Recent Releases – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days

Posted in Recent Releases with tags , , , , , , on August 4, 2008 by themoviecult

Directed by: Christian Mungiu
Starring: Laura Vasiliu, Anamaria Marinca

In the 1980’s in Romania, abortions are illegal. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days centres on Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), a young student who is helping her friend, Gbia (Laura Vasiliu), have an abortion. Otilia is forced to question her values and decide how far she is willing to go to help a friend out.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is, emotionally, a potent film. The main characters go through a range of emotions as they deal with breaking the law and acting outside of their moral framework – in more ways than just the dilemma of terminating a foetus. All the while, the minor characters both influence and are influenced by the decisions of the main characters. Really complex, and effective storytelling.

Writer and director, Christian Mungiu, has a great shooting style. At crucial moments, his scenes are silent and tense. His takes are often long, and complex. The camera is a little shaky – all of the motion is freehand – but this only adds to the atmosphere, tension, and increases viewer involvement.

The filming style naturally requires talented actors, because the camera relentlessly sticks with the characters when things get tense. They’re followed closely, their every reaction caught. The actors’ performances are excellent, pretty much without exception. It is hard not to have any empathy for the main characters – or in one case to loathe them.

This is a character orientated piece, and it’s subtle at times. If you can’t stand a slowly paced character driven drama, this one might not be for you. It does, however, feature great performances and is handled by a writer/director with talent.

Ahead of the Pack #1

Posted in Ahead of the Pack with tags , , , , , , , on July 22, 2008 by themoviecult

Superbad follows three friends over the course of one day at high school. They are invited to a small party by some ladies, and offer to get them some booze with a fake id. Things don’t go to plan, and they end up on a crazy adventure into the night – evading policemen, and trying to find alcohol.

Ask some of your friends whether they like Superbad. If they say no, chances are that they didn’t drink in high school. They can’t relate to the movie because they can’t understand the characters and the situations – they’ve never been scared shitless and underage in a liquor store, and they’ve never gone for one of those long, adventurous drunken walks. Superbad is a memory, a kickback to your high school days, when you were less mature, and your priorities were different. If you liked Superbad, it is probably because the main characters in the movie are similar to your high school friends, or at least people you knew around the schoolyard. Same interests, same sense of humour, same preoccupations.

There’s no relating to the main characters in many other teen movies. They’re mostly unrealistic and take themselves far too seriously. Many teen movies define the characters as nerds, or jocks, and leave no area for complexity and evolution.

The high school experience that the films portray is also wildly different from the typical high school experience. Aspects are warped and exaggerated to make the films more appealing, or to allow the themes to fit in. Most teen movie screenwriters also don’t seem to understand that love and the daily routine of life during teenage translate to trivial, boring films. Portrayal of teen angst is annoying, yet it seems to be the cornerstone of the genre. The screenwriters have tried to find a unique vantage point for teen movies, but have failed miserably.

Of course, this is generalisation. Some teen movies are heavy in one of the err departments, and light in others. At any rate, in terms of characters, realism, and humour, Superbad is superb, much better than the rest of the market.

This is what happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by themoviecult

If I’m still writing this thing in five to ten years time, I will talk about Batman 2: The Dark Knight. I’m not going to go into too much detail here. This is out of the ordinary. I don’t usually talk about new films.

I don’t want to be a wanker – I’m not going to exaggerate and call the new Batman movie perfect… Perfection isn’t attainable.

I’m in love with Nolan. He’s amazing. I’ve watched his early work, and seen the talent. I’ve seen him get better and better with each film. The Dark Knight is a landmark film for Nolan in terms of characters, plot, dialogue, concepts and themes. The Joker was everything I hoped he would be, and none of my fears for him became an actuality. The connection between Batman and Joker, and the insight into the Joker’s mind is there, and it works so well. Almost everything else is great as well.

The wait, the hype, the anticipation. It was all worth it. Go out and see the movie.

