Category Archives: Psychological
Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.
— Leonard Shelby
It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.
I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.
As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.
Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.
He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.
Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.
The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.
But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.
Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.
I just want to be perfect.
— Nina Sayers
The genesis of the #119 Movie of All Time on IMDB, Black Swan stemmed from a jettisoned storyline from Darren Aronofsky’s last movie, The Wrestler. It was intended to be a story about an over the hill wrestler and fading ballerina. Aronofsky wanted to explore the psyche of a ballerina further in this movie.
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a featured dancer in the American Ballet Company in New York City. Her overprotective mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey) gave up her dreams of being a prima ballerina to have Nina. She wants Nina to succeed in ways that she could not.
Headmaster Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is auditioning potential dancers for his stripped down version of the classic ballet, “Swan Lake” to open up the season. The original Swan Queen, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is forced into an early retirement, because she is not drawing the crowds like she used to. She is embittered by this drastic action.
Seeing her chance to be the principal dancer, Nina tries out for the Swan Queen and almost loses the part due to her frigid, perfectionist style of dancing. Thomas seeing the potential in Nina when he forces himself upon her and gives her the part.
Nina’s ambition for being the best Swan Queen that ever was is consuming her when she thinks a rival dancer from San Francisco, Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her part and her life. Her paranoia over Lily, the pressures of her mother, the criticism of Thomas and the part almost consumes her as she thinks that old habits of scratching are rearing their ugly head again.
Aronofsky has a way of setting the mood of the film with a device that he did in his last film with having the camera being behind the main actor. Like the audience is falling her, going on her journey to madness. I don’t know if the notice that the color palette was mostly black and white to represent the light and the dark, good and evil, etc. I would not think that a movie about a ballerina would be Aronofsky’s plate, but I would impressed by the result.
I did find some faults with the film. It mainly deals with the supporting actresses in this film, Hershey, Ryder and Kunis. I know that Hershey wanted to be the overbearing, neurotic mother, but the scene in the kitchen with the cake. Yeah. I don’t believe for a second that Ryder would be on point in her life. Her only emotions were inebriation or anger. Nothing in between. The problem that I had with Kunis was that I didn’t believe that her character would be a rival for Natalie’s character at all. I also had an issue with the camerawork in the up-close dance sequences. It felt so jerky and weird that I could not get into the dance on an emotional level.
Judgment: It is a graceful retelling of obsession, jealousy and destruction.
What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.
— Dominic Cobb
Inception is one of my most anticipated films of the summer. I was worried that this movie was hyped up too much for me to enjoy fully enjoy it. It is currently the #3 Movie of All Time on IMDb. That scares me, because the same thing happened with The Dark Knight. I did not see the theatrical trailer, read any reviews or look at the promos for this movie. I wanted to go into this movie fresh with no bias whatsoever. All I thought about when I saw this movie was making it a drinking game, hearing the word “dream” uttered.
This mind-bending movie is about how complex the human mind can truly be when an extractor Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has the ability to go into people minds. He’s sorta like a mental bodyguard that provides security for his clients’ important secrets, but he ultimately steals from them.
He is outsmarted by a shady businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe) who wants to use Dom and his associates to penetrate the mind of his rival’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). In return for his participation, Saito will reunite Dom with the family that he abandoned when his wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard) kills herself to make it look like he did it.
Dom puts together his team together with his researcher that creates a dossier on their mark, Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt), his shifter to trick the subject to be any person in the dream, Eames (Tom Hardy) and the chemist who will inject the team with a special sedative that will allow them to sleep, Yusuf (Dileep Rao).
They need an architect which is essentially a person that could create and keep up the façade of delving into a person’s mind. Dom goes to his former professor; Miles (Michael Caine) to enlist a person that could be as good as him sense his memories about Mal easily distract him. Miles suggests Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is quickly tested about discerning what reality is and what is not.
On an international flight after Fischer’s father, Maurice (Pete Postlethwaite) dies, the team drugs Fischer. When the team goes into Fischer’s mind, they didn’t realize that his mind would be heavily fortified with a projected army that could threaten their mission and their only way to wake up.
What can I say about this movie? I understand that Nolan wanted to make a cinematic version of M.C. Escher painting about how the mind play tricks on you. I thought I was tricked. At first, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. When Ellen Page’s character came in, she was like the audience who is trying to understand this world she knows nothing about. The endless exposition doesn’t help matters when random characters try to tell you about the human psyche. It’s like you are sitting in a long boring lecture in college.
My brain broke with this movie. I could not follow it worth a damn. I wanted to follow along, but I got lost somewhere in the first hour of this 2 ½ hour opus. I tried to focus on Dom’s guilt over his wife’s death. That went away. Next, I tried to focus on the action with seemed like it came out of The Matrix with a tinge of a Lionel Ritchie video thrown in there. Lastly, I tried to hold on to the ending which is ambiguous and up to your personal interpretation. If you know that the ending is coming, it’s not fun.
