Thursday, January 30, 2014

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Rating: 25%
Well I said I was going to watch at least two of the other animated feature nominees besides Frozen and maybe The Wind Rises. So let's take a look at Despicable Me 2.

Plot: Gru has now stopped all of his plans as a villain and is now a devoted father to Margo, Edith and Agnes. But when a secret base gets stolen by an unknown villain, the Anti-Villain League recruits Gru to use his knowledge as an ex-villain to find out who is behind it. So he goes out to find the villain behind this with an agent named Lucy as his partner, while also dealing with his oldest adopted child, Margo, is starting to have feelings for a boy.

Okay, for the many of you who have mostly likely not seen my review for the first film...I didn't like it. I really, really wanted to. The trailers looked like it was going to be so hilarious and clever, but I thought it was so predictable and almost everything about it from there was just not that interesting, thus the hilarious and clever movie I thought I was going to see turned out to be Megamind. Which is ironic because I thought that was going to be stupid. Yeah, yeah I know, don't judge a book by its cover. So the other one was...better, but not by much. The story was less predictable, but not by a whole lot, it was a little nicer to see the girls and Gru together with the events of the first film behind them, and while I don't find the minions, they were giving a little more variety with their jokes. So the improvements are there...or at least the idea of those improvements. But I otherwise found those improvements to give me a film that's lacking almost as much as the first film. I mean I did try to see what was the big deal about it, but I just don't find it that funny or interesting. In some respects, I don't even think some of the side stories where structured that well. I mean how many scenes do the girls and Lucy have before the very end? Just one? And I feel like they were putting their faith in the minions a little too much when it came to the comedy. I mean a rendition of Y.M.C.A., really? And how so many of their other jokes in terms of slapstick and butt/fart jokes are as basic as you can get. I just can't get into it! Okay for all my criticizing, I will give the movie credit for the quick intro sequence of El Macho. That was pretty clever. But otherwise, I feel like I'm in the same boat I was in from the last film. Somewhere in there, this film can be more clever and funny then this. Granted, a lot of people seem to like this movie even more then the first, so maybe I'm missing something or expecting too little after the first movie. So I guess it's just something that isn't for me.

And that's my review for Despicable Me 2. It was doing some things better for what it's worth, but in the end, what I found was a movie that still faced the same problems of being predictable, unfunny and uninteresting almost just like the last film. You might like it better then I do considering how so many other people seem to enjoy it, but it's not my kind of film. If you want, take a look and see for yourself.

The Croods (2013)

Rating: 70%
So the Oscars are about a month away and for a while I wanted to take a look at the competition Frozen has for Best Animated Feature. Now as plenty of my friends and family might be aware, I of coarse will be infuriated with a desire for vengeance if for some demented reason Frozen "loses" to any other nominated film. But I am willing to be the bigger guy and see at least some of the other nominees. I might be able to see The Wind Rises before the Oscars when it comes to worldwide theaters on February 28th, and Ernest & Clestine...I just don't see winning in the slightest. But in the meantime, there's The Croods and Despicable Me 2 to take a look at and see if they actually have a chance against Frozen. I make no promises to believe any of them will, but for now, let's just take a look at these two, starting with The Croods.

Plot: The Croods are a caveman family who survive by hiding in a cave under the protection of the overprotective father, Grug. But when his daughter Eep disobeys and finds a boy named Guy, the family goes after her only to find their cave destroyed by an earthquake. Guy convinces them to head to a mountain where there is supposedly a paradise called Tomorrow that will save them from destruction.

Okay so when I saw a poster for this movie at AMC, I thought it was going to be stupid, and the fact that Emma Stone was in it, made me quiver with fear. You know, what with her being my favorite actress and all. The Audience: *groans* WE KNOW!!!! H.A.K.: All right! All right! Sheesh! Anyway, when I saw the reviews for it, I thought I'd see it at some point and just find it to be "eh". Now at last I've seen it and...surprisingly it was better then I thought it would be. The characters were fun (especially Grug and Eep), the animation was great, the creativity for the animals were great to look at, and the comedy for the most part had a lot of clever jokes. Some of the comedy even had to do with just the facial expressions some of the characters had to make. Grug especially has some really funny and well delivered faces that I just had to rewind and watch multiple times. The biggest problem I have with the film is that the story is pretty cliched. There was a number of stuff in the story that I more or less predicted would happen and it came out pretty distracting. But they at least delivered some of the beats during the very end fairly well that it didn't always turn out as distracting as I thought it would be.

And that's my review for The Croods. It's not too special in terms of the story, but it still has fun characters, good comedy, very good creativity with the creatures they gave us, and great animation to go with it all, making it not worthy of beating Frozen, but is still a nice film. If you haven't seen it, it's not a bad animated film to see.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

As some of you know, I am very behind on how many best picture winner I usually see before the Oscars air, but luckily one nominee that I've been anticipating for a while is back in theaters for film buffs like me to see. So here at last is my review for 12 Years A Slave.

Plot: Solomon Northup was a free man living in New York with his wife and children until two men drug him and sell him into slavery. Dispite his pleas to get home with his family, he is sold to William Ford who starts out in good terms with Northup until a problem occurs with one of his men that forces him to sell him to another man named Edwin Epps. Epps is a much crueler man who whips his slaves bare believing it to be his right. All the while Northup's hope begins to diminish on whether or not he will be rescued.

