Posts Tagged ‘movie’

thor-073113-1Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Since 2008’s Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a consistent source of solid entertainment. None of the films have been truly transcendent, but even the worst have some strong elements and the best of which are a lot of fun. Next to The Avengers, Thor is my favourite film in the Universe and also the film that sold me on the idea of these films being a universe. What stuck out about Thor was the unique setting which helped set it apart from other comic book films. I’ve looked forward to returning to this world and now Thor: The Dark World is here to bring me back.

The film opens with a prologue taking place thousands of years ago, as Odin’s father leads the Asgardian’s against the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith plans to use an ancient power called Aether in order to destroy the universe. However he is defeated and he and what remains of his people go into hiding. The Aether is too powerful to be destroyed so is hidden. Cut to the present and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is tracking strange anomalies. In the process, she finds the Aether thus triggering the return of the Dark Elves and putting the Universe in danger. Naturally, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must save the day.

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By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

I’m by no means a sports fan.  At all.  I mean, sure, if I’m watching a fun or exciting game, I’ll get into it, but I don’t follow teams nor do I get obsessed when the start of any given “season” comes by.  On average, I don’t know a lot about nearly any sport there is.  And I certainly know nothing about the sport of car racing, much in the same way I know jack shit about baseball statistics, and contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t particularly care for 2011′s Moneyball all that much.  However, the difference between that borderline snooze fest and Ron Howard’s Rush is that this film, set in the more high-stakes atmosphere of the Formula 1 racing event, contains a whole heap of excitement that successfully helps bring in any novice to this sport and gives them a wholly immersive experience that lives up to the title.  To be quite frank, I found this to be the best sports movie to come along since David O. Russell’s The Fighter.

The focus here are two men, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), real-life Formula 1 racers/enemies and this film chronicles their rivalry from 1970 to 1976.  Hunt is an experienced racer with dreams of making it big by eventually winning the Formula 1 racing event, dreams that are threatened by the arrival of Lauda, an expert driver who seems to have come out of nowhere and possesses the same goal.  Lauda is very much a gearhead, and knows how to calibrate his cars so that they’ll go the fastest.  This leads to plenty of early victories for him, as well as a growing resentment from Hunt, as well as a good amount of flared tempers between the two both on and off the track as the build-up to the championship race carries on.

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franceshaposter (1)Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In 2010, I saw a film from respected director Noah Baumbach called Greenberg and didn’t like it at all. I can’t really put my finger on what it was, but the film just rubbed me the wrong way. I haven’t revisited Greenberg since, but I’ve been tempted to. My taste in film has expanded quite a bit in the last three years and I think I may have misjudged that film. Anyway, this year Baumbach released another film called Frances Ha, which has gone on to receive a lot of praise from the limited audience that saw it. This was enough to gain my curiosity, and with the film on Netflix streaming I thought I’d check it out.

Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a young woman living in New York trying to make it as a dancer. She lives in an apartment with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances and Sophie have been best friends since college, but their relationship is disrupted when Sophie opts to move into a better apartment with someone else. Frances attempts to find new living arrangements, while simultaneously struggling to maintain her relationship with Sophie all while facing financial problems.

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Release date: June 7th, 2011

Running time: 114 minutes

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg

Based on: The character “Green Lantern”, created by John Broome and Gil Kane

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and Tim Robbins

I remember way back when I first started hearing about a Green Lantern film, I got really excited. I’ve been wanting more DC characters to be adapted, and Green Lantern looked like a character who’s world lent itself to movies well (granted, my biggest exposure was to the John Stewart character on the Justice League show). Then when I found out Martin Campbell would be directing, I got really excited. Martin Campbell made two of the best Bond films with GoldenEye and especially Casino Royale. I was expecting Green Lantern to be as good as the first Iron Man. Those expectations were dashed and shattered when the first trailer came out. It looked terrible, and I was really disappointed. Then the movie came out and just got blasted by critics. I ended up avoiding it in theaters knowing that I would inevitably see it when came out on DVD. So now that I’ve seen Green Lantern was I smart for avoiding it in theaters, or should I have had more faith in Martin Campbell.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a reckless test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. He finds himself chosen by a dying alien to bare a ring of power. He then finds himself amongst a society of  ring wielding aliens known as the Green Lanterns. The Green Lanterns are facing a powerful threat in the form of Parallax (Clancy Brown), an entity that feeds on fear. On earth, Hal is trying to mend his relationship with his old friend Carol (Blake Lively) while dealing with his old friend Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) being infected by Parallax.