Cult Scenes #2

Posted in Cult Scenes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2008 by themoviecult

The Devil\'s Advocate

The Movie
The Devil’s Advocate – Taylor Hackford’s 1997 adaptation of Andrew Neiderman’s novel; a tale of Good Vs Evil. Well-written, with the dialogue and camera angles almost completely tailored to the themes of the movie, including many little extra touches; enough to make re-watching enjoyable.

The Context
Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is a criminal defendant from Florida that never looses – even when he is representing a guilty party. He has been invited to work for a big law firm in New York because of his perfect record.

He has just won his first case with the firm – defending a man named Moyez, who was ritualistically sacrificing a goat. In the street, he talks to the head of the law firm, John Milton (Al Pacino). Kevin has no clue yet that his boss is Satan and he wants Kevin’s soul.

Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) and John Milton (Al Pacino)

Scene (Warning: Language)

EXT. CANAL STREET (CHINATOWN) – DAY

Milton (Al Pacino) and Kevin (Keanu Reeves) are standing at a food stall. Milton pays for Kevin’s food.

MILTON
Best street food in the world.
Try that. Tell me it isn’t great.
(as Kevin eats)
New York. What a scene, right?
Guy like Moyez living in that
subterranean shithole all the
time he’s running around with
fifteen million dollars in the
bank.

KEVIN
You gotta be kidding.

MILTON
What do you think? We’re giving
you away? He’s paying us in
goat’s blood? I’m billing you
out at four-hundred an hour, my
friend. I don’t see a whole lot
of pro bono work in your
immediate future.
(buzzing here)
Seriously, what I like, you got in
there with him. Inside the cage.
That’s instinct. Can’t be taught.
You gotta hear that on your own.
It’s gotta be in your blood. It’s
molecular. I bet I’ve got five
thousand lawyers working around
the planet. I couldn’t name
ten — couldn’t name three —
I’d trust with Moyez.

KEVIN
So what the hell are they doing?

MILTON
What are they doing? They’re
corporate lawyers, what do
you think they’re doing? They’re
busy reducing life and death to
the proper position of a semi-
colon. They’re doing needlepoint.
Push button battles. Push button
wars. Armies that get so fucking
far away from each other they
need satellites to tell them
who won. No pain. No sound.
No smell. One big, multinational
circle jerk. You, on the other
hand, you’re on the slaughterhouse
floor. You can’t help but smell
your clients.

KEVIN
I figure you came to court to
make sure I didn’t fuck this up.

MILTON
Maybe I did. But don’t get too
cocky. No matter how good you
are. Don’t let them see you
coming. That’s the gaff, my
friend — make yourself small.
Be the hick. The cripple. The
nerd. The leper. The shit-
kicking surfer. Look at me —
I’ve been underestimated from
day one. Do I look like a
master of the universe? That’s
your only weakness as far as I
can tell.

KEVIN
What’s that?

MILTON
The look. The Florida stud thing.
‘Scuse me, ma’am, did I leave my
boots under your bed?’

KEVIN
Never worked a jury didn’t have a
woman.

MILTON
You know what you’re missing?
What I have? This beautiful girl
she’s just fucked me every way
she knows how — we’re done —
she’s walking to the bathroom —
she turns — she looks —
It’s me. Not the trojan army that
just fucked her. Little old me
And she gets a look on her face,
like “How’d that just happen?”
Right there, from that moment on,
she’s got a secret. I’m the hand
up Mona Lisa’s skirt. I’m the
whisper in Nefertitti’s ear.
I’m a surprise. They never see
me coming. That’s what you’re
missing.

Milton and Kevin depart from the stall.

(This is just one of the many great monologues from John Milton in the film. If you’ve seen the film, or don’t care about spoilers, you can watch the final monologue, here – Warning: Language.)

Amazing Movies You Must Watch #2

Posted in Amazing Movies that you Must Watch with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by themoviecult

Sex, Lies, and Video  Tape

Sex, Lies, and Videotape is an explicit drama about the sex lives of four people, released in 1989.  Written and directed by the sometimes amazing Steven Soderbergh, and starring great character actors in the main roles, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, is a great example of independent cinema.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape has a complex, character-driven plot.  It starts with John Mullany (Peter Gallagher) and his wife, Anne Bishop Mullany (Andie MacDowell), who are living in a weak, loveless relationship.  Anne is sexually repressed, and John is having an affair with her sister, Cynthia Patrice Bishop (Laura San Giacomo).  John’s old friend, Graham Dalton (James Spader), is back in town and comes to stay with the couple.  Right away, he seems unusual.  Graham learns about all of the characters, but as hard as he tries, he is unable to keep from revealing himself to them.

