Flicker Fusion

Flicker fusion is the point at which still images cease to flicker when passed in front of your eyes and become one fluid image... A movie. Generally speaking, 16 frames per second (fps) is the rate at which this happens.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Descent - 2006


I'm a sucker for horror flicks... the good ones. I didn't have a ton of interest in this movie until I saw what it was getting from www.rottentomatoes.com.

The Short Version: Don't let anyone tell you about it and DON'T watch the trailer. Just go see it if you enjoy scary, tense movies.

The Long Version: *Minor Spoiler Warning* This movie had me long before the crawlers ever showed up. I was quite tense early on (and not from the "boo" cuts). I don't consider myself claustrophobic, but I was feeling very confined. It would take a LOT for me to crawl down the first shaft they went through (the one with the weird water at the button hook turn). I just don't need thrills THAT much. It's easier to speed past a cop or punch a biker. According to "The Descent," it's safer too.
The Crawlers were well done for what they were. neckid big versions of gollum are only so scary. The real tension for me came from the question of whether or not they would find their way out, not if they would survive (it's a HORROR movie! Only one of them can survive! It's a basic rule!). The director did a good job of maintaining that as the primary goal.
Again, I could have been very happy without the creatures. I was sucked in and tense long before they got involved. That said, the monsters were handled well. The make-up was well done and looked great under the very limited light they used. Speaking of light, I was glad for all of the shots without any extra lights. Letting the oppressive darkness loom heavy was excellent. It's almost as though the dark was the real star of the movie.
My one small complaint was the regular flashback/dream sequences. She's got her demons. I get it. I don't need it beyond that. Let's skip to the part where people die... please!

To Sum Up: If you like your horror bloody and fast, this is a great movie for you!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Talladega Nights - 2006




Excuse me... I'm a bit hoarse. I've been laughing too hard.

The Short Version: This is the funniest movie I've seen in a theater since "Jackass: The Movie."

The Long Version: If you like Will Ferrell, stop reading and go see this. Now for the rest of you... This movie earns its laughs. It does things that I haven't seen in a mass-appeal comedy before. Of course, I have yet to see "The Birdcage." But I'm getting ahead of myself.
"Talladega Nights" is not a comedy about Southerners or Nascar, though there are jokes about each. Instead, "Talladega" is a comedy about America and the American spirit. It's about our indomitable will and our unwillingness to accept anything but first place. After all, Ricky's father says it perfectly early in the movie. "If you're not first, you're last!"
I won't waste your time with story. After all, the movie doesn't really, either. I'll get to the point. Everyone in the cast is brilliant, even with small parts. John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Gary Cole and Molly Shannon are all hysterical.
All of that said, if you can't deal with sexual humor, please avoid this movie. It's not "Clerks" or "40 Year Old Virgin," but there are plenty of referances to erections, breasts and homosexuality... And they all made me laugh.

To Sum Up: Do yourself a favor. Go see this movie. It won't lose it's humor outside of the theater, but the more people you can see it with the better. Like any good party, the more the merrier.

A Scanner Darkly - 2006


I'm a sucker for good visuals. I also happen to be a sucker for anything Robert Downy Jr. is in... Except "Ally McBeal." My wife LOVES that show. She's constantly complaing that it hasn't been released on DVD yet. Anyhow...

The Short Version: I loved the annimation and was reasonably entertained by the story.

The Long Version: Don't be sleepy. This movie is SLOOOOOOW. Honestly, very little actually happens. The movie consists primarily of people talking. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it can just get a bit... dull? That aside, the movie looks great. Watch a trailer for it (like this one) and you'll know what I mean. Richard Linklater used a process called rotoscoping. Basically, they filmed the movie as usual, but then followed up by drawing over every single frame. It's a time consuming way to make a movie, but the results are gorgeous.
The acting is decent, but Downy is definitely the standout. Woody Harrelson plays his normal, stoner self, as does Keanu Reeves. Winona Ryder is decent but doesn't get enough screen time to really do much with her role.
As I said earlier, the story is definitely the week point of the movie. Not Dick's original short story, but the screen play they used. If this had been a short film (say... 45 minutes), I would have been sold. Unfortunately, they stretched it out over 100 minutes.

To Sum Up: If you like sci-fi and are feeling caffinated, check it out. Otherwise, take a pass for now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dark City - 1998


I was with my Dad in Tower Records (Nashville) when he found a cheap laserdisc called "Dark City." It looked cool, but why would it be so cheap if it was halfway decent? Ebert seemed to like it. He had an entire commentary track to himself! We took a chance and I'm so glad we did.

