Movie Review: Leaving Las Vegas (1996)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Sometimes a movie just breaks you. And that’s what happened to me here. So let’s just get into the review itself.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Leaving Las Vegas”.

After he loses everything due to his alcoholism, screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) moves to Las Vegas to try to drink himself to death. But those plans get a little halted when he meets and forms a bond with a prostitute named Sera (Elisabeth Shue). But don’t think that this is some happy redemption story, because it fucking isn’t. It’s a tragic and depressing character study about a very self-destructive man. And god damn, it is incredibly well handled. It deals with its subjects with a lot of subtlety and nuance, making it feel very grounded. There are moments throughout where it looks up for a bit, but for the most part it’s a heartbreaking story that honestly made me tear up at multiple times throughout. So while the story made me feel like shit, I still found it to be pretty fucking great.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, nuanced, and just overall feel fairly realistic. First up we have Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter who gets the boot due to his devotion to the bottle. He is a surprisingly self-aware man, he knows that what he’s doing is bad for him, but he’s just kind of accepted it as his reality, fully embracing the self-destructiveness of his behavior. Not saying it justifies it all, but it makes him quite an interesting figure within the whole “characters who are alcoholics” spectrum. And Nicolas Cage is fantastic in the role. Yeah, you read that right. There is some of his quirky expressionism sprinkled in throughout, but for the most part this is a relatively subdued and almost haunting performance. Next we have Elisabeth Shue as Sera, the prostitute that Ben meets forms a bit of a bond with. She of course already has a bit of a tragic existence, involving the life she’s been leading. And seeing how it alters when she meets Ben makes her quite an interesting character too. And Elisabeth Shue is great in the role. She doesn’t always show it in big, loud scenes, but you can read every emotion she has to portray in her eyes. We also get supporting work from people like Julian Sands, Graham Beckel, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Mike Figgis and Anthony Marinelli, who I think did a brilliant job with it, weaving sad and tragic piano pieces with some chaotic jazz and haunting blues to create a vibe that suits the story of a man’s downfall, while also kind of fitting the Las Vegas environment. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work very well in their respective scenes.

Based on a novel by John O’Brien, this movie was written and directed by Mike Figgis, who I think did a brilliant job with it. He gives the movie a very unpredictable vibe that both made me feel relaxed and uneasy. Relaxed in the sense that it’s not too chaotic in camerawork, and uneasy because it doesn’t really pull punches with this tale of self-destruction. While there is some style to it all, Figgis still presents everything in an honest, exposed way that makes it feel real.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 82/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,5/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Cage). It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Shue), Best director, and Best adapted screenplay.

While it’s far from an easy watch, I still think “Leaving Las Vegas” is an absolutely fantastic film. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Leaving Las Vegas” is a 9,89/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Leaving Las Vegas” is now completed.

Usually Cage makes me laugh or at least feel entertained… but today he made me cry.

Movie Review: Se7en (1995)

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Okay, how many here love murder mystery movies? Raise your hands! Come on now, don’t be shy! There we go, I see a few hands now! Anyway, as you may have guessed, I love myself a good murder mystery. Not always the “Whodunnit?” kinda way, but a mystery involving murder… especially a suspenseful one. Okay, not only murder mysteries, but thrillers in general. A good example of a great thriller is 2013’s “Prisoners”. So yeah… I love myself a good crime-thriller. They make you get a warm beverage, snuggle up in a cover/blanket/thing and just have a good time with it. Well, today we are talking about one such movie… a movie that was a bit of a box office success. And it is directed by one of my favorite directors.

Detectives and criminals… “Se7en” (Se-Seven-en).

The story of “Se7en” is set in a dark, depressing New York-y city and follows homicide detectives William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt). Somerset is this veteran cop who is gonna retire soon and Mills is this sort of rookie guy. One day they get to a crime scene… but not jsut any old crime scene, oh no. Here they find an overly obese man tied up (and dead). And this murder leads to similar(ish) murders that are about as brutal, disgusting and horrible as this one, all having one thing in common… they all revolve around the seven deadly sins (Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Wrath, Envy, Sloth). And they find out a lot more, equally disturbing things. And based on those facts, this movie got one of the most intriguing stories in any movie ever. While some call the story “cliché”, I call it interesting and well done. I also want to add that the elements of the murders based around the seven deadly sins are both creepy and a little disturbing. So yeah, this movie was very interesting.

The characters are incredibly well-written and well-acted. They are portrayed in a realistic way. And like I said, the actors do an amazing job in this movie. There is especially one performance (not gonna mention which) that both made me go “That is how you act!” and “This is a little disturbing”… and I loved that. I am going to admit that one of the actors (again, not mentioning which) who in one scene drops a little bit in the acting quality. Not saying it becomes horrible, just not as good as the rest of the movie.

