Plethra of 2009 Reviews Part 1.

Nicholas Cage in Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans".

“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”. Dir. Werner Herzog.  With Nicholas Cage, Eva Mendez, Xibit, and Val Kilmer.

Is this a remake of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 masterpiece “Bad Lieutenant” with Harvey Keitel as a junkie, gambler, killer, and cop?  Yes.  Is it a linear remake?  No.  Herzog brings a more coherent (believe it or not) story of an out of control police officer who is just a down right tortured soul.  Nicholas Cage gives his best performance since “Leaving Las Vegas” and quiet frankly one of the best performances not only of the year, but the decade.  The wicked mischief that Cage brings to this role is hard to handle.  He’s so insane and apathetic and it’s a brilliant performance to watch.  What else would you expect from Herzog making a film about an American cop in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? Cage is nothing less then witty, charming, sadistic and malicious in this role.  It’s a role that few actors could play, or even consider.  The only other actors who could truly play this hell bound character would be Harvey Keitel (which he did in the “original” film), Willem Dafoe, and Robert Downey, Jr.

There are scenes that will arouse you, make you laugh, and make you want to look away in disgust.  There are scene’s where Cage hallucinates that iguanas are staring him down, as well as a crocodile on the highway.  The film is a pure work of raw art that we rarely see today.

Cage’s character is perfectly balanced out by Stevie Pruit who is masterfully played by Val Kilmer who gives his best performance since “Tombstone”.  His role is extremely small in the film, but not small to the plot and story that Herzog shows us.  Kilmer is so laid back and very subdued in this film, playing off Cage so well.  I don’t think we’d be able to handle both Kilmer and Cage firing off at all cylinders at once.

Review:  9/10.

“The Hurt Locker” 2009.  Dir.  Kathryn Bigelow.  With Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geragthy, with David Morse, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes.

This film has caught on fire like nothing like I’ve seen before.  “The Hurt Locker” is a good film, but not great.    It’s the first Iraq war film that doesn’t have a political agenda which is the exact film critics wanted to latch onto.  It’s a film that deals with a masochistic IED defuser who is only good at one thing: defusing bombs.  Renner gives a very good performance as the bomb defusing junkie, his character/performance reminded me of a younger Kurt Russel.  By no means does Renner give one of the best performances of the year, but he is very solid.  Anthony Mackie as the units commander gives a very good performance but the other member of the unit played by Brian Geragthy gives a distractingly bad performance.  There are three cameo’s in the film, the first is of Guy Pearce who plays the units original unit’s IED defuser, David Morse plays a Robert Duvall esq officer who gets an adrenaline rush off of watching Renner disobey all orders and flirts with death while defusing a bomb.  Ralph Fiennes plays the leader of a bounty hunting party that get’s bogged down by sniper fire.  And yes, Fiennes delivers as usual.  I liked the idea of how Bigelow inserted great actors into small but somewhat crucial roles, but in the end it comes off as distracting and the three actors give the best performances in the film, and makes you want to know more about them then you do Renner’s character.  The film is well structured, edited and shot.  The film drags at certain points but Bigelow keeps it rolling smoothly.  It’s not one of the best films of the year, but it does deserve an honorable mention.  James Cameron (Bigelow’s ex husband) called this film “the “Platoon” for the Iraq War”.  Sorry James, it’s not.

Review: 7/10.

“Julie & Julia” 2009.  Dir. Nora Ephron.  With Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci.

This is a light and funny film.  It’s a great performance by Streep which all signals point to her winning her third Oscar.  Streep is so wonderful and joyous to watch.  She commands every scene she’s in, and it just makes you want to hang out with her.  The film nicely parralles between Julie (Amy Adams) starting a daily cooking blog of recipes that Julia Child compiled and worked on while she wrote her cook book in France.  The scenes with Adams drags on a little too much, but your attention is always quickly back in the hands of Streep.  Amy Adams gives a cute and sweet performance, but not nearly as interesting as Streep’s Child.  Stanley Tucci plays Child’s ambassador husband Paul.  Tucci gives a subtly brilliant performance and is Streep’s light house in the film, the one thing aside from food she can go to and get compfort from.  The film would have been much, much better if had just been a straight biography of Julia Child.  See it for Streep.

Review: 7/10.

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” 2009.  Dir. Stephan Sommers.  With Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marlon Waynes, Sienna Miller and Dennis Quaid.

I rented this because of my nostalgic love for the old cartoon show.  And I wanted to watch something I could be entertained by and ignore.  I should have went with my safety blanket, “Cliffhanger”.  I got to halfway in the film when Brendan Frazer rolled up on a motorcycle and I turned it off.  I couldn’t watch it anymore.  The film peaked at that moment.

Review: 3/10.



“Antichrist” – 2009.  Dir. Lars von Trier.  With Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourgh.

This is a film that needs to be broken down frame by frame and studied.  There is so much symbolism, mainly religious, that is jammed packed throughout the film.  The opening of the film is a graphically romantic sex scene between a husband (Dafoe) and wife (Gainsbourgh).  It’s beautifully shot in black and white and slow motion with classical music playing as the soundtrack.  It’s so cliche, but it’s the only way it could have been mastered.  It’s one of the best openings to a film I have ever seen.  While the couple are having sex, their toddler son escapes his crib and falls to his death from a third story window.  The husband being a psychiatrist goes against everything he knows and treats his wife who is suffering from the utter guilt of their son’s death.  They go to their cabin in “Eden”, this is where horrible things start to happen.  This film is one of the most visually beautiful things I have ever seen.  Ever.  Expect to read A LOT more about this film very soon.

Review: 10/10.

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

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