.

Oddly enough, it's these twisted and freaky additions to the sequel, that made it so much more memorable than the dull original. All i remember from movie 1 was a whole bunch of singing. In 'Return', i had the Oz scared into me, and it had a much more profound effect on my mind. As an adult, obviously i don't find it scary anymore. It's still got that "wacky creepy" factor though. Aside from a much darker storyline, the rest of the movie still stands strong as a good childrens fantasy film. I can watch it today and still get a kick out of it, not only because it's well made, but also for nostalgic reasons.

You don't need to see the original Oz to understand this movie. Most people have a fair understanding of what Oz and Dorothy's previous adventure was all about anyway. This is the type of kids movie that would appeal to someone who likes their fairy tales a little more on the "interesting" side. Should you show it to kids? it won't cause any serious damage, but i wouldn't be surprised if a kid does get a little uncomfortable about some of the characters. Lord knows me and many others did.