Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Magnolia (1999)

Rating: 80%
Well since I am finally finished with my Editing Asthetics class, I should hopefully have more time to review much more movies then I recently have been able to. (sorry about that.) Now there's been a couple of movies that I've watched in that class that I haven't seen before and thus would like to share my thoughts about them in my next couple of reviews. And I would like to start that with the last movie we saw in class which is also by far the most peculiar out of all the movies we watched and possibly one of the strangest movies I ever seen: Magnolia.

Plot: Magnolia contains a series of stories that are connected, roughly like in Cloud Atlas and Love Actually. The main stories have to do with a police officer who begins to fall in love with a drug addict, the addict's father who is dying of cancer, a boy who is in a game show, an old man dying who is trying to reach his son whom he left a long time ago, and his wife who married him because of his money.

What really makes this movie so enjoyable are the stories and the characters. While I was preferring some more then others, there is no denying that almost each and every one of them does a great job at getting you hooked and wanting to see more of the story and what happens to these characters. That's not to say some stories/characters could've had more work then what they gave us. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character Phil for example debatably didn't have a whole lot of clear motivation to help Earl find his son, and this young African American kid ESPECIALLY gave a mixed message as to what his goals where and how he achieved what we partially think those goals are from what little we saw from him. (at least in the view of me and my fellow classmates who have only seen the movie once as of now.) Anyway, the acting in this movie is terrific. This film has a great cast, with actors like Julianne Moore, Phillip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as I've already mentioned) and even Tom Cruise who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. In fact, a good portion of the editing has a lot of moments where they mostly don't cut at all whenever an actor or a pair of actors give a very deep and emotional performance and the editor was right to do that. The most notable performances to me seem to be Julianne Moore and Tom Cruise. With Moore, she probably had the most time in the film to express how tortured her character is about how she feel about her husband dying and how she takes a look back at all the years she's been married to him. This also suggests for me that there's just much more to this actress then what I already know from Crazy, Stupid, Love and her brief role in 30 Rock. So maybe I'll look more into her career to see how much more. Now Tom Cruise...probably gave the best performance that I've ever seen him do. And that's saying a lot. Now that's not to say I haven't seen him give some good performances before, but I guess with this movie, I feel I got to see him go all out and really, truly act in possibly the best way that he can. All the different kind of emotions and body movement he did, he gave his all at and it was very enjoyable to see that...even if the beginning of his breakdown later in the film kind of made him sound like a panting dog. *audience boos* I'm really sorry but he did. He was still great and all, but that was still a little distracting. Anyway, with all this said and done, this makes the film very enjoyable...but then we have the problems that make it very strange. Without giving too much away, the movie takes a completely different turn rather then gives us a genuine climax and after that turn, they kind of just give us the ending of the stories. Even before that, the first 5-7 ish minutes tells us these stories that have little to do with any of the characters throughout the rest of the film. I know I'm not entirely saying a lot about what happens, but these certain things become a problem because when you think about what the movie is trying to do on the grand scale of things is not very clear. My professor and classmates have their own opinions like  the film was just 'trying to be symbolic' or that it was 'like Love Actually but with no message' or as my professor bluntly put it, 'life sucks, and then you die'. So it varies as to what you may see in this movie in what it was trying to do as a whole.

And that's my review for Magnolia. You may have trouble with it with what the meaning of it was and might not really like it as a whole, but what makes it enjoyable despite the confusion is the great acting and interesting stories that it's giving you throughout most of the movie. It's not a great film, but for the kind of certain entertainment it gives, it's worth a try if anything.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Frozen Ground (2013)

Rating: 60%
So a couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends Candra found this movie and recommended that I go watch it. So after I got home from class, I took a look and here's how it turned out.

Plot: Based on true events, Sgt. Halcombe has been working on a case trying to catch a serial killer named Robert Hansen. He has trouble trying to arrest him until he comes across a 17-year-old prostitute named Cindy Paulson who managed to escape from Hansen and agrees to try to help Halcombe bring Hansen to justice.