The description for this movie that seems to be commonly said is that it is apologetically and/or unflinchingly brutal. And that pretty much fits the bill. 12 Years A Slave not only tells a story about slavery and racism that we haven't quite heard before, but gives us a more harshly detailed view to it that we haven't experienced in film before. In a way, you could say that Django Unchained was a prologue for this movie, in that how it goes a little into some details such has how slave owners viewed their slaves specifically as their property. But this film goes so much more realistic then Django Unchained ever really was. The beatings, whippings, the different kinds of slave owners, even rape. This film hardly backs down on how visually realistic everything that was happening back then was. But just like Captain Phillips, a lot of what this film bring could not be possible without the fantastic work from the cast. Whether it was Chiwetel Ejofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, even Brad Pitt surprisingly yet briefly enough, or whoever, the entire cast gave us so many big moments that really brought what was happening to the film. What also helps I began to realize was the editing, and how it had some scenes where they would hold a shot for a very long time such as when a woman was just looking up at the sky for 2-15-20 ish seconds before singing for a funeral or just a good half a minute of Northup thinking and looking around. At first I thought those moments seemed off to what was happening in the movie until I started to remember what I learned in film school about editing and how - for some editors, emotion is often the most important thing to capture when editing. So when I thought more about it, the more I began to realize that the editing really does the film credit even when it may take some time just holding a single shot of an actor just displaying all the emotion that their characters feels. Will this film win Best Editing? Maybe not. But thinking more about it, I can clearly see what makes it work so well that it has at least been nominated.      

And that's my review for 12 Years A Slave. It's an exceptional film that goes deeper then before on racism and slavery back in the 19th century with an excellent cast and editing that is more brutal but realistic view then what we've seen in most films like it. Will it win Best Picture? It's not quite for me to say since this is the third nomination I've seen, but if anything, it looks like one of the stronger nominees that has the potential to win as far as I can tell.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

Rating: 70%
So about a week and a half ago, my friend Candra and I wanted to start looking at all of the anime film of Hayao Miyazaki under the circumstances of him retiring from film (as sad as it is for us to hear, especially Candra). So we decided to watch the film that neither of us have seen, but was the film that was Miyazaki's debut as a director, The Castle of Cagliostro.

Plot: Lupin III is a thief who steals with his cohort Daisuke Jigen. They come across a young woman named Clarisse who is running away from a gang of thugs. They follow her all the way to the Castle of Cagliostro, where The Count of Cagliostro is attempting to marry Clarisse in order to use the rings of both their families to discover the secret treasure. So Lupin makes plans to try to rescue Clarisse before the wedding while also trying to avoid Inspector Zenigata who keeps trying to arrest him.

So what did Candra and I think of the film that started so many films that Miyazaki has both written and directed? It's...nice. It's not terrible per say but...well...let's talk about what's good about it, because it is at the very least, entertaining. The characters are likeable even is some seem to be downplayed like Jigen and...whoever the samurai guy was. The story is enjoyable, though you might find it to be similar to Castle in the Sky, if you've seen that movie before. The comedy, though there isn't a whole lot of it, does at some points pretty amusing moment. And the action and adventure in the film comes out very fun and enjoyable. The are only two big problems Candra and I have with this film. One is that the first half or so of the movie is pretty slow. It takes quite a while before we really find out what's going on with The Count and Clarisee and while the film has some good moments of development before hand, it's only when we find out The Counts real plot and the story starts moving from there that it really gets interesting. The second problem that is probably the biggest one for the both of us is that it doesn't completely feel like it's Miyazaki. Don't get us wrong, it has some aspects to his other work that seem familiar such as some of the animation, back stories that aren't explained (though part of that in this case has to do with this film actually being the second film for the manga series Lupin III), and it also has some other familiar Miyazaki beats such as enemies becoming friends, a cute romance between some of the main characters and so on. But it lacked a lot of the fantasy elements that you'd usually expect and...had an awful lot of language. I know I usually don't talk about language in general when I'm talking about movies, but when you put into context how this is the directorial debut of the man who has gives us such great family friendly films like My Neighbor Tortoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo, and his first film has mild language to the point where I'm pretty sure I even heard the F word hidden in there at one point. Eventually, we both found ourselves hoping the language came from the guy that co-wrote the script with Miyazaki, instead of the man himself. I guess both of these problems wouldn't have been a big deal for either of us if we've seen this before we watched any of Miyazaki's other films, but since we kinda messes with the experience in watching this film.

And that's my review for The Castle of Cagliostro, if you're a fan of Miyazaki's other work, you're probably not going to be a big fan of what makes this film so different from all of his other films. But when you put that aside, you still get a film that has fun comedy and action adventure with a nice story and some likable characters. It's hardly among Miyazaki's best work, but it's still plenty entertaining. If you're ever interested, give it a try.  

Elysium (2013)

Rating: 65%
Shortly after he showed me Captain Phillips, Blaine gave me a couple of movies to choose from for what to watch next, so I decided to watch the movie that my brother Johnathan had probably one of his most anticipated films from this past year, Elysium.

Plot: In 2154, the wealthiest people in the world live in a luxurious space station called Elysium while the poor people live in an overpopulated and ruined Earth. Max is a former car thief who works in the assembly line for the military company for Elysium. But then one day he gets hit by radiation while working and has only 5 days left to live. The only thing that can save his life are these Med Bay decides in Elysium that can cure any disease or injury, so he joins a group that wants to infiltrate Elyisum and tries to find a way to get there and heal himself.

