25 April 2012

Season of the Witch (2011)

          Essential plot rundown:  Two knights must escort a witch to be judged.  Ok, I wasn't planing on blogging about this but I mentioned it in my last post and decided I did have a few things to say about it after all.

          This is not a well made film.  However, it is not a bad film either; it is a fun film.  And that alone makes it worth watching when you get the chance.  Like I mentioned elsewhere, I did not believe Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman.  Not once did I think that they were actually knights.  I didn't think either one did a good of acting.  And their relationship in the opening battle sequences felt a little too cliche.

          And, at the end, they end up fight a demon or devil or something.  I thought it was the most laughable creature I had seen in a long time.  First of all, it was completely CG and it looked fake.  Secondly, it was poorly designed.

This was the only pic I could find
It is not an interesting looking monster.  Frankly, it looked stupid.  I don't know what the deal is, but movie monsters of late aren't as memorable as they used to be (Alien, Predator, Independence Day, etc).  Now we get ones like this, Cowboys and Aliens, Super 8, etc.  While they may, or may not, look cool, none of them are memorable and leave an impression.

          But, in the film's defense, I thought the opening scene was kind of cool.  I thought it was brutal how they just chucked them over the bridge instead of using the gallows.

          So, overall, this was an entertaining film.  Well made?  No.  Will you hate yourself if you don't watch it?  No.  Is it a waste of 95 minutes of your time?  I don't think so.  It's fun.  And thats about it.

     But that's just my opinion...

50/50 (2011)

          Essential plot rundown:  Adam struggles with cancer with the help of his best friend.  I really liked this film.  There is good drama with some funny moments sprinkled throughout.

          One thing I liked about 50/50 is the roundness of the characters.  Now, I'm not saying that these are super developed, fleshed-out characters.  But, they could have easily been one sided but were not.  I liked seeing how the different characters dealt with the situation in their own ways.  They are all frustrated and make mistakes.

          I thought all of the actors did a good job.  Unlike another recent movie that I saw, but didn't want to blog about, where I never believed the actors were their characters (here's looking at you, Season of the Witch) I found Joseph Gordon-Levitt and co. all believable.  I could feel what they were going through.  I have never had to deal with a situation like this, but I could related with all of the characters.

          50/50 is rated R "for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use".  And afterwards, I got thinking about the language.  I was curious as to how the film would turn out if the swearing was written out.  The constant use of the f-word isn't essential to the story, but it does add a sense of realism and frustration to the film.  I'm just curious if the film would have been the same, better or worse if it had been re-wrote to get a PG-13 rating.  But that is neither here nor there.

          Overall, it's a really good film.  It wasn't as emotionally engaging as I was anticipating.  (I didn't cry as much as I expected).  But I could feel JGL's pain as he struggled with his disease.  I would recommend it.

     But that's just my opinion...

23 April 2012

Son of Rambow (2007)

          Essential plot rundown:  A young boy befriends a bully and together make a movie inspired by First Blood.  Ok, just so you know, I was watching this with my best friend, so we spent a lot of time talking and not watching the movie.  This may have caused me to miss something and altered my opinion of the movie.  Or maybe not, who knows.

          So, this movie had two major appeals to me.  1)  It's about kids trying to make a movie.  And I love watching movies about movies.  2)  The main kid comes from a super conservative religious background.  And I myself, also come from a conservative religious background.  So, I was expecting a really good movie.  But, I didn't really like it.

          I was expecting something more to come from the religious aspect of his life.  I was thinking it was going to play a major role in the film.  I guess I wanted to see Detroit Rock City and have him come to terms with his mother or something.  But that doesn't happen.  I don't know, maybe I missed something.  It just didn't feel developed enough.

          And that leads me to my next point.  Will, the main boy, comes from a super conservative family where he is forbidden to watch TV and movies.  But, then he sees part of First Blood and helps his friend make a movie.  However, the transition from one lifestyle to the next seemed to easy.  He never really had problems going against how he had been raised.  There is no internal struggle of him deciding between the two.  He was like "Ok" and moved on.  I didn't buy the transition; it didn't seem real.

          Also, there is some kind of subplot with some French foreign exchange students.  And that I didn't understand at all.  Maybe it would make more sense to a British audience (where the film takes place) but I didn't see the purpose behind it.