That plot description I just gave is far more coherent than the actual plot of the film. The plot is such a jumbled mess that it’s hard to focus and actually irritating to watch. The film jumps around a lot and there isn’t enough time to get attached to anything. There’s a seen early on where Hal is with is family and there’s some drama, and then those characters never come back at all. Then there’s the Hector Hammond character. The film tries to act like him, Hal, and Carol had been longtime friends since they were kids. But you never really feel a friendship and there’s no scenes where we see their friendship, we just hear people talk about it. Then there’s Parallax, who the entire film is dedicated to making this ultimate villain. Problem is Parallax is a boring villain. He’s pretty much just a big cloud that goes around smashing things. Also, despite being in the film from the very beginning, he never feels like a genuine threat.

Another thing that really grinds my gears about this film is the theme at the center of it. The movie revolves around fear and overcoming it. This is reflected in it’s villain who preys on fear. For the hero, that fear stems from seeing death when they were a child. That description sound interesting? It should, Green Lantern stole it from Batman Begins. It’s bad enough that they ripped off the theme and the way it’s used from another film, but they also stole it from one of the best comic book films of all time, one all comic book fans have seen. Did they really think nobody would pick up on the connection? Green Lanern was bad enough on it’s own, but for it to constantly remind it’s audience of Batman Begins didn’t help.

A great super hero can make the film though. Unfortunately Ryan Reynolds isn’t really acting in this, he’s just being himself. I don’t mind Reynolds’ usual schtick but in this he was pretty annoying. I’m especially disappointed with Reynolds because in Buried, he proved he was a pretty good actor. So for him to fall back on just being  himself was lackluster. The rest of the cast isn’t any better. Blake Lively is playing generic love interest number seven and Peter Sarsgaard got on my nerves pretty much every time he was on screen. The only actors who were alright were some of the Lanterns, particularly Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Mark Strong. But overall, this cast was really weak. Oh and why the hell is Tim Robbins in this? I hope he was paid well.

This movie has a budget of $200 million dollars and I wanna know where the hell that money went. Is there a lot of special effects in the film? Oh yeah, tons, but not $200 million dollar value special effects. In fact, a lot of the effects are pretty distracting. Rise of the Planet of the Apes had a budget of less than half what Green Lantern had and looks a million times better. The action scenes aren’t very good in this either and the editing is horrible. The music was also pretty bad, and it’s rare that I’ll complain about a films score.

There’s a lot about Green Lantern that pisses me off. There’s the fact that it’s a horrible film on every level and is painful to sit through. There’s the fact that it’s a horrible DC adaptation, meaning they still haven’t had a good non-Batman film since Superman II. But what pisses me off the most is that this comes from a director I have great respect for. It baffles me that a director like Martin Campbell could put something out this bad. I know almost every director has a few weaker films in their career, but this was just so horrid on every conceivable level. I think I have to watch Casino Royale again just so I can remind myself that Campbell can actually direct. Regardless, Green Lantern is one of the worst films I’ve seen all year and the black sheep in a year where all the other comic book films have been good.

Rating: F

 

Release date: October 7th, 2011

Running time: 101 minutes

Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon

Based on: The play Farragut North by Beau Willimon

Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood

The Ides of March is a political thriller revolving around Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a young campaign manager for Mike Morris (George Clooney) a democrat who is running for president. Stephen is assisted by senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and opposed by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) who is running the campaign for the opposition. Duffy approaches Stephen and asks of he’ll work for him instead of Paul. This, on top of being involved with a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), pull Stephen into a world of secrets and lies.

I should say right now that politics don’t interest me in the slightest. Perhaps it’s because of my age, but I can’t of too many things that bore me more than politics. Yet in spite of that, I still really enjoyed The Ides of March. While the story is very political, it’s written in a way that makes it accessible to any audience. You don’t have to know the inner workings of politics to understand the drama of the film. This is because of a great script with great dialogue that gets better as the film progresses.  The film starts out good, but starts to really excel as the film hits its second act. From there, the film just continues to improve scene after scene until it eventually reaches its great ending.

