First things first.
How Good The Film Is: 9/10
How Much I Like It: 9/10
Madness, you think so? On to the review then.
This is the first film I saw at the El Capitan Theatre, owned by Disney, set right across the street from the Kodak Theatre. For the record, Disney deserves a punishment. Always so patronising, so condescending. Yes, I know, its main target for assassination ... I mean, customers, are kids. But instead of entertaining kids and helping them grow up I feel like they are ensuring kids stay kiddie even as they grow up to the age of 20, 30, 40, and so on. What prompted this angry outburst? That silly light show with a swinging ship mast they put up before the movie started. (All I could think of at the time was: This was the reason it cost me 14 bucks to enter this cinema, which, in the first place, was not really built for conducive film-viewing environment?)
On to the movie.
I am going to make a few pronouncements.
(1) The best talent assembled - both cast and crew - since Titanic. I am not kidding.
Gore Verbinski has now entered the top spot in my favourite directors list. (Previously there was no champion, just a collection of directors that I admire for different reasons. And to people back home, no, Spielberg is not at the top of the list, just the most recognisable name among non-film-buff folks that you are.) He has proven himself adept at drama (well, with a tinge of comedy) with The Weather Man, very comfortable with comedy (Mousehunt is one of the better comedies of the 90s), apparently good at horror (I wouldn't know), and here he is very much in his element with these most expensive films of all time. In short, he is the Johnnie To of the Hollywood film industry.
And yet, major, major credit must be given to the powerhouse writing team of Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, who, for those of you who are not film aficionados also wrote the other most successful franchise, Shrek (not this last one though), and The Mask of Zorro. Basically, any time a franchise turns bad it's coz these two guys left.
Now, this film can only be described as a huge, swashbuckling action adventure wrapped around a Syriana-like structure ... except less disjointed. I know, I know, lots of people didn't like this film because they are confused. (Let's get this part out of the way first, since I've reiterated it many times. Critics should be shot in their head - "well, figuratively, at least" - and that's that.) Well, people who didn't like this film because they think it is too complicated, too boring, not enough fight scenes, are all flaming idiots. Okay, that was a gross simplification - do allow me that. I will say that, among the intelligentsia, people who didn't like Syriana wouldn't like this movie.
(2) Yes, you heard me, I just compared the film to Syriana. Seriously.
Fact is, I don't fully understand the movie as well. Partly because, yes, there are numerous subplots (though it doesn't share Spider-Man 3's penchant for 'too many villains' ... those stupid idiots who can't handle 'too many villains' should be shot too - err, figuratively, at least). But in it, I get the sense that the writers (finally back on track, sorry about that) truly understood the character, truly understood their story, allowed their story to blossom in all directions that the story cares to go, and then skillfully rein it back to the perfect structure.
What that means is, each of the dozen subplots (no, I didn't count, but it's about there) appeared on screen for the amount of time it deserves. Like, the Will-Elizabeth romantic subplot was important, but not most important, so it takes up, say, 9% of screentime; the Will-Bill father-son relationship was less important, so took up 3% of screentime. (Didn't count those either, but that's about right.) And it was all skillfully weaved in and out of each other, and very fast-paced - probably the most fast-paced 2 hour 45 min film that has ever graced the screens.
Oh yes, some pansies are complaining out there that it is slow. I know, the middle section 'sagged', certain *ahem*s would say. Yes, but that's because they don't get the thrill of the numerous twist and turns - which climaxes in the dozen or so betrayal and double-crossings that happened within five minutes of screentime when the three ships were parked next to each other. Put it this way - that was probably the climax of certain films of lesser achievements.
And ultimately, each character's arc completely suited each character, and their endings were perfect to their character as well. And remember, virtually NONE of the characters were absolutely good or evil. Barbossa. Will. Elizabeth. (Maybe not Governor Swann, the fellow is completely innocent. That's why ...) Captain Jack Sparrow, of course. Commodore James Norrington. (Alright, fine, Cutler Beckett is completely evil.) Bootstrap Bill. Davey Jones. Tia Dalma.
Perfect story structure, both within the film and spanning the trilogy structure (which usually exists in the form of A-B1-B2) - juggling a dozen subplots at that. Perfect character arcs - for all the major characters. Perfect endings - without sinking into the third Lord of the Rings' feeble-minded ending.
(3) The most intelligent film of the year, so far.
