Category: Film Reviews


I have seen and enjoyed almost every movie Luc Besson has had any involvement in. Somehow, this movie managed to escape me and I only just recently heard about it as I researched the actor Jamel Debbouze (Days of Glory, Outside the Law). This film presents the story in crisp black and white, of a man named Andre who is in debt, and an angel comes to rescue. In a Fight Club-esque manner, we are lead astray on whether to believe this angel is real or a figment of the protagonist’s mind. The angel, comically towering over Jamel, is beautiful and not easily swayed. Like Andre, we are actually skeptical in the way she first helps helps him: whoring. Judging from the film’s use of editing techniques this aspect shows it’s dark humor, or representing the polar opposite of this beautiful angel. Whether we like to believe what she is doing or if she even exists is almost irrelevant, as we can’t help but follow her and Andre through the film. I believe the film to be very well made, especially the cinematography, music and use of dark humor. Dark humor is a genre not easily accomplished, as some find it offensive. This film, in particular, is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, instead it is simply a thoughtful comedy. Not a sappy, cheesy one, but lighthearted and…I guess French. Definetly check it out.


Saturday, October 9th 2010, would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. To celebrate, Yoko Ono put together a documentary with the help of PBS about John Lennon’s time in NYC and his last years alive. The screening was in Central Park SummerStage, and the line was at least a mile long. With the cunning and smooth maneuvers  by myself, my girlfriend and my long-time friend, we skipped the entire line in front of all the police and security guards. We knew that if we waited on that line, we would have never made it inside, so we got lucky we didn’t get caught cutting everybody. While we did have to sit on the floor for two hours, I felt the raw documentary and “never-before-seen” footage was worth the temporary back pain. The film contained interviews and stock footage of John and his close friends with whom he worked with in New York. The film also focused on his bumpy relationship with his famous wife, Yoko Ono. This documentary gave us an insight on John’s life and what his intentions were with his “radical” songs and actions. While the film presents John’s life in some quite humorous light, it takes an unexpected turn, as John’s life, when he was murdered. The documentary is a must see for any Beatles fan. The documentary will air on PBS November 22. I might just have to record it for another watch.

Here is a clip from one of the finer moments used in the film:


If you liked the dual effort of Grindhouse, then you will love Machete. While audiences were teased with a fake trailer in front of the Grindhouse feature, we all hoped these films would become a reality but had little faith, at least I did. When I had heard that Robert Rodriguez was actually making this, it would appear to good to be true. I saw the film opening day and I must say I was quite impressed at how good at up to par the film was with its predecessor. All of the seemingly misplaced stars in the film, such as Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, added to the fun of the film. As gory and far fetched as some of the action is, it is what makes this film great. Very rare do I actually like a far-fetched or silly film, but this film stands out among the rest of it’s kind. Actually it would be hard to compare this film to any other, except Grindhouse of course. The film is about a Mexican es-federale who must get revenge on the people who left him for dead. While the film is extremely gory and graphic, it also displays pro-immigration ideals and makes fun of politicians targeting the Hispanics entering the country. Probably the funniest characters in the film, are Robert DeNiro and Cheech Marin. Robert DeNiro plays a politician campaigning to get rid of those pesky cockroaches AKA Mexicans. Cheech Marin plays a shotgun wielding priest and brother to the title character. At the end of the film promotes two more Machete movies, I can only hope there are serious.

Ultimately: Definitely worth watching, but not for weak stomachs. Do not shelve.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

I had not heard much about the film other than it was about graffiti and made by notorious British artist Banksy. This alone was enough reason for me to see the film opening night in New York. The film, is about a frenchman who is obsessed with film (not me) persists on documenting everything that happens in his life. The film leads on to him following around graffiti artists with his camera. In doing so, he learns of Banksy and tries to make a movie about him, however if any one knows anything about Banksy, it is that his identity is unknown. It is very odd that this random frenchman, Theirry Guetta AKA Mr BrainWash, was actually able to contact the infamous Banksy and other famous street artists such as Shepard Fairey and Space Invader, who apparently is the cousin and inspiration for Thierry’s movement. While the film presents itself as sort of a gag and almost making fun of Theirry, the viewer actually learns a lot about the graffiti/street art scene. To someone like me, this film was actually inspirational. I loved this film so much that I actually looked up artists Mr BrianWash and Shepard Fairey, no luck with Banksy. I found out that both BrainWash and Fairey had upcoming shows in New York. I immediately attended them and was blown away. While Mr BrainWash recycles current images and makes them his own, which has lead to some controversy, it is Shepard Fairey that struck out the most with his famous OBEY line and political satire in art form. At BrainWash’s show, all the art was ridiculously overpriced, some going for over a hundred thousand dollars. At Shepard Fairey’s show, the art was more moderately priced. As I did get to meet both of them at their shows (photos below), I cannot wait to view this film again.

