Sunday, December 28, 2014

Big Eyes (2014)

Kicking off for the 600s of my reviews, the latest Tim Burton movie that I saw yesterday with my friend Blaine, Big Eyes.

Plot: Margaret Keane is a very talented painter who specializes in paintings of children with big, emotional eyes. Her work starts to become popular, but her husband Walter takes the credit for her paintings and uses them to become a national celebrity. So Margaret is conflicted with whether or not to allow Walter to keep lying and still make the painting for him.

I went to see this movie with Blaine with some fairly high expectations with the mere concept of Tim Burton working on a project that is so different from the majority of his work. And ultimately, the movie didn't disappoint me. What Tim Burton had to give with this film was very well acted and pretty colorful story about art, and the need to find your identity. As I said, this is a completely different film from Burton's usual work, and knowing that going into the film helped me appreciate the film not just as a story, but also as an art piece from Burton. That's not to say I dislike Tim Burton's art style as a film maker. Far from it - he's gives us some great films in the past. But I find it very admirable of Burton to go out of his comfort zone to try something so new. And he surprisingly goes all out in doing it: new kind of story, new setting, new genre, and especially a new cast. I thought for sure there would be at least one or two actors who have worked with Burton before but surprisingly - with Blaine to confirm it, being the giant Tim Burton fan that he is - all the actors where new. And what great performances the actors gave. Christoph Waltz was entertaining as usual - heck, what made his performance stronger was knowing that some of the familiar traits to his acting where things that the person his character was based off of did. And Amy Adams did an excellent job in giving us Margret and guiding us through everything that she is going through over the events of the movie. I also liked how the colors sometimes really stood out and made it seem like the background would look like a painting in a way. If I had any problem with the movie, I would say that the climax, while enjoyable, didn't feel very suspenseful. I won't say how, but the all around process of the climax seemed a little to easy. Also, I feel like we didn't get enough of a background of who Margaret was before she met Walter. Granted, maybe there really wasn't much to tell about that time and if it was ever relevant to her paintings like I kinda suspected it would, but it still feels like there's something missing.

And that's my review for Big Eyes. It's a very nice, enjoyable film that I really appreciate Tim Burton making. Heck, I'll add that it's so different that the only thing that it even hints that it's a Tim Burton film, is his name in the beginning credits. That aside, it's an enjoyable movie with a great cast, and a good story that is worth talking a look and admiring both as a film and as a change of pace from one particular artistic film maker.

Rating: 70%

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

We come to it at least people. All the other Lord of the Ring films, live action and animated are seen and reviewed, and many other planned reviews are finished, now let's finish this at long last with my 600th review; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Plot: After their encounter with Smaug, the Dwarves and Bilbo finally have Erebor in their possession along with all its gold. But then the people of Laketown who have just survived an attack from Smaug become allies with the Elves of Mirkwood and demand that the Dwarves give them the gold that they were promised. But Thorin who becomes infected with Dragon sickness refuses to give up any of his gold. Meanwhile, Gandalf arrives to warn everyone that an army of Orcs have come to claim the mountain. So the fight is one to defend the mountain and to finally stop Azog the Defiler and his forces once and for all.

Straight off the bat, I was very satisfied with this movie. Sure it's still no Lord of the Rings, but it was still a very epic, funny, action packed journey in Middle-Earth that brought the story of Bilbo and the dwarves to a very satisfying conclusion. The acting was great, most notably with Martin Freeman as Bilbo, giving use great reactions while also delivering some really dramatic moments. I really enjoyed how conflicted Thorin was with the dragon sickness while still giving some moments that showed that he still is the person that has been leading this company this whole time. I also liked Billy Connolly as Dáin. If you know a fair about that actor, than you should expect him to be as entertaining as possible with the role. I also liked the realtionship between Kili and Tauriel a lot more than I did in the second movie. While I've come to better terms with their romance even before I went to see this movie, I found their love to be more believable here. True, we don't get moments with them a whole lot either, but for the most part, it still works. But above all, I enjoyed the actual battle of the five armies. Complain all you want about how some things where not in the book like the giant earth worms, bats, and these different kind of trolls, but it made for a very long, yet very entertaining giant battle. It lived up to being a battle with multiple armies... even if there are more than one set of creatures in the case of the Orc armies which sort of makes it confusing with how it's supposed to be five armies. But what drives this movie more are the one on one (or two) duels between Thorin and his Dwarves and Azog and Bolg. They were exciting, thrilling, and one could make the argument that it really helped that there was almost no music during their fighting, they just let the scenes play would on their own. And the Necromancer fight with Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond was a ton if fun to watch. And the song at the end credits, "The Last Goodbye" played by Billy Boyd, the guy who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, is just a great song to finish the trilogy with. Now with all this praise, there surprisingly are a number of critics who didn't like this movie. Either they disliked it because they kept noticing the CGI, or they just complained that it wasn't Lord of the Rings-like enough. I would agree that the CGI is more noticeable in this film than it was in the other two, but I personally don't mind it. It still was giving me a massive battle with these giant landmarks of Middle-Earth that are great to look at. As for it not being Lord of the Rings-like enough...well...that's just dumb. As many of people have stated before an apparently I should do also if people are still saying that, this shouldn't be something that has to be compared to The Lord of the Rings. It's the same world, it has some of the same action and characters, and in fairness, the Battle of the Five Armies is in some respects the closest thing The Hobbit will have to a big battle like the events of The Lord of the Rings films. But it's still NOT The Lord of the Rings. It's not supposed to be Lord of the Rings, and it shouldn't entirely have to be Lord of the Rings. I understand how it's a bummer that these films aren't giant masterpieces of cinema like the previous trilogy, but that is not a good enough excuse to automatically hate them, especially when, despite their flaws, they're still gives us great action, great characters, and so many different things about the creatures and places of J.R.R. Tolkein's brilliant world of Middle-Earth.

And that's my review for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. It may have it's flaws just like the first two films, but in the long run, it was a great final Hobbit film with great use of the characters, great action, new creatures, new parts of the lore of Middle-Earth that give the trilogy a satisfying conclusion. I'm glad with what they gave us for the last film, and I look forward to one day own the whole trilogy. So guys, that's 600 reviews. Thank you for reading, I hope you will continue to enjoy this blog, and here's to hopefully reviewing 100 more movies in the future.  

Rating: 90%

Logan's Run (1976)

Moving on with films from Blaine that I have yet to review, let's take a look at Logan's Run.

Plot: Set in the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed domed city, where a computer is used to take care of all life to the point where once people turn 30, they must undergo a ritual called "Carrousel" where they are to be "renewed. But not everyone is okay with this, and so they try to escape the ritual and are known as Runners and so this computer assigns Sandmen to kill them for defying the computer. One of the Sandmen, Logan 5, discovers a symbol of secret group where Runners find sanctuary. So the computer decides to assign Logan 5 to find the sanctuary and destroy it by adjusting his Lifeclock so that Logan 5 is forced to become a Runner so he can find the sanctuary.

In a way this film appears a little silly considering it's time, but that doesn't stop it from being good. Logan's Run gives us a well paced, dramatic action flick with pretty much everything that comes with it: down time for character development, chase scenes, fights, the whole deal. And it has something of a rather unique ethical moral about the concept of living long enough to grow old. It's better to see for yourself what I mean, but when you really think about it, the films message is something particularly different in comparison to most films. The rest of the elements of the film should either bother you too much, or otherwise be given a pass considering its time. While Logan 5 and Jessica 6 are nothing especially new in terms of main characters in an action film, you can still be invested what is happening to them to a degree. But the real things you can either be too distracted, or just ignore considering the time period are the effects and the costumes in the film. The effects, especially for the guns of the Sandmen where kind of goofy to me to the point where if makes sense that this was made less than a year before Star Wars: A New Hope. And all the colorful costumes that the people in this city wore, while having a little variety to them, where a little distracting in the extent where I couldn't help but think the shirts in Star Trek in a sense.

And that's my review for Logan's Run. It's really up to you as to whether or not you can look past the stuff where the film is sort of dated considering its time, but for me, I can look past those things enough to enjoy the film. It's a nice, action film that, despite whatever issues it has, has a nice story with a somewhat unique message to it that it's not a big action film, but it's still worth taking a look at and have a nice time watching.

Rating: 70%

Quest for Fire (1981)

Let's go back to reviewing movies that Blaine has shown me but I have not come across in reviewing, this is Quest for Fire.