What really shines through in this film is the acting. I’ve been a fan of Ryan Gosling for a long time. Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Drive, and now The Ides of March. I wouldn’t say his performance in this is his best role, but it ranks among his best. Stephen is a character who is a good guy and genuinely believes in what Mike Morris stands for. He’s smart and efficient, and Gosling brings a lot of charisma to the role. Stephen also goes through a very interesting arc through the film. He starts out as an innocent man who genuinely believes that he’s doing the right thing. But the deeper he goes into this world the more he begins to question his morals. The arc is very reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s in the first two Godfather films. Even the final shot of The Ides of March is evocative of The Godfather Part Two.

The film also has one of the strongest supporting cast I’ve seen all year. George Clooney isn’t exactly doing any acting stretches, but he is perfectly cast as presidential candidate Mike Morris. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also quite good as the senior campaign manager Paul. Hoffman is very commanding in the role and there are times where you can’t take your eyes off him. He brings in a lot of intensity when necessary, but he also gives the character a lot of credibility and makes Paul feel very wise. But for me, the best supporting performance came from Paul Giamatti.  Tom Duffy isn’t a flat-out villain, but Giamatti gives the character such a threatening presence that he dominates any scene he’s in. One of the best scenes in the film is a confrontation near the end between Duffy and Stephen. Giamatti doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he does a lot with what he’s given and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an Oscar nomination. The film also sees strong performances from Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei.

If the film has one weakness, it’s that the revelation that politicians play dirty is not a very surprising revelation. After decades of films, books, and music about how corrupt politicians are, it isn’t a very big reveal. We also live in a world where information is leaked immediately. Politics don’t have the same dark and mysterious feel they use to. This isn’t a big problem mind you, and the film is more than smart enough to make up for this.

If I had to compare The Ides of March to one other film, it would be last year’s The Ghost Writer. Like that film, The Ides of March is a thriller that doesn’t rely on shoot outs and explosions to thrill the audience. It doesn’t bother with pointless action scenes that don’t mean anything. Instead, The Ides of March is film that stands on it’s excellent drama brought to life by some terrific performances. I highly recommend The Ides of March, easily one of the best film’s of the year.

Rating: A

Release date: September 23rd, 2011

Running Time: 133 minutes

Written by: Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian

Based on: The novel “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Matthew Lewis

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Chris Pratt

Moneyball tells the true story of Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland Athletics and a former professional baseball player himself. Beane was believed to have been an all star player back in the 80′s but unfortunately he never panned out. Jump a head twenty years and Beane is managing the Oakland Athletics, a team which doesn’t have the money to compete with other teams. Frustrated by so many losses, Beane attempts to rethink how they scout players. He meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young kid who views players as statistics. He eliminates all the factors of recruiting players that don’t come down to mathematics. Several of the players Brand sees as having a lot of potential are undervalued by everyone else. Beane and Brand use this information to put together a successful time that threatens to change the baseball industry.
The thing that got me excited for this film was knowing the script was co-written by Aaron Sorkin, who is known as a master of dialogue. Indeed, there is a lot of fantastic dialogue in Moneyball, which is one of the highlights of the film. However, the actual story is not very compelling. We don’t know very much about any of the characters in this film. They’re all just there to fill their part in the plot. The only exception is Billy Beane. We do see some insight into Beane’s past and see the drama of Beane’s life unfold. But I never found this drama very compelling. This leaves the actual baseball statistics of the film. I don’t care about baseball, but I did find some of the insight that Peter Brand brought pretty interesting, at least at first. The problem is the film relies on that so much that my interest gradually waned.

 

A big part of the blame has to go to director Bennett Miller. To add on to the already not very interesting story is the extremely slow pace. At times the film just felt like it dragged on and on. Compare this film to the Aaron Sorkin penned The Social Network. The characters spend a lot of the time talking about things I don’t care about and yet I was constantly engrossed with what was going on. Part of that was because the characters were interesting, but also because David Fincher brought a sense of intensity and excitement to everything with his direction. I’m not saying the direction in Moneyball is bad, in fact the film is well made in the technical sense. It just doesn’t have any passion or excitement.

What saves the film, apart from Sorkin’s dialogue, is the performances. Everyone in the cast delivers a good performance. Brad Pitt is great as Billy Beane. Despite my problems with the drama coming from his story, Pitt still managed to win me over and I did find myself rooting for him. For most of the film, Beane keeps his emotions on the inside through most of the film, only having it come through in short bursts. Pitt does an excellent job trying to keep his emotions inside and makes Beane a far more intriguing character than he seems in real life. I also really liked how Pitt balanced the comedic side of the character, as well as the deeper and more personal side.