Right after seeing this film all I could really think of it was that it was was...nice. And's a little bit better then I thought it was at first. The story was a little smarter then what I expected, it avoided a couple of cliches, particulalry one that I thought was going to happen that had to do with Max and Matilda. The acting was alright, but impressive on Sharlto Copley's part for playing a very different character then what we've seen him as before when he was Wikus in District 9. And similar to District 9 (since this is directed by the guy who directed that movie, Niell Blomkamp), it was a little more focused on the story then it was on the action, which I found to be an issue at first, but later thought it did this film some credit for not being to heavy on the action, through not as well as District 9 did. I think my biggest problem with this movie was that as far as creativity goes, I expected a little more. Not that any of the designs for all of the futuristic stuff where horrible, it's just hardly anything that was all futuristic, whether the ships or robots or whatever, really stood out in a way that left me thinking "oh that's cool to see." Even Max's suit with it's interesting, realistic look too it didn't have a lot of aspects to it that was interesting. I guess this is another example of how the director wanted it to be more about the story rather then the action and the creativity of the films own world, but still, I feel they could've done more.  

And that's my review for Elysium. If you're looking for a film that's heavy on the action and has some decent creativity to the in it, you're probably not going to be satisfied. But Elysium still has some nice acting, does a good job focusing more on the characters and is a little smarter then I expected with it's story. It's not as clever as District 9, but it still comes out fairly satisfying. Take it for what it's worth and see for yourself.   

Captain Phillips (2013)

Rating: 95%
Well as you may have noticed, I haven't seen as many best picture nominee's as I usually do. In fact up till now, the only one that I have seen is Gravity. But the other day I went to my friend Blane's house and he really wanted to show me Captain Phillips, and here's how that movie turned out.

Plot: Richard Phillips is the captain of a cargo ship who is sailing through the Gulf of Aden when a small group of pirates begin to board the ship and take him hostage. The leader of the pirates, Abduwali Muse takes command of the ship and starts trying to find the remainder of the crew. And that's all that you need to know if you've never seen this movie.

I knew that watching this movie, it was going to be intense, and it did not disappoint. It is a very intense movie, and they play if off extremely well. Part of it does come from doing a great job with the editing and telling the story from the points of view of both Captain Phillip and his crew, and the pirates themselves. But what stands out the most is how strong the acting is. Some debate that this might be the best performance that Tom Hanks has ever done. And while that might be a little bit of a stretch, there's no denying that a lot of aspects in his performance - particularly at the very end, show us a deeper and all around new side to his acting we probably have never seen before. Then you have the pirates who have all made their debut as actors through this film and they hit it off great. Barkhad Abdi plays as Abduwali Muse and I can definitely see why he got the supporting actors nomination for the oscars. Whether or not he wins, we'll just have to see, but there's little denying that for an acting career, he's off to a strong start. If I had one issue with the film, it would be that the second half of the movie did seem to drag. But it didn't drag so much that it ruined the film, because by then it already did so much, that it made almost the entire movie feel like what is happening is not just a story, but also an experience. Almost the entire time, I kept imagining myself in Captain Phillip's shoes, or even his crew sometimes. it just felt so intense that it left you thinking what would you be doing in any of these situations.

And that's my review for Captain Phillips. It may drag a little halfway through, but it's easily overlooked with terrific acting, great story telling, and so many intense scenes that make you wonder what you would do if you're really there. If you haven't seen it yet, I say it's definitely worth taking a look.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Rating: 40%
Alright I know it's late in the day, but I watched this movie again so let's finish going through The Matrix Trilogy with The Matrix Revolutions.

Plot: Shortly after the events of the last film, Morpheus and Trinity find that Neo's mind is somehow caught in a transition zone between Machine City and The Matrix. So they quickly rescue him but along the way discover that Agent Smith is becoming more powerful and is planning to destroy both The Matrix and the real world. Neo then decides to take a ship with Trinity to Machine City in attempt to stop him and end the war, while everyone else gets ready to fight the machines in Zion for their last stand.

So what did I think of the final film of The Matrix Trilogy? Kind of a mixed bag for me. I mean on one hand I like that we have a conclusion and everything like that...but what it took to get it and some things that happen along the way is where I had trouble with it. Explaining that is going to be hard without saying any direct spoilers over what happens during the last half our or so of the film, but I'll do my best. But first let's talk about what is good about the film. The effects are still very good and the fight scenes are still enjoyable to watch. I am however aware that people really hate the idea that there are turrets and these big mechanical armor things that the soldiers use to fight the machines in the battle at Zion. Because here we have all this weaponry and yet in the first film, Trinity says that EMPs are the only weapon they have against the machines. And...yeah that is a problem. I mean you could make the argument that technically Trinity did not directly say that it's the only defense all of humanity in the real world has and instead was talking about just the Nebuchadnezzar only having an EMP for it's defense. But even if that's the case, giving us an explanation like that instead of just giving us all this stuff would've been nice. But back to what's good about the movie, the final battle between Neo and Agent Smith was epic to watch, but I think what really helped with that was the music behind it. The entire track "Neodämmerung" really brought in the emotion in what was happening and I really enjoy listening to it while watching the final battle along with the end credits track "Navras" which is technically a full version of the song (or at least I use to think so when I use to listen to the soundtrack a lot.) Now to what's bad about it. Well for me honestly, it's just the last 30-40 minutes of the film. Not to say everything before that was gold, but it's what happens once Neo and Trinity make it to Machine City and then Neo and Smith have their final battle and the conclusion of the film/trilogy altogether that kind of splits me in the middle. On one hand, it still gives something of a satisfactory ending, but one the other hand, it's sad in a dumb way, and is above all confusing. In fact, there's a lot of things that didn't really make any sense. I did mention in my review for Reloaded that some subplots do pay off, and that is true. But even those pay offs didn't quite fit. Some of them seem to make sense the more times I watch this film, but ultimately for a film that also gives a lot of exposition dialogue, their explanation f or things like Neo's plan against Smith was, turned out to be really lacking. On top of that, the very last scene with The Oracle and The Architect kind of made the result of the battle kind of bittersweet. Now for those of you who haven't seen the movie yet, keep in mind that your take on the ending could be completely different from mine.