Ultimately: Next to Enter the Void, Exit Through the Gift Shop is definitely one of the best movies released in 2010. Never Shelve.

Me with Shepard Fairey at his show MAY DAY:

Me with my girlfriend and MRBrainWash at his show ICONS:

Let’s see, what can I possibly say about this flick that won’t give away how disgusting, childish, repetitive, homoerotic, and stupid it is. I must say out of all the Jackass films and the television show, this one actually made me gag in the theater. By far, this new installment is a compilation of the most disgusting stunts they could possibly do. While the theater was completely packed with “guidos” and other assholes, it was even harder to enjoy the movie because they wouldn’t be quiet – they even had to call security. At any rate, even if the theater were completely quiet, I don’t think that could have helped this movie. While most of the stunts the group performed involved most of the usual stuff (harmful animals, dicks, old men/women, feces, vomit and dicks), this one was now in the third dimension. I have yet to see a film in 3D I actually like, except for Toy Story 3. The fact that the new Jackass movie came out in 3D explains the whole premise of 3D: If a film is released in 3D, it is most definitely not one to be taken seriously. I would definitely get on board with all of the filmmakers swearing to boycott the use of 3D technology as it does take away many elements of the film, such as focus on the plot itself as viewers are constantly having objects thrown in their faces. One of the biggest problems with 3D is the glasses, which for most people, are annoying and uncomfortable. So, not only did I have to sit cringing in my seat, but I had to wear these pointless hipster-looking glasses the entire Jackass movie. While the film is entertaining because we are once again reminded that money can get people to do any damn thing, we have to look at the fact that this is what those people do for a living. They eat shit, drink sweat, and do pretty much any disgusting thing you could tell them, all for money. Is this a smart way to make cash? exploiting yourself on camera and looking like an idiot? Some acting coaches will tell you that an actor/actress cannot be afraid of making a fool out of themselves but I think these guys have crossed the line. Not since Bruno have I seen so much uncomfortable intended homo-eroticism. While the guys at Jackass jump to any stunt involving their genitals, they also jump at each others, as one stunt involved Chris Pontius using his member as a baseball bat and Bam Margera trying to catch the ball and then face planting into Pontius’ ball sack. While this scene does seem funny, trust me it is more stupid than anything else. As I left the theater, I couldn’t help overhearing all the “guidos”, who had been laughing the entire 90 minutes, that they actually didn’t like it. As I didn’t hear any reasoning behind this except for the other two being better, I can say I actually agreed with them. I know this film wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, so I am trying not to come off as taking that approach. However, when you have seen most, if not all, of the Jackass material, as I have, then you have authority to say seriously that this film was garbage. As a fan of the group of morons, I say the first two were better and that’s that.

Ultimately: See it for shits and giggles with a big group of friends and Shelve.

