Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bringing up Baby (1938)

Plot: David Huxley is a mild-mannered paleontologist who is engaged to his secretary and has recently found the missing bone for his skeleton of a Brontosaurus. To top it off, he needs to convince a woman to give a million dollars to the museum, so he tries to impress her lawyer with a game of golf. But he is interfered by a free-spirited woman named Susan, who constantly messes with David, making it hard for him to much as speak to the lawyer. The day before his wedding, Susan convinces David to take a leopard named Baby who is gift for her aunt (who happens to be the woman David is trying to convince in giving the million dollars) and bring it to her country home in Connecticut. But a few complications arise, leaving David and Susan to try to set everything right.

All in all, this was a funny, romantic film, with the only real problem I have is how it had a slow start before it became really enjoyable. The first third or so, while funny in some parts, didn't entirely hook me into the film. But when it picked up, that's when I started to enjoy it, and also when I started caring for Susan. I watched this film in my history of film class, and there were a few people who said that they found her to be annoying. For me, she became likable when she was less manipulative. Sometimes she was entertaining when she was deceptive, but during the first third (making her part of why it was slow) all I could do is watch her pull out these schemes against David and say, "Wow. What a manipulative witch." But thankfully as time went on, you begin to root for her the stronger she her relationship with David becomes. Speaking of David, this was one character you really don't see Cary Grant play as very often. When I think Cary Grant, I think of characters that have more of a...well not mild-mannered, like in films such as His Girl Friday, North by Northwest, The Bishop's Wife and so on. So it is a surprising sight to see him perform a character that is more mild-mannered then Superman when he's Clark Kent. Just comes to show that he has some range. Now I'm sure you already know what is going to happen in the end, just from telling you the basic plot, and you could be right. But even if you do, the film makes up for it with the situations the characters go through and the comedic results that follows. And it does pay off. The other people in the class and I got some good laughs out of the film. Also, I thought I'd she something that is really interesting about this film; according to our professor, this was actually a flop when it came out. In fact, the actress who plays Susan, Katharine Hepburn, was infamously labeled box-office poison. It wasn't until its release in the 40s when it was re-released in the 40s that it had a better reception, and became more popular around the 50s. Go figure. 

And that's my review for Bringing up Baby. It has a slow start in its comedy and its leading female character, but once it picks up, it's a funny romantic film with likable characters, including a Cary Grant character that you do not get very often. If you haven't seen it before, I say it's a good time to check out.
Rating: 85%

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flubber (1997)

So I mentioned in my Good Will Hunting review that I originally planned to review this movie as part of paying respect to Robin Williams after he died. But considering what I have to say, I decided against it and went with watching and eventually reviewing Good Will Hunting and to review this movie at a much later time. Well it's well over a year since his death, so while it still hurts, I think this is good enough time as any to polish and post this review.  So without further ado, let's dive into Flubber.

Plot: Phillip Brainard is a professor at Medfield College who is trying to create a new energy source to save the college. He is however very absent minded, which has lead to him missing two attempts to marrying his fiancee, Sarah. Before his third attempt at marrying Sarah, he figures out the new energy source and so creates a living, green goo that he calls Flubber. However, he misses the wedding while testing it, and so decides to try to figure out a way to use Flubber to save the school and win back Sarah's heart.

This... is not exactly one of Williams' best films. There's a lot of plot holes, some of the performances are over the top and the characters are horribly written, and watching it again, I realize that the actual character of Flubber has very small appearances in the film and doesn't have much of a clear identity. But that doesn't entirely stop it from being fun to watch once in a while. Even with it's obvious flaws, the story is kind of cute in an obviously for kids kind of way, the effects are dated, but they still look nice considering the time period and honestly, part of what makes this a watch-once-in-a-while kind of film is to try to forget and re-enjoy some of the comedy and inventions that Phillip makes. When it comes to the comedy, I realize that the older I get, the more I start to notice how some of the things that they do in terms of slapstick are not only unrealistic, but in some cases, the slapstick would actually kill some of the characters in real life. But it still is a little funny, so I enjoy it anyway.

