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Insomnia

Continuing with my Christopher Nolan theme, Insomnia is the story of a top of the line LA detective that is called upon to solve a homicide in Alaska of a high school girl.

Insomnia is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.  I haven’t actually seen the original, which I need to do, but the main unwritten character is the daytime that never ends.  There’s no darkness.  These characters live in eternal daylight.  They’re sleep-deprived and can’t escape the sun, and it affects them deeply.  It affects their actions and compounds the lives they have been dealing with, especially in the case of Al Pacino’s character Will Dormer.

Will is a world renowned detective, but he’s not always on the up and up.  He’s running from a few demons of his own in LA, and has Internal Affairs on his back for certain misconduct in past cases.  He’s a man who knows what needs to get done to solve a case.  That doesn’t mean his actions are always right.

Will gets more in the thick of things as the case goes on, and he starts to hone in on a suspect, Walter Finch (Robin Williams).  Finch is a hometown loner that has always been a little strange, and local’s know is a little off.  Will focuses on him, but things start to go awry within his task force, and then he finds himself in a whole different mess.

A lot of talk involves The Prestige as the one Nolan standout that never got enough credit, but I think Insomnia is the really that film.  It’s suspenseful, it’s dark, it sits in Nolan’s world so well.  It also has the feel that we will see in his future films.

Grade: A-

The Prestige

Christopher Nolan is easily one of the greatest filmmakers out there today.  That is a fact and is uncontested.  I’m taking a look at how he got there.

The Prestige is a film that I thought was “ok” on first viewing .  10+ years later….I think it’s still “ok”.

The film follows the lives of two magicians played by Christian Bale, and Hugh Jackman.  They are rivals that are trying to cement their names as the greatest magician ever.  They attempt to one up each other with a new and daring trick.  The newest trick they are both trying to perfect is “The Transported Man”  Each magician sets out to disappear through one door, and re-appear immediately through an adjacent door.

The magicians trick is one between slight of hand, tricky, and somewhere between true magic as well.  Christian Bale’s character, Fallon, seems to perfect The Transported Man trick, and Hugh Jackman, The Great Danton, sets out to find out exactly how he is doing it.  It must be a double he thinks, but he, nor his assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) are able to confirm this.

It’s only when The Great Danton comes upon Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), that he realizes real, TRUE magic may actually exist, and he may hold the key to that magic.  The thing is though…if real magic exists, is it actually better than the smoke and mirrors that is presented to the public, and also at what cost.

This is Christopher Nolan, so it’s not like you’re watching an amateur behind the lens, and the acting is obviously top notch.  My only real problem is with the script of the film.  At times it drags on and feels disjointed.  This is Nolan we are talking about as well, so we’re talking about the highest caliber of talent.  The Prestige is entertaining, no doubt, but it doesn’t show the talent that he’s capable of.  It plays to him as Panic Room plays to David Fincher.

Grade: B

Life

The greatest question the universe has to offer.  Is there life out there?  And if there is what form will it take?  There have been beyond numerous films attempting to answer this question, and I’d say I enjoy the majority of the them.  Some are done much better than others.  Life…. it sits somewhere in between.

The film begins with members of the ISS finding a single celled organism in the far reaches of space.  It is the first organism of its kind.  They bring it on board in order to study it, and things start to go wrong.  I mean of course, why wouldn’t they?

Numerous tests begin on this new organism as the crew tries to understand what it is.  The crew each has their own specific roles on the ship, and everyone sticks to protocol.  When the organism attacks biologist Dr. Hugh Berry everyone’s get turned on their heads.

The organism which, looks like a piece of scotch tape meets a white banana peel, escapes and begins to move throughout the ISS, growing and adapting to its surrounding.  It’s up to the crew to find it and stop it before it kills them all….heard this before?

The film tries to be as realistic as possible if something like this would ever happen.  The problem is that it moves quite slowly.  40 minutes in to the film feels like 2 hours, and we’re wondering..where is this going?

There’s some great visuals and effects within the film, but in this day and age that’s nothing new.  Technology is at the forefront in films, and especially films involving space.  The acting is great as well with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal being great in their parts, and even the direction by Daniel Espinosa is fantastic, but Life just doesn’t give you anything to walk away from saying wow.

The comparisons to Alien are much too strong, and I thought that the first time I saw the trailer.  Life is a film that feels like it was rushed to post production in order to beat the release of Alien: Covenant.  Does that make it any less entertaining?  No, not really, but that doesn’t make it very good.

Grade: C+

Urban Legend (1998)

The late 90s brought a pantheon of teen comedy and horror films to the big screen, making billions off teenagers such of myself with films that were basically repackaged films of older horror films.  The door was opened when Scream took the world by storm, bringing multiple copycats soon after.  Urban Legend is one of those.

 

In a completely un-original concept, we follow a number of college students around as one by one (I mean shocking right) they are picked off by someone re-creating urban legends, and wearing a parka…they couldn’t even be original with that (I Know What You Did Last Summer….same killer).

Who’s the killer?  Who could it possibly be?  The creepy school janitor? The professor? The school reporter?  We’re all in such suspense!  The big problem is that we don’t even get scares from anything.  At least give us some jump out of the closet moments.

The best part of the film is probably watching Jared Leto roll his eyes acting through this piece of garbage. (I’m just doing this for the paycheck and to get me on the road to winning an Oscar).

For some reason Robert Englund pops up as a professor teaching an urban legend class, but we never understand what he has to do with the film…except for using him for Freddy Krueger status to bump box office returns.

In the end Urban Legend is a film that took 10 pages from one horror movie, 10 pages from another horror movie, 10 pages from another, and so forth and so forth, and pieced together a real piece of garbage horror film.

Grade: D