Monday, November 28, 2005

The Ice Harvest

Review by Devin Sullivan
Ah, Harold Ramis, director of Analyze This, Groundhog Day, and the beloved Caddyshack. The man has been putting out good films since 1980 and even after the slightly disappointing Analyze That, he can still knock one out of the park. Not only that, but with The Ice Harvest, Ramis has evolved as a director to bring us a comedy with much more serious tones. In fact, let me say right here, despite the trailers you have seen for The Ice Harvest, this film is not a comedy. This film is a crime-noir, which just happens to be funny, Sin City mixed with Groundhog Day if you will. So don’t buy into the crap that this movie is, “A dark comedy.” That’s just Hollywood trying to grab a larger audience during the holiday season.
And the holidays, are ironically, the main focus of scorn during the movie. The Ice Harvest is a bloody, humorous, and cynical yarn set on Christmas Eve. The film begins with mob-lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and mob-run-strip-club owner Vic (Billy Bob Thornton) planning to escape with two-million-dollars that they have just stolen from their employer, mob boss Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). However, the duo’s perfect crime soon unravels as they wait for their chance to get out of Wichita, Kansas, the streets of which are covered in freezing rain. What follows is a dark adventure, full of bullets, cynical comments, lots of strip-clubs, and gore. It’s one hell of a cold Christmas.
The film is not for everyone, but there is something for everyone in it. For instance, you have to be impressed with Oliver Platt’s performance as Pete, the new husband of the protagonist’s ex-wife. Oliver Platt steals some serious scenery with this drunken stupor of a character. When he’s not bitching out his father-in-law at Christmas dinner, he is pondering the moral reality of what it is to be a modern man. Of course, all of the characters in this film are full of life – and also happen to be very bad people. There’s not a single worthy person in the whole film, which is really what makes it great. Cusack’s Charlie Arglist isn’t the stereo-typical mobster with a heart of gold. He isn’t struggling to get out of the mob; he just wants to screw it over for his own personal gain. The Ice Harvest is a harsh, almost sarcastic vision of organized crime. It might be too cynical for some audiences, but it’s still an excellent film if you know what you’re getting into. It’s a shame the trailers don’t help you know quite what that is.9/10

Monday, November 21, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Review by Michael Jaffe

Apologies to our loyal readers for the delay, but there was some miscommunication between the staff here at Mouldy’s Movies. So Harry Potter…’wow’ is the most I can say about this masterwork. The plot as many of you SHOULD know is Harry, now in his fourth year at Hogwarts, is put into the tri-wizard tournament, and is faced with more dangers than ever before. The story, for those big fans of the big misses some major sections, none actually necessary to the plot, but still,, I would have enjoyed seeing the quiditch world cup match.
Some of these dangers for the film unfortunately happen to be the young trio’s inconsistencies in front of the camera. While Daniel Radcliff (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) have improved many times over since their debuts, they still have moments where there acting fails and the stunning cast around them outshines them a billion times over. Speaking of which, the supporting cast, other than new addition Brendan Gleeson as ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, the new defense against the dark arts teacher, the supporting teachers, such as Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Miranda Richardson are in the 2 and a half hour film much less than they should be. Also new the series, director Mike Newell of the great Four Weddings and a Funeral and Donnie Brasco as well as the dreadful Mona Lisa Smile more visual flair than Chris Columbus and even Alfonso CuarĂ³n, awing the entire audience when Harry fights a dragon, or when Harry finally meets his mortal enemy, Lord Voldemort, somewhat underplayed by Ralph Fiennes, the fights all had my jaw open and my knees quaking to see it again on the big screen. The film is the fastest 2 ½ hours I have ever experienced as Harry’s year speeds by, but by the time I walked out of the theatre, I wished there was more. 9/10

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Review by Michael Jaffe

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is aptly titled as if it were a pulp novel from the 1950’s. and true to its title, the confusing murder mystery of a plot is overshadowed by the acting and the brilliantly written script. Shane Black, writer of the great Lethal Weapons I, II, III and The Last Boy Scout and of the not so great Lethal Weapon IV and The Long Kiss Goodnight, shows why he was at one point the hottest writer in Hollywood. Kiss Kiss is his directorial debut, directing from his script, and he shows that he has picked up a lot of flair from the directors who he has written for previously. Kiss Kiss provides us what Black does best writing, offbeat buddy cops bantering, and directing, great lighting and cool camera shots. The plot of the film though is a terribly conceived plot involving a NY small time criminal, Harry Lockhart, who accidentally aces an audition and gets flown to LA where he receives detective training from a real private investigator named Gay Perry. And yes, Perry is actually homosexual. The two men accidentally witness a murder, then the body winds up in Harry’s apartment and the plot goes downhill from there. It involves twins and incest and Michelle Monaghan.
Ms. (I hope) Monaghan plays Harmony Faith Lane, was Harry’s best friend in high school and they run in to each other at a bar. By chance Harmony’s sister who she left at home appears, further dragging the plot into a level of silliness that shouldn’t be allowed in Hollywood, unless your Michael Bay of course. The acting is what really saves this movie though, as Robert Downey Jr. playing Harry ahs his best role in years and is hysterical with his quick one-liners and even his mannerisms make you forget that this is Downey. Val Kilmer, one of my personal favorite actors, is Gay Perry and the fact that he is gay never really shows through his incredibly cynical, straight (pun intended) performance. The characters of Harry and Perry play off of each other so well and their dialogue and acting is so good, you never really notice that the film’s story really, REALLY sucks. The acting, writing and even the pretty good, not spectacular directing makes up for the fact that nothing going on makes sense. 7.5/10