When it came to Phillip's inventions - and this is mostly the little kid in me who saw this movie for the first time getting the better of me - I still like some of them. I like the breakfast machine (as cliched as that is), the Flubber-padded shoes, and the flying car. But my favorite by far was Weebo. I mean, I know I've grown up and have seen and loved cooler robots than her, i.e. Super Battle Droids, Droidikas, almost anything from Skynet, The Transformers, and so on. But the concept of Weebo just leaves me wishing I had a robot like her that would fly around and especially had a screen that would pop up to show things like schedules or clips from movies or shows to express something happening. I thought she was really cool because of that as a kid, and despite growing up and seeing cooler looking robots, part of me still thinks it would be awesome if there were robots like her in real life. As a character, she still had some flaws, but she was likable enough...except that watching it again, I thought she was pretty mean during the first third or so of the movie. It was clear that she had a thing for Phillip (which is pretty screwed up when I think about it now that I'm grown up), but it never hit me until watching this movie again that she was one of the major reason why he missed the wedding. She was nicer as the film went on, but I didn't notice until now that she was actually a jerk that tried to make sure he missed it out of jealousy. Go figure.

Now as for Phillips...well...he's pretty much a badly written character when you get down to it. By all accounts he shouldn't come out as likable considering how he's so absent minded and missed his wedding three times and focused so much on his work. But, I would make the argument that the one thing that makes him appear at least a little bit likable is Robin Williams himself. Don't get me wrong, he's still not that well thought of, of a character, but at the same time, Williams gave enough of his usual charm to make him at least a little bit likable anyway.

And that's my review for Flubber. It is not well written, the characters aren't all that likable, the story has some plot holes, but at the same time, the slapstick, invnetions and Phillip himself are likeable to a degree that makes this a harmless, once in a long while kind of film.
Rating: 60%

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

Plot: It's Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang living their lives the way we love them. The actual story of the film is simply about Charlie Brown trying to get The Little Red-haired Girl to notice him. Simple as that.

Now I've looked forward to this movie for a while, but at the same time, I was a little nervous at what they were going to do with making a film about something as timeless as Peanuts. Which is more than I can say to practically everyone I've ever talked about this movie to while the film wasn't out yet. It seemed like everyone would either declare that it was going to be bad without so much as a thought or just express that they are really scared about how it was going to turn out. And it's totally understandable as to why they do that. The Peanuts comic is full of characters that so many of us have come to love and have a certain spot in our heart. So it only makes sense that we would be afraid about this movie turning into a complete cash in like the Smurfs or Garfield movies. I myself expressed that I would have started this review by saying that Blue Sky made my "hit list" if The Peanuts Movie turned out to be another complete victim of turning something timeless into another cheap cash in. I mean why the dickens wouldn't I? Peanuts has been a big chunk of my childhood from the comics, to the specials, to having a stuffed Snoopy that has been my favorite toy since the second grade. So as far as I am concerned, if this movie turned out bad, I practically would've had the right over-express my displeasure however I would see fit.

But thankfully, that didn't become the case. Because this turned out to be a good, smart, caring representation of the comics. Is it perfect? No, but for what they had to give us, this film, is a great way to show a movie of a famous comic strip in a way that's happily nostalgic for adults, and very enjoyable for kids. The animation was done in an extremely smart way by combining 3D animation with the 2D animation of the specials and other movies. At times it goes a little over the top, even to the point of the slapstick being a little too much whether it's with Snoopy or Charlie Brown or whoever else. But even with that said, when the slapstick is still enjoyable. Snoopy especially is fun to watch. From the voice, to the movement, to the facial expressions, he was as funny as we expected him to be in this film.

The rest of the gang were delivered very faithfully too. They delivered the misery of Charlie Brown and how nothing goes right for him, but still keeps on trying. They have Lucy as a self-absorbed brat, Linus with his blanket, Schroeder with his piano and love for Beethoven, the list goes on and on. And the makers of the film put their darnest into putting just about anything that we love about the comic strip/specials into an hour and a half movie. Sometimes in really small ways like Linus briefly mentioning the Great Pumpkin or Snoopy's family making a brief cameo, or references that come up frequently like Frieda with her naturally, curly hair or Peppermint Patty sleeping in class or calling Charlie Brown, Chuck. And they picked the right moments to deliver whatever references so many of us treasure, that truly made this a fun, accurate representation of the wonderful world of Peanuts from Charles Schultz.    

