Friday, December 16, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: Lingering Ideas...

Shame brought up a very interesting question for me, I think. Most of these questions were actually fairly critical to how I thought about the film, and it brought me to realize one of the great things about that movie.

My question was this:

Why does Steve McQueen linger on some things for a much longer period of time than others?

It was something I noticed a lot when I was watching Shame, that McQueen would tend to linger a lot on certain pieces of certain scenes. The camerawork tended to live in slightly longer cuts, particularly in Fassbender's scenes where he interacts with other characters. I will admit it was a little jarring to see that the director lingers a lot on the same motif for several minutes, staying on that for a while before something interesting happens. There's a date scene that goes on for a while, there's a scene of intimacy that goes on for a while, and there's an entire scene that messes with our perception of time that goes on for a while close to the end.

But at the end of the day, I think this works to its advantage. For when we get subjected to so much within a certain amount of time, it really jumps at us when something happens. The date scene is necessarily long for a reason that becomes clear later on: it serves as a characterization bit that lets us peer into Brandon's mind when he tries to have sex with her later and ultimately can't bring himself to go all the way with it. A long scene of Carey Mulligan singing focuses almost exclusively on her face, with only a brief glimpse of Brandon's face that tells us everything we need to know about what he's feeling.

But ultimately, I think the fact that McQueen lingers on the same topic for so many minutes is best demonstrated by the last sex scene that occurs in the movie. Let me relate the camera work of the final sex scene of the movie so you can see what I mean...

So the final sex scene is a threesome with Fassbender and two women. What entails is a bunch of extremely close shots of the sex, with some shots getting almost pornographic in how graphic they are. It always cuts to flashes of flesh, bare flesh and nothing but as these three people engage in the act. However, the scene ends not with a wide shot of the act itself, but with a close-up of Michael Fassbender's face as he orgasms. From his facial expression, however, we get the all-too-clear sense that this is an orgasm that is wrought with pain and anger and a great amount of sadness. While Fassbender's acting does so much for the shot, it's the fact that we've seen so much sexualized flesh in the preceeding two or so minutes that really makes the shot work. This is partly because it's the first full shot of Fassbender's face in such a scene, partly also because we don't see the other parties in the shot, and partly because seeing that expression in what's supposed to be the height of ecstasy is rather jarring for the audience, and casts the entire two or so scenes beforehand in a completely different light. It sums up everything about the events leading up to that point in a way that no other edit of the film could have, and it's a critical shot for a character-defining moment.

And in all honesty, that singular shot that lasts for about six or so seconds was literally the point where, at least for me, Shame took a step up from being just a really good movie, and became a movie that I can say is unforgettably great. If we had seen such a shot earlier, I doubt the impact would have been as great as it ultimately was. But thanks to the fact that he lingered on other things before presenting the shot was what ultimately contributes most to how powerful it is.

And that is why lingering on something can be a virtue in film making.

This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I think I'll start today by saying something about movies. Sometimes, a movie comes along, and you'll be so floored by it that literally, you find yourself at a loss to speak. Sometimes, a movie so incredibly good comes along, and it'll make you think about it for a long time. And sometimes, that movie is one that takes a lot of risks.

Today's movie is one of these movies.


Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is an office worker who has a bit of a problem: he's addicted to sex, to the point that he can form no personal attachments at all. Enter his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who stays with Brandon at his apartment for a few days. His personal life from there begins to unravel, and he begins to question many things in his life.

I... This is one of those films that defies summaries, really. And I really don't know where to begin.

I guess... Yeah, I think I'll start at the NC-17 rating. Trust me, this movie earns its NC-17 rating, especially near the end when the sex scenes get really graphic, almost to the point of being pornographic in one or two shots. Trust me when I tell you, though, that this movie is so masterful that I don't think that it could've done without those shots I mention.

I think the best way to describe this movie is as a slow character study of sex obsession. There's something wonderful about the way Brandon's character develops: we see him as a man who is always having sex a lot of the time, but from what we see we're not sure why as he forms no personal connections, and love is the kind of thing he feels he has no use for. And then, when his sister Sissy comes along, we see some of his insecurities come about in some of her actions, and from there he just begins to question what the hell he is doing as a result. This shift in his character is key in this movie, and while it is very slow to develop, the viewer's patience is greatly rewarded.

With the wrong actors, it could've fallen apart. But the casting people did a wonderful job casting this. I was pretty convinced of Michael Fassbender's acting abilities from his portrayal of Magneto in X-Men: First Class. But here? After seeing him in this movie, I'm convinced that Fassbender can do no wrong. Fassbender's performance is spellbinding: Brandon's character is full of hidden rage and sorrow, and Fassbender's performance captures this perfectly, particularly when he lets it all out as the movie draws to its conclusion. This is to say nothing of a good supporting turn from Carey Mulligan, but Fassbender steals the show, and the movie just works incredibly well thanks to him. Academy, take note: if I don't see Michael Fassbender at the Oscars this year, there's gonna be hell to pay.

Director Steve McQueen, too, gives it his all here. I am at odds with some of his choices in the shakier camera work, but he makes some really smart decisions on where to train the camera in relation to the actors, and the shots he chooses say almost everything you need to know about what the characters are thinking most of the time. In many ways, the camera work tells the whole story for us, and it's wonderful to see a movie take such an approach to how it tells its story. Combine that with the incredible acting at work, and... well...

I... I've got nothing else to say here. Go see Shame right now. It's one of the best movies of the year, hands-down, and Fassbender has now made it perfectly clear that he's a force to be reckoned with. So go see this movie right now.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


And this review begins with the very appropriate phrase given to us by the credentials of this movie:

"Martin Scorcese is making a family movie."

And right there, you have all the impetus you need to see today's movie.

Oh, by the way, before I get to it... a spoiler warning:

In order to properly talk about the movie, I will have to spoil the plot. So here's a spoiler warning, and don't take it lightly, whatever you do.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's get to today's movie.


Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a boy who lives alone in a train station managing all their clocks. Along the way, he attempts to fix an automaton that his father (Jude Law) found in a museum. However, when he comes across Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) at a toy shop in his train station, things suddenly happen, and then he finds himself going on an adventure with Georges' goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz) that leads him to many new places.

So, here are a couple things to note about this movie.

1) No, they don't mean that kind of adventure that so many movies these days try to force into their plots.
2) *here be spoilers* For those of you who know your film history backwards and forward, yes, this is that Georges Méliès.

Yes, this is a movie about movies, though more specifically, it's about other things pertaining to the movies. Don't trust the trailers here: the big whimsical stuff comes less from Hugo's escapades and more from what he and Isabelle discover on their little adventure: that Isabelle's godfather was once a great film-maker, was revolutionary for his time as being the godfather of special effects, and other things like that. *Here end the spoilers*

And honestly, there's something about that which comes across as a breath of fresh air in the family movie genre. Yes, there's the usual capery stuff that comes up with these movies, but they're not the main focus of the movie after a while. While it's a tonal shift that may surprise some, I found that it lent itself to a certain element of charm that I think is missing from the genre these days, and it becomes engaging for a totally different reason than you'd think.

And as well, the whole visual aesthetic works. I'll go out on a limb here and say that you definitely should see this movie in 3D: I'm not normally for the format, but this movie sports one of the best uses of 3D I've ever seen in a movie. The style is also incredibly vivid and quite pleasing to look at.

So overall? I suggest you all go see Hugo. It's a very charming, engaging movie that does things differently. And the things it does differently work really well for the movie, and so it becomes a fresh new experience for everyone. Go take your kids to see this over the Holiday season. Trust me, you won't regret it.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The Muppets"

So... these days a lot of cultural icons have been coming back into the fold in the form of reboots by various major film studios. So far, we've had Alvin and the Chipmunks being among the more successful properties returning to the fold, and... well, now we have a cultural icon returning.

