Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) review [Revisited]


     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a fantastic film by itself with brilliant performances, script, and film-making. However, in comparison to its source material, it falls a tad flat and unreliable, We lose so many key elements of the theme in the onscreen transition, but gain clarification for the more underlying ones.

PLOT: Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is transferred from a prison work farm to a mental institution after the authorities determine him potentially insane. The asylum, led by the all-powerful Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), takes McMurphy in for an observation period in which he decides to attempt to turn everything upside down and take over. From day one in the asylum, McMurphy tries to manipulate the patients and get under the Nurse's skin. McMurphy tries to prove his insanity, by doing things such as imagining the World Series and teaching the deaf Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) to play basketball. From here on, it's a straight battle between McMurphy and the Nurse as well as between thought control and mental liberation. The plot, just as in the novel, is excellently crafted and well-thought out. The film adds its own twists on a few things, neglecting ones from the book, but nevertheless clarifying a few things the audience may have missed in reading the novel.

ACTING: All of the performances in this film are brilliant and well-worthy of their recognition. The great Jack Nicholson acts in what may be his best role in comparison to The Shining in the eighties. Through his portrayal, the audience is led to believe that no one could have done it any better. Nobody could have been as loud, proud and insane in such a way as he was in this film. Louise Fletcher also did a fantastic job, responding to Nicholson's character accurately as possible. She probably fits the novel's portrayal of her more accurately than Nicholson as McMurphy. Other key performances in this film would include early roles from acting legends Christopher Lloyd as tough-guy Taber and Danny DeVito as the disconnected Martini. Other great performances include Scatman Crothers as nurse's aide Turkle, Syndey Lassick as anxious Charlie Cheswick, William Redfield as the wise Mr. Harding, Will Sampson as Chief Bromden, and (introducing) Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit. This film for the most part felt like a huge character study with all of these personalities poured into a huge melting pot for the audience to kind of take in and study. Learning how each character reacts is probably the best part of the film.

SCORE: The score was also professionally done by master composer, Jack Nitzsche. The main theme occurring at the beginning and the end of the film is probably one of the most, unique, fitting, and memorable pieces of composition ever made for film. It's truly a beautiful piece, as is the rest of the score by Nitzsche.

OTHER CONTENT: This film can definitely stand on its own without the novel, for the two sources almost feel like very different pieces of artwork when compared. So much is lost in the transition from page-to-film, such as the Chief's all-seeing narration, some of the novel's risky signals of theme, and ample explanation for certain key events in the plot. However, the film gains clarification for irony's role in the source and how each of these crazy characters function under the Nurse's rule. One can clearly see the transition within the patients and how the ones actually committed and not voluntary seem to be the most sane. Both the film and the novel are equally as powerful, but the novel just has so much to offer in substance. The film just makes up for it in form.

     One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is as strong a film as it was a novel. Each has its own set of similarities and differences, but each works with what it sets up excellently. Through every character, word, and shot of this film, we are introduced to a story that means so much more than is revealed. In the transition, one could even say pertaining to both compositions, one flew east and one flew west. But indeed, one definitely flew over the cuckoo's nest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Office Space (1999) review


     Comedic icon, Mike Judge, makes his directorial debut in Office Space, a workplace satire as true and razor-sharp as his previous animated projects. The movie, though full of great performances and an attention-catching plot, falls at times with Judge's typical hit-and-miss jokes and an overall feeling of underachievement. So much more could have been done with what the audience was provided with.

PLOT: Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) lives a fairly normal life working in an office in the city. Every day has grown to seem the same to Peter, even with the constant reprimands his many bosses give him. One day after being hypnotized by a psychiatrist, Peter has a revelation and realizes that he no longer wants work to rule his life. Peter begins to miss days of work and barely work at all while on the job, but they don't fire him. In fact, in an employee evaluation, they promote him as to "provide him an incentive." Peter doesn't mind this at first until he finds out the big bosses will be laying off his two friends, non-singer Michael Bolton (David Herman) and foreign Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu). In rebellion towards the company, the three come up with a clever scheme to unknowingly steal money from company funds. However, things go wrong and the team must figure out how to cover up their tracks. The plot idea is very clever and executed in a sharp and clean-cut way. Everything is done in a smooth and smart way. However, as far as the humor goes, the jokes are hit-and-miss. Director Mike Judge does what he has done in his previous animated shows (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill), which is making sly satirical jokes that don't always work. The movie, nevertheless, is still an intelligent comedy with some extremely memorable quotes and characters.

