Donnie Darko


Viewed – 19 December 2016

Theatrical Cut

For a while there, around the time of this movie’s release the as yet unknown Jake Gyllenhaal was the poster boy for a generation of disaffected teens.  Now regarded as a cult movie, this decidedly anti-teen drama still strikes a cord, with it’s dream-like atmosphere and obvious Lynchian stylings.  Gyllenhaal plays troubled school kid Donnie who suffers from depression, has a past linked to burning a house down and seemingly can’t relate to the world around him.  He also happens to have an imaginary friend called Frank, a guy dressed up in a rabbit costume.  Following a freak accident where an aircraft engine falls out of the sky and through the roof of his bedroom, Donnie tries to piece together various clues supposedly leading to the end of the world.

Donnie-Darko

A blend of styles, from sci-fi, Twilight Zone and high school angst to David Lynch-like urban paranoia – makes for a decidedly unique experience topped off with an unhinged central performance from Gyllenhaal.  Along for the ride is welcome support from an alluring Drew Barrymore, a very young looking Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the late Patrick Swayze.  It defies conventions and is pretty bizarre, but is also a movie that really made me think about life and death, the choices we make, paths we go on etc.  This is all aided by an effective, ethereal score and great 80s themed music cues, the most memorable being Gary Jules’ eerily brilliant version of Mad World.

It’s probably not a movie for everyone, is slow in places and leaves some moments unexplained.  However as an introduction to one of my favourite actors, and as a high school movie that really had a profound impact on me … I give this my highest recommendation.

Limited Edition

The Blu-ray is (mostly) impressive stuff.  The image quality I’m guessing is purposely soft, to create that dream-aesthetic, so disappoints with flat colours and a smudgy, dull appearance throughout.  However, sound fairs much better with crisp dialogue, good use of surrounds and each music moment is particularly effective.  However it’s in the extra material where this Arrow Video Limited Edition blew me away.  We get two cuts of the movie, including the longer Director’s Cut, which primarily adds greater emphasis to the sci-fi elements with on-screen extracts from the time travel book featured in both versions, extra symbolism and some scenes are extended or slightly altered.  Ultimately though this version doesn’t differ all that much from the original but perhaps is a little clearer in some of it’s themes.  However the mystery of the theatrical cut is for me what makes it so effective.  There’s a wealth of supplementary material included, like interviews and deleted scenes.  Stand outs though are two audio commentaries on the theatrical cut from cast and production crew, as well as another on the director’s cut.  Add to this a detailed collector’s book and I’d say this is one of the most packed Blu-rays you can currently buy.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Top Ten Movie Crushes


Inspired again from a post over at The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger and further more from the idea posted over at Cinema Parrot Disco, here are my own (to best recollection) ten movie crushes … in no particular order.

Scarlett Johansson in Lost In Translation

Back when she was a little less glamorous, she is an image of innocent beauty, and makes for a great partnership with Bill Murray.  First Johansson film I ever saw too.

lost in translation

Winona Ryder in Reality Bites

So many images in this movie of Winona looking sassy, cool, beautiful … her hair, those eyes, and it’s a great romantic drama too.

reality bytes

Mila Kunis in Black Swan

Seductive and dangerous.  Kunis at her sexy best.

black swan

Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return (aka The Assassin)

Vulnerable, tough and sexy.  This role should have made her a star, but sadly the movie bombed.

the assassin

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary

Launched this quirky, gifted actress and as a more girl-next-door-type, exudes subtle sexiness and weirdness.  My kinda gal!

Secretary

Marion Cotillard in Inception

DiCaprio’s phantom wife, seductive and deadly, but also tragic.  A great actress and such smoky eyes!

inception

Katherine Isabelle in Ginger Snaps

One of the hottest actresses to ever turn into a revenant snarling wolf – Isabelle exudes sex and eroticism, whilst also being rather funny!

ginger snaps

Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns

Forget Anne Hathaway, THIS is the only Cat Woman the movie industry ever needed.  Part dominatrix, part tragic victim, and Pfeiffer at her sexy, beautiful best.

batman returns

Sandra Bullock in Speed

Again another first and launched the career of this very likable actress.  Looking her prettiest and girlfriend-like in this classic thriller.

speed

Maggie Cheung in The Heroic Trio

Fell for her during my Hong Kong Action Cinema phase in the 90s … a stunning example of a hot female badass action hero!!  Oh and she’s a very good actress too, see ‘Hero’.

the heroic trio

So a few unusual choices there you might think, a few obvious ones but kind of sums up the kind of females I tend to crush over in movies.  Have you a list of your own?  Give it a go and lets see!!

