In Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, the director reunites with frequent collaborator, Leonardo DiCaprio, to tell the story of a wealthy, hedonistic stockbroker who gets too in over his head as we watch his debauchery-filled rise to power, as well as his pathetic fall from grace. Seem familiar? Naturally it would, because it is. This is DiCaprio’s second film this year where he portrays a young, opulent socialite (the other film being The Great Gatsby); but unlike Gatsby (or at least the source material from which it was adapted), Wolf fails to provide much substance to the plethora of sex, drugs, and money that will be shoved down your throat over the course of this long-winded affair.
Friday, December 20, 2013
I can confidently say that not only is Mary Poppins one of my favorite Disney films, but also one of my favorite movies, period. The whimsical atmosphere, impressive blend of live and animated action, coupled with an eternally memorable score supplemented by the amazing charm and talent of Julie Andrews and others… it’s practically perfect in every way. How could anyone hate Mary Poppins? That is, anyone except for the author of the original novels on which the film was adapted from, P.L. Travers. In Saving Mr. Banks, Disney attempts to portray on-screen the struggle between Walt and Travers for the rights to the latter’s works, while Travers also has to come to terms with her personal demons. Does Disney sugarcoat the reality of the situation with various liberties…? Well, yes. But despite doing so, the results are impressive all the same.
Friday, December 13, 2013
The Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare, wrote in Hamlet “Brevity is the soul of wit”. In other words, “Keep it simple, stupid”. In other words, “Don’t waste our time”. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel strung along when you’re watching the second installment of a trilogy of film adapted from a novel that barely scrapes 300 pages. The film, of course, is The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit series. Despite the unarguable passion that director Peter Jackson has for original author J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, one might find himself wondering if there’s truly any relevance to half of what he (or she) is watching in the film outside of an equally unarguable and frivolous attempt by the studio to prolong their current golden opportunity at a cash grab.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I’m a huge fan of Disney films (and I’m also quite a critic of them), so when Disney announced their next project way back when—Frozen—I immediately found myself opposed to the movie. It struck me as uninspired (from the very title. I mean, no one thought of anything more original than Frozen? That and it sounds too similar to Tangled), and I scrutinized everything about the production. And in retrospect, I did so unfairly. The promotional material was juvenile, but so was Tangled’s. And I love that movie. After a while, I opened my heart up to the film, and decided to see it. And I’m glad I did.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
The Hunger Games is in many respects a series that deserves acknowledgment for how it stands out within its Young Adult genre. The themes handled are mature in comparison to those of its kin—even when the execution isn’t consistent as such. Such themes are present in the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy: Catching Fire—where we get to see the consequences of Katniss and Peeta’s survival at the conclusion of the last film’s games. Consequences which have set their world on the verge of a revolutionary rebellion—a rebellion that can either be sparked or pacified seemingly only by Katniss. But as we delve into the film, we learn, as Katniss does, that there are larger puppeteers at hand.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The topic of African slavery is one that Hollywood has never shied away from, but has rarely executed in a wholly satisfactory manner. And to be fair, this is a feat that would be daunting in the eyes of any writer—especially with a work based on real events. How does one properly tell a story set in unarguably the darkest era of America’s history, which continues to bare negative repercussions on many of the country’s people to this very day? Especially with the Political Correctness Brigade waiting round every corner, and every individual just waiting to be offended by misrepresentation or unjust shaming. In their latest film, 12 Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley successfully tell the engaging story of a free man unjustly enslaved for over a decade, and his quest to survive and reclaim freedom, without also losing his hope.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