If there's one real problem with the movie that is thankfully a nitpick in the long run, it would be the pop music in this movie. Granted, there are really only about two ish songs in there not counting the end credits, but when they play - especially at that school dance scene, they definitely are out of place. And it's things like this where I completely understand what people who were super scared about this movie were coming from. Because like I said, this could've been another Garfield or Smurfs movie where they take something timeless and modernize it and put a lot of product placement. And seeing as how Peanuts may as well be more timeless than Garfield and Smurfs put together, it is unpleasant when we hear these pop songs from some artist that we likely never heard of and probably will never hear from again. But I think it comes close enough to give it a pass because the songs, while modernized can be a little fun, and honestly, if two or three pop songs is as bad as it gets, then we can all agree that they're really just nitpicks and Schultz can still rest peacefully in his grave.  

The last thing I want to talk about is the ending. I wont dare give away what it is, but let's just say it's something that I wonder if Charles Schultz would be okay with it. Would he like this ending, or would he see it as a betrayal to the spirit of his work? I think at the end of the day, it's really up to you to answer that for yourself. You can either say it's a betrayal, or consider to be satisfied that we get this kind of ending in a Peanuts anything for once.

And that's my review for The Peanuts Movie. Even if the animation and slapstick can be much at times and there are a couple of pop songs in attempt to modernize it, it still is a fun, entertaining movie that stays faithful to the work of Charles Schultz from beginning to end. It's no Lego Movie or Inside Out, but for what we have, it's a great time with some of our most treasured characters from our childhood.

Rating: 80%

Monday, November 9, 2015

Scarface (1932)

Okay, so the Al Pacino version of this movie is one of the films that I have been wanting to see but never got around. But maybe I'll be more likely to do that now that one of the latest movies I've seen in my history of film class is the original Scarface. So without further ado, here's my thoughts on the original Scarface as my 625th review.

Plot: Scarface is about a  gangster named Tony who is arrogant and confidant in his part  in the Mafia world. Throughout the film, he works his way to the top despite some obstacles from the rival mafia family and his own boss. But in the midst of it all, he  not only forms an affair with his boss' woman but also having some sort of thing with his own sister, Cesca.

Okay so a little bit of film history about this movie, because while it's not as big of a film as the remake has become, it had a big impact on the moral ground of film back when it came out. Basically, censorship was going through a slow process over what can or cannot be put into film. In 1930, a new code meant to guide the content of motion pictures was written, named the Hollywood Production Code. But while the industry accepted it, it wasn't taken very seriously. If anything, filmmakers were making films that were stretching the limits of the code or simply ignored it. This is what started what was called the pre-code era between 1930 and 1934. But the line wasn't really crossed until this movie was made. True, there are other films that also went too far such as Baby Face with its sexual innuendos. But Scarface apparently crossed the line the most with its violence, hints of incest, and the all around implications that committing crime can be fun and liberating. Plus, the story is based on the life of Al Capone with similarities such as the scar, the Valentines day massacre, and so on. Thus, the code was set to be more in enforced, leading to dims needing a seal of approval from the Production Code Administration.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let's talk about the film itself. As far as gangster films, it gives you what you would normally expect; killings, enforcing people, fighting against rival gangs, cops trying to take them down, and so on. The violence is as basic as you can get from a modern point of view, but you can understand it considering it's time, and regardless, the action is still enjoyable. You have your gun fights, explosions, even a car chase that are all entertaining. I should also note that this is were people got the concept of a gangster tossing a coin constantly that you probably have seen in movies like Singin' in the Rain. My personal favorite moment in the film was when Cesca was entering the room at the climax, with the intention to murder another character. Just the shot of her coming with the harsh shadow and this really cold look on her face was so well executed. I don't have much to say about Tony because like the film, he kind of is the basic of a gangster character in how he is confidant, ambitious, arrogant, enforcing and a fighter to the end. If there's one thing about the movie that easily makes it stand out from a lot of other gangster films, it would be the implied incest between Tony and Cesca. I hope I don't need to say more about it apart from how curious I am about how that subject is tackled in the Al Pacino version.

And that's my review for Scarface. It has an interesting history in how it challenged censorship back in it's time, and even then is an enjoyable film by itself. I understand if it isn't much to you since it does have what you may consider to be just the very basics of gangster films in general, but otherwise, it is a film I would recommend.