You heard me. I thought the filmmakers were lucky in that they were allowed to experiment and create this complex canvas - because they know that no matter what they do people are still going to come and watch the film; so why not make it complex and great, on top of being highly entertaining.
Speaking of Lord of the Rings, the helicopter swooping-round-the-character shots completely annoyed me in every one of those films. Here, it was perfectly done. Never mind, let people think Peter Jackson's the genius. I want Gore Verbinski to remain below the radar and earn just a bit less money so that he continues making these wonderful movies.
The actors are brilliant all round. Not much more needs to be said about Johnny Depp (I hear some complaining about him not appearing enough in the film ... tossers). Orlando Bloom is great here, sometimes casting doubt in the audiences' affection towards him, sometimes earning it thoroughly and paying it off greatly. Keira Knightley, she will have a great career ahead of her if she continues sailing through good roles as she's done thus far. Her battle cry - well, it reminded me of what little I saw of Cate Blanchett's in the trailer for The Golden Age. Yes, her battle cry speech was good, given the words, given her voice, she uses it very skillfully. Geoffrey Rush is excellent. Bill Nighy is always holding the audience's attention.
Now, Chow Yun-Fat and Naomie Harris.
Another part of why people complained about the film being complicated was simply because they don't understand what they hell some of the characters were talking about. This has always been a problem in the series, but none more so than here, as Chow Yun-Fat had to mouth out piratey-poetic words, while Naomie Harris had to obscure her pronunciations to keep the character the way we know her. In fact, we can't really understand half of what Geoffrey Rush is saying either. And how many people laughed this time at Jack Sparrow's biting one-liners? Not me either.
What a fucking brilliant move.
You see, the cinema is a place for the assault of the visual and audio senses. That's what we pay our money's worth for. (And boy, I didn't expect to feel that the film was worth 14 bucks.) The DVD, however, is where we can plug it into our home theatre or laptop and turn on the subtitles, to be entertained.
In effect, watch the movie first, understand the story later.
As for the visual effects, the simplest way to state it is that, (much) more than Spider-Man 3, this film is worthy of its 300 million dollars production cost. While it felt like the millions upon millions of dollars went to superfluous stuff in Spider-Man 3, for this film they managed to create a whole world and its details in the most vivid and believable manner possible with a similar sum, which is so much more.
I can't wait for the 3-films DVD pack to hit the stores. I've been waiting to buy all three films at one go, hence not buying any of the previous films thus far.
And here we go. One of the best movies of 2007. Almost certainly the gem of the summer blockbuster season. (Almost. Now I'm looking at you, The Bourne Ultimatum.)
Seriously. It will be a long, long time before another film comes along that is long, has numerous subplots, and yet manages to assault the senses with every minute of the film, and yet making it just confusing enough that we have to wonder, all the way to the end, how the story will turn out.
How Good The Film Is: 9/10
How Much I Like It: 9/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 25 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound (Mixing), Best Sound Editing
PS - The post-credits ending is yet another example of the brilliance of the story structure. It is both unexpected and predictable. And it generates a warm feeling in one's heart.
And of course, it ends up with that theme similar to my short film where the man and the woman is ... whoops, nearly spilled the beans.
PPS - Another thing that surprised me. The way the movie title was introduced. The words 'At World's End' appears over a black screen with a slow-mo spinning coin. The words appear with simple, undecorated font. Very classy, very unlike what the movie would have done. Thus displaying further intelligence from the filmmakers.
PPPS - Of all the nations of the world watching this film, the 4.5 million Singaporeans are perhaps more amused than any other in the world of the portrayal of their island as some sleazy Oriental place that has more resemblance to Hong Kong than Singapore, really. The usage of Cantonese alone is enough to justify that statement.
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As a result, though, the book is chock full of very amusing and insightful quotes. Here goes.
The artist is, in effect, a sort of gangster. He hitches up his trousers and goes into the guarded bank of the unconscious in an attempt to steal the gold of inspiration. The producer is like the getaway driver who sells the getaway car and waits outside the bank grinning about what a great deal he's made.
Movie-making is an appallingly simple process. One needs a camera, film, and an idea (optional).
[Otto Preminger] told me how he shot the vast crowd scene in Exodus. Preminger required ... some ten thousand extras. He could not pay for them. "What did you do?" I asked. "I charged them," he said. He papered the town with posters: BE IN A MOVIE, TEN SHEKELS. That's what I call a producer.