ACTING: The performances in this movie were actually really great. Some of the characters portrayed engrave their infamous lines and personalities on the audience in such a memorable way. Rob Livingson, Gary Cole (Lumbergh, Peter's boss), and Stephen Root (Milton, the stapler guy) all play their consecutive roles in an extremely unique, memorable, and funny way. Aside from these poster faces, the rest of the cast did great as well. Jennifer Aniston (Joanna, Peter's girlfriend), Diedrich Bader (Lawrence, Peter's neighbor), and John C. McGinly (Bob Slydell, one of the company's big bosses) also all played stand-out roles in which each's dialogue and characters shine.

SCORE: The soundtrack is mainly made up of rap songs from around the time period, such as "Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" and "Still" from the Geto Boys as well as other hits from rappers like Ice Cube and Scarface. If one doesn't like rap, the soundtrack won't intrigue that person. However, the soundtrack does have an effect on the movie, making every major scene more ironically hilarious.

OTHER CONTENT: Office Space makes itself known as an intelligent and amazingly memorable, but suffers from both its hit-and-miss humor and the overall feeling that everything starts to rush. After the basic plot and conflict are set up, the action just seems to fall too fast. It takes half the movie to set up the plot and conflict, so the movie overall feels short and underdone or like more could have been done with it. It almost feels like the writers ran out of ideas midway through the movie and just rushed to end it. The movie is still a classic, memorable comedy, but definitely not short of problematic.

     Mike Judge delivers to the audience another sharp comedy with hit-and-miss humor, but in an iconic movie form rather than in another animated series. Office Space is very smart and memorable addition to the list of most-quoted comedies. The movie is very good. However,if  it didn't feel so underdone and laden with the typical hit-and-miss humor, that'd be great.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rabbit Hole (2010) review


     Rabbit Hole boasts an accurate portrayal of the harshness of reality and a talented set of performers able to get this point across. This film studying the aftermath of child loss is emotionally powerful yet a tad underdeveloped, lacking strong character development and a cogent beginning.

PLOT: Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) lost their toddler-age son eight months ago in a car crash, and each is learning to cope with it and move on. Becca is fully committed to putting all of this behind her, but Howie is still holding on to the past more than he should. Though the couple goes to a community-led recovery group every week, neither of them seems to truly recover. To cope, Becca starts meeting and making amends with the teenage driver of the car, Jason (Miles Teller), and Howie starts to smoke pot with Gabby (Sandra Oh) from the recovery group in lieu of going to the actual recovery group. As their marriage and life fall apart, Becca and Howie must learn how to get past the sadness and move on. The plot isn't the most complicated but definitely not lacking excellence. The plot is executed in such a way that with every twist and turn, the audience can feel what the character feels. When one breaks down, we feel it too. When something embarrassing happens, we feel just as embarrassed as the characters in the audience. When things finally come back together, we feel just as relieved as Becca and Howie do. Director John Cameron Mitchell does an excellent job in crafting a film full of emotion.

ACTING: The performances in this film are very well done, with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart stealing the show. Kidman and Eckhart play off each other almost perfectly. Though not the most picturesque couple, the two truly make us believe they were married and in this situation. So much power is expressed through the many memorable scenes just the two of them share. Aside from the main two, Sandra Oh, Miles Teller, and also Dianne Wiest (Becca's mother) and Tammy Blanchard (Beccas sister, Izzy) also did excellent jobs with their parts. Wiest would definitely have to be the the next best after Kidman and Eckhart, putting almost as much emotion into her part as the two leads combined do.

