Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Beerfest

In celebration of Oktoberfest, I present you my review of Beerfest! This movie has something for everyone so I’m honestly not entirely sure where to begin. Although, I usually like to focus on the story in films, so I might as well start there.

For a movie with this much craziness, it actually has a pretty solid, logical story progression. Patriarch dies, gets shamed in home country, remaining family members vow revenge. The details are a little unconventional, but the storyline itself isn’t completely far-fetched. The parts of the film that ARE hard to believe are easily shrugged off, as this film does an excellent job of making you suspend disbelief in exchange for enjoying how ridiculous it is.

Only somewhat separated from the story is the use of comedy. Being a comedic film, this might seem weird that I’m mentioning this but stay with me. This movie uses pretty much every form of comedy imaginable, including something for everyone. There’s something for your horribly racist friend (all the racial stereotypes, anyone?), crude sex jokes, slapstick, wordplay, you name it. It’s all there.

The fact that this film is able to combine so many forms of comedy and not make you feel bombarded with any of them is interesting. A lot of films will stick to one or two forms, but this one is able to combine pretty much everything and keep it balanced. Not many comedy films these days are good at branching out into various forms of comedy, so it’s nice to see a movie that is comfortable with the whole range.

Back to the suspension of disbelief, this film does a great job of making you not take things too seriously. A lot of films, even comedies these days, want you to take at least some part of the story seriously, while this film makes fun of that from the beginning. To anyone who has not seen this movie, the first scene is rather serious until you find out that everyone involved is not a gang member as they so seem, but rather members of the church preparing to hold a funeral.

This juxtaposition is actually quite interesting because the scene itself is funny due to the church seeming like the mafia, yet there is a scene that does the opposite for a dramatic effect in The Godfather, but I digress.

Beerfest is a movie that (almost) everyone will find something amusing in. It may not have groundbreaking cinematography or a love interest to balance things out (which I honestly don’t understand as a comedy trend in the first place), but it does deliver on what it promises: drunken shenanigans.

Favorite Scene:

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Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Clerks.

Finally, a Kevin Smith film! I’ve been meaning to get to a film of his for a while now, so I proudly present my review/analysis of Clerks! Since this film is minimalist (and that’s a large part of what makes it so great), I’m going to keep this review short so I don’t ramble on about things that don’t matter much.

First off, this film would be nothing if it were not for the dialogue. The conversations are what make this movie, as they range from life philosophy, which Star Wars sequel was better (Jedi or Empire), how to handle complicated relationships, and how we as human beings don’t follow the “golden rule” enough (treat others as you would like to be treated yourself).  This film manages to pack in thousands of life lessons in just ninety-two minutes.

This movie really benefits from not having flashy cinematography. The scenarios the characters find themselves in are bizarre enough without being over-shadowed by intricate camera angles or fancy lighting. In the course of one day, Dante deals with an angry mob, goes to a funeral, finds out a man died in the store bathroom, gets dumped by his girlfriend, and that’s not even all. The movie more than makes up what it lacked in expensive equipment with a great story.

While all of this is true, this is not to say Kevin Smith and the rest of the crew didn’t try to include any visual elements to the film. Most of the shots and lighting are pretty standard and realistic considering the setting, while there are other shots that are pretty interesting. For instance, who could forget Jay dancing outside the store? Shots like this may not be common, but they are well placed and keep the film visually entertaining to make sure the movie doesn’t get bogged down with too much dialogue.

This film may not have been considered Oscar-worthy, but it deserves the awards it received at the Cannes Film Festival and its status as a cult-classic. If a film can manage to explore so many of life’s questions in an hour and a half and still make me laugh, then my only question is why I didn’t review it sooner.

Favorite scene: 

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem

Ah, another suggestion post! I can’t really say this was a request, but a couple of people have hinted that they wanted this post to exist. I will admit, I was a little hesitant due to the fact that this is essentially a music video for Daft Punk’s album Discovery. However, this movie did a very good job of portraying what was going on and how we should feel. In fact, the way the art and music work together to convey certain emotions is deceptively simple.

