Blindness

Blindness is an amazing movie. Granted, when Fernando Meirelles (the man who directed City Of God) makes a movie, you kind of expect it to be. His newest is based upon the book of the same name by author José Saramago and is simply gorgeous. The premise is that a strange disease causes people to suddenly go blind and infects the population worldwide. It’s a movie less about the disease and more about how people react to losing their sight.

Blindness has a very bleak outlook on human morality. What happens in the movie is that most people turn into vicious disgusting animals who’s only goal is self preservation. It’s one of those movies that is disturbing and depressing while at the same time makes you question yourself and your own moral compass. It really makes you wonder what your limits are.

I’ve read some mixed reviews about Blindness and truthfully, that kind of confuses me. It’s difficult for me to think of a single bad thing to say about this movie. Well, I guess some might criticize that there are no answers to any questions you would have about the disease. Where it came from, how it spreads, anything of the sort gets thrown to the wayside. Like I said, it’s a film about people, not a sci-fi scary disease movie.

It seems to me like every time someone had something bad to say about Blindness was when they were comparing it to the book. Fair enough, I guess. But the movie is still truly fantastic and visually gorgeous. If you’ve read the book, watch the movie with an open mind. It can’t be that bad. And if, like me, you haven’t read the book yet, do yourself a favor and see the movie first. That way you get to love the movie and then you can go read the book and love that, too.

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Eagle Eye

Basing a whole movie on that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus is on the phone with Neo, giving him explicit instructions on what to do and where to go in order to escape his pursuers seemed like a pretty god idea to me. And Eagle Eye is almost exactly that. Jerry (Shia LeBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan) are in sporadic contact with a strange woman who gives them various directives. And somehow, no matter where they are, this woman always knows whether or not their mission was successful. We have no idea what her intentions are but it becomes apparent soon enough that she means business.

Eagle Eye is fun but not entirely original. It kind of seems like a big mash up of various movies including, but certainly not limited to, Enemy Of The State, Live Free Or Die Hard, Get Smart, and 2001. My guess is that it might have to do with this being the first movie the writers have written (John Glenn and Travis Wright).

Either way, Eagle Eye is still entertaining. There are plenty of big explosions and fast car chases to keep you happy. In fact, the entire movie is basically one huge chase, with little time for pit stops. There is a catch, however. The strange woman frequently tells Jerry, “Don’t ask questions.” The same could be said of the filmmakers. There were so many times when I paused and said to something along the lines of, “But how will they know where that tunnel is?” Oh wait! I forgot. “No questions.”

As long as you’re willing to let go of the reigns a little bit, Eagle Eye will take you on an enjoyable ride. Probably not one that you’ll remember in a year or two but still, it’s fun while it lasts.

The Cube Trilogy

The three movies in the Cube trilogy (Cube, Cube 2: Hypercube, and Cube Zero) are a bunch of psychological horror/thriller/sci-fi B-movies. I don’t know many people who have seen them. If they sound familiar, maybe it’s because you saw them on the shelf of your local video store or a friend mentioned them to you. You wouldn’t be faulted for not picking any of them up. There’s no well known writers, directors, or actors, and they all had very limited theatrical/festival runs, if at all. But I wouldn’t bring up some unknown thrillers from years ago without reason. With the exception of the third (prequel Cube Zero), these are really good movies.

Cube

Cube

Cube. The first. The best. It came out in 1997 (11 years ago!) and is still one of the better movies of it’s genre. 6 people are thrown into an enormous cube, made up up thousands of smaller cubes (about 14x14x14 feet). Some of the rooms are safe, but some contain deadly booby traps. Obviously, these victims want out, and thus try their luck going from room to room, always hoping the next one is the exit and wondering what the hell is going on the whole way through. We get to see the true nature of each person as little by little, they lose their sanity. The movie was actually filmed in a single 14x14x14 foot room, using various colors and angles to make it appear like they’re in physically different rooms. Actual claustrophobia, what a great way to get actors into character.

