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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quickie Movie Reviews (2009): Volume Seven

I've been watching a lot of movies lately. I'm not a huge movie person, to be honest (at least when it comes to being at home), but the library at the University of Florida has free DVD rentals, so I'm taking advantage for the time being.

Here goes:

Europa (Trier)
A young American travels to post-war Germany to become a sleeper car conductor for the Zentropa company, and do some good in a country ravaged by war and occupation. Soon he finds himself caught in the middle of an underground militant group’s quest for revenge and the strange psychological world state of Europa.
Pros: Bizarre, beautiful, and downright creepy. This is a powerful movie that is as brilliant as it is deep and meaningful. The visuals do some brilliant adjustments between b&w and color, to great effect. This is a must see.
Cons: It might be difficult to grasp for some. If you’re a Michael Bay fan, then this is not for you. This is not action-packed, nor is it insanely suspenseful. It’s a deep, psychological film dealing, in unique ways, with the post-war condition, but in a way that never really happened (on the box it describes this as a futuristic past). This means that at times the story can drag. It is also rough around the edges as far as editing is concerned, though, perhaps, for good reason.
Rating: 4/5
Value: $8.00

Animania (the Documentary)
A brief examination of Anime culture, walking through the basic concept to costumes to the acceptance of the movement and culture by mainstream society.
Pros: It’s a geek fest for people who are already a part of the movement. Beyond that, it has nothing going for it. (Then again, it says "seriously funny" on the cover, so maybe they're trying to make a joke of things?)
Cons: This is in no way a well-thought or particularly adept attempt to document anything within Anime culture. I know; I’ve been to a couple Anime conventions myself, and this “documentary” tells us nothing that we didn’t already know about the people who go or dress up or are obsessed with Anime. It reinforces the stereotypes and fails to not only dig into actual Anime culture, both here and in Japan (and elsewhere), and completely misses the mark. Animania seems more like a media project for a convention rather than an honest attempt to actually work with the phenomenon of Anime culture. There really isn’t anything good to say about this. It’s just bad.
Rating: 0.5/5
Value: $1.00

Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
This iconic film takes place in 2026 where the world is divided between those who live above the Earth in the massive city of Metropolis and those who live below, working on the machines that keep Metropolis running. A tale of love, betrayal, revenge, and fallen utopias, this is a must see for any science fiction enthusiast.
Pros: As an astonishingly detailed film, it is no wonder why Metropolis is so influential. It has a fascinating story too.
Cons: This is a silent film and does show its age. This may be problematic for most film lovers. Also, the story is a bit disjointed, not because parts of the film are missing, but because certain aspects of the film are rushed.
Rating: 3/5
Value: $9.00 (because it’s a classic)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Extended Cut; Clint Eastwood)
Taking place in the middle of the American Civil War, this western follow three interlinked characters who discover the existence of a “treasure” buried somewhere in an unknown cemetery. What follows is a long series of tricks, betrayals, lies, deceptions, and gun battles as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly try to secure the treasure for themselves.
Pros: A different kind of western that makes a game of creating mythological archetypes of its cast of main characters (from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). There is a good amount of action here, and much of what is iconic of westerns, at least as modern viewers know it today, seems to have been established here: drawn-out waits in duels, the iconic whistling music, etc. The characters are well-rounded. Quite entertaining.
Cons: The extended cut is too long. Parts of the movie drag endlessly and the entire beginning loses a lot of its power by the time you get to the meat and potatoes. That said, the length does make for a more rounded film; none of the characters are short-changed here. But two and a half hours of this style of film is a lot to take in. There were also some audio track issues, but this may be due to the time and not the filmmakers.
Rating: 3/5
Value: $6.00

Let the Right One In
The critically acclaimed vampire film that puts all others to shame. Let the Right One In is about a young boy named Oskar in 1980s Sweden who lives a troubled life amidst bullies and a broken family. When he meets Eli, a mysterious, cold girl who moves in next door, he quickly befriends her and the two of them strike up a youthful “romance.” But the more Oskar gets to know Eli, the more he realizes that she is not a normal twelve-year-old girl…
Pros: It is impossible to describe this movie in an effective way without giving away all the details. What I can say is that this is an absolute must see. Period. It is not only powerful, but brilliantly crafted, visually stunning for such a low budge film, and simply amazing. From the characters to the plot, Let the Right One in does everything a good movie should without resorting to the ridiculous nonsense of Hollywood.
Cons: If you do not like blood, don’t see this movie. Let the Right One In is not gory, but there are a few scenes where blood is present. One of the things I appreciated about this film is that it did not resort to being disgusting in order to shock you into discomfort. Those few scenes where blood or a little gore were shown were done with class. To be honest, I don’t think this movie has many problems, except a somewhat weak, though not disappointing, ending.
Rating: 4.75/5
Value: $9.50

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  1. Anonymous3:17 PM

    I am waiting to see "Let the Right One In" when it is released with the theatrical subtitles. For some reason, they changed them for the DVD.

  2. Really? They changed them for the DVD? That's...bizarre...Would the changes be drastic?