The Short Version: Excellent sci-fi. A must see movie.

The Long Version: "Dark City" is based on a recurring nightmare that writer/director Alex Proyas had. All I know is that I'm glad I don't live in his head. Rufus Sewell awakes in a bathtub, a droplet of blood on his forehead, with no clue where or even who he is. Immediately, there's a frantic phone call warning him to leave before 'the strangers' get there. Alex expertly dumps us in the middle of our heroes journey. Like him, we don't know where or who he is. We aren't given any sort of explanation or assistance.
Jennifer Connely, Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt fill out this great (and uniformly underrated) cast. It shouldn't be any surprise, but they're all excellent. Keifer does a particularly nice job as the good Dr. Schreber. Every breath he takes is a desperate wheez. It seems that he's having a hard time pulling himself from one moment to the next and only the urgency of his mission keeps him going.
Whether it was intentional or a side effect of the small budget, the special effects aren't perfect. In fact, some of them are totally bizarre looking. Strangely, though, I think they added to the otherworldly feel of the movie. From the beginning, this is clearly not a world we're used to. If the effects were slick, that effect would be lost.

To Sum Up: Whether you like sci-fi or not, this belongs on your to-do list... up toward the top.

Fight Club - 1999


"Fight Club" has changed my life. I'm not kidding. This movie has had a profound impact on my thinking, particularly about life in America. But I don't want to give anything away... This will be a spoiler-free review.

The Short Version: Great action, strong story, stronger characters and a fast script make this a MUST see. There isn't an aspect of this movie that I didn't love.

The Long Version: This is my favorite movie of all time (right now). If that's all you need to know, you can move on now. Ed Norton's character (we'll call him Jack) can't sleep. He's obsessed with the details of lifestyle and public opinion, so much so that it's ruining his life. When a doctor flippantly tells him to go to a support group for cancer victims, Jack's life begins to come apart... and come together. Don't mistake this for a "Garden State" type of awakening movie. Zack Braff has yet to get involved in any bare-knuckle fights or blow up any corporate art. This movie is about raw emotion and what we've lost. It's about connections with other humans. It's about living in isolation and living in community. It's about materialism. It's about lifestyle obsession. It's about Martha Stewart.
Did I mention that this is also one of the funniest movies I own? The humor can be black as midnight, but only because it's exposing our own failings and secret desires (e.g. Tyler Durdan peeing in the restraunt soup...).
Ed Norton and Brad Pitt deliver such solid performances that the story is a result of the characters not visa-versa. Norton's narration has a detached quality that perfectly mirrors the malaise of the characters. Pitt comes completely out of his glitzy shell and still manages to look cool as hell. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention another excellent performance by Helena Bonham Carter, frightening and alluring all at once.
If you like the movie, watch it again. After that, read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. This is one of those rare cases when a movie is just as good as the book it was based on. I should also mention that David Fincher delivers his typical level of perfection in this movie. Clearly, his direction was what allowed all of the disparate elements of this to come together in the perfect little package it is.

To Sum Up: "Fight Club" is one of those rare action movies that will actually engage your brain as well as your adrenal glands. You will stay up late talking about this one.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Miami Vice - 2006


In the interests of full disclosure, I hope to one day work for Mr. Mann. Also, I believe in the power of flattery...

"Miami Vice" is a GREAT movie. This is the kind of thing I want to see in my summer movies. Heck, this is the kind of thing I want to see in ANY movies. There's a gun fired or an explosion every 5 minutes. People die in dramatic and fantastic ways (cinematic speaking, I mean... I don't find death fantastic. Please! I'm not some kind of freak...).

The Short Version: In case you haven't figured it out, I liked this movie. It's worth seeing on the big screen, and I will definitely by popcorn the next time I go to see this.