And boy, have we missed the guys in today's movie...

The Muppets

Gary (Jason Siegel) and Walter (Peter Linz) are both brothers, with Walter being a huge fan of the Muppets. On a trip to LA to celebrate the anniversary of Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), however, Walter uncovers a nefarious plot by Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to destroy the Muppet Theater to get at some oil on the property. Thus, the three of them recruit Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, and all of the other favorites of the old gang to put on a last show to raise the ten million dollars that will save the theater.

And from there, we get things going.

Now, I'll make something clear. I'm not a fan of the Muppets, but this is more on account of being sorely unfamiliar with the property, except for maybe a couple of points when I've stumbled upon clips of the Muppet Show as part of music-related searches (more especially sketches with Victor Borge). So going in, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, except from tidbits I've heard from other people who like the Muppets.

But when I sat there? I was really quite charmed by everything this movie has. It's funny, it's got very catchy tunes, it has a major heaping of optimistic heart, and the whole thing just comes together at the end of the day. Everybody involved in this movie gets a chance to shine, even with the cameo appearances made by way too many celebrities to count.

And ultimately? I was charmged by The Muppets, as I had a lot of fun watching this movie? Is it the greatest thing ever? I think that the humor could have been a little more constant, with all the lampshade hanging and fourth wall destruction this movie has. But at the end of the day, it's a charming movie with charming characters that is a great time for both kids and adults.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Flashback Reviews: The Fall

Okay, so last weekend, we managed to review a movie directed by Tarsem. We found distinct visual flair, and we found that while the story was pretty lacking, the visuals more than made up for it. So overall, it ended up being very fun.

But what about the rest of Tarsem's filmography? Well... The Cell is reportedly pretty bad, and we still have Mirror, Mirror to look forward to next year, so... we'll not touch on those. Yet. But there is another movie...

And this one, is actually really good.

The Fall (2006)

Roy (Lee Pace) is a movie stuntman who winds up paralyzed in a hospital. He gets frequently visited by the curious Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a girl who is there for a broken arm. When Roy begins telling Alexandria a very long fantasy, story, however, he begins to weave the tale of the Black Bandit and the Governor Odius, in exchange for favors from Alexandria that involve her stealing the hospital's supply of morphine.

And things get rather trippy from there.

So again, Tarsem's visual flair comes to the movie's aid a lot. There are some shots of the movie that would be considered works of art in their own right, though the fantasy sequences all tend to have this rather grand air about them that steals the show every time it cuts to them.

Of course, though, one thing I find striking about the story is how deliberately paced it is. It's a very slow-paced story that builds up gradually, but as the story of the movie goes on, it reveals an incredibly tragic dychotomy at its heart. Slowly, the tale Roy tells begins to show parallels to the hospital around them, and Tarsem is extremely careful in choosing which details are filled in as parallels. And the last fifteen or so minutes of the movie? They have to be some of the most heartbreaking fifteen minutes I've ever seen in a movie, as we've seen the fairy tale get progressively darker to reflect Roy's character. These parallels add enough richness to the story, that we don't watch the movie soley for the visual style.

And that is a strength that suits The Fall very well. It has an engaging storyline, as well as having the great visual style. Thus, as a whole, the movie works on just about every level, even if some of the acting is a little stilted.

So at the end of the day?


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Okay, so… Sorry about last week. Again. It happened again where I was way too busy to be able to go to the movies. You’d be surprised how much stuff I have to do right at the moment.

But rest assured guys, I have not forgotten about you! So here I am to provide another little review on something.

And we get right to today’s movie with a bang.


Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a peasant boy who finds himself entangled in a larger than life quest. His mother is killed in front of him by the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who seeks to unleash the titans on the Earth after the Gods abandon his family. Thus, Theseus, with the indirect guidance of Zeus (Luke Evans) and the oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto), goes to defeat Hyperion.

So in other words, it’s a huge Greek Mythological story… if it decided to give actual Greek myth a historic middle finger. That, however, is unrelated to the point, and another story entirely.

So let’s get down to business. What this movie doesn’t quite have in its favor… it suffers mildly from a rather turgid script that more or less goes through the motions and has the same kind of “Greek-ish epic” dialogue that you’d expect that goes along the lines of “honor honor the other guys are evil blah blah blah”. There’s also a rather large part of the second act which drags quite a bit in the action as there really isn’t that much that is interesting about it.

What it does have in its favor, though? It’s got one heck of a visual style behind it. Director Tarsem brings a ridiculous amount of visual pizazz to the action, and every scene in the movie is clear, easy to see, and—surprisingly—quite brutal. It also features some truly wild set and costume design, and the whole aesthetic works really beautifully in combination with everything. So if nothing else, we have a really wonderful aesthetic that works incredibly well. The actors too all try their best to make the script they have work, though it’s not entirely successful at a few points.

So overall? Well, there’s not much to say about Immortals. It has exciting action, one incredible visual style, and a rather poor script. If you’re into these kinds of movies, well… this movie is quite definitely for you.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don’t want to go see it, don’t.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I’ll see you guys next time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Goes To The Opera!

Hi guys. Yes, I know I didn't have a review for a new release last week. Well... to be honest, none of the new releases were terribly interesting to me at all. Most of the hold-overs were stuff I really didn't have time for, and the only thing I could've found intriguing about the new movies this past weekend was Gabourey Sidibe finally getting herself into a big Hollywood movie, although the fact that her part is an incredibly tiny part wasn't enough to convince me to see said movie.

Besides, I had other plans. Why?

Well, for those of you who follow Fathom Events, then you'll know that the Metropolitan Opera broadcasted a production of Richard Wagner's Siegfried last Saturday at around 12:00 EST. What's even better is that the Regal multiplex I go to for a vast majority of my film reviews was one of the locations of the broadcast. So I attempted to make my way to that to see the opera at the movies.

So I thought that today I'd comment on the experience, and my impressions of the production from one average every-day moviegoer to the next.

So, the experience? Well, it's Wagner opera, so I was there for a long time. If you thought Avatar was a long movie? Forget it: the broadcast of Siegfried lasted about five hours and twenty minutes, including the intermission features the Met broadcasts usually include. So that's a long time to be sitting in the theater: thankfully, also due to the fact that it was opera, we didn't have to stay in the theater for the whole five and a half hours. At the intermissions, there were fifteen minutes between the ends of each act and the intermission feature that would play before the start of the next act, so we all had fifteen minutes to walk around and do stuff between acts. Good thing, too.

It was also a fairly strange experience: literally, I think I was the youngest person at that theater for the broadcast. Being a frequent opera-goer at one time in my life, I can tell you that it's nothing unusual if you're at the opera in a theater or an opera house, but if you're in the opera at the movies where you've been used to seeing young people all the time? Now that is surreal. Though it's also funny that going to the opera at the movies has been the only time I've been able to get away with drinking Orange Fanta in the theater while the show is going on, but that is another story entirely.

As for the production itself? Well... putting on my critical hat for a second, I can tell you that the broadcast itself was excellent. The singing was excellent (especially from Jay Hunter Morris as the title role, who stepped into one of opera's most difficult roles at basically the last minute (Which, oddly enough, is a lot more common for the Met than you'd think. And not just recently, either: its entire history is filled with mishaps that occurred at some point or another.) and still managed to sing and act as an incredibly convincing Siegfried), and everyone involved brought their best to the table. I wish the projection hadn't been as dark as it was in the broadcast I saw it at, as there were a few times when it was needlessly difficult to tell what was set up in the set from time to time. However, I can also tell you that Robert LaPage's production is something you have to see, even if you're not an opera buff. Most productions of any of the operas in Wagner's Ring tend to fall victim to the fact that they are typically operas in which things are incredibly dynamic as far as stage directions go, but LaPage's production is both visually stunning and brings an element of dynamism into the operas that very few productions have ever managed to do. Overall, it was an excellent broadcast all around.

