Thursday, October 27, 2011

"The Green Mile" a darkly beautiful portrait of hope

TITLE: "The Green Mile"
DIRECTOR:Frank Darabont
STARS: Tom Hanks, Michael Clark Duncan, Sam Rockwell
EDITOR: Richard Francis-Bruce
AWARDS: Best Picture (Oscar, Nomination), Best Suporting Actor (Clarke Duncan) (Oscar, Nomination), Best Sound (Oscar, Nomination), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Oscar, Nomination)
BOX OFFICE: $136,801,374 (USA)
RUN TIME: 189 min.

Frank Darabont's "The Green Mile" is a story that revolves around a group of death row prison guards during the Great Depression. When a new inmate comes in  (Duncan), Paul Edgecomb (Hanks) has to deal with the hard truth of his crime, his demeanor, and his apparent miracles. Is this man guilty, insane, disabled, or a miracle of God?

This film is one of those cultural icons of the turn of the century. It skyrocketed Duncan to stardom, firmly established Frank Darabont as a force to be reckoned with, and showed a generation of genre fans that story and character were still important in a supernatural film.

Michael Clark Duncan had already appeared in the blockbuster "Armageddon" (1998), and his co-star, Bruce Willis, suggested him for this part of John Coffey. He has since become famous for the role (even earning an Oscar nomination for his portrayal). For the next decade, Duncan appeared in several blockbusters including: "Planet of the Apes" (2001), "Sin City" (2005), and "Kung Fu Panda" (2008).

In Darabont's follow up to "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994), he established himself as an incredible filmmaker with a thirst for character development. It took over three hours to tell this story (Darabont's shortest directorial effort was "The Mist" 2007 at just over two hours), with every second of screen time devoted to furthering the emotional power of the story, instead of simply presenting cause and effect events. This film did much better at the box office than Darabont's previous film, though his work as a writer saw much success through the 80's and 90's. The commercial success of this film lead to more, still risky, projects for the director, including a time as show-runner on "The Walking Dead" which currently airs on AMC.

Darabont also showed a generation of slasher/horror/ghost story enthusiasts, that films that follow a supernatural storyline can focus on character and emotion, rather than the occasional jump-scare. In a decade full of rehashes ("I Know What You Did Last Summer," "An American Werewolf in Paris" (both 1997), "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" (1995), etc.) Darabont gave audiences something deeply enthralling, thrilling, and scary in its own right.

This film is one of a rare kind: a nearly perfect effort. Perhaps an argument could be made that it is overlong, but this writer would challenge anyone to find a scene that could be lost without the film suffering. Perhaps it is melodramatic, but the audience feels so deeply for the characters by the climax, that they are truly invested in the outcome. Some people argue that John Coffey is a racist portrayal of a black man in the south during the Depression. But, if arguing that a character is miraculous and some sort of angelic host is racism, then Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) paints old white men in a terrible light.

"The Green Mile" is a visceral, emotional ride, and can be hard to get through. It leaves the viewer thinking about its message for weeks. It goes beyond arguments for/against the death penalty. It shows many sides of human existence, from love, to friendship, loyalty, confusion, and all-encompassing hatred.

It is hard to classify this film, but this writer would argue that "magical" is one of the best words to describe this piece. It is wonderful, enjoyable, entertaining, and challenging. This is a film to be seen over and over again. If you have not seen it, please do so. This is perhaps one of the best films that has ever been made.

MY IMDb RATING:  10 out of 10

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The Thing" a cult classic well worth the attention

TITLE: "The Thing"
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
STARS: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
EDITOR: Todd Ramsay
AWARDS: Best Horror Film, Best Special Effects (Rob Bottin) (Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA)
BOX OFFICE: $19,629,760 (USA)
RUN TIME: 109 min.


When a team of researchers in the antarctic are visited by a lost wolf, not all is as it appears to be. After a freak occurrence, the team begins to doubt themselves, and paranoia sets in as they realize an alien symbiote has invaded and is killing them one by one, and it assimilates and imitates their bodies.

John Carpenter's "The Thing" is essentially a remake of "The Thing From Another World" (1951), though it sticks closer to the source material (a novella by John W. Campbell Jr.). It stands apart from other genre films of the time by having revolutionary effects, and a wonderful focus on paranoid characters, as opposed to the famed slasher films of the same decade.

While the movie flopped, and received poor reviews upon release (it has since become a hit on video, adored by critics, and even spawned a prequel that hits theaters this weekend), the visual effects garnered high praise. Rob Bottin, who was 22 at the time, designed and created almost all the effects himself, with one key effect (the dog-thing) being designed by Stan Winston. Throughout the film, stop motion techniques, model work, animatronics, and make up effects are all utilized to show an amazing creature taking the forms of others, and breaking out of it's disguises in disturbing and visceral ways. It can be hard to watch, but worth it to sci-fi and horror fans.