And that's my review for The Matrix Revolutions. It does still have good effects and action and even a good soundtrack for the final battle that I personally find memorable. But it was also contained a big climax that ultimately left the entire conclusion to be very bittersweet for me personally, if not for most everyone who has seen it. It's not the worst sequel ever seen in my opinion, but it could have done a lot better as a finale. So there's my take on The Matrix Trilogy at long last. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in the next review.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Rating: 70%
Part two of the trilogy and the next movie to review: The Matrix Reloaded.

Plot: Six months after the events of the first film, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus have been continuing the fight against the machines who are starting to plan an invasion against the last human city of Zion. Meanwhile, Neo gets a call from The Oracle who tells him that he has to now reach the Source of The Matrix and that in order to do that, he must find The Keymaker. But things become more challenging to Neo as Agent Smith turns out to be alive and is able to clone himself at will and is still trying to kill him.

This movie isn't not quite as good as the first movie, but it has a lot of elements that make it still a good film and a good sequel. We go further into the story, we go deeper into the characters, and of coarse, we expand further into the all around world of The Matrix Trilogy by finally seeing Zion along with some new locations of The Matrix itself. The action is also slightly bigger and yet also a tiny bit bloodier while we face some new enemies - namely The Twins. The effects are about the same but they do find different ways of using some of them and are still enjoyable to see. Neo becomes even more fun to watch now that he believes he is The One and has become more powerful since the last film. And Agent Smith also become more enjoyable now that he can basically copy himself and become even more menacing then he was before. Now this film seems to be hated to a lot of people which I don't think I ever got. I mean it's not as good as the first movie of coarse, but it isn't bad per say. There where only two negative things about it that made the most sense, and both of them I agree with, but not completely. One was that it has a ton of exposition dialogue and has a lot of unresolved subplots. And I do agree that the dialogue is confusing in some areas where I only begin to understand what they're saying in those moments as I get older and older. However, they don't quite get so confusing to the point where it's all the way distracting me from the film. I will admit however that in some cases, it is a matter of forgetting that you need to show and not tell what is happening. And a lot of the subplots are left unresolved, but most of them (at least the ones I can think of right now, to pay off in some way in the next film, so that helps.

And that's my review for The Matrix Reloaded. It has it's problems with leaving some things to pay off in the next film and being a little too heavy on the dialogue, but it otherwise goes further into the story, characters, all around world, action and in some respects the effects that make The Matrix Reloaded not as good as the first but a good sequel to carry out the story.

The Matrix (1999)

Rating: 90%
For a while I've wanted to give my own two cents with The Matrix trilogy, but couldn't find the right time to finally watch them again and then review all three movies. But then around the end of the fall semester I picked the first movie for a project in the Feature Script Analysis class back at film school and so was able to watch it again. So today I decided to settle the matter once and for all and watch the other two films and thus finally give you all my thoughts one each movie starting with - obviously, The Matrix.

Plot: Thomas Anderson (or just Mr. Anderson if you prefer) is a hacker who goes by the name Neo and has been looking for a man named Morpheus in attempt to discover what is The Matrix. Eventually he meets him and so Morpheus gives him a test as to whether or not to learn the truth about The Matrix. Without giving their entire goal away, Neo discovers that Morpheus believes that he is The One who can save humanity with The Matrix against The Agents who try to stop them.

Now it's possible if not likely that most of you who are reading this review have at least seen the first movie. And for the most part you're going to know what I have to say. The Matrix is a very creative movie. It has a unique premise with what exactly The Matrix is and what Neo, Morpheus and his crew are capable of doing while trying to save humanity, the all around world that they are in is very different and the characters where interesting. And...well I can't talk about about this movie without discussing what makes it so well known: the action and the special effects. Some of these kinds of moves and effects may seem boring to people  - mostly because some of the big ground breaking effects have been used a lot since this film, but even then, they're still very impressive. Effects like "bullet time" or moves like Trinity floating in the air before kicking a S.W.A.T. team member in the chest or Neo running on walls where very groundbreaking at the time and they used these effects very well. And the action of coarse is very fun to watch. Whether a scene had kung fu fights, gun fights or a mixture of the two, they were all very exiting to watch. This of coarse is the movie that put Keanu Reeves on the map and he does make Neo a memorable character...even if the kind of acting he kind of stuck with right after these movies. Hugo Weaving also gives one of his most memorable roles as Agent Smith and...that might've put him on the map too. But whether or not it did, who can blame him? The way he talked was memorable, the way he appeared and acted very menacing was memorable, heck, he was even a little funny at some points that is a little least for me. Then of coarse you have Neo's love interest Trinity who is awesome too, but if I did have one nitpick with this movie, it would be that the chemistry between Neo and Trinity only half makes sense to me. Not to say that it's not believable, I mean they talk about The Matrix and whether or not Neo's the one and they fought S.W.A.T. soldiers and Agents together. But when it came down to whether or not they genuinely love each other, I find myself half completely on board with it, and half finding their feelings to be not entirely believable. I'm probably over thinking it, but even then, it's a minor nitpick.

