Film Reviews

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The Departed (2006) Review

"Martin Scorsese [the legendary filmmaker] zero Oscars - Three 6 Mafia, one!" The implication of Jon Stewart's words during the 2006 Oscars stamped a red hot exclamation point onto the thoughts of many moviegoers. Hopefully, with this recent offering returning to a gritty crime-drama, the Academy will finally recognize Scorsese's talent. The Departed is a witty, highly original story about a State Trooper named Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) who goes into deep cover to infiltrate Boston organized crime led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), an aging, teflon crime lord. Billy has a dark past and many connections with unsavory types, so he's a shoo-in to get close to Frank. As a fresh plot element, one of Frank's henchmen, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), goes into deep cover as a State Trooper. Here Damon treats us once again to his Boston accent that sounded so natural in Good Will Hunting. Once Billy and Colin discover the existence of one another, it's up to them to smoke each other out. It is in these moments where the movie truly shines. The most tense scene is probably the film's most subtle, with Billy and Colin on opposite ends of a silent phone call, waiting for the other to speak and betray their identity to the other.
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On Golden Pond (1981) Review

On Golden Pond revolves around the lives of one family teetering on the edge of the end of its time line. Norman and Ethel Thayer are approaching the end of their lives and decide to visit their summer home on Golden Pond. Norman (Henry Fonda) is turning 80 and his moved-to-California daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda), is coming to visit with her new boyfriend and his son, Billy. In 80 years, Norman has slowly (or quickly) turned into an old curmudgeon, griping about life and taunting death with a quick barb whenever he can. If Ethel is the music that soothes the savage beast in Norman, his daughter Chelsea is the noise that drives him mad. Or at least nitpicky. This is apparent when she finally arrives and Norman grills her over the kind of car she rented. Here we discover the uneasy past Chelsea and her father have, which coincidentally mirrored the rocky relationship the real-life father and daughter Fondas had.
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Are You Scared (2006) Review

This movie was better when it was called Saw. Typically, I don't mind low budget films. I can tolerate mediocre visual effects, sub-par camera work, and shoddy acting. I can even stomach a movie switching from film to video after the first five minutes. What I cannot forgive is when a film skimps on the writing. Are You Scared does exactly that. The concept had potential, revolving around a reality TV show that was based on conquering fear; but rather than having to simply eat live worms, the contestants have to face more gruesome fears, like being awake during surgery. The consequence for not successfully facing your fear, however, is death. This could have been a wonderful commentary on reality TV and the commodification of people. This could have been a subtle screed about the selling of life for entertainment. Instead, it's a rip-off of Saw, complete with modulated voice. Oh yes, there will be an intellectual property lawsuit.
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300 (2006) Review

I’m always wary about movies that are heavily advertised. It’s the equivalent of overselling a product. In this case, I can forgive 300, because those trailers looked so good, I didn’t mind seeing them over and over again, but that’s also the problem. While the snippets of scenes were great and allowed me to fill in the blanks with equally great images in my head, the actual movie doesn’t live up. Some will say that’s my own fault for letting the hype get to me. Others will say that’s the studio’s fault for hyping up the movie with so much advertising. I think it’s both. Let me just say, that I enjoyed this movie. It’s entertaining. The visual effects are highly believable, considering that the entire environment is green screen (though it’s a shame what passes for blood these days). The acting ranges from adequate with everyone in the cast to very good with Gerard Butler. Lastly, there’s plenty of carnage to be had and even a little sex. You will have a good time watching this film.
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The Host (2006) Review

It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent monster movie. Horror movies with monsters don’t count, either. I’m talking about a straight out, standup fight where the hero can see the monster and the monster can clearly see him or her. Those were the days of giant lizards rampaging through Tokyo with only human determination and cooperation to stop them. Until the next movie, anyway. Today, that movie has arrived. Director Boon Joon-ho brings the purity of the monster movie back to the silver screen with The Host. Fortunately, Boon doesn’t just regurgitate the formula, he adapts and blends it with family values that raises the stakes just enough to make the film something special. The story opens in an American medical facility near the Han River in Korea. An American doctor tells his Korean subordinate to dump several bottles-worth of toxic chemicals down the drain. When the Korean subordinate informs the American that the chemicals will poison the river the American shrugs off the comment and continues with the order. Oh, those evil Americans.