Killing Them Softly (2012)

Just a quick review, I am off to see Jurassic Park in IMAX 3D soon so I don’t have a lot of time. Enjoy!


All this time has passed since its release and I am still not dead set on how I feel about Killing Them Softly. It is definitely one of the more questionable releases of 2012 as it never did fully live up to expectations. Boasting a strong cast, clever, politically driven material, and a respected director. Killing Them Softly was hotly anticipated but through this, was arguably set up for failure. However, it isn’t the complete disaster most have made it out to be.  The glaring inconsistency with Killing The Softly is it cannot balance as it sits on the fence. There isn’t any issue with a film digging depth under its superficial exterior. But the accuracy and ferociousness of its violence, abuse, both mentally and physically overshadows its economic message to the point of abandonment. Killing Them Softly is a taste of blunt force, dark comedy, and political satire, but doesn’t lean on their cohesiveness. Instead, it lets each trait trail into independent dependency.


The criminal economy crashes when three masked man steal the cash from unsanctioned card games in the local area. The men work for Trattman (Liotta), who also runs the games. When time passes, Trattman reveals that he was the one who robbed his own event. When the games are raided again by Frankie (McNairy) and Russell (Mendelsohn), the assumption is that Trattman has repeated his actions. Jackie (Pitt) is called in by the mafia and is informed by Driver (Jenkins), who works for the organization of the situation. Knowing he needs to regain the confidence of the local crime organizations and find the culprits of the second robbery, Jackie sets out to restore balance.


I can’t deny that Killing Them Softly’s intriguing premise, bleak hilarity, and unrelenting brutality isn’t enough to save it from tumbling into a mediocrity inferno, because it is. The dark, sometimes raunchy laughs and detail in the onslaught are the most consistent aspects of the entire film. While the political influence is present throughout, its relevance and effect are limited. Top performers are Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy, and obviously Brad Pitt. McNairy and Mendelsohn are a hilarious duo who, despite the similarities, are quite the contrast. Pitt once again makes everything appear effortless. Andrew Dominik does an interesting job behind the camera. At times it feels as if he is completely lost, but redeems himself with slowed, atmospheric shots and unique angles. Killing Them Softly might not be the crime drama everyone envisioned. But its economic stance, fierceness, and satirical comedy put it a notch above most thrillers.


Killing Them Softly: 7.5 out of 10.

Spring Breakers (2012)



Spring Breakers is honest about what it has to offer and relishes it, as if it is cherishing its dirtiness. It glamourizes its boundless inhibitions filled with sex, drugs, and alcohol for all to see. If you are like me, you’re expecting to see a watered down version of girls gone wild, and like me, you’re gravely mistaken. When you ponder about Spring Breakers, think in the most general sense that parts of the High School Musical, Disney channel, and Pretty Little Liars casts made a porno together while under the influence of heavy drugs and succumbing to drunkenness as it clouds their judgement. That might be too broad and bold of a statement to make, but honestly, the amount of abuse and usage shocked me. Not because the acts themselves are shocking, simply because I wasn’t expecting Spring Breakers to be so provocative. Spring Breakers features James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, and Selena Gomez. Directed and written by Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers is not a cliched coming of age story and it is not a horribly written love story featuring a youthful hunk for girls to drip over. You should not let your prepubescent, innocent preteens watch it until their minds are fully developed or at least until their bodies fully realized.


Four college girls named Faith (Gomez), Brit (Benson), Candy (Hudgens), and Cotty (Korine) begin scraping money together to pay for their spring break vacation but soon realize they don’t have enough cash. Planning a simple, yet dangerous robbery to gather the remaining amount needed. The girls put their plan into action and pull it off successfully. Soon they are busing their way down to spring break. Upon attending a wild party, the girls wind up in jail. They are bailed out by a rapper named Alien (Franco). As the situations continue to become more and more severe and uncomfortable, the girls begin to trail off. When guns, violence, and murder creeps its way into their vacation, the girls dwindle until the strongest remain.


The most surprising and seductive sequence is definitely the three way between Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, and James Franco. I was not expecting that at all. The most hilarious, yet oddly hypnotizing scene is the singalong sequence. James Franco sits in front of a piano outside, his dreadlocks waving as he shows his gangster sensitive side. The girls begin to surround him, dressed in pink ski-masks and holding weapons. Together, they begin a haunting rendition of a Britney Spears song. With the ocean glistening and the calmness of their surroundings contrasting the sheer dissonance in their voices and the ambience of the piano, this sequence is one of the best of 2013 to date.


