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Saturday, July 2, 2011

The 00's top 20: part 1

Here I'm going to cover #20, #19 and #18, enjoy!

20 - District 9 (2009)

For sure one of the most refreshing films I've seen in the Sci-fi genre. It starts as a mockumentary about a South African government operation to relocate the alien refugees that came in Johannesburg 20 years ago, from their slums to a new ghetto type encampment to transform into a more standard action movie on its second part. Very clever writing, dark and sarcastic, convincing visual effects without the overuse of CGI and ambiguous characters that you get to like in the end. Very nice anti-racist message but above all a damn good action movie, one of the surprises of the decade for me!

19 - The Ring (2002)

It may seem strange to most of you but I'm one of the people that actually preferred the remake from the original Japanese version. Verbinski creates an unbelievably haunting atmosphere with his great shots and angles and the whole post production is phenomenal, all the movie is shot in cold colours, it's dark and gloomy and the absolute minimalistic and creepy music score but Hans Zimmer enriches that feeling. This version strong point is the whole artistic direction, some of the shots could be used as paintings, really breathtaking. Great performance by Naomi Watts also, as usual. One of the best horror films of the decade and one of the scariest experiences I had in a cinema, truly remarkable.

18 - Up (2009)

It's really amazing how can a Pixar film can make you cry, laugh and think, all at the same time. Tell me that you watched the first 5 minutes of this piece of art and you didn't feel your eyes getting wet a bit! It's amazing how their stories can be watched and appreciated by kids and adults at the same time, also I won't even comment on the perfection of their cgi and effects, it's absolutely brilliant! A true must-see for adults and kids!

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The 00's top 20: prelude

Hello after a small brake, I'm back to posting, it's time for my top 20 movies for the 00's (2000-2009)!

First i want to say that the rankings between the movies aren't all that important, i mean that OK of course I liked #1 more than #20 but I consider all 20 movies of the list my favourites, all are from 4 stars and above so they're all highly recommended.

Second, I cheated a bit on the movies in parts, I've added the on the list as one movie so i could limit my selection to 20, I hope this isn't too cheap :P

I've decided to cover 3 movies per part of this tribute, except for the top 3 movies of the list where I'll dedicate a full blog post for each of them.

First part comes tomorrow, stay tuned!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hey people, sorry for my lack of updates but some RL stuff kicked in!

On my blog's news, I've added an Amazon box with the Blu-Ray edition of the movie I'm reviewing in the end of each review to make it easier for you in case you want to buy this particular movie.

Next post will be about my 00's top-20 (2000-2009), I hope you enjoy it, sorry again for my lack of updates recently!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dogtooth (Κυνόδοντας)

First of all I want to make clear that the fact that I'm Greek has nothing to do with this review. In general I believe that 95% of artistic production that comes from Greece is utterly garbage but thankfully there are a few shining exceptions. One of these is Dogtooth (Kynodontas). A film that got an Oscar nomination (best foreign film) for Greece after some decades and won Un certain regard award at Cannes festival. Ofcourse the awards and nomination cannot gurantee anything so let's take a look why this is one of the best greek movies of the last decade, and good enough to be in the Oscars ceremony.

The movie focuses on a pretty weird family. Father, Mother, Older daughter, Younger daughter and Son (we never get to know their names). Father is probably the owner of a factory and the only one we see getting out of the family house. The rest of the family live completely isolated from the outside world in a house, where they raise their children by teaching them that if they get out of the home bountaries they will die. They teach and shape them exactly how they wanted to be, pure, untouched by the outside world, protected; the fear of the outside they implant in them is the reason that keep the kids from escaping. The scenes where the parents teach their children various things are the main reason why this movie is also categorised as dark comedy, especially the language part which is a very good example where this movie wants to go. The parents take some words that would be totally unknown to their children such as the word zombie (because there is no TV in the house) and give it a totally different meaning, in the zombie example they teach them that they are a king of small yellow flowers. This may seem a bit funny on the surface but if you think about it a bit more the idea has its roots in George Orwell's 1984, where thοse who had the power were using techniques to change the language with the long-term effect of re-shaping the minds of their people.

