Movie Project #30: Carrie [1976]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Carrie [1976]

Carrie [1976]
Director: Brian De Palma
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Lawrence D. Cohen (screenplay)
Country: USA
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen
Running Time: 98 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is one of my biggest horror blind spots.

Accolades: Two Oscar nominations (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress), Golden Globe nomination (Best Supporting Actress), #46 on AFI’s 100 Thrills

It appears that I watched Carrie at the best possible time, and not just because we are rapidly approaching Halloween. No sooner than the very next day after finally seeing Brian de Palma’s seminal 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel, I was forced to watch the trailer for its upcoming remake. Not only did the trailer give away the entirety of the film’s plot (complete with multiple shots of the penultimate prom scene), but it just reinforced the idea that a remake is entirely unnecessary.

I knew the general plot going into Carrie, and I had seen clips of it over the years, but I was surprised at just how sad of a tale this is. While still a horror film, it’s not really what I expected of the genre, as it plays out as more of a drama/thriller.

Sissy Spacek (in an absolute jaw-dropping performance) stars as Carrie White, a timid and awkward 17-year-old high school student. She is an outcast at school, almost entirely due to the extreme religious views her mother Margaret (Piper Laurie) forces on her at home. Poor Carrie is forced to learn about puberty on her own (i.e. her first period, which horrifies her and is shown in the very first scene of the film), and her mother dubs her a sinner for this. The 17-year-old is constantly bullied at school, further making her life miserable.

Carrie [1976]

However, things start to look up when one of the girls, Sue (Amy Irving), has a change of heart, feeling guilty about her role in the bullying. She convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (William Katt), one of the most popular guys at school, to invite Carrie to prom. Reluctant at first, fearing this to be a joke, Carrie eventually accepts his offer. Everyone appears to be genuine in their attempts to help Carrie; well, except for two students. Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta, in one of his earliest roles) just want to torment her some more, and they set out to ruin her evening.

Oh, and there’s one other slightly important bit that Carrie is discovering about herself: she has telekinetic powers. Her effects are subtle at first, such as moving a small object, but as she learns more about them, she begins to realize that hey, maybe she can fight back on the constant abuse after all.

Carrie [1976]

The film itself is a bit of a slow burn before reaching the chaotic final act, but it still presents itself as a fascinating character study. We can’t help but empathize with Carrie, and her character is a strong encapsulation of the life of a teenager (albeit a bit more extreme than most). All of the praise given to Sissy Spacek’s performance is well-deserved — those eyes will haunt me forever — and Piper Laurie is also terrific as her religious nutjob of a mother.

Carrie truly does stand the test of time, and while the fashion may be dated, the tale itself is not. This is a damn good horror film and one of the finer de Palma works that I have seen. It’s a shame that the remake will likely be the next generation’s introduction to this classic story.

8/10

Movie Review: The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Running Time: 112 minutes

The real-life couple of Ed and Lorraine Warren gained notoriety as the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, a paranormal investigative group that attempted to help with thousands of ghost and demon-related hauntings. The Conjuring tells the tale of one of the couple’s investigations, which the opening credits describe as their most extreme case ever.

Set in 1971, the film focuses on a family of seven that moves into an old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The parents, Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters, are happy-go-lucky during their big move-in day, though they find it peculiar that their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house. The very next morning, Carolyn wakes up with a huge bruise on her leg, and poor Sadie is found dead outside.

The Conjuring [2013]

The paranormal activities only get worse from there, and they grow more and more frequent. Items are thrown across the house, doors are open and shut on their own, and children are pulled from their beds while they sleep. To top it off, the youngest daughter claims to have made a new friend, Rory, who no one else can see.

Eventually, the family cannot take any more of the abuse, and Carolyn reaches out to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren for help. As soon as they arrive, Lorraine immediately notices multiple presences within the house. It’s clear to them that there is a demon that has latched onto the family, and they will have to gain evidence in order to pursue an exorcism on the entire house. The Warrens set up an elaborate system of cameras and audio recordings in order to obtain enough proof, but this quickly becomes a race against the clock as their presence seems to infuriate the demon inside the house.

The Conjuring [2013]

The general concept for The Conjuring feels familiar, and the film itself doesn’t really break any new ground within the horror genre. However, the overall package is well put together, offering a chilling atmosphere with a relentless sense of dread and plenty of scares. The attention to detail is impeccable, as director James Wan nailed the 1970s setting, right down to the household items on display. Wilson and Farmiga are terrific in the lead roles, and the children do well at looking scared out of their minds. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston make for a great couple as well, though the latter looks surprisingly emotionless during the film’s batshit-crazy climax.

The fact that The Conjuring is based on a true story adds even more to its freaky nature. Sure, extreme liberties were taken with some of the paranormal disturbances, but they help make the film even more entertaining. As someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts, demonic possessions or the like, I still found this to be an incredibly entertaining film. Perhaps best of all, it’s intelligent as well, something we really don’t see much of in the genre anymore.

8/10

Movie Project #26: Rebecca [1940]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Rebecca [1940]

Rebecca [1940]
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Robert E. Sherwood (screen play), Joan Harrison (screen play), Philip MacDonald (adaptation), Michael Hogan (adaptation)
Country: USA
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders
Running Time: 130 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is one of the most highly-regarded Hitchcock films that I still needed to see.

Accolades: Won two Oscars (Best Picture, Best B&W Cinematography) + 7 other nominations, #80 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills, #31 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains, #126 on IMDB Top 250

It still baffles me that out of Alfred Hitchcock’s distinguished reputation and extensive filmography, he never once won an Oscar for Best Director. In fact, Rebecca, his very first American film, is his only Best Picture winner. Despite its accolades, Rebecca always seems to somehow get lost in the shuffle. This certainly happened to me, as it is somewhere around the tenth Hitchcock film I have seen. Make no mistake — this is a fantastic film that deserves to be mentioned among his best.

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman (Joan Fontaine), never identified by name, who works as a paid companion of a wealthy businesswoman (Florence Bates). While accompanying her boss on vacation in Monte Carlo, the young woman meets a lonely aristocratic widow named Maximilian de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Despite obvious differences in class and social stigma, the two hit it off, and Maxim invites her to go back to his glorious mansion, Manderley. Within just a couple of weeks, the two are married.

Rebecca [1940]

The new Mrs. de Winter has seemed to reinvigorate Maxim with a new outlook on life, but she is constantly under pressure in Manderley. The presence of Maxim’s past wife, Rebecca, is everywhere. Her former bedroom is still sealed shut, left exactly as it was when she passed on in a mysterious boating accident. Pictures and memorabilia from the deceased are everywhere in the estate, and the servants frequently remark on how wonderful Rebecca was.

The worst offender is the lead housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson). She is seemingly still obsessed with Rebecca, and her unwelcoming demeanor consistently puts the new bride on edge. There’s something off-putting about this long-time resident, though exactly what it is doesn’t become apparent until the final act.

Now, as someone who has seen nearly a dozen Hitchcock films, I should have expected a twist. Yet ol’ Hitch managed to pull a fast one on me here. After what appears to be a fairly straightforward gothic melodrama about a blossoming (but struggling) relationship in the first act, the film goes in a completely different direction. Secrets are revealed, motivations are announced, and back stories told. This eventually culminates in a fiery conclusion that again feels strikingly different from the rest of the film.

Rebecca [1940]

Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson all received Oscar nominations for their performances. While Olivier is certainly memorable in this, it is the two ladies that truly impress. Fontaine is the typical Hitchcock leading blonde, but she perfectly displays the naivete of someone completely out of her element, yet one who also wants to make the best of her new situation. Anderson’s performance is ice cold, and her character’s evil nature earned inclusion in AFI’s 100 Villains list.

Rebecca is not the type of thriller that Hitchcock would later become known for, but it is a haunting mystery that effortlessly managed to keep me guessing throughout. While the director would perfect his craft in later years, this is still an excellent film that is more than deserving of its accolades.

9/10

Movie Review: Magic Magic [2013]

Magic Magic

Magic Magic [2013]
Director: Sebastián Silva
Writer: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva
Running Time: 97 minutes

It’s somewhat ironic that Magic Magic went straight to DVD. The previous Sebastián Silva & Michael Cera collaboration, the low-budget road movie Crystal Fairy, was filmed as a means to pass the time while waiting for funding for Magic Magic, yet it managed to receive a limited theatrical release. It’s a bit of a shame that both didn’t get proper releases, as they are both quite interesting little films, albeit incredibly different.

Magic Magic tells the story of a young American woman, Alicia (Juno Temple), who travels to Chile to visit her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). Sarah has planned a long road trip to a secluded cabin, and she brings along a few of her friends: her boyfriend, Agustín (Agustín Silva), a local friend, Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and a fellow American, Brink (Michael Cera).

Magic Magic [2013]

The trip seems doomed from the start. Alicia has never left the U.S. before, and she is struggling to adapt to the new country. It doesn’t help that Sarah abandons her for part of the vacation to make an emergency trip back to Santiago, forcing Alicia to travel alone with people she does not know. Barbara appears standoffish, and Brink is downright creepy with some of his mannerisms.

Alicia struggles to get any decent sleep, and her insomnia starts producing frequent hallucinations. We are left to question what is real and what is a dream for much of the film’s running time. This culminates in a final act that is so wildly different from the rest that it will make or break the film for most viewers. I loved the direction the film went, as it changed its tone at just the right time, right before Alicia’s behavior grew too grating.

Magic Magic [2013]

Juno Temple has been one to watch in recent years, and she delivers what may be her finest performance yet in this lead role. Her blank stares and disillusioned expressions perfectly convey the vast emptiness that appears to be her mind. It’s not entirely clear what mental illness she may have — or if in fact it is just a bad case of insomnia — but it’s hard to look away from her. And, of course, it’s great to see Michael Cera once again take on a different type of role here, this time being both ghoulish and unpredictable.

Magic Magic may be a bit too much of a slow burn, but it’s a strangely enigmatic film that warrants a viewing. The odd Silva/Cera partnership continues to yield fruitful results, and I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see from them.

7/10

Movie Review: Only God Forgives [2013]

Only God Forgives [2013]

Only God Forgives [2013]
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Running Time: 90 minutes

After the critical success of 2011’s Drive, my personal movie of the year, all eyes were focused on director Nicolas Winding Refn. What would he do to follow up his breakout hit? If you had guessed he would make a violent crime drama with incredibly sparse dialogue and a nearly non-existent plot, give yourself a hand.

Ryan Gosling once again takes the lead, this time playing Julian, a mysterious drug smuggler in the seedy Bangkok underworld. After his brother Billy (Tom Burke) is murdered for raping and killing a young prostitute, Julian does not immediately seek vengeance. In fact, he does nothing at all. This infuriates his domineering mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), who flies into Thailand with the ferocity of a Griselda Blanco. She will do whatever it takes to hunt down and kill those involved with her son’s death, and Julian is her pawn in this whether he likes it or not.

Only God Forgives [2013]

This is a simple revenge story, one that takes its sweet time getting anywhere. There is a lot of staring with no words being spoken, and characters are frequently shown to be walking in slow motion. This is “artsy” to the point of exhaustion, and those with little patience will find this a chore to sit through.

Yet there is still something resembling a good film beneath this tedium. Refn’s direction is as stylish as ever, and Bangkok comes to life with an assortment of vibrant neon colors. Many scenes are awash in blue and bright red, and the film itself is quite stunning to look at.

Only God Forgives [2013]

The performances are also memorable. While Gosling does not appear to change his facial expression even once during the entire film, Kristin Scott Thomas is a tour-de-force as the mafioso-like matriarch. Even as her character spews inappropriate diatribe about the size of her son’s genitalia, she remains convincing. Vithaya Pansringam also delivers a quite enjoyable performance as Lt. Chang, the powerful police officer who had a hand in Billy’s death. He comes across as someone who should not be messed with. At all.

Only God Forgives is a divisive film through and through. While not everything works, this is still a visual spectacle that has enough eye candy to make up for some of its weaknesses. At the very least, this further proves that Refn is a filmmaker that knows how to get people talking about his work, and he doesn’t seem to give a damn about what any of us may think.

6/10

Movie Project #19: Rififi [1955]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Rififi [1955]

Rififi [1955]
Director: Jules Dassin
Writers: Auguste Le Breton (novel), Jules Dassin (adaptation), René Wheeler (collaboration) and Auguste Le Breton (collaboration)
Country: France
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin, Marcel Lupovici, Marie Sabouret
Running Time: 122 minutes

Reason for inclusion: I noticed this on several “best of” lists for film noir, crime, the 1950s, etc. and wanted to make it a point to finally see it.

Accolades: Won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival, part of the Criterion Collection, Roger Ebert’s Great Movies and Quentin Tarantino’s Coolest Movies of All Time

When it comes to heist films, there is Rififi and then there is everything else.

Fresh out of prison after serving five years for stealing jewelry, Tony (aka “The Stéphanois”, played by Jean Servais) is struggling to adapt to the life he once knew. He drinks too much, has a nasty cough that suggests possible lung disease, has hit a cold streak playing cards, and to top it all off, his former girlfriend is now property of a Parisian mob boss. Needless to say, when a colleague (Jo, played by Carl Möhner) approaches him with the idea of pulling off another jewelry heist, it doesn’t take long for Tony to warm up to the idea.

Two other men — Mario (Robert Manuel) and master safecracker César (Jules Dassin) — enter the picture, and the group begins developing an increasingly detailed plan to rob a popular Parisian jeweler’s storefront. Their research is immaculate — they make multiple trips to the store, checking in on its security system while also learning the inticracies of the building itself. The store’s alarm system is easily triggered, as mere light vibrations will set it off for the whole neighborhood to hear.

Rififi [1955]

In a bit of ingenious filmmaking, we are able to watch the group as they buy an identical version of the alarm and start pondering ways to mute it. Tampering with the wires and the insides of the alarm will immediately cause a ruckus, so there appears to be no clear way to disable it. Just as the men are starting to lose hope on the operation, Tony finds a way to quiet the system using fire extinguisher foam. Eureka!

The actual heist is the stunning centerpiece of the film. For nearly 30 minutes, Dassin shows the group executing their plan, most of which takes place in complete silence (meaning no music either). It’s a rather amazing accomplishment, as there is so much tension and suspense without anything being said. This type of sequence could never happen today.

But yet with Rififi, there is still *more* after the heist. Here the criminals have to deal with the aftermath of their feat, and it isn’t pretty. The film gets shockingly violent after this, especially by 1955’s standards.

Rififi [1955]

Perhaps even more incredible, the film manages to turn these anti-heroes into likable characters. Tony, in particular, is an absolute brute at the beginning of the film. How can we root for someone so self-loathing who also unnecessarily smacked around his ex-girlfriend? Yet by the end of the film, we see that he *does* have a set of morals, and we want to see him succeed. All four thieves follow the “code of silence” after the heist, which is admirable in its own right.

Rififi is still an impressive piece of filmmaking, and it’s clear that it has influenced nearly every major heist film since its release. It’s easy to see why Quentin Tarantino selected it as one of the “coolest movies of all-time” — hell, without Rififi, there would be no Reservoir Dogs. A must see.

9/10

Movie Review: Trance [2013]

Trance [2013]

Trance [2013]
Director: Danny Boyle
Screenplay: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
Running Time: 101 minutes

Danny Boyle’s latest thriller is a film that bounces all over the place with a plot that is both convoluted and completely outlandish. Twists and turns are plentiful, and at times the film is hard to follow. However, it is directed with a style and vision that only Boyle can pull off.

James McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auctioneer who is violently hit in the head by criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel) during an art heist gone bad. When Simon regains consciousness, it is discovered that he also has amnesia — he cannot remember anything that happened after the damaging blow to the head. His memory is crucial, as it turns out that he had hidden an extremely valuable painting during the heist, sending Franck and his goons home empty-handed. Franck begins torturing Simon in a desperate attempt to find its whereabouts. Realizing Simon isn’t bluffing with his amnesia, Franck sends him to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), in a further attempt to unlock the memories of where the painting might be.

Trance [2013]

From there, the film bends in all sorts of directions, and there are enough dream sequences shown to make it very difficult to know just what is real and what is fantasy. This is a film that must be taken at face value; it asks its audience to go with the flow and not think too much about what is happening on screen. So much of it is far-fetched that these jumps in logic are bound to infuriate some.

For a good 3/4 of the film, it’s incredibly difficult to determine what exactly is happening. A huge twist near the end puts things in perspective, and it is in this way that the film rewards patient viewers. Sure, it may not entirely make sense, but then again the film’s concept itself is pretty ridiculous.

In the hands of a lesser director, Trance could easily be a middling affair. However, this is Danny freakin’ Boyle, so at the very least it’s full of eye candy. Dazzling shots, vibrant colors and a rush of a soundtrack (composed by Underworld’s Rick Smith, no less) all help make Trance fly by.

Trance [2013]

The cast, of whom McAvoy, Cassel and Dawson are all given nearly equal screen time, is strong, and they play off each other rather well. The arch of McAvoy’s character is particularly invigorating, and he delivers what may be his strongest performance yet. It is Dawson’s performance, however, that people will remember most. She is completely believable as a hypnotherapist, which is a major feat in itself. I could listen to her soothing voice all day long.

While Trance may jump around a bit too much for its own good, it remains a solid thriller that is rewarding enough for those who sit through till the end. It is the type of film that begs to be seen more than once, but at the same time it is perhaps not strong enough to warrant repeat viewings.

7/10

Movie Review: Stoker [2013]

Stoker [2013]

Stoker [2013]
Director: Chan-wook Park
Screenplay: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson (contributing writer)
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Running Time: 99 minutes

Stoker will forever be known as Chan-wook Park’s first English language feature film, and the comparisons to his Vengeance trilogy are hard to avoid. However, it is best to go into his latest film with an open mind. Stoker is strong enough to stand on its own, comparisons be damned.

The film begins with a funeral for Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney), a wealthy man who passed away in a car accident on his daughter India’s (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday. She remains in the care of her estranged mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), but they are soon joined by Richard’s long-lost brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode). Right off the bat it seems that something is amiss with Charlie. Goode plays him to smarmy perfection as he weasels his way into the household. Evelyn falls for his charms rather quickly; India, not so much.

Stoker [2013]

India is a complex girl. She’s quiet and often gets picked on at school, but she’s also not afraid to stand up for herself. The loss of her father has clearly been quite damaging, and Charlie’s insistence on building a friendship with her is not exactly welcomed. Yet as she learns more about her seemingly-vagrant uncle, she begins to discover things about herself that she perhaps didn’t know before.

As such, Stoker is something of a “coming of age” tale. However, it’s unlike any such tale you have seen before. After all, this is a Chan-wook Park film with a screenplay written by Prison Break star, Wentworth Miller. Stoker is completely unnerving during its entire running time, and it seems determined to leave its audiences feeling as uncomfortable as possible. Violence is kept to a minimum, but Park plays with a number of social taboos, all using a distinct visual style that only he can offer. His use of color and flawless transition shots are a thing of beauty, even if at times they do distract from the film itself.

Stoker [2013]

The cast here is terrific, led by the very talented Mia Wasikowska. Best known for playing Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Wasikowska thrives in this much, much darker role. It’s also great to see Nicole Kidman deliver another strong performance in her limited screen time, but perhaps most surprising is Matthew Goode. He has one of those faces where he feels instantly familiar, but beyond his pretty face is a disturbing interior that comes out more and more throughout the film. While Wasikowska is the star, Goode is the one who keeps the wheels turning.

Stoker is arguably Chan-wook Park’s most accessible work, but it’s still not for everyone (even notable amongst critics, given its 66% Rotten Tomatoes average). For those willing to brave the incommodious atmosphere, this is a rare great film released during the first quarter of the year. Park has transferred his talent masterfully to Hollywood, and I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

8/10

Movie Project #10: The Warriors [1979]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

The Warriors [1979]

The Warriors [1979]
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: Sol Yurick (novel), David Shaber, Walter Hill
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Thriller
Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright
Running Time: 92 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is one of the essential cult films I have heard so much about but never seen.

Accolades: Part of the 500 Essential Cult Movies list and the New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made

Warriors, come out to play-i-ay.

One of the great joys in watching film is to finally see a cult classic for the first time. I had heard so much about The Warriors already — I’m sure *everyone* has heard the quote above, right? — but watching it still managed to be fresh and invigorating.

The Warriors takes place in a dystopian version of New York City in which gangs run the streets. It’s a dark, gritty city, and it seems that everything is tagged with graffiti, including the inside and outside of subway trains. The most powerful gang in the city is the Gramercy Riffs, and their leader, Cyrus (Roger Hill), has called a midnight summit of *all* New York area gangs. He requests that every gang sends nine unarmed delegates to meet in the Bronx to hear his proposal. Cyrus calls for a truce so everyone can work together to obtain total control of the city.

The Warriors [1979]

Shit hits the fan when the leader of the Rogues shoots and kills Cyrus, then pins the blame on a member of the Warriors group. Now every single gang member in NYC is out for blood against the Warriors, and the film follows them as they attempt to make it back to their Coney Island stomping grounds in one piece.

“I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle.”

The Warriors [1979]

It’s a pretty basic story, but what makes The Warriors so great is its style. This goes for the dangerous NYC wasteland all the way to its colorful cast of characters. The gangs we are introduced to are all memorable and utterly ridiculous at the same time. The Warriors are a shirtless bunch that wear brown pleather vests with a “Warriors” patch on the back. The Orphans — a group of misfits so low on the totem pole that they didn’t even get invited to the summit — wear greasy green shirts and blue jeans, and they are anything but intimidating. My favorite gang? Easily the Baseball Furies, a silent, facepaint-wearing bunch that wears old baseball jersies. Also, who could forget the Boppers — a snazzy-looking group with bright purple hats and vests?

Very few of the characters are even attempted to be fleshed out, but that’s not a problem here. This is a film in which you need to just sit down and enjoy the ride, campy dialogue and all. Taken on these values, The Warriors is a lot of fun. I can dig it.

8/10

 
This film inspired a 2005 video game of the same name. Anyone play it?

Movie Project #5: Amores Perros [2000]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I watch those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Amores Perros [2000]

Amores Perros [2000]
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga
Country: Mexico
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal, Goya Toledo, Vanessa Bauche, Álvaro Guerrero
Running Time: 154 minutes

Reason for inclusion: This is the only film in the “trilogy of death” that I hadn’t seen, and the constant comparisons to Pulp Fiction had me intrigued.

Accolades: BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language, Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Prize of the Critic’s Week at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, included on Empire’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time, ranked #182 on IMDB’s Top 250

This review discusses several plot points and may contain spoilers.

In English, Amores Perros translates to “Love’s a Bitch.” It’s a clever play on words for a film in which love and dogs play an important part in each of its three segments.

As the first entry in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s trilogy of death (later followed by 21 Grams and Babel), Amores Perros is similarly structured as an anthology film. Three completely different stories are intertwined due to a horrific car crash that happens in Mexico City.

The first segment is the hardest to watch, and it is the reason why a “no animals were harmed during the making of this film” warning appears beforehand. It involves dog fighting, and through the illusion of quick cuts, the fights come across as all too real. The viciousness of these moments are enough to make animal lovers squirm (and possibly shut off the film altogether), but numerous precautions were taken to make sure no animals were actually harmed. It’s very effective film-making from Iñárritu in his feature film debut.

Amores Perros [2000]

The main character of this first segment, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), becomes involved in dog fighting by total chance. After his dog kills that of a local thug’s in an impromptu “non-sanctioned” fight, Octavio sees this as an opportunity to begin profiting from his pet. His ultimate goal is to make enough money to escape with his sister-in-law, Susana (Vanessa Bauche), who is stuck in an abusive relationship with his brother, Ramiro (Marco Pérez).

The beginning of the film indicates that things aren’t going to go as planned, as it shows Octavio and Jorge in a car chase, culminating with them smashing directly into another car.

The second segment follows the lives of Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero) and Valeria (Goya Toledo). Daniel has left his wife and two kids in order to live with Valeria, who is a Spanish supermodel. She is the one driving the other car that Octavio and Jorge crash directly into. As a result, she breaks her leg, and is unable to continue working as a model. On top of this, she also loses her dog, Richie, who has somehow managed to get himself stuck underneath the floorboards of her house. With so many things going wrong at once, the strength of the new relationship of Daniel and Valeria is already put to the test.

Amores Perros [2000]

The third and final segment focuses on one person, a hitman (Emilio Echevarría) nicknamed “El Chivo” (aka “The Goat”). His connection to the crash is the loosest of the group, as he is getting ready to perform an assassination at the exact moment the accident happens. El Chivo’s story is the saddest of the group, as he is a homeless man who just wants to reconnect with his long-lost daughter. His loyal group of dogs seem to be the only thing holding him together.

Three segments. Three completely different stories. On their own, they likely wouldn’t be particularly enthralling, but the way they are interwoven together keeps the film fresh. Little hints and reminders are dropped here and there, showing that these characters are all related in more ways than originally meets the eye. As with 21 Grams and Babel, this is a film that would seemingly warrant multiple viewings to pick up on these clues.

Amores Perros [2000]

Filmed on a modest budget of $2.4 million, Amores Perros has a very personal, authentic feel. The performances are raw and impressive, and the fact that much of the movie was filmed in the poorer areas of Mexico City adds even more to the grittiness. In a crazy bit of trivia, Iñárritu and some of his crew were actually robbed by street gangs during filming.

It’s easy to see why Amores Perros is held in such high regard, and it is a thoroughly entertaining film overall. However, its 2 1/2 hour running time is a bit of a burden by the end, and some sections could have been easily reduced or cut entirely. The middle segment especially could use some trimming, as Valeria and her cries for Richie grew more and more ludicrous with every minute.

Regardless, this is still one hell of a filmmaking debut, and Iñárritu set the stage for a formula that he would go on to perfect with 21 Grams.

8/10