Monthly Archives: June 2011

CinEffect Episode #5: Super 8, L.A. Noire, I Saw The Devil, Metro 2033, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Welcome to the Cineffect Podcast. In this podcast of constant douchebaggery, me (Chris), Alex, and Brady talk about film, games, and everything in between.

Subscribe via iTunes. 

(0:00) The Ascension – Music from Super 8 Trailer
(0:47) Introduction
What We’ve Been Playing
(1:41) Alex & Brady – Army of Two: The 40th Day
(3:56) Alex – Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, Mortal Kombat, Sly Cooper HD Collection, Final Fantasy VIII
(6:52) Brady – Shadow Complex, Metro 2033
(14:04) Chris – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, L.A. Noire

What We’ve Been Watching
(16:40) Alex – The Patriot, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan
(22:18) Brady – I Saw The Devil, Animal Kingdom
(25:52) Chris – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Easy A, Biutiful

(35:03) A Dangerous Method Trailer

(43:31) Super 8

(59:18) What We’re Watching Next Week
(1:02:24) Where To Find Us On Internet Land
(1:03:22) Immigrant Song (Remix) by Trent Reznor & Karen O – Music from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Remake Trailer

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I Saw The Devil Movie Review

[I Saw The Devil
Directed by Kim Ji-Woon
Starring: Choi Min-Sik, and Byung Hun-Lee
MPAA: Unrated – Contains graphic violence, nudity, sexuality, and language]

Of all the countries in the foreign film department, none have been quite as engaging as the crazy bastards in South Korea. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly Korean cinema had caught the public eye of the American conscious, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was due in large part to the classic among cult classics: Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy.

Asian countries in general have some of the most interesting foreign films out today. China has their kung-fu movies (See any Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee film), Japan has anime and horror films like Ju-on: The Grudge, Ringu, and Pulse. While Korea has a surprisingly diverse amount of genres tackled by their big-name directors such as monster movies (The Host, which is Korea’s highest grossing film of all time as of this writing), vampires films (Thirst), and mysteries (Mother and Memories of Murder), they’re mainly known for one thing: Revenge films. Or, to put it more frankly: The Revenge Films. And to put it more specifically: Park Chan-Wook’s revenge trilogy consisting of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and, of course, Oldboy.

Now, cut to another Korean director: Kim Ji-Woon. This is another director from Korea to be lauded for. He’s created the searing psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters (Which was disappointingly remade into The Uninvited), the gangster epic A Bittersweet Life, and oddly enough a Korean western with The Good, The Bad, The Weird.

In his latest film, I Saw The Devil, Kim Ji-Woon has decided to look at the success of Park Chan-Wooks revenge trilogy and see what he could do differently with it in his hands. His answer: Not a damn thing…but let’s make it 10,000 times more brutal and violent. That always gets the job done.

I Saw The Devil is the story of Soo-Hyun (Played by Lee Byung-hun, who was also in Kim Ji-Woon’s A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird), a secret agent who’s stricken with the desire of revenge when he sees that his wife has been brutally murdered and cut up into bits by a sadistic killer named Kyung-Chul (Played by Choi Min-Sik, who you may remember as the protagonist of another Korean revenge film I’ve mentioned numerous times already: Oldboy. See how I connect these things?). Now filled with nothing but rage, Soo-hyun finds Kyung-chul, but doesn’t kill him. Instead, he knocks him out cold, implants a GPS/microphone in his mouth, and uses that to follow him and make Kyung-chul’s life a living hell.

The entire movie basically consists of a cat-and-mouse game of wits and brutality between these two guys, ensuing into an astounding amount of violence. It’s probably Korea’s most violent film, so far, and this is coming from the guys behind Oldboy, which featured a man cutting off his own tongue. Not only are some of the scenes in I Saw The Devil violent enough, already, they all have a brutal feel to them, thanks to some excellent gore effects, stylish directing and cinematography, and (literally) bone-crushing sound design. One scene in particular involving a “smiley face” takes the gruesomeness up to eleven.

