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Archive for February, 2010

***WARNING: Review contains spoilers***

Weeks ago, I made the optimistic insinuation that Shutter Island’s marketing campaign was a scheme of misdirection. I had beliefs that the film’s trailers were deceptive inkblots to a larger illusion rather than slight indications that the great Martin Scorsese had succumbed to telling a predictable story. Well, I was wrong; Shutter Island is as predictable as the previews suggested. Does that make it a terrible film? No. In fact, not even at all.

This film follows Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), two US marshals who are sent to Shutter Island, a mental institution for the criminally insane, to investigate the disappearance of one of its most dangerous patients. As soon as Teddy digs into the mysteries and conspiracies of the asylum, he begins questioning his own beliefs in American justice and, more importantly, his own sanity.

Shutter Island is a simple parable of guilt and remorse. The trip is one we’ve all taken before in other films, and its ending is easily foreseeable. What makes the movie so enjoyable, though, is how technically rich it is.  Scorsese, a director for about 40 years now, knows exactly what he is doing. He borrows elements from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to illustrate his ominous playhouse of terror, and he takes techniques from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo to keep us trapped inside. He moves the camera with jarring gusto, and he has no problems fluctuating the levels of color or sound just to further the madness.

It’s unfortunate the screenplay isn’t as intricate as Scorsese’s detailed direction. Shutter Island doesn’t have that openendedness that I was anticipating; I thought I’d be coming out of the theater with deranged thoughts to ponder, but not too many came to mind. About twenty minutes of exposition towards the end of the film are designed to answer all loose ends, and the audience is only left with a few (but interesting) ideas to tinker with.

7.5 out of 10

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Robin Hood

Not since Matchstick Men (2003) have I really taken an interest in Ridley Scott’s work. His newest endeavor, Robin Hood, isn’t changing that. Yes, he’s responsible for some of the greatest movies of all time, but his most recent additions have only struck an apathetic chord with me. Furthermore, I feel like I’ve seen Russell Crowe in this type of role on more than one occassion; that’s not necessarily bad, but I can only adore him when he’s doing something outside his comfort zone.

Shutter Island

The trailers for Shutter Island could very well be part of a social experiment. Cynics of the internet have cited how painfully easy it is to see the plot’s twists and turns from the trailers alone. I, too, have expressed disappointment with the overall marketing for this film, but we could all be completely wrong. The trailers’ revealing “twists” might not be spoilers at all, but perhaps subtle misdirects. Our expectations could purposefully be misguided, ultimately creating an even more surprising moviegoing experience. It’s hard to believe that Scorcese would stoop to a simplistic formula. But then again, maybe he has done just that.

The Last Airbender

Thus far, the action and special effects for The Last Airbender look superb. What will determine how good the movie actually is will be the screenplay, and this has been M. Night Shyamalan’s Achilles’ heel for the latter half of his career. He stumbles over plotholes, poor character development, and stilted dialogue, but working with adapted material might just make it easer for him.

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For five and a half years, we’ve been watching LOST evolve into a saga of cryptic mystery. We’ve been captivated by its clues, its red herrings, its reversals, and-if we’re lucky-its devilish reveals. To piece the puzzle together for us, we’ve had a great cast of characters. They’ve asked us to follow them down several rabbit holes thus far, and the reason that we do so is because we deeply care for them.

So this is what LOST is about: its mystery, its answers, and its characters. The final season brings all of these elements together for one final run, and we’re all dying to see how they intersect. The final season’s premiere, “LA X” begins this last act, and everyone’s wondering, “How was it?”

Let’s start with the characters. After last season’s handful of haphazard character revelations, the show takes us back to the beginning of the series in an alternate and ironic timeline. Surprisingly, it’s refreshing to see all of our favorite characters together on Oceanic Flight 815, interacting in a separate universe. This is a unique device to show us how far they’ve come and how much they’ve changed since the Pilot despite our familiarity with them over the extensive course of five seasons. This satisfaction comes from the dramatic irony of the alternate universe; the audience is certain that Jack will be Jack, and that Kate will be Kate, no matter what dimension they reside. Events will most likely coincide too-Locke will walk again, Sawyer will meet Juliet, etc.

So this new reality that LOST has decided to explore is interesting. The showrunners haven’t completely erased all preceding events, but they must move the alternate timeline into a meaningful direction for the show to have any significance. I have great faith that the producers will righteously let these two universes converge, and we’ll be able to find a clear focus for the final hours of the series.

Back on the island in the original timeline, Juliet dies, and she has her touching moment of departure. However, the “Is she dead? Is she alive?” that surrounds her entire farewell is reminiscent of that awkwardness of season five’s indecisive and weak character development. We are also nonchalantly introduced to a whole gang of other Others, and with barely any time to digest all of this, we’re thrown more mythos than we can imagine.

Which leads me to the mysteries and the reveals.

“LA X” closes its cold opening with a classic moment of what-the-fuck-ness. The island is seen lurking underwater in alternate 2004, and while this reveal is disclosed in one of the best shots of LOST ever, I could only get myself to think, “Okay, okay, okay. This better be good.” We’ve been teased by the ominous Statue of Taweret since season two, and we’ve received just about nothing since then. Its allure was nearly gone until season five’s finale brought us back to it, with Jacob and his nemesis, the Man in Black, laying below. Now, it’s all I really want to know about.

The premiere does expose a little bit. The Man in Black, who just so happens to be the Smoker Monster, is now embodied by John Locke. Terry O’Quinn gives another amazing performance as the possessed, metaphorical Esau to LOST’s Jacob. The rivalry between the two will continue, as many fans believe that Jacob is now in the body of one of our LOSTies, Sayid.

Throughout the entirety of “LA X,” the LOSTies are trying to save a severely injured Sayid. We are taken to the Temple, which is inhabitated by other Others, and some interesting nonsense transpires. All the while, we know that Sayid will not die. So when the episode ends with him waking up, mumbling “What happened?” there’s barely any resonance. Yes, several fans have speculated that he is now the new Jacob, and while this would be a very interesting concept for the final season, Sayid’s expected resurrection lacked the mindfuckery of past plot twists.

There are several mysteries that must be attended before LOST can bury the hatchet and establish itself as one of the best shows of all time. Everyone’s main concern is whether or not the puzzle pieces will fit, and we have sixteen episodes left to find out. “LA X” is a great way to begin the the final stretch; it introduces a new way of storytelling with its parallel realities, but it unfortunately takes old tricks out of a bag I’ve come to grow a wee bit tired of.

The rest of the season is set, and time is running out. It’s impossible for Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof to end in a universally satisfying way, but we must love them for giving us their best. Sixteen hours from now, we’ll see who lives, who dies, and what it ultimately all means. Enjoy the ride.

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