Plot: The film centers around the people of the caveman tribe of Ulam who have this small fire that is used to create other fires. But after a bloody battle with an apelike tribe, they are driven from their caves and in the process of escaping, their fire tender unwittingly douses their small fire and so they are left defenseless because none of them know how to even create fire. So their elder send three men, Noah, Amoukar and Gaw on a quest to find fire and to bring it to their people before it's too late.

In many respects, this still a relatively simple story about the early human beings, but they deliver it pretty well. Quest for Fire gives us a very realistic looking yet somewhat fantasized look at this specific era. The characters do nothing but grunt, which can make it hard to understand what they're doing on occasion, but they still succeed in giving them their own personalities, goals and all around identities to the story. The costumes are also very realistic...thought with that being said, be prepared to see some human parts. I mean that kind of goes without saying considering the time period, but just know that you've been warned. And the action, for what it is with it mostly being just spears and such is done very well. If I had any problems with the movie, it would mostly be on how some scenes are harder to understand than others considering how things are done more in action rather than dialogue.

And that's my review for Quest for Fire. I know this is a short review, but that's mostly because what its delivering is very straight forward. It's a simple story about a quest for fire during the age of cavemen with a very realistic looking world and costume with good acting that give their characters their own identities despite the complete lack of dialogue. If you haven't seen it, give it a try... just, again, watch out for the revealing moments with their costumes.

Rating: 80% 

The Grinch (2000)

Well I said that I was going to review this movie, so now that the animated classic has been reviewed, here's my take on the live-action movie, The Grinch.

Plot: As you already know, The Grinch hates the whole Christmas season. So Little Cindy Lou, who believes everyone in Whoville is missing the point of the holiday, wants to find out why. She finds out through a few interviews with Whos who knew The Grinch growing up, that his hate for Christmas mainly comes a bad memory of Christmas from back when he was a kid. So Cindy Lou arranges for The Grinch to be the main participant of the Whobilation in order to try to get him into the Chirstmas spirit. Things go sour for The Grinch at the Whobilation, and so decides to find a way to stop Christmas from coming altogether.

Now I'm going to start by basically confirming that this film is nowhere near as good as the animated short. But at the same time, there is a part of me, even though I'm grown up and know better, that kind of respects this film for how it was giving us a longer and more detailed version of the story. I like the idea that we have more of a background story of The Grinch, even to the point where he did once have people who cared for him such as the old women who raised him and the girl Martha who has this lifelong crush on him. There was no doubt that it wouldn't be as good as the first film, but seeing it for the first time as a kid, I was all for it, and even now that I'm grown up, I still enjoy it...even if the flaws of the film are much more noticeable. I also liked that Cindy Lou has a bigger part in the story, to the point where she and The Grinch form some sort of relationship even before he tries to steal Christmas. With that said, this film definitely has some flaws. Some of them are self explanatory such as Jim Carry's performance as The Grinch. Now I will grant that I can see why people will find him amusing with all his over-the-top acting, some well delivered facial expressions, and admittingly, a couple of jokes here and there that I did chuckle a little at. But there were a few moments where he gets a little too carried away and delivers some of the jokes that are not only not funny, but pretty inappropriate for kids. And watching this film again, there are some of the well intended additions that weren't delivered all that well. Like Cindy Lou singing the song Where Are You Christmas, which the Faith Hill version is actually what got me interested in watching it again. The song has a nice, emotional concept to it, but when the girl that plays Cindy Lou sings it, it's a little distracting. But at the same time you simply have to give it a pass anyway because deep down, she really is trying her best considering her age and everything, and you can't really fault her for that. Plus, not even that is as much of an issue as the character of Martha as a whole. Now again, I really like the idea of a love interest for The Grinch, and in some respects, they deliver it pretty well... but watching it again, I noticed that Martha, especially as an adult, was...weird to say the least. I mean I like her as a kid where it's clear that she really cares for The Grinch, but when she's an adult... it was kind of messed up with how flirtatious she was over him. Like when Cindy Lou interviews her, she just doesn't hide at all how infatuated she was with him. Other Whos state how horrifying it was when The Grinch snaps when he was a kid during Christmas, and yet she comments about his muscles in the most seductive tone. Ultimately, it seems like both the young and old versions of Martha are completely different characters: one who really deeply cares for him and his truly hurt about what happened to him, and the one who still does, but mostly seems really eager to get to bed with him. And there where some aspects of the film that even as a kid I had problems with. One was the costume for The Grinch, which on one hand is very well done, and Jim Carry uses it very well...but at the same time, the 10-year-old me sometimes felt uncomfortable because there where moments when I couldn't tell if it was a costume, or a really naked person who is almost showing his junk. Also, the part where The Grinch goes on a rampage during the Whobilation was and overkill. Like it was alright at first (again, this is a kid watching the film not realizing some of the adult jokes), but then there's some big explosion that I thought just really killed the mood of where I thought the scene was going.

And that's my review for The Grinch. If you enjoy Jim Carry and really like getting the same story but with a few additions to it, I can understand why. But aside from that, it has too many adult jokes, has a weird character to be The Grinch's love interest, and several other aspects of the film that make it very easily inferior to the animated short. If you're curious about what this film adds, I think the additions to the story are worth seeing and admire to some extent, but otherwise, it's not worth it.

Rating: 45%

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

So Christmas is only a week away, and so I started to think about reviewing the live-action Grinch movie. But then I thought "why not the animated movie first since I likely would be comparing it to the live-action one?" So without further ado, this is the animated tv special of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Plot: The Grinch lives in a cave atop Mt. Crumpit, located above the village of Whoville. For 53 years, he's hated Christmas and wants to find a way to stop Christmas from coming. So he comes up with the idea to dress up as Santa Claus and sleighs down to Whoville to steal all the decorations and presents of Christmas in attempt to stop it from happening.

Guys...you know how how this review is gonna go down; it's a classic through and through. You all know the story, you all know the music, and it's just a fun piece of animation. I remember before my family owned the movie I would look forward to watch this special whenever I got the chance. It takes so many advantages with its animation from the interactions with The Grinch and Max to giving us all the wacky stuff that they have in Whoville. They really where creative with all the toys and games that the Who children would play from all of those musical instruments to that rollar blade game, Zoo Zieen Ka Zay. (Which truth be told, as a kid, I use to question how often they would actually play that game after Christmas. I mean after a while you'd think they would run out of material for stuff like the cloth for the entrance of those giant yellow pipes. But I digress)  And the voice acting, of coarse, is perfect for the narrator and the Grinch...and in some moments, Max. If I had a scene that was my favorite growing up, that would probably be when The Grinch and Max slide down their sleigh to Whoville. It's just a fun little piece of animation that helps make Max such a likable character. And then there's the song everyone knows: You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch. Who doesn't like this song? I think Doug Walker has a good point when he said that this is probably one of the first villain songs that have ever been made. It's a fun song that really goes deep into...well...the Grinch being so mean, for lack of a slightly stronger term.

And that's my review for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. What more do I really have to say about this? It's a holiday classic that everyone knows with its fun animation, likable characters, memorable songs and all around charming yet simple story. If you have not seen this film, you're missing out big time.

Rating: 100%

The Return of the King (1980)

So while looking forward to the last Hobbit movie, I eventually began to realize one little detail about the other Lord of the Rings films: I have completely neglected to review the animated Return of the King movie. I had intended to have all of the animated films reviewed in time for The Unexpected Journey, and yet I only have reviewed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Umm...oops. So with all of that said, why don't I get this review out of the way in time for The Battle of the Five Armies.

Plot: The film begins with the 129th birthday of Bilbo Baggins. During the party, Bilbo discovers Frodo missing a finger, and so with the help of the minstrel of Gondor, Frodo and his friends tell Bilbo about his quest to Mount Doom and needing to be rescued by Sam from Orcs along the journey while everyone else is focused on the battle at Minas Tirith.

