The Movie Buffer

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dvd Review: Lord of War


L337 Spoilerz!


Nic Cage is back in another movie that was poorly advertised and under appreciated at the box office. The title describes exactly the content of the movie: Nic Cage is a gun runner who finds himself providing arms to opposing forces in many of the conflicts around the world.

The director, Andrew Niccol, who directed Gattaca and S1m0ne, does a great job moving the story along and getting the right reactions out of the cast. The cinematography is excellent with many different locations around the world: Ukraine, Chechnya, West Africa, China and Korea. Some of the still shots of these locals were very impressive, though they may have been improvised behind the studio. The story isn’t as simple as it would seem, it has a few twists throughout to keep things interesting.

Cage is great as the as the wily arms dealer that evades capture at every turn whilst on his many illegal trips abroad, Yuri Orlov. He imparts much of his own squirreliness to the character and his unique style of restrained anger/explosive temper really gives the character a touch of reality. Jared Leto plays Cage’s indecisive, rambunctious younger brother. He doesn’t fit into the world of gun running because of his frantic demeanor and his unwillingness to remove himself from feeling for the people that the guns he is selling are going to kill. He is quickly left behind as he becomes a hindrance to Cage and ultimately his nature is his downfall. Ethan Hawke is an officious federal agent, who is tracking down Cage, in the hopes of cementing his job. Catching this arms trader is a career maker. He is unwilling to bend the rules to catch Cage. He will wait patiently until Cage makes a mistake to haul him in under a plethora of charges.

The flaws in this movie do get on your nerves. Bridget Moynahan, who plays Cage’s movie wife, did not give a good performance in this movie. She looked great but when the director tried to put great importance on family and the relationships between people she didn’t really fit into this movie. There wasn’t on-screen chemistry between Cage and her. The importance of family is brought up several times during the movie and seems to be a big part of Yuri’s life but in the end he makes a decision that doesn’t really fit his character.

Lord of War gets a 7 out of 10 or a 3/5 stars because the Yuri’s wife and kid aren’t likeable and the family ties that should mean a lot don’t. I liked the movie quite a bit. Especially, the shot with all the tanks and the warehouses full of guns. Apparently, the film makers had to warn NATO that they were doing this shot because otherwise it might have looked like they were actually conducting military exercises.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Even the trailer spoils this movie

Firewall promised to be one of those high tech caper movies but it ended up being a product placement showcase. IPod, Samsung (TVs, and other appliances),Chrysler, Swansons(Hungry Man Dinners) litter the screen for far too long. This was supposed to be an action-type film but the action sequences were anything but. Action movies aren’t food for thought but they should be entertaining.

Harrison Ford is yet again placed in a situation where he needs to sacrifice himself in order to save his family. Ford plays a digital security expert that some meticulous but absentminded criminals, who kidnap his family, extort to steal money from the bank he works for. The criminals don’t expect the meek, mild mannered Ford to fight back but to their surprise he does and he does his best to ruin their plans.

There’s not much to say about this movie because the story was paper thin, the characters were lifeless and the action sequences were bland. The blame rests on everyone involved in the directing, writing and editing. The cast was up to the task of playing each of the simple characters but since they had nothing interesting or important to say, they all stiffly recited their lines and picked up their pay checks. Other than Ford and Bettany, there were some decent actors involved in this movie, Virginia Madsen, Robert Patrick and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe O’Brian from ‘24’) but they were wasted on one note characters who should have been dropped because they added nothing to the picture. The air-headed wife and obnoxious children in the movie are terrible, if they wanted to make these characters totally unlikable and unsympathetic then they succeeded. I was hoping for a quick resolution to that situation when Ford said he wouldn’t work with the criminals.

This movie barely pushes a 1 out of 10 and deserves nothing more than a 2 thumbs down. This movie gets a 1 out of ten because I liked the final fight scene where Ford just wails the hell out of Paul Bettany and the MacGyver-esque contraption he comes up with to capture the bank account numbers.

Ford beating up a pale-faced, pretty boy
Ford does an okay MacGyver impression

Weak action
Lame characters
No attachment to anything
No resolution to the story

Thursday, February 16, 2006



Very few spoilers

***End Note***

‘Shopgirl’ was a movie that I was going into without expectations. It looked fairly similar to ‘Lost in Translation’ but I was happily surprised that it was rather different. I had heard that Coppola may have cribbed some of the content of this short story for her picture. The movie was good, though the third act was a pale finish to the story.

Though the director, Anand Tucker, is a relatively inexperienced, he does capture the fragility of relationships and love in general. This is characterized in the excellent performance he got out of the main cast. He maintains a good pace throughout the film not by adding complex shots but letting the story develop by itself. Tucker really gets the Los Angeles feel across with the shots of the city at night from the hills, the fancy shops and the expensive cars. Steve Martin’s screen play is pretty solid though it begins to show cracks near the end of the film. The resolution comes a little too quickly but this is forgivable because the build up was well constructed. The way the characters were written was very lifelike and believable. Alongside the love story there were plenty of laughs. It was a well constructed script that could appeal to pretty much everyone.