This film is not fun or cool. If it was something like Primer about a dialogue that went over my head, but was still cool, I would understand. I was yawning in this movie. I lowered my expectations with this movie because of the hype that The Prestige got and I hated that movie. I think this movie tried to be too ambitious. I got nothing out of it.
The whole idea of going into people’s minds sounds good on paper, but onscreen you’re like, “Who gives a fuck about the different levels of the mind.” The whole reasoning behind the inception mission was petty and selfish. I believe Christopher Nolan created this movie for himself to enjoy. It seems that he has to dumb it down for the audience with endless amounts of exposition. It seems arrogant and condescending. I’m insulted by the notion. I expected more.
Judgment: This movie is like a Rubik Cube that never gets solved. Don’t bother trying.
I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?
— Teddy Daniels
Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.
The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.
Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.
The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.
A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?
I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.
I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.
Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.
You’d be surprised what you’ll be willing to do, when the Lamia comes for you.
— Rham Jas
Don’t hate for this proclamation, but I am not familiar with Sam Raimi’s comedic horror past with The Evil Dead series. I should visit them in the future, but I thought I would start with Raimi going back to his roots with Drag Me to Hell. This movie freaked me out.
A plucky loan officer, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) longs to be assistant manager at her bank, but she is constantly undermined by ass kisser, Stu (Reggie Lee). Her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) is deciding between the two of them. In order for her to get the position, she needs to make tough decision to secure it.
As by maligned fate, a decrepit woman Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) appears at her desk, asking Christine to stop the repossession of her house. With two extensions under her belt, there is nothing for Christine to do. She decides to turn her down. Mrs. Ganush begs her to try to save house. Christine stands her ground. Mrs. Ganush pounces on Christine and is forced out.
When Christine is going to her car after work, she is attacked by Mrs. Ganush who felt that she has publicly shamed her. They fight. Christine thinks she defeated her, but the old hag got the upper hand reciting an incantation by using a button from her jacket. She hands the button back to Christine.
Visibly shaken from the ordeal Christine wants to get her fortune read when strange occurrences start to happen. Her boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long) goes with her. The fortune teller Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) says that she has been cursed by the old woman. A dark spirit surrounds her. Clay is skeptical of the fortune teller’s powers.
After Christine arrives home alone, she hears strange noises in her house when she is alone. She sees a demonic figure. A doctor thinks that it’s post-traumatic stress disorder because of the attack. In the middle of night, a fly enters her body. She thinks it’s not real but she can here is buzzing inside her. She begins to see the old woman in nightmarish hallucinations.
She tries to get back with Mrs. Ganush to ask her for forgiveness, but she is recently died. She goes back to the Rham Jas; he tells her about the dark spirit that is haunting her. It is called a lamia, which takes the possessor of the cursed object to Hell. He offers alternative to rid of the curse. She wants to do anything to not be condemned to hell in three days time.
I thought that this movie would be a cup of tea. Damn, I was sucked into this movie. The genesis of how Christine got the curse was a little ridiculous, but I could forgive it because of nature of the movie. Besides I think the posters and the trailer kinda give away the ending. That’s unfortunate.
Judgment: It’s a wild ride that everyone should get on board.
Well, you had better decide whether you’re hanging on the cross or banging in the nails.
— Thomas Craven
Edge of Darkness is the first movie Mel Gibson has starred in over eight years, since leaving acting directing foreign language movies, get drunk, going crazy, sugar tits, the whole bit. The movie is compared to Taken, a movie that I enjoyed for great action sequences in a mediocre movie. The comparisons end at the trailer. This is a subdued movie that I didn’t care that much about it.
A veteran homicide detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) waits for her daughter, Emma’s arrival (Bojana Novakovic). She is sick. On the drive to his house, he believes that she is pregnant, but she tells him otherwise. He feels that she is keeping something from him, but she doesn’t want to say. She coughs up blood and they are about to go to the hospital when an assassin blows a hole straight through Emma.
Coping with his daughter’s sudden death, he beings an investigation into who could kill her. There some terrible sequences of Emma’s voice speaking to him and he responds to her or the younger Emma pops up. Urgh! I hate it.
Collecting Emma belonging in her room, her cellphone rings, but the caller hangs up. Searching further in the room, Craven discovers a guns which he traces to her boyfriend, David Burnham (Shawn Roberts). When Craven confronts him, David tries to tell him that he is digging himself into a hole that he can’t get out of.
A mysterious man named Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) approaches Craven to tell him that his daughter was flagged as a national security risk for her role in the knowledge of her employer, Northmoor, manufacturing weapons for foreign countries. She might have been killed for the potentially being a whistle-blower. For the rest of the movie, Craven tries to figure out the players that were instrumental is getting Emma killed and deliver his own brand of justice.