          So, overall, I didn't like it.  I found the idea interesting and wanted to like it more than I did.  Maybe I was just expecting something totally different than what the movie was aiming for or I wasn't paying enough attention, but it wasn't my thing.

     But that's just my opinion...

17 April 2012

The Raid: Redemption (2012)

          Essential plot rundown:  A team of police raid an apartment building to take down a crime lord.  Wow.  This was an incredibly intense and awesome action movie.  This is an Indonesian movie so I was excited to finally see a foreign film in theaters.  Because I don't think I've seen one before.

          The story is pretty basic, but it works.  There's not a whole lot of character development.  We really only get to see like 3 police officers but I was rooting for them the whole time, hoping they would make it.  The Raid is pretty intense right from the beginning.  And it only gets intenser.  (I'm pretty sure thats a word).  Constantly through the movie, the stakes get higher and higher.  And there are so many suspenseful scenes that leave you holding your breath.  The scene when the "tenants" of the building find out the cops are there just makes you say "Oh shit" because an already intense situation suddenly became a thousand times more intense.  And it keeps on building.

          And that leads me into my only real complaint.  Well, two kind of, but they are related.  Eventually the police get separated into two parties on different floors.  And instead of switching back and forth to keep you constantly updated on them, it focuses on one party for a real long time.  Then finally it goes back to the other group.  But, really, the problem is that when it cuts to the other group, it normally leaves the police you were just with in a really tense situation.  It leaves the audience with a cliffhanger as it goes to the other group.  It worked fine one time because something happened that affected both parties.  But the other times it was just killing me!  Wait, no!  Go back!  What's going to happen?  You can't just leave now!  That was the main thing that bothered me.

          Another thing that bothered me was the looks of two of the characters.  There is a cop and a guy living in the apartment building that look out of place. They aren't dressed like everybody else and it feels a little weird.  But it's not a big thing.

          And lets go back to something good:  the action.  It's awesome.  There is a good balance between gun fighting and martial arts.  And the fight choreography was amazing.  It is really an art that they can move and fight like that.  And it was energy packed.  It left me thinking How can they fight that hard for that long without getting tired?  I'm tired just from watching them.  And it is extremely violent.  It is literally an 1 hour 41 minute bloodbath.

          And the action is filmed incredibly well.  There is a lot of shaky cam but it is never too much.  It added to the intensity of the film without making me feel disoriented or nauseated.  There is also a lot of whip pans, which you don't see in a lot of movies.  This also added to the tone of the film.  For being an action film, The Raid had a lot of cool looking shots.  There are things that are framed really well.  The cinematography is executed well.

          So, overall, this is a well made film.  The action is great and the pacing is good; it starts out strong and keeps building momentum.

     But that's just my opinion...

14 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

          Essential plot rundown:  A group of college kids spend a weekend at an abandoned cabin, where, unbeknownst to them, they are being watched.  This was filmed back in 2009 but was barely released this year.  And I am glad they finally released it because A Cabin in the Woods was a lot of fun.

          The story was well written.  Joss Whedon co-wrote it and from I understand, he's really good.  (I'm familiar enough with his work to have an opinion).  It pokes fun at, acknowledges, plays on, however you want to describe it traditional horror movie conventions.  Essentially, it explains why horror movies happen as they do.  It had the right balance of scares and laughs.  The dialogue was good too.  (Unlike that sentence).  But, as I was watching it, how things were set me reminded me a little of The Hunger Games.

          The acting was good for the most part.  There were some times the college kids' performance was subpar.  (But, then again, maybe that was one of the conventions they were referencing).  But I thought the people in the control room did a really good job.  And it had Bradley Whitford in it, which I personally liked, seeing that I only know him for his role in Billy Madison.

          But, overall, this was a really good movie.  I laughed out loud a lot.  You know those movies that are so funny that you bounce up and down in your seat, lean forward and cover your mouth, etc?  Yea, this was one of those.  And it had an appropriate amount of scares.  It was a good time at the theater.  Now, I feel like I should watch more horror movies so I can pick up on all the references.

     But that's just my opinion...

13 April 2012

The Tree of Life (2011)

          Essential plot rundown:  Young boy tries to cope with his father's parenting style.  This was an interesting movie.  It doesn't deal with a concrete story.  Instead, it revolves around ideas and relationships.