The acting in the film was excellent. Steve Martin turns in one his best dramatic performances of his career with this film. He plays an older tech millionaire who courts Claire Danes’ glove sales clerk. Danes fits the role of the introverted, humbly attired shop girl perfectly and we quickly learn that she has more depth than meets the eye. Jason Schwartzman plays an irrepressible, optimistic amplifier salesman who falls in love with Danes after seeing her at the laundromat. These three form a love strange love triangle, one side of which is heartfelt and subdued and the other is impulsive and messy.

Overall, the story is rather cute. We know, deep down, who Danes will end up but we want to see what happens next. This movie deserves a 7/10 or 3/5 stars. It’s an easy story to get into, but we have seen this thing before. The bookend narration was distracting, Martin being in the movie as one of the stars and the omniscient narrator struck me as odd. It’s mostly date movie fodder save one or two scenes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Trailers Remixed

Recently, I’ve been noticing many remix movie trailers popping up on sites such as College Humor and eBaum’s World. Some are pretty clever and it really goes to show that a change in music and tone can really alter the feel and the story of the movie.

Prepare to laugh:

Brokeback..To The Future -

Sleepless in Seattle -

Shining -

Big -

Seven -

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Opening the Vault

I’ve stolen this idea from Joel but I’m sure he won’t mind: A list of movies over the past 24 years that I know and love. I had a hard time deciding on some of them but I’m pleased with the result. Post your faves up here too!

2005: Sin City
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2003: Kill Bill Vol.1
2002: Road to Perdition
2001: Mulholland Dr.
2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
1999: American Beauty
1998: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
1997: L.A. Confidential
1996: Fargo
1995: The Usual Suspects
1994: Pulp Fiction
1993: Army of Darkness
1992: Firewalk with Me
1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1990: Goodfellas
1989: Batman
1988: Die Hard
1987: Robocop
1986: Platoon
1985: Back to the Future
1984: Transformers: The Movie
1983: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
1982: TRON

There were some ties but I went with the movies I’ve watched more frequently in that case. Some of the runners up are Clerks, Equilibrium, The Matrix, Capote and Spaceballs.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006



Mild spoilers present. Also, there wasn't a bigger picture. It's a basball cap facing an army helmet.


When I write a review it’s usually right after a film because I’m excited to write about it. But this one was slightly different. I thought that if I gave this film a bad review a gigantic firestorm would arise because of what the film was about. I got over it because I know that the readers of this site can handle a bad review when I have a point.

The story revolves around a young man named Pip, you know, from Great Expectations – the filmmaker won’t let you forget - and his struggle through life after a car accident claims the life of his brother, who has recently announced that he was gay. While living on the street, Pip meets a future social worker and love interest, Jenny, a best friend/ gay prostitute, Clark/Billy, and an unusual confidant, Father Chris. Upon Pip’s eighteenth birthday, he receives a cassette tape on which his grandfather has recorded a description of the terrible events he witnessed during world war two and several life lessons. Armed with lessons learned and forgiveness given, Pip and his group of friends set about to solve their problems.

This is writer/director, Richard Bell’s, first attempt at a feature length film and this does buy him some slack but the flaws in the film were numerous and flagrant. The direction of the film did not flow because of poorly timed flashbacks and scene changes. The cinematography was apt, most of the scenes take place on the streets of Vancouver. Though Bell feels like he had an air tight script, he didn’t get the right delivery from the actors, as the director he should have challenged the actors to get inside the heads of these characters and breathe life into them. The dialog sounds hollow and played up for the camera. On paper the story seems to have some cinematic chops, a poor traumatized kid works hard to succeed in a world that would have written him off. But the translation onto the screen is weak at best. I guess his editorial staff was a bunch of friends who didn’t want to discourage him when his script was mortally wounded and in need of resuscitation. Another problem I had with the scripting/story, homosexual themes and characters felt tacked on for no reason, as a hook, a cheap trick or as a flag for film festivals to reconsider including this film in their rosters. I’m not against having gay characters in movies or portraying the gay lifestyle but when it is used in this manner, it is offensive, it trivializes the issues and it cheapens the film as a whole.

I can’t say too much about actual film production because my experience with that is key grip and gaffer for my housemate’s student films but I did learn a lot about heavy lifting, dollies and lights. In a real film the stakes are much higher than getting that ‘A’, so the results must be better. The color balance was off, probably because the scenes were filmed out of sequence, and some of the shots were overly grainy for even for artistic reasons.