And that's my review for The Matrix. Even if the effects by themselves seem old fashioned and overused today, we must not forget that when this movie came out, they where nothing short of groundbreaking on top it's unique premise, memorable characters, classic fight scenes, that make The Matrix such a well known movie that it is today. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I recommend that find the time to do so.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kon-Tiki (2012)

Rating: 75%
The last time I was at my friend Blane's house he wanted to show me this movie but we didn't have the time because it was the end of the day. So let me borrow his copy, and here's how it turned out for Kon-Tiki

Plot: Thor Heyerdahl is a experimental ethnographer and adventurer, who spent ten years in Polynesia with his wife learning about the Polynesians and how they settled there from South America. He tries to publish his theory that they did in fact come from there, but no magazine believes that it's true. So he builds a wooden raft and sails with five other men attempting to said it from South America to Polynesia in 100 days.

All in all, this is a pretty good movie. The story by itself is interesting and they delivered what Thor's goal in the film very well. It's also a very well created movie in how it was bringing us back to the time period with the gadgets or tools that they were using at the time like the kind of radio they had or even what a harpoon mostly looked like back in the day. The acting was also good, and while not every character on the raft was fully developed, they were still enjoyable and you are left hoping none of them died or anything like that. On top of that, I noticed that the visual effects were surprisingly good. Sometimes I could notice whether something was CGI or not, but even when it's noticeable, it was still visually impressive whether it was the whales, sharks or just looking at the ocean, they did a great job pulling it off. I only have two big problems with the movie. One is that while Thor himself was okay, he did seem somewhat one noted when it came to his faith that what they were going to do was going to work. I guess that's not entirely a problem in some respects, but it was kind of noticeable as the film progressed. But even bigger then that is just how the story was told by the book. It had a lot of familiar beats and it wasn't really all that hard to identify most of them. But similar to Saving Mr. Banks albeit not quite as affective, it wasn't necessarily so predictable that it completely ruined the film altogether. It did a couple of things differently, the times that it was being suspenseful, it worked, and the story itself helped keep it interesting for when you find out whether or not they made it.

And that's my review for Kon-Tiki. You may have a problem with it for how it is predictable, but it still holds up with an interesting story, a nice cast, very good visual effects and great detail on the time period that is all around a nice film to watch. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Once Upon A Forest (1993)

Rating: 10%
On occasion I'll come across a film that I partly remember at some point throughout my childhood but sadly couldn't find it again so that I could get a more genuine look at it. This film is probably one of my oldest examples. I watched this movie at a very young age at someone's house (I think it was one my aunt and uncle's but it could've been someone else entirely) and I vividly remember parts of the beginning and end and tiny little pieces of it in between. So I wanted to see it again but I had no idea what it really was or what it was even called. Luckily, I discovered that Doug Walker has a review for it as the Nostalgia Critic, which helped me find it thanks to seeing familiar pieces of it and now knowing it's name. So now that I've finally seen it again, here at long last is my review for Once Upon A Forest.

Plot: In a forest called Dapplewood, four little animal children are learning lessons from their teacher who is a badger named Cornelius. But when a tanker truck crashes and starts leaking poisonous gas, plants and animals begin to die. The children and Cornelius try to find their parents when the youngest child, Cornelius' niece named Michelle, tries to find her parents and becomes poisoned in the process. So Cornelius sends the other three children to go out and find another meadow where they can find the herbs he needs to save her life.

Yeah, as you can guess from both my rating and the fact that I found it as a Nostalgia Critic review, this movie didn't turn out so swell as I would've liked it to. The story was kind of all over the place and the journey the three children went through didn't really feel all that big or suspenseful. Part of that comes from how they didn't really make anything that was happening really thrilling at all. they were facing things like an owl trying to eat them, almost accidentally get killed by construction, could've fallen off their flying machine trying to get one of the herbs and while I can kind of see why some people would, neither of these dangers they face felt like they could be seen as dramatically dangerous. Plus it adds a lot of things that aren't really needed and don't really fit into what is happening in the main story. One example is how one of the three children, a mouse named Abigail, bumps into this other mouse named Willy and they seem to become love interests. They were only in about two scenes together and both moments where very brief and weren't all that interesting, so there was no point. But the biggest example was probably the worst part of the movie were they came across these religious birds that were holding a funeral for a little bird who is stuck in...either quicksand and is going to sink to it, or just mud and he's going to starve to's not clear which is it. Now firstly, the fact that it's not clear how the bird was supposedly going to die is another example of how they failed to make the dangers of the world suspenseful. Secondly the whole thing about the birds acting so religious...just no. And finally, the little bird kind of accepting his death was disturbing to see. Just the way he straight up said good-bye to his mom was kind of creepy. I'm glad I pretty much forgot this scene when I was a kid, because I honestly feel like I could've gotten nightmares from that. The characters are for the most part pretty bland and the songs where nothing memorable. I will give the movie credit that as dumb as it was that it had an environmental theme to it, they showed that not all human are bad unlike other films like this, but it wasn't necessarily done well.

And that's my review for Once Upon A Forest. While not every single thing about it is horrible, it is very weak with its story partially being all over the place and adding things that weren't really needed and didn't deliver any of its important elements well. If you haven't seen this movie, I wouldn't really bother. I may be glad that I saw it again just to extinguish my curiosity, but what I found was nothing all that good.          

In Bruges (2008)

Rating: 85%
My brother Johnathan wanted this for Christmas this past year and I got it for him, not seeing the movie myself. But once he got his hands on it, he got me and our other brother, Tommy to watch it and see why he wanted it. So here's how it turned out watching the movie In Bruges.

