Posts Tagged ‘corey birkhofer’

The Cove – Think About Your Audience First

Posted 27 Aug 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

The Cove, USA, 2009

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Documentary: one could argue it has become the most accepted form of news gathering and truth. Though documentary filmmaking built its momentum slowly through the ’60s and ’70s, now, as we head into the second decade of the 2000s, it has become more than just another genre, but rather a mainstay and mainstream form of expressing non-fiction topics to an audience that no longer trusts the information dished out by the major media networks.

man and dolphins

For me personally, documentary has the power to tell the truth, and this is a power that should be respected and not abused. So what happens when you take activist groups like Sea Shepherd and put the camera in their hands to go to a small coastal village in Japan and tell the story of dolphins being annually massacred? I would say you have set the stage to share an unknown and dirty truth to the rest of the world, and as such, the film you make should be held to the highest degree of integrity, dignity and, above all else, truth.

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A Scanner Darkly – Reaching Too Hard For Nothing

Posted 22 Aug 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Most Confusing Films of All time, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

A Scanner Darkly, USA, 2006

Written and Directed by Richard Linklater

Based on the Novel A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

keanu reeves robert downy jr

Richard Linklater has always been a filmmaker who has impressed me. Since Slacker (1991) set the stage for his later work, he has gone from one unique film to the next, helping to put Austin, Texas, on the filmmaking map as well as carving out an eclectic career for himself.

About 10 years ago, when I was just starting out in university, a little film with incredibly impacting visuals suddenly came out of nowhere. This was none other than Waking Life (2001), a film that set highly intellectual and downright ridiculous conversations as the stage for a main character who went to sleep and couldn’t wake up. Simple, but brilliant. For my (at the time) 19-year-old, pretentious mind, this film was a smorgasbord of content for late-night coffee shop discussions about the existentialism of life, what dreams really are, and so much more.

Visually speaking, the film took an incredibly new approach to animation, layered over the top of live-action actors, called “rotoscoping.” So here Linklater was, making a relatively inexpensive feature animation using one-chip mini-DV cameras and then rotoscoping rich color palettes and layer upon layer of animation, one frame at a time. Revolutionary. And the result provided for an eerie, almost too-real form of storytelling because the animation was painted on top of real human subjects.

I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one so deeply influenced by Linklater’s venture into animation, nor would I say that all those who loved Waking Life weren’t just as excited as me to see Linklater’s second stab at the rotoscope style of animation in his new film, A Scanner Darkly.

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Oceans – Definitely Sinks To The Bottom

Posted 03 Feb 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

Oceans, France / Switzerland / Spain, 2009

Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

disney  nature oceans

Okay, I’m going to admit it: I absolutely love nature documentaries. March of the Penguins (2005) and the BBC’s Earth (2007) are two that come immediately to mind as nature pictures that have stayed with me since watching them. The latter, a brilliant work narrated by James Earl Jones, was interestingly acquired for U.S. release by none other than Disney’s new-kid-on-the-block independent nature documentary group, DisneyNature. Being as moved as I was by Earth, when I found out DisneyNature had put together their own documentary, I was ecstatic to hear it’d be getting a Japanese release so I could see it over here.

With its ambitious attempt to document the massive bodies of water that cover three-fourths of our planet, Oceans is a visual and auditory masterpiece put together by French directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud. On a visual level, I have to be honest and state that I have never been moved to “ooh” and “aah” more than I was when watching Oceans. And yet, as beautifully shot, edited and scored as the film may be, what didn’t I get about it?

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Where The Wild Things Are

Posted 30 Jan 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

Where the Wild Things Are, USA / Germany, 2009

Directed by Spike Jonze

Where the wild things are

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963) is arguably one of the most famous children’s books ever published. Its beautiful imagery and simple story touch on a desire in all of us that, even into adulthood, many of us never shed: the desire to go home. When I found out this incredible tale would be put onto the big screen, helmed by none other than quirky music video director extraordinaire Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), I was doubly intrigued. How would the images burned permanently into my mind be realized on screen? How would the wild things look? Would they just CG the hell out of everything and make a husk of a film with no soul? The answer to the CG question was boldly answered by Jonze, spending tons of studio money in the process on expensive Jim Henson Workshop-produced real working puppets and crazy wire-work stunts that have definitely advanced puppetry to the next level. And yet, despite the love and care that so obviously went into the crafting of this film, I still sat through it asking myself: “So when does the story start?”

Spoiler Alert

I still sat there three-quarters of the way through the film saying to myself: “And now the little kid decides to just go home?” How could a children’s book that had no more than 10 sentences capture so much that a two-hour film could not? The answer is simple: a story. To me, Jonze’s film has none because a) Max (Max Records), the protagonist (if you could call him one) never changes and b) none of the problems of the characters in the film are solved. Instead, we have an attention-starved kid who rants and raves around for a couple hours amidst the strange relationships of some weird monsters, and then decides it’s time to go home after he can’t help them all get along and be friends.

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The Proposition

Posted 17 Dec 2009 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get


By Corey Birkhofer

The Proposition, Australia / UK, 2005

Directed by John Hillcoat

Guy Pearce Danny Huston

2005: an unlikely time to see a Western being made. Yet this Western comes with a unique twist. Not having been moved to watch a Western since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in the ’90s, I was excited to watch The Proposition, starring one of my favorite late-90s independent actors, Guy Pearce. L.A. Confidential (1997) and Memento (2000) being two of my favorite films from that era, both starring Pearce, I thought I was in for a treat. The trailer for The Proposition is also top-notch. And yet, there was just something about this film that didn’t quite make it the masterpiece I was led to believe it was.