          This was a visually beautiful film.  The cinematography was great.  There was a lot of beautiful camera movement and stunning shots of nature.  There was also a whole sequence about the creation which was exquisite.  (I'm not quite sure what that word means, but I didn't want to keep saying "beautiful").  And that was the film's biggest strength.

          As I was watching it, I couldn't decide on how much I liked this film.  On the one side, it is gorgeous to watch.  But, on the other side, it is way too long.  When it comes to deeper meanings and what not, most things just go right over the top of my head.  So, with a movie like The Tree of Life, that deals less with story/plot and more with abstract ideas, I have a hard time.  If I'm going to watch a movie for 2 and a half hours, I need a story line to keep me interested; I need to know what is going to happen next.  There are so many parts that dragged.  Nothing would happen and I would find myself getting bored, but then something would happened and I would get interested again.  But, then it would slow down and I would get bored again.  I think it would have been a lot better, for me personally, if they just cut down the run time.  The ending scene felt like The Return of the King; when I thought it was going to end, it kept going.

          I also thought that actors did a good job.  I could totally tell that the dad (played by Brad Pitt) loved his children, but just didn't know the best way to treat them.  The kid's performance were good as well.  I could feel the mixed emotions he felt inside as he struggled in his relationship with his dad.

          Overall, it was a visually stunning film that went on for way too long.  I would probably only recommend this to somebody who has enough patience who can sit for 139 minutes without the need of a compelling story.  If you have a short attention span, probably not the best movie to watch.

     But that's just my opinion...

09 April 2012

Hugo (2011)

          Essential plot rundown: Boy tries to learn secret left behind by his father but discovers a lot more in the process. So, when I first saw the trailer for this, I thought Oh, another movie where the kid tries to find closure through some object left behind by their parents. While in part that, Hugo is also part cherishing your dreams and movie history. Had I known it featured one of the most important filmmakers ever, I would have saw it a long time ago.

          The beginning of the film felt a little slow; but then it picked up. It had an interesting story. It kind of reminded me of Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close. (*Possible spoilers in the next sentence: they both revolve around a boy, searching to reconnect to their deceased father, but instead, help another character come to terms with something they are dealing with.) It also gives some history on Georges Méliès. And now I'm really curious as to how much is true and how much is creative license.  (Cuz the part about the shoes really frustrated me).  I'm going to have to do some research.

          I thought the actors all did a good except, except Sacha Baron Cohen.  This is the first movie of his I've seen but there was just something about him/his character that threw me off.  I think he was just a little too over the top, but I'm not sure.  There was just something that irked me about him.

          This is a really aesthetically pleasing film. Since this film involves the earliest moments in cinema history, there are some really cool shots of the old school, silent film sets. It was cool to see that part of the past remade in our day. And, because Hugo spends a lot of his time running the clocks, there are beautiful shots of the gears and sprockets and what not.

          And this where the 3D really stands out. (Actually it's really good throughout the entire movie, but more so with the clockwork). The 3D really brought the machinery to life. And like I said, overall the 3D is excellent. There are only a few moments where objects come out at you; most of the 3D is used to add depth to the film, to bring the audience into their world.

          I really liked the ending when they are in the theatre.  Georges Méliès is addressing a crowd and says:  "My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians... Come and dream with me."  And for me, it was a powerful/emotional scene.  It really romanticizes filmmaking.  I just love movies so anything like that gets to me pretty easily.

          So, overall, this is an excellent movie.  The story, cinematography, and 3D all were good.  While there were a few things that bothered, no film is perfect.  I would recommend it to anyone.  And this is the time of movie that really makes me consider investing in a 3D TV.

     But that's just my opinion...

03 April 2012

The Thing (1982)

          Essential plot rundown:  A group of scientists discover a shape-shifting alien.  This is an extremely well made movie.  I remember the first time I saw it.  I was flippin through the channels one Saturday morning and stumbled upon this.  And my mind was blown.

          Everything about this movie is good.  The music is fitting and very creepy.  The actors do a good job in their roles.  All of the characters and their actions are believable.  It creates an eerie atmosphere of distrust.  (Though, some of the characters do come right out and say that nobody can be trusted).  It focuses more on atmosphere, but when it does use jump scares, it uses them effectively.  Really, the only downside is the last confrontation with the Thing, which is a little anti-climatic.