While much attention has been brought to performances, style, and brutality, not much effort has been put into character development, emotional weight, or a remotely new or interesting take on the “revenge isn’t all that good” message that’s already been explored in better Korean films. While the performances are certainly strong, we don’t really have much of a reason to care about Soo-hyun, why he would suddenly snap as hard as he does in the film other than “cuz he luvs his wief nd stufff”, or how his vengeful actions affect Kyung-chul, and vice versa.

And while the message of “sometimes, revenge makes you more of a monster than the one you’ve been after all along” is still handled somewhat effectively and does lead to thought-provocation, there isn’t really much of an interesting spin on it other than the great lengths the film goes to showing the brutality and aggression our protagonist feels.

Thankfully, there is one element that is handled with uniqueness: Suspense. Probably the most unique thing about I Saw The Devil is how it’s almost a reverse slasher film: The killers and the bad guys are the ones being hunted and dispatched in gruesome, brutal ways by a vengeful “good guy”, rather than the other way around. This gives the cat-and-mouse sequences an interesting little spin of suspense. It’s hard to feel tension for the character you’re supposed to be rooting against, but Kim Ji-Woon still pulls it off. Whenever Soo-hyun begins his hunt, you really do get a sense that serious shit is gonna go down, and that it won’t bode well to whoever it is he’s pissed at.

Kim Ji-Woon definitely brings his message across that Soo-hyun becomes a much bigger monster than Kyung-chul…which is unfortunately also another drawback, as Kim Ji-Woon’s thought-provoking message is battered into the viewer with the subtlety of a shark-attack…on a train. It isn’t quite up to “preachy”, but it’s certainly ham-fisted.

So, what we’re left with is an effective but insubstantial thriller.

Final Verdict: I Saw The Devil doesn’t have much new to say, the characters are kind of thin, and it heavily borrows from superior Korean revenge films. Despite all this, it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s suspenseful, gory, well-directed and shot, brutal, and backed with some fine performances from its veteran cast. If you’re a fan of Korea’s latest work, specifically Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance trilogy, this should still satisfy.

That’s all for now.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to give you a permanent smiley face…

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Midnight In Paris Movie Review

[Midnight In Paris
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard
MPAA: PG-13 – For some sexual references and smoking]

It’s interesting to see how once classic film directors still continue to make films. Martin Scorsese has made classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas and still continues that trend with films like The Aviator and The Departed; Terrence Malick has been directing since his first debut in the 70s, Badlands, and today he has crafted a masterpiece with The Tree of Life; Steven Spielberg normally acts as “executive producer” in many of this generation’s latest blockbusters and upcoming television shows, but still continues to direct with more recent films such as Munich (and his next film is supposedly gonna be an Abraham Lincoln biopic starring Daniel Day “I Drink Your Milkshake” Lewis); even Francis Ford Coppola, the man behind The Godfather is currently making a film called Twixt Now and Sunrise.

Woody Allen is one such director, but his career has been hit or miss lately. Director (and most times leading man) of films such as Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Manhattan, Match Point, and, of course, the classic Annie Hall; today he’s kind of all over the map. While he’ll make the occasional good movie (Vicky Christina Barcelona) he’d follow it up with a few bad ones (You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which, by the way, absolutely nobody saw). And even his occasionally good movies often don’t live up to classic status.

However, I am proud to report that while his recent effort Midnight In Paris might not exactly reach that classic status, it is easily the best recent Woody Allen film to release so far. It’s a whimsical, life-affirming, joyous odyssey into…I can’t say.

Midnight In Paris is an interesting case in that it is probably best described as this year’s Catfish. A film that doesn’t deserve to be spoiled to anyone who’s even remotely interested in seeing it, because part of the whimsy in viewing it is the pleasure of surprise. By the time it reaches the 10-minute mark the viewer is treated to a radical shift that is all the more engrossing by the fact that you have no preconceived notions of its premise. Too often are we bombarded with advertisements for high-concept comedies that use it’s ridiculous premise as the main shtick, without putting any effort into genuine humor or developed characters. It’s just very refreshing to come into a film that not only surprises you with its high-concept for once, but also uses is it as a way to bring genuine humor and character development.

