Lake Mungo (12/26/12)

Lake MungoMovie Two Hundred Ninety Eight

In Lake Mungo, after their daughter drowns, a family begins experiencing strange happenings and investigate.

Sixteen year old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowns and after her death her family feels an eerie presence in their house. After catching several ghostly images on video, they hire a psychic to investigate further. Their son confesses to staging the whole thing but the odd occurrences continue. The family then finds that Alice had kept several secrets from them and during their investigation after her death, they learn more about their daughter than they expected.

Lake Mungo is a hard film to classify. It’s easy to write it off as a horror film or a found-footage type film but it’s neither, at least not completely. Lake Mungo is filmed like a documentary with all of Alice’s family and friends being interviewed and then showing various pictures or video clips. It’s a very effective method of storytelling but the story itself is kind of meandering and at times lacking. Lake Mungo also isn’t a scary film, though it had some moments that caused the hairs on the back of my neck to prick up.

Where Lake Mungo succeeds is its very low-key approach to telling the story of Alice Palmer. The way that the film plays out is done incredibly well and the story probably wouldn’t work if done in a traditional way. If you came into a room that was playing Lake Mungo it would be easy to mistake it for an actual documentary. It feels so real that, at times, I was kind of thinking this was an actual event that had some ghost parts added to it, almost like a dramatization. For a tiny film crew out of Australia, I was actually quite impressed.

However, when Lake Mungo is wrapping up I wasn’t fulfilled by the story. I’m not sure if the horror elements that were added aided the film or held it back. In the end, it’s not so much a ghost story as it is a story of a family trying to deal with the premature loss of their daughter. It’s an interesting film, but Lake Mungo will probably not stand out from the sea (or lake…) of similar films, especially considering its dull title.

I give it 3 actual Lake Mungo scenery out of 5.

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Django Unchained (12/25/12)

Django UnchainedMovie Two Hundred Ninety Seven

A slave becomes a bounty hunter and seeks to free his wife from a brutal plantation owner in Django Unchained.

A pair of slave traders traveling through Texas with a handful of slaves is stopped by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is looking for Django (Jamie Foxx) regarding the identities of the Brittle brothers for a bounty he is after. After a scuffle that leaves one slave trader dead, Django is bought by Schultz, who despises slavery and trains a newly free man, Django, as a fellow bounty hunter. After dealing with the Brittle brothers, Django tells Schultz about his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and Schultz vows to help Django track her down and free her from slavery. They discover she is working at a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) but they have a plan to ensure Broomhilda’s freedom.

Quentin Tarantino has made quite a name for himself in the last twenty years and his films are widely praised for good reason. He makes films that are amalgamations of all the best parts of various genre films but instead of feeling cobbled together or copied, they feel fresh and raw. His craft has certainly been refined as of late, and Django Unchained may be his most refined film to date. The production feels immense and maybe even more polished than any of Tarantino’s previous works. That is, if you aren’t afraid of erupting wounds, unflinching violence, and lots of course language, it’s one of his finest films.

Django Unchained is one of the better movies to come out of 2012 and it’s one of my favorites of the year. The only thing that really held it back is its length; at 165 minutes it feels long and it drags a bit near the middle. Had the film been closer to two hours I think it would have been lean and mean, without losing much of its charm. Django Unchained constantly tries to keep things interesting, but it’s tough when a film is approaching three hours. After a while, I just wanted less talking and more shooting.

The length of Django Unchained is really my only complaint against the film. I think Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances of his career, something I was kind of surprised by. Christoph Waltz is, of course, fantastic, as is Jamie Foxx. Kerry Washington doesn’t really do much for me, but she does a good job as well. Unsurprisingly, Samuel L. Jackson gives a great performance that truly only he could give.

I’m concerned that Tarantino’s visions are getting larger and larger and the Weinstein’s are willing to let him run free. Normally this would be a good thing, but I think Tarantino’s movies are technically getting more refined, but there is also a trend of them getting long. If his next film is even longer than Django Unchained, it’s going to need to be something incredibly special, which it likely will be. Django Unchained has been dubbed a Spaghetti Southern, a riff on the Spaghetti Western genre, and I kind of wish more filmmakers took up and made films for this new genre to match Django Unchained.

I give it 5 Samuel Jacksons out of 5.

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DVD Court – Jan. 8

It’s the first “real” release day of 2013 and…there isn’t a ton on tap here, but see what this week’s DVD Court has to say about the following releases:

  • House at the End of the Street
  • Frankenweenie
  • Hit & Run
  • Dredd
  • Compliance

There are also two Court of Appeals picks that were chosen by yours truly…Samsara and Two-Lane Blacktop. I had Samsara preordered because I loved Baraka so much and my unquenchable thirst for Criterion Collection blu-ray releases will force me to get Two-Lane Blacktop sooner rather than later.

