Shutter Island

Shutter Island

I hate Martin Scorcese. I want to be very clear about that right upfront. Oh, I’m well aware that he’s “the greatest director in modern cinema”. I know. It’s not an ignorant opinion. I’ve seen Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Departed, Taxi Driver, Gangs of New York, and pretty much every film he’s ever done (with the exception of The Last Temptation of Christ-which is the reason I hate him personally). They suck. They’re not just average films or slightly suboptimal films, they are awful films. You can stand here and argue the virtues of his body of work for decades and all I’ll see are hours of doddering, boring films with dialogue notable only for the hilarity of its awkwardly prolific profanity. Have I appropriately set up my mindset towards Scorcese films? The most frustrating thing about him and the reason I keep watching them (apart from a masochistic desire to see why I’m the only one who feels this way) is that I always suspected that he could make a film I loved. I thought The Aviator and The Color of Money were ok. I liked the beginning of Gangs of New York. Then I saw the trailer for Shutter Island and was gobsmacked. It looked amazing. It was creepy and compelling and then I saw it was by him and I just knew he was going to do it to me again, damn his little squinty eyes. However, he didn’t. I have to stand here and say that Shutter Island is fantastic. It’s so fantastic that if they hadn’t delayed it into 2010 from its original release date in October, it would be a serious best picture contender.

Shutter Island follows two US Marshals (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate the disappearance of a patient from a high security mental hospital. As their investigation goes forward they encounter stonewalling from the staff, warnings from the patients, and a hurricane that traps all on the island. Scorcese paces the film masterfully, channeling Hitchcock, as he slowly ratchets up the tension through flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations that flesh out the back story of DiCaprio’s character. He does this so gradually and so unrelentingly that I noticed at one point that my jaw was clenched firmly shut and my legs were tensed. It’s not a horror film, it’s not frightening, rather it’s suspenseful and viscerally nerve-wracking with a script that has only the normal amount of R rated dialogue and not Scorcese’s usual F-bomb-a-palooza.

DiCaprio turns in a fantastic performance as does Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, and the rest of the stellar cast. I went through the movie totally engrossed, but unprepared for the level of emotion and depth the picture gained once the end was revealed. Like films such as The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, and Psycho, repeat watchings will grant this film an entirely new layer of complexity as you examine the actions and dialogue in a new light. It was a very good film going into the last 20 minutes, but those last 20 minutes made it a great film.

9.75/10

Daybreakers


DAYBREAKERS

There’s an inherent sustainability problem with vampires ruling the earth. I’m sure you’ve thought about this as much as I have, but should vampires one day rule the earth (which they will, oh they will….if the zombies don’t come first) there’s a problem. If everyone’s a vampire, what do the vampires eat? That’s the problem facing the world in Daybreakers, which manages to do something nearly impossible in the post-Twilight, Buffy, True Blood world: tell an original vampire story.

Vampires rule the world. Humans are down to 5% of the population and most of them are being milked like animals in blood pumping stations to support the appetites of the population. These aren’t the demon possessed vamps of yore. Essentially all that happens to you when you become a vampire is you live forever and you need to drink blood, so most people are all about signing up. Oh, there is a bit of a catch. Should you not drink blood regularly, you shrivel up and turn into Nosferatu’s ugly steroid-pumping cousin in a matter of days. Ethan Hawke plays a hematologist working on a blood substitute and struggling with the morality of how humans are treated by the vamps.

Perhaps the pleasant surprise of my first theatre going experience of 2010 has quite a lot to do with the fact that this was a vampire movie starring Ethan Hawke so there was a pretty low expectation threshold going into the film. The movie is a smart take on the vampire genre that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is filmed very stylishly, and has some very smart ideas to weave into the vampire mythos (including a cure that I thought was clever). It’s not a great movie, and every time Willem de Foe says anything at all, I was wincing, but it’s a fun movie with a lot more brains than the genre typically offers.

7.25/10

Olympic Thoughts II: Vancouver 2010


A little over halfway through the games now and I can tell you that stage 2 couch neck has me looking at my monitor cockeyed. I must confess that my Olympic watching the last day or two hit a wall that even my fanaticism could not overcome: Ice Dancing. Ice Dancing is not a sport. It is the only sport on the entire program that I would instantly eject given the title of Grand Olympian (in my dreams, this often happens). It’s dance. That the dance happens on ice, makes really no difference. Is snow dancing in the winter games? No. Is ballroom dancing in the summer games? Nope. It’s art not sport and it’s boring art at that. So when the compulsories came on, I freely admit that I flipped on my Xbox and shot zombies in the head for several hours.

My complaints about the unpreparedness of the venues continues. The women’s downhill was a slaughterhouse as competitors tripped over icy bumps on the course. Over half of the qualifiers in aerials crashed because the snow they were landing on “had the consistency of grapenuts”. Grapenut snow is not optimal. I’m so biased because of my love for Vancouver that I actually think I’m being overly kind. If these games had gone to South Korea (as they were a few votes away from victory) then I think I’d be apoplectic.

The US team continues to put in a dominating performance. 24 medals at the time of this post and well in the lead of the medal count. Fantastic performances by Julia Mancuso, Lindsey Vonn, and Bode Miller leading our ski team. US hockey beat Canada for the first time in 50 years. Shaun White and Shawni Miller repeat. Apllo Ohno passes Bonnie Blair as the most decorated athlete in US Winter Olympic history. Great performances abound. Tonight…more ice dancing. Grrrrr.

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