Now where the film sadly falls flat is the fact that it is for the most part predictable. It hits many familiar beats and you have an idea how things will work out for the most part. But what really draws you into this movie is the fact that it's actually based on a true story unlike most mystery and suspense movies that roughly fall into this plot line. So because of that, the story becomes more interesting and you begin to care more for what happens to the characters and it helps you becomes better aware of the terrible fact that there are horrible people like Hansen who do these things. And the acting is surprisingly very good. John Cusack does an excellent job in bringing us this psychotic killer underneath a man who is publicly appearing as a model citizen. Some say that this film was a big improvement for Nicolas Cage in terms of acting and...I don't feel capable of believing that. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't annoying or anything, but I personally have yet to truly get a good idea of what makes a truly good performance from him outside of what I know from his performances in Raising Arizona and Kick-Ass. Guess this leaves all the more reason to watch Leaving Las Vegas sometime soon considering how the won an oscar for his role in that. But the most impressive performance to me was Vanessa Hudges. Considering I only know her from all three High School Musicals, this was an impressive change of pace with her acting. No happy singing along bullcrap, just a performance of a tormented and frightened young woman that is done extremely well. So it was very nice to see her show how great of an actress she can be and here's hoping we can see more performances like that in the future.

And that's my review for The Frozen Ground. It's hardly the most original mystery and suspense film, but it's worth giving a try with the events based on a true story, and the great performances from the main cast.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Rating: 80%
I know this movie is also a while ago, but I haven't had the chance to really review it because of school and work. So here at last is my review for Kick-Ass 2

Plot: Dave and Mindy has long retired from being Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, but has inspired other ordinary people to become other superheros and help people. But when Red Mist returns and builds an army of supervillains under the named of the MotherF*cker (yes that's really his villain name). It's up to Dave and Mindy to put their masks back on and stop them before they destroy the city.

One of the things that I liked so much about the first Kick-Ass movie that I eventually bought it on blue-ray was how they changed things from the graphic novel. What made many people who loved the comic love the movie even more was how they made changes that made Kick-Ass contain adventure, fun, and comedy whereas the book is more dark and just gives a much more negative look at the genre of superheroes. I can see what they were trying to do when they write these books, but there were a lot of points where they were contained things that went too far just to try to give us their message. And that's where my expectations for this film came in. When I read the graphic novel for Kick-Ass 2 I had a less then pleasant time considering how they went even more too far then the first book with things like the Mother F*cker gunning down little children and things like that. So while I knew this movie wasn't going to be as good as the first one (not that I really wanted it to anyway), I still expected changes that made it more fun action, adventure and comedy unlike the book that still made it a very enjoyable movie to watch. And I'm happy to say that, that's exactly what I got. Not only did they make these changes while still being loyal to the book of Kick-Ass 2, but they also gave us some parts from the book Hit-Girl - which is a book that went between the events of Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2 - and they also gave us less dark moments from those parts from the book and just focused on how Hit-Girl is having a hard time trying to adapt to normal life. The action was awesome, the comedy gave us some pretty cute moments, the different directions they gave us - while questionable at some areas that even created some plot holes - where great, and we got some very fun performances from the MotherF*cker, Kick-Ass, Jim Carry as Colonel Stars and of coarse, Hit-Girl. So with all the things there are that make me consider maybe buying it when it comes out on Blue-Ray and DVD, you could imagine my shock over how it currently has a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Again, I did not expect it to be better then the first movie but... 30%? Seriously? I've brought this up to one or two of my friends and they all felt the same way. The most reasons that the critics would give seems to be just how they find it witless and doesn't grasp the beauty of violence or...somewhere around that. I guess with them, it's just a matter of different points of view. As for other people who gave their two cents at it, the worst they said was that it just wasn't as original and creative as the first and focused too much and Hit-Girl's drama on trying to adapt to normal life. And that much I can partially agree with. After all, it is a little hard to beat the first one as far goes as killing bad guys with something more crazy and over-the-top then a jetpack with Gatling guns and a bazooka. And while I don't think the Hit-Girl drama went that terribly long, I can see where people would think it went too long.  

And that's my review for Kick-Ass 2. It has the adventure and comedy that may not be as great as the first movie but still gave the right amount that left me especially satisfied with what they did compared to the book. There is no denying that it has its flaws, but I think it's very easy for me to say that giving it such negativity as ranking it a 30% at RT is going very too far. It's not better then the first Kick-Ass movie, but similar to how a lot of us feel about The Dark Knight Rises compared to The Dark Knight or even The Legend of Korra compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender, it isn't something that I wanted to be better then the first to begin with. I wanted it to be a sequel that did a lot of things right and was enjoyable to watch and that's just what I wanted. You may have your own reasons for liking, disliking or feeling mixed about this movie, but for me, I think it's an underrated movie and I'm still thinking about buying it on Blue-Ray & DVD combo someday.