White House Down


Viewed – 25 January 2014  Pay-per-view

Approaching this you get the feeling it’s going to immediately be what the latest Die Hard movie wasn’t … as in an actual Die Hard movie. Channing Tatum goes to the White House for an interview to become a Secret Service agent, bringing his plucky daughter along because she’s up on her politics and kinda has a thing for current President Jamie Foxx.  Yet whilst at the big white building, a group of terrorists attack and as you can imagine, Tatum is the only man who might be able to get the President out alive.

1183878 - WHITE HOUSE DOWN

Not a new idea by a long shot, but given a certain panache by director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow).  So expect gunfights, one-liners, a smattering of humour and plenty of things that go boom.  What I wasn’t expecting however was the fun partnership between Tatum and Foxx (making for one of the cooler Presidents in Hollywood history) and an overdose of rather bad CGI (the helicopters flying through the city looked awful).  Emmerich is known for having no subtlety, and believability pretty much goes out of the window in the second half of the movie, not helped by an increasingly annoying Joey King playing Tatum’s daughter (was she the best we could have got for a fairly important role?) and a barrel load of cheese towards the end.  Tatum looked the part (complete with white vest) but lacked a certain level of charisma I’d say.  James Woods also pops up and is very good, as is Maggie Gyllenhaal even if she gets very little to do.  Oh and every twist is so blatantly sign posted, I gave up expecting surprises and just enjoyed the ride.

This was a lot of fun, but could have been a classic if Emmerich had just applied the breaks (and his brain) for once.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Dark Knight


Viewed – 5 August 2008  Cinema

After the minor disappointment that was Indy 4, the big white hope for summer blockbuster supremacy falls to that much maligned comic-book icon, Batman with director Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his highly regarded Batman Begins.  I now realise I need to sit down and watch ‘Begins again as I have forgotten much of it, so kind of come to this sequel afresh and with confident expectations – after all, this is probably the best reviewed summer movie in years.  Now I really liked the older Batman films, especially those directed by Tim Burton who’s gothic sensibilities were a perfect fit for the franchise.  Of course we all know Joel Schumacher F***** it all up with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin…but lets forget those two for now, shall we?

What I do recall Christopher Nolan doing with ‘Begins is reverting back to the franchises’ dark and sinister style, more akin to the comics on which they were based, and I was happy once again to see no ‘Robin’ or ‘Bat Girl’ or stupid villains.  The Dark Knight progresses from such sturdy foundations and this time offers up a much more incredible villain in the shape of the late Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker, who starting with a bank robbery, proceeds to play various crime organisations off one other in Gotham city and generally cause total chaos.  Step in Christian Bale’s caped crusader to save the day.  Now in amongst such goings-on, we have the love triangle between District Attorney Harvey Dent (a scene stealing Aaron Eckhart), Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal this time rather than Katie Holmes) and of course Bruce Wayne.  This gives every character a deeper place in the story, but they are still all out shined by The Joker; a fabulously menacing, creepy, funny and psychotic creation that definitely deserves a nod come Oscar time – sad that Heath Ledger wont be there to enjoy the glory.  If he had not died though, this is the kind of performance that only comes along once in an actor’s career – so rest in peace, Heath – you did it.

OK, the film takes a bit of time getting off the ground, seems a little ‘all over the place’ and struggled to really pull me in – but after the first hour such thoughts are quickly replaced by The Joker’s trail of death & destruction.  This is violent, mature stuff indeed.  One other problem I have is one levelled at the new direction the franchise has taken since Christopher Nolan came on board – and that’s the ultra-realistic style that seems an awkwardly fit with the whole Batman-mythos.  Also in the older movies – Gotham City was as much a character in itself – now it’s just Chicago lit gloomily at night with no shred of its own personality.  Christian Balle is an excellent Batman / Bruce Wayne – and he is well supported by screen legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman even if the roles they are given seem a little beneath such heavy weight talent.   But despite such short comings that more come down to my own thoughts on how Batman should be done – Nolan has delivered an intelligent blockbuster that has a whole lot more going for it than simple pop-corn entertainment.

Verdict:  4 /5