The most obvious way the film uses art to convey emotion is through the use of color. In the beginning, everything is bright and colorful (almost neon, in fact), making excellent use of blue, purple, green, and yellow. We know we should start to worry when a dark silhouette appears in the middle of all the lights.

We now have reason to be suspicious. During the song shift, a bottle drops and as its contents spill, the color scheme changes and the liquid becomes red. Foreboding much? This type of manipulation through color is rampant throughout the entire film, and it does an excellent job of conveying certain emotions at particular moments.

There are also plenty of visual cues unrelated to color throughout this film. For instance, rain is often used in literature, film, photography, and other art forms to depict troubling situations. Shep, the fan who comes to save the band, is often shown standing and wandering through the rain as he searches for them.

His search for the band is almost exclusively shown in the rain, allowing the viewer to sympathize with his miserable, difficult search for the band. Rain also appears once more when Stella escapes from the music awards ceremony. While this might seem like a happy moment, there is a very important but brief scene. The moon comes out from behind the clouds and we are reminded of ideas like hope and better things to come. However, because it is still raining, we know that the band is not out of trouble just yet.

Another great visual cue in this film is after Shep dies and he becomes a star. This motif is used in more places than I can name off the top of my head, but it works in this film because it portrays that the idea of our loved ones watching over us after they are gone is not a human invention, but rather a universal truth. While it is true that he comes back a couple of times as an angelic being to help the band, for the most part he remains a “star”, reminding the band that he is still there for them, no matter what.

What good would a review of a Daft Punk movie be if I didn’t mention the album? I love Discovery, and I think the art is synced with the music exceptionally well. However, I did feel occasionally that the songs didn’t fit the story and were simply there to break the awkwardness of silence.

Sorry, guys.

There are a few songs that fit well such as “Digital Love”, and I’m not sure anything have made the transformation sequence creepier than hearing “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. There were other songs though that felt like they were shoved into place and put over montages for the sole purpose of making sure the whole album was in the movie.

While the music didn’t carry as much weight as far as the story goes, it was still entertaining to listen to. Speaking of the story, I honestly love how far-fetched and ridiculous the story is, because it is clear that everyone involved knew that this story was over the top. Seriously, how could a guy rule the world just because he’s got 5,555 gold records?

It is great that Daft Punk wanted to combine the music industry with science fiction, and while the story is silly it is not entirely unbelievable. However, the sign that this is a good story is how it ended. Had the movie cut off with the bands last concert, I’m sure more than a few people would have thought “Well, that was weird”. Instead, ending the film as the dream of a young child made it endearing and more than a bit d’aww worthy.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi, electronica, anime, or all of the above I recommend this movie. The music and the art may not be perfect for each other, but the visuals are great and the story is fresh and interesting.

Favorite Scene:

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Snakes on a Plane

Once again, sorry this is a bit late! Woo requested movies! Honestly, these reviews are so much more fun when I get to write them for friends of mine. Amy, here is your review of Snakes on a Plane! I hope everything is going well in AZ!

I’m going to get right into it, this movie is bad. However this movie KNOWS it’s bad. Therefore, it’s bad but in an awesome way (or as VH1 would say, awesomely bad). Most of the dialogue is cheesy and unrealistic, the characters are very stock, typical characters, and some of the scenes are so ridiculous you can’t believe for a brief second that “they” really went there. There are tons of plot-holes simply because filling them would take away the fun. This movie definitely learned something from B horror movies from the 50s. If it’s not scary, make it funny.

Like this. In a movie about a mob-boss murderer who kills his victims in notoriously inhumane ways, what do you do to lighten the tension? Why, stop taking yourselves so seriously and have a snake bite someone’s genitals, that’s what you do!  While you’re at it, have a snake bite a girl in the boob, too (besides, it fits in with one of the unwritten yet golden rules of horror: sluts always die first). The fun doesn’t stop with people dying in oddly hilarious ways, either. Does everyone remember the end, when the main character who was the target of all this nonsense gets bitten and shot?