Plot: Ray and Ken are two hitman that are sent to Bruges by their employer Harry and are told to wait for Harry to call them for their next job. So they start sightseeing and having some deep conversations with one another while Ray begins to fall in love with a local drug dealer named Chloë. Eventually however, Ken finally receives a call from Harry and learns that he's ordered to kill Ray over accidentally killing a little boy during one of his hits. Ken doesn't want to do it, which leads to him trying to save Ray before he's has to face Harry.

Yeah, I can see pretty clearly why Johnathan would want to own this movie. This is basically a drama/comedy and they pull it off very well. The story itself is very clever, even if it seems a little too dark with dramatic elements like Ray accidentally killing the boy. The cast has some great acting moments- mainly from Ralph Fiennes in his first two appearances in the film. I especially like it when we have scenes where it's just him and Brendan Gleeson. Part of it is because they're enjoyable, but it's also funny when you realize that, that's pretty much Voldemort and Mad-Eye Moody together, and Voldemort's name is Harry. It's fine if you don't know Harry Potter and don't get that, but for someone like me who grew up with it, that's kinda funny. What really sells this movie however, is the dark comedy. Most of it revolves around the dialogue, but when the actors deliver it, it comes out very funny. Some of the jokes were very clever to the point of my brothers and I having trouble not quoting them repeatedly even a couple of days after we watched the movie. This movie ultimately won the Oscar for Best Original screenplay and it really shows. The story really is clever like I said, but it's really the dialogue that truly makes the movie whether it's being dramatic or funny and how the cast does a terrific job delivering all of it.

And that's my review for In Bruges. It's a very fun movie with great acting, a very good story, and above all has excellent dark comedy and dialogue that brings it to life as a film.

Run Lola Run (1998)

Rating: 90%
Okay there's a couple of movies that I've recently watched but have not gotten to reviewing, so I'm gonna try to start fixing that with one that one of my best friends, Blaine showed me, Run Lola Run.

Plot: Lola receives a call from her small-time criminal boyfriend that he has lost the money that he was bringing to his boss on an important job. He has 20 minutes to hand over the money before he gets killed. Lola convinces him to wait for her rather then steal the money from a nearby supermarket, and so Lola starts running all over the place to try to find a way to help him.

This is a very inventive film. It mostly revolves around Lola running and the impact she makes on the people she comes across along the way. This is kind of a spoiler to say this, but one of the big clever things about this film is that it gives three different endings which result in different outcomes of the people she comes across. And while some of them may not always make sense, it still is interesting with what they come up with. There's also a sort of mystery/fantasy side to it with things like Lola having this screaming ability or...something like that, which they don't really go into, but you don't really care, because it's still kind of clever and has a nice part of the story. The cinematography and editing is very well done in how it makes everything that is happening a big thrill and it kind of gets bigger and bigger as the film goes on. It's also visually interesting with its colors, especially with Lola's hair, and even having a little bit of animation on occasion as well. The techno soundtrack also really helps build what is happening in the movie, especially the song "I Believe" during the climax of the movie. My only problem with the film is one nitpick about how the boyfriend gives this homeless man his gun and how I thought it was really stupid, but it's a small problem when you compare it to the rest of the film. Because on a whole it's still a very clever film, and part of what helps is that it was done with a very low budget.

And that's my review for Run Lola Run. It's an inventive artistic movie that has interesting colors, smart cinematography and editing, a good soundtrack, and is all around an enjoyable, creative thrill to watch. If you haven't seen it, I say it's worth 81 minutes of your time to check it out.


It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Rating: 100%
Yeah, yeah, Christmas has been over for about two weeks now. But...screw it. I want to get this review out of the way rather then wait a whole year to finally review this particular movie, I'll just take advantage of seeing it at some point during Christmas time this past year, and review this classic once and for all. So at long last, here's my own review for It's A Wonderful Life.

Plot: George Bailey is a businessman who has become troubled and suicidal after a problem with his  Building and Loan funds. So a 2nd class angel named Clarence  is shown by his superiors Georges life then sent to earth to help him from taking his life. This eventually leads to Clarance showing George what the world would be like if he was never born.

Once again, we come across a movie where I ask 'what can I say that hasn't already been said.' (I mean I've probably said that in like, probably more then a dozen reviews now.) After all, the movie this time is It's A Wonderful Life. It's a timeless Christmas classic and...yeah, pretty much just that. It's a story that almost everyone is familiar with today, it has been parodied plenty of times in tv shows, a memorable characters, memorable dialogue, lovable cast, there's just so many things to love about it. James Stewart plays George Bailey and of coarse he does a perfect job at it. George Bailey is #9 among AFI's Top Heroes and it's easy to see why. George does a lot of things for other people, even when he's sacrificing what he really wants, and it leaves a big impact on  the town even if he doesn't completely see it. The moments between him and his wife, Mary are also very enjoyable. Some of the scenes with them are considered to be one of the most romantic scenes in film history and while they don't quite touch my heart the way people like my mom or my brother's fiancee do, I can see why for the most part. Mr. Potter is #6 on AFI's Top Villains and he shows it very well. Just about every time I watch him or hear other characters talk about him, I think of him as a more dark sided version of Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Like if instead of becoming the nicest guy ever, Scrooge goes even darker then just plain greedy, by wanting to take over a town and control everyone's lives, then you get Mr. Potter. Then of coarse we get to Clarance showing George what the world would be like if he was never born. This part of the film doesn't leave as big of an impact on me considering how it's been spoiled for me by one parody of the story itself, but I still see why people find it a deep, dark experience of what the world would've been like without George Bailey. And I don't want to give anything away, but the ending is probably one of the most heartstrings-pulling scenes I've ever seen. The only truly negative thing I've heard about this film is how it isn't really very realistic with what is exactly happening and...yeah I can see where that would be a problem to some people. But honestly, it's not suppose to directly be realistic. It's better to take this movie for just having just a moving story.

