Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Brad's All-Time Fave Films: #8

American Beauty (1999)

It's been five or six years at least since I first saw this movie, but I recall it having a large effect on me. Perhaps it was it's realism that got me; I haven't been through a mid-life crisis (nor do I ever want to), but the film paints a very realistic scenario of it. After all, most people dream to own that nice house, have the great job with the successful spouse and live happily ever after. But, as the movie depicts, it doesn't often end up that way.

To say nothing of the performances of the cast would be to do the film a disservice. Kevin Spacey, in particular, shines as the troubled Lester Burnham, a man who has gotten to the end of his rope and realizes that the only way out is to let go. Annette Benning and Thora Birch are great as his wife and daughter, respectively, but it's up to Spacey to carry the movie and he certainly does.

Ultimately, we are reminded of what things are truly important in life and what aren't. We learn that there is beauty everywhere in this world (even in a plastic bag), and that we could go our whole lives and never notice it if we never stop to look around.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brad's All-Time Fave Films: #9

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Liz: It's just that with Ed here, it's no wonder I bring my flatmates out, and then that only exacerbates things.
Shaun: What do you mean?
Liz: Well you guys hardly get on, do you?
Shaun: No, what does 'exacerbate' mean?

This is just one of the numerous examples of the droll with and humour to be found in my #9 film, Shaun of the Dead. While it sounds odd to label this movie as a comedy/horror film, that's exactly what it is. Or maybe more precisely, a satire of horror movies, but the violence is surprisingly graphic and not surprisingly prevalent.

That's not to take away from the movie, though. Quite the opposite, actually. It's like watching a good Simpsons episode; the more you know about the genre (horror), the more you appreciate all of the jokes within. To enjoy it to its highest extentent does take a certain appreciation of the dry British humour, but even a basic familiarity with horror/survivalist/zombie genres will be more than enough to allow you to enjoy it.

As far as plot goes, the movie follows a very standard horror plot (again, part of what makes it funny). Zombies get loose and want to bite/eat people that aren't zombies, and the remaining group of survivors tries to stay alive, invariably ending up at some sort of stronghold to wait for the cavalry. Of course a few of the group are munched along the way (enter the gore), but if we didn't want a few to go, would we see movies in this genre? Simon Pegg is great as "Shaun", but don't underestimate Nick Frost as "Ed," Shaun's hapless friend, who actually supplies most of the jokes.

Not surprisingly, I highly recommend this movie, and it's new companion piece, "Hot Fuzz", which similarly lampoons the police/buddy picture genre.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Brad's All-Time Fave Films: #10

Last of the Mohicans (1992)

I first saw this film in bits and pieces in junior high and earlier high school, and it happened to catch me at a phase when I was really fascinated by the struggle between colonists and Native Americans. That precise conflict is encapsulated in the James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans" on a beautiful grand, and ultimately, tragic scale.

Daniel Day-Lewis turns in an incredible performance as Hawkeye, an adopted Mohican tribesman. It is said that Day-Lewis is a method actor and that he went and lived in the wilderness for several months in preparation for the part. I think it pays off as the entire movie takes place on the evolving American frontier. The female characters are also played well, but the key element of the story is the Mohicans' losing battle over their land, their honor and their legacy.

This movie has some great action sequences, but doesn't allow itself to be a slave to them. The balance is played out perfectly and the movie is fantastic as a result. I would highly recommend (obviously!).