Graham and Anne

There’s more to it, and it’s all about Graham’s unusual sexual fetish – but summarising it here would spoil a lot of the fun and enjoyment Sex, Lies, and Videotape has to offer.  It is near impossible to guess what may happen next in Sex, Lies, and Videotape – Soderbergh’s script keeps its twists close to its chest.  The ending of the movie, itself, is as satisfying as the brilliant build-up deserves.
 
The writing in Sex, Lies, and Videotape is superb.  The realistic dialogue is almost perfectly unique to each character, and used to help track their growth.  While the love triangle aspect of the film’s writing had happened in many movies before (and has in many since), Graham’s character is amazingly fresh.  His peculiarity makes for an explosive catalyst to the story.

Cynthia

Do see this film if you get the chance to, because it is an amazing display of writing, acting, and directing coming together to great something brilliant.

Article: Top 5 of Slacker Cinema

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by themoviecult

Slacker Title

Slacker Cinema has been prospering for decades, possibly because we enjoy watching loveable, charismatic characters with potential waste their life and dodge responsibility.

Some think that Richard Linklater’s 1991 independent film, Slacker, was responsible for the creation of the slacker film.  The movie wasn’t the first to feature slackers, but it has certainly played a major part in inspiring the tradition.

With Slacker Superhero movie Hancock hitting cinemas in early July, you’ll need a refresher course on the influence lazy, futureless characters have had on cinema. Let’s take a look at the upper echelon.  Here’s the “top five” of Slacker Cinema.

#5 Will Hunting

Will Hunting, from Good Will Hunting

From…

Good Will Hunting.  Written by and starring both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.  Directed by Gus Van Sant.  Released in 1997.

The Slacker

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a young and brilliant mind, able to understand the most advanced mathematical concepts better than anyone has in a long while.  He is a prodigy, predicted to be able to offer as much to the world as Einstein did.  Unfortunately for the world, Will Hunting lives only to waste his life away as a janitor, get drunk and start fights, like a true slacker.

Great Slacker Moment

This is the correct way to intentionally botch a job interview:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOtVg05JLPc&hl=en

#4 Randal Graves

Randal Graves, from Clerks (and Clerks 2)

From…

Clerks.  An independent hit and one of the classics of Slacker Cinema.  Director, Kevin Smith’s first movie.  Released in 1994.

The Slacker

Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) is a typical slacker in that he has no motivation.  He also doesn’t care about anyone but himself.  He spends his life working in a video store.  He is unpunctual, unfriendly, and careless.  He has no problem closing the store for five minutes during his shift to have a chat with the guy at the nearby convenience store, and he has no problem telling rude customers where to go.

Great Slacker Moment

This clip conveys Randall’s attitude to work perfectly:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8H7wUKryrw&hl=en

#3 Smokey

Smokey, from Friday

From…

Friday.  The classic comedy starring gangster rapper, Ice Cube, and crazy funny man, Chris Tucker.  Released in 1995.

The Slacker

Friday is not the only day of the week Smokey (Chris Tucker) has nothing to do.  He is an irresponsible, carefree dope smoker.  He deals drugs, unsuccessfully.  When not not working, Smokey spends his days sitting around, getting high, and making fun of the locals.  He never has any short term plans, and just like a good slacker, he is either unwilling or unable to plan for his future.

Great Slacker Moment

Smokey, doing what he does best:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYvuoGC8k5E

#2 Peter La Fleur

A True Underdog Story

From…

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.  The 2002 sports comedy, starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.  Directed by newcomer writer/director, Rawson Marshall Thurber.

The Slacker

The smart ass, carefree Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn) is a loveable gym owner who frequently turns up to work hung over.  He can, because he owns the place.  La Fleur likes to quit, because slackers don’t do hard things.  An inspiration to slackers everywhere, his motivation is beautiful: “I found out that if you have a goal, you might not reach it.  But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed.”