I’m Still Here

Ever since Joaquin Phoenix’s surprising guest appearance on David Letterman’s Late Show early last year, his career choices and actions were quite the source of a lot of jokes and criticism. The actor, most famously known for his role in Gladiator and his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, claimed to have quit acting to pursue a career as a rapper. While everyone who saw Walk the Line knew Joaquin had some musical talent, no one had any idea he could rap. While the buzz surrounding this situation escalated so high, Joaquin and his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, were actually documenting his career change. Rumors began to spread that the whole thing was a publicity stunt and that it was all one big “Andy Kaufman-esque” joke. Unlike Kaufman, Joaquin actually came clean with his act. I saw the “mockumentary”, made by Affleck and Phoenix, on opening night in New York. At that time, it was still unclear to the public on whether or not the whole thing was a hoax or not. With the hoax not yet confirmed, I saw the film and actually I must say I enjoyed it a lot more not knowing. If I had walked into the theater, knowing the whole thing was a gag, I probably wouldn’t have been as interested to see it. While America has finally learned that the film was made to criticize celebrity downfalls, if you watch the film, without this knowledge, Joaquin Phoenix is actually quite believable. The idiocy, the blatant rants and raves, the drugs, the prostitutes, the paranoia, the dirtiness, the rawness: these are just are few elements of the film. Some scenes were actually flat-out hysterical, while some scenes I thought were definitely not needed. The film follows a troubled Joaquin Phoenix as he tries to switch careers and jump start his rapping career. The scenes that I felt were most noticeably staged were the scenes with rap mogul P. Diddy: who almost hinted by his acting that the film was a joke. While I did enjoy the film, I am disappointed that they revealed the truth so soon after it’s release. They didn’t give enough time for the film to settle or enough time for people to actually see the film. I can say I was one of the few who saw it before the announcement, so I can say I experienced the film the way I feel it was meant to be experienced. Now that I do know it is fake, I can say I appreciate Phoenix more as an actor for his riveting performance. Some say that the film recreated a whole social movement expressing the constant attention and gossip hounds of the media and it’s celebrities. While this can be easily agreed upon, the film does show how America is fascinated by the high speed ups-and-downs of celebrity lives instead of worrying about their own lives. At any rate, if you did not know about the hoax, then I am sorry for ruining it for you, but I say if your thinking on seeing this film, then see it just to see it.

Ultimately: Worth seeing, mostly due to Joaquin’s performance. Can be shelved.

Valhalla Rising

Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of this film, is most famous for his Pusher Trilogy and most recently Bronson. I had really high hopes for this film as I had heard nothing about it and really loved his previous film (see Essay section). I began to do some research and I was able to learn that the film happened to be on the violent side, which intrigued me even more to the violent/humorous content of Bronson. Similar to the realms of Gladiator, Valhalla Rising presents a mute viking slave/warrior, nicknamed One-Eye, who brutally fights his way to freedom. After violently gaining his freedom, he follows a group of Christians and his “translator”, a young boy who befriends the intimidating One-Eye, on their way to the “Holy Land”. As the movie progressed, I noticed that the first half hour really grabs your attention as it shows One-Eye and how he lives as a captured slave, mistreated and used as a fighting animal. Similar to Bronson, the main character loves to fight and seems to never lose. After you learn of his skills, the film seems to lose the audiences attention as the dialogue to cut to a bear minimum and focuses more on the cinematography than anything else. As I did enjoy the film, I believe I need to re-watch it. At the end of the film I felt like I missed something or that I should have taken notes while watching. The film’s ending, while not spoiling it, came as quite a surprise. Over all, I have a lot of faith in Nicolas Winding Refn as a director. At the rate he is going, I believe he will continue on to make many more great films. As his other films seemed to be easily liked at first viewing, it seems his new film needs a little more effort to appreciate the art he has created. The cinematography alone is worth watching this film, if not the incredible fight scenes.

Ultimately: Worth Seeing but definitely a required taste. If you support independent film as I do, then Don’t shelve this one.

If ever an opportunity to be an extra in a film, I jump to it. Last school year, the producers behind Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps decided to shoot a scene at my university. Being a fan of the first Wall Street (1987), I immediately signed up and was luckily chosen. The scene involved Gordon Gekko (played again by Michael Douglas) giving a lecture on finance and promoting his book. My role as an extra was simply a crowd member. Therefore, I am only noticeable if you know exactly where I am before you see the film because you will not find me. This did not bother me for the simple fact that I got the chance to be on the set of an actual movie with some big names attached. While I am not a fan of Shia LaBeouf, it was director Oliver Stone that I was excited to see (being that Natural Born Killers is one of my favorite movies). Anyway, after my “onscreen debut”, I began to eagerly await for the film’s release to see how much face-time I actually get. I finally saw the film recently and noticed that you can actually see me pretty clearly at least five different cut scenes during the lecture.

