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Gangs of New York

If Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't get serious Oscar consideration...
I've never really been a big fan of the epic, and while Gladiator was "pretty", it wasn't near as great as people made it seem. Here, Gangs of New York comes along and redeems the genre.

Martin Scorsese's career long dream is finally realized, and in grand fashion no less. Gangs is nearly flawless, with well-written dialogue, an excellent score, and plenty of brutal action. One can understand why the movie cost so much when they see the set, built in its entirety complete with weathered buildings and cobblestone streets. Gangs has the opportunity here to rake in a slew of Oscar nominations.

The acting for the most part is sound, with notable exceptions to Daniel Day-Lewis as William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting and Cameron Diaz as Jennie Everdeane. Day-Lewis's character is incredibly believable, at times causing my heart to mercilessly pound in my chest. He is generous and sophisticated, yet at the same time egotistical and wicked. His penchant for punishment and skill with his carving knives is intimidating and commanding, of both respect and subordination. Basically, Daniel Day-Lewis scared the sh*** out of me, at one point causing me to tremble, with my heart beating out of my chest. Yeah, he was good. Cameron Diaz also turned in a great performance, her character being a talented pickpocket/con woman who falls in love with the main character Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio). I was impressed with her consistency and emotion, and her inner struggle played out well, following the plot as it moved along. It's refreshing to see her doing more challenging work, as her last couple movies were chick flicks and gross-out comedies. She's definitely talented and I look forward to more of her work.

There were however a couple flaws that really stuck out to me. All throughout the movie, DiCaprio is narrating over the score, and the thing that bothers me the most is that it was not the Irish accent he spoke with during the movie. I'm not sure if Scorsese was implying that DiCaprio's character was looking back on everything as a middle-aged adult who had grown to lose the accent, but it irritated me every time he spoke in that manner. Another problem is DiCaprio's consistency. While his acting was strong on the whole, he seemed to be wavering back and forth between Irish and New York accents. Finally, there was just things in the background that seemed to steal the moment from time to time. It was little things that sort of threw off the committment to the period, but then again, I was sitting in the front row, so everything may have been a little skewed to me.

One other thing I want to mention about this movie is the score. It's an interesting style they went with, something one would not necessarily thing could go with this movie. For me it was definitely a complement to the movie, adding to the darkness of these people's lives and instilling discomfort and dread of the inevitable in me.

There's nothing more I need to say. Just go see this movie. I'll definitely go a few more times. Five stars.

And by the way...

If Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't get serious Oscar consideration, my faith in the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences will be all but lost.


An excellent directorial debut!!
I really didn't know anything about this movie coming in other than that it was Bill Paxton's directorial debut, but I was quite impressed.

The movie is about a single-father family that is "called by God" to destroy demons, yet throughout most of the movie, it just comes across as serial murder. Bill Paxton plays Dad, as the credits dictate, and does a great job. He's loves his boys very much and would do anything for them, but also commands their respect and obedience. Matthew O'Leary does a great job as Fenton Meeks, driving the movie along with his doubt and consequential actions. Matthew McConaughey plays grownup Fenton, narrating the story with a chilling seriousness, and veteran Powers Boothe plays the FBI agent in charge of the God's Hands killer case who listens to McConaughey's story and investigates.

This movie really hit home with me in the sense that growing up, my mother was always telling me that God has this plan and I have to obey him no matter what. In a similar, albeit more violent way, Paxton forces his children to witness and eventually participate in the "destruction" of demons, people that were "given" to him by an angel. The movie and its characters delves deeper and darker as the movie progresses and the conflicts get more intense as a child must decide whether to obey his father even when he doubts him with all his heart, or do the right thing. The movie takes an interesting twist midway through (No spoilers, I promise), at which point I really wasn't sure what was going on. I thought I had the movie figured out until the very last line destroyed that theory and birthed another.

It took some discussion with my friend afterwards to really pinpoint what happened, but it's not difficult to figure out with a little creative thought. This is a great movie to watch by yourself or with your girlfriend, but you have to pay attention to everything that's said or you might miss a key point.

This movie is definitely watchable over and over, as new theories can materialize each time. A lot of fun. Worth a 9 at the least!

The Salton Sea

A great change for Val Kilmer
Going into this movie I had no clue what to expect, other than a solid performance from Val Kilmer, which he delivered. What I found was a very different character (or rather 2) than I would expect him to portray.

His Danny Parker was a seemingly unstable 'tweaker', riddled with drugs, reflective, having only one goal in mind and not taking s**t from anyone...yet in his flashbacks as Tom Van Allen he was more laid back, totally in love, selfless and sensitive. Throughout the film I couldn't help but see similarities to Guy Pearce's character in Memento, with the struggle to avenge his wife's death, questionable people they encounter along the way, and the fact that they both see things in a surreal light (one being quasi-amnesic, the other 'tweaked' out on 'gack'); but none of these made Salton Sea any less entertaining or enjoyable.

Vincent D'Onofrio played a great character in cracked-out, paranoid drug dealer Pooh Bear. And as always, you can never help but smile at Luis Guzman's character, even when he's yelling at and beating up his girlfriend.

Overall I found The Salton Sea to be very thought-provoking, with great dialogue, intelligent/slighty sarcastic narration that is reminiscent of that in Fight Club (dare I even make that comparison?), and a depth and heaviness to it that continuously draws you in as the movie progresses.

Oh the tatoos. 9/10 - rent it tonight.

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