[To quote George Stevens], "Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively superseded by the next. Isn't that it?" I don't think he left anything out.
Helpful hints to the filmmaker and the viewer: The compliments - "What visuals!" "What craft!" "What use of the camera!" and "What technique!" - all mean "the script stinks".
Canny test marketers hold "focus groups" at test screenings and quiz the audience on the film they've just seen. "What scenes did you like least?" Those in which the hero was in danger. "What character/s did you like least?" The villain. Oh, sigh.
As the writer changes, year to year, his or her perceptions and interests change. At twenty he is interested only in sex, at thirty in sex and money, at forty in money and sex, at sixty in money and validation, et cetera.
The writer may choose to supply stock, genre, or predictable answers to the magic questions, and the drama will be predictable and boring. The writer will have saved himself the agony of indecision, self-doubt - of work, in short - and so, of course, will the protagonist. The audience will view this pseudo-drama much as the graduate views a liberal arts education: "I don't think anything happened, but I'm told I went to college, so, perhaps, I somehow got an education."
Most films are bad. They are, finally, just advertisements for themselves - elongated movie trailers, envisioned and cut with less skill than the trailer itself.
Stanislavsky wrote that the last 90 seconds are the most important in the play. Hollywood wisdom casts it thus: Turn the thing around in the last 2 minutes, and you can live quite nicely. Turn it around again in the last 10 seconds and you can buy a house in Bel Air. ... If the shark makes us say "ooh", it has earned our few dollars. If the filmmaker can make us say "ooh" of a shot of the empty water, give him his private plane.
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A nuclear detonation happened. Right in front of my eyes.
Or at least it looked like a nuclear detonation. For a moment I thought it might be an asteroid collision. Basically enormous puffs of sands and debris exploded in an expanding near-spherical shape, with turbulent patterns on it, accompanied by light inside the puffs.
I yelled, "Nuclear detonation!", and ran past the set crew telling everyone to run for cover or duck down --
And then I saw another one in another part of the city.
Then I saw, in yet another part of the city, in the sky a falling piece of canister large enough to be seen by my naked eye, falling away from a larger object hidden by brownish yellow clouds, falling, falling, then another detonation. This time, it was close ... and we were quickly enveloped by the dust and debris, and the thought of nuclear radiation entered my mind for a moment --
I was in some sort of very slightly futuristic-looking apartment. There was no one around me, it was quiet. And then I realised that this is the story of the War Of The Worlds movie Steven Spielberg might have made if he had been given free rein, and quiet thumping music begins to play, the sort that says "we don't know where the threat is going to come from". So I rose, and walked down the corridor, looking around me alertly ...
Until I got down to the end and there's a refreigerator with English words on it. Not aliens? From the future? I entered the toilet to the right, and there was a mirror, and I looked around me trying to ascertain where the threat is going to come from, but nothing.
So I sat down, and suddenly an old man appeared with a spoon. He took the spoon and started drawing it across my forehead, and as he does that my forehead is splitting, and at that point I realised that it's one of those hallucinations that aliens put people through, sort of a simulated fake version of what's happening for real. The image of the spoon reminded me of monkey brains being picked for food.
And then I woke up.
The last dramatic dream I had was of an earthquake and a tsunami, sometime last month.
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This is the twenty-sixth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I love to brag about busy days - today I was out at 8.30 am and didn't get home till 16 hours later. Okay, so first there were classes, until 3, then after that had a short ADR session, then dinner at Molly's (an American burger joint run by Korean ladies), then off to Westwood Village to attend the volunteers' meeting for the upcoming Los Angeles Film Festival, then rush back (bus between central Hollywood and Westwood Village is roughly 30-45 mins) just in time to meet producing instructor before he leaves (supposed to attend the class), then a long phone call, then Shrek The Third.
Basically, I bought the ticket for Shrek The Third without really knowing I was going to watch a Shrek sequel, without even realising that I didn't know what to expect. Which in a way meant I walked in without much expectations. So should you. This sequel is fun, and retains the zaniness of the previous movies, and there were definite laugh-out-loud moments. I don't know why it seems like it's lacking something, but that's how it seems. Perhaps the element of surprise? Because the first one definitely took the world by surprise - and deservedly won the first Best Animated Picture Oscar (take that, Pixar). The second one was a little better. This third one did a really good job in extending the story - the way the story progressed made sense given what has come before. I guess the problem is that it does not have any parallels with any fairy tale - strange thing for me to say, since I always prefer original stories. On the other hand, Shrek movies are meant to be spoofs.