Where the movie really shines though, is its characters. Rather than focus on the gore scenes, and lose all heart of the film, Carpenters repeatedly shows the characters sans violence and effects all the way to the closing credits. His focus on the human element helps the audience feel trapped in the antarctic with the characters themselves. Who is the thing, and who isn't? It could be you!

"The Thing" is one of those rare horror films that has a legitimately interesting story, and it shines. While this movie may be too graphic for some, it is well worth it to get to the meat of the tale.

After watching many a horror, thriller, or action film that lacked any personality, it is nice to see of piece of semi-exploitative work that exists to show a story, instead of just violence. The film drags at the beginning of the third act, but that is also where it excels. By building the tension, even the "boring" scenes leave the viewer on edge. This is a very worthwhile film for any horror or sci-fi fan.

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Princess Bride" a not-so-fairy-tale classic (by a guest blogger)

TITLE: "The Princess Bride"
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
STARS: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright
EDITOR: Robert Leighton
AWARDS: Best Fantasy Film, Best Costumes, Nominated Best Writing, Nominated Best Actress (Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films, USA)
BOX OFFICE: $30,857,814 (USA)
RUN TIME:  98 min.
A woman falls in love with a farmboy, but he is soon killed by pirates as he searches for a fortune in order to marry her. When the prince is to make her his princess, she is captured by bandits. Now she is being tracked by her soon-to-be husband, who can only hope to find her before the mysterious Man In Black. The story brings everything to the table: action, drama, comedy, and true love.
While it may not match the renown of the other movies to have crossed this blog, it is quite possibly the most likable by all audiences. Its genius humor (with Rob Reiner at the helm, who would expect any less?) combined with its excellent rendition of the original book's story (the author wrote the screenplay) created a masterful work that, while remaining true to the fantasy genre, spans almost all cinematic preferences. Many viewers may enter into the experience expecting a chick flick, much like the young Fred Savage's character, but I am certain those expectations will be crushed by the end of the movie.
No, the movie did not spawn a sequel or redefine the genre, it is a classic in my book simply because of its watchability. If one parses out the script, they will find a original mixture of clever humor and philosophical maxims, leaving the viewer with some of the most quotable movie scripts of all time. Even after a single viewing experience, I have found almost every viewer swapping lines for a half-hour. Many movies have memorable quotes, whether funny, deep, or heartwarming. Very few movies can attain a good quantity of one type; even fewer can attain an enormous quantity of all.
I cannot forget the wonderful screenplay by multiple-Grammy award winning music artist Mark Knopfler. He is highly regarded as one of the greatest guitar players ever, as well as an extremely respected producer. The decision to choose Mark Knopfler for this movie was a stroke of genius.
All in all, this is a fantasy movie for the non-fantasy fan. It is a romance movie for the non-romantic. It is a comedy for someone just looking for a drama. Nothing is left out in this classic tale of adventure and true love.
This is by far the most widely accepted movie I have ever seen that is not somewhat directed towards children. Disney movies, while having widespread appeal, are still focused towards children. Many people my age love Disney movies because of fond memories they have of them as children. The Princess Bride, however, is not focused towards children. It is by no means explicit, but it its humored is just clever enough to be missed by children.
Its constant parody of traditional princess movies is also a fine line that is hard to match. It was able to capture just enough of that “true love” appeal to gain the respect of romantics, while at the same time making fun of it without offending anybody.
The swordplay performed by Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, and Christopher Guest did not use stunt doubles. While some of the acrobatic moves' practicality may be in question, a distinct lack of cliché is quite noticeable to all viewers. The plot is convenient and coincidental without feeling contrived. The script is complex without feeling labored. The scenes continuously step back into the real world with Fred Savage and Peter Falk without breaking the stride of the script whatsoever. The subtle humor spread throughout the entire film is enhanced by the sometimes unrealistic props, not diminished by it (Andre obviously not being in the Holocaust Cloak). Every ounce of this movie is calculated and clever, making sure to not offend anybody without feeling like the script was neutered by some Hollywood censor. In essence, this movie is popularly regarded as “the perfect movie.” Another movie walking the precise line of humor, drama, romance, and action would be inconceivable.
MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10
Hey, I'm David. I'm a Music Business student at Anderson University. While many afternoons before and during high school watching various movies with my brother grew a huge appreciation for all genres of movies, I love nothing more than an extremely thought-provoking piece of cinematic philosophy. The best movies are those that are unpredictable because of their unprecedented creativity (i.e. Memento, a movie not only hugely thrilling but scientifically spot-on). That being said, there is a reason cliche is overused. Popular cliche movies are just like catchy tunes, there's something about them that resonates with true life. I like movies. Come watch one with me sometime.