SCORE: The score behind Rabbit Hole is very soft and beautiful. Composer Anton Sanko, who now composes score for modern horror movies (The Possession, Ouija), is presenting what may be his best work yet. Through a a soft-and-simple yet quirky tone, he fits the mood of the film just right.

OTHER CONTENT: Rabbit Hole is overall an intelligent piece of work that leaves a severe emotional impact, but it suffers from a sense of under-development. The film doesn't really have a clear beginning or rising action. In fact, the film feels more like a strict character study than a film at all in some ways. The audience is so focused in on the main characters that they don't notice the fact that the plot seems to drag on until the couple's first fight. It's almost as if the viewer's hit by surprise when the scene comes around. I also believe the film suffers from a lack of backstory; all the audience really knows prior to this situation is that the couple's son is dead. The audience isn't given any information prior to this event but a short home video. I also don't feel like the writer of the screenplay got across the connection between the film's plot and title very well. It's understandable, but the audience doesn't ever know for sure. Maybe the writer crafted all of these flaws within intentionally, but this does not come without a cost.

     Rabbit Hole is a very curious and confusing film. The film packs a punch of painful emotion that everyone is able to feel, but it still feels under-developed. It seems a bit more like an unfinished character study, and it almost works. The performances and direction is truly what leads this film out of the rabbit hole and into the light.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Forrest Gump (1994) review


     Forrest Gump falls nothing short of the classic it wants to be. With an iconic performance by Tom Hanks, a story full of history, and an inspiring message behind it all, this film lives on as one of the most popular of its time and well-deserving of its many Academy Awards.

PLOT: Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is a simple man from Alabama with a small IQ and a big heart. Since he was little, Forrest had always dealt with problems from bullies to his scoliosis. However, things start to change for Forrest when he meets a young girl named Jenny (Robin Wright) and becomes best friends with her. Their relationship grows strong throughout history and the many events Forrest attends, but both eventually go their own ways. Forrest joins the military where he meets shrimp-enthusiast Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) and harsh Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise), whereas Jenny joins the hippie movement and travels the country freely. Throughout their time apart, each starts to realize how much they care for each other. For the rest of the film, we're guided through Forrest's life and roles in history as he goes with his intuition and realizes he eventually has to stop running. The plot is very well written and executed. All of Forrest's roles in important historical events make this feel both like lesson and a treat for history enthusiasts. Seeing how everything is connected and tied back to the meaning is simply amazing to watch.

ACTING: All of the performances in this film are perfect. Every performer acts to fit his or her character in such an accurate way. I couldn't picture anyone else playing any other character in this film, especially with Tom Hanks in his iconic role of the titular character, Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks almost acts as if he had really been Forrest his whole life. No role could have said any of his iconic lines better. Robin Wright, Mykelti Williamson, and Gary Sinise all played their roles just as excellently. Every performer in this film is fully-deserving of respect after each's consecutive roles in this film.

SCORE: The score for Forrest Gump is just as inspirational and uplifting as the overall film is. Talented composer Alan Silvestri takes the reigns in writing the background score for the film and does so in a simplistically fitting way. The soundtrack is also one of the best soundtracks in film history, with each addition fitting the decade it arose from in the film. From classics like "Hound Dog" from Elvis and "Can't Help Myself" from The Four Tops to classic rock hits like "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, Forrest Gump's soundtrack feels much like radio station made only for the classic rock generation.

EFFECTS: There aren't many special effects to focus on in Forrest Gump aside from the Vietnam sequences. The explosions are very realistically done with an impressive "wow" factor upon first viewing. Everything done effect wise in the Vietnam sequence is amazing. They aren't the best, but they definitely succeed in the entertainment factor.

OTHER CONTENT: Forrest Gump is truly a film with both a brain and a heart behind it. Through the many inclusions of the simple-minded titular character in history, the film slyly teaches a lesson on how no matter how small someone thinks he or she is, he or she has probably made a huge impact on one's life. Prestigious director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Cast Away, Romancing the Stone) shows his skills in making the film with a clean, unique understanding of  the points he wants to get across. This is also evident from the symbolic focus on the feather, which stands for the ups and downs life can take a person through. Everything in this film, from the screenplay to the specific script is well-crafted and aimed for cogent perfection.

