Author: Logan P. Miller

Review: Spider-Man

Spider-Man

Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” soars with strong characters and breathtaking sky-scraper cinematography, the emotional tone ably matched with the often overdone action tone of comic-book films. Creator of ‘The Evil Dead’ B-franchise, Director Raimi has a knack for dynamic set-pieces; each one livens the movements of the super-reflexive Spider-man, and leads him into the next destruction-ridden scene.

Peter Parker, played by Toby McGuire, is a reserved high-school student with a Romeo-like passion for the girl who lives next door, Mary Jane, played by Kristen Dunst. Possibly as a result of his humility and pity, as Peter often overhears the harsh screaming and glass-shattering chaos of Mary and her father fighting. The two have a very touching encounter as she runs out the back in one of those dramatic situations, and he tenderly approaches her with his hands folded on the fence that divides them, on the way to taking the garbage out for his caring Uncle Ben and Aunt May.

Peter Parker’s social position is flipped, quite literally, when he’s on a field-trip at a Spider genealogy institute, and a loose spider-experiment seeps down from the ceiling on a silk web and bites his finger as he snaps a photograph. His physique goes from scrawny to built soon after, and his super abilities give him much spider play-time for us and him to have fun with. With these powers, his Uncle Ben says, comes great responsibility; and so it goes.

Mary Jane is the romantic focus of the first and following Spider-Man sequels. She symbolizes the universal bound of love, one of the only normal things Peter is acquainted with, and is a sobering reminder to the audience of the sacrifice Peter is making as the masked vigilante. The capitalist villain Green Goblin, played by a wide-smirking Willem Dafoe, combats Spider-Man throughout, while also having Thanksgiving dinner with Aunt May, his son Harry and Mary Jane, presently Harry’s girlfriend. The dramatic irony leads us into the final-sequences with grave suspense and anticipation.

Spider-Man is a versatile and well-acted adaption of Stan Lee’s comic series and stands as further of Director Sam Raimi’s talents with both the actors and the extravagant, practical set-design. The plot has many loopholes for Peter to avoid, like his best friend Harry being the son of a villainous bio-rat goblin, and they are left untouched with grace and dignity. The film makes a strong mark for the future sequels.

Review: Requiem for a Dream

“Requiem for a Dream” Directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on a novel by Hubert Selby Jr., is a real jaw-clenching experience of drug-abuse. Jared Leto stars as Harry Goldfarb, a paper-white needle-pushing hound, alongside his equally placid girlfriend, Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly. The two are the Bonnie and Clyde of druggies, always self-assuring each other and hoisting up their constantly moody spirits; the feelings of doom that can quite literally be calculated by how many hours it’s been since they’ve last used.

Alongside Harry Goldfarb is his fast-talking pal Tyrone Love, played by Marlon Wayans. As partners, they collaborate on the streets, sniffing out deals and outrunning collectors. We are also shown a side-story of Harry’s seemingly old mother, who dries up all day in a hot and uncomfortable apartment. She watches a game-show on television, which is advertising for participants to come on the show. She sees the glamorous excitement in the eyes of the contestants, and in response begins to grow a strong desire to become beautiful and get on the, which she attempts to do by taking various diet pills. The outcome of all this dreary depiction of broken lives, the Director Aronofsky hopes, is for the viewers to be able to predict the ending, if you already cannot; this is a movie where it’s right to know the outcome, as most people realize that prostitution for drugs and repetitive needle use does not lead to long kisses on the beach. And this one, I can assuredly say, does not end on the beach.

The path to destruction is the main depiction being shown on screen; along the way, we see the self-induced slums, the idiosyncratic sensibilities and attitudes, similar to Danny Boyle’s film ‘Trainspotting’ about British heroin addicts. Behind its own righteousness, the film has an ulterior way of trying to seem hip and spontaneous with swift jump-cuts and hot getaways; however, the film wouldn’t have much of an impact if the characters were arrested early on; the most frightening thing about the whole film is the final, hectic third act, where not only does the emotional turmoil begin boiling to the surface, but also the physical-wreckage of Mrs. Goldfarb and her son Harry Goldfarb’s bodies. Despite a keen sense of blunt righteousness, “Requiem for a Dream” is an eye-opening and important American film.

The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation, a seminal film by acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola, takes a few seconds of fragmented, audio-recorded dialogue between a man and a woman and makes it the subject of a film. Scrutinizing the audio-track is legendary surveillance expert Henry Caul, a quiet, heavy-gazing man with a few (many) years of experience under his belt. His longevity does not provide him with any moral cushioning, however, and the film progresses as he realizes that the tape he is submitting to the corporation that hired him might result in the murder of his clients, a man and woman.