Now just like with reviewing the animated Lord of the Rings movie, I'm going to try to be unbiased about this film by comparing it less with its obviously highly superior 2003 counterpart. The problem is, while The Lord of the Rings gave us a nice, animated adaption of both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, this films version of the final book is nothing short of a complete mess almost from beginning to end. Both times that I've watched this film, I get the feeling that even if the Peter Jackson films never came out, I would figure that people would be really confused with this movie - particularly how it picks up from the events of The Lord of the Rings. When we last see the characters in that film *WARNING, SPOILERS* the Grey Company had just won the battle of Helm's Deep, Merry and Pippin had come across Treebeard, and Frodo and Sam had just convinced Gollum to bring them to Mordor. Now at the beginning of this movie, Frodo is already captured by Orcs, the battle of Minas Tirith has already started, Merry is with Theoden, Aragorn is after the black ships, and Legolas and Gimli have completely disappeared. All of this is where the story starts at right after basically addressing the end of the story at the beginning of the film. So it goes from winning a big battle at the end of the previous movie, and then you have this one that basically begins saying "this is basically how the whole quest ended, and here's some elements here and there of what happened." Granted, I understand that adapting this story is hard to do. You are talking a story that was believed to be unfilmable for a long time, and your concluding it with a film only 98 minutes long. But that doesn't mean it's okay that you tell the story in a really clunky way where you give us just elements of the story rather than actual scenes. Because that's basically the majority of the film: lay out an element of the story, play a song, and then eventually move to the next element. In my review for the animated Hobbit movie, I criticized it for having way to many music numbers after almost anything that ever happens in that film. But I'm going to count my blessings with that film, because at least it had some variety. The majority of the music in this film is either hearing the songs Frodo of the Nine Fingers or The Bearer of the Ring for the 8th time each, or playing some other song while giving us some flashback about past events or a daydream of what would happen if they fail or succeed or something. And then you have the song Where there's a whip, there's a way. This is the most memorable song in the whole film, but it's also the most hated. While I can't say for sure why, it does have this sort of tone to it where I can't completely like it...even if at the same time, the tune is really, really catchy. If there were anything that I admit is good about the film to a certain degree, I would say that I do like how they give us some parts of the story that weren't in the Peter Jackson film. Namely things like the One Ring trying to corrupt Sam, Sam coming across the Watchers, and even seeing the Witch-King with his hood taken off.

And that's my review for The Return of the King. If you grew up with this film or just like to see a different interpretation of the story, maybe you'll like it to some degree. But for me, this movie as a whole is nothing short of a complete mess that brings little of the story justice with its messy structure and almost no genuine focus of characters aside from Frodo and Sam. If you just want to see something different than the Peter Jackson films, then give this a try, but I honestly think this is one movie to definitely skip.

Rating: 10%

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Alright, we are at the last film, so here is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Plot: Set in 1957, the movie begins with Indiana being forced by Soviets to re-find a certain magnetic artifact that he found before. After shortly escaping and finding out his old friend from WWII betrayed him for the Soviets, he meets a greaser named Mutt who tells him about how an old friend, Harold Oxley had found a crystal skull in Peru and is kidnapped along with Mutt's mother. So bringing Mutt along, Indiana travels to try to find the crystal skull while being followed by the Soviets and finding Mariam again who turns out to be Mutt's mom.

Now I am going to take a good guess that most of you know how despite getting positive reviews, this pissed off a lot of people who like Indiana Jones. So does it deserve all the anger that its been given from almost the moment it was played in the theaters? Well...kind of no...but in the long run, yes. The stuff that is good about the movie should not be overlooked completely. But the stuff that people have issues with are commonly addressed when talking about this film with good reason. First off, I will say that even if it makes the film a little too familiar, I do like all the nod offs and plot elements from the past films that they bring here. Sure it's not the same, but at the same time they're trying to recapture the spirit of the other films for the fans. And while it's up to debate as to how much it succeeds or not, I think we should at least appreciate the effort that Lucas and Spielberg made in accomplishing that certain, challenging feet. I also really liked that we get to see Mariam again because of how, again, she's pretty much the best love interest that Indiana Jones has. And in some respects, I actually liked Mutt. And I know some of your are already thinking; "Seriously? Shia LeBeouf?" Well...yeah, seriously. I mean yes, he's not very knowledgeable and he does comb his hair a little too much (I mean I get that he's a greaser and all, but he will kind of do it at the worst of times), but at the same time, he did come out a bit more thoughtful and helpful during the second half. He was sword fighting against the villain, he would be more on his feet, he would try to help analyze the situation or what they're discovering - bottom line, he was no Indiana's father, but I don't think he was that bad of a companion. And while I didn't exactly laugh at everything, there where some jokes like Indiana saying "I like Ike" that where a little funny. Also, while not giving anything away, I thought what happens in the last 4-5 ish minutes was nice. If there was something that was so-so for me, it would be the action. Some of it was still fun and all, but other times, the CGI would be too distracting. I especially bring that up, because there were a lot of moments during the action where something would happen that comes off a little over the top. Like even compared to most certain things that happen in most Indiana Jones films, what I'm seeing in this film with red ants and a giant tree cutting machine is really getting carried away with what is happening. But the thing people despise without question is basically what the quest for the crystal skull builds up to throughout the majority of the film. I won't ruin it for you if you don't know what that thing is, but let's just say the reveal during the climax brought a lot of fans to declare that they had just raped Indiana Jones. And while I'm not as angry as a lot of people are, I'm in the same boat. Granted, I also think what Lucas and Spielberg tried to do during that climax did come with good intentions (so to speak.) They wanted to give us something very new to Indiana Jones while still trying to keep it in the spirit of the first three films, and they wanted to do it in a way where they are still paying tribute to something from that era. But that doesn't mean that this idea worked. Even if they did mean well (it's up for debate if they did), what they came up with was something that a lot of fans thought was a horrible idea that did not belong in an Indiana Jones movie. True, there are some people who argue that what they gave us works, and some arguments I've read make sense to a degree. But for the most part, no one likes the idea, and that more or less includes me.

And that's my review for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It really is up to you as to whether or not it's good or bad. On one hand, it captures a decent about of the spirit of the other films while giving us a likable character back and giving us some new ones, but on the other hand, the big reveal that they give us in the climax is too much for a lot of fans of the franchise. For me, it's a little in between. I say that it absolutely is the weakest of the films and its reveal failed, but at the same time, I think it ended with a decent way to end Indiana Jones' story. Take it for what it's worth, and decide for yourself.

Rating: 60%   

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

On to the third film, this is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Plot: The first 15 ish minutes of this film introduces Indiana Jones as a 13 year old by, showing his origins with trying to retrieve an ancient cross that he wants in a museum. Shortly after finally getting the cross 26 years later, Indiana meets Walter Donovan, who informs him that his father, Henry Jones, Sr., has vanished while searching for the Holy Grail. So with his father's journal as his guide, Indiana begins to try to pick up where his father left off while also trying to look for him with the help of Marcus Brody and Elsa Schneider.

This movie may be much lighter and comedic than the other ones, but at the same time, I would make the argument that at the bottom line, it's one of the few good third movies that media has to offer. Not in the sense that it's better than the other films, but it's still a good third movie. Even if it is lighter than the first two films, it still is a fun adventure where we once again have Nazis as the villains and some comedy that in some respects is a little funnier than the comedy in the other films...or at the very least, a little more memorable. The mystery in trying to find the Holy Grail is very enjoyable. But the real heart to this movie is Sean Connery as Indiana (or Junior)'s father and their relationship as father and son. Even if he's not as action packed as Indiana (which is kind of weird in a way since it's the original James Bond), he does have a fun and witty personality while also just as skilled with his knowledge in ancient civilizations and languages, even if his knowledge is more focused on the Grail. Also in a way, I kind of like how the story is a little more structured to The Hero's Journey, particularly with how Indiana is tested during the third act of the film. 

And that's my review for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It may not be better than Raiders of the Lost Ark since it's more light and witty, but it's still an enjoyable, fun film with its fun action and likable charm with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as Indiana Jones and his father. While it's not spectacular, I still think it should be recognized as one of the few good third movies.

Rating: 85%

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

With Raiders of the Lost Ark done, let's move on with the Indiana Jones films with The Temple of Doom.

Plot: Set about a year before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones ends up in a Himalayas with his 11-year old sidekick, Short Round and nightclub singer Willie after escaping from a crime boss in Shanghai. They come across a poor village where the villagers believe that they were sent by the Hindu god Shiva and ask them to retrieve the sacred Sivalinga stone stolen from their shrine as well as their children. So Indiana and his companions go to Pankot Palace to try to find whoever is behind the stolen stone and children.