The supporting cast is great too. Jonah Hill is popular for his comedic roles in films like Superbad. The character he plays here does have some funny moments, but is mostly a serious character. I really like the way Hill played Peter Brand as an awkward nerd who is also very good at what he does. Philip Seymour Hoffman also has a nice small role as the manager of the Oakland Athletics who doesn’t approve of Beane and Brand’s methods. I was worried they’d make him the default villain of the film, but thankfully they didn’t. While Hoffman isn’t given much to do, it’s Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s almost always great. There’s a lot of great bit parts here and there too, like Beane’s daughter, the scouts for Oakland, and the players on the team. I must admit I do find it odd that Robin Wright is here playing Beane’s ex-wife and is given next to nothing. Why did they bother getting Robin Wright if they weren’t going to use her? Unless of course there’s a bunch of cut footage.

If one looks at good sports films, one will notice that most of the good ones aren’t really about the sports. Raging Bull isn’t about boxing, it’s about a man who’s rage and inner-demons pushes away his loved ones. This year’s Warrior isn’t about mixed-martial arts, it’s about how two brothers drifted apart and where they ended up. Moneyball is about baseball, plain and simple. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll likely really enjoy it. Otherwise, then I’d recommend this film as a rental, or at best a low matinee. Apart from the acting, there isn’t anything special about Moneyball.

Rating: C

Release date: September 9th, 2011

Running time: 106 minutes

Written by: Scott Z. Burns

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Movies about the end of the world have always been popular. Films have predicted our end at the hands of robots, aliens, nuclear war, even apes. Sometimes the most effective apocalyptic films are the ones with simple explanations of our destruction, like Children of Men. While that film showed mass infertility as the threat to human existence, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion presents an even simpler threat; a virus.

I haven’t seen a Soderbergh film in a long time, but Contagion was still one of my most anticipated films of the year. The premise intrigued me and the cast looked awesome. I also loved the marketing for the film. The posters looked cool and the trailer was badass. So going into Contagion, I truly expected to see one of the best films of the year.

The plot is very simple. A viral outbreak starts to occur in countries all over the world and people start dropping like flies. The film follows several people as they try to deal with the outbreak. These include Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) who’s wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) was one of the first people infected, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), a doctor investigating the virus who sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to investigate, a blogger named Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), and more.

It doesn’t take long for the virus to break out. However, it does take the film awhile to catch up. There’s a certain tension I found missing from the first half of the film. The pace of the film in general was off. The film doesn’t do the best job balancing all these characters. I love Marion Cotillard, but her character did not need to be in this, and to a certain extent, neither did Kate Winslet. On top of that, none of these stories are brought to a real satisfying conclusion.

With that said, all of the actors do a very good job. Matt Damon and Jude Law in particular sold out. Matt Damon plays a very quiet character who has to hold a lot of pain inside. It’s a subtle performance, but I found it very compelling. Jude Law plays a more colourful character, an eccentric blogger fighting against the big corporations. Law is a lot of fun to watch and the fact that he leaves a mark while being in such a star studded cast is a testament to how good he is. I have no complaints about the cast though, I thought everyone was good.

While the film could be hit or miss, when it did hit, it hit hard. I loved all the scenes where the world started really going to hell. They were tense, dark, and scary. The major reason for this is Soderbergh’s direction. While I think he struggled to make a consistent film, the man did put together some damn good scenes. The film actually works very well on a technical level. I found the cinematography gorgeous, in a very dark way, and the music really haunting. Individual scenes are cut very well, even if the overall pacing is off.

The film does attempt to have some deeper themes. One of which is the way fear and depression can break a society. I do find these interesting, but I felt the film could have done more with this. A theme I did find coming across well was the power social media has in our world. This is shown through Jude Law’s character, who gains a considerable amount of power through his website after the virus breaks.

There’s a lot to like about Contagion, I would even say there’s a lot to love. But the film has trouble balancing so many characters, the pacing is off, it takes too long for the film to kick into high gear, and the their isn’t any resolution to any of the character’s stories. I like Contagion, but it feels like it could have been a lot better.

Rating: B

Release date: August 31st, 2011

Running time: 114 Minutes

Written by: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, and Peter Straughan

Based on: The screenplay Ha-Hov by Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum

Directed by: John Madden

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, and Jesper Christensen

Going into The Debt, I expected a solid thriller. The trailer was intriguing, it come from writers who I had a good track record with, I liked the cast, and the film had received some strong reviews. What I didn’t expect was that The Debt would be one of the better movies I’ve seen this year.