And it was a great time, for me being an opera-goer who went to the movies for this one.

So... that's that. I went to the opera, and crazy times were had for all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"In Time"

So... Sci-fi thrillers. Sci-fi thrillers can be filed into any number of places. They can be filed into the pure-fun adrenalin-rush kind of film that doesn't seek to say a thing. They can be just as mindless as your average crime thriller.

And then, they can use their hook to sort of comment on social issues that go down today.

You don't get cookies for figuring out which category today's movie falls into, just telling you now.

In Time

In the near future, man has been cured of aging: people will stop aging at twenty five, and now the amount of time a person has left to live has become the world's chief unit of currency. In this world, the rich live forever while the poor live by the days. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a man who lives in a ghetto in this world. When he is given a hundred and sixteen years by a mysterious, suicidal millionaire, however, he finds himself sucked up in something bigger. Along with Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the millionaire heiress of a bank tycoon, he becomes a Robin Hood kind of figure to the poor.

So... I don't think I need to tell you what the movie discusses with its hook, or the fact that with Occupy Wall Street/The Nation picking up heat this movie couldn't have been better timed. But if I do... well, it uses this thing to discuss class divisions in modern day America. To this end, it plays with a lot of the possibilities involved with this world. It manages to do that thing that is most difficult in a sci-fi movie: it manages to explain how the world works without ever having to resort to telling the audience about it. And trust me, it's extremely effective, as the viewer gets more invested in the world and what it has to say about our own state than he/she would have if most of the rules of this world had been told to us.

In terms of the metaphor that is explored... Well, the metaphor is pretty appropriate, but if there's one thing I had to say about how it discusses the issue, I think that sometimes it stretches the metaphor a little bit. There is being subtle about a message, and then there is slapping you in the face with 'this is messed up'. It's a very neat thing to see just how much time as a unit of currency affects the proceedings, but there are a few points when the metaphor is stretched a little too far. Thus, the message tends to get overpowering, and at some points the movie actually becomes less interesting because of it.

But that said, it's still a reasonably entertaining little movie. Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried make for two very appealing leads, and at the end of the day, we want these characters to succeed. The entire rest of the cast (including Cillian Murphy and Alex Pettyfer in what I think is a career-changing performance for Pettyfer) is also quite good, and they make the most of their roles (even Olivia Wilde, who makes the most of the (almost literal) five minutes that she has in the movie). The action, while fairly standard, is visible and easy to keep track of, and so the whole thing more or less still comes together.

So while it does tend to stretch its metaphor to the point that it is bashing us over the head with it, In Time still manages to be somewhat successful for what it is. Honestly, I think the mark that makes this movie is that I thought the premise worked really well in the movie's universe. When I first heard about this movie, I thought it was going to be the silliest movie of the year, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. And nevertheless, it's a fun little thriller at the end of the day.


It has a few flaws, but is still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Paranormal Activity 3"

Okay, so the first two Paranormal Activity movies were good movies, going around doing crazier things with horror. They were both atmospheric, they both worked really well, and they warranted a second sequel.

So what's that sequel?

Well... it's today's movie.

Paranormal Activity 3

Katie and Kristi had encountered the ghost before, and now, we see the first time they saw it. Kristi and Katie are little girls at that time, and when strange things start happening around the house, things get absolutely crazy.

And crazy, in the typical Paranormal Activity way. As with the first two films, there is a lot of building of atmosphere that is done. These movies have always been slow, and this one gets all the cues down right. The scares start off with a few very, very minor things, and they only build in intensity as the movie goes on. And once they really start coming, they are absolutely visceral in their realization.

So then why does this movie feel like the PA franchise is starting to lose its novelty?

Well... I can think of a few reasons, but I guess the two big ones are really important:

The first one: CGI. We can see it now. Paranormal Activity itself used all practical effects. It had to, given that it was made on a ridiculously tight budget. Paranormal Activity 2 didn't use all that much, but what CGI was used wasn't really all that noticeable? But here? Oh, there's CGI all right, and what there is looks really bad in comparison with the practical effects. It's not used often, but when it is, it really sticks out, and that's never a good thing with a movie.

The second thing, and this is a huge one: END. CREDITS. Paranormal Activity did not have them. Paranormal Activity 2 did not have them. So why does Paranormal Activity 3 have them? It completely breaks the immersion if you cut to "directed by so and so" after the last shot of the movie. Seriously, people. Seriously?

And this isn't counting some of the other problems with this movie. There are child actresses in this, and unfortunately, the girl who played Kristi to me didn't feel very convincing at all in her role. On the whole, there were some things in the acting that just didn't work at all. And then, there's the fact that many facets of the plot make little to no sense, particularly during the last fifteen minutes or so. All this tends to catch up with you as you exit the theater.

And in the end? It shows signs that Paranormal Activity 3 may just be the point when the PA franchise is starting to get bad. I was sitting in a theater where half the audience was laughing at some things. At first I got a little annoyed, but as I watched the movie, I began to find myself agreeing with them. Is it tense? Yes. But once you leave the theater, you're asking yourself "what was I so scared about?"

Thus, why the franchise may have gone past the point where any good movies can be made from it.


It has its moments, but overall you might be left disappointed.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

P.S. Yes, I know I didn't leave a review last week. I'm sorry. A lot of things were going on last weekend, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get a review out. I'll try to make up for it this week, though, so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Real Steel"

Expectations are a funny thing. About a week before release, I was expecting today's movie to be really bad, awful even. So lo and behold, when I check Rotten Tomatoes (yes, I check movie ratings on RT prior to release) and find that it's actually hovering relatively high on the tomatometer for most of the days leading up to the release. So I decided I'd give this movie a chance.

And... well... here we are, with today's movie.

Real Steel

Charlie (Hugh Jackman) is a former professional boxer who got ousted from the game when crowds began to crowd around boxing with robots instead of people. Thus, he falls on really hard times, for both himself and his robot maintenance lady Bailey (Evangeline Lily). However, this changes when the death of an ex-girlfriend of his leads him into looking after his son Max (Dakota Goyo), things change when Max finds a bot named Atom that turns out to become a huge hit on the underground circuit, and then in the professional ring.

So essentially, Rocky, if it was being done with giant fighting robots and a random kid plunked down if Mickey wasn't there.

But over the course of the movie, I found I really didn't care that it was a Rocky retread. Because all the individual elements still come together.

The acting especially makes everything work. Hugh Jackman brings a great energy to the part of Charlie, and while he is a bit of a jerk at the start of the movie, we're with him throughout the entire ride for a lot of reasons, and all the supporting actors do their thing well, even the ones with the smaller amounts of material. Honestly, though, I think the biggest props go to Dakota Goyo, who took a part that could have been extremely annoying and grating and turned it into one of the most engaging parts of the whole movie. Seriously, the kid's a good actor, and I think he'll be a talent to watch.

And the action is really good. Yes, we can see it all, and yes, it's incredibly exciting. You wouldn't think that watching computer-generated robots fight would be so engaging, but, well, here you have it, and in much more exciting form than in your average Bayformers movie. I think the one misstep this movie made was to rely on having one too many fight montages, but even that can be forgiven when they're still pretty entertaining to watch.

