Part of a six movie ensemble called the Six Shooter Film Series from Magnet Studios, Timecrimes is an intelligently devised thriller about a man who accidentally travels one hour back in time and becomes an unwitting participant in a series of peculiar events.
Using time paradox as a convention is risky for both the writer and the story because time travel stories are double edged: use too little and risk incredulity. Use too much and the audience tunes out. Timecrimes effectively uses time paradox and works within it’s fringes without imploding in it’s own weight. This is meticulous crafting at it’s best.
A lot may say there are way too many plot holes here but that is the inherent side-effect of working in the time travel genre. By the time you finish watching this indie-flick, you’ll indeed be asking “chicken or egg?”
PRIMER (2005) 77 minutes – writer/director: Shane Carruth
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, Primer is another independently made, time travel film that takes a well-worn genre and gives it a well-deserved starch and ironing.
A group of young upstarts working for an engineering firm are devoting their extra time tinkering on a promising device which they hope would be their ticket to riches. Their perseverance is rewarded but in a rather unexpected way and soon they have to cope with the many consequences of their actions.
This movie sort of reminds me of a David Mamet screenplay. The characters speak in parallel of the audience but not so much that it becomes a self-serving novelty. It’s like eavesdropping on a group of people you don’t have any association with. Their jargon and terminology will be intrinsic within their network but their actions and intentions are clear. Where often films are over explained, Primer keeps you conveniently a few steps behind. But in a good way.
THE HURT LOCKER (2009) 131 minutes – writer: Mark Boal / director: Kathryn Bigelow
To say that that this movie is “intense” is one of the biggest understatements in recent history. I often talk about simplicity versus complexity when it comes to character and setting. This is another fantastic example.
Hurt Locker is a movie about war but more so, it’s warriors. Thankfully it is bereft of any political agenda that tends to cloud some films in this genre. War is merely a setting here except, we are probably a bit more informed since it is contemporary of the current world. Staff Sargeant Will James is a man seemingly living on the edge. You may or may not agree with his style but one thing is undeniable: He is good at his job. Too good in fact. But he’s no show-off or thrill seeker. This is how he ticks and the men in his new unit are left to wonder which is more dangerous: The IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) or the man trying to defuse them.
This is a well researched, superbly designed and impeccably staged film that will have you gripping from start to finish. I know that sounds like one of those hammy movie poster captions but in this case, it’s right on the money.
DISTRICT 9 (2009) 112 minutes – writers: Terri Tatchell and Neil Blomkamp / director: Neil Blomkamp
Limitations can be a powerful ally. It forces the artist to focus and become economical and judicious. This is what made District 9 a runaway success. Along with the vision of director Neil Blomkamp.
What started out as a short film called Alive in Joburg became one of the big hits of the summer. By now most of you already know who Wykus Van de Merwe is and what happens to him. It is irony with the capital I served with humble pie. All wrapped around the sobering reality that human beings are always afraid of what they don’t understand and will justify their actions in the name of righteousness.
As far as Blomkamp is concerned, I have a feeling he is Hollywood’s new flavor of the month. I just wish he would inherit the Transformers franchise. It’s not going to happen but I can dream….
WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) 96 minutes – writer: Judd Apatow / director: Jake Kasdan
After seeing this one I was left with only one question: Why on Earth was this movie made? I’m not quite sure what Judd Apatow was going for in this painfully awkward parody of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line but it certainly left a really bad impression.
Seeing John C. Reilly over sell the campyness of his Dewey Cox character is utterly painful. Someone forgot to tell them that he is not Will Ferrell. Don’t get me wrong, Reilly is a great actor but he is more suited for dark comedies portraying pathetic, naive losers. If you’ve seen him in Boogie Nights, you know what I’m talking about.
If you’re in the mood for comedy I suggest I Love You Man which is probably the best Judd Apatow movie not written or directed by Judd Apatow.
PONYO (2009) 103 minutes – writer/director: Hayao Miyazaki
A distinctive charm is unmistakable in all of Miyazaki’s films. Each one is a unique journey that is worthy of experiencing and one that I look forward to every time his films are released. (An as he gets older, each new project becomes even more special)
In a storytelling sense, Miyazaki is certainly unconventional and for some, frustrating. He tends to get long-winded and abstract while over saturating scenes with spectacular visuals that seem unmotivated and random. But for me, this is what makes his work truly one of a kind. Where feature animation from North America is a frenetic, non-stop assault of verbal exposition, Hayao’s films leave lots of room for the audience to reflect on what they are seeing. For him it’s more effective to let emotions come from the visuals and leave things unsaid.
If you like Miyazaki’s work then you’ll truly enjoy Ponyo. Personally I still think Porco Rosso and Spirited Away are two of his best.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009) 150 minutes – writers: Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci / Director: Michael Bay
How many people does it take to write 150 minutes of absolute crap? Three. And in the hands of Michael Bay this film is a legitimate form of human torture.
What disturbed me the most? I’m no activist and won’t even begin to think that I can speak for women but the way they are portrayed in this film is downright sexist and obscene.