Now this movie has a sort of mixed reception. Some people like it, but others think it's way to dark with its violence and rather intense scenes. So much so that while it's declared a good movie, it's somewhat known as the weakest of the first three films. For me, this was actually the first Indiana Jones film I ever saw from beginning to end. And for what they gave me for the first movie I ever watched, I actually really like this movie... true, I understand some of the problems it has now that I'm older, but I still think it's a very good movie. As cheery and fun as the other films are, I enjoy Temple of Doom, because of how the dark and intense moments and all around story make for a very thrilling and epic film in my opinion. The antagonists where intimidating, making the danger more dramatic, the fights where more suspenseful (in their own way) and yet it would still manage to have a few fun moments here and there that keeps the all around spirit of Indiana Jones. Granted, I do understand how, again, the dark moments appear to go way too far to some people, with the mere concept of things like sacrificing people and especially kidnapping the children. But to me, that just makes it a more compelling story and leads to a very satisfying climax. I liked Short Round as a companion - I can see why some people might find him annoying, but he's was still a fun character who would be very helpful to Indiana. By the way, where is the actor for Short Round? After this film and Goonies he's barely been in anything anymore. I felt this way as a kid, and I'll say it now: what the heck? But the even bigger problem people have that I won't really defend is the character, Willie. Pretty much everyone hates what a clumsy, whiny, damsel-in-distress Willie is. Granted, what she does in the film does make sense: she is completely out of her environment. She's a nightclub singer in Shanghai and yet she's in this jungle full of all these things that are very foreign to her and it's perfectly understandable how she generally reacts to it. But what kills it for us liking her at all is how she generally does not stop whining and screaming. Sure she might do something helpful on occasion, but in the long run, even Indiana specifically says "The trouble with that woman is all the noise."

And that's my review for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. If you're not a fan of how dark and intense this movie is on top of how annoying Willie is, I can't say I don't understand why. I do. But for what the film has with all that aside, I personally see it and a very thrilling, epic adventure in the Indiana Jones films. It's not the greatest, but I enjoy it.

Rating: 85% 

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Now that Back to the Future is out of the way, it's time I tackle another franchise that I have yet to review. With that said, let's take a look at the Indiana Jones films starting with, what else? Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Plot: Indiana Jones is an archaeologist who braves all sorts of booby trapped temples to retrieve treasures. Shortly after attempting to retrieve a golden idol, two Army Intelligence agents come to his university and inform him that Nazis are looking for the Ark of the Covenant. So it's up to Indiana to find the Staff of Ra and use it to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.

Let's be honest here; this is easily another one of these films where I have to ask "what can I say about this movie that hasn't been said many times before?" This is a fun, somewhat funny, exciting action film that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have created in homage to the action heroes of 1930s film serials. You have sword fights, booby traps, natives, brawls, gun fights, car chases and so on that are all fun to watch. I could name a few parts that stand out the most but...let's face it, you know them. There are so many parts of this movie that people like, that there's hardly anything forgettable about this film. The characters are very memorable; Indiana Jones is ranked #2 on AFI's top heroes and...while I personally wouldn't put him that high, I can see to a degree why they would. He is very heroic character with his skills with most notably his whip and coming up with ideas generally fast, and his massive knowledge in ancient civilizations and languages, and yet he has his weaknesses such as his massive fear of snakes. And then there's easily the most loved Indiana Jones companion, Mariam. Yes she gets captured a couple of times, but she still has a strong, tough fighting spirit, and she just has this fun personality that in the long run, you can tell that the chemistry between her and Indiana works. If I had one problem with the film - it's really one of these total nitpicks - I would have to point out something that The Big Bang Theory states in one episode that questions Indiana Jones' importance with the whole journey of finding the Ark. But that's really a nitpick that you can really look over and just enjoy the film.

And that's my review for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I know this was a very generalized review, but honestly that's coming from having trouble saying anything the you more than likely don't already know. It's a fun, funny, exciting action film that so many people know and enjoy. If you haven't seen it, then go do so. But chances are, you probably already have.

Rating: 95% 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Let's finish going through this trilogy with Back to the Future Part III.

Plot: After finding out that the Doc is still alive, just stuck in the year 1885, Marty goes to the Doc in 1955 to help him get back to the 1985. (whew, so many years to remember in this trilogy) But while Marty and the 1955 Doc are setting up the DeLorean, they discover older Doc's tombstone and that he was murdered by Biff's great-grandfather, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. So Marty decides to use the DeLorean to travel to 1885 to find the other Doc, rescue him from being murdered and take both of them back to 1985. But shortly after finding him, the Doc finds himself falling in love with the town's school teacher and begins to have second thoughts about going back to the present.

Of the two sequels of Back to the Future, I remember this one being the one that my siblings and I enjoyed watching the most when we were growing up. It's not better than the first movie, but it has a more fun, exciting and adventurous feel to it than the second movie. And it was a little bit smarter than the second movie in giving us detailed connections with these various points in time that they have traveled to that have to do with Marty's family or the town of Hill Valley and so on. Does it do a good job in bringing the old west to life? Eh...I personally like to think it both does and doesn't. It doesn't because in some respects, you can tell that the western setting of 1885 has a somewhat more light kind of movie style sort of look at the old west, and especially with adding things that I'm pretty sure where not around in that era such as an outlaw like Buford Tannen calling someone "dude." But at the same time it still does work because at the same time, they do put enough effort into the scenery and costumes and such to make it feel more real. I do like the relationship between Doc and Clara. I think Clara was a very fitting character for Doc to fall in love with. I also like the western music that is played throughout the movie. My favorite tracks was the country music played during the town festival which has a very catchy tune, and the main western theme that has a very exciting, fun and adventurous sound to it. I also enjoy the climax of the film with the final showdown between Marty and Buford Tannen, and everything else that follows that I won't spoil for those of you who haven't seen the movie, but I will say gives the trilogy a very satisfying conclusion. If I did have an official problem with the film that I kinda had even when I was a kid, it would be one scene where Marty somehow predicted that he'd run into some Native Americans as soon as he landed in 1885. That moment was just didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me.

And that's my review for Back to the Future Part III. It may not be extremely accurate in giving the western era, and it's not as good as the first movie, but it was still fun, adventurous and exciting enough that it gave this trilogy a very satisfying conclusion at the end of the day.

Rating: 70% 

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Let's move on with going through the Back to the Future franchise with Part II.

Plot: Shortly after the events of the first movie, the Doc comes back to 1985 to take Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer to the year 2015 in order to try to stop something that is supposed to happen to their children. But along the way, Marty buys a book that records all the sports games from the end of the century with plans to use it to make some money back in the present via gambling. Doc tells him off for this and throws the book away, but they are over heard by the 2015 Biff who secretly steals the DeLorean bringing the book with him and thus changes the timeline.

Now it should go without saying at this point that this movie is not as good as its predecessor, but that doesn't keep it from being enjoyable anyway. Even if some of the effects they give us, particularly with the futuristic stuff that they give us in the year 2015 don't hold out too well considering its time, I still like some of those futuristic things now just as much as I did as a kid. The flying cars and especially the Hover Board where my personal favorites from that timeline. I even remember wanting to grow up actually figuring out and inventing flying cars and Hover Boards exactly the way they are in this movie. There may be some cooler futuristic stuff that is thought of in other films today, but I just can't help but feel a little nostalgic for those gadgets. And the main story to this film was a dark dark yet intriguing dilemma for Marty and Doc to encounter that also supports my argument of these films being the right films to introduce the general concept of time travel with this movie introducing the concept of alternate timelines. As a kid, I thought the alternate timeline had a very suspenseful and to some degree gritty setting to it that really kept me interested. But as I said, this film isn't as good as the first one. While it does still have some well constructed details that have to do with the different timelines, it's not quite as clever as it is in the first movie. But the biggest problem that I can agree with is one that my sister pointed out a few months ago. She basically said that the second half of the movie was just a reenactment of the things that happen in the first movie. And...yeah that's a good point. Personally, I kind of like how some of the formulaic similarities to some of the scenes in both films, but I can't deny that interesting as the second half of the film was, it wasn't exactly giving us anything particularly new, which also hurts that the stuff that is particulalry new about the film -mainly the future itself - was given to us in just the first half hour or before the get to the main plot of the movie.

And that's my review for Back to the Future Part II. It's not as good as the first film because its less clever and gives us some of the same exact things from its predecessor. But if you can look past that, it's still a fun movie with a cool future, a suspenseful story and enough heart to keep you interested for what is in store for the third movie.

Rating: 60%

P.S. Dear universe, right now as I'm writing this, it is December 16th 2014 at 5:54 P.M. That means you have exactly 10 months, 4 days, 22 hours, 35 minutes and 34.7 seconds to give me my Hover Board in time for the earlier events of this film on October 21st 2015 at 4:29 P.M. So you darn well better hop to it. I want my Hover Board and I want it now!!! Have a nice day.  