This is in my opinion the main theme of the movie, it's not another movie about a dysfunctional family, it goes deeper to the core of the power and those who have access to it, how people use it, how do they disguise their power on others with words like "teching", how far can the shaping of ones children can go without being oppressive and questions like that. Finally the story transforms in a Genesis-like allegory when Christina (a girl employee on the Father's factory, the only outsider allowed into the house to help Son to relief his sexual urges as he's on his twenty's) gives to the older daughter some movie videotapes and by doing that she plants the seed of revolution to the house. Ofcourse this allegory relates to the whole power debate I mentioned before and in the end the main corrosive factor is sex.

Provocative, bizzarre and deeply symbolic (the scene where the Father speaks to the dog trainer is probably one of the most importand scenes of the film), not recommended for anyone as it is pretty unpleasant and messed up at some points, but it delivers perfectly, throught Lanthimos' great directing and the near perfect acting by the cast. Not much to add, heavily recommended if you're into a bit more "weird" and "artsy" stuff, totally deserved the nomination in my opinion and I hope we see many more good movies like this one coming from Greece!


PS1: I've seen a bit of controversy about my last review (i expect much more about this one, lol) so I decided to change my reaction buttons to agree/disagree, use them, I really wanna know your opinion too :)

PS2: I found a list of my top-20 movies of the last decade I've posted on another forum so i thought I'd probably post it here with a small review for each movie, should I do it? And if yes how would be the ideal format in your opinion? One post for each movie would make this a bit long so I thought something like 3 movies per post and one movie per post for the top 5, please tell me your opinion on the comments.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Black Swan.

I have to say that since I'm a big Arronowski fan (despite the fact that after seeing one of his movies you need anti-depressants :P ), so I wanted to see what he could achieve after the near-perfect Wrestler (2008). Well, he did it again, this time with a movie so rich in artistic imagery and symbolisms, as opposed to the minimalistic and low budget Wrestler,  the caught me by surprise.

Natalie Portman

As usual, Arronowski makes a movie about obsession. We follow the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballet dancer who's getting the lead role on Swan Lake. She is a perfect dancer in technical sense but the leading role in Swan Lake poses a new challenge. To play it properly, except for the role of White Swan (who represents purity and order) she must also play the role of Black Swan (a representation of the chaotic nature of passion, and the beauty of imperfection), which is much more difficult to her. Oppressed by her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), a retired ballerina who sees Nina as what she could become herself if she didn't retire from dancing to give birth to her, and her Director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), who pushes her to stop being so perfect and express her inner passion in order to become suitable to play the role of Black Swan. Things get complicated when Lily (Mila Kunis) joins the group, a dancer who's pretty mediocre technique-wise but dances with pure passion, impersonating the Black Swan perfectly in the eyes of Thomas.

Mila Kunis

So, from this point on the movie is about Nina's struggle to express her self and forget all those years where she was raised in a glass cage by her mothe, totally protected with her only goal being to achieve perfection. We also see how things get complicated about her and her antagonist, Lily, and that's all I can say about the plot without spoiling so much. All I can say is that Arronowski manages to give countless scenes with a symbolic meaning, without being pretentious, but more than that, he delivers a truely amazing piece of art, the visuals combined with the fantastic piece of music by Tchaikovski make the movie truely stunning. I have to say that the climax of the movie, around the last 20 minutes, is one of the best I've ever seen all those years I watch movies, both on a dramatical and an artistic point of view. As for the main actors they are all excellent. Portman maybe on the performance of her life, she's just perfect, so fragile and yet so freaky, she's absolutely convincing; great performance from Vincent Cassel also! The supporting cast also does a great job with the pleasant surprise being Mila Kunis.

Darren Arronowski during the filming of Black Swan

Verdict? An excellent psychological drama with some thriller elements by the obsessed with obsessions Darren Arronowski. A movie so memorable and yet so painful to watch (not as unpleasant as Requiem For A Dream and The Wrestler though), so beautiful and yet so ugly at the same time, just like the dual nature of the black/white swan! The best movie of 2011, along with Inception ofcourse :) .   


Thursday, June 2, 2011

First movie review! Inception!