And that's my review for It's A Wonderful Life. It's one of the most timeless Christmas film as well as films in general with its great hero and villain, memorable dialogue and probably one of the most heartfelt stories as a film. The Best Years Of Our Lives was ultimately an enjoyable film, but this was the film that should've won best picture during that year. If you haven't seen it, give it a try next Christmas.   

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Top 10 Favotire films of 2013

Happy New Year everyone! It's now time for another top 10 with 2013 gone and 2014 just beginning. Now while you are all probably aware of this, I still want to point out that this is about the movies that I personally enjoyed the most, not which ones where the biggest cinematic masterpieces, and that I have not seen every single movie that there is to see from this past year. In fact, I think I saw less films from this past year then I did for 2012. In fact the only movie I saw in 2013 that was genuinely bad was The Lone Ranger, so I didn't see as much as I did last time. But I digress. Let's dive into my personal favorite films from 2013.

#10 Saving Mr. Banks
Number 10 was a little hard to pick. It originally was going to be either Man of Steel or Pacific Rim considering either how Man of Steel did have some nice aspects to it despite it being less good then when I saw it the first time, and how despite the characters and especially the dialogue were horrible in Pacific Rim, it did a lot of cinematic things right with its cinematography, movement of the robots and aliens, and especially the creativity of the certain features that the aliens had and how one of them in particular delivered one of its abilities remarkably well. But ultimately the one that probably works the most as #10 for my personal choice would be Saving Mr. Banks. While it had some familiar beats, Saving Mr. Banks was a heart-felt and enlightening movie about creating the movie Mary Poppins and the importance it had to P.L. Travers' past. It's a great film to look into if you're a fan of Disney or Mary Poppins or both, and it fits the most to be # 10 on this list.

#9 Kick-Ass 2
This is the only underrated movie on this list, but this may be one of the most underrated films I've seen period. It's no The Dark Knight and it has some flaws, sure. But finding those flaws to be so bad that it has a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes right now? Now that's just going a little too far. It's not better then the first movie, but it's not suppose to be, nor did I really want it to be. It's meant to still give us likable characters, decent comedy, good fight scenes, sometimes go deep into what Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are going through dramatically  throughout the film, and make some differences between it and the book it's based on that I felt were very important to make. And in all of those areas, Kick-Ass 2 did not disappoint, and it's a shame that the critics didn't see it.

#8 The Wolverine
Most people say that this movie is pretty loyal to the particular comic it was based on, other say it was just loosely based. But either way, this was a big improvement from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Where that film had decent action but also had too many characters and not enough time to properly use them, this film also has some nice action but is more character and story heavy. We get new characters, we see Wolverine overcoming his past and trying to make do without his healing ability, and we get a little peak at the end credits that builds up to X-Men: Days of Future Past. My brother got me this for Christmas, and I hope the next film will be even better to the point of also joining my collection of films by this time next year.

#7 Star Trek: Into Darkness
After spending the past for years getting to know Star Trek as a franchise after watching the reboot, I finally watch the sequel with a more layered film that goes deeper into the characters, the all around universe, a great villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and some fun action and visuals. Just hope the next film has fewer lens flares and has more of them actually boldly going where no man has gone before.

#6 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
What do you get when the first film had enough shaky camera to make Michael Bay envious and little reason to make you really give a flying feather about the characters or their relationships with each other? You get the next film which contains little to NO camera movement and character development that DOES give you reasons to give a flying feather about the characters or the their relationships with each other. As surprising as it was to find out when I went to see this movie, Catching Fire gave the right amount of development to help me actually like these characters and really see why I should in any way care about what's happening to them and how genuine the relationships are like between Katniss with her sister or with her whole love triangle between Gale and Peeta. The Hunger Games is still hardly one of my favorite franchises or anything like that, but this movie impressed me enough to hope they keep up the good work with the third movie...split into two films...just because Harry Potter and Twilight did that with their last films, doesn't mean you should too guys.

#5 Gravity
Well I guess this movie had to be on this list at some point. But that hardly means I can't see why. Gravity is visually astonishing with it's cinematography and it's CGI. It's also clever with its symbolism and has a great performance from Sandra Bullock. It has a very simple story with characters that maybe didn't really need any background story to them, but it's all meant to be that way for the sake of it being an experience more then it is meant to be in any way deep with its story or characters. But as great of a film everybody praises it to be, the next four just simply did the most for me personally as a fan of these specific franchises or companies, starting with...

#4 Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World just did a lot of things right to me as far goes as what a good sequel should do; that being taking the concept of the world in the film and exploring it more while going further into the story and raising the stakes. With this movie doing just that, we went deeper into the Asgardian lore, characters like Odin and Loki, Thor and Jane's relationship, as well and more action and comedy that falls a little closer to what Joss Whedon did for The Avengers. And let's not forget the scene during the end credits that I hope leads to a good Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

#3 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I know it's weird that this movie is ranked two slots higher then the previous film despite the fact that it is weaker. But weaker doesn't automatically mean it's bad. The Desolation of Smaug continues the story by giving us more of the characters and more of the world of Middle-Earth with great fight scenes, good comedy, and a perfect Smaug to finish it. While Jackson has probably added more stuff that are not in the book then me maybe should have, we leave it to the next film to find out if they pay off.