The film, being a sequel to a film made more than twenty years ago, does not live up to its predecessor. While the first film was released almost as a warning for the financial world and economy, it’s sequel is released only two years after our economy started to decline. After being put away in jail at the end of the first film, Gekko is released at the start of the second. In hopes of reconciling with his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan), Gekko finds help through her young yuppie brown-noser fiance (LaBeouf) in exchange for playing mentor to him in the financial world. As companies fell and cumbled in the film and LaBeouf’s original mentor commits suicide, so does the film. Probably the most disappointing part of the film is the thirty second cameo of Bud Fox (Martin Sheen), aka the man who put Gekko away in the first place. I believe that if the film had more Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko screen time, it could have saved this film.

Ultimately: If you really enjoyed the first one, there is actually no point of seeing this pointless sequel. Definitely shelve.

(Freeze at 15 seconds into the trailer, I am the barely noticeable face seen behind the man in the blue/green plaid shirt to the middle-left of the far back). I am completely more visible in the actual film.

There is so much that could be said about this film, but it is almost better left unsaid. While the film runs nearly three hours, one is left feeling almost lightheaded and dreary after watching this film.  Being third film by Gasper Noé, he has created somewhat of a fan-base especially with his highly controversial second film Irréversible. His first film, I Stand Alone, does exactly as the title may suggest and stands alone as a landmark in film. With two notches on his belt, Gasper returns seven years later with yet another landmark by using provocative and innovative camera techniques that alters the effects of the characters point of view. Probably the most interesting aspect of the film is that the audience never sees the protagonist’s face. By doing this, the character could be considered impersonal as we never actually establish a relationship with the protagonist (Oscar). It is well known that an actor’s face or facial expressions are very important to the film and the character. Interestingly enough, while we do not see his face very much, we actually get to journey in Oscar’s mind. This effect adds to the trippy eeriness and fun of the film as Oscar is an addict/rookie dealer of psychedelic drugs. This film is definitely more visual then anything else, especially with the shots of Tokyo, the relationship between Oscar and his sister, and of course the hallucinations. While the film is very sexually graphic and violent at some points, the nonlinear plot forces you to pay attention even if your cringing or covering your eyes. Probably the weirdest element of the film is the hints of incest, but like i said earlier: somethings are better left unsaid. The reason I keep stressing this point is because I walked into the theater without a clue about the plot. I was aware of its length, setting, mature rating and that was it. Like the other film, Mesrine, I had heard about this film when I was in France but missed the chance to see it. Another film-buff friend of mine (, who actually was in France a couple of weeks before me, got the chance to see the film and raved about it. As jealous as I was, I patiently awaited for it’s limited release here in New York. Trust me when I tell you this: SEE THIS MOVIE! I want you to enter the theater with the same amount of knowledge I did. I feel, by doing this, you may actually enjoy the film even more. 

Ultimately: Never Shelve this one. One of the best films I’ve seen all year.

When I was in France this past summer, I tried my best to learn about new French pop culture. While most of the popular movies and music released in France is American anyway, I was able to find a few gems hidden among the rubble. As an avid fan of New York hip-hop/rap, I had always been open to French rap, even though they mimic us Americans. As I was listening to some new French rap that was recently released, I noticed this name that kept being mentioned: Mesrine. I had never heard of him before and decided to look him up. To the French, Jacques Mesrine is their Tony Montana from Scarface, or the French Al Capone, basically a modern gangster idolized by rappers for the violence and misogamy. Also in France, I had heard about this phenomenal double feature released in 2008 depicting the violent and often exaggerated life of ex-military man Jacques Mesrine entitled, respectively: Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1. As both films were only showing in one theater in New York for a short time, I regrettably was only able to catch the first half, Killer Instinct therefore this review will be left hanging as I was. The first half of the film starts out with a bang and immediately shows the instilled violence in Mesrine when he was a soldier in the French-Algerian War. As the film continues, we learn of his habits and his quick money-grabbing lifestyle. Vincent Cassel, the actor portraying Mesrine in both installments, gives a performance worthy of comparing to his earlier astonishing role in the cult French film La Haine. As time passes for Mesrine, we are shown his methods, his emotions and most importantly, in the first half, his escape from prison.  I will not give away anything else, as I would encourage anyone to see this film. I anxiously await the arrival of the entire film on DVD so I can finally see the whole film in one sitting. The theater should have made it a double-feature, but unfortunately every penny they can make counts, especially for an independent theater.

Ultimately: Worth every minute. Interesting to point out that it took America almost two years to discover this gem. Definitely do not shelve, good enough to watch over and over.

The trailer can be seen here.