So, no, I won’t spoil you guys or give out a plot synopsis like I normally do. So here’s the non-spoiler, shortened version: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams play a couple who visits Paris and is confronted with the feeling that a better life awaits them. Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, is mainly there for inspiration for his first foray into literature; hoping that the same place that had inspired such artists as Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, would give him a way to break his writer’s block. Soon, as he begins to take midnight strolls in the deepest regions of the city, he starts to see Paris in a much, much different light. It may not sound like there’s much to spoil by that premise alone, but when you actually see the film, you’ll understand.

What I will say is that we have one hell of a cast. Owen Wilson plays a remarkably charming lead that reminds us why he can be so infectiously charming when he puts the right amount of effort into his job. His protagonist is just filled with a zest for life and wonder when he visits the City of Lightsl that you automatically warm up to him. Rachel McAdams plays his girlfriend, Marion Cotillard plays a seductive Parisian woman, Kathy Bates is a wise old woman who gives Owen Wilson much needed advice on his book, Michael Sheen plays a wonderfully snobby git, and Adrian Brody has a hilarious cameo.

All of this and Woody Allen’s sharpest writing in a long while make for one of the best feel-good movies of the year. The film’s humor is subtle and understated (Don’t expect The Hangover or Bridesmaids) but still brings surprisingly heavy laughs thanks to the delivery of its excellent cast, and the absolutely charming atmosphere all around. Add that with wonderful chemistry between the film’s main couple, and it’s just the kind of movie that brings a huge smile to your face all the way through.

That’s about all I can say. Reviewing comedies is normally hard because you don’t wanna spoil any of the good jokes, and this review is hampered even more by the fact that I wish not to spoil the plot to anyone. So, here’s the…

Final Verdict: Midnight In Paris is one of the most all-around enjoyable films of the year. It’s funny, charming, filled with great performances all around, and just an all-around wonderful romantic comedy, and a beautiful homage to the City of Lights that is Paris. It’s now received a nation-wide release so you should all check it out, especially for Woody Allen fans.

That’s all for now.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to [OMITTED DUE TO SPOILERS] [OMITTED DUE TO SPOILERS] [OMITTED DUE TO SPOILERS] [OMITTED DUE TO SPOILERS] and then rhinoceros. Bye!

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Super 8 Movie Review

[Sorry there hasn’t been a review for a while, but I’ve been busy with stuff like vacations, visiting Washington D.C., oh yeah, and I had a birthday last Wednesday. But fear not, I have seen a movie and it is ready for reviewing, so…better late than never. Enjoy.]

[Super 8
Directed by JJ Abrams
Starring: Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning
MPAA: PG-13 – For intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and some drug use]

Ask me what my favorite movie was today, and you’d get answers along the lines of Fight Club, The Shining, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Eraserhead, La Strada, The Fountain, etc. However, if you were to ask me what my favorite movie was as a seven year old, you’d get answers along the lines of E.T., Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goonies, etc. Today, those clasic films still hold a special, special place in my heart, and re-watching them again, they bring me back to a childhood obsessed with movies and, more specifically, Steven Spielberg.

Fast-forward a few years later, and the teaser trailer for Super 8 appears, doing very little to impress me and tell me what would make it stand out from another JJ Abrams monster film, Cloverfield. And then, a few months later, the Super Bowl commercial for the film was finally released, shedding to light that it wasn’t just a mere monster film, but a labor-of-love homage to the Spielberg films of old, instantly winning me over with its John Williams inspired music track in the background. So, my anticipation for the film instantly sky-rocketed from “mildly interested” to “absolutely must-see”. The only problem is that JJ Abrams has a habit of not living up to the implausibly high hype-machines he sets-up (See LOST), but after finally seeing it for myself, I think that this is the first JJ Abrams project that has actually exceeded my expectations.