The film revolves around three former Mossad agents, Rachel (Helen Mirren), Stefan (Ciarán Hinds), and David (Tom Wilkinson). The three are famous for an assignment they had in the 60′s where they went into East Berlin where they captured and killed a famous Nazi doctor (Jesper Christensen). The film cuts between the trio in Berlin (where Rachel is played by Jessica Chastain, and Stefan and David by Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington, respectively) and the trio in 1997 where they are played by the older actors.

Most of the time is spent with the younger actors. All do a great job, with Chastain and Worthington really shining. Chastain does a good job playing a young and vulnerable girl who winds up being psychologically toyed with by the Nazi doctor. She also does a good job showing the inner turmoil Rachel goes through. Sam Worthington plays a driven and intense soldier, determined to see justice done. Worthington does an excellent job with the role and shows the strain it has on him very effectively.

All of the older actors do a fantastic job portraying the negative effects their assignment had on them. You get a deep sense that these people have seen and done things that really changed them forever. Finally, we have Jesper Christensen as the Nazi doctor. His character was amazing, and Christensen plays him to perfection. He’s creepy and dangerous, but equally smart and treacherous. All in all, it’s a great cast and I might even say some performances are awards worthy.

Director John Madden (not that John Madden) brings a lot of atmosphere and tone to the film. The film is tense throughout, especially a portion where the three are trapped in an apartment for weeks with the Nazi. There’s also a lot of clever set pieces. Some are more straight forward action scenes and others are more quiet stealth scenes. The film is aided by some tight editing and good cinematography. It’s elements like this that make The Debt a great spy film.

But The Debt isn’t content to settle with just being a good spy thriller, the film has something to say. The film deals with an interesting theme, how sometimes doing what is right is compromised for the sake of convenience. Earlier this year The Conspirator dealt with a similar theme, but The Debt handles this in a far better and more subtle way. The film also deals with some smaller and more personal themes such as dealing with guilt. This is what elevates The Debt to new levels.

If I have one problem with The Debt, it’s the ending. Throughout the film, nothing happened that I didn’t like. But I thought the ending felt a little off. It’s not a horrible end, but I don’t feel like it lived up to the rest of the film. Now this might change on further viewings. There are films like The Social Network where I didn’t like the ending on first viewing, but came around to it later on.

Great performances, great direction, an intelligent script with some good twists, and material that takes itself seriously. The slow pace may turn some people off, but I found The Debt a riveting and intense thriller that I hope won’t be forgotten. One of my favourites of this year.

Rating: A

Release date: April 15th, 2011

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Written by: James D. Solomon

Directed by: Robert Redford

Starring: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Justin Long, and Evan Rachel Wood

The Conspirator is a film that opened to weak reviews and did very little at the box office. While I usually don’t rely on reviews for if I’ll see a film or not, the negative reviews definitely didn’t help. Plus, I thought the trailer was kinda clunky. But I stumbled across the DVD today and decided to rent it. I must say, I really regret not giving this a chance in theaters.

The plot revolves around the trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) a middle-aged woman charged with conspiring to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Being a Southerner, it seems impossible for her to get a fair trial. Fred Aiken (James McAvoy) is assigned by his mentor (Tom Wilkinson) to defend Mary in court. Fred is reluctant as he believes her as guilty as John Wilkes Booth. But as Fred begins to defend her, he slowly begins to believe her innocence.

James McAvoy leads the film with a charismatic performance. He’s very likable and watching his character change opinions as the film goes on is very satisfying. McAvoy had a great performance in this year’s X-Men: First Class, but his performance here is even better. Robin Wright is also quite good as Mary Surratt, the woman being tried. She does a good job showing the pain her character feels as well as showing her motherly side. You can’t help but feel a lot of sympathy for her character. Tom Wilkinson also has a fantastic supporting bit and I liked Evan Rachel Wood. The rest of the cast is competent. Danny Huston is playing the same type of role as he does in pretty much everything these days, whereas Justin Long and Alexis Bledel aren’t really given much to do.

The story itself is pretty good, but it stumbles here and there. The overall plot is very interesting. Watching Fred essentially square off against a corrupt prosecution is pretty interesting, but he also has to go up against his old client. At first, it’s because he doubts her innocence. As the film progresses, Fred finds an angle he can play with the best chances of Mary going free. But it involves crossing a line Mary refuses to go (I won’t spoil it), so he has to fight her on that. The story, while based on historical facts, is not such a well known story that the average person will know how it ends. As such, the movie is very engaging based on that alone. But the story does stumble a bit. The film introduces story elements that never really go anywhere. The major one is the film keep suggesting that Fred’s life will begin to fall apart because of his involvement in Mary’s case. It’s implied his professional, political, and social life could all be destroyed, along with his relationship with his girlfriend (Alexis Bledel). But this never really goes anywhere.

