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Badlands (1973)

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Splicing the airy, almost weightlessness of picturesque terrain, brilliantly compacted dialogue, and unflinching violence into a vividly powerful love story. Badlands is Terrence Malick’s expressionistic piece that still remains his most ambitious release to date. Aside from his striking direction, Malick’s suave, eventful script is not to be overlooked. Although remaining somewhat sparse, Badlands contains his most frequent, inspired diction. However, it’s still no substitute for the atmospheric, elemental panoramas of the surrounding landscapes. A vicious, obsessive love condensed into a runtime that’s compressed when compared to other Malick pictures. Badlands leads Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek capture the youth and indifference of two wayward lovers bent on mayhem and adventure. Taking into account the immaturity and easily corruptible or persuaded minds of innocence, Malick completes his descent into the warped brains of impulsive souls.

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Kit (Sheen), a young garbage collector, stumbles upon Holly (Spacek) during one of his routine pickups. When the two strike up an unusual relationship, they need to keep it a secret from Holly’s overprotective father. After Kit struggles to find a new job upon being fired as a garbage man, the unwanted pressure from Holly’s dad begins to excessively bother Kit. When Holly’s father shoots her dog as punishment for sneaking around behind his back with Kit, the two decide to take matters into their own hands. Kit guns down Holly’s father with a pistol as she watches unfazed. The two then flee from the law doing whatever is necessary to keep themselves alive and running.

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The first full length feature directed by Terrence Malick. Badlands is based loosely upon a real-life couple who committed a series of murders in 1958. Badlands essentially might be a work of fiction, but it never sacrifices authenticity. Wanting Badlands to play out rather like a fairy tale, Malick takes his two leads from small beginnings to overwhelming heights. Everything from its delusional, flamboyant characters, desensitization towards violence, and enjoyable ending eerily resembles a morose, adult fable.

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With Badlands, Malick controls his two leads more so than his later efforts. Yet somehow still manages to let Sheen and Spacek evolve and define their own characters. Martin Sheen is deliciously rebellious and devilishly unfazed by his evil mannerisms and actions. Sheen emits the youthful good looks and sparks of angst to captivate the pure and polite Spacek, as well as the audience. Getting caught up in the imaginative whirlwind of an early teens thought process. Spacek quickly crumbles under her hearts desire and radiates the lack of decisiveness that accompanies adoration. From the get go, Spacek is the muse and relishes her role. Switching from a playful, fruitful existence to a questionably calm and emotionless teen, Spacek performs admirably. At times, living as if they’re free from the world. Sheen and Spacek sweetly endure one another until their time runs out.

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As for Malick, it is apparent he was a force from the start. If you’re looking, they’re tiny hints as to what we could expect from him for years to come throughout Badlands. Conversely, it’s a real treat to see Malick let loose. It’s supremely bewildering to watch him work, boundless. Without question, Badlands is Malick’s most unrestrained effort. Blending elements of what make Malick the illustrious, imaginative filmmaker we know today and some of his more unrefined, rough edges from early in his career. Badlands is an unhampered, limitless dive into the brilliant mind of Terrence Malick.

Featuring some of Malick’s most captivating camerawork and dialogue. Badlands is a wonderful first film that showcases the early beauty and intellect we’ve come to expect from the extremely talented Terrence Malick.

Badlands: 9 out of 10.

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Midnight in Paris (2011)

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Leaving a lot for the imagination to ponder and envy. Woody Allen’s clever, insightful, magical Midnight in Paris is what fantasies are made of. Full of inspiration and romance, Allen returns to top form with this gem. Venturing through time, showcasing the who’s who in arts and literature, Midnight in Paris is an enjoyable history lesson. Garnering four Oscar nominations in 2012 and earning a victory for best original screenplay, Midnight in Paris is ripe with invention and individuality. Reviving the likes of Earnest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and T. S. Elliot, amongst other countless, unrivalled talents. Midnight in Paris is a writers wet dream. Leading the way through the wormhole is Owen Wilson who is supported by the beautiful and talented Rachel McAdams. Midnight in Paris also features terrific supporting performances from Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Adrien Brody, and the effervescent Marion Cotillard. Directed and written by the aforementioned Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris’s hallowed glow emits a calming, entrancing warmth.

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Gil (Wilson) and Inez (McAdams) tag-along on their parents business trip to Paris. Gil, who is a successful writer in Hollywood would like to make a change and begin writing novels. At first glance, he falls in love with Paris and insists he and Inez move their permanently. Inez does not agree with Gil’s infatuation with Paris or his notion that the 1920’s is the golden age. Gil is left alone for the night when Inez goes dancing with her friends. Gil decides to take a walk through Paris at midnight hoping it will spark his imagination. When the unthinkable happens, Gil is transported into a world filled with his wildest fantasies. This might be the break Gil is looking for, but it also might destroy his relationship with Inez.