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Review by Devin Sullivan
I went into this film, with a knowledge of the book it was adapted from, and general understanding of the direction it would take. I came out pleased as hell. However, a lot of people are going to expect political undertones about Iraq, or in the case of some girls I met, Jake Gyllenhaal’s lower half. The audience gets neither, though it comes close to both in some respects.
This may disappoint an audience, and if it does, that is too bad. Because, while this isn’t the best film about war ever made, it is arguably the best film about being a soldier ever made. Taken from the memoirs of real-life Gulf War veteran, Anthony Swofford, we are given a portrait of a man, made into a killer, who hasn’t yet been given a chance to kill. Swofford (played, uncharacteristically, with passion by Gyllenhaal) is trained as a marine, and then recruited as a scout sniper. However, when Swofford and his platoon finally get their war, they are assigned to defend Kuwait in Operation Desert Shield. What this entails for Swofford, and many other American troops in 1990, is over a hundred and fifty days in the desert with nothing to do.
While (as the movie portrays it) this sucked for the troops, it’s a great thing for the audience. Most of the film involves all of the ways that the soldiers cope with their boredom. In fact, the actual war (Operation Desert Storm) doesn’t begin until about two-thirds into the film. With this plot, JARHEAD could have been completely boring, but (under Sam Mendes’ directing skill) it is completely entertaining.
There are so many reasons that this film works, but none of them are more prevalent than the fact that, without a doubt, no one could have directed it as well as Sam Mendes. He’s a badass with an honest eye for emotion, and is easily one of the best things to come out of England in the last ten years. (Not to mention that he’s married to Kate Winslet, which proves his badassery.) Mendes has real skill in molding characters honestly, just look at the other two films he has made (American Beauty, and Road to Perdition). Both films are full of characters that are neither good or bad, they are just people in dramatic situations.
Mendes’ skill translates well into the story of JARHEAD, because the account is true. The characters are full of flaws that don’t necessarily get redeemed, but are never without a sense of humanity. All that analysis aside though, what this really means, is that they do some crazy fucking shit, and it’s all great, crazy fucking shit. It’s pretty hard not to be drawn in by the marines playing football in their hazard-suits (that they need in case of gas attacks) or Jake Gyllenhaal naked drunk in a Santa hat on Christmas Eve. One of the better moments of the film is when the Christmas party is interrupted by what they think is an enemy attack.
With all of these events strung together, the film can be a bit slow at times, but it’s all good stuff. Everything is tied together as one fluent piece of work with a lasting impression. As good as Sam Mendes is, he couldn’t have pulled this off without his cast. The performances in this flick are outstanding. Why Jamie Fox ever got by doing goofy comedies, I’ll never know. Personally, I never thought he was all that funny (Except Booty Call, still his best work). Fox’s roll as Staff Sgt. Sykes steals the show at times, and balances out Gyllenhaal’s Swofford. While Swofford provides the angst ridden emotions of an infantryman in his first war, Staff Sgt. Sykes provides a hardened veteran who loves his career. This view of war by Staff Sgt. Sykes is very believable, and despite a pro-war statement in what can sometimes be an anti-war film, everything he says is for the right reasons. Sykes’s pro-war mentality is expressed to an extent that the audience can understand where he is coming from. This is also another great example of how Mendes’ directing style shines in this film. He makes the characters very specific, and presents their points of view honestly.
And honestly, that directing style, some kick ass performances, and a unique memoir by Anthony Swofford all couple together for a great film here. The CGI effects and polish on the, “burning oil scenes” don’t hurt either. Basically, if you go to see this movie, you’re in for a fun romp through Iraq with some kooky characters, a very honest tale of soldiers at war, and some very interesting military incite all wrapped into one.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Weatherman

Review by Michael Jaffe

The Weatherman, a film that looked like a quirky, off-beat comedy was exactly what the ads said it would be, but be warned: it might be quirkier than you think! This film’s plot is about a Chicago weatherman, Dave Spritz, who has to deal with a troubled son, an overweight daughter, a ex-wife who has her own problems, a father who has a couple months to live and to top it off he is chasing a big job in New York doing the national weather reports. With all of this stuff happening, the events spiral out of Dave’s control until he hits rock bottom. His redemption will be found or lost in the end depending on his family, which is the real message of the film: family is IT.
Dave is played by the sometimes fabulous, sometimes shitty Nicolas Cage. In Weatherman he is Dave Spritz, for better or worse and he plays this poor asshole to perfection. With two good acting jobs in a row, Lord of War and now Weatherman, I have an impending sense of fear about how terrible Ghost Rider, his next big budget film, will be. He is joined by Michael Caine as his father and Hope Davis as his ex-wife. Both Caine and Davis are always incredible, and this film is no different as they are both mellow, yet so subdued as their offbeat characters that you forget that you are watching actors. Gore Verbinski, famed for Pirates of the Caribbean, returns to what made The Ring great; nothing overplayed, everything, even the extraordinary, all underplayed and mellow. Mr. Verbinski shows a bit of the flair that mad Pirates fun without actually having anything fun happen.
The film does run slow, and is longer than most people will like, but this reviewer appreciates patience in developing a story. Also, many people will not find any of the bazaar and very, very dark dialogue humorous, but for those who can find the humor in death and obesity; this is the film for you. The main problem with this film is how dark it gets, it drains you emotionally and makes you feel bad about the world, but once the lights go up, you feel so much better that your life isn’t as messed up as this weatherman. 8/10

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