As for performances, I was actually stunned at how the girls handled their characters, capably I might add. The four are never insecure about getting personal and physical with their co-stars, especially Rachel Korine. The three way with Benson and Hudgens definitely took courage and stamina, so I applaud them. Gomez is passable in a limited role and still looks stunning. But, as decent as they were, Franco steals the movie. If it wasn’t for his inspired performance of an illiterate, vicious thug, the picture would have been a bust. The film in its entirety is surprisingly decent, but it becomes excessively repetitive, literally. The same dialogue is looped and the themes, even though relevant, are played out and weary. Despite Franco and the girls giving it their all and some uniqueness worthy of appreciation, there is little to grasp hold of.

Spring Breakers: 6 out of 10.

Also guys, don’t forget to check out this weeks discussion board and the top 10 memorable uses of “f**k” in cinema.

The Game (1997)


It may be a tad too predictable, bland, and overcompensating, which would make The Game David Fincher’s most tame chapter to date. That being said, a mediocre Fincher film is still a hell of a lot better than most of the weekly releases that lack emotion, intelligence, and pride. Don’t get me wrong, The Game is entertaining and it still stirs up deep questions and arguments about the human condition. It’s just that throughout the film you’re constantly being led to believe that your going to be wowed at some point and while it may set its sights high, it doesn’t fully reach them. The Game stars Michael Douglas and Sean Penn as brothers who have become distanced and unfamiliar. With a script strong enough to evoke a response and its two leads doing their best to make up for what is lacking. The Game is a fine outline of what Fincher is capable of and is an early look into the mind we’ve come to expect big things from. Despite its straight and narrow storyline, it’s still more captivating and rewarding than most half assed attempts at psychological thrillers.

Nicholas (Douglas) is a wealthy banker residing in San Francisco. His attitude and tastes are suited to a man of his stature and he embraces the loneliness that comes with importance. Nicholas has reached the age of 48 which is the same age his father committed suicide. When he meets with his brother Conrad (Penn), he receives an unexpected gift. It is some sort of gift card that gives Nicolas access to a unique form of entertainment. Giving in to his urges, Nicolas redeems the card and is transported into a surreal world of confusion and violence.


The Game still may be able to catch a few off guard and provide a slight surprise but for the majority, what it’s building up to is visible from the get go. I’m trying my best not to bad mouth a piece of Fincher’s collection because I enjoyed the film and love Fincher, it just wasn’t what I expected. The acting good and the point it drives towards is relevant. The significance in the lesson is valuable to each individual, it just could have been masked better through a bit more deception and creativity. The game is a respectable piece of cinema, but it is sandwiched between two of the most celebrated films of all time (Seven and Fight Club). Maybe it’s the simple fact that in comparison to its predecessor and follow up, The Game just doesn’t perform as well and is forgotten, thus leading to the reason why I cut it some slack. The Game is a Fincher film, however brooding and atmospheric, it is a safe attempt. The plot and characters are just intriguing enough to drag you along for the ride. Long after the film finishes, it sticks like a splinter in your brain and grows on you with each passing day. Soon, The Game will make its way into your collection respectably and will always be a stepping stone for the magnificent director we know as David Fincher.

The Game: 7 out of 10.

Stoker (2013)


With Stoker, Chan-wook Park solidifies that in any language his is the master of chilling story telling and tension. The director of Oldboy and Thirst didn’t miss a step in his transfer to North American filmmaking and brought all of the qualities that make him so relevant and symbolic with him across the ocean. Assembling a cast that is anything but ordinary, Park needed an asymmetrical cast for an atypical film. Featuring Mia Wasikowska as a distant and dysfunctional teen, Nicole Kidman as her unapproachable mother, and Matthew Goode as her isolated and intriguing uncle, the cast of Stoker will collectively put you on an unnerving edge. Stoker is a psycho-sexual thriller that will leave you feeling right for all the wrong reasons.


India Stoker (Wasikowska) is a secluded teen who’s father has just passed away in a car accident. Now India lives alone with her mother Evelyn (Kidman) with whom she never really got along with. After her father’s funeral, India is introduced to her father’s brother, her uncle, Charlie (Goode). India has never met Charlie before and his sudden arrival after her father’s death is mysterious. When Evelyn allows Charlie to stay with them for a while, India begins to think something is suspect with her new uncle and that he may have ulterior motives under his charming and polite manner.