The Longer Version: "Miami Vice" isn't a TV to movie conversion. It's more of a complete re-envisioning. Crocket and Tubbs are still narcs. They're still roughly the same characters, but they're in a very different world. Unfortunately, their world has gotten much darker and they've had to adjust. Being as they're deep under cover, they've gotten darker too. I got the feeling that either of these characters would have been almost as happy actually defecting to the other side. I'm not going to go into the plot in great detail as there really isn't a lot of detail to get into. The guys go undercover with some very bad people and have to figure out how to bust them without getting killed.
Jamie Foxx is great if a bit under-used. The real surprise was Colin Farrell. I was just talking with my friend Will (do you know Will?) that Colin hadn't REALLY had a BIG hit... ever. Granted, he was in "Minority Report," but that was really Tom's movie. Otherwise, Colin's been playing some pretty unimpressive characters. Still, we've hung in there with him. With "Miami Vice" our patience has finally paid off. This is his first stand-out performance.
Do I need to mention Gong Li? Unfortunately, probably. She's a fantastic leading lady and is going to have a great career here in America if she wants it. Be sure to see her earlier work "2046" and "Raise the Red Lantern."

To Sum Up: This is a great summer movie. Adult entertainment as it should be.

The Forgotten - 2004


When I originally saw the trailers for "The Forgotten" I thought it looked cool. I was certain that they were showing too much, but I still wanted to see it. Unfortunately I didn't catch it in the theater. Still, thanks to the wonders of DVD's and Netflix, I was able to watch it just a few minutes ago.

The short version: This movie has some great moments. If you're willing to go along for the ride you will have a good time.

The long version: *Spoilers Warning* the very idea that we are being controlled by aliens for some reason beyond our immediate understanding has been tread and re-tread (Dark City, The Matrix). Why do we need another movie about it? Because we haven't done it with children yet! Julianne Moore is mother dealing with the loss of her son. When her husband (Anthony Edwards) and shrink (Gary Sinise) agree that she never actually had a son, we have to wonder who's right and who's nuts. Of course, it doesn't take long for us to know that the heroin is right and the rest of the world is crazy. Therein lies one of my biggest problems with this movie. If we're going to go back over this same concept, let's at least have some suspense as to who is right. "Vanilla Sky" didn't succeed on many levels, but at least we were kept wondering right up to the end.
This isn't to take away from Julianne's excellent performance. In fact, the entire cast does an excellent job with what they're given. Unfortunately, we've seen it all before.
There are a couple of decent moments when someone is surprised or we actually do wonder what's going on, but those are few and far between.

To sum up: If you're bored and a big fan of the cast members, this is worth checking out. If you'd like something a bit more compelling (intellectually) try "Dark City," "Primer" or "Mulholland Dr."

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Flicker Fusion

Flicker fusion is the point at which still images cease to flicker when passed in front of your eyes and become one fluid image... A movie. Generally speaking, 16 frames per second (fps) is the rate at which this happens.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Descent - 2006


I'm a sucker for horror flicks... the good ones. I didn't have a ton of interest in this movie until I saw what it was getting from www.rottentomatoes.com.

The Short Version: Don't let anyone tell you about it and DON'T watch the trailer. Just go see it if you enjoy scary, tense movies.

The Long Version: *Minor Spoiler Warning* This movie had me long before the crawlers ever showed up. I was quite tense early on (and not from the "boo" cuts). I don't consider myself claustrophobic, but I was feeling very confined. It would take a LOT for me to crawl down the first shaft they went through (the one with the weird water at the button hook turn). I just don't need thrills THAT much. It's easier to speed past a cop or punch a biker. According to "The Descent," it's safer too.
The Crawlers were well done for what they were. neckid big versions of gollum are only so scary. The real tension for me came from the question of whether or not they would find their way out, not if they would survive (it's a HORROR movie! Only one of them can survive! It's a basic rule!). The director did a good job of maintaining that as the primary goal.
Again, I could have been very happy without the creatures. I was sucked in and tense long before they got involved. That said, the monsters were handled well. The make-up was well done and looked great under the very limited light they used. Speaking of light, I was glad for all of the shots without any extra lights. Letting the oppressive darkness loom heavy was excellent. It's almost as though the dark was the real star of the movie.
My one small complaint was the regular flashback/dream sequences. She's got her demons. I get it. I don't need it beyond that. Let's skip to the part where people die... please!

To Sum Up: If you like your horror bloody and fast, this is a great movie for you!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Talladega Nights - 2006




Excuse me... I'm a bit hoarse. I've been laughing too hard.

The Short Version: This is the funniest movie I've seen in a theater since "Jackass: The Movie."

