My Favorite Opening Scenes

There’s something about an opening scene. They say first impressions make or break a relationship and while in film there is a bit more wiggle room, an opening scene is a great way to hook in your viewer from the get go. There have been plenty of great scenes of the years that open up great films. This list comprises my personal favorites. I also feel the need to keep opening credit sequences out of it so no Se7en, Catch Me if you Can, or Lord of War. I’ll be searching for each scene of youtube so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to be spoiled of anything, please don’t watch the video. Here we go…

Incendies

This is definitely my favorite opening in any film, although not by much. The combination of Radiohead and the slow close up of that thousand yard stare are just powerful as hell. You don’t know who the kid is yet, you don’t know why they’re getting their heads shaved, but you know they don’t want it. You know that something is changing inside. It’s gorgeous.

Inglorious Basterds

I couldn’t find the full scene, but the above video is good enough. The humor, the intensity, the introduction to one of the greatest villains of all time…this scene has everything. It’s almost a perfect way to start a film that will end up being Tarantino’s best film. I actually think it works without the entire rest of the film. It stands alone. I saw this movie for the first time after midnight in my theater and it hooked me in. I was set. Still crack up at the pipe reveal.

Zodiac

I still get chills down my spine when I see this movie and it starts from the beginning. The tracking shot from the car while “Easy to be Hard” by Three Dog Night plays in the background and fireworks go off in the background COMPLETELY cement you into the summer of 1969. Michael and Darlene are on an awkward date and you can feel its awkwardness right up until our black mystery car pulls up behind them. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. Unforgettable. Every time I hear this Donovan song I think of this scene. Goooooooood byyyyyye.

The Dark Knight

The silent opening. The zoom in aerial shot filmed in glorious IMAX. The speculative banter about The Joker. Even the guys doing the job for him don’t know who he is. The backstabbing and William Fichtner being a badass with a shotgun. The scene above cuts off before The Joker reveal but it’s still breathtaking to watch. Nolan may be in a bit of a slump recently but this film alone cements him as a world class filmmaker.

The Social Network

You gotta include a dialogue scene. Simple. Two people at a table talking that eventually leads to a breakup. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue in this scene that makes it amazing or the acting so I’ll just meet myself in the middle and say that they both combine to form just a fantastic look into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s alos one of the first glimpses at Rooney Mara who would later be an Oscar Nominee. The scene cuts off but I also love Mark walking home to his dorm in the snow while Trent Reznor’s score plays in the background. That makes two Fincher openings on my list.

28 Days Later

I couldn’t find the full scene or really any part of the scene besides what I found above but you get the point. Jim wakes up in a hospital, before Rick Grimes did, and nobody is around. What follows is a creepy as shit sequence as Jim walks around a vacant London. There is no green screen. London is empty. Godspeed You! Black Emperor blares in the background and still nobody around. One of the creepiest scenes in film.

A Clockwork Orange

Strange. Hypnotic. Creepy. Kubrick sets the tone with one long stare from Malcolm McDowell. The music combines with Alex and his Droogs for an iconic opening at the milk bar.

There Will Be Blood

It’s amazing that without a single word of dialogue, we know all we need to know about Daniel Plainview. Jonny Greenwood’s score blasts your ears from the get go and we get to see just how far Daniel is willing to go, or crawl, to get to the top. He’s smart. He’s ruthless. He’s business. Incredible direction from PT Anderson.

Magnolia

Awesome three story coincidence introduction that has nothing really to do with the film’s plot or story arcs. They’re just examples of how life can be funny and tragic sometimes. The scene is narrated by Ricky Jay and for some reason his voice is the only voice I can see making this film what it is. I believe all three stories are true too. Or at least somewhat true. The video above is all I could find. It’s the final story. The Sydney Barringer suicide.

Drive

Super tense opening getaway scene from Drive may be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I mean cool as in “that dude is one cool, fly, motherfucker”. He’s never out of control of the situation or his car. He’s all business. I’m a sucker for characters who are all business. The tick tick score is also awesome.

UP

It stills knocks me on my ass. Every, damn, time. I actually teared up watching it again just now. I cried my damn eyes out in the theater and every single kid in the theater was silent. The parents were sobbing but the kids were silent. They just couldn’t grasp the emotional impact of what they just saw. This is tied with Finding Nemo as my favorite Pixar films.

Quick Review : St. Vincent (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes – 76%

Directed By – Theodore Melfi
Starring – Bill Murray, Jaeden Lieberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Kimberly Quinn, and Terrence Howard

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door.

There are very few things in life that instill a complete sense of tranquility whenever they’re present. A nice roaring fire on a cold night, a juicy burger and a tall cold beer, a nap during a rainstorm…and Bill Murray.