The actors that were brought into this movie are recognizable from Canadian TV and several of them actually have some big budget movies under their belts. Along side the newer actors, there were some veteran actors such as Alan Cumming and Ian McKellan. Cumming was one of the two bright spots of the film, the rest of the actors do have potential that is never realized. The second bright pot is the introduction of the cassette tape, voiced by McKellan, which leads in to the numerous flashbacks to the war. The war scenes were done pretty well; they were done is a hectic style with some brutal gore. But yet again another character is needlessly homosexual.

In the end, the complex problems that exist in the movie get band-aid solutions and any heart was lost. It was like an episode of Quantum Leap when Sam jumps into some nerd and acts all tough to stand up to the bullies and everything gets made right without the feel good ending or the comedy. The tape, whose influence should have entered the movie earlier to catalyze the story, comes into the movie late and the rapid change in the plot it induces clash with established facts about the characters’ personalities.

I’m giving this film 2/10 stars or no thumbs up because the movie had potential but ended up a skeleton of what it could have been. Cumming does a good job as his bit character but the rest of the cast flops around with dialog that doesn’t stir emotional connection between the crowd and the actors. The directing was unpolished and the writing was ragged. You need big balls to write a compelling story using these characters and Bell ends up with a caricatures.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

T-minus 30 days...

Well, Jan 31st is one of the most interesting days of the year because the Academy Award nominations are announced a month in advance to allow for speculation and hype to build. This year was an excellent year for the Oscars. There were at least 5 great movies and about 10 worth mentioning. Unlike previous years where there are only a couple which allows for substandard performances to garner awards from the Academy. The list is available here: , and I have to say that I am quite happy with what the academy has chosen this year. It’s going to be some race, people. Of course the front runner for most of these awards is going to be “Brokeback Mountain”, which certainly does not deserve the fanfare that it has been enjoying. Yes, I get that they’re gay cowboys, get on with the story, develop the characters or something. The rest of the picks are certainly apt. I have not seen many of the shorts, foreign or the documentaries but over the coming weeks I will find a way to see them and I’ll make my picks as soon as possible.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006



Keep hands and feet inside the car or spoilers will likely occur


***writers note: This review is very late because I haven’t been feeling very well. I’m very sorry for the long wait for a new post but thank you for still showing up.***

Truman Capote is not a man that I knew very much about going into this film. The trailers for this film intrigued me though, it looked like a murder mystery. But upon further inspection I came to learn that this was almost a documentary of how Capote wrote his most famous non-fiction novel “In Cold Blood”. Capote effectively created a new genre of writing non-fiction by incorporating the style, the tone and imagery of fiction into his novel. Capote was important in American culture not only for his literary impact, which include the aforementioned novel and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but about his pro-homosexual stand, he himself was gay and I was surprised to learn that he was the template of what we would think of the stereotypical homosexual: The lispy high pitched voice, the rich tastes, the holier than thou attitude. The fact that he is gay is briefly mentioned several times but they skirt around the topic, probably to avoid the pitfalls of taking a hard stand on the topic. That was the man, this is the movie.

The director of this film, Bennett Miller, is a sophomore director and he has shown that he can handle the heavy material of this movie. The movie revolves around the story of two murderers in a small town in Kansas. After reading about the murders in the newspaper, Capote and his childhood friend and author, Harper Lee, head down to Kansas to write about the events. This project would finally become “In Cold Blood”. The cinematography of this movie is sedated which is great because the story is so poignant that anything more would have cluttered the film. The atmosphere is perfect, though we know how the story is going to end we do eventually relate to the criminal’s and Capote’s situation.

The acting in the film is nearly flawless. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a good job of impersonating Capote. The problem with Hoffman was I could not totally buy him as Capote, I kept seeing features from other characters that he has embodied in previous movies especially when he removes his glasses and mopes around. Otherwise, an excellent portrayal of the man. The secondary cast is very strong with Clifton Collins Jr. playing Perry Smith, one of the murderers, Chris Cooper(American Beauty, Jarhead), playing the chief investigator of the murders, Bruce Greenwood (Rules of Engagement, I, robot) plays Jack Dunphy, play-write and partner of Capote, and Catherine Keener (40 year old Virgin, S1m0ne) plays Harper Lee. All of the secondary characters are three dimensional, they have character, they seem to live and breathe like the protagonist.

This movie is an almost perfect 8/10 or 4 out of 5 stars. I would say that it was one of the top three movies of 2005. I can’t say much more about the film without ruining the some major parts of it but if you have a chance to see it, go for it( those of you who live in Kingston, it’s at the Screening Room until Thursday this week). This movie is a very interesting character study of a man that was very controversial in his day and how his writing affected American culture.

Awesome directing
wonderful acting
Even though you know whats going to happen you never lose interest

Hoffman's unique style comes through in the character
They use the "Deus Ex Machina" ending( text comes up to describe what happens next) which is annoying