I’ve been thinking about why this might be for the last three weeks while trying to put together a few paragraphs about the film for this site, and yet it’s still quite difficult for me to pinpoint why I didn’t get this movie. The film is put together very well, introducing new characters at a very natural, fluid and almost seamless pace, almost as if we already knew these individuals and are just stopping back in to check up on them. Not wasting time on introducing who all the characters are, the film gets right to the story of a trio of outlaw brothers – one too young to know the evil of his brothers’ ways, one so evil the blackness seeps out of him, and the last, played by Pearce, stuck in the middle of his innocent brother and his evil brother.

As the film proceeds, we find out that there’s been a falling out between the brothers, with Charlie (Pearce) taking his younger brother, Mike (Richard Wilson) and getting as far away from their evil brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), as possible. It’s not long until the law gets its hands on Charlie and Mike, with the gallows waiting for them. The two are basically as good as dead until Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) makes a proposition to Charlie: find your older brother and bring his head to me, and I’ll let you and your younger brother free. This seems like an easy choice for Charlie, who wants nothing to do with his older brother, until he does eventually track him down and is saved by him after being ambushed and speared by a group of Aborigines. Now Charlie feels indebted to his brother, but at the same time torn between this feeling and the need to kill him to save himself and Mike. After coming clean about why he suddenly came looking for Arthur, Charlie and his older brother scheme to break Mike out of jail. Problem is, they arrive too late, after Mike has been publicly whipped by a townspeople hungry for any kind of justice they can get against the three outlaw brothers.
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Hancock – I Know, Let’s Make Him A God!

Posted 28 Oct 2009 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

Hancock, USA, 2008

Directed by Peter Berg

will smith

Will Smith is on fire: a big blockbuster nearly every year for as long as I can remember, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to stop anytime soon. Now for any of you who follow his work, you’ll know that Smith has played the last-action-hero or beaten-down-nice-guy-against-the-rest-of-the-world role before: I, Robot (2004), I Am Legend (2007), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006). Personally, I have loved him in every one of these roles because there was always something unique about his character that compelled me to watch him succeed through all the struggles put before him.

Earlier this year when I finally had a chance to see Hancock, I have to say I felt more than a little giddy to see what Smith would bring to the role. To me, there’s something about Smith’s whole aura that just makes me want to watch him do what he does. He has a full range of emotions at his disposal, not to mention his consistency in picking interesting characters that have unbelievably difficult obstacles put before them.

On the surface of I, Robot, Smith is a detective bent on solving the murder of a leading scientist who was also his friend. Underneath the surface of this detective exterior is a character that hates robots. This is a problem for him in the overly robot-reliant society in which he lives, and it makes his struggle all the more difficult and, as such, compelling to watch. In I Am Legend, Smith is again the lone man (in this case, literally) trying to find the cure to a disease that has killed and/or mutated the remaining human population into vicious, zombie-like carnivores. Throughout the film, we see the protagonist’s clockwork routine that he has undoubtedly developed through near-death experiences fighting the once human, now zombie-like creatures that only come out at night. This routine is what has kept him alive, and the meticulousness of it is real and tangible, thus making him an interesting protagonist to watch succeed. In The Pursuit of Happyness (which was based on a true story), Smith plays a salesman trying to sell these ridiculously difficult to sell x-ray machines, all while his family is falling apart at the seams. Despite this, his strange knack for memorizing numbers and his insanely driven work ethic are character attributes that make him incredibly interesting to watch as he struggles to get what he wants. No surprise that this, too, was a film I loved. Now let me get to Hancock.

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The Departed – A Remake Better Left Unmade

Posted 01 Sep 2009 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

The Departed, USA / Hong Kong, 2006

Directed by Martin Scorsese

leonardo dicaprio matt damen jack nicholson

Don’t get me wrong. Remakes can work. I actually liked the American remake of Seven Samurai (The Magnificent Seven). Hell, I even enjoyed The Ring and The Grudge remakes after seeing the original Japanese versions of both. But when Martin Scorsese decided to remake Infernal Affairs (2002), one of my favorite more recent Hong Kong films, I have to admit some lines were crossed.

Before I get too ahead of myself, let’s contemplate for a minute why remakes are even made in the first place. If the original was so inspiring, why does it need to be redone? And in one’s remaking of an original work, what do the creators intend to change to make it, in their minds, better? I think this gives a hint as to why films are remade in the first place, but there’s also the question of accessibility and reception. How will the original work be received if the audience has to sit through a film with (gasp!) subtitles? Sadly, the general American moviegoer is definitely not up for a film where they have to sit and read words on the screen. Unfortunately for these viewers, they miss out on a wealth of amazing films. And yet, with these moviegoers being the ones who fill movie seats, they are the judge and jury of what kind of films get greenlit; thus we get foreign films perfectly fine being left the way they are getting remade to be more attuned to American audiences.

That being said, though the original Infernal Affairs was a box office smash hit in China, who was to say it would be as big of a hit when it came to the states? Though Miramax did bring the original Infernal Affairs over for a relatively successful limited release in 2004 (two years after its release in China), I guess Scorsese just couldn’t resist taking a stab at the narrative himself. I remember back in 2004 when I was still reeling from the excitement after seeing the original Infernal Affairs, only to find out Scorsese was planning to make his own American version. With Scorsese at the helm I was actually pretty excited at the time, but flashing forward three years after The Departed came out in 2006, I’m definitely wishing I could go back to a moment in time when this film did not exist.

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