Monthly Archives: November 2009

Public Enemies

The year: 1933.After plummeting into The Great Depression, America had now become prey to the original public enemies, lead by none other than the infamous John Dillinger (Johnny Depp).As crime sprees sweep across the Midwest, the government turns to J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) for a solution, thus began the rise of the F.B.I., giving Fed golden boy, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the lead on the case.

Despite what the trailers may portray, if anything, Public Enemies holds equal halves of vintage crime action and heart-wrenching romance.However, director Michael Mann has appeared to leave out whatever folklore that deemed Dillinger a sort of Robin Hoodesque “hero” – instead, we simply get a wonderful raw portrayal of the man in true character, leaving audiences to judge for themselves.And yet, due to creative licensing, this film is less of a bio-flick and more of just a movie “inspired by true events” – thanks to factual errors such as a fictional romance between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and an early death of “Pretty Boy” Floyd (Channing Tatum) – who actually died three months after Dillinger.

Yet, despite such changes, the film itself has a great story, which is portrayed brilliantly.The dimpled Depp and Southern Bale are a perfect cat-and-mouse duo, as seen in a crucial moment when Dillinger is taunting Purvis from behind bars.And though Purvis himself may have seemed a poster-boy hero, Bale gives him a particular coldness, portraying a diligent hound capable of unpredictable cruelty when necessary.As for our anti-hero Dillinger, as I had mentioned, Depp just takes the lead with a mercilessly raw character with remarkable sincerity.

And though Hollywood has the tendency to glamorize the gangster lifestyle, Enemies refuses to fall through to demands.Even Dillinger realizes that upon viewing a Clark Gable gangster movie – the same night of his brutal death.Sure, the rough and tough attitude along with the infamy and fortune is appealing, but not so much the blatant isolation that soon follows.Mann captures this decomposition perfectly – especially with the help of wavering camera angles, literally throwing the audience into each act of violent chaos.

Overall: an in-your-face drama with a soft side, which in turn captures the essence of an American rebel.

Final Grade: A

…How strategic.

Paranormal Activity

It’s interesting, the hype that surrounded Paranormal Activity – it was like an angry cloud of bees after the idiot with the bat. Once word was out, it was everywhere. Now, does it live up to said hype? Eh, not really. But that doesn’t make it any less of a movie. What makes it less of a movie is the lack of satisfaction in the ending, but I’ll get to that later.
Okay, quick synopsis: We, as an audience, are first shown information from the filmmakers which thank the local police officers for the footage. Really? Really? Who is supposed to believe this? This movie would’ve been so much better without that disclaimer – it probably would’ve even been creepier, because there would be less to expect once the camera turns on. But nope, my hokey meter just peaked right there. Alright, getting on with it: We now meet Katie and Micah, a couple who’s been experiencing some paranormal activity for a while, so Micah decided to get a high-quality camera to capture all of this. And of course, chaos ensues, which turns out to be a nasty lil’ demon that’s been haunting Katie for most of her life. So basically folks, this film turns into a first-person guide for what you should NOT do in the event of a possible possession. (Number one rule people: FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD, DO NOT PROVOKE THE SPIRITS!) And yes, this thing had Exorcist vibes spewed all over it. Ha-ha, pun.

Personally, I am a fan of the shaky-cam style: it’s like you’re on a roller coaster and can’t avoid what you’re going to be thrown into next – it’s exciting! And to do that with the paranormal, that’s some pretty impressive editing, there. I applaud your efforts. However, it’s curious that the special effects were totally seamless, but some cuts that should’ve been subtle were so blatantly obvious that they were actually very distracting. Please – it’s called priority, people. Alas, the tribulations of working with a hand-held camera.

And then there’s the fact that I found these people a little hard to believe. I mean, Micah’s (oh, and these actors share their names with their characters, by the way) beefiness was way too macho to believe – I mean the fact that all of these paranormal happenings went on before documenting and he never so much as looked into a new place was too macho to believe, along with his constant “I can handle this.” Seriously? I think any man would doubt his own demon-fighting skills once he sees his girlfriend get dragged along the floor. And of course, Katie threatens and complains, but never really does anything productive – a classic Mary Sue.
And then there’s the ending…. What to say about that…. It just sort of happens and then leads to more hokiness. It was just sort of disappointing. I wanted some more stuff to go down, man! It’s like that just can’t be it! But it was. Maybe the director’s cut will be more satisfying.

So in short, Paranormal Activity, as hokey and unbelievable as it is, is still entertaining and has some creepy vibes. But I’d wait for the DVD if I were you.

Final Grade: C+