Are you guys interested in seeing any of this week’s releases? Are you picking anything up?

City of God (12/23/12)

City of GodMovie Two Hundred Ninety Five

The City of God is an autobiographical tale about crime and growing up in the poor suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

Narrated by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) from the 1960s through the 1980s in the impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhood he grew up in. It started with three older boys doing simple stick-ups and then a young kid, maybe around eight, named Li’l Dice (Douglas Silva) gets his start as a hoodlum and his eventual rise to power as one of two of the neighborhood’s most powerful drug lords, changing his moniker to Li’l Zé (Leandro Firmino). Somehow Rocket is able to avoid a life of time and pursue photography and tells the interweaving tale of the City of God.

Few movies impress me on both a technical level and also move me emotionally and City of God had me glued to the screen despite some of the horrific imagery. City of God is one of the most unflinchingly violent movies I’ve ever seen and yet very little blood is actually spilled onscreen. The brutality is clear and the story is all the more engrossing because of it.

It’s shocking to me that people actually live in a place like Rio de Janeiro and know nothing but poverty and crime. I suppose that isn’t limited just to Rio de Janiero, but for a city that has the potential to be simply breathtakingly beautiful to be so ugly is fascinating. City of God seems so visceral that it’s easy to forget you are watching a film and not a documentary, not unlike Battle of Algiers or Gomorrah. While the events in City of God are fictionalized to a point, the main players are real, you can look them up. I didn’t know this before watching City of God and it’s pretty amazing that Rocket (well, actually Paulo Lins, who wrote the novel City of God) even survived. I actually thought it may end up being a simple coming-of-age story until the story takes a dark turn.

City of God is a movie that I knew needed to be watched but I don’t think the praise I’ve heard has done the film justice. I was expecting a really great movie and somehow even my lofty expectations were not high enough. City of God is stunning and awe-inspiring but also almost too much to take in. While I loved it, it’s maybe even one of the best films I watched all year, it’s a film that I’m not sure I could watch very often. It’s not exactly depressing, but it’s close to it.

If you are like me and know that you need to see City of God but haven’t yet, I implore you to do it as soon as you get a chance. If you’ve never heard of City of God before now, please take my word for it and go watch it. If more movies like City of God came out around the world, I don’t think Hollywood would be the force it is today.

I give it 5 Rocket’s camera out of 5.

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Highlander (12/22/12)

HighlanderMovie Two Hundred Ninety Four

An immortal is being hunted by another for the ultimate prize and there can be only one, in Highlander.

In present day, an immortal named Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is attacked in a parking garage by another immortal. Upon beheading him, MacLeod is given his powers. In the 16th century, we see clan MacLeod preparing for battle with clan Fraser, led by Kurgan (Clancy Brown), who wants the right to kill Connor. In the present again, a metallurgist named Brenda (Roxanne Hart) is looking into the identity of the immortal killed in the garage through his sword. She finds herself entwined with Connor but Kurgan is still pursuing him for the final battle to win the prize.

Don’t judge me too harshly, but somehow I had avoided watching anything related to Highlander all my life up until this viewing. There’s no good reason for it, I just never really got around to it and now here we are. I think I just kind of assumed I knew everything about the story and there was no good reason for me to watch Highlander. Turns out I knew next to nothing about Highlander and I’m really glad I finally watched it. I’ve heard very mixed things about all the sequels and spin-offs, so I’m not sure if I’ll be diving headfirst into the greater Highlander mythology, but I can finally mark ‘watch Highlander‘ off my things to do list.

I will say that the lack of any nostalgia-factor of Highlander did not detract from my reaction to the film, in fact, the so incredibly 80s appeal of it is still wholly intact. The soundtrack is synthy and awesome, there are montages, and the dialog probably wouldn’t do well if analyzed, so the film works in the same vein that all 80s action do. Highlander is definitely a film that I regret not seeing sooner but at least I finally took the time to see it.

If there is anyone else out there that has never seen Highlander, I have to ask: did you think a sword was important in any way? For some reason I did, like it gave them powers or something. Just curious.

Highlander is the type of film that you put on to turn your brain off from the distractions of real life. It’s not terribly deep, though it does have its moments, and the action is pretty great. I was definitely smiling more than rolling my eyes, a sign that I consider Highlander a success.

I give it 3 why was Sean Connery written to be Spanish when he’s clearly not? out of 5.

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What were your favorite movies of 2012? (Friday Question Fun)

Friday Question Fun

Can you believe it’s 2013, you guys? I can’t.

To kick off Friday Question Fun in the new year, I thought  we could take a brief look backward and reminisce what our favorites of 2012 were.

What were your favorite movies of 2012?

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2012 in review – Andy Watches Movies

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

This is pretty neat! I’ll have my movie stats up for 2012 in a few days.

Huge thank you to my top commenters. Fernando, I had no idea you had that many comments here!