And in terms of the plot? Yeah, everything is played safe, but in many ways it's a good kind of safe, because some bits actually feel a little more fresh that way. There aren't a very large amount of subplots surrounding the movie, but in the end that small amount helps keep the movie focused on the main plot. And in the end, it's a focus that the movie could not have gone without, for everything feels so much more satisfying since we know what the stakes are for each character and we can follow and sympathize with the characters more.

It's tough to say exactly how Real Steel works. I know that many times, playing things safe ends up coming up uninspired, but in a few select cases, I think it's possible for exceptions to be made. And this is one of those cases, in which we get a movie that is thoroughly entertaining and, in the end, quite good.

So yeah.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


So, cancer. Cancer, cancer, cancer, one of the leading causes of death in the United States of America, and that disease that puts so much pressure on life. And one that goes around with it.

So how does one deal with it? Well... there are lots of ways, depending on how you are related.

And today's movie is a comedy about that.


Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a writer for a local radio station, has a supportive girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a great friend in Kyle (Seth Rogen). However, all this is jilted with the sudden revelation that at the ripe age of 27, he has a very rare form of spinal cancer. And so, he finds himself facing 50/50 odds with Kyle as his friend through everything.

So... a comedy about cancer. Of course, cancer is an extremely sensitive subject, and has to be treated with aplomb. Too much low-brow, and it can come across as being extremely offensive and not cool. Too sensitive, however, and the humor can lose something.

And as for that? Well, Will Reiser's screenplay hits all the right notes. It manages to have a blend of comedy that somehow works despite the incredibly touchy subject matter. It's funny, side-splittingly hilarious at a lot of points, but it's never in a way that crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed. And when it needs to be serious, the humor wisely backs off, and surprisingly, this movie proves that it's not a jarring tonal shift if you nearly engage in a 'this is sad' cry in a comedy. So it manages to be both hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

And the fact that it has a bunch of really good actors here also helps a lot. The comic timing of everyone is great here, and when they need to be serious they manage to bring a lot of great things to the table. Everyone is great in this movie, especially the lead actors, and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen as the two leads. They also help in keeping the tone of the movie consistent, even when it juggles comedy and drama at the flick of a switch.

So to sum it up? 50/50 is a movie about a very, very serious subject that manages to treat it in both a humorous way and a really serious way. It's got a charming cast, a really tight screenplay, and it works really well as a whole. So go check it out.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cloud Cuckoolander Treatise: Let's Iron Out Some Plot Holes!

Warning: This Cuckoolander Treatise will contain spoilers for Abduction, and a major spoiler for Hanna. Reader discretion is advised, though I really don’t know why you’d take such a warning seriously in relation to a movie that makes no flippin’ sense. (I can see why you’d take it seriously for Hanna, though.)

So those of you who were with me last weekend to review the nonsensical shitfest that was Taylor Lautner’s Abduction will probably remember I lambasted the story for making no sense. Well, I thought to myself, “well, Herr, can you do any better to make this story make sense?”

Well, let’s see, shall we?

I propose a few solutions to make that shitty movie actually make some amount of sense:

1) Ditch a huge part of the reason why Nathan has adoptive parents in the first place.

As I mentioned in my review, the real father of Taylor Lautner’s character was still alive and well during the events of the movie. The reason Nathan was given to adoptive parents, then? It basically whittles down to this: “BOO HOO I CAN’T RAISE A CHILD MY WIFE’S DEATH LEFT ME SO EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE I CAN’T RAISE A CHILD BY MYSELF AND I HAVE NO MORALS THEREFORE I AUTOMATICALLY MAKE AN AWFUL PARENT AND I’M NOT EVEN GONNA TRY TO RAISE THIS KID!” So he was given to some of his friends from the CIA, and stuff evolved from there.

Bullshit, movie. The father just comes across as a whiny little bastard who shouldn’t even be in the CIA, let alone in a higher government job.

Therefore, here is what I propose: I propose you just kill the father off. Completely. Therefore, the fact that Nathan’s parents aren’t actually his parents makes sense. It’s not like you already killed off his mother; one extra victim would actually benefit this movie. Well, that, and it actually makes it more plausible why they would gun after the kid.

Which leads me to suggestion 2…

2) Give the bad guys an actual reason to go after Nathan and Nathan only.

Again, as I said in the review, the Slavic guy is after Nathan for a list that isn’t actually in his possession at the start of the movie. In fact, he doesn’t get the list until after the bad guys gunned for him. You could argue it’s part of a gambit, but you could also… you know… go after the CIA yourselves?

Therefore, here is what I propose to that: have Nathan start the movie with the list somehow. It could be interlaced in a family memento, it could be in a chip inside one of Nathan’s most prized possessions, anything. Anything that makes more sense than getting a list from an apartment that isn’t even in the same state as Nathan’s state of residence.

Speaking of chips, actually…

3) Put the list on a format that actually makes sense in relation to the timeline.

I really doubt they had flip phones in the mid-90’s, which was when the father supposedly got his list. So unless he updated it to a new format every few years (which makes even less sense than before), then there’s no reason it should be on a flip phone.

But assuming that he updated the format, that only opens up another plot hole:

Why didn’t Nathan’s father just give the list directly to the CIA?

Oh, wait, we wouldn’t have a movie that way, that’s why. And you know, it’s bad when your bad guys are chasing your good guys for a reason that opens up a plot hole by default.

My proposition, therefore?

4) Explain why the father didn’t just give the list to the CIA, and thus avoid a case of We Could Have Avoided All This.

You can also completely ditch the list angle, but I’ve got a feeling you don’t want to hear that, so I have to go with everything else. So, you know, give a reason why the father couldn’t just give the list to the CIA. That would go over much better.

That’s all the stuff about the list. Trust me, we’re only halfway done. So let’s get to it.

5) Find a more practical way to kill the mother.

There are more practical ways of killing the mother than just gassing the whole room. Oh yeah, and it also results in less stupid when baby Taylor Lautner picks up a breathing mask, somehow knows what it does, and lives, despite the fact that, you know, he’s still a freaking baby!

6) Find another excuse to involve Nathan in addition to the list.

(Seriously, I just can’t get over the fact that the bad guys are chasing Taylor Lautner for a fucking list that they can get just as easily if they gun for the still-alive father.)

Like, you know, make him a super-secret experiment baby who has enhanced abilities or something. (Funny, when you consider that this is why I originally thought they were gunning for Lautner’s character.) You know, the kind of thing that someone would actually want to get their hands on.

Hey, it worked for Hanna, I’m sure it’ll work just as well here.

7) Keep track of where your movie is, and how long it takes to get there.

Seriously, how the hell did that one dude from The Great Debaters get all the way from Pennsylvania to Virginia with a bunch of fake ID’s in a few hours? I thought making stuff like fake IDs was supposed to take a lot of time, so how does it happen in a few hours? How, movie? How?

8) Have more competent CIA agents, and only slightly less competent Slavic guys.

You mean to tell me that the CIA goes almost the entire running time of the movie without somehow noticing that every single interaction they’ve had with Taylor Lautner’s character over the phone is being tapped by the Slavic guys? Come on, people! The CIA can’t possibly be that stupid!

And lastly…

9) Change the flippin’ title!

Seriously. The title doesn’t relate to the movie at all when you think about it. It really doesn’t.

So yeah, there are a whole bunch of plot suggestions to work with. The one thing I’ll tell you not to do?

10) Do not take out the romance subplot.

Seriously, the romantic subplot of the movie was literally the only thing I enjoyed about it.

And it’s sad when the romantic subplot is the best part of a really twisty action-thriller with complicated plot and all that. It really is.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Here's a little thing I'd like to say to movie screen-writers. We like twisty, complicated plots. We like them in action movies. And we like them as an excuse to watch crazy things happen.

