Pinhole Movie Reviews

Saving Private Ryan by William
February 19, 2015, 9:18 pm
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After Matt Damon’s three brothers die in combat, Tom Hanks and his men go find him in order to spare his mother the pain of losing all her sons to the Second World War. I guess pretty much every war movie is an anti-war movie, and this one is, too. War is terrible; people kill people and then get killed themselves. People who don’t deserve to die, die anyway. Spielberg’s movie brings the tragedy of World War II to life by first humanizing the soldiers, and then going ahead and killing them. Worth Watching.

Saving Private Ryan poster.jpg

Killing Zoe by Thomas
September 22, 2014, 8:17 pm
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Eric Stoltz is an American bank robber in Paris who, together with a crew of maniacal French junkies, parties all night and then robs a bank the next day.  He also sleeps with Julie Delpy — bank teller by day, call girl by night! Right. It’s absurd, salacious, extremely violent — an exploitation film, like Tarantino without the irony or the production values. Turns out it was written and directed by Roger Avary, who contributed some of the more outlandish scenes to the Pulp Fiction script, which makes sense.  Anyhow, if you like the heist genre or cult movies in general then it’s worth checking out. Otherwise, just watchable.


Killing Zoe 

The Ice Storm by Thomas
September 21, 2014, 11:50 am
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A disturbing family drama about sex and the limits of the suburban idyll; the darker cousin to American Beauty.  And yet it has no use for the stylized design, “titillating” teen nudity, or pretentious lyricism of that movie.  Maybe that’s because middle class values and sexual mores were already being called into question in the 1970’s setting…but also Ang Lee creates a good rhythm here, moving naturally between each set of characters (miserable adults vs. horny teenagers) so that we get a large amount of detail in each scene and yet the plot moves along just so.  Who needs pretty framing devices in this case?

The actors seem amazingly candid — the married couples have such scorn for each other, the teens are so pained with their burden of adolescence — plus the cinematography is impressive.  (Neatly composed silences, almost Ozu-esque, contrast with some truly wacky visuals — such as an extreme close-up of the very slim patch of rear end peaking over a girl’s waistline, followed by a cut back to the face of the boy behind her, transfixed. Yikes!) This is worth watching — though if you object to obscenity I imagine you’ll find it unwatchable.

The Ice Storm

Dead Man by Thomas
September 21, 2014, 10:14 am
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Jim Jarmusch filmed this rambling, upside-down Western.  Johnny Depp plays a fancily dressed dude from back East, civilized if a bit dim, who goes on an ill-fated journey West. He’s a character type from the classic Western, a person whose manners prove useless on the wild frontier.  Except this time we follow his strange, almost psychedelic transformation into a gun-toting outlaw. I like the black & white photography, random twangy tones of music by Neil Young — and really it wouldn’t have worked without many amazing performances.  Look for Crispin Glover who is especially scary! Worth watching.


Dead Man

Jerry Maguire by Thomas
September 13, 2014, 7:52 pm
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Cruise is the ultimate late capitalist, a smooth operator trading entirely on image. He should be on top of the world, yet somehow he’s unhappy. It turns out he’s engaged to a mechanical career woman, he lacks wholesome male bonding, and worst of all his beloved realm of sports has become hollow and corporate. Our hero must find a meaningful relationship while re-committing himself to the lost chivalry of sports marketing! Come on, how strange is that premise?

Cameron Crowe wrote and directed this specimen: a sports movie whose focus is not on on bonding-through-athleticism but on masculinity, virtue in a “cynical world” and family-life-in-the-90’s type stuff.  I like it because it’s stylish and self-conscious and aimed at adults. I admit it’s dated (the fax machine), perilously cute-and-sweet (the toddler, the swells of music), fraught with stereotypes (the emasculated jazz loser, the women’s group, the Tidwell family)…but the acting is charming and you gotta love the snappy dialogue. It’s like old school Hollywood returns; an update on the old tear-jerker romance. I say, worth checking out


Jerry Maguire

Peter’s Friends by Thomas
September 1, 2014, 7:53 pm
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Stephen Fry is an amiable fop who invites his old university drama club friends for a little New Years Eve get together at the ole country estate.  Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the movie gathers a generation of stars — Branagh, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, etc. — for a kind of 90’s British Big Chill.  (Actually more than a generation, since the older lady who plays the maid is actually Emma Thompson’s mother! Fun fact.)