Back to the Future (1985)

So since I'm getting closer to 600 reviews, there is a little something that I haven't gotten to. You see there was a part of my mind that wanted to review the Back to the Future and Indiana Jones films shortly after completing the whole best picture winner reviewing marathon with The Godfather Part II as my 500th review. I ended up focusing on completely other stuff instead, even forgetting about it a few times. But since I'm nearly reaching the 600s, I think it's time I finally settled the matter of re-watching these two franchises and telling my thoughts about them. With that said, let's take a look at the Back to the Future movies.

Plot: Set in 1985, Marty Mcfly is a high school musician wanting to make something of himself, while living with his less ambitious family where his father is bullied by his supervisor Biff and his mother is an overweight alcoholic. But then one night, he sneaks out to see his scientist friend Emmet "Doc" Brown who reveals that he can created a time machine out of a DeLorean car. But during this discovery, Doc is found and killed by Libyan terrorists who he stole plutonium from in order to power the time machine, and so Marty accidentally travels in time with the DeLorean while driving away from the Libyans to the year 1955. There he tries to find the Doc from that year to find a way to get back in time, but he finds out that he also has to find a way for his teenager parents-to-be to get together as the teenage version of his mom has the hots for him.

I"m going to start of by expressing my opinion with these films as a whole, by saying that the Back to the Future films in my mind are the right movies to watch to introduce people to the general concept of time travel. There are several other films and TV episodes that give us time travel and in some cases like Doctor Who, have their own different set of rules and experiences with this concept. But it's the Back to the Future films that I think introduce it better with its cleverly detailed world of this town of Hill Valley, the problems and consequences with tame travel that Marty and Doc encounter, its all around unique way to travel through time and all with their likable characters. Watching this movie again, I re-realized how much detail they put into this movie with how this are both similar and different between 1955 and 1985 and how both moments in time connect. How you can compare and contrast to what Marty's parents and other people from around both years where like during both of those times. Almost anything that they tell you about the people, or the town is relevant to the story, and they make the differences of both time eras work. But part of what keeps the film interesting is the main characters, Marty and the Doc. Marty I enjoyed watching when I first saw this film almost as soon as I found out that he is played by Michael J. Fox, who also plays Milo Thatch in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a film I was practically obsessed with at the time. And even with that said, Marty is a fun, heroic character to watch. Even if he's not an expert with time like Doc is, he still will try to come up with ideas to try to fix things up and will be on his feet in a sense when he's coming across enemies like Biff and his gang. Though I do remember these films introducing me to some swear words that I almost never heard of until my siblings and I started watching them, and I do think I have to give credit mainly to Marty for that. The Doc is also a very fun character that Christopher Loyd did a great job in giving the majority of the exposition for traveling through time and the consequences. And finally, it was an all around fun, funny and in some respects, suspenseful movie. A good portion of what helped made this movie suspenseful and fun was the music. The original score just gives a very fun and adventurous feel to the movie that really sets the emotion of what is happening. Also "Power of Love" and "Johnnie B. Goode" are very fun songs to listen to...even if with the latter song, you can tell that Michael J. Fox is lip-syncing to the song.

And that's my review for Back to the Future. It's a fun, clever and very well constructed time travel film with likable main characters, an enjoyable score, and is altogether an enjoyable adventure that shouldn't be forgotten. If you haven't seen this movie yet, it's definitely worth taking a look.

Rating: 95%        

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Another movie that Blaine has shown me but I have yet to get around to reviewing until now, it's Francis Ford Coppola's, Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Plot: In 1492, Vlad Dracula returns from a war to find that his wife, Elisabeta, has committed suicide, tricked to believe that he was killed in battle. So in anger, he renounces God declaring that he will rise from the grave to have his vengeance with the powers of darkness. Cut to 1897 where a solicitor named Jonathan Harker takes the Transylvanian Count Dracula as a client. But when the count sees a picture of Harker's fiancee, Mina, he believes that she is a reincarnation Elisabeta, and so devises a plan to go after her and try to win her heart.

While I would not call myself someone who has actually read the book Dracula, this film does have a lot of both similar and very different things as far as the all around story in comparison to the Christopher Lee Dracula that I reviewed a couple months back. The biggest difference between both of these films is what is happening between Mina and Dracula through roughly the last three-quarters of the movie. And for the most part, what comes out is something with a great cast, colorful visuals and a somewhat disorganized but still interesting story. This film has a generally excellent casting with Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina, Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing and Cary Elwes as Sir Arthur Holmwood. The biggest problem with the casting that people seem to have is Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker who people viewed as out of his depth, especially in comparison to acting with big actors like Oldman and Hopkins. I'll admit that while I didn't say anything to Blaine, I was sort of on that boat too when he told me that he was in this movie before we watched it. I mean I'm not as critical about his acting as others, but...really? Keanu Reeves in a Francis Ford Coppola movie? The guy who plays Neo in the Matrix films gets an acting job in one of the projects of the guy who gave us The Godfather films? But after watching the movie I do think he's okay, but his importance in the film felt a little jumbled. Like he's the main focus in the beginning of the movie like he's suppose to be, and then after his encounter with The Brides, he kinda disappears and reappears out of random during the remainder of the film. But I digress. The cinematography and colors are also great in this movie. Just from both of those factors (but mainly colors) you can easily tell that this is a Coppola film through and through. This film also won an Oscar for makeup and for good reason: they have very creative, well put together, and various kinds of make up for Gary Oldman especially to the point where you may as well think you're watching very different characters even if it's the same character with the same actor. And like most films that are set in this time period, the costumes are very detailed and great to look at. But the biggest problem for me was how it took a while for me to understand what was happening. After Harker's encounter with The Brides, the next half hour or so of the movie was very confusing and hard to follow. Like there's some important stuff happening around that time, but it's put together in a way where it's kind of all over the place. Thankfully by the time we were about halfway through the movie, I was understanding more what was happening in the movie and I was enjoying it from there. But thinking more about the movie, there was some stuff that doesn't make sense to me even then, mainly the realtionship between Mina and Dracula. Like on one hand I kind of believe what is emotionally happening between them, but at the same time I have no idea why their relationship works, particularly with how Mina feels about Dracula. Granted, more than likely, it's possible that I just need to see it again to understand it, or maybe I did get it when I watched it and I forgot. Honestly, there is so many interesting things happen in this film that I can't remember everything.

And that's my review for Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's a deep, dramatic film with an excellent cast (unless you don't like Keanu Reeves), great visual that Francis Ford Coppola knows to deliver on, and a story that you may not like if you can't follow it, but is still an interesting to follow. You may need to see it more than once to fully get it, but otherwise, it's a very well acted drama to check out.

Rating: 75%  

Team America: World Police (2004)

Getting back to the films that I have yet to review that Blaine has showed me throughout most of this year, let's take a look at a movie that was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park), Team America: World Police.

Plot: Team America: World Police is an anti-terrorism force, that recently lost one of their soldiers while fighting terrorists in Paris. So to replace that soldier, they hire Broadway actor Gary Johnston to use his acting to spy and infiltrate on other terrorist groups. Little to they know that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is supplying international terrorists with weapons of mass destruction with plans to use them to turn every nation into a third world country.

When Blaine told me that this was made by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, pretty much everything that was happening in this movie made so much sense. This film has their comedy, choice of story, and even their sense of making fun of celebrities all over it. But half of what makes the comedy work in this particular project is that this time, it's done with puppets. You know that they're puppets and thus you know what you're seeing is fake, but at the same time, they have so much fun with what they do with the idea while still giving us some blood, gore, explosions and so on. And the action by itself is actually fairly well done all things considered with it being done by puppets. The music is also fun to listen to. The ones that stick to my head the most by far are "I'm So Ronery" which is sung as an "emotional" song by Kim Jong-il, and "America (F*** Yeah)" which is just extremely catchy. Now are the jokes for everyone? Of coarse not. If you know anything about South Park, then you should know what you're getting into when watching a movie that is made by the creators of the show. There are going to be jokes you'll find funny, but there will also be jokes where they just go too far.

And that's my review for Team America: World Police. If you are not into the kind of humor South Park brings, you're not going to be fond of this movie. But if you are, this is a fun film with clever use of puppets, action, and comedy that only Trey Parker and Matt Stone can bring.

Rating:75%

Sunday, December 14, 2014

21 Grams (2003)

Alright, finally I have gone to the last film that I have recently borrowed from Blaine. Let's not waste any more time. This is 21 Grams.

