Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Story (1983)

Plot: For the two of you who have never seen this film, the story takes place in the 40s (or maybe 50s, I don't think it was ever clarified), where Nine-year-old Ralphie specifically wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. The problem is, everyone is against the idea because he'll "shoot his eye out." All the while he goes through the normal experiences of being a child during Christmas time.

Once again, I talk about a movie where I have to ask "what can I say about this movie, that hasn't been said a million times?" Well this time, I can say this much; who has a movie review blog that has a dark purple background, a logo that is probably over-stuffed with fictional characters, and is one of the few people that is over this movie? That's right, me. I have been keeping my mouth shut tight about this for the past several years just to avoid people looking at me like I don't have a soul. But times have changed where I have learned about the importance of being entitled to your own opinion, and so I have been wanting to stand my ground and admit my feelings for this film via a review for the past couple of years or so. And now the time has finally come where I say my peace. Now let me be perfectly clear: I completely agree that this is a great film, and I know how special it is and thus, why people love it so much - all of which I'm going to talk about... BUT IT'S FREAKING OVER-HYPED!!!!! In fact, it was around my senior year in high school where my family had that A Christmas Story marathon on TV, while getting ready for a party and praising it in the process. They kept at it so much that I have been completely tired of it ever since. So understand that I am going to be positive about the film just like everyone else, but I want it to be on record that I'm one of those people who have unfortunately experienced the overexposure of it and thus have mentally declared "enough is enough."

Now that I've said the one thing about the film that hasn't been said a millions times before, let's dive into the good stuff. And I think the best way to start is to talk about the main character, Ralphie.  Ralphie is the character that I and many other people relate to the most. Because what makes him just a beloved character is how he captures the all around experience of being a kid at Christmas time. Having only one particular thing that he wants for Christmas, the bully, getting in trouble for swearing, the daydreaming - man, all the daydreaming. That last part is where I relate to him the most. Dreaming of having written the most perfect essay that everyone praises, imagining saving the day from evildoers going after the family, the parents getting punished somehow for punishing me, all that's missing is daydreams about being a powerful Jedi Knight or an exceptionally skilled Pokemon trainer, and this guy would be a hundred percent on the dot with me. But that doesn't make him the only person people can relate to. The other kids like Raphie's brother, Randy, likely relate to other people in some way or another, and I'm sure many adults relate with the parents too.

Now what is there to say about the humor that hasn't also been said a million times apart from the plain fact that it's freaking hilarious? Because a lot of it connects with, again, how much the characters are relatable. But it also has it's moments of occasionally being over the top, like how Ralphie goes "nooooooo!" when he goes down the slide. (Which by the way, why the heck was that not around when I was a kid? We kids from the 90s got our obviously, superior material stuff for Christmas, from our toy cars and board games, to anything that has to do with Star Wars or Pokemon. But there never was a slide that we could go down on after we visit Santa? Man, the kids from the 40s are full of lucky brats!) The humor from whenever Ralphie is daydreaming is also really funny. How the bad guys have Xs painted on their faces after Raphie defeated them with his BB gun, and how overly happy the children and especially the teacher were about his essay. But watching part of this scene again, the funniest moment to me is the soap poisoning daydream. Just thinking about how the parents (especially the dad) wail in the most overly dramatic way possible makes me chuckle as I write this review, it's that funny.

Now as much as this film captures the the experience of the Christmas time, I think at least some people agree that one of the most wonderful moments in the film, is during the very end where the parents are sitting next to the tree while the snow is falling. It's deep, it's beautiful, it's something I would want to do with my own wife someday, it just sums up some of the best things about the Christmas season in one shot.

And that's my review for A Christmas Story. I know I only talked about the characters and the humor, and briefly about the Christmas aspects to it, but it's those three elements that are what really makes this such a beloved film. You can relate to the characters in some way or another, there is little to no way that you haven't heard of at least some of the famous jokes, and it does capture the spirit of Christmas time. I do stand by how I am over this film because people overplay it so much, but I'm only going to take 5 percent out of the rating because of that. Because while it's no longer something I personally am eager to watch every year during the holidays, there's no denying that it's a classic film to see during the Christmas season.

Rating: 95%  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015)

Plot: Following the events of the last film, Katniss has become more determined then ever to take down President Snow after the Capitol brainwashed Peeta. So after defying President Coin to join in the fight at the Capitol, Coin creates the "Star Squad" and has her assigned to join them and follow in secretly behind the actual invasion of the Capitol. But along the way, Coin sends Peeta to join them, resulting in the conflict to either keep him as they attempt to kill Snow once and for all, or to kill him while he's a danger to the team.

My honest feeling with this movie is that it gave me same feeling as the first movie and the books, in that at the end of the day, all it did for me was give me the conclusion of the story leading me to mentally shrug and go "well okay then." and that's it. Don't misunderstand me; it's still good, and it is better than the first movie, but it did not get me quite as invested as well as the other sequels did.