Great Slacker Moment

La Fleur converses with Lance Armstrong (who can’t act) about quitting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNJTDt9d6Kk

#1 The Knocked Up Gang

The gang, from Knocked Up

From…

Knocked Up.  The romantic comedy for both women and men.  Written and directed by comedy genius, Judd Apatow.  Released in 2007.

The Slackers

Ben (Seth Rogen), Jonah (Jonah Hill), Jay (Jason Segel), and Martin (Martin Starr) all happily live together in a share house.  They like nothing more than to waste their time getting high, mucking around, and talking about movies.  Mostly, they have no jobs, and no ambitions, and thus are the royalty of slackers.

Great Slacker Moment

Practical jokes around can have their dangers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W56WagyhEAY&feature=related

Cult Scenes #1

Posted in Cult Scenes with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2008 by themoviecult

Natural Born Killers

The Movie
Oliver Stone’s bizarre satire on public obsession with crime, made in 1994: Natural Born Killers.  It contains excessive violence, and is shot in Stone’s trademark style, with many different cameras and lenses used.  It follows a young couple in love, Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson), and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis), on a cross-country killing spree, spurred on by media coverage.

Behind the Scenes
The script for Natural Born Killers was originally written by Quentin Tarrantino, and it was meant to be a 60’s style crime romp.  The screenplay was sold to Oliver Stone, who revised it to make it comment on the media and television’s impact over the serial killers, rather than follow a shallow crime/comedy story. 

On the director’s commentary, Stone said that he looked past Tarrantino’s obsession with the 60’s to make it cover all eras of American television and popular culture, because it added context to the story of the couple.

Oliver Stone also made the story focus on the serial killers, rather than smug journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jnr) – changing the duo from being ordinary people to being social outcasts with broken childhoods.  Stone kept most of Tarrantino’s trademark dialogue.

Quentin Tarrantino disliked the movie that was made from the script he had crafted, so much so that the requested to have his name removed from the credits.  The film lists Tarrantino under the “story by” credit.

Mickey and Mallory Knox

The Context
Well into the killing spree, Mickey and Mallory Knox are weak and lost in the desert.  They stumble upon an old Indian’s hut, and the Indian takes them in.  This scene comes just before the turning point in the movie, where the Indian chants in an attempt to remove the demons from Mickey.

The Scene
(You can find the Parable – without sound – here)

INT. INDIAN’S HUT – NIGHT 

Mickey and Mallory are at the door.

INDIAN
Come on in.

He motions for them to sit in an overstuffed chair.

MALLORY
Thank you (pointing to herself)  I’m Mall-o –
ry…That’s Mi…ckey.

Everyone nods and smiles.  An Indian boy comes in and sits next to the Indian.

INDIAN (in navajo to the Boy)
Good looking woman…uh…Man’s got things in
his head he can’t get out…demons.  Too much
TV…Trouble follows that one.

MICKEY (to Mallory)
This is like the twilight zone or something.

LATER:
 
Mickey is deliriously sleeping, and Mallory is silently looking around the room. The boy and the old man converse in Navajo.

INDIAN BOY
Can you help them grandpa?

INDIAN
Maybe they don’t want to be helped.  They both
fly too close to sun.  Now they are falling to
earth.  That is why they have come here.  My
prayers would mean nothing in their world.

A snake is crawling over to the Indian who reaches down and picks it up and puts in his lap.

INDIAN
Once there was a woman who went out to
collect firewood.

The Indian stokes the fire.

INDIAN
She came upon a poisonous snake
frozen in the snow.  She took the snake
home with her.  She put the frozen snake
on her favorite blanket by the warm fire.
She fed it and nursed it back to health.  One
day she picked the snake up and it bit her on
the cheek.  As she lay dying she asked the
snake, I loved you, why have you done this to
me?  The snake answered, “look bitch, you knew
I was a snake.”

The Indian and the boy chuckle. The Indian takes the snake to the door and puts it down.

INDIAN
Old man, go be a snake.