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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

15 Sep

Far from your typical detective story, Director Jonathan Demme‘s 1991 masterpiece helped to refine the genre. Based on a novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, Demme’s adaptation successfully takes us on a thrilling but dark journey into a territory so rarely explored in cinema: the bleak recesses of the human mind.

Part Freudian mystery, part crime thriller, Silence of the Lambs first introduces us to our protagonist, Clarice Starling, an aspiring FBI agent currently finishing training. Played by Jodie Foster in her most iconic role to date, Clarice is fearless, smart and tactile as she tries to put together the clues and help catch a mysterious serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. In order to do so, however, she must enter and dismantle the mind of the brilliant but ruthless Dr. Hannibal Lecter (in another iconic performance from Anthony Hopkins) who is being held in a high-security prison for multiple murders.

“Do you know why they call him ‘Buffalo Bill'”? He asks Clarice, during their first encounter together. “It started as a bad joke,” she replies. “It’s because he always skins his humps”.

The personal exchanges between Clarice and Hannibal are the film’s heartbeat and give us tremendous insight into the multiple layers of their characters, including Hannibal’s immense knowledge of psychology and his ability to manipulate others. This is contrasted with Clarice’s desire to rid herself of her own demons, and take on the daunting responsibility of being a new female FBI agent.

Both Hopkins and Foster received Oscars for their work, and rightfully so. Universally acclaimed as one of the best films from the 90’s, Silence of the Lambs also took home awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture.

Besides its influence on everything from The Dark Knight to the hit HBO series True Detective, the film helped highlight our culture’s fascination with serial killers, and the complex and horrifying psychology that accompanies them. Silence of the Lambs is, in my opinion, a great film because of its bold ability to introspectively examine the inner emotions, thoughts, and motivations that lay buried deep in the heart of human beings – despite what horrors might eventually be unearthed there.

 

Clarice Starling

Clarice Starling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: 10/10

Similar to: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), Se7en (1995), True Detective (2014) 

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

15 Jun

The Squid and the Whale is the third film from writer/director Noah Baumbach, who has mostly been known for his collaborations with fellow filmmaker Wes Anderson.  Like Anderson’s films, The Squid and the Whale is a dark comedy of sorts but one with a truly unique and cynical outlook on divorce, sexuality and family life.  What makes this film so great is the superb writing.  The characters are multilayerd and complex, brought to life by an amazing cast (Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Laura Linney, Owen Kline, William Baldwin and Anna Paquin), and the story is rich and engaging. The film’s unique style, production design and soundtrack creates a vivid image of a moving New York during the 1980’s and the editing is fast paced, which constantly keeps the audience on-edge.

The way this film builds tension is incredible. What starts out as a seemingly simple premise quickly escalates into an unpredictable and deeply-moving drama that reaches an emotionally human core.  I was surprised at how much I laughed during this movie considering how terribly depressing it really is. The film is also loaded with carefully-placed subtleties that give new insights into the characters, making repeated viewings a must.  Independent film really doesn’t get much better than this.

 

rating 9/10

Similar to: Synecdoche New York, Blue Valentine, Happiness

The Loved Ones (2009), The Warriors (1979), Thirst (2009), Lolita (1962)

20 Feb

I’m going to try and update this thing more regularly, even if it’s just a quickie review of something I have seen recently.

I’m also going to try and talk about classics as well as some of the newer stuff I get my hands on.

What I have been enjoying this past week:

The Loved Ones (2009)

– Holy smokes. what a twisted movie. It is not everyday you see a teen horror film that is so chilling, disgusting and fun.  After seeing last year’s Snowtown, I know for certainty that when it comes to the disturbing and macabre, Australians do it best. While it has it’s cliche’ moments and becomes a bit predictable, there are enough twists and WTF moments to make this stand out among others of the genre.

Similar to: Hostel,The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Snowtown

Rating: 6/10 

The Warriors (1979) 

– I finally got around to seeing this cult classic and, while it is a bit slow at first, The Warriors was an overly entertaining and satisfying movie. The stylized story about gangs in a post-modern NYC goes places I wasn’t expecting and the ending was fantastic. Also a huge fan of the film’s score and wonderful costumes.