We see early on, when Harry visits a woman in a different apartment, the sexual tensions present: he’s afraid to become close to a woman, it seems, because he is afraid to reveal any sort of inner secret. And when he reveals this to a woman in what seems to be an entirely honest moment, it is recorded by a competitor, who Harry hadn’t realized had bugged him; all fun and games, for the competition, but Harry takes guard and responds equally as mad at this act of private thievery as he would have if his professional tapes were stolen. It’s all the same to him.

Earlier in the film, when the same sardonically hateful and envious fellow surveillance expert asks Harry about how he tapped into a boat and recorded a highly-guarded dialogue, which resulted in the murder of three different persons, we find out why he is so ambivalent to give the tapes in and return to such a state of murderous guilt. He tries to remain objective, but the line between duty and moral obligation becomes thin; a machine would be better fit for the job of Henry, but then does that not make the creator of the machine equally immoral?

The Conversation expertly blends existential angst and obsession into a sharp and uniquely spliced audio experience filled with buzzing, static voices. The slow increase of paranoia hits Henry hard, his past being suddenly explored in a sort of expressionistic black- and-white scene where he’s calling towards a woman he listens to, standing fearfully atop long concrete stairs, listening to him, as if he were another person just exploiting her for information, not a friend, not anyone who would help.

Francis Ford Coppola’s sensitive and intriguing look into surveillance professionals boasts great performances from Gene Hackman as Harry, and a very influential use of audio as a stepping stone and as a main ingredient in the narrative. A jarring, tantalizing look into a man who cares about nothing more than the keys in his life; to his apartment, his mind, and to his various recordings.

Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby

9/10

Like his earlier film “Repulsion” Roman Polanski  uses a quiet, sensitive woman as the magnet of his camera in his first American film, and also blends her into its themes and shadows with keen cinematic ability. The film starts with a common-day sight of a man and a woman, ready for a child, buying an Old new york apartment several floors above the city streets, and appearing to be occupied mainly by elderly folk. The hard floor echoes and the empty floors are hallow and unoccupied by furniture. The titular character, played by Mia Farrow, stays at home in preparation for the new baby, while her husband Guy, played by John Cassavettes, goes to work as an aspiring actor. His dramas and failures are more expressed than the fears of Rosemary and her pregnancy, suppressing her internal doubts like the stereotypical housewife.

The signature of Polanski is taking the normal patterns of life and twisting them by the mind’s fears and hesitations into something mutated. Child-birth should be celebrated, but it is instead feared by Rosemary, as she thinks the baby is of a different world or somehow cursed by the devil. Through these dark, brooding sequences of terror, Rosemary’s Baby influenced such well-regarded future films as “The Omen” and “The Exorcist”.

The main source of paranoia in Rosemary is her mysterious next door neighbors, Roman and Minnie. Guy takes a fond liking to them and often leaves to have conversations with Roman, while Rosemary fears the two rather eccentric elders are conniving behind her back.  Minnie brings over little bowls of Chocolate Mousse for Rosemary, taking concern over her health, but even the sweet desert seems like a trap, a snare concocted by the odd woman. The film is well-paced and creepy, in huge part due to the performances, especially the older neighbor Minnie,  played by Ruth Gordon, with black, focused eyes and a very strange wardrobe; she commands the screen whenever she’s present with her glossy but shadowy facade.

Review: Splice

Splice, directed by Vincenzo Natali, is a strange concoction of genres: It’s horror and science-fiction, erotic and beautiful; the film as a whole will have most deeming it as uncomfortably strange, a solid wave of repulsed viewers already floating up around the surface. The film stars the gentle-faced Adrien Brody as Scientist Clive Nicoli, alongside his Scientific partner and girlfriend Elsa Kast, played by Sarah Polley. Their scientific goal is to genetically-engineer the DNA of several animals in order to create a hybrid-organism; however, this Prometheus-like attempt results in an uncontrolled accident hybrid that takes a subtle course of strange and circumstantial events upon birth and natural growth.

There is a well-executed device of foreshadowing early in the film, where the scientists create a pair of DNA-species that turn amok on each other to a splattering death, in front of a querying crowd of Scientists and patent-ready business men. If a cult-horror club had been flipped instead into the room, applause would surely spark at such a graphic, primitively violent presentation. What does one say when their genetically-engineered animal catches the rabies in a vacuum-cleaned glass chamber? Oh, damn.

The task of hiding the new animal-species, a placid round-headed humanoid with a tail and a vertical incision-like mark on her skull, whom the scientists name Dren, is very difficult, as Dren displays keen curiosity resembling that of a budding human child. She rummages through scientific-materials and refuses to eat the food set out for her, when finally Scientist Clive removes her from the lab, relocating her out in a barn in a cold and desolate forest. He and Elsa sporadically visit, and the strangest act of the film ensues. Dren gradually begins to quietly resent Elsa and starts growing flirtatiously clingy towards Clive.

The film has an unnerving bizarreness to it, but it’s also very effective with legitimately scary moments and some uneasy but nonetheless thought-provoking questions. It’s dark, Orwellian, and unpredictable.