You can tell that with every film he creates, Chan-wook Park does his research. He doesn’t want to shelter the audience from any detail, no matter how unrelenting or unpleasant. It’s as if he is saying “These things exist, deal with it.” Again, Chan-wook Park doesn’t tiptoe through his stories, nor does he hit you over the head with them, he simply displays the poisonous breadcrumbs for you to follow. The piano sequence between Goode and Wasikowska is so deathly seductive, it is pure brilliance. Nicole Kidman becomes an openly regret filled parent who by the middle of the film you wish would die, which is the goal she set out to achieve. Goode is both an eloquent, robotic maniac and a psychotic, emotionally unbalanced, and unconsciously sporadic head case. Mia Wasikowska is the nucleus of this bizarre coming of age tale and she deservedly steals the spotlight. Black hair, pale skin, and welcoming attire, Wasikowska is the girl next door. Her dialogue is never expressly long and she doesn’t try to make good, play nice, or save face but she is so perfectly balanced between the cute schoolgirl and depressive outcast that even after all she does, it is impossible not to like her. Clint Mansell composes another spooky score as he did for Moon and it’s cautiously optimistic and epic tones create a dreadful contradiction in the most enticing way. Stoker is another feat for Park and the cast is triumphant in their distress.

Stoker: 8.5 out of 10.

Donnie Darko (2001)


One of my personal all time favourites, Donnie Darko is an unconventional mix of science fiction, horror, and drama which creates a truly unusual stroke of genius. Donne Darko is so brutally honest in regards to existence, love, and death that it will leave you choked up and deep in self reflection after each viewing. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac) as a troubled teen who becomes close with a talking rabbit, the ravishing Jena Malone (Into the Wild) as his love interest, and Patrick Swayze (Point Break) as an inspirational speaker with hidden secrets, everyone in Donnie Darko is not who they seem to be.


Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) is sleep walking one night as usual while at his home a horrific event has occurred and he unknowingly escaped death. Darko has troubles communicating with his family, peers, and teachers but attends therapy to help convey his emotions and better understand his problems. On a casual day at school, Donnie finds companionship in a young woman named Gretchen (Malone). One night, Donnie is awoken by a giant rabbit who tells him the world will end in 28 days. As time passes, the rabbit named Frank tells Donnie to carry out destructive operations. Nearing the time when Frank’s prophecy will occur, strange events begin to happen and Donnie Darko is faced with a life threatening decision.

Donnie Darko (2001)

Dealing with time travel, mental illness, and meaningful relationships, director Richard Kelly had his hands full with translating this heavy tale to the screen. Now, Kelly may not have done much since, but Donnie Darko is a cult smash that secured his name from ever being forgotten. Kelly uses a firm hand to confront the delicate themes throughout Donnie Darko and is able to expose the roots of self deception and external disguise, intentional or not. Jake Gyllenhaal is analytic, innocent, and terrifying as Donnie and gives his best performance to date. Many have been turned off Donnie Darko with its confusing plot and shady underlying themes. Donnie Darko requires at least a second viewing and some light reading to fully understand, but once you do comprehend, it is sure to knock you off your feet.

Donnie Darko: 9 out of 10.

The Prestige (2006)


If you’re looking for a film that keeps you guessing, is full of tricks, and will leave you infatuated with its characters till the very end, The Prestige just might be for you. In my opinion, The Prestige is Christopher Nolan’s best and most complete film. Written by Christopher and his brother Jonathan, The Prestige is the ultimate magic trick that keeps on giving, viewing after viewing. Christian Bale (Batman Begins) leads a superb cast that includes: Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation), Michael Caine (Children of Men), and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings). With its nonstop twists and a script that never undermines the audiences intelligence, The Prestige is full of sacrifice, guilt, and struggle. With Nolan behind the scenes and a stellar cast up front, The Prestige is not to be missed.


Nearing the end of the nineteenth century in London, Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) are a couple of stagehands for a friend while learning some tricks as both are upcoming magicians. One night during a routine performance, Angier’s wife dies and he places the blame on Borden. Angier and Borden continue to work at their craft as enemies and competitive rivals. As both come into their own, fame begins to bestow itself upon them. Their competitions become more violent and elaborate while both attempt to sabotage the others career. When Borden perfects and begins to perform the greatest trick the world has ever seen, Angier becomes obsessed with discovering the secret and will stop at nothing to obtain it.


In the history of cinema, I don’t believe there has ever been a rivalry quite like this. Nolan has proven with every feature he has helmed that he is the creator of instant masterpieces and the mental kick the film industry has been waiting for. With the exception of Following (1998), Nolan’s full length feature debut, The Prestige is possibly his most underrated piece. Christopher and Jonathan provide the foundation of anguish, loss, and loyalty through a clever screenplay adapted from the Christopher Priest novel of the same title. Nolan’s ability to control and manipulate his cast into the perfect tones, external movements, and emotions is unparalleled. Bale and Jackman steal the show as usual as they both hurdle head first down a mountain of regret and anger. Through a vicious competition they had no hand in starting, Caine and Johansson are remarkable as they try to decipher their loyalties and scramble to make the right decisions. The Prestige is intelligent, violent, and at times very disturbing, but is a definite must see.