The Long Version: If you like Will Ferrell, stop reading and go see this. Now for the rest of you... This movie earns its laughs. It does things that I haven't seen in a mass-appeal comedy before. Of course, I have yet to see "The Birdcage." But I'm getting ahead of myself.
"Talladega Nights" is not a comedy about Southerners or Nascar, though there are jokes about each. Instead, "Talladega" is a comedy about America and the American spirit. It's about our indomitable will and our unwillingness to accept anything but first place. After all, Ricky's father says it perfectly early in the movie. "If you're not first, you're last!"
I won't waste your time with story. After all, the movie doesn't really, either. I'll get to the point. Everyone in the cast is brilliant, even with small parts. John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Gary Cole and Molly Shannon are all hysterical.
All of that said, if you can't deal with sexual humor, please avoid this movie. It's not "Clerks" or "40 Year Old Virgin," but there are plenty of referances to erections, breasts and homosexuality... And they all made me laugh.

To Sum Up: Do yourself a favor. Go see this movie. It won't lose it's humor outside of the theater, but the more people you can see it with the better. Like any good party, the more the merrier.

A Scanner Darkly - 2006


I'm a sucker for good visuals. I also happen to be a sucker for anything Robert Downy Jr. is in... Except "Ally McBeal." My wife LOVES that show. She's constantly complaing that it hasn't been released on DVD yet. Anyhow...

The Short Version: I loved the annimation and was reasonably entertained by the story.

The Long Version: Don't be sleepy. This movie is SLOOOOOOW. Honestly, very little actually happens. The movie consists primarily of people talking. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it can just get a bit... dull? That aside, the movie looks great. Watch a trailer for it (like this one) and you'll know what I mean. Richard Linklater used a process called rotoscoping. Basically, they filmed the movie as usual, but then followed up by drawing over every single frame. It's a time consuming way to make a movie, but the results are gorgeous.
The acting is decent, but Downy is definitely the standout. Woody Harrelson plays his normal, stoner self, as does Keanu Reeves. Winona Ryder is decent but doesn't get enough screen time to really do much with her role.
As I said earlier, the story is definitely the week point of the movie. Not Dick's original short story, but the screen play they used. If this had been a short film (say... 45 minutes), I would have been sold. Unfortunately, they stretched it out over 100 minutes.

To Sum Up: If you like sci-fi and are feeling caffinated, check it out. Otherwise, take a pass for now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dark City - 1998


I was with my Dad in Tower Records (Nashville) when he found a cheap laserdisc called "Dark City." It looked cool, but why would it be so cheap if it was halfway decent? Ebert seemed to like it. He had an entire commentary track to himself! We took a chance and I'm so glad we did.

The Short Version: Excellent sci-fi. A must see movie.

The Long Version: "Dark City" is based on a recurring nightmare that writer/director Alex Proyas had. All I know is that I'm glad I don't live in his head. Rufus Sewell awakes in a bathtub, a droplet of blood on his forehead, with no clue where or even who he is. Immediately, there's a frantic phone call warning him to leave before 'the strangers' get there. Alex expertly dumps us in the middle of our heroes journey. Like him, we don't know where or who he is. We aren't given any sort of explanation or assistance.
Jennifer Connely, Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt fill out this great (and uniformly underrated) cast. It shouldn't be any surprise, but they're all excellent. Keifer does a particularly nice job as the good Dr. Schreber. Every breath he takes is a desperate wheez. It seems that he's having a hard time pulling himself from one moment to the next and only the urgency of his mission keeps him going.
Whether it was intentional or a side effect of the small budget, the special effects aren't perfect. In fact, some of them are totally bizarre looking. Strangely, though, I think they added to the otherworldly feel of the movie. From the beginning, this is clearly not a world we're used to. If the effects were slick, that effect would be lost.

To Sum Up: Whether you like sci-fi or not, this belongs on your to-do list... up toward the top.

Fight Club - 1999


"Fight Club" has changed my life. I'm not kidding. This movie has had a profound impact on my thinking, particularly about life in America. But I don't want to give anything away... This will be a spoiler-free review.

The Short Version: Great action, strong story, stronger characters and a fast script make this a MUST see. There isn't an aspect of this movie that I didn't love.