The music… holy fucking shit, the music! There are some orchestral tracks for the more dramatic and action-y bits. And sometimes the music can be cold, creepy and just make me feel generally creeped out. I honestly never knew Howard Shore (Most known for the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies) could write such a cold score. And like I said, there are a few fairly bombastic bits every now and then… but nothing too “epic”.

Once again, David Fincher directed an incredibly good looking movie. The visuals and camera angles in this movie are fantastic! Sure, he is no stranger to that kind of stuff, but here he really shows what he is made of! Also, this is one of the few movies that properly disturb me in a fashion that doesn’t actually involve any gross-out methods… and that is not easy with me. Also, this movie is unforgiving in the way how it doesn’t care, it just does it’s thing. Also, this movie went by pretty fast, it didn’t feel like two hours at all. In other words, it was very well-paced and never got boring.

Reception for “Se7en” was overall good. This was a commercial success after all. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a 65/100 score. Roger Ebert orginally gave this movie 3,5/4 stars but it has been updated to 4/4 stars and is on his “Great Movies” list. On imdb.com this movie has a score of 8,7/10 and is ranked #22 on the “Top 250” list. “Se7en” was also nominated for an Oscar, and that was for Best Film Editing.

“Se7en” is a dark, creepy, disturbing, great, suspenseful and very well-acted crime thriller. And now I am ready to hand out my final score if I can find the god damn thing! Ah, there it is! My final score for “Se7en” is a 9,74/10 which grants it the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
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“Se7en” is now reviewed.

Se-Seven-en…

Movie Review: Dead Man Walking (1995)

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I am a big fan of dramas. Okay, a lot of people are that, but hear me out. I am a guy who a few years back never expected to like dramas. I was a guy who thought “I am simply a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, comedy and action…nothing more”. And look at me now! 17 years old and watching movies from all genres (except horror because those movies don’t appeal to me). What am I trying to get at here you may ask? Well I am just saying that considering the movie we are taking a look at today is a drama. And that I couldn’t find anything better to write here…yeah.

Dead men and dead women…”Dead Man Walking”.

Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun. One day she receives a letter from a man sitting in death row. This man is Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) who apparently killed a guy by shooting him in the back of the head (twice) and also raping, stabbing and finally shooting his girlfriend…yikes. But he says he is innocent and says his “friend” Carl Vitello (Michael Cullen) is the one who did it. Of course the higher ups (government, law-system, etc.) thinks he is bullshitting them. But when Helen decides to go visit him she discovers more about him and gets to know him more and form a sort of bond with him. And of course the parents of the dead couple is not too happy about it when they find out and all that fun shit. Now I am gonna leave it at that because this story is fan-fucking-tastic. It is not only well directed, but also incredibly tense and even has a little emotional weight. It is also based on a true story…yeah…let that sink in for a second.

The characters like the story are based on real life. But that doesn’t say much for this movie. I think they are very well-handled and their portrayals (while maybe not accurate to the real life people) are magnificent. And if you look closely, you will notice a ton of great actors who maybe weren’t the biggest actors ever back then. Of course we have the ones that are well known since earlier in the leads like Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and R. Lee Ermey…but that isn’t as fun (considering they are obvious and very prominent throughout this). You will find such actors as Jack Black, Clancy Brown, Margo Martindale and Peter Sarsgaard (before they were as famous as they are now). But in general, these characters are handled very well are portrayed incredibly well.

The soundtrack is amazing. A lot of cold songs that makes you feel that everything is wrong in this world. But then there are songs that are just kinda…feelgood…yeah, feelgood. To give an example of that, search for Eddie Vedder feat. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – The Long Road…then you’ll know what the hell I am talking about.

This movie looks great. And to my surprise, this movie was directed by Tim Robbins…yeah. Andy Dufresne from “Shawshank Redemption” directed a movie…who knew. But the camera work was still really good and I am impressed by this. This movie also at one point made me shed a tear. And when a movie does that, kudos to that. I am not saying what happened or when the scene is, just saying it happened.

The reception for “Dead Man Walking” was great. Rotten Tomatoes has a 93% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. Metacritic has a 80/100 sc0re for it. Roger Ebert gave it a perfect 4/4 star rating and called it:

“absorbing, surprising, technically superb and worth talking about for a long time afterward.”

imdb.com has a score of 7,6/1o. This movie was also nominated for 4 Oscars (Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, Best original song). It won on Best actress (Susan Sarandon).

I have spoken my words and I am ready to hand out my final score for “Dead Man Walking”. My final score for this compelling, emptional and incredibly well made movie is a 9,62/10 which makes me give it the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
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Review for “Dead Man Walking” is done.

Dead Man Walking……OH MY GOD ZOMBIE REALIZATION!