One of the film’s biggest strengths is in some of it’s themes. The film is making a statement about the rights of citizens even in times of war. About the battle between justice and convenience. And most importantly, how the American constitution sometimes takes a backseat to the politics of the times. All these are very relevant to are times and are handled over all well. Unfortunately, the film becomes a bit too obvious with it’s message. At times there is no subtlety and characters just flat out tell you what the themes are.

It has it’s imperfections, but I don’t understand why this film was thrown under the bus by critics. It has some very good acting, especially from Wright and McAvoy, an interesting story, and some very important themes about society. It could have been handled better, but The Conspirator is a very good film that will go down as a hidden gem of 2011.

Rating: B+

“Movie of the Month” is a new series where every month I select one film I watched that given month and do something of a review. The movie I pick may not necessarily be the best movie I see that month, just any movie that I feel like talking about. I don’t know if HT Schuyler will participate in this since I haven’t actually ran this by him, but if he’s reading, consider this an invitation to also post your own “Movies of the Month.”For my first month, I chose the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder.

Release date: November 2nd, 1990

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Written by: Bruce Joel Rubin

Directed by: Adrian Lyne

Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, and Jason Alexander

Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a U.S. soldier during the Vietnam war. One day he and his squad are attacked and Jacob is injured. Jacob is then brought home, Brooklyn, New York, but Jacob’s nightmare is far from over. Jacob begins to see several grotesque hallucinations and begins to doubt his own sanity. On top of that, he’s struggling with the memory of his son (Macaulay Culkin), his relationship with his ex-wife (Patricia Kalember), and doesn’t know if he can trust his current girlfriend (Elizabeth Pena).

A good movie to compare this to would be last year Oscar nominee Black Swan. Like Black Swan, Jacob’s Ladder is a psychological thriller where the audience questions what is reality and what isn’t. And like Black Swan, the main character’s own sanity is questioned. The film is never clear on what is actually happening and what isn’t. Some may say that without some bases in reality the film is brought down. They do have a point, but the confusing nature of the story allows for some stylish cinematography and directing. Everything has a very dark and uncomfortable look to it, with some scenes standing out as being especially creepy.

Tim Robbins carries the film as Jacob. Robbins has a reputation as a fantastic actor for roles in The Shawshank Redemption and Mystic River. While his performance in this isn’t on that high a level, he’s still quite good. He reacts to all the craziness around him properly and he manages to elicit a lot of sympathy from the audience. The rest of the cast is also good, but this isn’t really an actor’s movie so much as it is a playground for the director.

And like I said, the direction is stylish and fantastic. Adrian Lyne creates a very atmospheric film where you never feel comfortable, especially after the attack in Vietnam. There’s a lot of extremely creepy set pieces, my favourites being the dance scene and the hospital scene. The entire film is grotesque, horrific, and uncomfortable.

But unfortunately, it’s effectiveness hurt the film when it was first released. Audiences and critics where polarized by the horrifying images on screen. As dark as Black Swan was, it also featured a lot of beautiful dance scenes. There isn’t anything beautiful in Jacob’s Ladder. Even film critic Roger Ebert, while admitting Jacob’s Ladder to be a good film, said he found it uncomfortable and didn’t enjoy watching it. This is a good point. The movie doesn’t hold back and for that reason isn’t for everyone. Personally I appreciated how uncomfortable the film was and it elevated the whole thing.

If I had one big complaint with the film it’s the ending. As complex and confusing as the film is, I still managed to predict the ending fairly early on. There are tons of films where I can predict the ending, but it hurt this film more than it does others. Mainly because the film was so deep and complex that I was expecting a lot more from my ending. Granted, the way the ending ties into the central theme of the film was very clever.

October is coming, and I know a lot of people like to watch horror films for Halloween. If you want to see something unique and with some deep themes then I would recommend Jacob’s Ladder. It’s dark, confusing, but also deep and in some ways cathartic. It isn’t perfect, and there were some parts where I felt it dragged, but it’s still a great film that I think I’ll probably enjoy more on further viewings.

Rating: A-