The Long Version: This is my favorite movie of all time (right now). If that's all you need to know, you can move on now. Ed Norton's character (we'll call him Jack) can't sleep. He's obsessed with the details of lifestyle and public opinion, so much so that it's ruining his life. When a doctor flippantly tells him to go to a support group for cancer victims, Jack's life begins to come apart... and come together. Don't mistake this for a "Garden State" type of awakening movie. Zack Braff has yet to get involved in any bare-knuckle fights or blow up any corporate art. This movie is about raw emotion and what we've lost. It's about connections with other humans. It's about living in isolation and living in community. It's about materialism. It's about lifestyle obsession. It's about Martha Stewart.
Did I mention that this is also one of the funniest movies I own? The humor can be black as midnight, but only because it's exposing our own failings and secret desires (e.g. Tyler Durdan peeing in the restraunt soup...).
Ed Norton and Brad Pitt deliver such solid performances that the story is a result of the characters not visa-versa. Norton's narration has a detached quality that perfectly mirrors the malaise of the characters. Pitt comes completely out of his glitzy shell and still manages to look cool as hell. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention another excellent performance by Helena Bonham Carter, frightening and alluring all at once.
If you like the movie, watch it again. After that, read the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. This is one of those rare cases when a movie is just as good as the book it was based on. I should also mention that David Fincher delivers his typical level of perfection in this movie. Clearly, his direction was what allowed all of the disparate elements of this to come together in the perfect little package it is.

To Sum Up: "Fight Club" is one of those rare action movies that will actually engage your brain as well as your adrenal glands. You will stay up late talking about this one.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Miami Vice - 2006


In the interests of full disclosure, I hope to one day work for Mr. Mann. Also, I believe in the power of flattery...

"Miami Vice" is a GREAT movie. This is the kind of thing I want to see in my summer movies. Heck, this is the kind of thing I want to see in ANY movies. There's a gun fired or an explosion every 5 minutes. People die in dramatic and fantastic ways (cinematic speaking, I mean... I don't find death fantastic. Please! I'm not some kind of freak...).

The Short Version: In case you haven't figured it out, I liked this movie. It's worth seeing on the big screen, and I will definitely by popcorn the next time I go to see this.

The Longer Version: "Miami Vice" isn't a TV to movie conversion. It's more of a complete re-envisioning. Crocket and Tubbs are still narcs. They're still roughly the same characters, but they're in a very different world. Unfortunately, their world has gotten much darker and they've had to adjust. Being as they're deep under cover, they've gotten darker too. I got the feeling that either of these characters would have been almost as happy actually defecting to the other side. I'm not going to go into the plot in great detail as there really isn't a lot of detail to get into. The guys go undercover with some very bad people and have to figure out how to bust them without getting killed.
Jamie Foxx is great if a bit under-used. The real surprise was Colin Farrell. I was just talking with my friend Will (do you know Will?) that Colin hadn't REALLY had a BIG hit... ever. Granted, he was in "Minority Report," but that was really Tom's movie. Otherwise, Colin's been playing some pretty unimpressive characters. Still, we've hung in there with him. With "Miami Vice" our patience has finally paid off. This is his first stand-out performance.
Do I need to mention Gong Li? Unfortunately, probably. She's a fantastic leading lady and is going to have a great career here in America if she wants it. Be sure to see her earlier work "2046" and "Raise the Red Lantern."

To Sum Up: This is a great summer movie. Adult entertainment as it should be.

The Forgotten - 2004


When I originally saw the trailers for "The Forgotten" I thought it looked cool. I was certain that they were showing too much, but I still wanted to see it. Unfortunately I didn't catch it in the theater. Still, thanks to the wonders of DVD's and Netflix, I was able to watch it just a few minutes ago.

The short version: This movie has some great moments. If you're willing to go along for the ride you will have a good time.

The long version: *Spoilers Warning* the very idea that we are being controlled by aliens for some reason beyond our immediate understanding has been tread and re-tread (Dark City, The Matrix). Why do we need another movie about it? Because we haven't done it with children yet! Julianne Moore is mother dealing with the loss of her son. When her husband (Anthony Edwards) and shrink (Gary Sinise) agree that she never actually had a son, we have to wonder who's right and who's nuts. Of course, it doesn't take long for us to know that the heroin is right and the rest of the world is crazy. Therein lies one of my biggest problems with this movie. If we're going to go back over this same concept, let's at least have some suspense as to who is right. "Vanilla Sky" didn't succeed on many levels, but at least we were kept wondering right up to the end.
This isn't to take away from Julianne's excellent performance. In fact, the entire cast does an excellent job with what they're given. Unfortunately, we've seen it all before.
There are a couple of decent moments when someone is surprised or we actually do wonder what's going on, but those are few and far between.

To sum up: If you're bored and a big fan of the cast members, this is worth checking out. If you'd like something a bit more compelling (intellectually) try "Dark City," "Primer" or "Mulholland Dr."