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Monthly Archives: June 2007

I am quite sure that it is nearly impossible to be completely objective about a film that is part of a series I am somewhat guiltily obsessed with. In fact, it is difficult to be objective about any film; there is always some degree of subjectivity in the realm of what an individual finds entertaining. At my midnight showing of Ocean’s Thirteen, I impatiently waited through seemingly endless trailers for the next Nicholas Cage flaming skull movie. Having watched its two predecessors just hours before, I felt completely prepared for whatever my boy Steven Soderbergh was going to bring this time. I am pleased to say that I was not underwhelmed. That said, I had the exact same feeling walking out of the theater that I experienced after the first two: an indescribable, queasy sensation of relief and anxiety. This paradoxical sense of being completely amazed in how Soderbergh was able to tease me as I gullibly maintained that the film would end in a sudden, unsatisfying, over-stylized but short on logic conclusion to the anticipated heist. And after an hour to reflect on exactly what I thought about the film, I can conclude that I have a well-developed statement to summarize my feelings on the entire series (with the assumption that this is indeed the last venture). What I find most impressive about this wholly entertaining trilogy is the shear originality and self-containment of each episode. The third film in particular, but each part of the series respectively, has an orgastically distinct style consisting of cinematography that could sustain a moviegoing experience on its own. Yet what is style without substance? – Soderbergh delivers on both with a screenplay developed by a new pair of writers (Brian Koppelman and David Levien) that transcends what anyone without prior knowledge would expect from a crime movie. The writers suspend of the audience’s head for most of the first two acts that the team we know so well will not be stealing anything tangible at all, at least not in the typical black bag sense we have come to expect. This dynamic elevates the tension of the last act of the film, once again holding the audience in a state of utter confusion and anticipation. And yes, as with the previous two, there a few moments that just don’t work on any level, which can mostly be blamed on the script, but these are made up for with countless surprises in the form of cameos, recurrent characters (largely from Ocean’s Twelve), and a long-anticipated character introduction. After 90 minutes of well-written dialogue and memorable photography, the audience begins to wonder what exactly the team, and the filmmakers for that matter, intends on accomplishing. Sure there are a few subplots in there just to sustain credibility, but this technique of ambiguity particularly evident in the first film is the key to the success of Ocean’s Thirteen. The conclusion is satisfying on a comic, logical, and thematic level; it leaves the audience begging for an immediate follow-up film. Or maybe that was just me. A-

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Friday at 3 AM: Ocean’s Thirteen
Friday at 10 PM: Knocked Up
In the Near Future: Reviews of older films (Seven Samurai, Pan’s Labyrinth, Patton, Shaun of the Dead)

David Fincher’s sprawling film transcends the crime drama genre and presents a solution to an unsolved case, even at the risk of being incorrect. Though there is little doubt of who the killer is (the case was closed in 2004 simply because so much time had past since the murders), Fincher is able to create the illusion of suspense and mystery, feelings that possess the main characters and the general public. The first third of the film is devoted mostly to a series of killings and how cops, investigators, journalists, and the public react. However, the real suspense comes where it is least expected, in the many years after the killer’s reign as Robert Graysmith continues a quest to discover his identity. Played by every-man Jake Gyllenhal, Graysmith is a nerdy, boy scout type perfectly portrayed, with the exception of some final climactic moments. The 160 minute film never drags, and you seem to forget exactly how long you’ve been watching. Many critics have said this film is not as visually impressive or innovative as his previous films, namely Fight Club (a film I should not divulge my opinion of as to avoid hateful comments), but I found it just as pleasing to look at right from the opening frame, which is hauntingly memorable. Each performance is meticulous, as it should be with Fincher’s style. Despite criticisms to the contrary, Jake Gyllenhall is perfectly cast as the boyish cartoonist in over his head. This is more than another Se7en, this is a story of a serial killer that rivals Fincher’s other effort in suspense and poignancy. It’s a film that makes one only look forward to Fincher’s next effort, even if its yet another serial killer drama. Furthermore, it should also be seen not only as a wholly impressive film, but a stunning cinematic accomplishment on par with (excuse the hyperbole) Citizen Kane or Pulp Fiction. How many nearly three hour films can hold the audience’s attention, keeping them literally on the edge of their seats without even noticing how much their backs hurt. As ashamed as many of us are to admit it, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and the other two for that matter, got quite slow in the middle. Zodiac is an exception to the widely-held belief that a movie more than two hours is simply too long. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be a minute shorter, and I can’t wait to see it again. A.

Now that the site is well established, I will be posting some older reviews, a practice that will occur not as often as I review new films but still at a reasonable pace. They will be catagorized as reviews, but will not appear in any sort of chronological order at this point.