“How could anyone make a 90-minute long movie just about someone getting lost in space?” was the first thing that would come out of the mouths of my friends whenever Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film, Gravity, would be brought up. And I must confess I found myself asking the same question. I did this in spite of my belief that a good movie can be made out of anything with a proper vision and within the appropriate hands. Adding to my folly was the fact that I did enjoy the trailers I’d seen for the film. They were intense yet vague enough to pique my curiosity. And they did their jobs—they got us talking about the movie. My incredulity was tamed by the high praise of James Cameron, who called Gravity “the best space film ever done” (whatever that vague praise means, it’s definitely high praise). Upon watching the movie, the answer to the aforementioned question is simple: Cuarón did not make a movie just about someone getting lost in space. He made the movie about getting lost in space, and it was so much more than just that.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Ever since I was in elementary school I’ve watched mecha anime like Dai-Guard, Full Metal Panic!, and The Big O; and I’ve grown to love more series as I’ve grown up such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann. I’ve also had an affinity for giant monsters, or Kaiju, such as Godzilla (I’ve reviewed Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster). Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, Pacific Rim, is a love letter to the giant robot and monster genres—packed full of action, heroes, carnage, and beasts. However, what separates this project from other blockbuster fair (such as Michael Bay’s Transformers, a film that regrettably has been compared to this one) is the passion and creativity imbedded in its design.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Trance, latest film from Danny Boyle of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame, is a movie I find comparable to Christopher Nolan’s Inception in a couple of ways. Both use interesting visuals in stories about a group of criminals utilizing mind-delving techniques that play with both the conceptions of both the characters and the audience. However, they are also similar in that these premises are made needlessly convoluted and once you look past the interesting idea; there isn’t a lot of character depth or writing to really carry it.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
It’s no secret amongst those who know me that I’m a huge lover of the works of Disney and Pixar. This also makes me a vocal critic of their lesser efforts. I’ve no hesitance in saying that both companies have had their share of duds—Pixar with two in a row as of late with the disappointing Brave and the soulless Cars 2. When a prequel was announced to Monsters Inc. in the form of Monsters University, I found myself disappointed due to Pixar’s apparently failing once again to strive for the original storytelling they’re known for, and instead relying on a popular property to make bank off of, similarly to what they did with Cars 2. Now I’m glad to report that University is a follow-up closer to Toy Story 2 in quality after all.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Director of Now You See Me, Louis Leterrier, embarked on a task to create a heist film with a twist—the thieves are stage magicians. And it’s a solid premise. Inception’s shtick was dreams, here it’s magic. However, herein lays a dilemma. Do you focus on wizardry and shoot for the supernatural, or do you try and root the story in a realism that challenges the audience and also adds verisimilitude to the universe? The latter is unarguably the more difficult of the two, but also the more rewarding. Leterrier shot for both without a consistency to make either exceedingly effective.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Despite being one of, and arguably the most iconic superhero of all-time, Superman’s track record in the world of film hasn’t been one to brag about. The first two films in the series of films that debuted in 1978 are enjoyed (though I myself am not a huge fan), but the last two are unanimously ridiculed. The reboot/retcon/sequel Superman Returns released in 2006 has also endured its fair share of criticism. Despite this, Zack Snyder’s reboot, Man of Steel, received incredible hype to be the first great Superman film. And to be honest, I bought into the hype. The film had some great promotional material, including an awesome trailer or two. However, I’m disappointed to report that Superman’s return to the silver screen wasn’t so super after all.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
One of my favorite movies is Old Boy, and its director, Park Chan-wook, is a talented filmmaker. There’s a bite to the stories he’s told, and they’re punctuated with tight cinematography and visuals. For the longest time I anticipated the debut of his first American film, Stoker, but it’s taken me over three months to get around to seeing it due to its limited release. Now that I have, I can confidently report that in most respects, Stoker met my expectations—such as in the visual department. However, it’s also an imperfect affair—specifically in the narrative.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
I happened to discover Kotonoha no Niwa while I was on Tumblr. While scrolling I came across a couple of gifs portraying visuals from the film, and I almost immediately disregarded them as just some neat shots of nature. Then as I continued to scroll my eye happened to catch the word “anime”. Immediately I viewed the images again and I was taken aback to realize that the imagery I was watching was in fact animated. Straightaway I looked up the source of these beautiful graphics and watched the movie. I knew that even if the film was to fail on a narrative level in my eyes, I’d at least be pleased based off of the imagery alone. As it turns out, I was immersed into both.
