Friday, February 22, 2008

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood was yet another traumatizing movie for me. I think part of it was the score, which had my teeth grinding mercilessly (thanks, Johnny Greenwood!), but another part of it was the endless suspense in the movie. It was building and releasing much like the pressure of oil shooting out of the earth, so I guess it was actually pretty accurate.

So there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, and he’s an oil tycoon, and in a series of unfortunate events, he and his adopted son, who doesn’t know he’s adopted, roll up on a miserable pile of land that is supposedly rich in oil, and basically proceed to get totally fucked.

Look, I could go more into it, but it’s a seriously long movie, and anything I would say would kind of ruin the plot, but I can assure you – it’s a great movie. I mean, if you like this sort of thing. It’s really long, and has a good plot (albeit slow), and the acting is fantastic, and did I mention it’s super-ultra-mega-cupcakes-long? Also: if you don’t like to see really violent scenes, don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to look away before they happen (men at the bottom of a deep hole while other men are sending heavy metal objects up and down with rope and technology FROM THE LATE 1800’S = a recipe for dental – and skull-related – disaster).

Oh, and if you want an idea of how great Daniel Day-Lewis is, I’ll quote my friend James: Cloverfield would have been better if it had a 200-foot-tall Daniel Day-Lewis in it as the monster.

Need I say more?

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

Everyone kept telling me I had to see No Country for Old Men. I didn’t know a thing about it, other than Tommy Lee Jones was in it and the Coen brothers directed it. Not finding it at all suspicious that no one had told me anything about it, I decided to watch it…alone. Hey, The Hudsucker Proxy was one of my favorite movies! So light-hearted and adorably fresh! This had to be great, right? Why, I’d bet my Pulitzer on it!

Sweet fancy Moses do I wish I could have turned back time and not watched that movie by myself. The first ten minutes alone had me feeling ill in the stomach. By the time I was halfway through the movie, I was wishing someone would come in and kill ME with one of those crazy punch-guns they use to kill cattle (though two nights later, when I woke up covered in sweat and saw a shadow under my door and swore Javier Bardem was standing outside and was about to punch in my lock and kill me, you can bet your ass I was wishing someone would certainly NOT come in and kill me with one of those crazy punch-guns!).

It was one of those movies full of graphic violence that was probably necessary, if you really take the time to think about it, because there are some things that you truly need in order to express the fathomless depths of how insane some of the characters you’re portraying really are. And it was also full of those moments where you think, well that was kind of unnecessary, but I guess that person was killed because of this, and suddenly you realize you just justified the actions of a serial killer to try to see his point of view, and you start to get that ill feeling in the stomach again because, well I mean, at least for me, I don’t want to be able to fully comprehend the reasoning of a serial killer.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautifully done movie. I have no arguments with the story, how the story was achieved, the character development (in fact, props to that one), the dialogue, anything other than I could have done with about 20 more minutes of Tommy Lee Jones. The movie just left me feeling ill and depressed afterwards. Which makes it pretty successful at achieving what it set out to do, I know.

One final comment I’ll add here for the sake of a chuckle: I kept complaining that it was too literary at times, and that symbolism belonged in a Carson McCullers novel, not a Coen brothers movie. My friend Beth was the one who finally broke the news to me: it was based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. I kid you not, I nearly threw my backpack into the Schyulkill River when she said that. Had someone told me that beforehand, I would have a) done some research, b) been prepared for the movie, and c) possibly not even watched it. I supposed, in retrospect, it’s better that no one did tell me, but still. DAMN.

Movie Review: Re-Animator

Wow. Re-Animator. Just, wow. Kathy and I decided to watch it when we were sitting down to have some dinner, and it actually made her lose her appetite. (Sorry, Kathy!) I haven’t read the original story it’s based on, but I can see why many people didn’t take it seriously. The scene at the end with the head and the…well…yeah. You have to see it for yourself, really.

Re-Animator is the story of a mad doctor (not angry mad, like CRAZY I-can-totally-play-God-and-win mad) who has been dabbling in bringing the dead back to life. He was originally experimenting on animals, but with the help of his new, totally handsome and popular roommate, he starts experimenting on humans…with disastrous results.

I would be forced to say this isn’t necessarily your average zombie movie, either. I mean, I guess it is, technically – the scene towards the end in particular (with creative use of a fog machine!) might make it a zombie movie – but it’s more like a super campy mad doctor movie that happens to include re-animated corpses (and that oh-so-typical ending!).

I have to admit that despite the fact that I’ve used words like “campy” and “typical” and “totally,” I did enjoy this movie. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but I would say that there’s a pretty good chance I will one day see the sequel. And that this time, when I meet Jeffrey Combs at a horror movie convention, I will shake his hand and say “well done, my boy!” Well done indeed.

Book Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Salutations, all! I am very sorry for my lack of updates, but life decided to kick me in the ass. I’ve been busy with work, school, family, and when I can fit them in, my friends, and I’ve been avoiding the internet as much as possible. But here I am! And I feel it is time for another review.

In contrast to my last review, I’d like to discuss Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I started my Murakami odyssey with Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World last year, and I was a smitten kitten after that. I didn’t have access to any of his other books, but I decided that, this term, I’d do an independent study in modern Japanese literature, and the teacher I chose to help me with it happens to LOVE Murakami, so it all worked out for the best. The second book I read by him was A Wild Sheep Chase, and while I originally thought it was lacking something, after having read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and currently being enmeshed in Kafka on the Shore, I’m partially convinced that it’s simply a facet of his style to leave loose ends and to at times be vague and not necessarily satisfy the questions he himself has created within his own stories. There’s nothing wrong with that; I think that I was just more into the story of Wind-Up than I was Sheep.

Anyway, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a remarkable tale of…wow. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It begins as a story of a missing cat, migrates to a missing wife, delves into the mysteries of the mind, makes a few brief detours into grisly war tales, returns to Japanese suburbia, and then, much like Hard-Boiled, dances in and out of what is “real” and what is “of the mind.” In my pursuits online, I’ve found many people using words like “MurakamiLand” and “MurakamiWorld” in their descriptions of his books, and those are charmingly accurate. Murakami doesn’t just write novels; he has created an entire universe in which characters come and go, have sex and murder, wax philosophical and…talk to cats. He is a compelling and unique author in both his style and voice.

But focusing on Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (that’s what this is supposed to be about, right?), I felt lovingly drawn to all of the characters in the book, especially the main character, Toru Okada, whose cat has mysteriously gone missing, and whose wife, Kumiko, goes missing soon after. Wait, scratch that – I was never lovingly drawn to Noboru Wataya, Kumiko’s brother. He’s a nasty piece of business. But I did love May Kasahara, and the strange mother and son known only as Nutmeg and Cinnamon. The colorful array of characters Murakami has created populate another part of his universe and dance in the hauntingly surrealistic ballet that is the chronicle of the wind-up bird.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get into Murakami or Japanese literature in general. It can be a difficult read – surrealism and hard-boiled detective stories are not everyone’s cup of tea – but it’s worth it.