I love Bill Murray. I know everybody generally loves Bill Murray but I ignore them all and just savor the fact that this man is still making me laugh in movies. Ever since I heard him explain to the mayor of New York that Walter Peck had no dick in Ghostbusters, sarcasm has been a friend. Sometimes it doesn’t go over as well as when Bill uses it. I’ve been in some awkward situations in public situations where my sarcasm has been laid down too strong and prompts me to explain how I’m not really a jerk. Bill never has to do that though. He’s Bill Murray. He’ll always be Bill Murray and nobody else will ever be Bill Murray. That doesn’t make sense. I don’t care.

St. Vincent, a film that I obviously wanted to see ended up being a sweet, cute, very funny film that didn’t do anything special in terms of story of style, but just raked in the smiles from the on screen cast. It reminded me a lot of Chef earlier this year where we have a young actor playing opposite of a more known actor and letting the story kind of run in the background. Sometimes you really just need a relaxing comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s what we have here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some emotional scenes in the film that landed as being sincere. The film tackles divorce and Alzheimer’s pretty seriously but the film never drops into it too long before coming back with a laugh.

Bill Murray was obviously awesome. There was a scene that was in the trailer so I don’t mind talking about it here, involving Bill sitting in a lawn chair while Oliver (Lieberher) mows his dirt. McCarthy asks him if he’s drinking alcohol and we get this long Bill Murray stare and response of “I honesty don’t remember”. I died. I had seen the scene in the trailer but honestly it’s so funny that it surprised me when it happened. Bill turns on and off a Brooklyn accent for the duration of the film and REALLY did a phenomenal job at the end of the film. I won’t say what happens, but I’ll just say it was really a perfect interpretation of what people really go through after such an event. Speaking of accents, Naomi Watts may have done one of the worst accents in the history of film. Her character is Russian and her attempt at the accent is just laughable. She sounds like if Niko Belic and Yakov Smirnoff decided to be a lady. It was horrible. Chris O’Dowd is amazing. I could have watched the scenes with him in the classroom for two hours. The cast was great.

The film was delightful while not being a special snowflake. Does that make sense? It’s like comfort food. Mashed potatoes aren’t special but sometimes they’re the perfect thing. Also, Bill Murray.

3.5/5



Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

Update and Film Review – The One I Love (2014)

So, here’s an update on why I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been battling depression for the better part of my adult life. Some of you may have read a few things on this website that has dealt with some personal events and thoughts. I try to keep this website movie related but sometimes I just need to write out my feelings on a medium that won’t just be read by myself in a few months. My fathers side of the family is riddled with depression history and while I’ve managed to function correctly since high school, a month ago everything kind of came crashing down. I had a week where the only time I left my bed was to work and the work I did was shit anyway. So I decided to get some help and see a psychiatrist and ask if maybe medication was right for me. I started taking a mild anti-depressant about a week ago and I’m finally finding the energy to sit down and write. I have been watching a few movies here and there but most of them are either films I’ve seen already or movies that have been talked to death. I recently watched all three Indiana Jones films for the first time. Do I need to talk about them? No, because everybody and their mothers have seen those films. Expect more musings from me in the near future. I think I actually might make it to the theater tonight. We shall see. Here’s a short review of something special I saw last night. As always, thanks for reading…

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
ON NETFLIX

Directed By – Charlie McDowell
Starring – Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, and Ted Danson

Nope. You’re not getting a trailer for this one. Hell, you’re not going to even get much of a review. This is a film that you need to go in blind. The only thing I can tell you is that Duplass and Moss are married and are seeking help in the form of counseling from Danson suggests going away for a weekend. That’s it. That’s all you get. The film isn’t something that is going to absolutely blow you away with mind bending twists and turns, but rather it’s a film that just can’t be talked about in any form of detail without giving away key plot points that make the film a fun watch.

I will say that Moss and Duplass are fantastic together. The chemistry they have resembles a real husband and wife going through a struggle and let’s just say their performances are very layered. I was very impressed with both of them.

The film really gets to the core of what it means to spend your life with somebody you love and while I can’t go into why it does, the ending of the film is very uplifting and promising if you yourself are going through the same problems.

Please see the film. It’s on Netflix. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

4.5/5



Underrated Acting Performances

Holy Shit. It’s been a long three weeks since my last post. My apologies. I’ve been working through some personal thing recently. I haven’t been watching many films and the ones I have been are older and have been talked to death. For the first time in my life, I’m watching the Indiana Jones Trilogy. I know, I know. I think I just missed the boat when I was little and whenever it popped up on television, it was in the middle or something so I didn’t watch it. Last Crusade is next and so far I enjoyed the hell out of Raiders and was very disappointed by Temple of Doom. It wasn’t that it was a bad film, more of a movie that just doesn’t hold up to something like Raiders. All the humor seemed forced and was made worse by two incredibly annoying supporting characters. I also saw Interstellar and was left baffled by it which is why I have not written about it yet. That is coming though.