Friday, May 31, 2013
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel The Great Gatsby is my favorite book, so my love for the source material did not increase my anticipation for Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation. As evident from the director’s prior works, Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann is a filmmaker with more of an appreciation for visual congruence than narrative congruence. My feelings were not eased by the fact that Jay Z produced the soundtrack with such contemporary artists such as Gotye (despite my appreciation for his music), Lana Del Rey, Fergie, will.i.am, and more—none of which being appropriate for a film taking place in the 1920’s jazz era. Despite all the red flags, I ended up seeing the film against my better judgment.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
This isn’t what I wanted, and this wasn’t what I was promised. Allow me to begin by telling you that this film is an elaborate troll. Ever since the promotional campaign for this film began, it has all been culminating to the biggest troll moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. We were promised the darkest, grandiose installment to the Iron Man series thus far to conclude the trilogy with a bang. Most trilogies do promise this, and even if the films themselves aren’t good (Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight Rises), they at least knew not to go out on a whimper.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Derek Cianfrance’s (director of Blue Valentine) latest film, The Place Beyond the Pines, is a tale of two men, and how their personally vices intertwine their families and affect them for years to come. Like Blue Valentine, the story is grounded in a verisimilitude that makes it engaging, from the very first shot of the film which follows Ryan Gosling’s Luke from his trailer, through a carnival, and to his motorcycle, where he and three other bikers proceed to perform their stunts in a confined cage—all in a single shot. There are various strong shots like this throughout the film, thanks to cinematographer Sean Bobbitt.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I was naturally hesitant to watch this movie, and for self-explanatory reasons. The original film in this series, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra was pretty bad, and nothing from this film’s promotional material made it seem like this was going to be anything better than your run-of-the mill action blockbuster. It didn’t help that the movie was delayed nearly an entire year. This is never a good sign. For all of my reservations though, this movie was better than it should have been. This does not mean that it was good.
Friday, March 22, 2013
There is a reason that everyone (or, as I have been horrified to recently discover, almost everyone) loves the classic film, The Wizard of Oz. The timeless themes, memorable characters, archetypical journey, and its classic representation of movie magic. While Oz the Great and Powerful is enjoyable in some regards, and is in nearly every regard better than I expected it to be, it fails to live up to the standard set by its predecessor. This is by new means a surprise, but what I did personally find shocking was how close it was to at least being close.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Beasts of the Southern Wild from director Benh Zeitlin is a highly visceral film in many regards. From its characters, their questionable actions, the evocative score, and the worthy direction – the movie is vibrant with passion and pronouncement without being pretentious or manipulative. The atmosphere created is akin to that of a fantastic poem, punctuated by the harsh realities that its characters try to avoid, but nonetheless prepare for. The world of the Southern Wild is both rife with magic and tragedy.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Sitting down to watch Side Effects, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into. Based off of the premise I had a vague idea of what to expect, and in some ways, my expectations were fulfilled. However, there is more to the film than what it initially gives off, and after the ball begins rolling, I was kept on the edge of my seat constantly attempting to pinpoint where the movie was taking me, and how we would get there. The path taken was a tight one, albeit bumpy.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Saturday, February 2, 2013
When Warm Bodies was announced (adapted from Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name) I originally thought it was supposed to be some kind of Twilight rip-off, except, you know, replacing vampires with zombies. Genius. However, as time went by, it turned out to be some kind of romantic-comedy. This didn’t sound any better to me, and so it really fell off my radar for a while. I had no intention of seeing it, but boredom is a dangerous thing, and so I reconsidered, and with absolutely zero preconceptions saved for the bare minimum of information on its premise I’d learned months ago, I went to see it. And I was pleasantly surprised, as Warm Bodies turned out to be a zombie movie with quite a bit of heart.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Upon the news of Gangster Squad’s development, I was initially excited. I mean, one, it’s a gangster flick, two, it’s got a pretty solid cast, and three, I greatly enjoyed director Ruben Fleischer’s directing debut Zombieland (I never saw 30 Minutes or Less). The trailer was polarizing for some, but I thought it looked like a fun movie...