Rating: 95%

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Gold Rush (1925)

Plot: The film revolves around The Lone Prospector, who searches for fame and fortune during the Klondike Gold Rush. He is often a victim of practical jokes from the people in one of the booms towns, including a woman he has feelings for named Georgia. But when a man he befriended during a snow storm finds gold but loses his memory as to where it is, the two go on a journey to find the mine again and become rich.

This was funny but - in regards to watching it in a history of film class, an interesting film to watch. I say that, because my professor taught us how in several of Chaplin's films, including this one, his character always starts off as the lowest of class men in expression to how he himself lived an extremely poor life growing up in an orphanage. But, it doesn't stop with any of the characters Chaplin plays. He also shows how hard other people's lives can be in whatever setting his film takes place in. In the case of this film, it's set in a lonely poor village, and there's a very special scene where it's new years and all the young adults are celebrating but the older all have stern sad looks on their faces, implying that they are viewing this event as just signifying another year of their lives have been spent, doing the same thing again and again. The Prospector himself was a sad character because of how he's the victim of practical jokes. For example, there's a scene for where he's waiting for Georgia and her friends to come over to his place for dinner. What he doesn't know is that they said they would as a prank, but he continues to wait, while daydreaming about him being adored as a host for if they come. That's some pretty serious stuff that Chaplin comes across to his audience in an otherwise comedic film. And speaking of which, this is a really funny movie. Even if we might have seen some of the slapstick before, it still holds out very well. My classmates and I laughed at just about every joke that the film had. From the prospector's friend thinking he was a chicken, to shoveling people's front door from the snow, to the whole scene of the prospector and his friend with the house on the edge of a cliff, it's a lot of great slapstick that has aged pretty well.

And that's my review for The Gold Rush. It's an interesting mixture of being both funny yet dramatic based on how my teacher has opened my eyes in viewing Chaplin's work in a different light. It's an entertaining silent film that I do recommend.

Rating: 100%

Underworld (1928)

Plot: Gangster turned kingpin, 'Bull' Weed rehabilitates alcoholic lawyer, Rolls Royce as a reward for promising not to squeal when Royce witnesses him robbing a bank. The two become confidants with Royce as the brains for Weed's schemes. They begin to work together against a rival gangster who tries to muscle on Weed's territory. But during the process, Royce begins to fall in love with Weed's girlfriend, Feathers.

According to my history of film professor, this was the first full fledged gangster film. And it really is an enjoyable film. The story was investing, in that you likely have heard the general story before, but they execute it so well that you still want to see what happens. At least I know I sure did. The last third got me guessing as to who will or won't make it. The actors gave great performances - just their facial expressions in the many close-ups that where used really helped the characters stand out. I think I liked the facial expressions of Royce the best. There's just something about that frown he gives that shows everything that he may or may not be feeling with this one expression.

And that's my review for Underworld. It's tense, it's well acted, its story you may have seen before, but it can still glue you in, it's a great silent film.

Rating: 95%

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Friendship Games (2015)

Plot: Canterlot High school is about to take part in the quadrennial sporting event; The Friendship Games against their rival high school, Crystal Prep Academy. So Sunset Shimmer and the Human Five join in the team to go against Crystal Prep in hopes they will be the first to defeat the rival school. Unbeknownst to them however, the Twilight Sparkle of the human world is in the Crystal Prep team, and has been secretly investigating the magical activity at Canterlot High ever since the climax of the first movie. So Sunset Shimmer and the Human Five have to compete in the Friendship Games against the human version of their best friend, while Human Twilight finds a way to absorb magic from the Canterlot High.

To be very straight forward, this is a good movie, but in a The Dark Knight Rises or Star Trek: The Search for Spock kind of way, in that, like those films, it never really had so much as a prayer in meeting, let alone exceeding the high standards that its predecessor surprisingly made, and it has some considerable flaws. But at the end of the day, it still succeeds where many threequels don't in being a good, fun, enjoyable movie.