#2 Iron Man 3
Yes I know this movie has a good amount of flaws, but ultimately I still more or less find a lot of them minor compared to what this movie was doing on a whole. This movie was meant to be deeper and more about Tony Stark as a person then all about him flying and destroying things. It was funny, it was dark, it was dramatic, and just very satisfying when you look at Tony Stark growing as a person and watch the result at the very end of the film. Only time will tell what happens from here in The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron for the man in a can.

And finally...

#1 Frozen
Yeah if you find it messed up that this reached the top, do know that I do too. But I can't really help it. Ultimately if there was one movie  in 2013 that has so many clever and entertaining things to it to the point that it almost has no flaws at all, slightly similar to The Avengers from my list last year, Frozen is that movie. It's just a big return of the experience of Disney animated films that past movies like Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph have been leading up to. The music, the animation, the two new princesses, the side characters (still surprisingly including Olaf), the story, there's just so many things to love about this film. I did eventually watch it a second time and I loved it even more. In fact I think it's a movie that you have to see twice. One time to see what it does to your expectations, and a second time to just watch and enjoy it. I don't have a certain list of who my favorite Disney princesses would be, but if I did, I strongly feel now that Anna and Elsa would be my second and third favorite princesses, inferior only to Belle (because it's freaking Belle.) they both where such smartly created and fun characters and I really enjoyed what Disney gave us with each of them. If this film doesn't succeed where Wreck-it Ralph "failed" in giving Disney its first Animated Feature Oscar win without Pixar, I might just officially lose all faith in the Academy Awards. And all of that is why I don't see any other movie but Frozen to be my #1 favorite movie for 2013.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Rating: 75%
This movie has been out for a couple of weeks, but I waited to review it for two reasons. One is that anything Middle-Earth related is kind of required to see for the first time with the family, or at least my brothers and me since we're all fans of Tolkein's work like practically everyone else, so I had to wait until both of my brothers were home for the holidays. Two is that this movie was required to watch two times before having a more genuine feeling about it - which is something I wish I did with the first movie because I ended up liking that a little more when watching it again. All that being said, let's take a look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. 

Plot: Set roughly right after the events of the last film, Bilbo and Gandalf and the dwarves are still on their way to The Lonely Mountain. But along the way they come across giant spiders, wood elves where one of the dwarves, Kili, begins to fall in love with a female wood elf named Tauriel, and eventually Bard and the people of Lake Town. Thus they begin to find an way into the mountain and face Smaug himself.

One thing that both me and especially my youngest brother Johnathan are beginning to realize with these Hobbit films is that they are kind of required to see more then once. Because despite how most of us are probably trying our best not to compare them so much to the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Hobbit book, a lot of things that Jackson does differently seem to be very hard to swallow for everybody. And if it was hard to watch the first Hobbit movie because of that despite it still being good, it's a little harder with this movie - which is where it was imperative for Johnathan and I to see it twice before having a more sincere opinion about this movie. But let's talk about what's good about this movie, because there's still a lot to like about it just like the first one. First off, it's still visually wonderful to see, as if there was any doubt of that. The characters are still enjoyable to watch - I really like how the dwarves are starting to stand out more as individuals such as Gloin and Óin. And Martin Freeman is starting to grow on me more an more as the perfect person to play Bilbo for these films. The music - while no masterpiece, did have some nice pieces such as the track for when we first see Lake Town, and I the end credits some "I See Fire" has been growing on me. The action is still great to watch, and while it is questionable for Tauriel and especially Legolas to be in this movie in terms of story, they were still very entertaining whenever they were out there slaughtering countless Orcs. The comedy - while giving into slapstick once in a while, also had some memorable moments. But by far the best of the movie is Smaug. Holy crap, was it a treat to finally get to this guy. His design was perfect, his size was perfect, and his voice above all was perfect. Benedict Cumberbatch could hardly have done a better job at making Smaug so powerful and menacing that makes it little wonder that this character is such a terrible danger for Bilbo and the dwarves to face. I wanted Smaug to turn out to be as terrifying and menacing as possible, and I was not disappointed. So what exactly is wrong with this film? kind of depends on your point of view. The big reason why this film needed to be seen twice before I felt ready to review it is that there's a lot of things they add into this movie that are not in the book at all. Most of them pay off pretty well like the politics in Lake Town and Gandalf's search for The Necromancer. But the rest of them either don't work at all, or are yet to be determined whether or not they work until the third movie comes out. The biggest example is the relationship between Tauriel and Kili. While they're hardly the most painful couple to put on screen and are less of a bother to watch the second time, they do so far seem to hurt the Hobbit films as a trilogy the most. I especially say that because their last two scenes where kind of really hard for my brothers and my dad and I to watch when we first saw this film. As entertaining as Tauriel was to watch in the fight scenes, the whole thing between them is possibly the least needed thing for these films as far as adding things to Tolkein's story goes.

And that's my review for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. While still not a masterpiece like the Lord of the Rings films, Johnathan and I are beginning to truly accept that it didn't have to be and that's perfectly fine because it's still a good, entertaining film. Even if some of the things Jackson added that weren't in the book didn't pay off, it's still visually pleasing, still has some great fight scenes, still has well acted characters, and we could hardly have asked for better once we finally got to Smaug. It's the weakest of the Hobbit films and live-action Middle Earth related films in general, but it's still a darn good entertaining film. How does it all come together in the final film There And Back Again? We're just gonna have to wait and find out.