First off, the characters are still done very well. We see and understand the conflict with Katniss with her desire to kill Snow and the struggle of whether or not to kill Peeta while he is a complete threat to the team. Some of the other characters in the Squad you can tell where kind of rushed into introductions and their relationships with each other and so on, in a way that's very similar to what happened with a lot of characters in the last four Harry Potter movies. But just like with those Harry Potter films, you can kind of understand why they did that, given how there's only so much you can do even with a 2 hours and 17 minute running time...key word being kind of, but I'll get to that in the next paragraph. And I sort of liked what they did with the love triangle, giving us the small conversation that Peeta and Gale have that was kind of done and a mature way.

But with that said, I will say in hindsight that the film does drag itself a good amount. Not a whole lot of excitement happens, and I'll even agree with Chris Stuckmann that it didn't feel like it was as big of a deal at it should have been. When exciting stuff does happen, it is good, and it really makes sense that the Capitol would have all these different traps and other obstacles that makes it feel like they are back in the hunger games. But aside from that, it's really nothing much apart from going on and on with creating propaganda and honestly, being a little too repetitive about whether or not to keep Peeta or how Snow has to be stopped and that Katniss intends to kill him and so on and so forth. They definitely could have left some of that out and at least give us a little more of the squad.

One thing that some people seem to have an issue more commonly than not is the ending. First off, I want to point out that the climax (so to speak) was the most emotionally moving part of the film in a really screwed up way. There was a particularly brief moment that involves a little girl and her mother that kind of gave me the creeps and made me imagine being in her position. But without giving too much away, there is a turn during the end that most people who didn't read the book found to be disappointing. This isn't to say that the ending doesn't make sense, because it really does when you really think about all the political stuff and the turmoil that Katniss goes through throughout the series. But with that said, it's really understandable that they would feel that way given how, again, all of these films have been building this up with, people constantly talking about how evil the Capitol and/or Snow is and that Snow needs to die.

And that's my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I know this review kind of gives an equal amount of talking about what is both good and bad about this movie, but in the end, while it is the weakest of the sequels, it still is good and it does give an ending that at least people who have read the books will be satisfied with. If you haven't read the last book, you'll probably have to think deeper into what is happening to get how it makes sense, but if it's a disappointment for you either way, I understand.

Rating: 70%

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spectre (2015)

Plot: Set not long after the events of Skyfall, Bond has been going on off-the-book missions given to him via a posthumous message from the previous M. The current M suspends him from field duty, but naturally Bond ignores it, and investigates further until he discovers the secret organization, SPECTRE and its mysterious leader, Franz Oberhauser. Meanwhile, the current M is going through a power struggle with MI5 and MI6 merging as C, the head of the privately-backed Joint Intelligence Service convinces Britain to join this global surveillance and intelligence co-operation initiative.

My first thought about this movie, is that it is basically a modernized version of your standard James Bond film. Throughout the film, you're seeing the more familiar beats in what happens in a Bond film: the deadly trap(s), sleeping with at least two women, the love interest that gets involved because of some connection with the enemy that puts her in danger, the chases in a city or the mountains, a supporting villain that's a big brawny guy that he defeats halfway through (basically sort of the new Jaws) and so on and so forth. I know some of this is in the other Daniel Craig films, being that they are Bond films and everything, but with the first three films (albeit at a small extent with Quantum of Solace), they were breaking the mold with the basic structure of the James Bond story. This film on the other hand, makes me feel like I'm watching a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan Bond film, except it's a Daniel Craig film and all the big CGI effects and great cinematography that goes with it. And even though I admit that it was a little distracting for me, I'm not saying that it really hurts the movie. It is done well. The action is good, the story is investing, the cinematography, again, is great, and all around, I would much rather prefer a Roger Moore-like Bond film with Daniel Craig than an actual Roger Moore Bond film. But if you wish they kept breaking the mold like they did with the last three, I understand.

Daniel Craig was great as Bond as per usual - I honestly would be down with him being Bond long enough to have made more Bond films than Moore did. (Man, I need to calm down a little with the Moore hate.) Léa Seydoux was a good Bond girl. She was well acted and she and Craig developed good chemistry with their characters. The supporting cast had their moments too - I personally liked how Moneypenny was part of the team to stop the villain at the climax. But speaking of the villain, part of what held this movie back was the lack of time with Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser. When I saw his name in the beginning credits sequence, I started to become more invested in the film then when I came into the theater. But after his brief mysterious introduction, we do not see him again for a really long time. It got to the point where I was growing restless and thinking to myself "Yes this fight/romance development/dramatic scene are all well and good, but where the dickens is Waltz?" And when we finally do get him, he's great. He was dark, he was charming, he was a ton of fun...but man do I wish there was more. I mean come on, it's freaking Christoph Waltz as a Bond villain. As Jeremy Jahns put it in his own review, "that should be a home run right there, but it's really not." It's great when he's there, but what they do with him is an almost complete waste of oppertunity, and it's really sad.

The other problem I have with this movie is the subplot with the global surveillance and intelligence thing that C is working on. While it did lead to some suspenseful moments during the climax, the story itself has been done already. I've seen other reviewers name a couple of film that this story line is similar to, but for me, this sounded a little like the last third or so of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

And that's my review for Spectre. It has a weak subplot and may as basically wasted the potential for the villain, but that aside, it's well shot, the action is good, the actors are enjoyable and the story works well enough as an updated version of your everyday Bond film. It's not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but you can be darn well sure that it's better than Quantum of Solace.

Rating: 70%