Plot: Paul Rivers is a mathematics professor who needs an organ donation due to a fatal heart transplant. Eventually he gets it, but afterwords, he wants to find out who he has to thank for the new heart. So through a private detective, he finds out that he has the heart through a hit and run, killing the man whose heart was donated and his two daughters. So he tries to get to know the donor's wife while also finding out about the person who caused the hit and run.

With this movie, Blaine stated that it's okay if I needed to watch the movie twice in order to get it. Thankfully I didn't need to do that, but it took only the first 5 ish minutes of the film to understand why he said that. A big part of how hard it was to explain the story for this film is because its told in a very non-linear kind of structural way. So unless you pay close attention to what is happening like I basically did thanks to what Blaine said, you're not going to understand this film. Or at the very least, you will need to watch it more than once in order to get it. With all of that said, this was a very intriguing and enjoyable movie. What really brings it to life is the performances from the actors, Sean Pean, Naomi Watts, Denicio del Toro (who I have a hard time believing that this is the same guy who plays The Collector for the Marvel films after watching this film), and so on. They all did a terrific job in making what is happening to their characters deep yet entertaining. And while the story is told very non-linear like, I will say that they don't tell the story in a way that's so scrambled structurally, that it takes a very long time for anything to begin to make sense. They smartly did make this come together little by little so that you aren't completely lost during the entire experience. If you're not a fan of that kind of film structure or just can't understand it no matter how often you watch it, I can't say I don't understand. This is far from your every day movie. Because again, this was a film that I personally had to pay very close attention to.

And that's my review for 21 Grams. It's a well acted and gripping film that has a non-linear structure to it that isn't so over the place that it takes way too long to understand what is happening. Again, if you're not a fan of that or you can't understand it no matter how hard you try, then this is not the film for you. But if you're interested in seeing a film that is structurally different, and is very well acted and keeps you interested, then check it out and see what you think.

Rating: 85%      

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dead Snow (2009)

Okay, so there's a couple of films that Blaine and showed me in the past that I have not gotten into reviewing. I recently saw the last film I borrowed from him, 21 Grams, so the review for that is coming right after this one. In the meantime, let's catch up with some films that Blaine has also showed me, but I haven't been touched yet in terms of reviewing, starting with a horror zombie movie simply called, Dead Snow... or as it's more fun to say in Norwegian: Død snø!

Plot: seven college students are on Easter vacation in a cabin in
near Øksfjord. Suddenly, a mysterious hiker briefly comes into their cabin and tells them of how the mountains where once occupied by Nazis before they lost the war as supposedly froze to death. Eventually the hiker leaves, and the students continue on their partying and drinking, but after finding some gold coins under one of the wooden floors in the cabin, they are eventually attacked by Nazi zombies.

Now does this film bring anything particularly new in term of the concept of zombies or all around horror? No, but that doesn't stop it from still being entertaining. I mean, state all you like about how zombies are nothing new in this film,  Nazi zombies for that matter. But that doesn't make the idea less interesting...at least coming from someone who doesn't like to watch a whole lot of zombie movies. It hits basically every single beat you can think of in a horror movie, which is one of the main reasons this film doesn't really bring anything that particularly new to the horror genre. But for the first movie for me to see that specifically contains Nazi zombies, that was more than enough to keep me invested in this movie, and for the most part it payed off. When we do get to the zombies, I was invested because... well, who doesn't really like that concept? I mean no wonder this is hardly the first (or even last) film to have Nazi zombies. And it delivers exactly where there is to expect; developing the characters, blood, gore, some pretty big deaths, all that good stuff. I do give credit the filmmakers for how they did some of the effects for the blood and gore for this movie, especially for a short, low budgeted film when Blaine showed me some of the bonus features.

And that's my review for Dead Snow. If you're looking for something particularly different or new to horror and zombies, you might not get much in this film. But if you want to see a nice, simple horror film with plenty of blood, gore and action with Nazi zombies, you'll have a nice enjoyable time with this film. I may not be a horror guy, but for what I saw, I enjoyed it.

Rating: 65%   

Sunday, December 7, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014)

Well as I said in my review for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, my family watched a couple of films for Thanksgiving, and unlike the other films, there was one that I had not seen yet, but was not in a hurry to see since, while getting a few good laughs from the first movie, I wasn't all that into these kinds of films. But I watched it all the same with the family, and this is the result.

Plot: After failing to arrest a group of drug dealers, Schmidt and Jenko are reassigned back on the 21 Jump Street program, which has now been changed to 22 Jump Street. So Captain Dickson assigns them to go undercover again, only this time they are going to college. Their mission is to find the drug dealer who is selling students a new drug called WHYPHY. But in the process, their relationship as partners are challenged when Schmidt falls in love with a student, and Jenko joins the football team.

This is actually, freaking funny. I'm just going to say that right off the bat. The first film was a nice movie that had some funny moments, mainly during the second act. But with its sequel, it's just nothing short of very funny. From what I've heard, people seem kind of split as to which is better between 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, especially since they have the exact same plot and everything. For my money, it is no competition. This film was so much more funny hands down. 22 Jump Street for me was much smarter and well constructed with its humor, and they did a much better job with Schmidt and Jenko's relationship. Which is not to say that their relationship wasn't good in the first film, but they were just beginning to form a partnership then, and now we have them questioning it despite everything that they've been through together. Is what happens between them still cliched? Well...yeah, you pretty much know what's going to generally happen from beginning to end, especially since, again, it's the same story as the first film. But I think the chemistry between their bromance is much better here because it comes of much stronger and much more believable. And while the story is essentially the same thing as the last film, they do change a couple of things to their credit, and some of it really works for not just the story, but most importantly, for the comedy. Now does that mean that there aren't moments where they go too far with the jokes? Absolutely. It's honestly kind of expected at this point for there to be some sex related joke or something that I would not enjoy. But with the comedy as a whole, they felt much more clever and well delivered, and so because of that, I felt more comfortable with watching this film then I did with the last one in a way. Some jokes are good for a pretty nice laugh, but then you have moments like this one plot line that has to do with Schmidt and Captain Dickson, that will make me laugh, and it'll make me laugh hard. I will not DARE give anything away about it, but what they do about this plot line concerning them was so funny just on the idea alone. The more jokes for it we got, the funnier it got. And there's also the end credits which is also very funny. Both of these moments are definitely the highlight of the film personally. But that doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable still with just its characters and action as well.

And that's my review for 22 Jump Street. It may still have some cliches, but where people debate on which of the 21 Jump Street films are funnier, my vote is on 22 Jump Street, no questions asked. Not all of the jokes work, but at the end of the day, I'm glad I say it, but even more, I'm glad for the laughs that it made that I think outweighs the comedy for the first film easily.

Rating: 85%

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

Yes, Thanksgiving has been over for a while now, but this is one review that I want to get out of the way after finally watching my DVD copy of this movie. You see my sister got me a Peanuts holiday collection which contains this film along with It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Since then, I have made it somewhat a tradition to watch them every year for their respective holiday, but the thanksgiving film was never used. Whether I had time or just forgot about it or whatever, the film wasn't played for Thanksgiving. But finally this year, while my family and I were watching movies, I took the oppertunity to have this film be one of the films to see as a family. And now that I've finally made use of my DVD for this movie, it's only fitting that I finally review it just like the other two Peanuts holiday classics.

Plot: Charlie Brown and his sister Sally are planning to go to their grandmother's for Thanksgiving dinner. But when Charlie Brown's friend Peppermint Patty invites herself and some her friends over to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving dinner, he, Linus Snoopy and Woodstock try to set up their own Thanksgiving dinner for Peppermint Patty and her friends before Charlie Brown goes to his grandmother's.