 The main highlight of this movie both good and bad ways is the characters. The Human Five, while didn't appear to have much of a purpose in the film (at least it felt that way to me), were still the characters in their human form just as we love them. But the real focus is on Sunset Shimmer and human Twilight Sparkle, because this was really their story more than anyone else. I personally really liked how they made human Twilight her own character. She had the same basic personality and traits as the real Twilight to be sure, but they did a good job at showing that this is a completely separate person from the lavender pony we've come to know and love for the past five years. And then we have Sunset Shimmer who has gained much more development with her character, such as how she is still learning about friendship,  yet sort of still in secure about the choices she makes and learning to help people by herself rather than gain help from Twilight. In fact there is a whole subplot that was deleted from the film about her considering whether out not she should move back into Equestria. And you know what? It's great. I mean I can understand why they deleted it in how they have a limited running time for the film and it probably is something to more than likely wait until the next film. (Yes, that's already been confirmed.) But man, so many people, myself included, would've loved to see it make the film, or at the very least be able to watch the deleted scenes in animation rather through storyboards in the bonus features for the film. But with that all said, the new characters could've had more development. We have a whole group of new characters from Crystal Prep, and yet all I remember about them is their one-noted personalities. You have one character who is bipolar,  you have one that is very blunt, you have one that is basically diet Vinyl Scratch who can talk (lucky brat), a diet Rainbow Dash, and on and so forth. I've seen the film three times already and yet the only name I remember from among them is Sugar Coat, who is the name of the blunt talking character. If that's the only name I know from a whole group of characters, that's not a good sign. Also I want to point out how Flash Sentry has even less attention than before. In fact there seemed to be something of a subplot about him and the human Twilight, but they only met two times and that's it. Maybe the creators are trying to please the people who hate him by having human Twilight ignore him, but regardless, I would still like more from him.

But if there's one thing that the film failed big time in terms of characters, it would be the villain: Principal Cinch. Of all the villains in MLP, she is by far the weakest... well let me elaborate on that actually. It's true that as much as people like me are crazy about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,  there are some villains in the past that aren't the most complex by any means. But what makes them better than Principle Cinch is how despite being underdeveloped characters, they still are interesting.  Call it their magical abilities, their background/lack thereof, whatever personalities they do have in the show or a mixture of any or all of these elements, but either way, there is something about them that fascinates us and inspires us to express our own interpretations about who these characters are and what they might be like if they had further development. It's things like this that inspire people to make various sorts of fan art (myself included seeing as I did become a fan artist recently), whether through drawings, paintings, comics, fan fiction, fan music, etc. With Principal Cinch on the other hand, I guess you could argue that she can be interesting enough over how far she's willing to go to achieve her goal, but even then, her goal is all about keeping a reputation in her school. And let's face it, as far as evil plots go, that's a good number of steps behind something like taking over Equestria or gaining power to gain unlimited admiration.

The music is a lot of fun to listen to. It's not as strong as the soundtrack in the last film, but that's hardly fair to say seeing as the last film was all about music, giving Daniel Ingram so much space to go all out. But regardless, we still get some great, memorable music that we've come to expect from the guy. My personal favorites are My Past is not Today, There's More That's Out There and Acedeca. While My Past is Not Today is technically a Rainbow Rocks song that's was in a short a few months after that film came out, I'm counting it because it's also in the soundtrack to this film. And honestly, why wouldn't I want to talk about it?  It's basically Sunset Shimmer's own song about how she's moving on from her past, and I can hardly get enough of it. There's More That's Out There I really enjoy because it's a nice, deep song about human Twilight expressing how she's feeling about her life. And Acadeca? Pff. Acedeca is just fricking catchy. If there's one song I didn't care for, or at the very least had to grow on me in order to like it okay, it would have to be Principle Cinch's villain song; Unleash the Magic. Don't get me wrong, in terms of what she's doing with the help of her students is great, and how Twilight joins in during the end of the song is even better.  But there is just something about the tune that kept throwing me off the first couple of times I listened to it.

Finally, the climax was smart. There were some lines that I personally would've liked to have changed, but the event itself was clever. It was basically a 180 of the climax from the first film, but the roles reversed between Twilight and Sunset Shimmer. Plus the costumes for the supernatural forms of some of the characters where much, much better than Sunset Shimmer's design as a she-demon.

And that's my review for My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Friendship Games. It takes some steps back in terms of giving us the villain and other new characters, but it is also meet with great development for Sunset Shimmer, a likable, human Twilight Sparkle, an enjoyable soundtrack, and an all around entertaining third movie. It's not the strongest, but it certainly succeeds in being a better film than the first one by far.

Rating: 70%