Anyway, I stayed on through the end credits to wait for that post end-credits sequence. You shouldn't.
On the other hand, at least now I can finally buy the 3 Shrek movies in one DVD combo once that gets released - been waiting for the Shrek movies to complete before I sink into getting a DVD.
How Good The Film Is: 7/10
How Much I Like The Film: 7.5/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 45 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Animated Picture
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This is the twenty-fifth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I was really craving for a film, so when this little Irish film popped up I decided to go. It's European, and it's indie without being obnoxious about it - which means that whatever its flaws will be at least it's not Hollywood. Besides, it's torture waiting for other movies to arrive, being bored in the meantime.
I'm not a huge song listener, but this one has a couple that really hooked me. It's an Irish 'musical', though not in the usual sense of the genre, in that people don't break out into songs here. Instead, it is the story of a Guy, who had his heart broken, playing a guitar and singing in the streets, who meets a Girl, estranged from her husband, trying to make a living, and they both come together to sing to each other and together and create music. It's a very simple story, and great thing that the movie is kept short, just enough that we never quite lose interest. Certainly when they belted out the songs it was very engaging - all songs about love, or separation, or longing.
Guy is played by Glen Hansard, who is the lead singer for the Irish rock band The Frames, while Girl is played by Markéta Irglová, his Czech collaborator. Both turned out sincere performances, considering they aren't actors.
Deserves to be remembered during the Oscars for a Best Original Song nomination - my favourite was 'Falling Slowly' (album: The Cost); I think probably because the melody reminded me of the gospel song 'Hungry'. The film itself has already won a Sundance Audience Award.
How Good The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Like It: 7.5/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 10 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Original Song
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Objective Rating/Subjective Rating - Movie
9.0/9.0 The Queen
8.5/7.0 The Prestige
7.0/7.0 Marie Antoinette
8.0/7.0 The Last King Of Scotland
8.0/6.0 Little Children
8.5/7.5 Death Of A President
8.0/9.5 The History Boys
7.0/5.5 Pan's Labyrinth︱El Laberinto Del Fauno
8.0/9.0 The Holiday
8.0/8.0 Notes On A Scandal
8.5/8.5 Casino Royale
7.5/7.0 The Fountain
9.0/9.5 Happy Feet
7.0/7.0 Curse Of The Golden Flower︱滿城盡帶黃金甲
7.5/7.0 Blood Diamond
6.0/6.5 The Pursuit Of Happyness
7.5/7.5 The Painted Veil
8.0/8.0 Letters From Iwo Jima
8.0/7.5 Miss Potter
8.5/9.0 Children Of Men
9.0/8.5 Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
7.5/7.0 The Lives Of Others︱Das Leben Der Anderen
8.0/8.5 Starter For Ten
8.0/8.0 The Namesake
8.0/8.5 The Valet︱La Doublure
8.0/8.0 Tell No One︱Ne Le Dis À Personne
9.0/9.0 Priceless︱Hors De Prix
9.0/9.0 Hot Fuzz
9.0/8.5 Spider-Man 3
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- Cheesy hostage sequence at the Louvre where the hostage is Madonna of the Rocks.
- More of Silas's past.
- More on the car Sophie and Robert left behind.
- Elaboration on the scene where Silas kills the poor nun at St Sulpice.
- Extra scene between Aringarosa and the council head.
- A tasteful montage of Silas's past murders.
- Sophie sticking her head out of the truck while escaping.
- Extra investigation scene at the barn.
- Fache talks to Sophie and Robert after arresting Teabing. "That's why we study history. So that we stop killing each other."
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This is the twenty-fourth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
And the first time I ever saw a movie twice in a single day. There are many reasons why that happened. One is depression. The other is that really good movies totally destroy the rest of my day because I no longer feel like myself - and I made the mistake of watching it at 6.40 am.
As for a review of the movie itself - what everybody said. Everyone seems capable of having an opinion about the movie, well, let them. Everyone except for critics - they should be shot.
How Good The Film Is: 9/10
How Much I Like It: 8.5/10
At What Point Did I First Look At My Watch: 5 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing
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