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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Can you hear me? I don’t want this any more! I want to call it off!

— Joel

Everybody had been talking about how great the #61 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is. I have only seen bits and pieces of the movie through the years of its release back in 2004. My greatest fear was that the movie was not gonna live up to the hype. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it should have won a couple of more. I wish I could own this movie and watch it repeatedly.

A social awkward man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is reeling over the break up with his tangerine-tinted girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). When he is venting his frustration over Clementine seemingly ignoring him to Rob and Carrie (David Cross, Jane Adams) when Rob hands Joel a card from a company called Lacuna. The card says that Clementine has had a procedure to erase Joel from her mind.

Joel is heartbroken and intrigued to see what this procedure is all about. He finds the office of Lacuna where Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wikinson) is performing the procedure of the heartbroken patients. He wants to have the procedure done as a way of getting back at Clementine for being so heartless to erase him from her mind.

The process of mind erasure is to gather all the items that remind you of the person that you are trying to have wiped from your memory so it could build a road map to which sections of the brain to target the memories. Mierzwiak’s associates from the clinic, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Partrick (Elijah Wood) arrive at Joel’s apartment while he sleeps to begin the erasure process.

As the erasure happens, Joel is fine having the end of their relationship cleaned off. When the erasure starts going into the happiest moments of their relationship, Joel want to be able to keep the memories, because she still holds a torch for Clementine. He tries to find clever ways to hide the good Clementine inside the inner workings of his brain.

This movie is visceral and devastating to watch. Everyone knows the feeling of heartbreak and wish that there was a procedure to help erasure the bad memories out. Those bad memories are a life lessons to find out what you don’t want in the next relationship so you won’t repeat the same dating pattern. Those bad times shape you into who you are as a person and what you can give to a relationship.

People call this one of the greatest love stories of all-time. I wouldn’t go that far, but identity to the plight these characters are in. My life was on-screen. The movie was off-kilter, surreal and mind fuck. This is Charlie Kaufman we are talking about. This is his M.O.

There is one thing about this movie that I didn’t get or maybe I am reading too much into it. What happened with the relationship with Patrick? If you know what I mean, then you’ll understand. Was that a dropped plot line?

Judgment: This is a raw, beautiful, self-destructive story about love.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right is one the of movies that I regretted not seeing last year. I was kicking myself because I wanted to see the movie from my Julianne Moore blog-a-thon for LAMB Acting School 101. The movie was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay. After hearing the tremendous buzz around this film, I was a little disappointed with it.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a committed relationship for over twenty years. Like with every relationship, they have hit a plateau. Nic is the sole breadwinner of the family working as a doctor, while Jules is starting up a landscape architect business.

Recently celebrating their daughter, Joni’s (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday, their family dynamic changes when Joni and her half-brother, Laser (Josh) snoop around their moms personal belonging to find the identity of their birth father. The sperm bank calls sperm donor, Paul (Mark Ruffalo) to ask him if her would like to see his kids. He agrees.

Paul initial meeting with the kids comes off awkward as Joni is more receptive to getting to know Paul and Laser is more guarded. Laser lets the secret meeting with his birth dad slip when his moms question his relationship with best friend, Clay (Eddie Hassell). Nic and Jules think that the kids should not meet Paul again until they have a chance to meet him.

When the family meets Paul, Nic is weary about him whiles Jules is open to getting to know him. When the conversation turns to Jules business, Paul wants to hire Jules as his landscape architect for his overgrown backyard. The relationships between everyone changes when an indiscretion threatens to tear the family apart.

I think that screenwriters Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg have created a fully realized family that you are not bothered that the family has two moms.  I did feel that some plot points were not explored enough with Laser’s friendship with Clay, Paul’s flirt-flirt with Tanya (Yaya DaCosta) or Joni with her friends, Jai (Kunal Sharma) and Sasha (Zosia Mamet).

A couple of things really bothered me with the movie was the grainy-ness of the film. I don’t know if that was Cholodenko’s intention for that to happen or it was the transfer to DVD. Also, the indiscretion felt familiar, because it was a plot point in Queer As Folk. It was like okay.

Judgment: It feels like an accessible movie that everyone could enjoy.

Rating: 7.5/10

Shutter Island (2010)

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.

Rating: ****

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

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Now you are king and you will be a truly great king.

— Carol

Based on the beloved children’s book of the same name, Where the Wild Things Are, director Spike Jonze and co-screenwriter, David Eggers expanded a ten sentence book into the feature length narrative. This was one of my most anticipated movies of the fall season ever since it was announced. This was one of my favorite books growing up. This movie tapped into the eternal youth inside of everyone watching this.

Max (Max Records) is a introverted boy that is dealing with death of his father, his older sister, Claire (Pepita Emmerichs) ignoring him and his mother (Catherine Keener) dating a new guy (Mark Ruffalo).

One night when the boyfriend comes over, Max goes into one of his tantrums and he bites his mother. Max runs away. He reaches a small boat and sails into the treacherous waters to an island.

Max explores it and sees a campground where he sees some strange creatures running around when one of the creatures, Carol (James Gandolfini) destroys the huts the others have. Max wants to join in the fun and the creatures at first want to eat him, but Carol proclaims him as king.