G.I. JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA (2009) 118 minutes – writers: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett / director: Stephen Sommers
Most people would lump this movie in with Transformers 2 as not being very good and I agree. But there is one glaring and important distinction: This movie is was made for kids. But what about Transformers? On top of being ambiguous as to what happens in that movie, it’s also unclear who the intended audience was. At least with G.I. Joe they make no pretenses about who it’s geared for.
MUTANT CHRONICLES (2009) 111 minutes – writer: Philip Eisner / director: Simon Hunter
What if John Malkovich, Ron Perlman, and Thomas Jane were cast in a sci-fi action flick? You’d probably be inclined to see it right? Well, it’s true except the actual movie is horrifyingly bad.
The World War I meets Resident Evil meets Chronicles of Riddick setting is incohesive and downright confusing. How do good actors end up in bad movies? It happens more often than not and from the actors’ standpoint, they are only as good as their instincts and the people at the helm. In this case, most all of their scenes are shot against a green screen and they probably had no clue what the final product would look like. If you want to see someone’s head explode, have them have them watch this and Transformers 2 back to back.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER (2009) 95 minutes – writers: Michael Webber & Scott Neustadter / director: Marc Webb
Want to see something really banal and cliched? Watch this movie! Here is yet another film where the helmers spent more time tinkering with style rather than substance. (and yes, at the heart of this movie, there is some substance) I don’t know what it is about film makers who think that an overdose of offbeat and quirk is equivalent to entertainment….
The movie is about the perception and reality of being in love. A rather nice subject. But after the song numbers and cartoon bubbles and talking to the camera Ferris Bueller style, it’s one, distracted mess. Not to mention the really tired convention of the two wise-cracking, nerdy friends whose characters don’t evolve into anything and are only there to provide funny and nonsensical quips…..
Top it all off with that tried and tested non-linear storytelling style and you’ll be reaching for that bottle of Tylenol before you know it. Zooey Deschanel is enchanting as always. Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like he’s acting in another movie.
9 (2009) 79 minutes – writer: Pamela Pettler / Story and direction: Shane Acker
Ah, yet another short trying to make the treacherous leap to feature length. Let me preface things by saying I am a fan of Shane Acker and the original short and like most everyone I was anticipating the feature film version. Unfortunately the movie is a series of scenes with small characters being chased by large ones wrapped in a poorly plotted story. Can you count how many times the Christopher Plummer character says, “he’s gone, forget about him!”
AMERICAN SWING (2008) (Documentary) 81 minutes – writer: John Hart / directors: John Hart & Matthew Kaufman
Why do we enjoy watching people attempt daring and death-defying stunts? Because we are outsiders to their world and what they do is simply out of the ordinary. That’s exactly what I felt like watching this intriguingly fascinating documentary.
It follows the rise and fall of Plato’s Retreat, a 1970’s New York City night club specifically geared towards the swinging (or wife swapping) lifestyle as well as it’s owner and founder, Larry Levenson. In it’s heyday the club attracted a wide variety of clientele, some of whom appear in the documentary to share their experiences. Hearing them talk about their escapades is like hearing someone talk about climbing Mount Everest; this is simply something you won’t hear everyday.
Even more compelling is to hear them talk about the turbulently incredible life of Levenson who some view as either a well-meaning hero or a morally-depraved criminal.
SHOOT ‘EM UP (2009) 86 minutes – writer/director: Michael Davis
I’m all for outrageous, incredibly stylized action flicks. (Like last year’s Wanted) But in the case of Shoot ‘Em Up, they definitely had the outrageous but forgot about the style. As far as I know, the characters played by Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti exist in a real, physical world like ours. In The Matrix, Neo and company’s alter-egos in the virtual world can do super-human stunts. In Wanted, people can be trained to slow down their hearts and control the amount of adrenalin so they can focus into infinitesimal detail.
In Shoot ‘Em Up, there is nothing set-up that would lead you to believe they can defy gunfire and certain death. They are established as regular dudes with guns and itchy trigger fingers. So when over-the-top gunplay ensues while someone delivers a baby (and uses a gunshot to sever the umbilical cord) or while having passionate sex…. we are supposed to believe it. Right.
They tried to sell me a bunch of stuff but I ain’t buyin’ it. Not to mention that these are two of the stupidest hitmen i’ve ever seen.
WATCHMEN (2009) 162 minutes – writers: David Hayter & Alex Tse (Adapted from the graphic novel written by Alan Moore) director: Zack Snyder
I wanted to catch this in the theaters and I still regret not doing so. But having finally seen it on DVD, I was glad to have dodged the hype enabling me to watch it with a clear mind.
No doubt, this was a highly anticipated movie that had some people wondering… Could it live up to the iconic and legendary status of the graphic novel? Could phenom director Zack Snyder pull it off? The answer to both is a resounding YES. As far as I’m concerned, Watchmen is in a class by itself and probably only rivaled by The Dark Knight in scale, complexity and depth of storytelling. It delivers the cynical brooding of the graphic novel and then some.
In this alternate reality, being a superhero is a profession. A calling that very few over the years have answered with each one having a distinct interpretation and fervor for altruism.
When they are marginalized and forced to stand down, it seems their glory days are behind them. Or is it? For a few of them there is still many questions left to be answered. For a few of them there is still much justice to be served. Some of them may even have lingering doubts. But for one the answer is clear: Betrayal is a worthy sacrifice for absolute peace and the end does justify the means.
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