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Allen’s satirical, ironic twists on the rom-com genre have never been more intoxicating. Blending the feverish, impulsive, hopeless romance and the disheartening reality of its lowering priority level amongst our social and political commercialism is ingenious. Allen hasn’t conceived a story this idealistic and unique since his 2008 release of Vicky Christina Barcelona. In that span of three years, he released two films, both misses. However, all is forgiven and forgotten with Midnight in Paris. I’ll contently digest the bad in order to obtain the good, and this good is an acquired and particular taste. Midnight in Paris’s easygoing, eccentric, fruitful completeness is a pleasant sedative that lulls the viewer into the bewildering perplexity of cinemas intended stupefaction.

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Midnight in Paris might cater to a certain level of expectancy, which might be off putting to some. It is fully plausible to understand how one might find Midnight in Paris presumptuous and founded upon pretentiousness. On the contrary, it has no intention of condescending to any viewer. A facet of Allen’s brilliance is the simplicity in Midnight in Paris. There is no overcompensation or unnecessary explanation for the time travelling aspect and as a viewer, among many, there is no need or desire to question the implication. Midnight in Paris is enjoyable and easily comprehended, regardless of a factual explanation. All the tools needed to connect with Midnight in Paris are traits of the human body. Laugh, weep, or spite, Midnight in Paris is one of the easiest films to adore that you’ll ever come by.

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To my surprise, Owen Wilson did not earn an acting nomination at the 2012 Oscars for his role in Midnight in Paris. His performance is distinguished by the subtlety of his comedic indifference radiating from slight body movements and facial expressions. This is the most effective Owen Wilson has been since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, possibly even further back to 2005 with Wedding Crashers. In a surprising change of pace, McAdams undertakes the role of a villain in Midnight in Paris, or maybe that’s just my interpretation. However, coming from me, someone who’s bordering adoration for McAdams is teetering towards obsession, to say that she’s the antagonist, it must be a powerful performance. Finally, Cotillard continues her North American domination with another outstanding effort. In the film, she is the reason we search for love. To sit here and nitpick the impeccable supporting performances from Hiddleston, Brody, Sheen, and Kathy Bates seems pointless. It’s hard to argue perfection when it is only on display for minutes at a time. Take their track records and my word for it, they’re terrific.

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In conclusion, just to be clear, I was joking about my McAdams obsession. I simply enjoy her films and performances, as well as think about her night and day…kidding. Midnight in Paris has the comedy and emotion to back up its boastful endeavours and melancholic moments.

Midnight in Paris: 8.5 out of 10.

The Game (1997)

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It may be a tad too predictable, bland, and overcompensating, which would make The Game David Fincher’s most tame chapter to date. That being said, a mediocre Fincher film is still a hell of a lot better than most of the weekly releases that lack emotion, intelligence, and pride. Don’t get me wrong, The Game is entertaining and it still stirs up deep questions and arguments about the human condition. It’s just that throughout the film you’re constantly being led to believe that your going to be wowed at some point and while it may set its sights high, it doesn’t fully reach them. The Game stars Michael Douglas and Sean Penn as brothers who have become distanced and unfamiliar. With a script strong enough to evoke a response and its two leads doing their best to make up for what is lacking. The Game is a fine outline of what Fincher is capable of and is an early look into the mind we’ve come to expect big things from. Despite its straight and narrow storyline, it’s still more captivating and rewarding than most half assed attempts at psychological thrillers.

Nicholas (Douglas) is a wealthy banker residing in San Francisco. His attitude and tastes are suited to a man of his stature and he embraces the loneliness that comes with importance. Nicholas has reached the age of 48 which is the same age his father committed suicide. When he meets with his brother Conrad (Penn), he receives an unexpected gift. It is some sort of gift card that gives Nicolas access to a unique form of entertainment. Giving in to his urges, Nicolas redeems the card and is transported into a surreal world of confusion and violence.

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The Game still may be able to catch a few off guard and provide a slight surprise but for the majority, what it’s building up to is visible from the get go. I’m trying my best not to bad mouth a piece of Fincher’s collection because I enjoyed the film and love Fincher, it just wasn’t what I expected. The acting good and the point it drives towards is relevant. The significance in the lesson is valuable to each individual, it just could have been masked better through a bit more deception and creativity. The game is a respectable piece of cinema, but it is sandwiched between two of the most celebrated films of all time (Seven and Fight Club). Maybe it’s the simple fact that in comparison to its predecessor and follow up, The Game just doesn’t perform as well and is forgotten, thus leading to the reason why I cut it some slack. The Game is a Fincher film, however brooding and atmospheric, it is a safe attempt. The plot and characters are just intriguing enough to drag you along for the ride. Long after the film finishes, it sticks like a splinter in your brain and grows on you with each passing day. Soon, The Game will make its way into your collection respectably and will always be a stepping stone for the magnificent director we know as David Fincher.

The Game: 7 out of 10.