Of the three most commonly known Peanuts specials, I think this one is arguably the most unique but also the least popular. Everyone practically knows the stories of It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas, making them such classics for their respective holidays, but while this special is considered a timeless classic for the holiday that it's representing too, I honestly feel like it's the one with the least love. I'm not saying this to really attack the film. Far from it. I just feel I should address that it feels like this one isn't getting as much respect as the other two. With that said, this is a fun, lovable special to watch for Thanksgiving. The real heart of the special is pretty much the heart of really anything from Peanuts; the Peanuts gang themselves. Charlie Brown is the kid where almost nothing goes right for him no matter how he tries, which I sometimes find really depressing looking at Peanuts again all grown up. (Also, I noticed while I was writing the plot paragraph how they never call him just Charlie. I mean yes, Peppermint Patty calls him Chuck and I remember in the comics that there's one girl that calls him Charles, but aside from that, he's always called by his full name, Charlie Brown. I just realized that really.) Linus is the smart one who always has the right thing to say about the certain holiday (as long as it doesn't concern The Great Pumpkin). Peppermint Patty is the tomboy who... has something of a crush on Charlie Brown. And then you have my favorite character from the comic strips, Snoopy. Who in the world doesn't like Snoopy? I"m not sure if I can even properly describe what makes him so likable. There's just so many different elements to his character. The two that are definitely in this short are how he seems to have a lot of stuff mysteriously inside his dog house, and how he can be a very slapstick kind of funny character. Heck, we even see him with Woodstock, who has that really weird but kind of cool and unique voice for when he's speaking. But what also makes this film memorable, is how the characters play out the situation is unique. They are making this Thanksgiving dinner with this completely non-Thanksgiving related food that is so...unexpected. In fact I can see people finding this special to not really act like it's Thanksgiving enough because of it. I mean the actual dinner is what most people think of when they think Thanksgiving. But at the end of the day, it still tells a story about Thanksgiving while also at some point in the short, still telling what the holiday is all about. And that's really all that's needed for it to be as loved as it is for this holiday.

And that's my review for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I really don't know what more there is to say about it. Most of you already know the story, there's hardly anything to not like about the characters, it's just a fun, animated short film about Thanksgiving that is easily one of the most unique classic for that holiday.

Rating:100%

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Next among the films I have recently borrowed from Blaine but haven't gone around to watching until now, the film where somehow Matthew McConaughey's is not a comedian like I usually see him in...even if I don't watch a whole lot of films of him. But I digress, here's Dallas Buyers Club.

Plot: Starting in 1985, electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with HIV (or in other words AIDS) and is expected to have 30 days left to live. So he starts finding ways to steal some pills in order to try to get better. Eventually, he finds some drugs that are more helpful in Mexico than the drugs that are approved in the U.S. and imports them to sell them to other people with AIDS with the help of a trans woman, named Rayon, thus forming the Dallas Buyers Club.

This was a really good movie. It had a very interesting yet somewhat educational story about medicine and AIDS with its biggest strength is the performances from the leading cast. The story is inspired by true events about how things where back them when it comes to medicine for AIDS and how things worked with what was approved for medicine for people in the U.S. and what wasn't, and how the FDA's choice for medicine might be wrong for people with AIDS. And it really succeeded in making me care about what was happening to all of these people who have AIDS and for the people that are trying to help them. The situation felt very real, as did the people in the movie considering both their sickness and the time period that this all takes place. But as I said, the biggest strength to this film, as other reviewers have no doubt pointed out, are the performances from the stars of the film. First, you have Jared Leto as Rayon, who did a great job as this trans woman. I haven't seen Leto in a lot of movies, but I can say that just by looking at his picture on Wikipedia, he looks almost nothing like he is in this film. He was very believable in his role and he deserved to at least have gotten nominated for Best Supporting Actor. And then we have the person most people talk about when it concerns this film; Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof. I haven't seen a lot of movies with him in it either, but I know him mostly from playing the lead role in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. When I reviewed that film, I said that he wasn't that bad of an actor while his character pretty much was. But if I didn't entirely believe that then...and I'll admit I was trying to be polite while sort of meaning it at the same time when I said that in that review- I believe it so much more now after seeing this film. Like Leto, I couldn't even recognize him as himself save for his voice. Most of the films I've seen him in are comedies/romantic comedies, and yet here he is, practically starving to death to shape his body in a serious role of a man who is trying to keep himself from dying while helping others who are going through the same thing. And he takes us on this great journey of seeing this man grow as a person throughout the movie. It was a terrific performance that made it no wonder that he won for Best Leading Actor. If I had any problems with the movie, it's that it would feel a little cliched at times and it does have moments where it's a little too graphic for me personally, but neither of them where so bad that they hurt the film as a whole.

And that's my review for Dallas Buyers Club. It's a great movie to invest your time in with the subject that it tackles while giving us performances that brings what is happening in the story to life. If you have not seen it yet, it's worth taking a look at.

Rating: 90% 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Well, while I may have gone to far as saying a few words about how great Miyazaki's work is and how it's sad that he retired from writing and directing full length films during the end of my review for The Wind Rises, the fact remains that I said all of that knowing that there was still one movie he wrote and directed  that I had yet to watch. Luckily, my friend Blaine recently bought the film shortly after first seeing it himself, so he let me borrow it along with some other films that I hope to get to watching and reviewing before the week is out. So here at last is my review for the second movie Miyazaki ever wrote and directed (even before Studio Ghibli was founded apparently) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Plot: A thousand years ago, an apocalyptic war destroyed human civilization and created a toxic jungle filled with mutated insects and deadly plants. Now there only a few scattered human settlements left where the toxic jungle hasn't grown yet. In one of these settlements called The Valley of the Wind, Princess Nausicaä tries looks after her kingdom while her father is ill. But when an airship that belongs to the kingdom of Tolmekia, carrying an ancient powerful weapon, Tolmekia troops attack the valley and kill Nausicaä's father, she is forced to be join the Tolmekian princess to go to another kingdom, all while Nausicaä tries to keep people from killing each other.

While I expected this movie to be good, I had no idea that the story would be so epic. I may not be saying a whole lot in my plot paragraph, but trust me when I say that there's a ton more to that. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a very big step for Miyazaki to have taken for just his second project in writing and directing, and it pays off. There is a lot of things that make this a very epic film with its story, animation, action and characters. As I said, there is a ton of things that are happening in the film, and there's also a lot of explaining how this world works and how its relevant to the story. But it also makes it a film where you have to pay close attention to what is happening in order to understand it. Part of it is because it is a Miyazaki film, and so like most of his work, he tells his stories with a unique structure to it. But even then, there still is so much to know to the point where the film may feel like it's longer than it really is. One of the most creative things about this film, at least in my opinion, is the idea that this apocalyptic world mainly consists of this growing, dangerous toxic forest with only places where humans can survive, as apposed to a normal apocalyptic world where everything is completely destroyed. It is more interesting, because it is more of a fantasy kind of destroyed world. I won't even bother going to detail about the animation aspect of this movie, because there really is no point, it's great Miyazaki animation plain and simple. And like many of Miyazaki's films that Disney has an English sub, this film has a very nice collection of actors to voice these characters. From Patrick Stewart as Lord Yupa, to Mark Hamill as the mayor of  Pejite, to Shia LeBeouf as Asbel, there's just a lot of actors that you can enjoy hearing them voice act for this film. On top of that, the characters are very likable too, the primary example, Nausicaä herself. I personally really like that she's a princess in this film, because in a way, it makes it even more likable how strong and independent she is. She always has a plan, she cares very much about life, she's very smart and she's even a very spirited fighter in the case of one scene. So I really admire that despite the fact that she's a princess, Miyazaki made her this very active and determined character, especially at a time where I think the only other princess like that was Princess Leia. True, there are times where she also can be emotional, but it's very understandable when she does considering how she's trying so hard to help her people and her valley. Granted, one personal problem I have with the film, is that I feel there should've been more time with certain characters. I mean the other characters are very well developed and interesting, but I feel there are times where I felt I didn't get enough of some of them. Like Kushana and Kurotowa have this interesting relationship together, where they seem to admire each other and yet hope the other one dies at the same time or something like that. It's all done well, but I felt they didn't really give some sort of conclusion, for lack of better term, between them. But more than that, I honestly feel there was hardly any time with Asbel as a character. I mean, again, his goals and personality is clear, but I really felt that they just established that, and then moved on with the rest of the film, not giving us too much to work with him. Another problem I personally have with the film, though it's really a nitpick, is that the music would feel off at times. Like on occasion, there would be this odd sort of 80s music would play, and it would be during a dramatic or emotional scene. I will grant though, that it's probably something where you just have to consider the time period and how it might've worked back then.

And that's my review for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. There are some characters that I think could've been done more and some of the music doesn't work at least to me, but it's still a very intriguing and epic story with this unique apocalyptic world, great animation as usual, and a very strong main character. I'm glad I finally saw it, and if you haven't seen it yet, I say defintiely take a look.