Cube 2

Cube 2

Cube 2: Hypercube gets an extra dose of sci-fi and dials down the gore. The cube in Cube 2 is much more different than the original. First of all, it’s not just a cube, but a hypercube (or tesseract), which is a 4 dimensional cube. I’m not even going to bother explaining it, but they attempt to give some sort of reasoning in the film (and you could also try reading the Wikipedia entries on hypercubes and tesseracts). In addition to adding an extra dimension, the cube also looks different and has very different booby traps. Everything is bright and white, as opposed to the dirty, dingey cube of the original. And gone are the blades and flames from the first, here we have an entirely new set of traps that aren’t easily explained. They involve a different type of physics which allow for things like rooms with variable time speeds and centers of gravity. The second film in the trilogy isn’t quite as good a movie as the original, but it makes up for it by going crazy with the whole 4th dimension thing. Honestly, Cube 2 could have been a much worse movie than it actually is and I would still love it based on the premise alone.

Cube Zero

Cube Zero

Cube Zero (released in 2004, only 2 years after the second film) was kind of a dud and a sad way to end the trilogy. There’s still some of the same “people in the Cube” thing, but we get the added dimension of outside people. We see the regular guys who keep an eye on things in the Cube and I think we’re supposed to feel some pity for them, or at least not hate them, because they’re not directly at fault for such torture but rather they’re “just following orders.” If Cube Zero had to be made (which it didn’t, the mystery was part of the allure), it still had such potential, answering everyone’s questions about the who/where/why/how, but unfortunately, not many questions are answered (not the right ones anyway). And it’s far too cheesy. The writer was either trying too hard, or not enough. I’m not sure which. The two workers we see for most of the time have such forced dialogue, it’s absurd. And their characters are sooo cliche. If you’re going to watch these movies, it’s probably better if you skip this one. Unless you are really grasping at straws for some answers, in which case, have fun, but don’t expect much.

As great and original as these three movies were, I think the idea has been exhausted. There’s only so much you can take of watching a handful of people go through the same booby trapped rooms over and over again. It was fun while it lasted, and we got something of an explanation in the end, but please don’t do any more. Not that that’s stopped film makers before, but here’s hoping they leave this one alone.

The Last Winter

I saw an ad for The Last Winter in a magazine and, not having heard anything prior to that or even gaining any relevant information about the movie from the ad, was immediately interested and knew I had to see it, regardless of what kind of reviews it had. The reason being it starred Ron Perlman and the ad was gorgeous. If the movie was to look anything like the ad, I would love it on that basis alone.

Turns out, The Last Winter is a horror movie of sorts. Kind of like a cross breed of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow. If that sounds like a weird combo, you’re right. Here’s a quick sum up of the storyline. An oil company is attempting to dig for oil in Alaska and sends an environmentalist (a scruffy James LeGros, the same guy who played McBeth in the fantastic and relatively unknown Scotland, PA) to keep on eye on the crew (led by Perlman). They’re unable to bring in the heavy machinery necessary for oil drilling because the temperatures are too high and the permafrost is melting, making the ground too soft. And that’s when strange things start happening.

The Last Winter isn’t like The Thing where you actually see the monster but rather takes a more psychological approach. Being out in the middle of the tundra for weeks on end tends to take it’s toll on people, and eventually they can go a little crazy or get “big eye” as they call it in Winter. So at first we’re never really sure if everybody is going insane or if there are actual beasts attacking them. I really love it when the director leaves plenty to the imagination of the audience, allowing us to get sucked deeper into the story.

So The Last Winter is successful on that front, and it is gorgeously filmed, especially the outdoor shots. Wide expanses of nothing but white, so much so that the horizon becomes nearly invisible at points. Beautifully minimal, it really emphasizes just how alone the characters are. Sadly, though, Winter ultimately screws up. And in a really big way. The audience is given way too much information at the end. ***minor spoiler*** Instead of leaving us with the assumption that almost everyone has died, we’re given a cheesy and ridiculous ending that looks like the beginning of 28 Days Later. Someone emerges from a hospital and finds the town in chaos, deserted. ***end spoiler*** It’s completely unnecessary and pretty much destroys everything the movie built up.

Sometimes it’s important to know when to say when. I doubt writer/director Larry Fessenden had too much pressure from the higher ups to end it the way he did. I feel like he just thought it was better that way. But when you have such a subtle, delicate movie, it seems so wrong to disregard it all just to over-explain something that couldn’t possibly be explained to begin with.

Regardless, I still recommend The Last Winter. The first 85 minutes of the movie are great, with wonderful performances by most actors and beautiful cinematography. If you don’t mind being let down in the last 15 minutes, then I say go for it. Or better yet, don’t bother watching the end. You won’t be left with a sense of closure but with this kind of movie, you don’t need it.