Similar to: A Clockwork Orange, Brick, 

Rating: 7/10

Thirst (2009) 

I absolutely loved this movie.  Park Chan-wook is no doubt one of the best directors working today, and he demonstrates his knowledge and passion for filmmaking perfectly in Thirst.  The story revolves around a priest-turned-vampire who is desperately trying to tame his appetite for bloodshed while at the same time helping a family in need. The film is incredibly unpredictable and beautifully shot. If the thought of blood grosses you out, you are better off avoiding this entirely, but if you have a thirst for the dark and disturbing – of if your tired of seeing the same old vampire movie – give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Similar to: Let The Right One In,  Oldboy,

Rating: 8/10 

Lolita (1962) 

Finally managed to see Stanley Kubrick‘s iconic romance story about a man who falls for his landlord’s daughter.  Lolita is a superbly-writted drama and overall great film (but with a mastermind like Kubrick, what can you expect?).  The performances felt real and the characters are complex and interesting. Though it clocks in at over 2 hours the film never drags and you become immersed in the riske’ relationship between our protagonists.  I couldn’t help but thinking the entire time “how did they get away with filming this in 1962?”

Simmilar to: Eyes Wide Shut,  The Apartment, The Graduate 

Rating: 9/10 

so thats that. Any recommendations you have let me know! 🙂

Amelie (2001)

30 Nov

Amelie tells the story of a French twenty-something year-old girl.  She fantasizes about many things including dipping her hands into a bag of grain and cracking fresh creme’ brûlée’ with a spoon. Trapped somewhere between a naive childhood fantasy and the impending responsibility of adulthood, Amelie’s life takes a turn when she (though rather unknowingly) falls in love.

Amelie, as a film, is a montage of sorts about the small pleasures of life. Like watching a laughing baby or a litter of puppies, the film is an enchanting delight that is easy to get immersed into.  There is something universally charming about Amelie, both her character and the world in which she lives.  The colorful characters and remarkable production design give the film an animated vibrance that was unlike anything I have ever seen.

Some say this is a romance film done in the style of Woody Allen, others will point to the dark comedies reminiscent of Wes Anderson, or John Hughes.

I liked this film best for it’s wonderful use of music, story, cinematography and performances which really leave a lasting impression.  Technically, Amelie is flawless, but it’s the emotions and vibrance of the film which make it a mesmerizing and overall enchanting piece of cinema.  One of my all time favorite French films.

rating 10/10 

Paris, Texas (1984)

27 Sep

A man wakes up in the Texan desert, and seems to wander around endlessly amongst the dirt, rocks and infinite countryside.

For much of Paris, Texas this is all we know.  Who is this man? What has he been doing all this time in the desert? What is so special about Paris, Texas anyway?

This is a very simple film, but also very engaging in that it asked us to ask questions. Paris, Texas is so brilliant because it is so simple. There are no distractions; no car chases, no fight scenes, no gimmicks – just pure emotion and engrossing storytelling.

It is a very personal story, with great and memorable characters who are relatable and unpredictable.  Paris, Texas also works because it has some of the best film acting and natural cinematography I have ever seen.

At 147 minutes long, the film is a bit of stretch, and it does get a bit uncomfortably lengthy at the end, but Paris, Texas is simply a brilliant and well-made film.  Wim Wenders knows how to grab people’s emotions, and he does so effortlessly with this film.

rating 8/10

The Lion King (1994)

27 Sep

So I recently rewatched The Lion King and being around 15 years since I have last seen it, I picked up on a few things.  Firstly, this film boats some top-notch animation.  The blu-ray transfer looks especially stunning and the way that the painted backgrounds blend in looks fantastic.

Visuals aside, The Lion king is pretty much your standard-formula Disney flick, but it does have some themes that adults can pick-up on.  A lot of themes actually.  Race, gender, politics, family and romance are a few of the more obvious ones.  The plot is both entertaining and thought-provoking, but it does have some flaws.

For example: what’s the deal with Rafeki?  The all-knowing monkey-shaman just kinda  pops up out of nowhere and seems to have the magic answer for everything.  Whats his story? Why couldn’t he become king of the jungle if he knew so much?  He sure would have done a much better job than Simba.

Anyway, enough nit-picking. The Lion King is one of the better Disney animations out there and it has some really memorable characters that give life to the story. The film also is the perfect prototype for your classic hollywood structure and it set the bar for kid-friendly animation films of the late 90’s. I give it praise for having the music and comedy to keep the kids at bay while also giving something for the adults to chew on.

A must-see for Disney fans.

rating 6/10 

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