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I am no fan of romantic comedies. Romance itself is a genre that is easy to screw up, though it’s one of my favorites if done well; but comedy? It’s called the lowest form of entertainment for a reason, and it’s got some of the laziest movies out there. Combining the two results in some of the most soul-deprived movies out there – something that, based off of the name of the genre, you think there should be an abundance of. The latest film from David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook, is a romantic comedy that doesn’t hesitate to deviate from the derivative whimsical tropes and atmospheres of other films of its genre. The drama portrayed is handled so well that you’ll sympathize with the characters and their dilemmas while also laughing at the absurdity of their actions and reactions to them, aided in no small part by the strong performances from the cast.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
From director Park Chan-Wook, perhaps best known for his acclaimed film (and one of my personal favorites) Oldboy; I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is just as surreal and abnormal as its title suggests. Revolving around a budding romance between an anti-social kleptomaniac and a young woman who believes herself to be a cyborg within a mental institution, the movie manages to perfectly utilize the absurdity of its premise and of the events within the film to create a delightful movie that will make you laugh, cringe, and feel sorrow.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Two common criticisms of films are their deviation from the source material from which they are adapted, or prioritizing style over substance. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is apparently very true to the graphic novel that it’s based on (with few differences), and has the substance to balance out the style. However, these are flaws with the movie, and not praises – the movie is strangled by its devotion to the comic, and consequently fails to engross you in the substance, while possibly repulsing you with the style.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Hollywood is infamous for its vast amount of remakes, sequels, and adaptations from books, comics, and television programs, but Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl broke new ground by being adapted from a ride at Walt Disney theme parks. However, undoubtedly to the surprise of many, it was actually a success, slightly so critically, but largely so financially, setting the foundation for one of the highest grossing film series of all time. Ignoring the fact that the film was based on an amusement park ride, what further made this success a marvel was the fact that pirate films hadn’t been popular in some time, the last one being the bomb that was Cutthroat Island in 1995.
Friday, January 4, 2013
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and adapted from Mike Mignola’s comic book mini-series Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, Hellboy was released in 2004 to success both financially and critically. Del Toro was a perfect choice to direct due to his flair pertaining to dark fantasy, weird fiction, and practical effects, all of which are implemented in the film to its benefit.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
All of my life I have been a fan of anime, science fiction, and post-apocalyptic fiction. Akira is a combination of all three of these, which alone justifies my love for the film. However, there is much more to Akira that has made it one of the most popular anime movies, and allowed it to withstand the test of time just as much as its source material from which it is adapted. At over 2,000 pages long, the film is not a bad way to acquaint yourself with the series, as it is guaranteed to have you wanting to read the manga once you have finished it.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
The Dark Knight Rises is the highly anticipated conclusion to the successful Dark Knight saga, directed by renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan. I feel it would only be appropriate to begin this review by stating my personal opinion on the prior installments to the series. I enjoyed Batman Begins, and found it a pretty good movie, albeit also quite flawed in various areas as well. While The Dark Knight corrected many of Begins’ missteps, and has made its own well-earned stamp in film history, I do not hold it to as high of regards as many of its fans do. In the months building up to the film’s release, I often found myself debating my friends on what the quality ultimately would be of this movie – I didn’t have as much confidence in it as they did. And still now, even months after having seen it for the first time, we still stand on opposite spectrums, holding to our same stances.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Rurouni Kenshin is an adaptation of the famous Shonen manga of the same name (also known as Samurai X) written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki. I often watched the anime, which was also adapted from the original manga, during its course on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, and I occasionally read the manga while it was featured in the monthly Shonen Jump, but it has been some years since then, and I’ve had little to do with the series since. Upon this film’s release, I took interest out of a nostalgic curiosity, and I’m quite satisfied to report that this film has reminded me why I loved the show and manga, and would spark interest in near anyone who was unfamiliar with them.