Super 8 is a 1970’s period sci-fi film centering around a boy named Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), helping his friends (Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, and a star-making performance from Elle Fanning) make a low-budget Zombie film called The Case for a Super 8 film festival. Things are going rather well until all of a sudden, a train is derailed by an oncoming pick-up truck, completely obliterating the entire train, and all of its precious cargo. The only thing that could make this kind of scenario worse for these kids would be if the train was actually carrying some sort of top-secret military cargo that would cause many of the townspeople to disappear, and a government cover-up plan to completely wreck everyone’s shit up. Well, I guess even the young ones aren’t safe from the myriad Hollywood monsters, aren’t they.

It may be a little hard to see the Spielberg influences in that plot synopsis, with the exception of the setting, but believe me, the second the logos pop up set to yet another classic John Williams inspired track, and the viewer sees that one of the logos is the Amblin Entertainment logo with Elliot and E.T. flying in front of the moon, you know that your nostalgia levels are going to go up through the roof. Super 8 is like a Frankensteinian amalgation of the traits of every single one of Spielberg’s classic genre films that don’t involve WWII. It contains the charm and wonderment of E.T., the mystery of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the suspense of Jurassic Park, and the minimal creature usage of Jaws, all if it were played with the entire cast of The Goonies.

And what a cast it is. Considering how rare it is to find good child actors these days, it’s insane to me how JJ Abrams was able to find an entire boat-load of talented young actors who never end up being too annoying to even the most jaded viewers. The kids obviously wear that Goonies influence and charm on them proudly, but they are all still able to find their own unique voice and personality without completely aping any of The Goonies characters. Even Joel Courtney, who’s character is almost an exact replica of Sean Astin’s main character in that film still lends the character with his own special charm. The writing and dialogue also play a big part in helping this kids evoke Goonies without completely ripping it off, and just as I mentioned before, Elle Fanning (Who you may remember from the Sofia Coppola directed Somewhere) is sure to become a huge hit with audiences after this film. She’s the only character who isn’t directly inspired by any Goonies characters, and as such, has a lot more to work with, bringing a great charm and surprising amount of toughness to her character.

As for the rest of the technical stuff in this film, it all works really well. Special effects are used effectively without getting in the way of the character development; the creature design from Neville Page (Who also did the creature design for another Abrams project, Cloverfield) is a badass mix between the aforementioned Cloverfield monster, a Locust corpser from Gears of War, a gigantic spider, and motherfuckin’ Cthulu; and all the action is incredibly well-shot and edited, able to show an insane amount of chaos and explosions without ever becoming disorienting or hard to follow. The icing on this already delicious cake is that Abrams really puts a lot of effort in bringing the audience back to the time period, and really gives the viewer a sense of the small town of Lillian, Ohio. Even little touches such as characters using Walkmans, a frightened neighbor who thinks that Soviets are behind the disappearances, and the pot-head camera store clerk really immerse the viewer into the setting, and Abrams clearly shows us his love for this period of time, and the films he grew up with, then.

And speaking of our director, let’s talk about the man himself. Abrams has become rather notorious for creating ridiculous amounts of hype for films, and leaving the viewer unsatisfied. LOST‘s season finale left fans with less answers than initially promised, Cloverfield was a fun little monster movie that was unfortunately perceived by an eagerly anticipated audience to be much more considering its insane ARG campaign, hell, even his Star Trek reboot kind of crapped all over itself in the halfway mark when Leonard Nimoy dropped by to force the original series’ continuity into what was supposed to be a new slate. However, I think there’s a main reason why Super 8 is the first Abrams project, at least in my eyes, to exceed the hype.