But please, please, for the love of God don't insult our intelligences while doing so.

Seriously, today's movie is a prime example of why you shouldn't treat your audience like a bunch of idiots.

Oh, and for the record, this review WILL contain spoilers. You have been warned about that, and the fact that I really don't care if I give them away for this particular movie. So if you saw this movie and got spoiled, you can't say I didn't warn you about spoilers.

So yeah.


Nathan (Taylor Lautner) is a young man in high school going around doing what he does. However, on a project he does with classmate Karen (Lily Collins), he finds out that his picture just happens to be on a missing person's website. And soon after that, things go downhill, and Nathan is then pursued by both the CIA headed by... Alfred Molina (I can't remember the character's name, nor do I really care), and... some Slavic dude, I don't know.

See? I've forgotten details about the movie already. Not a good sign, people. Let's get this review out of the way before I forget more details.

So, action? Yes, the action here is exciting, we can actually see what the hell is going on... but there isn't as much as there should be. Mindless diversions like this are supposed to be just that: mindless diversions, and we don't really get inclined to care so long as we get action. But there isn't really as much action as you'd hope for in this movie. Instead, it concerns itself with a very twisty plot.

And you know, I wouldn't mind, except for the fact that this movie's plot makes no sense. At all. (Warning: here be spoilers.) Basically, Taylor Lautner's character is being chased around because he has information about stuff that the Slavic guy wants back... except that he doesn't actually start the movie with this information. In fact, he doesn't get this information until after some dudes come into his house, kill the people who are supposedly his parents, and then gets directed to an apartment in which he just so happens to pick up a cell phone that has that information, and just so happens to take it with him. And get this: the missing persons website was a front from the Slavic guy, specifically made to get Nathan so he can get that information. It's a fine plan, until the revelation is made that Nathan's real father is still alive, and extremely well. So why the hell did the bad guys sit and wait for fifteen years for the kid to find the site when they could've just concentrated on finding the father? That makes no sense! There are numerous other plotholes and unexplained plot conveniences peppered around, but when your entire premise makes no sense, you're in trouble.

It doesn't help that nothing is believable about the action or the acting. The guys that attack Nathan's house in the beginning are spending all there time trying to find Nathan, and then trying to kill his "adopted" parents. So when the hell did they find time to stick a time bomb into the oven? That's one thing in a series of missteps in all the action scenes which make the action extremely difficult to believe. And the acting? Forget the acting: the script is so bland (and laughable at a couple of points) that none of the actors can save it. Seriously, you're in trouble when Sigourney Weaver can't save your movie.

So all around? Stay the hell away from Abduction. The acting is stilted, in some cases horrible, and in even more cases laughable, the plot makes no sense, and the action is basically all an excuse for Taylor Lautner to show his stuff as an action hero. Whatever. I want my nine dollars back.

And for the record, I still don't know what the hell the title has to do with the movie, because nobody gets abducted. Ever.


Do NOT see this movie at any cost.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Well... at around this time last year, we actually had an existentialist thriller about some dude living life who has a really dangerous side of him that constantly threatened him. Oh, and he had a lot of ties to crime. So wouldn't you know, they decide to release a movie with similar subject matter this year, at around the same time.

To be honest, though, today's movie couldn't possibly be any more different from the other one.


The driver (Ryan Gosling) (Yes, he remains unnamed throughout the movie, but it really doesn't matter.) is a mysterious man who has no real connections to anything. He does stunt driving, he works at a car shop, and he provides getaway rides by night. He then meets his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), but then gets pulled into a huge web of conspiracy surrounding her kinda sorta husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and a crime boss that throws everything into disarray.

So... let's get started with the details? The details? Well, we have a crime thriller here. Oh, but not just any crime thriller: an existentialist crime thriller, with a rather large cast of characters and a hero who doesn't really say all that much but does a lot. You'd think such a movie would have a tough time getting its tone straight.

And yet, this doesn't happen. Ever. And the movie is all the better for it. And I think it comes down to the lead role.

The whole thing is tied together by an incredible performance from Ryan Gosling. His character says fewer than twenty sentences total throughout the entire running time of the movie, but in a way every single sentence counts. And it works perfectly towards the movie's advantage, as the driver is supposed to be isolated from pretty much everything. However, it's tantamount that we see the driver's expressions, and on this Gosling brings a huge amount of subtlety to the character. And later in the movie, it helps when he gets much more involved than someone who was so isolated from the world before: with any other actor in the role, it would have seemed nonsensical, but with the subtlety that Gosling brings to every interaction with the other characters it makes perfect sense.

And the whole thing comes together from there, but everyone else brings their all to it, too. Director Nicolas Winding Refn brings a visual style to the thing that seems to highlight the film's neo-noir tendencies. All the supporting actors bring their work to the table, and they all have a certain magnetism with Gosling that works to the movie's advantage. And the action is extremely tense. While there isn't a lot of it and what there is tends to be short, what there is extremely exciting.

So... what to say? Drive is one of the best movies of the year, no contest. And the whole thing comes together thanks to Ryan Gosling. Seriously, people. Don't miss out on Drive. You will not regret seeing it.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So... epidemics. What have we gotten about them? Well, we've gotten more than a few scares about various epidemics. SARS, H1N1... We've gotten a lot of them, but they haven't really gotten out of hand.

So we naturally think that the CDC could possibly be overreacting, right? Right?

Yeah, let's just say that today's movie doesn't agree with that sentiment...


A viral epidemic has just broken out all around the world. It has affected millions of lives, and so many other things are occurring around it. The race to stop it, headed by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishbourne) is hitting a few rough ends, conspiracies suggested by Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) are circulated, a random father (Matt Damon) has to deal with it along with his daughter, and many more people are affected.

And from there, it runs the full gamut of how people would react to this. And I think this comes to show that while the CDC may overreact, at the end of the day maybe it's better that we overreact than underreact to a thing like this. What this movie shows is not pretty. I think this is kept so thanks to the fact that nothing is oversensationalized in this movie, and it gives a deeper sense of reality to the whole thing. Thus, it makes us more involved in everything.

Well... it gets us more involved in what's going on eventually. The biggest problem with the movie is that it takes a little too long to get us emotionally invested in everything that's going on. It underplays a lot of things; almost all of the characters are introduced without any sort of backstory, the fact that there are a lot of them keeps the movie from really zeroing in on any one set of characters, and details about them get filled in as we follow the movie.

But if you stay with it, Contagion turns out to be an intelligently-made 'what-if' concerning what could happen if an epidemic really broke out. The underplaying of the elements that could lead to sensationalism are ultimately what make the whole movie work, because it just presents the situation as is. From this, there arises a sort of honesty about the whole thing that is ultimately more effective than doting on the more dramatic aspects of everything.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: Narrative Subversions

Warning: The following musing will contain MAJOR spoilers for The Debt, in addition to possible spoilers for Colombiana. Reader discretion is advised.

I'm going to take the subject away from filmmaking in general to storytelling in general for this musing, just as a warning. But I think it applies to movies just as well as everything else, given the state of Hollywood that everyone seems to be bemoaning about. ("Oh, where's the originality?" "Ooh, this movie isn't smart!" "Why are all the movies big and dumb these days?")

So where do I begin?

With a Facebook status, oddly enough. While I was heading over to the nearby Panera to write my review for Colombiana in the hours before I reviewed The Debt, I updated my Facebook status over smartphone to mention I had just seen it. About four minutes later, one of my friends had this to say:

"I hope this is not a movie depicting the image of Colombians as murdering ferocious drug-lords. Just saying."

I ended up getting into a conversation with him about stuff, and this was his very next reply to my 'eh, it was half and half' statement:

"And that's probably why I won't see it. I don't like seeing the country where I was born depicted in that way. Colombia is not all drugs and bananas and it sounds to me like this film just promotes that ignorance."