          So, I watched the prequel, The Thing (2011), a couple of days ago.  The prequel is about the Norwegian camp the originally discovers the alien.  It does set up some nice continuity between the two films.  However, they are very minor and you only notice them for the second they are on screen.  Then you forget that there was even a prequel because John Carpenter's version is so awesome.

          However, the Thing acts differently in the two films.  In the prequel, it is more bold and aggressive; while in the original, it spends most of its time hiding, only attacking when provoked.  I assume the reason for that is because the directors had different visions for their films and took them in different directions.  The prequel wanted to use jump scares while the original relied more on the atmosphere to create fear.  And that is my honest opinion on why the Thing's behavior is different in each movie.  However, I like to pretend that there is another reason.  In The Thing (2011), the creature had barely woken up out of its sleep.  So, it was scared and confused, causing it to act more aggressively.  By the time the sequel (Is it kosher to call John Carpenter's version a "sequel"?) rolls around, it has finally calmed down and realized that it needs to hide in order to survive.

          To this day, I am amazed at how incredible the special effects are for this film.  Every Thing, every transformation is a practical effect; no CGI.  And they hold up amazing.  There were only a few shots where the creature look fake.  But, overall, the creature effects are awesome.  These practical effects make the SFX in the prequel look like cartoons.

          So, overall, this is a great movie.  I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a weak stomach.  (It is a pretty graphic movie).  Yea, check it out.

     But that's just my opinion...

02 April 2012

The Wolf Man (1941)

          Essential plot rundown:  A man returns home after 18 years, only to become a werewolf.  I feel like it's going to be kind of hard to review this movie. It is 71 years old and I am a totally different audience than those whom originally saw it.

          There was nothing special about this movie.  I imagine it was good for 1940's standards; but for me, as a modern audience, it doesn't hold up very well. There is no real suspense and when he first changes into the wolf, it is a little anti climatic.  And then it ends rather abruptly.  However, on the plus side, it sounded like they used real wolf audio recordings for the wolf man.  So, this gave the creature a little more credibility.

          Overall, it's kind of a bland movie.  I kept dozing off.  (But then again, I've been tired all day, so it's probably not the movie's fault).  I might have enjoyed it more if I was fully awake.  Like I said, it was probably really well made for its time (which is why it's a classic); but it is lacking by modern standards.  I would only recommend it if you are a movie connoisseur.  Actually, I would recommend the 2010 remake, which I thought was actually kind of scary.

     But that's just my opinion...

01 April 2012

10 Most Significant List

          Ok, so the past couple of days I've been talking to my fellow film students about their applications.  I told them how my first application was horrible so I had to apply a second time.  Part of the application was to make a top 10 significant list.  And they couldn't believe what I put on my list the first time.  So, mainly for their enjoyment, I'm posting that part of my application below.

1st application (Fall 2010)

Indy Mogul:  This website has everything a movie lover can ask for.  It has shows that teach how to make props and do special effects.  There are also shows the showcase the works of other amateur filmmakers.  And alongside these are shows that keep up on the latest news coming out of Hollywood.  It is a goldmine in my personal opinion.

IMDB:  As much as I love watching and making movies, I love learning about them.  I like reading other people’s opinions, posting my own, and discussing multiple meanings for different scenes in the message boards.  I also love reading the trivia section to learn more about the “behind the scenes” of any recently watched movie.

Pan’s Labyrinth:  My favorite thing about this movie was the ending. I usually like movies where the lead character dies because I feel it adds more to the character, making them almost a martyr in many instances.  So I was real nervous when the movie reached the climax, not knowing in which direction it was going to go.  I was so relieved and happy when they combined both: the martyrdom and the typical “happy” ending.

Youtube:  This is a great way to see the work of other people.  There are quite a few you-tubers that have very entertaining channels.  I also can upload my own videos and share those with others.  I also like the DIY videos and have made my own snorri-cam from one.

Six String Samurai:  I love the originality of this movie.  Who would have thought that Buddy Holly was deadly with a sword?  I also love how they used Slash from Guns’n’Roses to portray Death—such a fitting look!  It is just great how they combined so many different elements together in such a unique way.

Godzilla series:  This is my one guilty pleasure ever since I was little.  The horrible dubbing, crazy music, incoherent plot lines makes these movies so bad they are good.  And who can’t love two guys in rubber suits wresting each other?