I’ll say the same thing I said in my defense for LOST, and it’s that while Abrams clearly can’t deliver on head-scratching mysteries, he’s really good at creating characters that the viewer cares about. The problem with LOST however was that those loveable characters were put to the side in the later seasons, while the heady, implausible, convoluted mysteries of the island took the center stage. Super 8 doesn’t have this problem because the characters and the setting are put into the limelight; not the mysterious creature, or the government conspiracy. It’s because of this that even when certain resolutions underwhelm the viewer, there’s an emotional resonance that’s achieved in the end that Abrams gets right more than anything else in the film.

If there are any flaws with the film, it is that, as stated before, Abrams is bad at providing satisfying payoffs for his insane mounds of hype. While the creature design ends up being really cool, its motives are so ridiculously cliche that you can feel Abrams just slapping you in the head ‘V8’ style, whilst belching out an obnoxious “DUH!!” at your face.

And that’s not the only payoff that disappoints. There’s a wonderfully done subplot involving the parents of Elle Fanning’s and Joel Courtney’s characters, and the tension there is between the two of them. It is really well-done, but unfortunately, it is resolved extremely quickly in a car-ride where the two of them just stare at each other and exchange “sorry”s.

Also, I know that this is me picking nits, and many other people have picked this particular nit many times before me, but it must be said: JJ Abrams’s fetish for lens flares is incredibly distracting, irritating, and unnecessary. Seriously, it wasn’t that distracting in Star Trek since it kind of fit the futuristic aesthetic, but here it is really out of place, and sometimes really distracts your eyes from otherwise heartwarming scenes.

All of these complaints aren’t dealbreakers, however. And with all of this being said, Super 8 is the best blockbuster of the summer, so far, and it is likely to be one of the best blockbusters in general that we’ll get all year.

Final Verdict: Super 8 transcends it’s largely nostalgia-driven charm by being a genuinely great movie in general, as well as a homage to the Spielberg films of old. The directing (minus the lens-flares) is top-notch, the entire cast is terrific, and while certain things do not payoff, the emotional core at the center of the film is able to win you over again. Add that with one of the best ending credits sequences of the last few years, and you have grade-A summer entertainment. Super 8 is (I am so going to hell for this) SUPER GREAT!! AMIRITE GAIS?!?! HUH?! HUH?!

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to re-watch all my childhood favorites again. Oh, the delicious nostalgia. Bye!

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The Tree of Life Movie Review

[The Tree of Life
Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and introducing Hunter McCracken
MPAA: PG-13: For some thematic material]

Is it possible to review a movie that is, for all intents and purposes, indescribable? Can I properly describe a film in a way that doesn’t confine it from the multiple interpretations of its meaning? A film like this, and especially this film in particular, can mean completely different things for completely different kinds of people. Is it a simple family drama? An existentialist journey? A subconscious meditation of memory, both of one’s life and the life of the universe? A metaphysical odyssey? A philosophical allegory?

It is all these things and more, which brought me to this encompassing conclusion: The Tree of Life is about everything. About life, nostalgia, love, loss, hatred, anger, nature, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and everything else mentioned in the above paragraph. The Tree of Life is simply a film about all life and everything around it.
A lot of hubbub was made about the development process of the film, which many believe spanned about 10 years or so. I believe it goes a bit further than that.

A little history lesson: Director Terrence Malick’s career as a film-maker began with the debut feature Badlands, which can best be described as a dark yet meditative “action” film of sorts. Shortly after that was, one of my favorite films, Days of Heaven, a period story taking place in the wheat fields of Texas filled with the most gorgeous cinematography ever conceived in a film.

However, despite the mostly overwhelming praise for that film, Malick, for some reason, just completely disappeared from the radar. It was rumored that he was trying to bring up an elusive project simply called Q, but couldn’t get it off the ground. After twenty years of waiting, however, Malick returned with two features: The 1998 war film The Thin Red Line, and 2006’s historical epic The New World.

Now, for his fifth feature, The Tree of Life seems to be bringing some of the long-dead themes and ideas that didn’t quite make it in Q, and reinvigorating them with new life, pardon the pun.