At first, I figured, 'eh, it was implausibly plotted anyway', and sort of left it at that.

But the more I thought about it throughout this week, the more I realized that this was an indicator of another, slightly larger problem with the plot of Colombiana: it was entirely too predictable.

Let's see the basic tenets, shall we? Drug lord comes in, gets some dude to kill the girl's parents (for a reason that's never actually explained), girl runs away to plot revenge, and girl gets revenge. There's something throughout most of the second act where almost the entire operation gets busted because of a few choice mistakes on Cataleya's part, but everywhere else it plays that kind of revenge superheroine thriller straight, with almost no variation at all.

And I realized then that it cheapened the tension a little bit. Yeah, it was there, but I always had the pervading sense that Cataleya was going to get the bad guys no matter what happened. Narrative conventions called for it, and when they were played straight, it almost comes as a given that the bad guy is going to eat it at the end.

It's a problem with this movie, and it pinpoints why some parts of the plot didn't work as well as they should have, I think.

However, I think it also serves to pinpoint one of the things that made The Debt so interesting in its narrative, because that movie also goes through familiar motions.

The Debt is that basic kind of Cold War/Nazi Killer espionage thriller in which a group of people are hunting down a Nazi war criminal. They go about their business, things go wrong on the end of the spies, but ultimately, we're expecting them to get the bad guy.

Except that it takes them 30 years to finally get the bad guy, and the tension is heightened greatly thanks to a few key decisions on the part of the filmmakers. The first decision is that they show the 'bad guy gets killed' ending to the 1960's portion at the beginning of the movie. That bit seems pointless, until we see the exact same sequence later in the movie. However, instead of the bad guy getting shot by Jessica Chastain, he gets away, and the mission is completely FUBAR'd... unless they all lie about it. So lie about it they do.

What that subversion of the plot does is add tension. It sheds new light on everything that occurred in 1997 earlier in the movie, and it makes the plot so much more interesting when it turns out that the Surgeon of Birkenau might have blabbed about it to someone else. Now, we're not so sure about what's going to happen next, and it's because our expectations have been jarred.

I for one think that there is no such thing as originality. As TVTropes is quick to point out with its article on The Tropeless Tale (, if you tried to create a story without using any elements that have been used before, it would be impossible because then you wouldn't have a narrative, or characters, or even a genre. So when we consider that originality is dead, then the next thing to do is to not try to break out with something new, but try to play with narrative conventions in a way that is fresh and bold to viewers.

This is something The Debt does masterfully, while Colombiana decided to play everything more or less straight. The results speak for themselves.

This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"The Debt"

Hey, guys, and welcome back to part two of today's double feature!

So to round off this double feature, what are we going to do? Why, go for a revenge thriller. This one has a much more political base, though, so it will be quite different from what we had.

So let's get on with it!

The Debt

Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren/Jessica Chastain) was a Mossad agent who was sent with agents Stefan (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and David (Ciarán Hinds/Sam Worthington) to capture and bring in Dieter Vogel, the infamous Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen). The job went successfully, and the three went on with their lives. However, almost thirty years later it seems the case may not be as closed as they thought...

...and honestly, that's as far as I can go without spoiling something. Let's just say that there's a plot twist, and that it's a rather good plot twist to boot. And that everything that follows after it makes this one of the best thrillers I've seen since I started this blog.

Does it have a few issues? Yes: the movie drags a little bit once we reach the third act, and it drags quite painfully then too. Some of the action scenes also could have been shot a hair more clearly.

But honestly? Everything else about it clicks into place so well it's difficult to mind those things. The acting is absolutely stellar, including a surprisingly good turn from Sam Worthington. (In terms of the acting, though, Jessica Chastain and Jesper Christensen pretty much steal the movie from everyone else.) The entire part in 1965 is intense, and it does a remarkable job of staying intense, which is a very difficult thing for a thriller to pull off. There isn't much action, either, which also works in its favor because it allows us time to concentrate on the plot.

I... really don't have much else to say without spoiling this movie. But seriously? You all should check out The Debt. It's one of the most intense thrillers I've ever seen, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least check it out.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, signing out on tonight's double feature. I'll see you guys next time.


Hey, guys, it's me. Sorry about neglecting you for so long. I've been out of the country and then been away from the nearest theater. So naturally, I missed the tail end of the summer movie season.

Fortunately, to make it up to you guys, I've got a double feature lined up for today! So what's this double feature about?

Covert Revenge Ops

In which people do things without trying to get caught by other people. Looooong story.

So first on the list... we get revenge carried out by a single woman, on a more personal level. Let's get to today's movie...


Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is an American immigrant from Colombia, where her father and mother were killed by Marco (Jordi Mollá), a mafioso under the employment of drug lord Don Luis. She thus grows up, hell-bent on getting revenge on the ones who killed her family. And she does it while working as a hitman by day.

And each death is carried out in a very covert style.

So let's talk this movie: Zoe Saldana makes an incredible action heroine. Cataleya can come across as unlikeable at times, but Saldana makes sure we're rooted in her motives. Even through her more morally questionable moments, we're with Cataleya pretty much all the way, as Saldana manages to infuse her character with some kind of emotional gravity that a lesser actress would not have found. There are a few moments that shatter the suspension of disbelief, but it honestly has more to do with some of the more ludicrous stuntwork than it does with anything in Saldana's acting. So a large part of it works because of her. It also mostly works thanks to the action sequences, which are rather intense, particularly around the time the third act rolls around.

However, it does suffer from a few very glaring flaws. For one, it is fueled by a rather implausible plot that does have you questioning multiple things at various times. Sometimes, it even makes you question how skilled Cataleya really is, which is unfortunate. The movie's pacing is also fairly uneven, and it's also quite clunky in a few places. So unfortunately, the rather uneven nature of the plot drags the movie down quite a bit.

But don't let that stop you from seeing Colombiana, because otherwise it's a great showcase of why Zoe Saldana makes a great action heroine. Apart from the myriad plot issues, it does have some very good action, and it works as a vehicle for Saldana. That really sums up this review in a nutshell.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don't want to, don't.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys in a few hours with a review of The Debt.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Hey, guys. It’s been a bit, and I’m sure a lot of you have been wondering where I’ve been these past few weekends.

Well, I’ve been traipsing around Siena for the past twenty days or so, getting stuff done with music and all that jazz. I never had time, and I sure as hell didn’t have a movie theater nearby, but what’s a guy gonna do, right? Nevertheless, it was a fun time over there, and crazy times were had for all.

So to go with the fact that I was out of the country, I figured I’d review a movie from another culture that I watched on my flight back to Boston from Florence via Frankfurt. So let’s get with today’s movie…

(Please note that today’s movie as I saw it was edited by the airline I watched it on, so it may have affected how I experienced it.)


On the private island of Samos, a rich man invites four people to his private island, saying he has evidence against three men and claiming that the fourth is his daughter. When he winds up murdered the next morning, however, it becomes a game to figure out who killed the man in question.

And stuff gets crazy from there.

Okay, so straight off, this to me looks like a Bollywood movie. The opening credits flashed a certificate from the area, and all the songs that were featured in the movie were sung in Hindi. Thus… it kind of has some of the more ridiculous trappings that people are likely to associate with Bollywood from what we’ve seen on the internet.

For one thing, the plot is a glorified mess. The set-up for the first act of the movie falls very squarely into the term “idiot premise”, and any suspension of disbelief is pretty much offed by the fact that you’re asking yourself a lot of questions about the set-up pretty much as soon as you get out of the starting gate. And it gets incredibly stupid after a long time.