In The Big Chill, we get a somber tone at the start, followed by a gradual uptick of humor and period music and bittersweet sentimentality as you get to know the ensemble.  Peter’s Friends, on the other hand, tries to force the mirth with 80’s music, dudes in drag, a comically annoying American, and sex romp type scenarios — before you actually care about the characters.  When they finally reveal their devastating burdens in Act II or III, you hardly get time to process any of it.  Despite this and other screenwriting issues, the movie does have its highlights including several Hugh Laurie musical numbers. If you love ensemble comedies about the perils of adulthood, this is worth checking out.  Otherwise, just watchable.  


Peter’s Friends


Metropolitan by tincolor
August 30, 2014, 6:15 am
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A group of Freshmen are back home in Manhattan for winter break and enjoying the debutante ball season, which is apparently a thing that still exists today. The dialogue is stilted, the acting is not great and there really isn’t very much action, but if you give it a chance, Whit Stillman’s Academy Award nominated film is actually really great! This came highly recommended to me, and if it weren’t for that, I never would have watched it all the way through, and basically, it took the length of the entire movie for me to get into it, but once I did, I wondered how I couldn’t have been completely in love with it from frame one. Think “Diner” meets “Rushmore” meets any Robert Altman film. Worth watching.


Crimson Tide by Thomas
August 24, 2014, 1:24 am
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Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington are two naval officers who must vie for control of an American sub.  At stake: the fate of the world!  The film’s central conflict relies on a rather strange premise: Chechen rebels have seized control of Russian subs and threaten nuclear apocalypse. (Is this what the public really thought would happen?) With the strong ensemble, slick direction from Tony Scott, and the fact that Tarantino himself was hired to jazz up the script (hence the Silver Surfer references) this movie should have been better.  Watchable.

NB: I just find it really hard to avoid watching random 90’s Hollywood movies when they’re a click away. Some prove to be great (Jackie Brown, The Cable Guy) others are fun and nostalgic (Searching for Bobby Fischer, Can’t Hardly Wait) but almost all have surprises in the cast. Crimson Tide, for instance, has Vigo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Steve Zahn, and Jason Robards!  Amazing.


Crimson Tide

The Cable Guy by Thomas
August 9, 2014, 5:34 pm
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Matthew Broderick is a newly single but otherwise normal dude.  Then he encounters a kind of social demon or bogeyman – a twisted, single-parent child of the TV generation (Jim Carrey) — and his life unravels.  Ben Stiller directed, Judd Appatow (co)produced, Leslie Mann (co)starred, and many edgy comedians appeared in this satire, a sort of Kafka story about mass media.

This movie is farcical, self-aware, bizarre and uncomfortable, bending genres from comedy to suspense to horror  (which is not marketing friendly) and here’s a key point: it’s a Hollywood-scale production that’s aimed at adults.  Hence, it was a flop.  I just love the fact that the studios must have thought they could green light *any* project involving Jim Carrey and make money.  Ha! I’m gonna go for Required Viewing.


The Cable Guy

The Next Karate Kid by Thomas
August 5, 2014, 11:53 pm
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This is an action-oriented Karate Kid sequel starring an up-and-coming Hillary Swank. That much I can understand. But why is she an angry, disaffected teen who also loves makeup and wants to go to the mall? And what’s with the high school paramilitary? Are they just there to distract from the shallow teen love plot, or are we mired in the dystopian future? Isn’t it *actually* hilarious when Mr. Miyagi establishes prom night curfew with Swank’s terrified boyfriend? When did Zen monks gain a reputation for madcap antics? Seriously: What is going on here? Watchable.


The Next Karate Kid

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