Robocop:  This has been my favorite movie as long as I can remember, having seen it once on TV as a kid.  Besides having a lot of funny dialogue (not sure whether it is intentional or not), it has a great story of human development.  In the beginning, Robocop does not remember who he was, but as the film progresses he learns his identity:  Murphy.

Orphan:  This is one of the few horror movies that actually scared me.  But, unlike most horror films, this one had a lot of touching moments, in particular between the mom and her deaf daughter.  The first time I watched it, I was terrified, but as I watched it again, I was angry with the antagonist for her actions and truly felt sympathetic for the family.  No other movie has evoked two totally different emotions upon subsequent viewings.

Billy Madison:  This is my favorite Adam Sandler movie.  A lot of the dialogue is just ridiculous.  My friends and I were inspired to make a similar movie, but instead of seeing a penguin, the main character saw Rosie O’Donnell.

Animorphs series:  These books truly fired up my imagination as a child.  These books had vicious aliens, shape-shifting teenagers, violent battles; what else could a kid ask for in a book?  In addition to all of that, one of the characters changed into an animal right in the corner of the pages!

2nd application (Winter 2011)

(book)  Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
I found this to be a gripping, refreshing, realistic take on the vampire lore and it raises some interesting questions about the nature of relationships.  Is love really blind?  Will Oscar continue to love Eli even after knowing the truth?  Does she really love him, or is she using him?  It also inspired a beautifully filmed and scored movie.

(movie)  Leon: the Professional

I like how Leon grows as a character.  In the beginning he is tempted just to kill her, but in the end he sacrifices his life to protect her.  It’s moving to see his transition from cold, heartless cleaner to a protective, father figure.  And the song by Sting used at the end of amazing!

(website)  Netflix
While I enjoy the experience of going to a video rental store and spending 2 hours to pick out a movie, I like this website because it offers me a huge selection of diverse films.  I am now free to expose myself to many different films about a gamut of topics created by people with a wide range of backgrounds. I am no longer bound to the limited supply at Hollywood Video.

(movie)  Waste Land
This movie reminded me of the hymn “Because I have Been Given Much”.  This is a goal I now have: to be in a position where I can help others by using my talents.  By serving my mission in Mexico, I saw a lot of people living in humble conditions and I could really relate with Vik and his quest to help.  I feel that doing something similar would be a great experience for me and for those I collaborate with.

(poem)  And One Other Thing by A. Wilber Stevens
This poem captures the essence of my major fear.  My worst fear is,as the lights of life grow dim, to look back and have regrets, knowing that I didn’t fulfill my potential.  I fear looking back over a life of mediocre and not one lived fully.

(movie)  The Man Who Laughs
This reminds me of the story of Beauty and the Beast.  A beautiful blind, young lady falls in love with a man who has a creepily disfigured face.  What I liked the most was the development in the the title character and the ending.  In this film, the “Beast” isn’t transformed into a handsome prince at the end.  But rather, he accepts himself for who he is and lives a happy life with his love.

(movie)  Al Otro Lado
I found this movie intriguing because of whose point of view it portrays.  Normally, when immigration is discussed, we only focus on the immigrant.  But, this told the same story through the eyes of the children left behind.  I realized that I had taken my parents for granted and how lucky I had been in having them home my whole life.

(poem)  Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church by Emily Dickinson
This poem reminded me of my favorite Sunday activity:  hiking.  When church is over, and weather permitting, I love to be out in the mountains feasting on the beauty of God’s creations.  Sometimes I go alone with just my thoughts and the hush of the forests.  Or I go with some friends for safety purposes.

(movie)  Johnny Got His Gun
I loved how the memories were blended seamlessly with the imagination.  Not only did I see what he was going through, I felt it.  His delusions seemed real.  As I watched this, I felt a small connection with him and almost understood what he was going through.

(essay)  On Art, Morals, and Morality by Orson Scott Card
I felt this was relevant to me because I watch a lot of movies and am constantly scanning content summaries to see if there is anything objectionable.  I liked his definition of moral art:  not art that lacks the bad and only shows the good, but art that portrays bad honestly.  Sometimes it is necessary to see something 'ugly' in order to learn and grow.  There must be opposition in all things.

But that's just my opinion...