For another, the acting is incredibly stilted, and extremely inconsistent. Some of the actors are good. But those that aren’t good tend to be distracting from the better parts of this film’s acting. And some of the actors again fall into that trap of not really having anything interesting to do, and just giving the same two facial expressions as a result.

The third is that the direction is really not that good. The movie continuously switches between English and Hindi throughout the dialogue, and most of the time, the language changes mid-sentence, which really jars with our sense of immersion into the movie.

But for some reason… despite the fact that this wasn’t a very well-made movie, I actually rather enjoyed it for some reason. I’m not sure why, but the ridiculous nature of the whole enterprise made it enjoyable to watch. And the good stuff was actually very good. For one thing, the protagonist was one of the more engaging characters I’ve seen in the movies these days, and for another it was fun watching as the plot got increasingly ridiculous.

And in all honesty, Game actually turns out to be pretty good. Yeah, it’s a badly made film, but I enjoyed it for its badness, and for the stuff that it did really well. So all in all, I suggest you give it a shot.


It has a few flaws, but it’s still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I’ll see you guys next time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Cowboys and Aliens"

Jeez, genre mash-ups are starting to get some prevalence around here. Those of you who remember my review slate last year will probably remember the fairly underwhelming The Warrior's Way, which mashed up ninjas and cowboys.

I don't know if there's any more mash-ups on the way, but we do have a mash-up on the menu as today's movie, so let's get to that, shall we?

Cowboys and Aliens

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of a field, not knowing who he is, where he came from, or what he's doing out in the middle of nowhere. Before long, however, he gets caught up in huge events when the town he goes to first winds up being attacked by the aliens of the title. Thus, he sets out to fight these things with the beautiful Ella (Olivia Wilde) and the gruff Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), all while they unite differing opinions in the Wild West against them.

The proceedings are... eh.

I'll just say this now, that yes, this movie is okay. But it could be so much better for a few reasons.

Let's get started. The actors do their best with the material they've got, but given how standard that material is, it never really comes across as interesting at any point in the movie. We can tell with a good amount of certainty where most of these characters are going to end up, and it becomes fairly predictable. Things become more predictable, we lose interest, and that's what tends to happen as the movie goes on. The plot also ends up getting very predictable, and as a result it plays less like a mash-up and more like a Western which just so happens to also have aliens in it.

Which isn't to say it isn't fun: it is. The action here is quite a bit of fun, and gets very creative with how cowboys, indians, and the whole lot manage to fight back against the aliens in question. There was some genuinely exciting action to be had here, and when there is it's pretty fun.

But at the end of the day, Cowboys and Aliens never fully gets as fun as a movie with such a premise probably should get. It's difficult to tell where the missteps occurred, though I think it ultimately comes down to how predictable the movie is.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don't want to go see it, don't.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flashback Reviews: "The Fountainhead"

Hey, guys. You all remember when I gave that glaringly negative review of Atlas Shrugged Part 1 back in April? Well... you all probably weren't there for it unless you're one of my That Guy with the Glasses readers, but let's just say that someone really took issue with my negative review.

So to put it simply, there's this man named Isaac M. Baranoff. He blasted many people (including Roger Ebert and myself) for saying that Atlas Shrugged was nothing more than a ballot-stuffing movie and saying that it was a bad movie. It wouldn't be so bad, except that he quoted the film's IMDB rating (of all things) as proof that it was a better movie than I and many other critics were making it out to be. And it was implied that he thought I (and by extension pretty much every other poster on the TGWTG forums) hated it because I disagree with Ayn Rand.

Well, I decided right then and there that I would watch the other Ayn Rand movie to test this theory out.

So let's get to today's movie, eh?

The Fountainhead (1949)

Howard Roark (Gary Cooper) is an architect with a great vision. He does not compromise his vision under any circumstances, however, and he continuously comes up against trials that test his individuality against a collective world that is against the freshness of his ideas.

That's... basically it. Though in all honesty, that's the only form of summary this movie needs.

So I'll get the basic Ayn Rand political message stuff out of the way, because I went into this movie promising myself I would judge it as a movie, not as a poltical statement. Yes, this movie gets very preachy at times, and yes, the villains are incredibly over the top in this movie. Comes with the territory, especially given that Ayn Rand wrote the screenplay. So yes, it's preachy, to the point of annoyance at a couple of places.

Okay, we've packed that horse up, so now we're moving right along. So now that we have that taken care of, how do I judge this as a movie on its own?

Well? Frankly, I liked it. Why? Because it's competently made. Actually, better than competently made. It's very well made?

The acting in this movie is phenomenal, which says something for a cast which has a main character who is basically a cardboard cut-out for stuff to happen to. Gary Cooper adds a certain conviction as Howard Roark. I would've found his character to be annoyingly preachy with any other actor, but Cooper lends a certain quiet conviction to his role that is pretty much perfect for Roark's character. The supporting cast is excellent as well (I was especially taken with Raymond Massey's portrayal of Gail Waynard), and it creates a wide range of characters that lend a truly epic feel to the story.

Thus, I get actual attachment to these characters. I was actually interested in what was going to happen to these characters. And that's a major thing that works in this movie's favor. It was preachy, but the only times when I ever felt annoyed was when it got too preachy. It says a lot when I'm able to overlook the preachiness and see everything else about the movie because it's just that good.

So to Isaac M. Baranoff, I reiterate: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is a bad movie, and it's not a bad movie because I don't agree with Ayn Rand. Why? Because The Fountainhead doesn't suck. It's competently directed, competently written, and excellently acted. And I actually cared about the characters, even through their most blatantly preachy lines. As a result, it's actually enjoyable, even to non-Rand fans.


It has a few flaws, but it's still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger"

Okay, so... the Marvel universe movies have been doing the rounds. We've had the two Iron Man movies, Thor, and Incredible Hulk hit the screens under the direction of the Marvel Studios for a bit now, and now comic book fans everywhere have The Avengers to look forward to next year.

So that leaves one movie, right?

Let's get to today's movie then!

Captain America: The First Avenger

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a small boy from Brooklyn who has attempted five times to enlist into the U.S. Army in World War 2. Every single time, he's been turned down due to extremely poor health. However, things greatly change when he is adopted into a top secret experiment in which an experimental serum is injected into his body that basically powers him into one of the most powerful men. And just in time too: it becomes apparent that there is more than just the Nazis that he will have to fight when Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) defects from the Nazis and heads the organization HYDRA. So Steve goes into battle.

And... that's basically it.

What to say about it? It's really, really good.

No, really. Everything about this movie is great. But it's tough to talk about, so where do I start?

I think there's one thing here that indicates that this is a good movie: it takes the wholesome American guy with pure uncorruptible goodnes out to do great things for his country archetype, and manages to take this concept seriously without it coming across as silly and extremely annoying to the audience. I think it comes down to a few very key decisions on the part of the filmmakers, but perhaps most of all was the casting of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. Chris Evans is perfect for the role of Steve Rogers: some of his lines probably would have been annoying coming from a different actor, but Evans manages to inject something in his lines that gives the audience the idea that he means everything he says. In the end, it's a huge part of what makes his character work so well. And we're with him to the end.

And everything else? It feels... honestly, it feels like the perfect blend of superhero movie and World War 2 war epic. I of course didn't bring up at least half the cast, as there are a lot of characters, ranging from a female agent with the army (Hayley Atwell) via the eccentric Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) (whom Iron Man fans might recognize as Tony Stark's father) to an army general who is generally unsure of Steve's abilities (Tommy Lee Jones). And everything that happens in this movie feels like it has actual dramatic weight to it as well.