Rating: 85% 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Good Will Hunting (1997)

As many of you know already my now, Robin Williams died a couple of months ago, likely committed suicide. I have not been able to bring this up until now because of how busy I more or less have been with work and starting to go to a university for my bachelors in film and TV. But I have been wanting to write a review that in some way honors this great actor and comedian that is already sadly missed. Originally I was going to do Flubber and then something else. But after re-watching that movie and writing most of the review for it, I realized that while I was giving it a somewhat positive rating, I had a lot of negative things to say about it, and I don't want to post a review like that as part of trying to honor him. So I'm putting that review on hold for a few more months at the least before I'll eventually finish and post it. In the meantime, Candra and I had another movie night before The Heat, which I brought up in my review for that, and the film we saw was a film that neither of us have seen but wanted to see because of Robin Williams and that we've heard a lot of other stuff about it. So here's how it turned out.

Plot: 20 year old Will Hunting is a self taught genius intellect who works as the janitor for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and spends a lot of time with his friends. When a professor in the institute, Lambeau, posts a difficult algebraic graph theory problem for his class, Will anonymously solves the problem, but Lambeau figures it out. So shortly after Will is arrested for assault, Lambeau arranges for Will to avoid jail time in exchange for studying mathematics under Lambeau's supervision while also simultaneously seeking psychotherapy. Lambeau has trouble finding a therapist that he can open up to, but eventually he calls on his old estranged college roommate, Dr. Sean Maguire, who slowly begins to reach out to Will.

While I admit that the all around setting about a person who has this unique ability and is only now discovered by someone isn't all that new, this is still an all around enjoyable film. The story, while it needs to pick up sometimes, delivers in giving us an emotional experience about Will and the people in his life. What comes out is a story that revolves around the choices Will makes, while the people around him, such as his girlfriend, Skylar, Lambeau and eventually his friend Chuckie all try to lead him to they each believe is the right path, while Maguire tries to get Will to open up about himself. And the moral of the film is given very differently with the story given in a somewhat unique structure, even if, again, it does so to the point where it would need to pick up once in a while. But the biggest strength and the most entertaining part of the for me personally was the moments between Will and Maguire. Their relationship was interesting, the things they would talk about kept me invested, and it was through them that I felt we got the most development with Will as a character. But a lot of that comes from the actor that was the real reason Candra and I where interested in this movie, Robin Williams. And honestly, why shouldn't he be? I was interested in what his part would be in this movie even before he died and really, he gave the best performance in the film. I said before in my review for Awakenings that I wanted to see more films like that particular film because it shows that he really was a great dramatic actor. Oh don't get me wrong, he still has moments where he was fun and has one particularly cute line at the end. So there's definitely some of the fun personality that we've loved Williams for. But still, this was more a drama, and he did a spectacular job doing it. I liked Maguire, I liked how he was helping Will, I liked his backstory, I liked watching him fight for Will, there was so much to like about him. The best scene in the movie, at least for me, was when Williams delivers this monologue about Will and his refusal to open up to Maguire. The monologue just by itself is very well written, but Williams delivered it beautifully. It was strong, it was meaningful, and it was a terrific means for Maguire to go deep into what he thought about Will. Williams may have never won an Oscar for a leading role, but I for one am content knowing that he at the very least got an Oscar for a supporting role with his performance in this film.

And that's my review for Good Will Hunting. While Candra and I thought the plot needed to be picked up sometimes, the film still gives us a clever, very well acted story about Will's life and the people around him. But it is also a film that gave us a terrific performance from Robin Williams that makes me feel all the more sincere that he was a great actor and that I really feel he deserved more movies like this film, or Awakenings, or Good Morning Vietnam (which I intend to review someday). And it really is a tragedy that he didn't. He was a great actor, he was a loved comedian, and he already is painfully missed. Rest in peace Robin Williams, and thank you for all the memories you've given so many of us.

Rating: 85%

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)

Well while I don't think they're bad, I didn't really get that invested in the first movie or either of the books. So it wasn't until the second movie that I actually felt really invested in what is happening in the series. So let's see how the third movie turned out.

Plot: Taking off shortly after the second movie, Katniss and her family are now hiding in District 13 where it turns out the people of that district have been hiding to secretly plan a rebellion against The Capitol. The leader of District 13, President Coin, wants Katniss to be the symbol of the rebellion through her reputation as The Mockingjay. But The Capitol is fighting back using Peeta, who is still captured, as their own representative to speak against the rebellion. So Katniss is torn between helping District 13 begin their rebellion, while wanting President Coin to find a way to save Peeta.

While it wasn't quite as pleasing in the action department, this film succeeds just as well as the last film in keeping me interested in what is happening and wanting to see more. Like the last film, this one this one delivers with building the suspense of what is happening and making the situation very compelling. A lot of that of coarse comes from the cast with Jennifer Lawrence who is still doing great as Katniss, Phillip Seymour Hoffman who of coarse we all miss, and even Julianne Moore who gave a great performance as President Coin. And what they discuss is very believable with all of the political propaganda they are trying to do to help start the rebellion and stop The Capitol. This leads to a lot of emotional moments where we see more of what The Capitol has done to the people in the other districts on top of (spoilers) District 12 being destroyed  (which by the way, am I the only one who felt like they should've made District 12 look more destroyed then it appeared to be in the movie?), and then what I think was the most emotional part of the movie, is when Katniss and these other people are singing this deep song while the district people are about to fight. Now a lot of people find the biggest problem, which I brought up briefly in the beginning of this paragraph, is the lack of action in this movie. Now it's no surprise that this movie is basically all build up, I mean it's part 1, and on the whole I didn't really mind it that much. But even I'll admit that at the same time, as much as I enjoyed watching the discussions of political propaganda, there where moments where deep down, I wanted more action. Heck, there's a moment where Peacemakers are bombing an area, and we only see them from the radars inside the district 13 base. But I think a bigger problem I discovered was from when one of my best friends, Candra saw the movie shortly after I did. She found it to be disappointing because she found the fact that it's mostly propaganda stuff to be so boring, but she said that with the fact that she hasn't read the book in mind. And...yeah that actually brings a really good point: if you haven't read the book, you might not find this to be all that interesting like Candra did. In fact, the more I thought about it from after she said what she thought of the film, I did realize that a good portion of what made this film interesting, was that I did read the book. And by knowing a fair portion of what happens, I was more on board with what I was watching on top of the great acting and so on. So, you might not like this movie because of how it has more of the characters just building things up instead of seeing some action. I mean there is a tiny bit of action in this movie, but...yeah, none of those moments are Battle of Helm's Deep amazing.

And that's my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. if you haven't read the book and want more action, you might not be all that fond of this film. But otherwise, it's a very compelling film with excellent performances from the case and an all around interesting build up to the conclusion of the story. It's not as good as Catching Fire, but it's still an enjoyable film.

Rating: 75% 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Heat (2013)

So recently, Candra and I watched a couple more movies - one of which I hope to get to reviewing soon, but for now I"ll be focusing on the one that we just finished watching: The Heat.

Plot: FBI Special Sarah is a skilled and professional agent who is trying to get a promotion in her department, but she has to prove that she can work with other people. So she is sent to work on a case in Boston, but finds herself having to work with Shannon, a loudmouthed and rebellious cop. The two of them have to find a way to work together while trying to track down a drug lord.

At the end of the day, I found this movie to be fairly entertaining. I mean true, it was a little predictable considering it's a buddy cop comedy film, but for what they had, they pulled it off. What really makes this film is naturally, the chemistry between the lead actors; Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. For a lot of people, including Candra, McCarthy's performance as Shannon is what people like the most about the film. She does go completely out there with her performance, giving us the most inventive and memorable quotes of the entire movie. But for me personally, as I'm sure this might surprise some of you like it surprised Candra, I honestly found myself more entertained with Bullock's performance. Don't get me wrong, McCarthy was good and I see why people like her more. But for me, Bullock was the one that made me laugh the most. A lot of the stuff that she does in the second half of this movie especially, I thought was really funny. There's a scene where she has this kind of quiet outburst during a police meeting that especially made me laugh out loud to the point where it's my favorite part of the film. With that said however, there are some moments where the comedy does not work, especially where they take things too far. One scene in particular that has to do with a guy chocking on a pancake that both Candra and I felt should've been cut from the movie. And there are some serious moments int he films that mostly work, but I also felt there might've been a little too much of...at least from what I was expecting. But for the most part, those moments didn't happen all that frequently.

And that's my review for The Heat. It's really up to the person as to whether or not it's funny or if the serious moments work despite it being a comedy. But for me, it has its moments that I personally am not a fan of, but at the end of the day, this was an entertaining buddy cop movie that does deliver with its comedy all around. If you're not a fan of the style of comedy that this movie uses, then you should skip it. But if you like its style of comedy well enough, then check this movie out and see what you find to be funny.  

Rating: 70%