As stated before, it’s hard to give a plot description for this movie, largely because it isn’t a conventional narrative, because it’s structure is certainly fractured and each individual scene seems to feel almost separate as a snowglobe with their own tiny little arcs, and yet they are all seamlessly connected. So, think of it as this:

The Tree of Life is a series of fragmented memories of a man named Jack (Sean Penn) who reminisces his childhood memories as a young boy (Hunter McCracken) and the polar relationships between his graceful, loving mother (Jessica Chastain), and his strict, disciplinary, and sometimes abusive father (Brad Pitt). Oh yeah, and there are dinosaurs.

That last sentence should be confusing for you. It certainly was confusing to some of the audience members I experienced the movie with when they saw it. But, to elaborate, the film begins with the creation of all life, and I mean all of it. This sequence, which moviegoers have named the Dawn of Time, is quite possibly one of the most–if not the most–visually stunning pieces of film-making ever put to celluloid. The effects surpass even The Fall and The Fountain in terms of sheer inventiveness, detail, beauty, and overall sense of awe. It may sound like I’m spoiling a surprising and integral part of the film, but believe me, you won’t be spoiled at all, since merely describing it is much different from seeing it and all its glory with your own eyes.

On a purely technical level, all I have to say is this: If The Tree of Life doesn’t win–or at least get nominated for–an Academy Award for Visual Effects and Cinematography, then prepare yourself for the Skynet invasion because that obviously means that the Academy is run by robots.

Many have wondered what the Dawn of Time sequence brings to the film. The Tree of Life is equal parts similar and unlike Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has the philosophical ponderings, deliberate pace, and visual grandeur of Space Odyssey, but while 2001 was mostly a “mind” film, The Tree of Life infuses that cerebral signature with heart and emotion, which is something that, admittedly, Kubrick’s cosmic masterpiece lacks, in a way.

But, back to the “Dawn of Time”, remember how polarized people were when 2001‘s ending unfolded, with the spectacular Star Gate sequence that quickly transformed into an eerie and bizarre scene in a “hotel” of sorts, and closing with the image of the Star Child? The Tree of Life‘s “Dawn of Time” sequence and its climax can be viewed in a similar way.

It’s easy to see the negative reactions towards it, but looking deeper into it, it poses the answers to the question of Man’s Place in the Universe in a way that only these bizarre, illusory, dreamscape sequences can convey. It’s impossible to just “say” the answers without feeling either lazy, cheap, or unsatisfying, and these memorable moments are what not only provide a feast for the eyes and the mind, but a sense of awe and wonderment that one should feel about the infinity of existence.

If you “don’t get it”, you probably simply just don’t care about man’s place in the universe and all that “philosophical gobbledygook”, so if you want something more accessible, The Tree of Life can still be a recommendation because there is also a wonderful family drama juxtaposed with the heavy elements.

Young Jack’s loss of innocence is portrayed in such a believable way thanks to newcomer Hunter McCracken’s exceptional performance. His facial expressions and mournful monologues are everything actors in Terrence Malick movies are known for, done remarkably well. Jessica Chastain, another relatively unknown actress who’s finally getting some attention lately, is also wonderful as Jack’s mother. She’s the quintessential maternal figure filled with love, compassion, and kindness towards all her children. And of course there’s Brad Pitt, who plays a mean, lean, stereotypical jerk-off dad. He isn’t necessarily a “horrible” father, and he is certainly not portrayed as an antagonist, but he’s strict, disciplinary, and can sometimes take things out of hand. Sean Penn hardly has any dialogue, and what little dialogue he has is done in monologue, but he still manages to stand out in those very few instances.

So, you have a beautiful and emotional family drama coupled with an existential pilgrimage through all of existence and life. What is the metaphorical meaning behind pairing these two wildly different stories together? To do so in GREAT detail would result in some spoilers about the ending which I wouldn’t wish to reveal, but think about this for a moment…

Our main character is a young boy who is born into the world pure and innocent, only to lose that innocence as time raged on in the world, and its cruelties began to open up more and more towards him. He feels angst, rebellion, typical pre-adolescent behavior. He turns to a parental figure, in this case Brad Pitt, for comfort but feels neglected by him, abandoned, sometimes abused.