Oh, and there's a lot of great action here too. The action in this movie is really intensely directed, and it is incredibly intense action, especially when he gets his shield and starts beating people up with it. And it lent itself to some huge set-pieces later on, particularly in the later part of the movie during the inevitable showdown between Steve and Johann.

So in short? Go see Captain America. I assure you, it's well worth the ticket price for more reasons than I care to go into right now. Evans is a perfect Steve Rogers, it feels epic and sprawling, and the action is entertaining. What more could you ask for?


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

P.S.: I'd like to leave a small note for the filmmakers behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which had a new trailer attached to Captain America: Thank you for basically telling everyone the entire plot of your movie in your new trailer, guys. You do realize that anyone that has the internet probably knows how Planet of the Apes ended, right? Right? Either way, if it turns out that it sucks later on, then you've just saved me nine dollars I could've spent to go see it. *sigh* Seriously, guys, epic fail on your part. Epic fail.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"

Okay, so Harry Potter ended last weekend. The film series has been resolved, the books are now over, and now a whole generation has seen its main pop culture statement do stuff.

So how does the last film hold up?

Well... let's get to that, shall we?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Do I really have to give a summary for this? It's the final battle between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) against the forces of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) with the help of his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson), who are still hunting for Horcruxes and end up returning to Hogwarts to finish Voldemort once and for all.

And on that count, we really have a lot going on. Whereas Part 1 was understated, Part 2 is appropriately overblown. Somehow, David Yeats managed to make a film-long battle incredibly interesting. There is a lot that happens in this movie, and near on every major character that's been in the franchise up to this point gets to have a moment in the spotlight. And the final battle between Harry and Voldemort is nothing short of jawdropping.

But it's the quiet parts that really work well. This film isn't completely about the action at all. No, there are some pieces of the film's story that are absolutely required to have some extraordinary emotional weight. And it's here that I think that the casting proves to have been effective. There is one particular sequence that had me tearing up because the acting was so effective from everyone involved. The quiet parts therefore had incredible emotional gravitas, and it lent an incredible sense that the characters were fighting for something to the movie that it might not have had otherwise.

I... don't really have enough to talk about with this movie that I can't really spoil.

So I'll just say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the best conclusion an eight-film-long franchise could have asked for. It's exciting, emotionally involving, and intriguing all in one. Be warned as you may have to have some expertise with the franchise to get some of the ending (Part 1 is a must-watch if you hope to understand a large chunk of this movie's plot), but it's a strong conclusion to the series.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: Shaky Cam

Here's a fun fact: I went to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon with friends. It was also extremely late at night (we caught a show at 10:55 PM), and that's the best time for friends to go out when you're in college, right? Yeah, that's what we thought. No, we didn't have alcohol beforehand. We were all sober to the best of my knowledge. It was fun, and full of craziness.

But that's not why I'm bringing that bit of information up. I'm bringing it up because of a discussion I had with said friends on the way home.

We started asking ourselves about movies we've seen earlier in the year, and then one of them asked me what my opinion of Battle: Los Angeles was. I told them I hated it (which, looking back, was probably too strong a term for me to have used: I don't like it, but I don't hate it either, now that I think about it), and things more or less happened from there. They thought it was big and dumb and enjoyable, and I said that I found it to be a cliched movie that had action scenes that were an incomprehensible mess thanks to the ridiculous amount of shaky cam involved.

And then, the discussion turned to shaky cam, which is where I was going with this. As all of you on my blog know, I tend to frown upon shaky cam as it shows up in an action movies, especially when it makes it needlessly difficult to tell what the hell is going on when it zooms in on the action. I think shaky cam is nothing more than a mere gimmick: I'd much prefer that my action scenes actually give some idea of what's going on.

So in this discussion with my friends, I blasted shaky cam for needlessly muddying up action scenes in most movies (key word being most). In turn, my friends replied that it was a way to create more immersion. Their reasoning is that by making the camera as shaky as possible, it simulates you being in the action.

Here are some reasons why I found this argument to be bullshit:

1) That argument only works if you're trying to do something with the aesthetic of your cinematography. Shaky-cam works with movies like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project because the amateurish quality of the cinematography (I.E., how much the camera shakes) is part of the point of those movies: the cameraman is part of the action. But throw that quality of shaky camera into a movie like Battle: Los Angeles or 28 Days Later in which the the camera isn't part of the action but is rather a passive observer of the action and the gimmick becomes absolutely pointless.

2) If your movie is good enough, you don't need to rely on cheap gimmicks to immerse your audience. They'll be absorbed by the characters and the story well enough: the action then proceeds to pit the characters through things, and you hope they rise up above it. It's the secret of any good narrative. And when you don't rely on the narrative, you have to rely on the action: muddying it needlessly doesn't help your movie at all, especially when it's heavily cliched.

Having a clearly visible action scene is honestly so much better than it is if it's muddied by how the camera is moving. Think to the rotating hallway scene of Inception: would that scene have been as incredible as it was if the camera had been shaking? I don't think so. It was a brilliant move on the part of Nolan's cinematographer to stick to the tracking shot that stays rooted firmly in the ground and is very steady. It made the action clear.

This is a clarity that shaky-cam lacks as used in a lot of movies. I think there's a way to do shaky-cam well, but most movies that employ it haven't found this way yet. And in these cases, shaky-cam remains a problem with the movie.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon"

Ah, Transformers, Transformers. There's more than meets the eye to you. I think, anyhow; it's only a tag-line, but it's a great one, you know?

Uh... I'm not sure where I was going with this.


I'll just get to the review, then.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Apollo missions had a different goal from what humanity thinks it did: the main objective was to investigate an impact, which turned out to be what remained of an Autobot ship carrying a previous leader of the autobots, Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy). This is found out by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) after a brief stint in Chernobyl, and soon it begins to unravel things that are larger than the earth as Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his new girlfriend Carly (Rose Huntintgon-Whiteley) get involved.


Bah, the hell with it. The plot isn't really the reason any of you would go see a Michael Bay movie, is it? Really, the plot is very stupid, and at times one can sense a plot hole or two has been left here and there. There are also way too many characters, especially as far as the robots are concerned.

No, you see this particular movie for explosions. And action scenes. And on this count, this movie delivers explosions and action scenes in copious amounts. Yeah, the plot is stupid and there are a couple too many characters, but the action scenes themselves are so much fun to watch you really don't care. Some of the action gets really creative (you really do wanna know what happens when people are sliding around in a piece of a building that is slowly falling off), and you can clearly see all of the action. So the main aspect works well.

Granted, there are some elements of the movie that don't entirely work. The movie runs at two and a half hours, and honestly I think this is too long for a movie like this. It took a really long time for the plot to get going, and at some points it took itself a little too seriously. It doesn't help that it had one of the most extremely abrupt endings I have ever seen in a movie thus far.

Still, even despite these problems, I enjoyed Transformers: Dark of the Moon. It's an incredibly silly movie, yes, but it's still quite a bit of fun regardless. And that's really all we can say about a movie like this.


It has a few flaws, but it's still worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

P.S. I actually should probably supply my thoughts on Rose Huntington-Whiteley since I had very strong expectations about her acting ability, what with her being a Victoria's Secret model and all. As an actress she's actually not that bad: she's a little better than Megan Fox, and she's certainly a lot better than pretty much every single actor who worked on Atlas Shrugged (even if that doesn't say all that much at all). That said, though, she cannot sell being distressed/frightened out of her mind. At all.

P.P.S.: One last thing I thought I'd mention: is it me, or is film composer Hanz Zimmer starting to sound exactly the same with every other live action movie he scores? I swear, I had flashbacks to Inception during some parts of this movie, and I think I even heard a part of the score that had the exact same tune as the trailer for Inception.