     Forrest Gump is an iconic, memorable film for obvious reasons. There isn't a question about why it became as popular and award-winning as it did. Perfect performances, solid direction, a great soundtrack, and a clear expression of meaning lead this film into a sort of safe zone. Almost everyone enjoys it and can relate to it, critics and the general public alike. I'm not saying people can't hate the film, but if one looks at the big picture, one can't help but to enjoy it. Forrest Gump itself is like a "box of chocolates"; when watching it, you never know what you can get out of it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

American Beauty (1999) review [Revisited]


     American Beauty still remains to be one of the most thoughtful, controversial, and brilliantly executed films of all film history. After multiple views, the inner meaning and surreal approach to conveying this meaning become more cogent and true to real life's dysfunctions. Through the expert performances, intelligent script-writing, and visionary direction by Sam Mendes, American Beauty becomes as overwhelmingly beautiful as it seeks to be.

PLOT: Middle-aged man, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), is stuck in a rut in life. He's gotten in the same routine of fighting to keep the job he hates, being pushed around by his striving-for-success wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), and being hated by his angst-y teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch). Things change when Lester attends a high school basketball game to see Jane cheer and falls for Jane's preppy best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). Lester vicariously begins to recapture his youth by fantasizing about Angela before starting to physically and mentally change his life. He quits his job, starts smoking pot, starts to work out, and fights against his wife's bossy attitude. Meanwhile, Jane starts to unknowingly fall for the new neighbor, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley), who has an eye for the beauty in life and loves to film it. Ricky also starts selling pot to Lester against the wishes of Ricky's militaristic father, Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper), who is led to believe his son performs homosexual acts for cash. Carolyn, during all of this as well, begins to have an affair with a past lover (Peter Gallagher) as to restore her lost backbone. The plot is very bizarre, intricate, and executed professionally. Every event in this film fits together like a piece of a very beautiful, complicated puzzle. Through this execution, it becomes evident how much intelligent development was put into the overall composition of the film. Just a in a well-crafted novel, everything is developed intentionally.

ACTING: The performances in this film are all done excellently and accurately, with the actors matching their roles perfectly. Both Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening deliver iconic and believable performances of a couple who's marriage is quickly falling apart. As both characters grow in the film,  the audience feels that the struggles are as real to the actors as they are in the film. Thora Birch and Wes Bentley also deliver a realistic performance as the angst-y teen and visionary outcast. The two bring a unique approach to the idea of a real teenage couple. All performances in this film are excellent; not one falls short of respect.

SCORE: The score is very unique and quirky by awesome score composer, Thomas Newman. The score only adds to the film's feeling of being surrealistically beautiful. The soundtrack is just as memorable and fitting as the score, adding classic rock poster songs like “The Seeker” and “American Woman” and interesting covers from Annie Lennox (“Don't Let It Bring You Down”) and Elliot Smith (“Because”).

OTHER CONTENT: Everything about this is film is intelligent and beautiful in its own imperfect way. Even with this being his first film, it's clear that director Sam Mendes knew what he was doing in making American Beauty. Through clean, expertly-filmed shots, his vision for this film is shown as well as the meaning. American Beauty serves its purpose as being what it's title declares, an American beauty. We are led through the story of the typical american attitudes in each character, conveyed by the presence of Lester's mid-life crisis and the lifestyles of the dysfunctional families (Burnham and Fitts). The beauty in the world is the imperfections we see, and that's what I perceive Mendes was trying to convey. As said in the script, just as intelligent as the film: ". . . it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life."

     Sam Mendes' first work still feels like just as much a masterpiece as he intended to be when he made it in 1999. American Beauty conveys beautiful America just as real as it can be, with realistic  situations all connected as to prove this common point. Through expert performances, quirky score, intelligent scriptwriting, and visionary direction, this film remains true to at the very least one thing: its imperfect beauty.