You know what that sounds like? Like a man experiencing a loss of faith. Man is born into this world pure and innocent, much like Adam and Eve before eating the apple. But the harsh realities of life begin creeping in. The serpent begins its act of temptation. Man loses his way. He calls out to God for a sign, “Father, what next?” And then what…banished from Eden for the rest of eternity. Man now feels neglected, abandoned, and somewhat abused.

The film asks us the same question 2001: A Space Odyssey asks: “What’s next?” In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the question was “What is man’s place in the universe?” and it gave an answer that I could imagine rippled into our culture: That man, in contrast to the large universe surrounding him, is small and miniscule. We must evolve into the Star Child, reach the next step, achieve transcendence.

The Tree of Life asks and answers this same question, but then, at the final closing moments, it answers a brand new one: “Well, now that we know what the next step is…how do we get there?” And without spoiling anything, it’s one of those instances when the answer to a complex and seemingly unfathomable question turns out to be a simple solution. What it is, you’ll have to find out for yourself when you see it (And in case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, you should all go see it, regardless of how a majority of you may be puzzled).

In layman’s terms, in order to achieve the next step and evolve, we must become aware of the world around us, and learn to find love and passion for all of life’s blessings. I’m not a religious man (Consider me agnostic) but that’s certainly a beautiful message I can get behind, and that, to me, is what the Dawn of Time sequence is there for. To actually give us that sense of awe and wonder for the natural world around us.

I can imagine that this was where a few of the outcries and derisions at the Cannes Film Festival originated. That the film was “pretentious” and contained a rather pat and simple resolution to an otherwise grand and encompassing question, yet portraying this simple truth in a complex and symbolic manner. And while this may be one of the few times I can kinda see where people are coming from, let’s be honest here, we’re only human, and we don’t all hold the keys to the universe. And the answer Terrence Malick provides us with is simple on a surface level, but goes much deeper when you realize how incapable people are of accomplishing it nowadays. It’s like what GLaDOS said at the end of Portal 2, “The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one.” And while what Malick suggests isn’t necessarily “easy”, it’s human. It’s something that only we as human beings can do.

I hate quoting other critics (Something I actually do quite a lot), but I simply must bring this up. Many, many people are aware by now that all of Malick’s movies don’t really tell us stories, so much as they recite us poems. Just as a poem is a collection of words and phrasings that culminate to evoke specific emotions in a rhythmic fashion, Terrence Malick does the same thing but with images. The Tree of Life is probably his most different poem of all, largely because it isn’t necessarily a poem, but, as Roger Ebert suggests, a prayer. A prayer that is, for all intents and purposes, poetic, mind you, but a prayer nonetheless. Not in the sense of asking God for something, but, as Ebert said, “…the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.”

Will people hate The Tree of Life? Absolutely. I saw it with my mother and while she thought the scenes with the family were emotional and well-acted, she loathed the ending and Dawn of Time sequence so much that it gave her a bad taste in her mouth leaving the theater. But hey, that’s art, and when something unconventional takes shape, it is largely polarizing. Hell, 2001 had its share of scorn when it first released in 1968, and today it is deemed a classic, for good reason. Regardless, I feel like The Tree of Life still has a little something for every viewer, so long as they have the patience to endure Malick’s deliberate pacing.

Final Verdict: Very few movies offer the transcendental experience that The Tree of Life offers. Terrence Malick’s pacing may bore impatient viewers, but rather than analyzing every little detail and trying to make sense of everything, instead it is best to come into the movie with that sense of awe and let the experience wash over you. Viewers in the right mindset will be treated to a visually awe-inspiring, heavily emotional, strange, unique, gorgeous, and elegiac prayer of a film. It’s more than a movie. It’s a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage, and a meditation on the importance of the natural world around us. In short: A prayer.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I just want to stand in a beach for 4 hours thinking to myself. These movies have that effect on me. Bye.


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