Yeah, I know that is not so original, but I re-watched this film recently for the second time and I was stunned again! I think Nolan is a genious, not because he makes so deep artsy movies but for the simple reason that his movies are action films on their core and yet he manages to give them so much depth and diversity without forgetting their main purpose which is a damn good blockbuster action flick!

I point this out because I hear from people opinions like "ok it was good but not so special" etc. Well take a step back and watch it in this perspective. This isn't a Lynch film, this was an action blockbuster, and it was so cleverly written that made people to compared it to movies that had nothing to do with the genre. Just take a look at the action part of the movie and tell me if this isn't one of the most intense and perfectly directed action movies you've seen for years. Nolan knows that what makes a good movie isn't stuff blowing up without any apparent reason; what makes it good is immersion! Is to build up his characters so good that you actually care about them, so when the big action scene kicks in you're at the edge of your seat because you don't want something bad happens to them. This creates suspense, not the plastic cgi that kills characters we don't know and don't care about. That is what the most of the modern blowing-up-stuff directors don't understand.

I mean look at her, who would want something bad happen to her? 

Now to the main reason why Nolan is a genious, the scenario. I mean damn, who else could mix the classic heist genre with sci-fi and fill it with psychologic theories about dreams and subconsious so good? The scenario is truely mind-blowing in the way Memento was, it gets a while to get used to the idea but once you get it you're sucked in. Also another thing I like is movies that doesn't have a clear ending. I don't mean the typical "i throw questions all over the place and in the end I don't answer anything, oh look how artsy I am", I mean movies that based on their plot you can fully support more than one theory about their ending, Pan's Labyrinth for example. Inception is that kind of movie and trust me, you could go on and on talking about the ending but it's not that easy to find out what is true and what isn't.

As for the actors, great performance from Di Caprio who gets better and better as the time goes by, Ellen Page was adorable as usual, Marion Cotillard's perfomance is haunting, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe and Tom Hardy do a great job on their secondary roles and Cillian Murphy is exceptional.
Last but not least the really great soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, once again. Just listen to what he did when composing the soundtrack, inspired by Non, je ne regrette rien:


Last words, Nolan, just like he did with Dark Knight (that redifined the superhero movie genre) changes the way we look at action films (hopefully :P). This is for me, the best movie of the 2010 (along with Black Swan) and what hapened at Oscars is one of the most unfair things I've ever seen.



Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Part2: Assassin's Creed 2

Oh yeah.
Remember what I was saying about the first game? That it was showing a lot of potential? Well this is the proof.

AC2 was taken advantage of all the potential and created one of the best Action/Adventure games of the last decade. The scenery is transferred from the Holy Land to middle-ages Italy (Florence, Venice etc) which looks truly amazing. Our hero now is Ezzio Auditore and we watch him grow from a careless young man to the leader of the Assassins organisation.

Ofcourse the character developement of Ezzio is much better, as the overall writing in the game. The ending is shocking and has a big twist but it's not that pure cliffhanger of the first game, also the story of the old war between Templars and Assassin's gets more and more interesting and complicate, especially after you unveil the pieces of "The Truth", the special puzzle stages that unlock a short clip.

The funny part with the second installment of the Assassin's Creed series is that it has so many content in general, so many depth, that makes the first one look like a beta version of it. The cities arehuge and realistic, there are many extra things to do as renovating Monterigioni, your private estate, solving puzzles ("The Truth" stages I mentioned before), getting into special platform/puzzle stages (which are very fun and challenging) and in general the game has a healthy balance between a scripted story-driven scenario and the pure free sandboxing. Also I'd like to point how nice is when you see familiar places or interact with historical figures as Niccolo Mcchiavelli and Leonardo DaVinci.

thanks Leonardo

Thank God Ezzio can swim because when I first heard that we'd have Venice in AC2 it sounded like a total nightmare, knowing that Altair was diying when he touched water!
An example I like regarding how right did the developer got everything in this game. What we liked about the first game was all those outrageous 30-feet above the ground-jump down-hidden blade kills. So what can we do to make it even more outrageous? Well, we can add a second blade on our heroe's left hand so he does those outrageous kills and killing 2 people at the same time. Brilliance :D


So, final words. If you like action/adventure games go play it now! It's big, very well written with three-dimentional and memorable characters, is immersing and more important, it's tons of fun! Strongly Recommended!

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