The trailer for this movie made it seems like a non-stop action movie. It was an introspective movie that plotted along slowly. I didn’t understand the motivations of Jedbrugh. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? It was unclear. I thought the ending was laughable.
Judgment: Not the greatest comeback in history. I only recommend this movie for Gibson fans only.
I told the boy when you dream about bad things happening, it means you’re still fighting and you’re still alive. It’s when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry.
— The Man
Finally, I saw The Road. It has had a difficult journey to its opening. It was supposed to be released in November of 2008, but The Weinstein Company decide to push it back a year so they could focus on The Reader. It was supposed to come out October 2009 then it was bumped back to Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving came, it was nowhere to be found, because it was in limited release. I had to search to find a theater that was showing it. This movie was lost in the shuffle. I don’t know why.
An unexplained catastrophe has happened to the Earth where plants and animals have been wiped out years before. Days blur into one another as a handful of people are struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where there is limited food, and acts of cannibalism running rampant throughout the land. The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travel around the desolate landscape to find some semblance of life.
Sometimes the action flashes back to after the catastrophe happen when the Wife (Charlize Theron) urges the family to commit mass suicide like the other families in the area. The Man does not want to do that. She doesn’t share his optimism for humanity running amok outside that could come into their house kill the wife, rape the son and eat them. She decides to leave her family to walk into the wintry night.
The Man and Boy come upon a farmhouse to find a shred of food, but they find a family hanging by nooses. The Man makes an impulse to use their last remaining bullets on their pistols to end their lives. Somehow, this plan is scraped the Man decided to conserve their last two bullets. It might have been a good thing, because when they rest in an abandoned car they hear a gang bus coming in the distance. They hide in the woods for the gang to pass looking for fuel and food.
When one of the gang members (Garret Dillahunt) is taking a piss out in the woods, he discovers the duo cowering down a ridge. The Man asks the Gang Member to leave them alone to go on their way. The Gang Member tests the Man. He shoots the Gang Member in the head when the man threatens the Boy with a knife. They escape deep into the words when the gang scours the woods to the people that killed their fellow member.
The duo are continuing to head South for the shoreline for some signs a civilized life to counteracts the savagery they see everyday fighting hunger, going to days without taking a bath. When they do get a bright light in the form of a mansion of the road, they are able to have the basic necessaries like food, hot water, clean clothes or toothpaste.
Their joy is short lived when the Man hears a strange noise in the house, thinking that it is another looter is coming to kill them. They decide to leave, but happen upon a legally blind man, Ely (Robert Duvall). The Boy wants to help the Blind Man, but the Man is hesitant to give him their last remaining food to him. The men talk about the how the world collapses as foretold by the Blind Man and humanity is lost. The blind man leaves.
The father and son decide to keep going south. They have to get to the coast before they starve, are captured by refugees or worse.
Some movies work better in books, because the subject is too much for the typical moviegoers. Damn, this movie is depressing. It is bleak and dark. No hope. Nothing. I wish for those flashbacks more often. If the apocalypse happened tomorrow, I want to be the ones mercifully killed. If I had to endure the endless sorrow, I couldn’t take it.
The world is gray, dirty, bleak, and vile. The only color you will see in this film is fire, flares and patches of spilled blood. The movie constantly punishes the viewer with it’s stark imagery, the terrain blackened by fires, the trash, the abandoned cars, etc.
Judgment: This movie shows you that the bond between father and son will be tested.
Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.
— Travis Bickle
Taxi Driver is probably one of Martin Scorsese’s top films that he has helmed. I have to confess that I have never seen the movie. Shame on me. There are some other classics of his that I have not had the chance to see yet, but I won’t name them because I might be whacked. I am making up for it by watching this film. After watching the film, I think I might have reconsidered the #39 Movie of All-Time on IMDb.
A Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) three years discharged from the Marines comes back to the States to an unknown world. He is troubled by the memories of the war. He is a raging insomniac. He spends nights wandering the streets or riding on the subways. Travis seeks a job at a local NYC cab company.
Travis has an internal monologue with himself to cope with dealing with being back in civilian life. He writes his thoughts down on scraps of paper. He doesn’t like what he sees. He wants to get rid of the “scum on the streets”.
A volunteer, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) that works for a presidential campaign for Sen. Palantine (Leonard Harris), infatuates him. Her co-worker Tom (Albert Brooks) is weary when Travis parks outside of the office and stares at her. Later, he wants to volunteer for the campaign so he could be with her more. His true intention is to ask her out.
At a local hangout, he hangs out with Wizard (Peter Boyle), Doughboy (Harry Northup), and Charlie T (Norman Matlock). They talk about the taxicab confessions about what happens in their cabs or on the radio as they drive around. One of the guys ask if he has a gun, Travis doesn’t want to have anything to do with guns since his time in Vietnam.