The Prestige: 9 out of 10.

Just a quick note. As the blog has just been started, for now I will only be posting reviews of some of my personal favourites and lesser known pieces of film genius. Reviews for current and upcoming films will begin this weekend starting with Chan-wook Park’s Stoker.

Cronos (1993)


This isn’t Twilight and this isn’t True Blood, this is plausible vampirism? If ever such a thing could possibly exist. From Guillermo del Toro, comes his first full length feature, Cronos. You may be familiar with Hellboy and the instant classic that is Pan’s Labyrinth, but Cronos was the launchpad for one of the most visionary directors of our time. Cronos features Federico Luppi (The Devil’s Backbone), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Claudio Brook (The Exterminating Angel). Cronos has proven over time to be a worthy opponent against Bram Stoker’s numerous interpretations and Let the Right One In as the prime examples of vampirism on film.


Jesus Gris (Luppi) an antique dealer nearing the end of his time stumbles upon a golden scarab. When Gris accidentally triggers the scarabs mechanisms, it drives several tiny spikes into this body. Soon after, Gris begins to suffer symptoms that are similar to that of a vampire. When Angel (Perlman) purchases a statue from Gris which once held the scarab, he returns it to his uncle Dieter (Brook) without the life altering device. Dieter is nearing his death bed and has tried numerous times to retrieve the scarab. When Dieter uncovers that the scarab has been withheld from him, he becomes excessively angry and sends Angel on destructive missions to recover it. As time passes, the changes the scarab inflicts upon Gris become increasingly more visible, painful, and strange.


Cronos will seep into your brain and force you to ask questions you never thought you would ask yourself. Can blood ever be that appealing? Could I ever murder to sustain my own life? What if I didn’t have a choice? Del Toro takes the audience back to the world of fantasy and makes the realm seem real if only for a couple of hours. With Cronos, del Toro proves that simplicity is sometimes the best policy and that when turned into something not of this world, love and kindness remain, not just a monster. Luppi achieves great strides as a caring guardian while dealing with the monstrous traits exploding from his body and mind. Perlman delivers a performance that is worthy of the audiences sympathy, even though at times he is menacing. Overall, Cronos is a well acted and superbly directed film worthy of the most cold blooded individuals.

Cronos: 7.5 out of 10.

I Saw the Devil (2010)


A word of warning before viewing I Saw the Devil. The film contains graphic content, gore, and nudity, so let’s keep the kids away from this one. Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil continues his descent into family, loss, and the distance one is willing to go for loved ones as he did in his mind bending mystery, A Tale of Two Sisters. I Saw the Devil is lead by Byung-hun Lee (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) and the man behind the camera is the previously mentioned Jee-woon Kim.


Jang Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) is a notorious serial killer and psychopath who’s victims are for the majority young woman and children. When Jang Kyung-chul murders a young woman, he has no idea what he has gotten himself into this time. The young woman turns out to be the daughter of a police chief and is the wife to be of secret agent Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee). Kim Soo-hyeon decides to track down Jang Kyung-chul in a personal mission of vengeance and terror. Kim Soo-hyeon succumbs to the inhumane, malicious traits of the murderous in order to torture and manipulate Jang Kyung-chul so that he may feel the same pain that poisons him.


For the record, I Saw the Devil has one of the best choreographed murder scenes to date. The scene has the payoff, a fast paced, blood spraying knife fight, but it is the tension built before hand that is the real cause of a cinematic heart attack. I cannot think of anyone better to play a serial killer other than Min-sik Choi (I mean that in the best possible way). Choi’s no remorse, no compassion approach sums up what everyone fears about humanity. Choi’s justification of his characters madness, lust, and indifference is impeccably displayed by slight facial expressions and his serene, isolated calmness. Choi injects the character with the need to not fear terror because he is the terror everyone fears. Byung-hun Lee infuses a fresh take on vengeance and raises questions about love and the extent it could possibly drive everyday people to with his performance. The contempt and empty love Lee displays is abundantly present in his performance as he deploys a “no regrets” lifestyle. Jee-woon Kim captures the disgusting, brutal effect of death and the eternal anguish it causes on loved ones. Kim’s direction of murder is on point with the insane and passionless act it appears to be for those driven to it or the ones who cannot control themselves.

I Saw the Devil: 8 out of 10.