You know the filmmakers were sitting in a theater somewhere on opening night just waiting for the crowd outrage. After all that has happened, how could they do that to him? Just kidding! He has a bullet-proof vest. Yes, that’s right, the filmmakers are trolls, and I’m sure they enjoyed every minute of making this movie.

Sorry, I just really wanted to point out that this is Taylor Kitsch, aka John Carter (of Mars) and Lieutenant Alex Hopper in Battleship.

Honestly, that is the gist of this entire review, except that it permeates into every part of the film. Next up, the dialogue. I don’t even think I need to remind you of this little gem.

But that is hardly the end of it, my friend. There was also the snake expert who said such wonderful things as “time is tissue”. Get it? The more time they waste the less tissue the people who have been bitten by exotic, poisonous snakes get to keep? Yeah, he says this. I don’t know what’s better, that this line exists or that Neville Flynn (aka Samuel L. Jackson) responds by repeating the line in confusion before looking at the phone like it might take away his ability to pick up women.

Now, the wonderfully bad dialogue doesn’t stop at these, but continues on into the territory of clichés. For instance, Flynn saying to another agent “Come on, this is me you’re talking to. I know you miss it, you miss the action, you’re bored to tears”. I’m actually sort of surprised they managed to cram that many clichés into one sentence and still pull it off. It’s close, it definitely comes off as corny and unnecessary, but it still works somehow. Of course, there is also the oft-repeated “Do as I say and you live”, not to be outdone by its partner in crime “What was the first thing I ever said to you?” Again, this movie knows how bad it is, so it doesn’t matter that these clichés are thrown around with reckless abandon. It’s part of what makes this movie so great!

There is one thing about this movie that I think brings the “awesomely bad” full circle, however. The whole point of the film is that Sean needs to testify against a raging murderous mob-boss and the guy attempts to assassinate him so he can’t succeed. The plane lands, everyone that matters is safe, and what do we see?

Of course the film isn’t going to show the trial, that would be silly. But consider this: if Eddie Kim went through so much trouble to attempt killing him before he even got to LA, why should we assume that the trial went smoothly? The trial could probably be a movie in and of itself. Yet the last shot requires suspension of disbelief, the assumption that everything went smoothly. That Eddie Kim is in jail, and a FBI agent has nothing better to do than take surfing lessons from a bro he had to protect from a bunch of poisonous snakes that one time. If you know you’re movie is bad, this is exactly the sort of ending you want. The nondescript ending that doesn’t actually answer any questions. Did the little boy who was flying with his older brother live? Did Sean ever call that flight attendant? Exactly how much jail time did Eddie Kim get? Were the bodies of the dead who were sucked out of the plane during the last, almost futile attempt to rid the plane of snakes ever found? A good movie might try to answer a few of these, or at least leave enough options for the audience to decide for themselves. A bad movie that knows how bad it is will tell you “forget about it, here, have a margarita” and hope that you shrug and join the party.

I joined the party a long time ago, as far as Snakes on a Plane is concerned. I was one of the many who attended a midnight showing at my local movie theater. A guy in the crowd who worked at the local Hot Topic started an answer-back chant of Samuel Jackson’s name as the movie started, people brought toy snakes with them, and there was much cheering and laughing hysterically. There are plenty of movies that make me laugh by going over the top, but none make fun of themselves in the process as much as this film does. Snakes on a Plane gets an A in my book almost exclusively because it knows how to laugh at itself and not make everyone else in the room feel awkward.

Note: I am shocked that there are no decent scenes from this movie that aren’t “the line” and the Cobra Starship music video on YouTube. Thus, I leave you with BUNNIES!

Snakes on a Plane in 30 Seconds, with Bunnies: