What I Watched

What I Watched, What You Watched #175

Bartlet and Blacktop

The West Wing / Two-Lane BlacktopI mentioned it the last couple of weeks, and I'm still watching "The West Wing" as I finished the first season this week and am already eight episodes into the second. I first started watching "West Wing" when Warner Home Video sent me the second season to review back in 2004. I was new to all of this, having started the site in 2003, and was working two jobs at the time. Seeing how I wasn't being sent much to review in the way of DVDs at the time I decided to watch it.

Snow had shut down where I worked for a couple of days so I plowed (pun intended) through the entire second season, absolutely loving every minute of it and watching it now for the first time since then, I am loving it all over again. I don't believe, back in 2004, I realized it was an Aaron Sorkin creation. In fact, back then I am not even sure I paid close enough attention to even really know who Aaron Sorkin was, despite loving A Few Good Men and enjoying The American President.

Unfortunately the review I wrote for that season is no longer available. Upgrades to the site have caused a few things to be lost, but I'm quite sure it probably wasn't all that well written.

The only other thing I watched was Criterion's upcoming Blu-ray release of Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop, which is excellent and I will have a review for you, hopefully, Monday, but certainly no later than Tuesday. I still have a few features to watch.

Other than that, tomorrow will be my first screening of the new year with Gangster Squad, which will serve as the first review of 2013. But now it's your turn, what did you watch this week? I assume some of you were able to go see Zero Dark Thirty as it had a small expansion this weekend, but did any of you go see Texas Chainsaw 3D? Was it any good? Speak up in the comments below.

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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Very little watching for me this week. Nothing new:


    Pulp Fiction (1994) - Blu-ray Home - Had only seen this once a long time ago, but decided to check it out after loving Django. Overall a very entertaining movie and I enjoyed it more actually this time around then I had remembered. Samuel L Jackson is pure gold. 8.0 / 10

    The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Blu-ray Home - Considering a therapist since I can't seem to control my addition. 10 / 10

  • Jamie

    i watched quite a few movies this week including: django, ZDT, and skyfall. enough so that i feel fairly comfortable putting together a best of 2012 list. (i'm still waiting to watch the impossible, bully, the celeste and jesse. i just don't feel that they are going to on my list anyways, from what i've heard so far about them...you never know though!)

    1. RUST & BONE: i've heard the criticisms regarding this film...and i get it. it IS overly sentimental, and the ending is tied up a little to tidily. but the performances are outstanding. and the story affected me like no other film this year. i had a visceral and emotional connection, for whatever reason, to the storytelling. it left me reeling.

    2. ZERO DARK THIRTY: if it was possible for another film to knock off rust and bone, it would be this. and it came very close. it was gripping from beginning to end. somehow they managed to draw suspense out of a story, that we knew exactly how it would end. it was fascinating watching the details though.

    3. PERKS BEING A WALLFLOWER: i could rewatch this film today. i loved high school. it was probably the best time of my life. but i can also relate to everything (well almost) that these characters went through. it was the happiest/sad film of the year for me. and "asleep" is one of my favorite smiths songs, although i heard laremy say that the song in the book, is actually different. strange, because it fit so perfectly in the film.

    4. ARGO: a really well done thriller.

    5. DJANGO: this would easily be a few spots higher...but that ending. (spoiler?) i wished they didn't add on the "extra" climax. it all could've been tied together and ended at the shootout in candyland. the film was already feeling a little long. and it got a little silly after the explosion. i know what QT was going for, but for me it didn't work. it cheapened what had happened prior. to me it seemed a little too cutesy, after the 2.5 hours of horror we just witnessed. but the first 2 hours were so good...

    the others:
    how to survive a plague
    the imposter
    amour (easily the most depressing film i watched all year. makes you re-evaluate life.)
    lincoln (my problems are the same as everyones...the family scenes).
    silver linings
    safety not guaranteed
    your sister's sister
    the master (which could probably also go on my most disappointing. just because i expect so much from PTA).
    killing them softly

    disappointments (not "bad" films. just films that i expected so much more from. many of these films i actually like! i was just expecting to love them because of the reviews i read, or the buzz surrounding them).

    cabin in the woods
    holy motors
    dark knight rises
    beasts of the southern wild
    magic mike
    killer joe
    this is 40

    1 BEACH HOUSE - BLOOM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfzFVbkutFE
    2 GRIMES - OBLIVION http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtH68PJIQLE
    3 THE XX - COEXIST http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DQKrICE97o
    4 THE SHINS - PORT OF MORROW http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fweNLKBCh5A
    5 GRIZZLY BEAR - SHIELDS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuG9i5cwGW0

    BAND OF HORSES - MIRAGE ROCK http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX98e8tyvMM
    DIVINE FITS - A THING CALLED... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q71UePIN_ps
    HOT CHIP - IN OUR HEADS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo2lCREilQw
    LOTUS PLAZA - SPOOKY ACTION... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElAv-mLHqGM
    THE WEEKND - TRILOGY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1OTWCd40bc

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      I'm with you 100% on Django's ending.

      • jamie

        i know! so disappointing! #dancinghorse

      • Dan


        • goodfella676

          Disagree. What's wrong with a dancing horse?

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

            Everyone's saying dancing horse, I thought it looked more like drifting to me...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

      Asleep is the song from the book. They use Heroes in the movie, which is supposed to be Landslide

      • jamie

        ohhh...see that's one part i wasn't really a fan of. they've never heard heroes before??

        landslide would've been better. although even that song wasn't obscure enough to send him on a journey to discover who sang it.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

      I do think Quentin Tarantino's performance in Django was silly, but it would've been to dark to end the movie at the shootout. I thought it was satisfying the way he decided to end it. A 300 type of ending wouldn't do it for me with this one.

      • jamie

        i just felt it was too light hearted. i assume that QT was paying homage still to the genre, but it was too far for me. the dancing horse...broomhilda's clapping, and batting of the eyes...the score...it just took me right out of the film. it bordered on eye rolling.

        i don't want to be too harsh. i really liked the movie, up until that point...it's actually my 2nd favorite of his (inglorious being the first). i know this isn't a popular, but pulp is actually one of my least favorites of his. at the time, it was amazing. but it hasn't really held up for me.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

          I laughed so hard at that scene where his horse did that little dance, I thought it was awesome. I thought the whole ending kind of turned into that Will Smith movie Wild Wild West, but it was still pretty cool and funny.

        • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

          Everything you said about the ending is spot on. It was as if Tarantino was trying too hard there, trying to make it violent, pay homage to the genre, score an acting role, etc. He just needed to go for a more simpler, character driven climax. It could've also made the film shorter as well. Still a good movie though.

    • Kimberlesk

      I'm with everyone else on this -- I saw Django on Saturday and felt the same about the ending. Could've easily trimmed that last 1/2 hour and the film would have been better.

    • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

      I'll also agree on Django's anti-climactic ending. BTW, thanks for posting those music links. Really like that first song.

  • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

    Killer Joe -- What a weird, twisted movie! I really liked this overall. Performances were great all around, and McCoughney was incredible. He deserves an Oscar nomination for this, although I won't be too upset if he gets in for Magic Mike instead. I really enjoyed the bizarre nature of the film and that it was also very funny at times. The one thing that did bother me was the ending, not the climax, but rather the very sudden ending (basically the last three minutes of the film). B+

    The Snowtown Murders -- A very interesting true story about a series of murders in Australia. The film is told in a rather odd fashion that almost leaves out facts for the viewer, making it more difficult to understand what is going on. I personally didn't mind this, as it actually kept me intrigued, though I can see why this was a criticism of others. The film is extremely brutal, and the one thing I liked was that it caused me to question my own beliefs about murder and vengeance. B+

    They Live (Re-watch) -- A great, sci-fi/horror/action/comedy flick that worked better for me this time around. That's not to say that I didn't like it the first time, just that I liked it even more this time. Simply a very fun movie with a great script. Oh, and the fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David is awesome. A-

    True Romance (Re-watch) -- A great crime film from Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino. Very memorable, and an interesting, original story. It would've been interesting to see how this film would've turned out had Tarantino directed his original script. A-

    Looper -- What a surprise! This is a movie that I'm pissed I missed in theaters, because I'm sure it would've been lovely to see on the big screen. I really, really liked this movie. It is a good, old-fashioned sci-fi story that shows a small budget and a lot of creativity can go a long way. I really liked Johnson's first film, Brick, and now with Looper, he's someone I'll be keeping an eye out for on my radar. I could praise the visual effects, or the wonderful cinematography, but the one thing that really stood out for me was Johnson's depiction of the future. It bothers me in sci-fi films when the future is depicted as this world that seems so far away (i.e. New Seoul in Cloud Atlas). It provides a certain disconnect with me that usually turns me off. Here, Johnson managed to take our world today and make it slightly more futuristic in terms of the technology and the current climate. It felt like a near future as opposed to one that seemed hundreds and hundreds of years away. I can now say that I found another film from last year that I really liked. A

    I also picked up Cosmopolis, though made it through about 15 minutes yesterday before shutting it off. It seemed like a film I was really going to have to pay attention to, and I wasn't in the proper mood, so I decided I'd best watch it at another time. It seemed interesting, but boy was that dialogue making my head spin.

    I've had the Criterion DVD of Two-Lane Blacktop for quite sometime now, but have never gotten around to watching the film. Really need to make time for that one...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

      I had the same reaction to Killer Joe, it was all perfect right until the ending.
      I guess Quentin Tarantino would've added a better soundtrack to True Romance, its still a great film though, with a lot of good performances, specially Gary Oldman's.
      Looper was awesome, its maybe my favorite movie of last year tied with Django. What was your favorite?

      • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

        My top 3 are in this order:
        1. Zero Dark Thirty
        2. Amour
        3. Looper

        I can say that I feel very strongly towards all three of those films. I still maintain that it was a weak year, but am happy that I did find three films that I really liked. Still have a few more to catch up on though, so maybe there will be some last minute surprises.

    • Jake17

      Yay for Looper love! I'm pretty sure it will be in my Top five of 2012 once I make a list. Also, I find it interesting that you said futuristic cities in movies such as New Seoul in Cloud Atlas because it's something that really bothered me throughout those segments of the movie.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

        The only thing that really bothered me was Hugo Weaving playing a nurse, that was just wrong.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Check me out on Letterboxd: http://letterboxd.com/as/

    At home (first viewing):

    Take this Waltz (2012) – The premise is a bit absurd and kitschy but it’s a decent film. Although, Sarah Silverman does the worst impression of a drunk I’ve ever seen.

    3 / 5

    The Lion in Winter (1968) – A truly great film. All of the performances are masterful and the screenplay is nothing short of brilliant. Unlike some period pieces, it never drags or becomes dull. It’s riveting from beginning to end. Along with the terrific drama, there’s some sly humor thrown in for good measure (“Shall we hang the holly or each other?”). This is a film that actually deserves the Oscars it won. I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t seen it!

    4 / 5

    The Beach (2000) – Most of the film is well-made and very entertaining, but the third act is poorly executed and… well… bizarre.

    3 / 5

    The Prize (1963) – There’s a lot of dumb humor and but most of it works. It’s just an average 60’s comedy.

    3 / 5

    The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) – I’ve now seen 3 John Huston films (Maltese Falcon & African Queen) and this is best of the bunch. Paul Newman is terrific as usual. The film has nice leisurely pace that I really liked. For most of the film, it there isn’t much of a plot. The film is almost made up of a series of vignettes. But once Newman exits the film, it loses momentum and the ending was a little anti-climactic. Still, it’s one of the better Westerns (or “Southerns”) I’ve seen in a while.

    3 / 5

    The Chase (1966) – A good film about income disparities, racism and savagery. Arthur Hill’s The Chase uses the goings-on of a small Southern town to make a statement about society as a whole. The film is about a bored public who uses brutal violence as a means of entertainment. Brando, Redford & Fonda are all very good.

    3 / 5

    The Natural (1984) – A solid sports movie. Its narrative is formulaic but it’s well acted.

    3 / 5

    Zero Dark Thirty (2012):

    *for those looking to avoid spoilers, don’t read this review*

    After much discussion and debate, I’ve now seen Zero Dark Thirty. I’ll break this review up into sections.

    On a technical level – There is no question that Kathryn Bigelow is a talented filmmaker. I thought The Hurt Locker was very well made and Zero Dark Thirty is as well. However, between the films, ZDT is the lesser of the two. The best example of Bigelow’s skills are showcased in the raid on bin Laden’s compound. She manages to create tension and suspense in a sequence whose results we all know. There’s something to be said for that. You definitely get the sense that the specifications of how the Seal team actually breached the compound were well-researched and accurately portrayed in the film.

    The performances - Zero Dark Thirty isn’t really an actor’s movie so there isn’t a whole lot to say about the majority of the performances. The standout performance belongs to Jason Clarke, who’s excellent in the film. You can tell from just watching him that he has a real command of acting and I hope that films like Lawless & ZDT will land him some larger and meatier roles in the future. Jessica Chastain, who delivered many superb performances last year, is very good as the character she’s playing, but I don’t know that all of the Oscar buzz surrounding her performance is justified. I suppose the issue isn’t so much with her performance, but the character itself. The character is an emotionless and one-dimensional drone (a pretty good metaphor, btw, for the US’s preferred method of warfare these days) and Chastain plays her to a tee. It’s very similar, in a sense, to Ben Affleck’s performance in Argo. He’s good, but the character isn’t terribly compelling. Jennifer Ehle (who made my Best Supporting Actress list last year for her performance in Contagion) is good as well, but again, she isn’t given much to do. Edgar Ramirez is also pretty much wasted in a very small and insignificant role and I wondered why an actor of his caliber had been cast in such a thankless role.

    Misc - Apart from what I mentioned above, the cinematography was very well done and the score was fine as well. Mr. Desplat’s work has never really wowed me in the past (with the exception of that one terrific piece from Ides of March) and his score in ZDT is pretty standard for a thriller like this.

    The torture controversy – I’m not really going to comment on this subject at any length since this whole controversy has been used as a smokescreen to divert attention from the real problem with the film. However, for the record, Brad Brevet and I had a conversation a while back (via Twitter) surrounding ZDT and how certain information was first revealed to the audience in the film. I’d like to take this opportunity to clear that up:

    AS: “So you will make the statement that in ZDT, they DO NOT "first learn" about the courier through torture methods?”

    Brad: “I will say with 100% agreement, in ZDT, they DO NOT first learn the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre through torture.”

    Well, having seen the film, I’m able to say that this assertion is not factually correct. Chastain & Clarke (and by extension, the audience) attempt to obtain this information through torture. They string the man up, choke him out with a dog collar, waterboard him and then put him in a box. They then exit the torture room and have brief discussion about the successful attack carried out by al-Qaeda, which they failed to prevent. They then hatch a plan to deceive the suspect (who doesn’t know the attack was successful). They sit down with the suspect, offer him food and then tell him that he told them valuable information that helped them prevent the attack. They say he doesn’t remember this because torture victims often have amnesia. He only offers the nickname of the courier AFTER Clarke threatens to go back and “hang you back up on the ceiling.” Only after Clarke threatens him with the horrific torture we have just witnessed does the suspect reveal the nickname. This is the first time in the film that the audience learns the courier’s nickname. This happens at the 0:26:00 minute mark (the film tells us that this happened in 2003).

    It isn’t until the 1:06:00 mark (the films tells us this is 2008) that a woman shows up and presents information to Chastain which confirms that they knew about Abu Ahmed all along. When Chastain asks why she hadn’t heard about the courier earlier, the woman replies “Nobody saw it most likely. There was a lot of white noise after 9/11, countries wanting to help out; we got a million tips and… things got lost in the shuffle.” In other words, if it hadn’t been for the torture, she wouldn’t have come across the courier’s name as soon as she did.

    I’ll drop it here, because it doesn’t matter whether the film leaves the audience with the impression that torture works. As I say, this the LAST thing that bothered me about the film.

    The politics of Zero Dark Thirty - There are 3 key questions that I think will help determine whether or not an audience member will object to the politics of Zero Dark Thirty:

    1. Do you believe that the US military, for the most part, is trying to “defend our freedoms”?

    2. Do you believe that the CIA, for the most part, is motivated by a desire to “keep the homeland safe” and “protect our freedoms”?

    3. Do you think that the 9/11 attacks occurred because “the terrorists hate our freedoms”?

    It seems quite clear to me, having viewed Zero Dark Thirty and Kathryn Bigelow & Mark Boal’s previous film, The Hurt Locker, that Ms. Bigelow and Mr. Boal would answer “yes” to all three of those questions. That certainly seems to be the perspective on display in Zero Dark Thirty.

    I’ll quote:

    George (played by Mark Strong): “People are dying. We are still no closer to defeating our enemy. They attacked us on land in 98, by sea in 2000 and from the air in 2001. They murdered 3000 of our citizens in cold blood. And they have slaughtered our forward deployed, and what the fuck have we done about it, huh? *slams table* WHAT HAVE WE DONE?”

    Joseph Bradley (played by Kyle Chandler): “I don’t fucking care about bin Laden. I care about the next attack. You’re gonna start working on the American al-Qaeda cells. Protect the homeland!”

    Maya (played by Jessica Chastain): “bin Laden is the one who keeps telling them to attack the homeland. If it wasn’t for him, al-Qaeda would still be focused on overseas targets. If you REALLY want to protect the homeland, you need to get bin Laden.”

    There are several observations to be made from the above quotes:

    1. George completely ignores the fact the United States has been systematically bombing and overthrowing governments in the Middle East for decades and replacing them with US puppet governments. No connection is made between US foreign policy and the events that took place on 9/11. George is quick to point out the 3000 American citizens killed on 9/11 in “cold blood,” but no mention is made about countless women and children who have been slaughtered by the US government for decades.

    2. Bradley, a CIA agent, asserts that his mission is to “protect the homeland.”

    3. Maya first asserts that it’s bin Laden who is responsible for all of the attacks on US soil. She claims that if bin Laden was no longer a factor, al-Qaeda would be focused on other targets besides the US. In other words: it isn’t really al-Qaeda who has a beef with the US, it’s just bin Laden. This, of course, completely dismisses any legitimate grievances al-Qaeda may have had with US foreign policy. The position is made clear: kill bin Laden, protect the homeland.

    This is the only perspective and attitude offered by the film in 2 hours and 37 minutes. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that these are the opinions held by the filmmakers. But for the sake of argument (because I’m sure people will insist that “no, you can’t make that assertion”) let’s say those aren’t the opinions of the filmmakers. It doesn’t matter. I challenge anyone to disagree with me that the CIA agents and members of the military seen in Zero Dark Thirty are depicted as the good guys. Flawed? Maybe. Do they go too far to in their efforts to get bin Laden? It doesn’t matter. We can all agree that they are viewed as the good guys. And THAT, my friends, is ONE of the reasons why ZDT a political film. The filmmakers accept the notion that at the end of the day, the CIA and the military are trying to “protect the homeland.” That’s an opinion, not a fact. There’s nothing “journalistic” about that stance.

    It all comes down to those 3 questions I asked above. And I believe THAT is what separates the people who love the film and those who take issue with it. It all comes down to personal politics. Me? I would obviously answer “no” to all three questions. Therefore, it’s very difficult to be won over by a film that reinforces those notions. That is why the film has been labeled “propaganda” and it’s frustrating when people act as if they have no idea why.

    The fallacy that the US government, CIA and military are trying to “defend the homeland” and end “terrorism” is nonsense to many Americans (myself included). By design, the “war on terror” has no end. It is the policies held by the United States that are responsible for increased aggression towards the US from the Muslim World. Therefore, by continuing and accelerating a campaign of drone bombing, you will inevitably create even more hostility towards the US. The US government has always maintained that “they attack us because they hate our way of life.” Sadly, this myth was knocked down when Donald Rumsfeld commissioned the Defense Science Board Task Force to investigate the impact US policy had on Islamic radicalism:


    Here are some of the findings:

    “Negative attitudes and the conditions that create them are the underlying sources of threats to America’s national security and reduced ability to leverage diplomatic opportunities.”

    “American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies.”

    - “Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our polices. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

    - “Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

    - “Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim self-determination.”

    This seems to be lost on ZDT (and Americans in general). It’s not that the CIA is “failing” in its attempts to “end terror.” They’re not stupid; they know full well the consequences their actions will have in the Muslim World. Studies have shown what will happen. That’s the point. War, since the beginning of human civilization, is fought for economic reasons. War is good business. So the next time you watch Zero Dark Thirty, asks yourself WHY the CIA would even want to end terrorism. It is this very war that provides the US government with immense power and great profit. It is in times of war that a country’s citizenry allow their government to block and eliminate any and all civil liberties. If I were a government official or a private security contractor, why would I want the war to end? US actions only fuel it. To quote (for the LAST time, perhaps) Killing Them Softly: “America’s not a country, it’s just a business.”

    I would, however, be very interested to hear from someone who would answer “no” to all 3 questions but STILL loved the film. THAT would be very interesting to me.

    Side note: Lastly, I would also just like to give credit to Ms. Bigelow for being incredibly clever in the way she made the film. What I mean by that is this: she orchestrates certain sensitive scenes in a way that is at once obvious but at the same time ambiguous. The final shot is a perfect example of this. I know exactly what she and Chastain meant to convey with that tear drop but I’d never be able to prove it in a million years because she slyly leaves it up to “interpretation.” Well played my friend, well played.

    3 / 5

    At home (repeat viewing):

    Annie Hall (1977) – It’s great, but it’s not among his best. Annie Hall was the first “real” movie Allen made after all of those silly SNL-like flicks he did in the early 70’s. While it’s much more mature and intelligent, it still has remnants of those earlier films; like those one-liners he injects from his standup comedy routines. Hall, unlike the films to follow, has more of a narrative structure than his later works. It plays like a conventional romantic comedy as it chronicles how the two meet, what happens in between and then the inevitable breakup.

    After Annie Hall, I think he became more confident as a filmmaker and decided to just make films his own way. With a few expectations (Purple Rose of Cairo, Alice, Shadows and Fog, Midnight in Paris), most of the films he made after Hall didn’t have much of a plot. They were purely focused on character and dialogue. And I think those are his strongest and most interesting films. When he tries to create a larger narrative, it often feels like a gimmick; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    4 / 5

    Killing Them Softly (2012) – It’s been a long time since I’ve wrestled with a film as much as this one. When I first saw it in the theaters, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. One of my primary complaints was that it felt too slow and that it dragged. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a screener and watch it comfortably at home this time. I was consistently entertained throughout the films relatively short running time and it never dragged. The tradeoff, however, was that the ending didn’t land with as much of an impact as it did the first time. I REALLY like this film, but as much as I’ve struggled with it, I just can’t call it a GREAT film. And this bums me out because on paper, Killing Them Softly sounds like a film that was tailor-made to appeal to me.

    It just doesn’t hit enough marks it qualify it as a great film in my opinion. As far as specific criticisms, the only thing that still doesn’t work for me is the slow-mo shooting. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t “wow” me. Anyway, maybe one day in the future something will click and I’ll think it’s great (I had to watch Jesse James 3 times before I really loved it) so who knows. The one encouraging thing about re-watching KTS at home was that it re-enforced the idea that criticisms like “it was too slow” or “it dragged a bit” can easily be overcome by watching a film in the comfort of your own home. I think this will really benefit films like The Master & Django Unchained (which I criticized for being too long and slow).

    3.5 / 5

    Note: I'll have reviews of Hitchcock, The Paperboy, The Impossible and The Sessions for next week.

    On TV:

    Luther (Season 2) - I've only watched the first two episodes so far but compared to the first season (which was really good), it's very weak. It's filled with all of the serial killer cliches that were absent from season 1. Shame.

    • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

      So, let's talk about Zero Dark Thirty...

      First, we can agree to disagree, in that I didn't care much for The Hurt Locker at all, but loved Zero Dark Thirty. As they say, to each his own. But, I will agree with you in that Bigelow is certainly a talented filmmaker who knows how to craft a film. I even recognized this in The Hurt Locker. My problem with that film was the screenplay.

      Here's the thing in regards to the torture. The film isn't taking a side whether or not torture is good or bad. It's simply saying, torture was involved in the manhunt to kill Bin Laden and showing the manner it was used in. I'll even further add my opinion in that I think torture was what caused that prisoner to reveal the name of Abu Ahmed. But, the film is careful in not taking that position that I just stated. It causes the viewer to reach their own opinion, which is the right thing to do in a film like this.

      I'm going to address your three main questions/points about the film a little bit later, as I have to run at the moment and would like the time to think through my responses.

      Oh, and I also loved that final shot of the film. It was the perfect way to end the movie.

      In regards to Killing Them Softly, the slow-mo shooting is one of those things that is beautiful to look at, but to me, it bogged down the plot. It stood out like a sore thumb and felt too stylized in a bad way. I felt the same about the sequence where we are made to experience the drug-induced high that the characters are experiencing. I liked the movie, though wasn't blown away either. My main problem is still that the first 30 minutes are excellent, but once Brad Pitt's character comes into the film, the story becomes rather simple and I still feel like the film adds up to very little.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        As I said in my review, I'm not going to comment on whether or not the film endorses torture. It's irrelevant and that controversy distracts from the real issues at the core of the film. I only wished to clear up a technicality.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

        I agree completely on that scene in Killing them softly, I hated it, but I did think that scene where Ben Mendelsohn is doing drugs was awesome and added a lot of tension.

    • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

      Alright, AS, it took me a while to get all of my thoughts down with regard to your review of Zero Dark Thirty. But here we go!

      I'll start by saying I absolutely agree with your statement that, "The best example of Bigelow’s skills are showcased in the raid on bin Laden’s compound. She manages to create tension and suspense in a sequence whose results we all know. There’s something to be said for that." That's a point I mentioned in my review and what ultimately leads me to compare this film to David Fincher's Zodiac, though I think Zodiac is the better movie. We know the ending to this story, and yet we still await anxiously the events and outcome of the raid. The raid sequence is a master class in building crescendoes of tension that build and build and build, allowing the film to reach a huge climax with maximum payoff, no matter your beliefs on terrorism or U.S. government policies or our military system. The entire sequence is moviemaking at its finest.

      Moving along to the performances, I agree, Jason Clarke performs superbly here. I wish I had spoken to that a bit more in my review, because he certainly puts on a fine performance and, in my mind, should be considered an Oscar candidate for this role, though I seriously doubt he will get recognized come next Thursday. 'Tis a shame, but I would expect nothing less from the Academy than a Clarke snub.

      But I disagree that Chastain's character is "an emotionless and one-dimensional drone." Certainly there are times, at the beginning of the film in particular, where she plays Maya "to a tee" and holds in her emotions -- but that's the nature of the character for the first half of the film. Maya is a newcomer and, though smart, lacks the superiority to convince anyone to dive deeper into her hunches. In the latter half, though, Chastain breaks from that newcomer mold and showcases why she is such a tremendous actress. She is allowed to let loose and present who Maya is at her core: a confident woman of ruthless conviction, a fearless investigator who has honed her craft, had enough bullshit, wants to see her leads acted on. And so she goes about this herself, with, as I stated, "fierce tenacity and exciting verve." I have to think that her Oscar reel will showcase the scene she shares with Kyle Chandler where she very explicitly confronts his character (that of CIA official Joseph Bradley) for not acting on the intelligence she's provided. That scene shook me to the core. I would find it hard for anyone to argue that, particularly in the second half of the film and with that scene serving as the highlight, Maya is "an emotionless and one-dimensional drone." I just don't buy that as a complaint.

      Like you, I too will only briefly touch on the subject of torture, where I will state that I don't believe Zero Dark Thirty implies that the name of the courier is first learned through torture. Yes, Ammar reveals the courier's name to Dan and Maya after he is tortured, but the courier was already made known to U.S. intelligence years before. It is us, the audience, who first learns of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti following the torture of Ammar. And I also will say that I don't think the film takes a stance on torture, but rather it simply states that torture was used and this is how it was done, which I stated in my review but never expanded upon, mostly because I don't buy that as a criticism of the film. Anyone who says that Zero Dark Thirty is pushing any sort of agenda on torture, whether for or against, is trying to pull politics from a place where a political stance isn't made.

      Moving on to your three questions, I'd be interested to know why specifically you believe the military isn't, "for the most part", trying to protect the freedoms granted to civilian Americans. Yes, there are policies enacted by our government that may not necessarily be agreeable, but as a person with several friends and family members in various military agencies past and present, including a particular family member with an impressive 30+ year military and intelligence record, I can't say anything but "yes" to your first question. Perhaps that is my own bias coming through, but as they say art -- and thus film -- is subjective. His stories and record speak for themselves.

      As for your second question, I say "yes" to it as well, regarding the CIA and its motivations, again due in part to the record of an aforementioned relative, as well as my beliefs, I suppose, in this country. Our intelligence officials and ground workers receive information and must choose whether or not to act on it. As stated in the film, there is bound to be human error involved in these dealings -- no person, organization, or society is without flaws or fault -- but in general, information is acted on and not acted on based on the immediate threat to our country and its citizens. Call me naive, but that is my answer to the question.

      Your third question is tougher to tackle. We live in a broken world, there is no doubt about that. We've seen that in our own country, not just via international terror attacks a la 9/11 but also from attacks on our country by its own citizens -- the Oklahoma City bombings, the Aurora theater massacre, the Newtown school shooting, and the list goes on. To try and specifically nail down the motivations of radical people and regimes, American or Muslim or otherwise, is difficult. But I think you can boil down the increased aggression towards the United States from the Muslim World to two things:

      1) Anarchistic ideals. To quote The Dark Knight and likely anger someone, "Some people just want to watch the world burn." I think there is a very truthful quality to that quote, and it serves eerily in the context of terrorism and radicalism. Having seen and read about the actions of various terrorist organizations against not just our country but countries the world over, there are certainly some very anarchistic ideals floating through these organizations. I don't see how that can be denied.

      2) U.S. policies. Now, here is where I agree with you on this third question. Yes, some and perhaps most of these radical regimes, such as al-Qaeda, take offense to the policies set forth by the U.S. government. And understandably so, at times. It has been proven, time and time again, that trying to set up U.S.-mimicked governments in foreign lands, and particularly in the Middle East, is simply not successful. It never will be. But we still continue to try, with basically zero positive effects. Furthermore, some of the policies set forth by our government and enacted by our military, such as drone bombing, which you've highlighted, have fostered even more hostility against the U.S. But the acceleration of the U.S. drone bombing campaign, to my knowledge, is a rather new development (started long ago but accelerated swiftly in recent years), so that specifically is not the reason for the hostility, but yes, a growing part of it. There are of course policies previously set forth that likely played a role in pre-9/11 hatred of America and our government as well.

      At the end of the day, I can't specifically tell you or anyone else what I believe are the specific, detailed motivations of radical regimes, in this case al-Qaeda, because I don't have that specific experience. What I can say is that I think this "increased aggression towards the U.S. from the Muslim World" stems from a complex combination of factors that the U.S. has some, but ultimately not entire, control over. Surely, though, we could help ourselves a bit in this regard by crafting better foreign policies.

      To bring up one other talking point, I'd highlight that despite the disclaimer at the beginning of the film which states that the film is, "based on first-hand accounts of actual events,", Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately a work of fiction. It is presented as a story that follows the facts, yes, but in crafting this film, Bigelow and Boal had to condense 10 years into 157 minutes. And even then, this films is packed to the brim with information. This is a fictionalized feature film, not a documentary or formal exposé, so there are bound to be details omitted and artistic liberties taken. I think that to attack the film for either of those things is to miss the point, disclaimer or not.

      Despite the negative press and the criticism aimed at it, I can't help but opine that Zero Dark Thirty is an expertly crafted thriller, one that is taut and compelling and gripping. Bigelow and Boal use the facts of the manhunt for bin Laden as a framework for their story, and do their best to let the story unravel as it did in real life, adhering (it seems) to the facts as best they can but ultimately needing to omit some things and enhance others to make their film work, just as any and every other film before it that is based on a true story. But I just can't deny the pure power of this film. To quote my favorite film of the year, Silver Linings Playbook, "That's a feeling." And I can't separate a film itself from the feelings it generates within me. To do so would be to wrongfully deny the subjectivity of the medium.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        Let me first say that I think my point about the people who love and defend ZDT was reinforced by your response. The centerpiece of my review was the 3 key questions I asked. By asking them, I hoped to establish an individuals bias towards or against the film. Your responses do show a clear bias, and that's my point. If you are a supporter of the US military and the CIA (which you are), it's not difficult to accept the perspectives and viewpoints on display in the film. I think we can both agree that the US military and the CIA are portrayed in a mostly positive light in the film. They are, after all, the film's heroes. Flawed heroes? Perhaps. But heroes none the less.

        If we can establish this point, I'm sure the next question would be "what's wrong with that?" And that brings us to my thesis: it's a question of personal politics. Plain and simple. I think I made my political bias pretty clear in my review. You did the same in your response. As you say, you come from a military family. Now, I could sit here and go on a long rant about what I dislike about the US military, but what's the point? It would only offend you (since you have personal ties to the organization). You believe what you believe, and I believe what I believe and I'm not going to change your mind and your aren't going to change mine.

        If I could achieve one thing with my review, it would be to provide an awareness that the notion that the CIA and the US military are "the good guys" is just an opinion, not a fact. And that's the problem. Most Americans accept this notion as an unquestionable fact. Well it's not. There are many different perspectives out there and not everyone believes that the US government is operating in the citizens (or the world's citizens) best interests.

        The problem with ZDT is that its filmmakers, like you, accept the idea that CIA and military are genuinely trying to protect our "freedoms." THAT'S the problem. It presents an opinion as a fact. It's a question of bias. In her Oscar acceptance speech, Bigelow said "I'd just like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world and may they come home safe." It doesn't matter what I think or you think, Ms. Bigelow has showcased a clear pro-US military bias. You may support her statement 100% and, to play devils advocate, I may support her statement as well. It's irrelevant. She has shown a clear bias. So my primary frustration with ZDT's defenders is that they insist that the film (and the filmmakers) are 100% unbiased when that's just not so.

        We obviously disagree on Christians performance. You clearly thought she exhibited more range and dimension than I did. As far as the Chandler scene, I thought she went way over-the-top and while scene had power for you, the dialogue come off as didactic to me (again, a question of personal politics).

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

          This is where I think you're wrong about Bigelow. She might be pro-Us Military, buit that doesn't mean that she's pro, the actions taken out by them. The actions handed down to them from the US government. You cited her Oscar acceptance speech and to me,she just doesn't want these people dying in such senseless acts. The same way that all of Zero Dark is so senseless and despicable. Thus the tear. The fact that the US government has to go to these lengths to "rid the world of evil" is evil in and of itself. And now that Chastain's Maya is unlplugged from her job at the end, it's a realization. What has been done in the previous 2:38 or so is finally hitting her.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

            And per the questions, I answer yes to all of those. As would KB and Boal. But I think they would agree with me in saying yes and then to go on to say that the means with wich the US government responds to all those questions is WRONG and despicable.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

              Exactly. I've yet to come across someone who would answer "no" to those 3 questions and STILL love the film. That's the point.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                How do you answer these three?

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                As I said in my review, I would answer "no" to all three.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                I never REALLY felt a definite yes or no from your writing.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                Really? From my review: "It all comes down to those 3 questions I asked above. And I believe THAT is what separates the people who love the film and those who take issue with it. It all comes down to personal politics. Me? I would obviously answer “no” to all three questions. Therefore, it’s very difficult to be won over by a film that reinforces those notions. That is why the film has been labeled “propaganda” and it’s frustrating when people act as if they have no idea why."

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                Wow, I literally read the whole thing except for that paragraph for some reason. Now you're going to think I'm completely ignorant to your opinion... I'm not. Just a reading gaffe.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                Don't worry dude, I completely understand. It happens.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            "She might be pro-Us Military, buit that doesn't mean that she's pro, the actions taken out by them." - I can't say this enough: it's doesn't matter. She has shown pro-military bias. BIAS. Therefore, you cannot say that she is unbiased. It's just not true.

            "Thus the tear." - Again, the tear is open to interpretation so let's not go there.

            "The fact that the US government has to go to these lengths to "rid the world of evil" - You see! This all just goes to what I'm saying. This is what you're saying: the US government is going to horrific acts to "rid the world of evil." You condemn the means, but that's entirely irrelevant. It doesn't matter that what they are doing is despicable. It's the notion that they are motivated by a desire to "rid the world of evil" that's the problem. THAT IS THE BIAS! I don't know how many different ways I can see this. The notion that the US government is motivated NOT by profit or power, but by a desire to end terrorism or "rid the world of evil" is a bias. It's an opinion, not a fact.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

              You don't think that the government is motivated by BOTH the profit or power AND to "rid the world of evil?" You really can't say yes to either. If you believe that it's all about the power and profit and NOT the betterment of the world then okay. I don't know and neither do you. We can argue back and forth about whether the government is corrupt or not. The answer is yes and no. There's no concrete answer to ANYTHING that the movie brings up. That's why the movie IS so ambiguous. That's why the movie is left up to interpretation. This will be an EVERLASTING movie because of it's execution.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                It doesn't matter what I think. The only thing that matters is what the filmmakers think, and you yourself speculated that they'd answer "yes" to all 3.

                "that's why the movie IS so ambiguous. That's why the movie is left up to interpretation." - Again, the film NEVER challenges the notion that the CIA and the military's motivation is to "protect the homeland." In the entire film, that is the SOLE reason that's provided for killing bin Laden. So when only one viewpoint is expressed, you cannot refer to the film as "objective" or "unbiased."

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                You could say that throughout the movie, yes, the notion is never challenged but to me, that tear is Bigelow breaking the "journalism" and giving her emotions. In a way, she's basically playing devils advocate for 2:37 then in the last minute gives her final thoughts. And THAT'S what makes it such a strong film for me. That last minute is AMAZING. compared to the last minute of Hurt Locker which I didn't like all too much. Though I really should re-watch it.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                "You could say that throughout the movie, yes, the notion is never challenged" - Well it's good to see that you acknowledge that no attempt is made to question the CIA or the US military's motivations. Now that we've closed the book on that subject:

                "but to me, that tear is Bigelow breaking the "journalism" and giving her emotions." - As I've said several times before; the tear is left open to interpretation so it's not even worth commenting on. What is NOT left open to interpretation is that the CIA & the US military are the good guys and al-Qaeda are the bad guys. That is the only viewpoint offered from beginning to end.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                Never did I attribute the word "good guys" to ANYBODY in the film. But that's just me. So we might just disagree on interpretation. Let me open up this metaphorical book we've created to just say, that for me, the tear is the challenge.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                Anyway you slice it, you're supposed to be rooting for Maya just like you're supposed to root for Affleck in Argo.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                But to me, Maya is almost an entity separate to the US government and the CIA. She may be a part of them and shares the same goal but she doesn't share the same ideals. What her character does, is not for the sake of America, the government, the CIA, the betterment of the world. She does everything because she wanted to say that she can do it. To say that she got him. It's a selfish, power thing. The tear is, I'll say it again, the realization of how disgusting all that she's done was.

                Now Argo...that movie is Rah Rah America so I'd rather not get into it.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                "What her character does, is not for the sake of America"

                - False. Maya quote: "If you REALLY want to protect the homeland, you need to get bin Laden.” She wants to protect the homeland, therefore she must kill bin Laden.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                "She wants to protect the homeland, therefore she must kill bin Laden."

                She could CARE LESS about the homeland. Never ONCE does she even mention her life back home. She feels perfectly comfortable staying out of the country, close to her goal and she's not backing down until it's all finished. Everyone else talks about life back home at some point. The one thing I saw that wasn't static in her emotional state, was a single framed picture of her and Jennifer Ehle's picture on her desk. And that is her life, say it again...finding Bin Laden.

                The line you gave me that she says to Kyle Chandler's character isn't about the Homeland for her. Killing Bin Laden is about killing two birds with one stone for her. It get's the heat off her back that she's been getting from everyone else for ignoring all these homeland threats plus she accomplishes her SINGLE goal. The emphasis in the sentence in the end, is in the YOU. Meaning Kyle Chandler and the rest of the CIA.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          *edit: "Chastains performance."

  • Cory

    Looper (2012). I wasn't buying the online hype for Looper. The last time I did, Scott Pilgrim happened. Interesting experiment but a fail in my book, due mainly to the protagonist. Not so with Looper. The hype is justified. Considering the budget, this is a fantastic, hard sci-fi film that puts JGL on the map as a seriously lead actor. It didn't quite make my top ten but for some odd reason, Looper has being sharing space with the Dark Knight Rises in my Blu Ray player for the last week. I'm strangley addicted to the world Rian Johnson created with Looper. I'm still trying to process the paradoxes and alternate timelines that are result of the rules of the world. It's just a fascinating watch.

    Dredd (2012). Besides the awesome Karl Urban, why did everyone fall in love with this film? It's terrible, through and through. I don't understand the love for it. At least with the Stallone picture, there was a slight satrical nature to it. This film is just violence for violence's sake. There's nothing underneath it.

    In Time (2011). This was a rewatch this week. Yes, the film doesn't really work because of the heavy handedness of the text and the director's handling of it but I still enjoy this as a guilty pleasure. I love the world. I love the concept. I love, love, love Roger Deakins cinematography. Just aces all around. I think Timberlake and Seyfried are interesting together. Again, not a very good film but I admire the concept and trying to be an ambitious, little sci-fi film.

    Zero Dark Thirty (2012). The best picture race is down to this film and Lincoln. It's as simple as that. A stunning, fascinating, and sad film that, I believe, takes a down the middle look at what we're willing to do to for righteous violence and justice. Jessica Chastain has sealed up the best actress Oscar with her performance here. "I'm the motherfucker who found this place, sir." That pretty much sums up her stunning performance. This film makes for a nice companion piece/sequel to Greengrass' stunning United 93. Those two films combined make for the definitive cinematic portrait of our decade long war on terror.

    Django Unchained (2012). Two brilliant performances, two brilliant sequences in service of what? While this might be Tarantino's funniest film to date, it's easily his most indulgent, weakest, and his most afraid work to date. Simply put, Tarantino's afraid of the subject matter just based on how he handles the tone of the picture. Frankly, he did spaghetti western better in Kill Bill Volume 2 than this film. It wastes Waltz and Kerry Washington. Jamie Foxx is miscast as Django (should've been Idris Elba). It's easily 30 minutes too long. And yet, Jackson and DiCaprio should just split the best supporting actor Oscar for their turns in this film. Just screen chewing, excellent work by the both. Still, for once, I wish Tarantino would drop the homage aspect to his film. It works beautifully in Basterds when it was in service of something. With Django, it just feels like he's run out of ideas. Again, there's some brilliance in the film but there's some serious indulgence within it as well.

    The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Yeah, the more I watch it, the more I get pissed about it's lack of recognition within the industry during awards season. This film works, on almost every level.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      Per ZDT: "what we're willing to do to for righteous violence and justice." This is why people are loving the film. They hold the attitude that the assassination of bin Laden was "righteous violence and justice."

      • Cory

        Interesting that you come to that conclusion from my mini-review of it because that's not why I love the film. As I said, this is sad film because, for me, I can't quite go with the notion of "eye for an eye." The reason I say that is because of the raid and what Bigelow shows during the raid. She shows children witnessing the deaths of their family members. And to me, no matter what they did to this country, I don't condone what those children had to witness. It's sad because it'll become a vicious cycle of violence. Their hatred for this country is solidified by what they witnessed in that fortress.

        My love for this film had to do with the craftsmanship and intent of what Bigelow tried to accomplished. It's a spiritual remake of Finicher's Zodiac if you like in that they present the evidence and just go from there. We're there to draw our own conclusions. Frankly, I just love procedural films and the level of detail here, like Zodiac, is impressive.

        As an aside, I hated the Hurt Locker as well. But this film is another level.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          But the key point is that you're of the opinion that the assassination of bin Laden was "righteous violence and justice." This is an OPINION shared by the filmmakers. So the assertion that Zero Dark Thirty is unbiased, "journalistic," and nothing more than a "procedural" is kinda confusing to me.

          • Cory

            Actually, I am not of that opinion. Bigelow, in my opinion, shows us the nature and the process of what we do to justify righteous justice. This is how our government officials and protectors sleep at night.

            I honestly couldn't tell you what the right course of action is with this war on terror. Like with Lincoln, I was sad and upset at the end of this film because I see what we do as a country to do the things we do in the name of freedom.

            • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

              I agree with what you said here. She is showing us the war effort from the point of view of those involved, not necessarily her nor the other filmmakers opinions. I interpret it as that the way the CIA is depicted in the film, meaning they way they interact with each other, similarly represents their beliefs and ideologies in real life. This does not necessarily make it the filmmakers beliefs in any way.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                "She is showing us the war effort from the point of view of those involved, not necessarily her nor the other filmmakers opinions. I interpret it as that the way the CIA is depicted in the film, meaning they way they interact with each other, similarly represents their beliefs and ideologies in real life. This does not necessarily make it the filmmakers beliefs in any way."

                - If you're going to go with that logic I'll pose this question: "Were Leni Riefenstahl's films propaganda?" All she did was make films which depicted the viewpoints and opinions of Nazis. Why couldn't you make the same case for Leni as you do for Bigelow? All Leni did was depict the values and beliefs of Hitler. Why is that any different from Bigelow and her treatment of the CIA?

              • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

                Haven't seen the Leni Riefenstahl films, so I refuse to comment on that matter. But, if she does document Hitler and his beliefs objectively, however, then I would probably praise the film making, while obviously still condemning the morals of the subject being documented.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

              I'm on my iPhone now and it's not exactly an ideal device to type a long comment on so I'll hold off until I get back to my computor.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

              Well then your initial statement was misleading.

              "This is how our government officials and protectors sleep at night." - Well, the primary defense of the film (as I interpret it) seems to be that the perspectives and viewpoints on display in ZDT are ONLY those of the characters and NOT of the filmmakers. To your quote I would say this: In my review, I cite a study that was commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld. The findings of the report stated, in no uncertain terms, that it was US foreign policy that was to blame for the anti-American sentiment in the Muslim World. Therefore, one cannot sit back and assert that "this is how the CIA justify what they're doing." As the study (and numerous other studies) show, the government has no illusions about what they're doing.

              The filmmakers, however, choose only to depict the CIA agents as people who are fighting for a just cause. The cause, as it's made explicitly clear in the film, is to "protect the homeland." So the assumption that Bigelow & Boal maintain is that the CIA at least BELIEVES they are doing the right thing. Once again, that's an opinion. It has nothing to do with facts or journalism. The filmmakers are choosing to believe one thing instead of another.

              You keep asserting that "you're not of that opinion," but you continue to make biased statements. For example, you make reference to "government officials and protectors." You're characterizing these people as "protectors." That's an opinion and that goes to my main thesis regarding ZDT's defenders. ZDT's defenders hold the same core beliefs as the filmmakers. That's at least one of the reasons why the film works so well for you.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

                Let me just make my thoughts clear by saying from the outset, that what I saw from the actions of the characters in the film, that a lot of it is despicable. In fact almost all of it is. The fact that they think they're fighting for a just cause it what disgusted me throughout.

                Never in the movie, did I ever sit and think, "AMERICA FUCK YEAH." So when my audience cheered for some aspects, I felt really uncomfortable. Bigelow and Boal are not happy with these characters. So to say that they share the opinions of the characters in their film is wrong in my opinion.

              • Cory

                "The filmmakers, however, choose only to depict the CIA agents as people who are fighting for a just cause."

                While you here statements back and forth that might support your statement here, I ask this question, what does the final image say to you about what Bigelow thinks about this entire situation?

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS


                As I say in my review, it's pointless to talk about the final image since KB leaves it slyly open to interpretation. I may think she's clearly saying one thing and you'd say it was something else. Therefore, there's no point in even going there.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS


                "The fact that they think they're fighting for a just cause it what disgusted me throughout." Let me make sure I'm understanding you correctly: you're saying you find the notion that the CIA and US military think they are trying to defend freedom and democracy "disgusting"? Do I have that right?

                "Never in the movie, did I ever sit and think, "AMERICA FUCK YEAH." - I never said the film elicited that response.

                I'd be interested in hearing your response to the 3 questions I asked in my review.

                "Bigelow and Boal are not happy with these characters. So to say that they share the opinions of the characters in their film is wrong in my opinion." - I strongly disagree. The SEAL team at the end of the film are not placed under a critical lens. Also, as I say in my review, only one attitude is offered in the entire film. And again, KB herself has offered pro-US military endorsements in the past.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis


                I phrased that weirdly I guess. It's the means that's disgusting, not the notion of defense and freedom.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS


        • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

          A lot of good points here. First, I like the Zodiac comparison, one that I too made as well. Both films are very fine procedural dramas.

          Your entire opening paragraph is very interesting, and I like the point about what you mentioned about the children. But, I would still contend that the film does not use this to make a statement. I would agree with your sentiment that these children will grow up hating the U.S., but at the same time, the film never gets political to try to send this notion home, nor does it try to justify the actions the U.S. took there. Again, the incident is merely being documented.

          And I too hated The Hurt Locker yet loved Zero Dark Thirty. The problem with THL was that the story never elevated. It was a very shallow script in my opinion. ZDT had a great story about one of the most important events in the country's history.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            All I'll say is this: I know you watched at least the first part of Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States and I can't help but think that if you watched Part 7 you'd have a much better understanding of why I was so troubled by ZDT.

            "about one of the most important events in the country's history." - Important in what sense?

    • Dan

      I thought that "I'm the motherfucker who found this place.." line was incredibly stupid. If a different person refers to you as a badass I suppose that's fine, but to say it about yourself at such a weirdly inappropriate time makes you sound like a full of yourself moron. If it's like Stallone or Arnold dropping a line like that in a corny action flick I guess it may be ok, but that's about it. I'm imagining a short parody where she's working in the office and a colleague is casually like "Whose day is it to take out the trash?" and Chastain's like "I'm the motherfucker that takes out the trash!" ... "ok, jesus, lady.." and "I'm the motherfucker that handles the TPS reports! Not Brent, not Dave, me! The motherfucker who found 'em!" -- Then you have her at like a Knicks game with friends and she's still wearing that damn hijab over her head. Haha. "Maya, seriously? You're not even.." - "Once you're on the list you don't get off the list! I'm the motherfucker on the list!". Movie was pretty solid, but overrated. Chastain's performance is fine and all but a lot of it just makes me laugh because she's trying to hard. Totally making this parody at some point.

      • Dan

        so hard** - not "to hard"

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

        But she is full of herself. That's the core of her character. She doesn't give a fuck about whether her fellow CIA members hate her or love her at all. She JUST wants Bin Laden's fucking head and she's going to be just as loud and obnoxious as she needs to be to get everyone's MOTHERFUCKING attention. Plus that line was at least after the 2 hour mark so it kind of an inside joke. Like, "this has been long and arduous as shit and I want my attention." It's a great comedic beat.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          Not to pile on, but I also thought it was a stupid line. Kind of like "Argo fuck yourself" ..... God, ZDT and Argo really are like two halfs of a whole...

      • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

        That line was probably the only "Hollywood" line in the film, yet in no way did it bother me. It was absolutely hysterical, and further helped develop Chastain's character as a very persistent, bold woman.

  • Winchester

    No cinema journeys this week.

    At Home:

    The Sound of Music (1965): TV airing, rewatch - I have no idea when I last watched it however. It could easily be over twenty years. So this was kind of like a first watch really. Although it's a highly fictionalised variation on the actual story of the Von Trapp family using the very bare bones and then giving it mammoth production scale certainly gives the film an epic like feel. It probably doesn't and never did need to run almost 3 hours but it was certainly something more of a curiosity factor for me. Musicals are not my favourite genre but I figured it would kind of prep me a little for Les Miserables later on.

    Apocalypse Now/Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2001): Blu ray, first watch - I had never watched this in it's entirety before. I actually watched Redux before watching the original cut and personally feel that aside from the French Plantation sequence Redux felt like the fuller version of the film. Though that isn't to criticise the original cut which works as well. The Blu Ray transfer was excellent as well. The film itself I found pretty good, using a simple narrative structure to let various depictions of VIetnam play out as the boat moves ever closer to it's mission's end. There are some nice supporting size performances, and again the sheer massive scale of the priduction is at times beautiful to behold in it's moments of horror and sheer scope of the sets, locations and sequences. I know a lot of the basics of Vietnam but not in depth and I guess as with any war film you could argue either way on any stance it may have politically or in terms of whether that particular conflict was right or wrong. I think the restoration of the Plantation scene gives the film slightly more of a political angle than the film I think would have if it stayed out but I think Coppola was more interested in recreating the war and then letting people think it over themselves. But there are moments of unintentional hilarity as well during several sequences that absolutely would parlay into conversation about subsequent conflicts (witness the destruction of a village so Duvall's character can get good surf conditions, while a soldier with a megaphone implores 'We are here to help you', then his disappointment when his Napalm dump means he can't surf what he just obliterated). The overall seeming futility of conflict is also explored as well. And that's before you even hit Brando and his Col. Kurtz. I actually felt the film became a bit less interesting once Brando appeared but it's absolutely something I would watch again. Just maybe not for a few months to let the pummeling it gives you in places time to settle.

    Baraka (1992): DVD, rewatch - This is a great chillout experience that really kind of defies any write up. It's just something you would have to try watching and see if it did anything for you or not. Personally I find it rather relaxing and I take a few things from it sometimes as I watch it. I'd like to check out Samsara as well for comparison.

    Apollo 13 (1995): Blu ray, rewatch - But first on Blu Ray. Decent transfer I thought but not excellent. This is another nice example of a good quality 90's crowd pleasing blockbuster that stilk stands as good entertainment even all these years later. Painstaking recreation of the era, solid performances and still believable visual effects combine to make one of Ron Howards better films as he isn't a director I would say I especially was fond of. But he does a great job here weaving the ground and space portions of the film together.

    A Home at The End of The World (2004): DVD, rewatch - Overall I think this is an indie which rests more on nice performances than the overall experience of watching it because it kind of rushes along showing the relationships of the main charactes but leaves them not fully developed enough to seem real. Not entirely anyway. It also seems to sort of stop a bit abruptly without too much of a resolution. It's a nice little kind of slice of life type film and the three leads are good (Colin Farrell, Dallas Roberts and Robin Wright especially) but I guess I don't like it as much as I kind of want to.

    Magic Mike (2012): Blu ray, first watch - I have to say, I am left a little stumped by the love this gets in some quarters. It's actually mostly what I thought it was from trailers. A fairly ordinary umpteenth take on the 'I have a Dream' style escape from one life into another story. Soderbergh tells it in relatively conventional fashion, the actors are OK but nothing to rave over and personally I did not like the decision to filter the outdoor scenes. I felt I was watching the film through cheap sunglasses. Tatum is getting a bit better as an actor, Cody Horn I thought was OK and Matt always works best when playing sleazy............but that isn't strictly a compliment. It's definitely a one watch film for me. It's too generic and indifferent to be anything special.

    In TV Land I also watched the complete season 4 of 'True Blood' (2011) on DVD. Personally not it's best overall season. Although Marnie was supposed to be the primary antagonist of the season she wasn't really that strong despite the work of Fiona Shaw. Too many scattered storylines and too many cast members to keep track of (though this season did a good job reducing that a bit!) made it very uneven. The show has always been high gloss trashiness in a good way, and I'm going to check out the next season when I can given the usual myriad new strands set up in the season finale but it definitely was a weak season I felt.

    That was all this week.

    • Chris138

      The French plantation scene is what kind of kills Redux for me. I always found it to disrupt the flow of the journey up the river. The extra scenes with Kilgore and especially Kurtz work quite well, though. But overall I prefer the original theatrical version.

      • Winchester

        I completely agree about the scene interupting the flow of the film. In Redux it really stops the film and I don't think it regains that momentum once the scene is over. The only thing I personally would do with Redux is take back out the Plantation sequence but keep in everything else he restored and resequenced. Then I think you would have a stronger film. I'm not even entirely sure why that sequence exists in the film. I flirted with the idea it was to give the characters a reminder that a measure of civilised society or of normal life existed amidst the horror, violence and madness they were experiencing but since the conversation the family has is completely politics based I couldn't think that was why.

        • Chris138

          I remember seeing a feature that mentioned the plantation scene was to show just how long people had been fighting in Vietnam, specifically the French and their relation to the First Indochina War. I suppose it's supposed to be more of the anti-imperialist stuff that is inherent in Heart of Darkness and a way of showing the impossibility of winning a war there, but as I said it disrupts the flow of the journey and there are plenty of other parts where Coppola can make those points. So I can see why it was trimmed from the theatrical version.

          • Winchester

            That makes perfect sense. The rental disc I got was extras free containing just the two versions of the film. All the comprehensive making of material which I would have looked at if it were there is on the separate edition release that only has the 1979 version (I think, based on information on retail websites anyway). So the reasons for initially removing and then restoring all the relevant material isn't something I know much about just now.

    • Jesse3232

      Definitely agree with Magic Mike as I found Brad gave me expectations (but without him I would HAVE NEVER watched this movie!) It's definitely more then a male stripper movie and I accept that it's a good movie but not great. Channing Tatum has shown us he can pretty much do anything and do it well!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fan/ Fan

    Django Unchained (A+) - rewatched - Second time watching it. Still really enjoyed it. I hope Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz or Samuel L. Jackson get a Oscar nod those three are great.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

    In theaters:

    Zero Dark Thirty: Just a masterclass of building tension, scene after scene. I will say the film works best when it's focused on the character of Maya. Chastain is incredible, and her character arc- the hardening personality, the great work ethic turning into obsession- is very well handled. Jason Clarke also hands in a great performance and I wish there was a bit more Oscar chatter for him. The film's ending is breathtaking, and I'm quite happy there was no attempt to make the actual shooting of Osama bin Laden to feel more "hollywood" (I'm still bitter with Argo's ending). A great film and one of 2012's best. A

    At Home:

    Blow Out (1981): I love the plot of this one and Travolta is really good in his role. The cinematography is amazing, some really breathtaking shots and the movements of the camera were incredibly fluid. Also John Lithgow is very creepy. That scene in the bathroom stall is a favorite of mine. Unfortunately the film's ending is poorly executed (slow-motion? the scream thing? really?) and Nancy Allen's performance is grating at times. Also the score is pretty overbearing. Almost a great film, but not quite. B+

    Princess Mononoke (rewatch, 1997): I think this has officially moved past Spirited Away to be my favorite Miyazaki film. It's a full-blown fantasy epic, with gorgeous animation and well defined characters. When animation is done well it can really be something to behold. A-

    There Will Be Blood (rewatch, 2007): Two quick notes on this one. 1) The score works very well. Often I'm not even conscious it's there, but if I listen there's some sort of music or other playing in the background just adding to the atmosphere. The score itself is very Master-ish (but like The Master as a whole, it just doesn't work as well as this film). 2) This is probably my favorite final scene of all time. The film is great leading up to this scene, but it really brings it home.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

      An A+ for There Will Be Blood in case anyone was wondering.

  • Chris138

    Chariots of Fire - One of those movies that won Best Picture that by the end make me say, "What?". I find it hard to believe that this was actually considered the best movie of 1981. Considering that was the same year that movies like Reds and Raiders of the Lost Ark (arguably the only movie anyone still remembers from that year) were nominated, I was left dumbfounded that this was what the Academy found to be the best of the bunch. Aside from the awards stuff, the movie itself is fairly dry. The story had the potential to be fascinating, but the execution didn't work for me. At times I felt like I was watching a parody of Chariots of Fire with all the slow-motion running scenes, rather than the Oscar winner itself. With the exception of Ian Holm, none of the performances are very memorable. The score by Vangelis is also laughably dated at times, for a story set in the 1920s to be using synthesizers. It just didn't work for me, and has to be one of the weakest movies to win the Best Picture Oscar. 2.5/5

    Django Unchained - I suppose I should say to anyone who hasn't seen this that some SPOILERS might be discussed here, but I am very happy to say that this movie lived up to my expectations. By and large I am not a huge Tarantino fan; I tend to admire his stuff more than really enjoy it (with the exception of Pulp Fiction, which is a truly great movie). With this, however, Tarantino made what I think is his best movie since Pulp Fiction. I absolutely loved it from beginning to end. All of the performances are terrific, especially Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz. The score, as always, is eclectic and even fitting at times. I found this to be a less indulgent work from Tarantino, as certain scenes didn't drag on as long as I feared they would. I also noticed a maturity from Tarantino in this movie, especially in the way he deals with violence here. In the past, he has often gone on to show violence in a cartoonish manner that isn't taken very seriously, and there are no real consequences to what happens in regards to the psychology of certain characters. This movie has its fair share of blood splattering that QT is known for, especially in the shootout toward the end, but there were other scenes that surprised me in their subtle power. One that really sticks to mind is when Django and King are up on a hill and a man who is plowing with his son is shot dead. The son's reaction is what surprised me, as he first seems to think his father is joking around and then realizes the grim reality of the situation. It's perhaps a small part, but I was sort of taken aback by it. The much discussed scenes with the mandingo fighting or the dogs eating the runaway slave also had power, in a much more visceral and terrifying violent way. Even with these scenes however, I think Tarantino showed more restraint than I was expecting; when he could have shown the arm of the slave being twisted and broken in graphic detail, he cuts to the reactions of everyone else in the room, including many of those who are visibly uncomfortable by what they are witnessing. The same thing goes for the dog attack scene, which was still graphic but not quite as much as I expected it to be. Despite the fact that the love story itself was kind of underdeveloped, I thought there was more heart to this movie than most of his other works. That scene when Broomhilda is taken to Schultz's room is probably one of the most touching (and, by the end, hilarious) things that Tarantino has written. Admittedly, there are notable missteps along the way; I felt that the very end at Candyland should have been a continuation of the shootout that happened 25 minutes prior. There are also some weird editing choices, although I know Sally Menke was not around to work on this one, unfortunately. I was fortunate enough to see this movie in a packed movie theater and everyone loved it, which made the viewing experience one of the best times I've had at the movies in years. I could probably write some more things here but I don't want to take up an absurd amount of space here, but to summarize everything quickly I just think that this movie showed some of the maturity and human elements of Jackie Brown mixed with revenge-fantasy style of Inglourious Basterds. Loved it. 4.5/5


    Pulp Fiction - This is by far my favorite Tarantino film. For a movie that runs two and a half hours it is astonishingly fast paced and entertaining. The most amazing aspect of the film to me is how riveting it is to listen to these people talk, even when it is about nothing very significant (something Tarantino tried previously with Reservoir Dogs but to less successful results, in my opinion). Every time I watch this movie I always find Ving Rhames hilarious in his line delivery, and he definitely gets some of the best and most quotable one-liners. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson also play off each other really well, and the closing monologue he has with Tim Roth is one of the best pieces of screenwriting and directing I've ever witnessed. Uma Thurman's role, although small, is also memorable. Just a great movie all around. 5/5

    Inglourious Basterds - A good Tarantino movie, but one I can't fully embrace like some others do. This was the first time I'd sat down to watch the movie since it was in theaters back in August of 2009. On the positive side I think Christoph Waltz is the absolute best thing in the movie; he's riveting in every single scene and has an amazing way of being both charming and menacing in the same scene. He deserved his Oscar and is probably Tarantino's best discovery. Melanie Laurent also stuck out this time around, and is probably my second favorite performance in the film just behind Waltz. The cinematography by Robert Richardson is also incredibly rich and striking, especially in the climactic burning of the theater scene. On the downside, however, I always felt that certain scenes go on far too long and Tarantino gets caught up overwriting his dialogue once again. It's not necessarily that what he's writing is bad, I just find it unnecessarily long. It's like extra fat that didn't need to be there. I think Tarantino also gets a little too caught up in his homages to other movies that he loves. Some of the other performances, namely the Basterds, are pretty bad as well. I don't think we really need to discuss Eli Roth much here, since he's about as good an actor as he is a director (hint: not very). Brad Pitt's performance, while amusing at times, is also borderline terrible at others. The one saving grace is when he utters "Buongiorno" to Hans Landa, which is truly hilarious and had me on the floor. I suppose this review is making my opinion of the film sound more mixed than it really is. I do like the film, I just think the overtly cartoonish nature of it all and the overlong sequences of dialogue keep the film from reaching greatness. 3.5/5

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

    In Theaters:

    Django Unchained - Saw this last night and really enjoyed it. The performances, writing and cinematography were all great. I was really surprised by how much I liked Christoph Waltz. He gave the best performance which surprised me because I was expecting DiCaprio to do it. While he and Sam Jackson were very good, Waltz was the best for me. I didn't think much of Jamie Foxx for the first 2/3rd's, but he brought it in the last 1/3rd. The dinner scene and the bag head scene were the scenes I liked the most. The one complaint I have is that it is too long and the ending has a tacked on feel to it. While I still liked the ending, it just felt it should've naturally ended at the mansion when it faded to black. That's a minor criticism though because I still had a great time watching it.

    At Home:

    The Dark Knight Rises - I received the Blu-Ray for Christmas and finally watched it a second time. While it may not be as good as Dark Knight, it does a fine of bringing the trilogy to a close. I would rank them as Dark Knight, Rises, and then Begins, but all three are still really good. I found Rises to be emotionally satisfying and it held up pretty well on a second viewing. The only thing that bothered me this time aroound was Bane's voice. At times, it worked and was effective and the other times it sounded strange and over the top.

    End of Watch - This one really surprised me. I expected it to be a dark, intense cop movie, but I didn't expect the emotional depth at the end. It was much more dramatic and emotional than I expected it to be. The performances are all great and I'm sad to see this not getting any acting noms. Both Gyllenhaal are Pena are great and their dialogue together felt real and was very funny at time. It even used the whole "found footage" format in an effective way. It wasn't used as a gimmick and increased the intensity of the film.

    Looper - I missed this in theaters and decided to buy it when it came out. I'm glad I did because I thought this was a great sci-fi film and I'm anxious to see it again. I'm really beginning to like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor as he's been making very smart choices so far in his career. Bruce Willis is also great and I loved the depth to his character. While he did things that were unlikable, I still found some sympathy with his character. Emily Blunt and her kid also give good performances as well The final voice over monologue by JGL at the end was great and very well written by Rian Johnson. His vision of the future is very interesting to me because it had a realistic look to it. It looks like something I could actually see take place in 50 years or so. The score was another thing that stood out to me because when it was on, it worked and the scenes with silence are just as effective. I haven't seen any of Rian Johnson's work yet, but he did a great job with Looper and I'll be sure to watch his previous two films.

    Pitch Perfect - I enjoyed this one too and thought the performances, songs, and the comedy made up for it's formulaic plot. The cast is very funny and some of the song mash up choices were actually really inspired and clever. Overall, it's fun movie to watch.

    Rocket Science- The final movie I saw this week and oddly the third one I saw with Anna Kendrick in it. She's another actor who is beginning to grow on me. I've always liked what she brings to her performances and she has a charming personality that I really like. She's pretty good here and I wished the movie had been about her instead of Hal Hefner. His performance is good, but the character is just not as interesting as Kendrick's and the movie suffers when she is not onscreen. The movie itself is a decent coming of age story. It's good and easily watchable, but it's not one that that I think I'll remember anytime soon.

  • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

    Another week, another slew of entries to the "What I Watched, What You Watched" column. I better enjoy this one, because with the spring semester starting tomorrow already, it may be my last substantial entry for a while. Thankfully, it turned out to be a solid week of films. As always, you can find more from me on Letterboxd, and if you want an invitation to the site, I've still got one left to give out.


    Django Unchained: Tarantino's latest is a damn fine piece of filmmaking that is very fun at times -- much like many of the director's other works. But the film's subject matter and the way in which it is executed sometimes left me squirming in my seat, though that's likely the point. You can't make a film about slavery without diving into the hard truths of it all. Though hard to watch at times, Django Unchained is yet another excellent and original entry into Quentin Tarantino's catalog, and serves well as a companion piece to his other historical revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds. Best believe, Django Unchained is as bold, bloody, and violent as any of Tarantino's films before it, and while it may not always go down smooth, it is every bit as entertaining as any other 2012 film you will see. Check out Letterboxd for my full review. 4.5 / 5

    This Is 40: Oh Judd. Judd, Judd, Judd. What happened, man? In 2005, you gave us The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and followed that up two years later with Knocked Up, both funny and charming and original comedies. But This Is 40 really isn't any of those things. There are scenes I very much enjoyed, and some that made me laugh, and with the proper editing this could have been a good movie. But there is just too much here. Too much to dislike. Too many unnecessary story points. Most of all, there are too many minutes to sit through. If this truly is 40, then count me out. Check out Letterboxd for my full review. 2 / 5

    Zero Dark Thirty: The ten-year manhunt for the world's most wanted terrorist leader is a story we all followed and one whose ending will likely go down in history as one of the twenty-first century's most triumphant moments, both stateside and abroad. With Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriting partner Mark Boal have taken those ten years and condensed them into 157 very deliberate, riveting, and powerful minutes. Much like the manhunt itself, this film is a powerhouse, a thrilling and winding tale that requires patience but arrives with an ending worth waiting for. Zero Dark Thirty is perhaps 2012's most vital film, showcasing a story our nation remembers and one we will never forget. Check out Letterboxd for my full review. 5 / 5


    Pitch Perfect: The fact that Anna Kendrick stars in Pitch Perfect makes for a sound reason to watch, but aside from her, this decently fun a capella comedy is just aca-okay. Fortunately, Kendrick elevates the film to a point where it's at least better than average. And no, I don't think Rebel Wilson serves as a good reason to watch this. Her brand of humor, much like Melissa McCarthy's, begins to wear on me after a while. Luckily I still enjoyed the movie. 3 / 5

    Side by Side: As someone who isn't entirely keen on the technological aspect of cinema and one who truthfully lacks knowledge of the filmmaking process, I found Side By Side to be an interesting, informative, and entertaining look at where the movies have been (film) and where they are headed (digital). If you are interested in movies -- and if you're perusing Rope of Silicon, I assume you are -- then I highly recommend giving this a watch. 4 / 5

    Rushmore: Director Wes Anderson is known for the light-hearted whimsy he brings to the screen, a sense of almost unreality that viewers either love or hate. Count me as the former, because I loved Rushmore. It is creative and funny, sometimes sad but always charming. Though not as noteworthy as the A-list cast he brought together in 2012's Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson has spooled together a fantastic group of actors here, both young and old. Rushmore begins with a devilishly funny and handsomely charming opening sequence and closes with a very touching ending. Fortunately, everything that happens during those in-between 80 minutes is equally as funny, charming, and touching. A new favorite of mine. Check out Letterboxd for my full review. 5 / 5

    Crazy, Stupid, Love: By far the biggest surprise of 2011, to me, was the star-studded romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. I went into it with zero expectations -- it was a late summer date movie, after all -- and came away with a big grin on my face and a stomach sore from laughing. Crazy, Stupid, Love still gets me with each viewing. It is funny, smart, and heartfelt, and is probably, perhaps shockingly, one of the most well-written films of last year. The stories of each of the characters weave tightly together like 1000-thread-count fabric, culminating in a side-splitting climax and sugar sweet conclusion that even the sourest of sourpusses will appreciate. 4 / 5

  • Kurt

    Watched Compliance this week. I must admit I found the first half very intriguing (knew nothing about the plot), but the air of inevitability clouding the second act didn't do much for me. Nevertheless, I ended up thinking about the film quite often in the following days. It doesn't shy away from raising some pretty startling questions and more often than not, I could not come up with a satisfying response myself. Ann Dowd is joy to watch too, and I'd like to see her snag a nomination next Thursday.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AndrewJ.S./ Andrew J.S.

    - Django Unchained (3.5/4) Really entertaining, but like a lot of people I didn't find Django to be an interesting character, and honestly didn't even care for his journey. I really enjoyed the King Shultz character though. Waltz made the movie for me. As said on the comment above though, I didn't get much from the ending.
    - The Impossible (4/4) One of the best movies of the year. The tsunami sequence itself is memorable, and the cast was so good it was like they were really experiencing the horror of the disaster. It's also when of the few films I've seen that manages to draw inspiration without sentimentality.
    - The FP (2.5/4) Once the whole dialect joke gets old, there’s nothing much unique about it. Luckily, though, it’s over fast.
    - Iron Sky (3/4) This indie sci-fi movie however, I really enjoyed. It was funny, did a good job with fx despite the small budget, and overall was pretty entertaining.
    - Blue Chips (3/4) The story is pretty all over the place, but Nick Nolte is so entertaining in it, problems with the narrative never bugged me.
    - The Ambassador (2/4) I understand how dangerous it was to make this movie, but I found it hard to follow, and as someone with little background on the subject, I didn't quite fully know what was even going on.
    - V/H/S (2.5/4) At first it at least succeeds at scaring you, especially the first short from David Bruckner, but as it goes on the more boring and repetitive it gets.

  • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

    Since Zero Dark Thirty is such an excellent conversation piece, and because I really like how my review turned out, I've actually decided to just drop my entire review here in case anyone wants to read it and comment on here. I very much appreciate the input any of you wish to provide on the film as well as my review itself. Enjoy!


    ZERO DARK THIRTY REVIEW, by Jordan Benesh -- 5 / 5

    "I'm not your friend. I'm not gonna help you. I'm going to break you. Any questions?"

    The ten-year manhunt for the world's most wanted terrorist leader is a story we all followed and one whose ending will likely go down in history as one of the twenty-first century's most triumphant moments, both for America and for many others across the globe. With Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriting partner Mark Boal have taken those ten years and condensed them into 157 very deliberate, riveting, and powerful minutes. Much like the manhunt itself, Zero Dark Thirty is a powerhouse, a thrilling and winding tale that requires patience but arrives with an ending worth waiting for.

    September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. Zero Dark Thirty begins with a bone-chilling opening sequence that brings us back to that dark day. Bigelow shows us nothing but black, and layers tens or perhaps hundreds of audio recordings of phone calls from hijacked-airplane passengers and those trapped in burning towers to their respective loved ones and to emergency operators. It is a stark, stripped sequence that is ultimately extremely affecting.

    But so, too, is the next extended sequence, one that takes place in 2003 and shows a terrorist at an unnamed detention facility relentlessly tortured by a member of the CIA, Dan (Jason Clarke), and his colleagues. Wanted is information that will hopefully lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden, but given is nothing. And so the torture continues.

    Many have condemned Bigelow and Boal for these extended torture sequences, with some critics and viewers claiming that it glorifies torture and intelligence officials stating that it incorrectly implies that these "enhanced interrogation techniques,", such as water-boarding and sleep deprivation, garnered key information that led to bin Laden's capture.

    I will briefly take an aside and add my two cents with this: 1) I don't agree that the film takes the stance that torture is "good" or permissible, and 2) I don't agree that the film implies that the torture of CIA detainees directly led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. But I digress.

    The rest of the film follows newcomer CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) and her colleagues as they sift through years of intelligence data, with more coming in than they can handle and most of it a paper trail leading to dead ends. That is, until Maya follows a lead that, with her undying confidence and ruthless conviction, garners a name to follow and eventually a location to scope out: the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound that housed Osama bin Laden and his all-important courier.

    Zero Dark Thirty closes with a thrilling raid that will surely keep you on the edge of your seat, or bobbing your knee up and down, or biting your nails, or whatever your nervous tick may be. Bigelow creates tension that is palpable, even though we already know the outcome.

    Much like David Fincher's 2007 crime-thriller Zodiac, Zero Dark Thirty is a cold, calculated procedural of whose beginning and ending we are fully aware but whose events in-between we might not be. Zero Dark Thirty sheds light on these in-between events via first-hand accounts of the manhunt for bin Laden, dramatized to ensure full effect on screen. Though obviously condensed, the film is certainly compelling, and unfolds swiftly and with ease.

    The success of Zero Dark Thirty as a motion picture rests on the shoulders of two very capable women: Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow and Academy Award nominated star Jessica Chastain.

    Bigelow's execution here is nothing short of masterful. The film is 157 minutes long but plays like a 100-minute thriller due to Bigelow's ability to pack as much punch in each moment as humanly possible. And yet, with all this information to present, she never forgets that there is a very real human element behind all that intelligence.

    Enter Chastain as Maya, a tough-as-nails woman who takes on the ball-breaking task of finding bin Laden with fierce tenacity and exciting verve. Chastain, in a word, is exceptional. She plays the role close to the chest, wearing Maya's emotions on her sleeve and crafting a performance that never feels forced. It simply feels real, as though Chastain is her true-life CIA counterpart. And there is no better acting than acting that feels real.

    Zero Dark Thirty is perhaps 2012's most vital film, not because of the politics people try to pull from it but because of the story it tells, or rather, the story Bigelow and Boal allow to tell itself. This is a satisfying procedural at its finest, a gripping, compelling, dramatic thriller that begs to be seen and discussed. It's a story our nation remembers, and one we will never forget.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      Having read your review, I'd really like to hear your response to mine.

      • http://hypethemovies.wordpress.com Jordan B.

        I've isolated yours into a Text Edit file to make it easier to read. I'll get back to you soon.

  • The Jackal

    Haven't spent much time in the theater lately as most of the Christmas releases in the U.S. won't be released in Mexico City until late January and early February. Still, I plan on checking out The Life of Pi and Jack Reacher by the end of the week.

    Cloud Atlas (2012)
    Finally experienced this unique film from The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, and what an experience it was. Set across the ages (taking place between 1846 and 2346), it is a story of humanity connected through the power of love, death, art, and our constant thirst for freedom. Here is a film to ponder for weeks to come. A remarkable achievement.

    American Horror Story (2011)
    So far, I'm six episodes into Season One, or Story One, and enjoying this bit of schlocky horror entertainment. I'm especially enjoying the performance by Jessica Lang as a deeply disturbed Southern matriarch. What a horrible character she portrays, and I'm loving every minute of her performance. This is certainly one of the best TV takes on horror I've ever seen.

    Thems the facts

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I Just got on Letterboxd, so hit me up there http://letterboxd.com/xarnis/

    First Watches

    The Grey - A fine survival film with a simple plot. It is bolstered a bit by Liam Neeson's performance and some cool action scenes. However, the dialogue is a bit lacking and the supporting characters are not developed at all, and you do not connect with them, making it hard to care when the wolves attack.

    Frost/Nixon - A great film, dramatically retelling what could've been portrayed as a very boring event. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella are fantastic. Definitely worth the watch and one of the best films I have seen in recent memory. The dialogye is terrific, but i have a few minor nitpicks, too small to be discussed.

    Act of Valor - I went to watch this film having low expectations, and i expected this film to be awful. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good either. The acting is bad, but I did not expect much from non professional actors. The dialogue is terrible, and there are plot incosistencies, but they didn't really bother me for some reason. The action scenes are phenomenal, however and overall, it's a fun movie to watch if you're in the mood for some good action

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    Also, I watched watched

    True Grit (2010) - I've seen this film many times, since its release in 2010. It has quickly become my favorite Coen Brothers film (toppling No Country for Old Men) and one of my favorite westerns of all time. This was my favorite film of 2010, and I am glad i had the chance to revisit it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

    I don't have time to write reviews this week but if you are interested, my letterbox account has all my reviews for the last week. Hit me up as well if you have an account.


    PS- Need an invite? Leave your email and I'll send you one. :)

    • Jake17

      Could you send me an invite? theelderwand15@yahoo.com

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

        Sent. Sorry it was late.

  • TheSattyD

    Killing Them Softly (First time) – I was pretty excited to see this movie as I was hoping for a great performance from Brad Pitt, kind of on par with Snatch and Fight Club. Yeah I was mistaken. He was Brad Pitt and that’s all I can say well, maybe his last lines about America being a business were good but others wise I felt his character and performance was lacking. And how Scoot McNairy as Frankie won a Breakthrough Performance Award at the Hampton International Film Festival is beyond me. I thought he was the worst actor in the movie Ben Mendelsohn as Russell was 1000x better. Best performance of the whole movie was James Gandolfini playing a depressed mafia type, a role he knows well but was able to separate Mickey and Tony Soprano by a thousand miles. I was disappointed that he only had 5min of screen time.

    Two things this movie could have done without (IMHO) is the opening sequence of alternating silence then Obama’s speech then back to silence, it annoyed me so much I nearly stopped watching it then. The second being all the damn speeches from George Bush and Barak Obama, it just made the movie predictable by setting up the next scene I felt that Andrew Dominik was doing exactly what Richard Jenkins character Driver said in the movie “Leading [us] by the hand like retarded children”. It also did a poor job of leading us to the end dialog between Driver and Jackie.

    One of the best scenes in the movie was Mickey (James Gandolfini) in the hotel room. I also really enjoyed the cinematography behind Markie (Ray Liotta) getting whacked. The slow motion effect really brought it to life as you watched the car window spider out as the bullet went through. Though making it a rainy night (the whole movie it was raining really) did add a bit too much drama that wasn't needed as it was already there.

    I like the 1-5 scale the best so I am going to give this movie a 3.25/5 stars. As a mafia hit movie it was one of the better movies out there, as a movie on its own it was just average. In fact I might have been disappointed if I spent money in the theaters to see it.

    Batman Begins (re-watch) BluRay- 3.5/5 Christian Bale and Katie Holmes first scene together in Wayne Manner's kitchen was just awefull. Honestly it would be 4/5 if not for that scene.

    The Dark Knight (re-watch) BluRay - 5/5 Heath Ledger at The Joker....need I say more?

    The Dark Knight Rises (re-watch) BluRay - 4/5 As others have said Bane was complete lacking never felt he was true villian and then to be killed by Cat Woman blasting open the doors was a huge let down. Neither fight between him and Batman was "epic" so to say and dissapointed. The first time I watched it I figured out Miranda Tate was the true villian as soon as Bruce Wayne ran his finger over the scar on her back so Bane also took a back seat for me then too. Overall it was good but not great.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    By the way, I have 10 new MoviePass invites. Drop your email below if you're interested.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis
      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man


        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

          Didn't get it...

    • TheSattyD

      is there a way I can contact you as I don't want my e-mail out on a public website.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

        Maybe just make a random one at Yahoo, Hotmail or something and post it here?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey
      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man


        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

          Thank you my good sir.

    • https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BxTWgAV7uRaSQTBocGQ4Qzgtdm8 RagingTaxiDriver
      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man


    • Jake17
      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man


        • Jake17


  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    The Kid with a Bike: Pretty good, but not really earth shattering. Nice performances. Especially, Cecil de France. B

    Zero Dark Thirty: I was never a huge fan of The Hurt Locker. I found it to be hugely average and never really as game changing as reviews had exclaimed it. This though, this is completely the opposite. I'm not going to go long. I just want to just call it a masterpiece and be done. I really don't have anything negative to say. Quite simply, fantastic filmmaking. Maybe that it all works just a little bit too well for such a complicated storyline. A

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      After all of our back-and-forths, I do hope you'll read my ZDT review and comment on it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheMovieGuru/ The Movie Guru

    Good week for me:

    In Theaters

    The Impossible- I don't even know how to review this film. I can say one thing; I know now that I don't deal well with realistic violence that deals with real life events because I found this film to be intense beyond belief. It is more than a film, its a visceral, intense experience and certainly not one that I saw coming. I knew that this was going to be an intense film but I didn't know that I would have to leave multiple times because of the intensity. Everybody was relatively good but there were no great performances. I would say that this majorly pushed the PG-13 boundaries. I was surprised by the level of the graphic content. I won't give this film a grade but it is a visceral movie worth experiencing.

    At Home

    The Untouchables- A film that I had seen parts of before but never watched all the way through. It is awesome. Talk about a good time, this was some of the most fun I had watching a movie in a long time. De Niro is a great and despicable villain and De Palma's direction is fantastic. The whole cast is good and the violence is well executed, and stylish. 5/5

    Anchorman- Funny, funny, funny. I had just watched this film the past summer but I liked a lot more this time. Just a ton of laugh out loud funny jokes and awesomeness. Steve Carell and everybody else is great and the lines are endlessly quotable. 4.5/5

    T2: Judgement Day- This film takes about 20 minutes to get into and then bam, you're there and it is pure awesomeness from beginning to end. I was surprised to see how well the action and special effects held up today. I honestly think that this is how big blockbuster films should be made: with a good balance between visual effects and stunts. Very entertaining with a perfect performance by Edward Furlong and good performances by the rest of the crew.

    Airplane!- You know how I said Anchorman was funnier than I remembered? Airplane! wasn't quite as great as I remembered it to be. It is still a better and funnier movie than Anchorman, but there were some things that I remember differently. Quotable, awesome fun though. 5/5

    Casablanca- There is something about this film that draws be back. I first watched this in last January and I have seen it about four times since. I don't always find the first half entertaining but I'm just always drawn back. The performances and cast are stunning: Bogart is fantastic, Bergman is fantastic, Henreid is fantastic and the supporting cast is great. The look of this film is also stunning. I think that when it comes down to it, it's that song that draws me back in. Great cinema. 5/5

    Ikiru- Interesting film. One of my first experiences with subtitles and this was a good place to start. I think that while sometimes the film lost me, I found it deeply affecting and sad. The first half is stunning. Watanabe wandering around was sad. And then the second half is a bit of a mess at first but it comes together for a stunning conclusion. The only part where the film slipped up was the romance angle with Watanabe and a young co worker. That was a questionable decision but it was a very good film. 4/5

    Chinatown- Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown. While Chinatown's mystery is intriguing, it's the film's feel and Nicholson's performance is what did it for me. I love anything about Hollywood and about California so I really liked this film. It flew by and the ending surprised me; the incest thing didn't but something else did. Overall, something that I intend to revisit. 4/5

    Singin in the Rain- An all time favorite. There are some unnecessary things but it is just so entertaining that I forget all about it. 5/5

    That's about it. I read Watchmen this week too and really enjoyed it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/ashdurdin/ ashdurdin

    In Theaters
    Skyfall: I really like Daniel Craig’s Bond and how aware of himself he is. Javier Bardem was very good as the villain and his performance will probably bring me to watch the film again. 4/5

    Les Miserables: I’m a fan of the musical, so it was no surprise that I liked the movie quite a bit. I feel that this has not been a particularly strong year for film in general, but I think this is one of the year’s best and I’ll be interested to see it again and see if I notice something new. 4.5/5

    At Home:
    Source Code: I was a bit worried that this would not be as good the second time watching it, but it was even better, and has become one of my favorite films. There have been rumors that this may be developed into a T.V. show and I would really like to see that as I found the whole concept fascinating. 5/5

    Total Recall (2012): This was an odd film. It follows pretty closely to the original, but everything it changes makes it worse. It takes out several of the villains and also adds some Blade Runner-esque visuals that seemed out of place. The original was really fun while this one was just dull, though the casting choices were great. 2/5

    Death Proof: I hadn’t seen this since I saw Grindhouse in the theaters and it was good. However, it’s not a movie I would want to revisit often, like other Tarantino films. 3.5/5

    L.A. Confidential: I have seen this twice now and while it may not be my personal favorite film from the 90s, I think it is the one I would most recommend to anyone. Just everything about it is so good and extremely watchable, with its full cast and just twisty enough but not confusing story. 4.5/5

    Looper: I missed this in the theater, but it is probably one of the better films of the year that I’ve seen. While some might find fault in the logic of the film, I did not and found the ending to be particularly satisfying. 4/5

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/JaneD/ JaneD

    For Dec 31 – Jan 6


    The Hobbit –
    The family wanted to return to the theatre on cheap Tuesday for a re-watch. Yes, the beginning is bloated, but I enjoyed it all over again, especially the last act. 4/5

    Rust and Bone –
    Wow, this has got to be one of the best films of 2012. Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts should both be nominated for Oscars for their searing performances of damaged people finding their way in the world in spite of tragedy and heartache. Audiard weaves together a beautiful story in this movie. 5/5

    Anna Karenina -
    This is a mess. The costumes and set design are stunning and some of the tracking shots around the sets effective. However, I found that the devise of telling this story on a stage gimmicky. During one of the early scene when was Oblonsky is in his office, all the workers engage in some kind of choreographed dance. I kept expecting them to break into song. Anna and Vronsky had no chemistry. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky seemed too pretty and baby-faced to me. I know that Vronsky is to be younger than Anna, but he should be ruggedly handsome and have a bit of a bad-boy aura. Jude Law was quite effective in his role, but again he is supposed to be 20 years older than Anna. I was actually more interested in the supporting characters and their stories than the primary love triangle. 3/5

    AT HOME:

    Bernie –
    This is a black comedy based on a real event. Director Richard Linklater uses a combination of big named stars (Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McCongaughey) and the real-life residents of the small town, Carthage, Texas to tell the story of Bernie Tiede.
    Jack Black is delightful as the titular character who is the town’s funeral director. He is well liked in the community as attested by the residents. He comforts the grieving, is active in the church choir (a great showcase for Black to sing), and is a very effective a salesman. Along the way he befriends a local widow who is disliked by all.
    It is an amusing little movie, but I think that it looses steam in the third act. 3/5

    Cabin the Woods (rewatch)-
    Enjoyed it again. 4/5

    I, too, am on Letterboxd: http://letterboxd.com/jhdixon/
    I am finding it a great way to log and track my movie viewing.

    Have a great week! Looking forward to the Oscar noms on the 10th!!

  • The XWF Outlaw

    Good afternoon everyone. This will be my first comment left for the "What I Watched..." but been a keen observer of the collom & its major players (AS, Criterion10, Driver, etc.), and i hope to make this a constant theme for the forseable future on the movies & shows that i watch. The one other post I've ever posted on this website was when i corrected Brad on the distributor for "Red Dawn" and rather than take constructive criticisum he deletes my posts altogether.(No grudges Brad ^-^) I hope & love to have other commenters share there opinions on future films & tv.

    A little background check on my qualifacations. i have seen 164 movies in theatrical movies this year & over 850 theatrical movies over the last 5 years. (yes, i pretty much LIVE at the theater) . I've seen everything, the good, the bad, and the weird. Yes this year alone i seen The Apparition (shiver), Alex Cross (barf), & Oogieloves (gouge my eyes). I am also an Anime & Sports junkie so I'll be adding some of those to this list on an occation. But enough of me let's get to the week in review.

    Unfortunetly, to start off this new year, i had no trips to Cinema World this week.

    TV Land:
    No TV shows this week but at the time of this posting i am currently watching the NFL playoffs between the Seahawks & Redskins whitch i can safely assume Brad is watching too.

    Netflix Nexus:
    High School of the Dead (Anime): Watched episodes 1-3. A story about a group of high scool students suviving the zombie apocolypse filled with boobs, blood, and pantie shots. I understand why it has it's fans as well as its detractors of this very odd anime but ill see how far the rabbit hole goes on this series a little bit longer before I pull the plug on it. N/A

    Blu-Ray: V/H/S: (2nd & 3rd viewing) Bought this for christmas and could now shake this movie after seeing it during its on-demand run. Quite possibly the best anthology horror film in a long time & next to "Cabin in the Woods" as the best horror movie of 2012. Ti West's segment is definetely the weakest of the entries but they all string together very nice. I also enhanced the experiance on the 2nd viewing by using my new noise-cancelling headphones i got for christmas as well, making the sounds and diologue more amplified & more chilling. Although it didn't bother me, this is a major offender of the shaky-cam so avoid if this is a problem for you. Well acted and very authentic looking, This is a small horror film i would reccomend to anybody. 8.5/10

    Planning on theater trips this week for Promised Land, Texas Chainsaw- 3D, & either A Haunted House, Gangster Squad, or Zero Dark 30.
    Please fell free to ask any questons on my film prefrences & critique my first posting. Till next week, (^-^)

    • The XWF Outlaw

      Shoot, forgot one thing
      TV Land: House of Lies (Final 4 episodes): Since this was last night at about 2 in the morning this completly slipped my mind. This is the only series I watch on Showtime because this is my kind of humor. Plus I needed to catch up for season 2 starting next week. Don Cheadel, Kristen Bell and the rest of "The Pod" are very twisted and hilarious. The script is entertaining and gut-punching. Personaly, between Californication & Shameless, This is the best use of how you can feel suprisingly positive emotions for an entire cast of moraly-crippled a**holes. Can't wait for Season 2.

  • http://everyjohnhustonmovie.blogspot.ca/ Timothy

    I had the whole week off, so I saw a lot of movies.
    The Impossible- I was still interested in this film ,although not much word of mouth has been circulating. Watts and McGregor give strong performances, and the tsunami scenes are well shot. However, the film is so obviously going for your heartstrings and it does it so unsubtly, that I lost all interest in the last half. Even the emotional climax was unsatisfying. 5.5/10

    AT HOME:
    Knife in the Water- Very unsettling, and slowly building up tension all the way through the film. As thrillers go, this is a great one. 9/10

    Beat the Devil- An interesting film, the plot is confusing, but the actors are having a fun time, and the plot is light and breezy enough to keep you interested. 7.5/10

    House of Sand and Fog- Connelly and Kingsley give great performances, but the film pushes it's message so unsubtly that it is hard to keep interest. 6.5/10

    Revanche- A wonderfully different thriller. Slow and flowing, it's plot unravels naturally and without haste. 9.5/10

    Alfie- Caine gives a good performance, but the film feels outdated, and its hard to like a film where the lead character is so unlikeable. 6/10

    Volver- A very entertaining film, despite the subject matter. Cruz gives a wonderful performance, and the direction is spot on. 9/10

    The Unforgiven- An interesting western. It sounds like it would be different, but it feels like an average western of the period. 7/10

    On The Town- One of the best musicals of all time. Each scene bursts with a joyous energy that is impossible to ignore.

    The Fire Within- A devastating portrayal of a suicidal man, played impeccably by Maurice Ronet. 8.5/10

    Gummo- The narrative flows at an uneven pace. It both benefits and lacks due to the different editing style. I loved some scenes, and disliked others. 6.5/10

    Phobia- An utterly awful film. It's neither horrific nor hilarious. It's just boring. 2.5/10

    Le Samourai- A wonderful film. Exciting in a very laid back way. 9/10

    World on a Wire- Very different, and yet very familiar. The plot is interesting and the film has a different style that I liked. 8.5/10

    Days of Heaven- My favourite film of all time. I can't quite explain why I love it so much, but there is something so utterly hypnotic about Malick's visuals, that keeps me engaged for the entire running time. 10/10

    I know it's a lot of films, but I had a lot of time on my hands. I also finished rewatching my favourite television show of all time, Arrested Development.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/DavidG/ David Gaillardetz

    This week I watched most of the second season of the West Wing and loved it as if I saw it for the first time. Great stuff. I also watched Looper again and still enjoyed it immensely, and I watched Tomboy--a tender and heartfelt French film I thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Jake17

    I was planning on doing a Top 10 list today, but I've decided to wait to see Zero Dark Thirty next Sunday.
    Chronicle: If you came to me last year and told me Chronicle would be my favorite superhero movie of the year, I would have laughed SO HARD. But I have to say, I was really surprised with this movie, and it easily beats all of the overblown superhero movies of the year. Dane DeHaan gives a stunning performance as a shy, abused teenager who gets drunk on power. The other two leads, Alex Russel and Michael B. Jordan, give solid performances as well. Despite some problems with the final 15 minutes, this is one of the big surprises of 2012. 8.5/10

    Haywire: If Soderbergh makes another movie after the Liberce biopic, I'd love to see him do another action movie, because there are several great scenes here(the bedroom scene stands out.) Unfortunately, Gina Carano clearly isn't much of an actress, and it's especially noticeable when she's opposite someone like Michael Douglas(my personal favorite here)or Michael Fassbender. Also, the movie ends rather abruptly, which is quite frustrating. Overall, a fairly solid actioner worth renting. 7/10

    21 Jump Street: I didn't have great expectations going into this, and, boy, did it pay off. This is one of the funniest movies I've seen in a while. Channing Tatum is surprisingly good, and Jonah Hill is quite good as well. But for me, it's the supporting cast that stands out. Ice Cube is absolutely hilarious as the police chief, Brie Larson is funny and charming as Jonah Hill's love interest, and Dave Franco is very good as a high school drug dealer. This a well written and acted comedy worth checking out. 8.5/10

    Alien: Directors Cut: This was my first time watching this, and I have to say I really loved it. Well directed, with some excellent performances and a hell of a final hour. 9.5/10

    Cloud Atlas: I feel like there's a great film somewhere in the greatly ambitous, but sadly preachy, overindulgent mess that is Cloud Atlas. Actually, I think there are a few good movies in here, and that's the big problem with this movie: there are several stories that are supposed to connect, but they never quite do, or if they do it doesn't ever come together as a cohesive story. There are parts that are great, like the nursing home escape and the journalist/detective story, but there are others that really drag on, such as a plot line involving letters written by a gay composer(played well by Ben Whishaw)to his lover, which could have been excellent but ended up squandering the potential it had. Another major problem is the the movie is just far too long, it becomes painful to sit through three hours of Tom Hanks and Halle Berry as nomads with accents nobody could ever possibly understand. There is some good here, as all the actors are clearly relishing their multiple roles, especially Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving, who give the most consistent work throughout the movie. While I can't recommend it, Cloud Atlas is a fascinating yet ultimately disappointing movie. 5.5/10

    Beasts Of The Southern Wild: Here's yet another movie I was expecting little from and got a lot in return. A stunning directorial debut for Benh Zeitlin, with amazing performances from Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, who also make their acting debuts. It's shot beautifully and has the best score I've heard all year. Beasts is a delight and easily one of the best movies of 2012. 9/10

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

      Check out the theatrical version of Alien. It's almost a whole different movie as far as feeling and genre goes. I don't scare too easily, but the theatrical version did just that.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        Interesting. I've seen both versions and I don't remember much of a difference (but I've only seen Alien twice so I probably wouldn't know what to look for).

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

          I remember watching the DC first and it not really connecting at all. Then I watched the theatrical cut before Prometheus came out and was kind of blown away.

          • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

            I feel like the two films are still very similar though, minus some minor changes. Granted, I haven't seen the director's cut in years, probably since it was first released on DVD, and I believe I was only about eight or nine then anyway.

      • Jake17

        Really? I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    Only two movies this week, and both of them were at home. They are:

    Monster's Inc.- I really like this film. It starts of slower, but then it really picks up as it goes along. And, the ending is my favorite ending of any Pixar film. Here's hoping that Monster's University puts Pixar back on track. 8.5/10

    Ghost- I probably would have enjoyed this film more if I had not seen The Lovely Bones last week, which deals with similar subject matter. And, there are some scenes that don't need to be there, plus, Carl is a complete scumbag who has no redeeming qualities. If you're going to make a villain who is that unlikable, you have to have some redeeming qualities, and a good backstory to understand where he is coming from. But, I really loved Whoopi Goldberg, and it deserves its level of acclaim. 8/10

    • Jake17

      I said this to somebody last week, but I'll say it again: that ending(actually, pretty much all of the last 15 minutes)never fails to make me shed a tear.

  • Matt

    Not much to offer, but it was still a solid week in terms of quality-

    In Theaters:

    Les Miserables (re-watch): I guess it's worth noting that I didn't go see this film again as per my own suggestion, but a bunch of my friends went and I decided to be social and see it again, haha. Anyway, I still really enjoy this movie and, in my opinion, it improved on a second viewing ever so slightly. I actually probably enjoy it more than I did "Django Unchained", which is something I never would have predicted at the beginning of the year. The music, performances and story are all top notch. Like most musicals, the film's a love it or hate it experience and I can't really get upset if somebody disagrees with me on the film's quality. I just don't think it'll work for everyone. But I really loved it. A

    At Home:

    The Royal Tenenbaums - A fantastic film, and my second exposure to the work of Wes Anderson. I love the way Anderson tells this story to audiences, and how emotional it gets at times. The performances were also uniformly solid, with Hackman and Luke Wilson being the standouts for me. Also, great soundtrack. A

    Sound of My Voice- I went in with relatively modest expectations and came out very impressed. The story hooked me in right away and moved at such a rapid pace, but it never felt rushed. Brit Marling is incredible in her supporting role and I really think it's a shame she has virtually no chance at an Oscar nomination, especially with such a weak field this year. She's my number two after Hathaway in that particular category. I do wish the film was a tiny bit longer but, all in all, no complaints. I will say though, I wonder how the film will work on a second viewing since I'll know how the story will unfold. A-

    Pitch Perfect- I can't deny that I had a lot of fun with this film. The story is weak and filled with cliches, but it was still pretty funny and self aware enough so that I could excuse some of the cheesiness. Rebel Wilson was hysterical and I really liked Elizabeth Banks, who with limited screen time had most of the memorable lines. I don't know if I'll ever feel the desire to go back and watch this, but I can see why it was such a big hit and why audiences loved it. Side note, that college is a complete fantasy land. I know most colleges/high schools are, but this one was particularly over the top. Anna Kendrick's dorm room is maybe six times the size of mine. But, I digress. B-

    Safety Not Guaranteed- Not a bad film, but I wasn't exactly blown away by it like many were. The film was interesting and I actually enjoyed most of the performances, but the story just felt very dull, which is shocking given how unique it is. But my biggest problem, by far, was the ending. I liked how the film was more about living with regret than it was about science fiction, but that just made the ending feel out of place. I don't know, maybe I had too high of expectations, but this just wasn't a strong film in my opinion. C+

    Girls Season 1- "Breaking Bad", while fantastic, is quite heavy and hard to marathon so I decided to start watching "Girls" to balance it out. Shockingly, I marathoned through all ten episodes in one day. This is, simply, one of the most well written series on television, and by far the best comedy on the air right now. I was just utterly fascinated with the whole show. It was funny, sure, but it had a serious side to it that was shocking at times. The characters were all complex, but completely realistic and relatable, as were most of the situations they faced. Granted, I'm a few years younger than the characters on this series and, also, a guy, but I still related all too well to many of the things going on in this series. Anyway, I just really enjoyed these ten episodes and it kills me inside that my parents don't subscribe to HBO and I'll have to wait to watch the season on DVD next year. A

    The Apartment (re-watch)- Great film that I received on bluray for Christmas. I shared it with my family and they were all pleased. A+

    Chicago (re-watch)- My favorite movie musical. I watched it to compare it to Les Mis, and stand by that it's a better film. Fantastic performances and an interesting story told with such energy. I love it! A+

    • Matt

      Crap, forgot to add that I also re-watched "21 Jump Street" at a party. Granted, it was on in the background and I was with friends so it might not exactly be "watching" but that film is hilarious, even if it doesn't quite hold on repeat viewings. I'd probably lower it from a B+ to a B or maybe a B-.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

      About The Royal Tenenbaums, apart from the suicide scene, where else do you think it gets emotional?

      • jamie

        i thought there was a lot of sadness in tenenbaums. a lot is played as humor, but underneath the surface almost every character is depressed, and alone.

        it is my favorite of andersons work

      • Matt

        I found the scene in the tent between Margot and Richie to be a very emotional scene, and many of the sequences involving Royal and his kids. The final scene was also pretty emotional.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kylejames182/ kyle coley

    i saw texas chainsaw it wasnt that bad, C-. saw les mis i liked it didnt love it. B-.

    This is 40 was god awful did not like it F+

    I am watching the medalist i am really liking it

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

    Sorry for being so late again, anyways..

    This is 40 - 8/10
    I loved this movie it was the best thing I've seen Apatow do since The 40 Year Old Virgin.

    Cloud Atlas - 8/10
    It was very poetic and some scenes really got me emotionally, but overall I don't think I reached its full potential.

    Wreck-it Ralph - 8/10
    Best animated film I've seen all year, but that really isn't saying much since I didn't like any of the others. I loved the characters and it was a fun experience.

    Lincoln - 6/10
    I didn't really like it at all, I don't know what to say about it, they could've at least shown his death scene and it could've taken the movie to another level like in Milk.

    Midnight in Paris (rewatch) 9/10
    Great movie and easy to watch at any time, I can relate to the main character in the way he respects his idols just the same as I respect and admire people like QT, Kubrick, Charlie Kaufman, Nicolas Roeg, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, and Scorsese.

    The Pianist (rewatch) - 8/10
    Caught up with this one 20 mins in, but I've seen it a few times already so I know how the story goes and I've come to respect it a lot for its filmmaking but the character isn't very likable and I've never come to love it.

    Zero Dark Thirty - 9/10 In terms of film and not in what happened in real life which I don't know and I'm pretty sure none of you do either, it was an amazing film and one of the best I've seen all year. As an action movie, The Hurt Locker is much better, but this is much more than that.