During the time there, Carol and Max have an instant friendship, because they have very similar personalities. Carol introduces King Max to the other inhabitants of island. There is the older married couple, Ira and Judith (Forest Whitaker, Catherine O’Hara), ignored Alexander (Paul Dano), Douglas (Chris Cooper) and silent The Bull (Michael Berry, Jr.)

Max’s job is to make the Wild Things happy, but Carol is not happy when a former flame, KW (Lauren Ambrose) abandoned the group to strike out of there own.

Max wants to make the society work with building a communal nest for everybody, but things are not happening the way that it’s supposed to be.

Jonze’s captures the imagination of a little child. It was his intention to have the creature captures eaxactly the way that were in Maurice Sendak’s book. The seamless transition for the suit to the CGI is something to behold.

That being said, this is not a perfect movie. The plot is paper thin. There wasn’t that much depth into the characters and the situation. There was no peril. There was a sequence with Max and KW towards the end of the movie that didn’t make sense.

Judgment: If you want to recapture a moment in your youth, see this movie in the theater.

Rating: ****

The Brothers Bloom (2009)

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I have at different times in my life, sold sand to an Arab and ice to an Eskimo.

— Stephen

After countless recommendations on different podcasts and on twitter, I am glad that The Brothers Bloom came out on DVD recently. As much I disliked writer/director Rian Johnson’s debut, Brick, I wanted to see this movie when I caught the opening sequence on Hulu before it was released. Watching the movie, I was blown away that I loved the film.

The titular brothers, Stephen and Bloom (Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody) are con artists that have been at the game since they were little being bounced around the foster care system.

Older brother Stephen is enjoying the thrill of the con, but the younger brother, Bloom had grown tired of the con life. He wants to get out.

With their demolition assistant, Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi) by their side, the brothers sent out to pull off one last con before Bloom hangs up his bag of tricks for good.

Their last mark is an eccentric heiress named Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz). The problem from the get-go is that Bloom has broken the cardinal rule of con artists, never fall in love with the mark.

As the elaborately constructed con commences, the situation spirals out of the control when the group has to deal with the Curator (Robbie Coltrane) and their mentor, Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell).

I underestimated the genius that is Rian Johnson. I had low expectations of this movie, but I was dead wrong about it.

The performances from the principal cast were astounding, especially Rachel Weisz. She was magnetic on screen. Her innocence and quirkiness struck a nerve with me. The European locations were full of poetry and life. Nathan Johnson’s score was perfect. The dialogue was sweet in one instance and the next would throw you in a loop. Even the narration by Ricky Jay, which I normally think is pointless, works well the tone of the whimsical nature of the film. Fantastic.

Judgment: Buy this movie as you are reading this review. You will not regret it.

Rating: *****

Blindness (2008)

“The only thing more terrifying than blindness is being the only one who can see.”

— Doctor’s Wife

Blindness is latest offering by director Fernando Meirelles. This movie was getting a bunch of bad buzz when it was released a couple of months ago. It received a score of 45 on Metacritic. I can understand why people were turned off with this movie.

The movie is supposed to ambiguous with the setting, characters not having names, no specific questions being addressed or answered through out the course of the movie. That’s what the author Jose Saramago wanted.

The story starts with the First Blind Man (Yusuke Iseya) is stricken with the “white blindness” while he is in traffic. A Thief (Don McKellar) tries to take advantage of the newly blinded man when he drives his car home. He steals the man’s car.

First Blind Man’s Wife (Yoshino Kimura) comes home to find her husband without sight. She rushes over to the eye doctor to figure out what is causing the white blindness. He is examined by The Doctor (Mark Ruffalo) and he is sent on their way.

As the days pass, the white blindness epidemic is spreading. The newly blind people are shipped off to an abandoned hospital to help control the blindness from spreading further. The blind people there have a makeshift leader in the from of The Doctor’s Wife (Julianne Moore) who is inexplicably unaffected by the blindness.

There is symbolism and allegory of Hurricane Katrina, the Holocaust and a neglectful nursing house. The people are starving. They live under deplorable conditions with shit and piss on the floor. They strip their clothing off. There is a lot of nudity here. There are some horrible things happen in the ward when The King of Ward Three (Gael Garcia Bernal) threatens harm with a gun. Where did he get the gun? He had unlimited bullets. What? He takes the people’s jewelry for food and then sex. Treating the women like whores.

I have questions that were not solved in the movie. Why does The Man with the Black Eye Patch (Danny Glover) or the Woman with the Sunglasses (Alice Braga) continue to wear their eye wear after they are blind? What caused the blindness in the first place? What happened to the Minister of Health (Sandra Oh) went blind? She went blind and that was it. What happened to the government officials?

Nothing was explained. It think that what put people off with this film. There were a lot of plot holes and unexplained subplots that didn’t make this film great for me.

I understood what it is like from people to be desperate enough to do despicable things for food and water. When Hurricane Ike hit Houston, there was people angry about not getting enough food, water or ice. People were restless about officials telling people to stay inside, don’t venture out.

The messages of this movie should have been explained more.

My rating: ***1/2

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