The more that Travis does not sleep, the more his mind begins to give way. All of his relationships are affected until he snaps. He becomes a solider is his own right: changing his drinking, eating habits and fitness regimen. He buys a couple of guns to wreak havoc on the scum of the earth.
The world of Taxi Driver is steeped in filth as it took place in 1970s. The locations to the score by Bernard Hermann evoke sleaziness. Travis Bickle is a walking contradiction that he wants to rid the scum of the earth, but he wants to save an underage prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).
I think I had too many expectations for this film, because it is held in such high esteem. I thought the pacing was a detriment to the quality of the movie. I found myself essentially bored with it. Another moment that ruined the movie for me was when Martin Scorsese was in front of the camera. That scene in the back of Travis’ cab completely took me out.
Judgment: Ultimately, I wish that I could see more of Travis’ decent into madness. I felt that it was cut out.
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, better stay awake. / Nine, ten, never sleep again.
Since news of a remake to A Nightmare on Elm Street became known, I decided to revisit the Wes Craven original before watching the retread. This is not your typical slasher movie. It’s about a killer that kills you in your dreams. It’s more like mental warfare. That’s scary. This movie freaked me out when I was younger. Seeing it now, it stills creeps me out.
Tina, Nancy, Glen and Rod (Amanda Wyss, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Nick Corri) are teenagers in the neighborhood are having terrible dreams about a “bogeyman” of sorts. They realized that they were having dreams about the same disfigured man in a red and green sweater with glove made of knives. His name is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).
During a sleepover at Tina’s house, the foursome is alone together in the house. As the night drags on, Tina and Rod have sex. Something mysterious happens in the house when pebbles are thrown at the window and nobody is there or a strange figure is coming out of the walls.
Tina hears the sound of her name whispered outside. She goes to investigate and is confronted by the monster her dreams, Freddy Krueger. Only she is not awake, she is having what looks like a night terror. She thrashes on the bed, blood coming from an open wound. She levitates and dragged along the wall to the ceiling where she dies.
Nancy’s father, Donald (John Saxon) is called to find Rod in connection with Tina’s murder. At the stationhouse, Nancy is at his office with her mother, Marge (Ronee Blakley) where she explains to her parents about Tina’s dreams about somebody trying to kill her.
The days after the incident, Rod is arrested and Nancy is haunted by the possibility that she might suffer the same fate if she falls asleep. Every time, she dozes off Freddy comes after her. She realizes that her imagination is coming true.
I heard that this was Johnny Depp’s movie debut as Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen. Huh. The movie has not aged well. It’s twenty-five years old. The special effects are a little wonky with the extending arms or the obvious stunt double when Freddy’s on fire. There is something about the way that Tina runs screams cliqued horror movie girl with the flailing arms and constantly looking back.
Judgment: I want everybody to watch this movie before watching the remake.
Kill off all my demons, Roy, and my angels might die, too.
Coming back from the gym on Saturday, I wanted to watch Steve Carrell’s movie, Dan in Real Life on TBS. When I was flipping through episode guide, I saw that Transsiberian was coming on at the same time on Showtime. I remember that Tassoula from Cinebanter had this movie on her top ten of 2008 list. I decided to watch this instead. I’m glad I did.
A couple that is having martial problems, Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer) board the Transsiberian Express in Pekin, China. They just finished a six-day sister city mission by Roy’s church in the region to help the impoverished kids. This is their first trip together. They thought that they could put their turbulent home life behind them. During the numerous stops, Jessie would take pictures of the landscapes and the people that they encounter.
On one of the scheduled stops, another couple comes into their cabin, Carlos and Abby (Eduardo Noriega, Kate Mara). They said that they are coming from Japan teaching English and Spanish. Carlos is a travel nut who dragged Abby along with him non-stop for two years.
The younger adventurous couple’s tendencies rub off on Roy and Jessie. They bond over vodka in the dining car. They open themselves up with each other with their dreams of the future. Carlos tries to single out Jessie when he shows her some souvenirs in his bag.
At another layover, Roy’s obsession with trains leads him to be stranded there. Jessie doesn’t realize the fact until the train with chugging along. Jessie has a feeling that there is something not right about the couple that shares their cabin. She franticly tries to look for him from different people in Russia. Secrets are exposed, truths are revealed and the couples are thrown into chaos.
This movie is a slow burn. Try to survive for the first hour of the movie, then the movie kicks up into high gear. I can’t tell you whatever happens, because they would be a spoiler. I want you to experience that for yourself.
Judgment: If you need a good reason to see this movie, it’s Emily Mortimer. She deals with heavy material and she could handle it with ease. Absolute must-see.