Today, I decided to do a little feature about underrated acting performances. These are personal choices and by no means a definitive list. Each one is a shining example of a role that was either completely forgotten by everybody or only appreciated by certain people. Let’s get into it…

Jack Lemmon in “Glengarry Glen Ross”

One of my favorite performances ever. At this point in his career Jack didn’t have to prove a thing to anybody but the old man pulled this incredibly layered performance out of his hat. I love the incredible amount of sadness in his eyes during every scene. He really needed those leads.

Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur

I could have went with Peter Mullan in this film as well but I think Colman outshined him. This little seen film from actor Paddy Considine punched me in the gut the first time I saw it and I couldn’t shake it for days. Colman was just simply devastating. People need to see this one.

Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs

What can I say? I think the man got robbed of a best supporting actor nomination in a film that seemed to get nominated (and win) for pretty much everything. He made Buffalo Bill into one of the most frightening characters ever in a film that he shared with probably THE most frightening character ever. Levine has a creepy voice to begin with but he took it to another level with Bill.

Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

Another straight robbery of a nomination. Dano was the absolute reason why that film has the reputation it has. Like Daniel Plainview, the viewer grows to loath Eli Sunday that we can’t help but not be shocked during the famous ending. The scene with Plainview in the church is one of my favorite scenes of all time.

Denis Levant in Holy Motors

The driving force behind one of the most batshit crazy films I’ve ever seen. The man plays like nine different characters ranging from old men to leprechauns. He approaches each role with absolute dedication and really transforms with each one following. He plays the damn accordion and then gets stabbed. He was incredible in an incredible film.

Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog

I still have only seen this film once. That’s how much this wrecked me. The story surrounding Ben Kingsley and his family was sad enough but the real kick in the gut was watching Connelly come to terms with her life that she no longer has control of. She has always been a good actress but I feel most will remember her going ass to ass in Requiem rather than delivering a knockout performance in this film. The scene with the gun and the car killed me.

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

I think I could have really put any Michael Shannon performance on this list and it would have been applicable. This is my favorite though. His breakdown at the community dinner scared the shit out of me and made me realize what a dangerous mental illness schizophrenia is. That isn’t a spoiler per say, rather a nod at Shannon for perfectly portraying what paranoia can do to a person.

Sam Rockwell in Moon

This will be short because I don’t want to give anything away to people who haven’t seen the film yet. Let’s just say Rockwell knocks it out of the park with a duel role. The film has now reached a sort of cult status on the internet and for once I totally agree to it being there.

Stephen Mchattie in Pontypool

The dude was born for this one. McHattie plays a shock jock DJ in this unconventional zombie film. He’s in almost every shot and carries the film which takes place entirely in a radio studio. The film may have a bad ending, but the premise and McHattie’s performance make it a cool watch.

Lubna Azabal in Incendies

One of my top ten favorites movies. Azabal is a force in this once. Her character goes through so much shit over the course of the film that only an incredible performance could have kept the film centered. The bus fire scene stands out a lot as well as her time in the prison. Incredible performance in an amazing film.

Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead

WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY TALK ABOUT SHAUN? His performance is my favorite part of this entire film that while remains hysterical, also goes into some very serious areas with the whole living dead eating people and stuff. Pegg is at his best when Shaun gets pissed off and of course at the end with Ed. The dude can flat out act.

David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

He steals every single scene he is in. The showdown at the end of Vol. 2 is my favorite part of both films and it’s all because of Carradine. It’s a shame the guy had to go all crazy masturbation death on us because he coudl have really been something else towards the end of his career. Bill may have been a bastard, but he was a cool as shit bastard.

Michael Parks in Red State

The dude is batshit crazy. He made the entire film for me and is to this day the best example of a lunatic cult leader that doesn’t go too over the top or cartoony. He scared the shit out of me.

Colin Farrell in In Bruge

One of my favorite “comedies” or at least favorite screenplays. Farrell, who has the real life personality of the guy who comes to your party whom you hate automatically, just flat out delivers a genuine knockout performance. His portrayal of working through a serious depression is something that I’ve come to relate to in recent events. He may be dead inside from killing a little boy but that doesn’t mean he won’t do coke with a midget.

Michael Caine in Children of Men

The bright light in a bleak dim world. I love Michale Caine in this film. We don’t know him for that long but when we leave him we feel the greatest gut wrenching sadness. That’s acting. It’s one of my favorite small roles in any film. Pull my finger.