Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) review


   One of the only horror classics to be up for an Oscar, this film shook the horror world. The memorable character of Hannibal Lecter was introduced to us for the first time through the visionary eyes of Jonathan Demme and the excellent acting skills of Anthony Hopkins. The film's excellent acting, grotesque images, and anxiety-inducing suspense all make this an excellent horror film and a great drama. However, not everyone can stomach this film as well as others.

PLOT: Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is training to be a member of the F.B.I. under the direction of Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), an important trainer for the group. Meanwhile, a notorious killer named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is making a name for himself, slaying woman after woman with all familiar calling cards. As an outside mission, Crawford sends Clarice to a mental institution to interview notorious serial killer, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a.k.a. Hannibal the Cannibal. After a traumatic visit to the institution, Clarice starts to take the information given to her by Hannibal and finds out major things about the crimes of Buffalo Bill. After enough information is retrieved from the twisted, ex-psychologist, the true identity of Buffalo Bill, his location, and his motive start becoming clear. However, a race is on to catch the serial killer, for he has taken a U.S. senator's daughter for whatever he's wishing to do. The plot is brilliantly written and excellently executed, creating a unique idea and molding in characters and intense suspense that grabs you and keeps you entertained and guessing upon the mystery of the great crime.

ACTING: The performances in this film are very excellently done. The starts in this film are definitely Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Anthony Hopkins plays an amazing, memorable part as the twisted, cannibalistic psychopath, Hannibal Lecter, adding color and madness to the role. His performances is definitely one of the most memorable in horror film-making, sparking iconic quotes and visionary scenes of disturbing scares. Foster also creates a very real portrayal of the beginner-F.B.I. agent, Clarice Starling. From the accent all the way to the realistic actions of the character under pressure, Foster definitely reigns persistent as a heroine of horror/drama film. Ted Levine also played a very realistic and disturbing part as confused serial killer, Buffalo Bill. The way Levine played the part just enhanced the twisted mood created here. All performances were very well done, from the major characters to the minor characters, for example, Stuart Rudin as Miggs and Brooke Smith as Catherine Martin, the senator's daughter.

SCORE: The score in this film is very well done, but nothing truly memorable. The score fit the moods well but didn't create any memorable themes. However, the use of the song "Goodbye Horses" for Buffalo Bill has grown memorable and quite scary to today's standards.

EFFECTS: The effects in this horror were very well done. They weren't the best I've ever seen, but they were definitely worth mentioning. From chewed-up body parts to corpses murdered gruesomely, the effects were very well done and realistic, giving the audience the feeling that there really is a dead body on set or that something really bad did actually happen in life.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This film is definitely a memorable classic for the horror genre, creating a twisted persona of two different serial killers, Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill, with the earlier being more memorable in the end. Jonathan Demme creates, in this film, a twisted, demented, and actually scary portrayal of a crime mystery and serial killer story. He also creates a great amount of suspense, making the audience feel the tension in the film up to the very end. However, this film may be a little too twisted for some people's tastes. The only reason this film isn't widely accepted as perfect film-making across the cinematic nation is because some people can't even stomach the film's entirety. The film is very twisted, unsettling, disturbing, and sadistic at parts and can be actually scary, which is a good plus for horror fans but not for lovers of all drama film. The film is a cinematic masterpiece, but only to those who choose to accept it.

   Putting into motion another memorable horror face, this horror/drama film grabs the audience and keeps them where they need to be: glued to the screen. The performances are excellent, especially by the great Anthony Hopkins, the plot is unique and brilliantly worked with, the effects were gruesome, the suspense is dense and tense, and the film is actually a good, twisted scare for horror fans. However, some people can't seem to take the realism of it all as well as others.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Labyrinth (1986) review


   Jim Henson has impressed the mass family audience throughout the years with his many fantasy films and comedic variety, from The Dark Crystal to The Muppets. This movie is no exception; in fact, it meets in between fantasy and comedy. Since my childhood, this movie has kept me enthralled and coming back to visit the fantastic, creative world of the Labyrinth again and again, with excellent puppetry by Henson's crew, great soundtrack from the rockin' voice of David Bowie, and a whimsical sense of child-like fantasy that lets you know that you've been whisked away to another world. However, all good things age and get old after a while.

PLOT: Young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is stuck in a rut with her family and obsessed with her favorite book, Labyrinth, about a wicked goblin king and his kingdom. One night when her parents leave her in the care of her baby brother, who won't stop crying for anything, she wishes that the goblins from her story will come take him away to their land forever. To her surprising dismay, her wish comes true and the evil goblin king, Jareth (David Bowie), and his army of goblins come to take her brother away. Now, she must navigate her way through the labyrinth that is the goblin kingdom, facing each new turn, situation, and creature with an open mind, especially her new "friend", Hoggle (Brian Henson), who's cowardly and grumpy, but knows the labyrinth better than anyone else she comes into contact with. The plot is very unique and whimsical, considering the main character is whisked away to the land in her favorite book. The execution is marvelous, taking the land of the labyrinth and adding more and more visually stunning characters and ridiculous situations. With all that's going on in this movie, there's no surprise that this is a classic fantasy film.

ACTING/VOICES: The acting in this film is very good. The stars of the show would definitely have to be Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie as Sarah and Jareth. Though Connelly's part as Sarah seems rather over-dramatic and amateurish, she seems to actually pull off the character that Sarah's supposed to be, and rather well: a book-obsessive, young teenager stuck in a rut and her own fantasy world. Bowie just plays the part as the wicked goblin king with ease and finesse, putting a wicked power in his hands only a professional could control. The voices for the puppet-characters are also very fitting: cartoonish and Henson-like. The best voices had to be from Brian Henson as Hoggle, Dave Goelz as Didymus, The Hat, the Four Guards, and the Left Door Knocker, David Healy as the Right Door Knocker, and Michael Hordern as the Wise Man. Henson and Goelz definitely were the best of the bunch, as they shed the true spirit of puppet voices. They were definitely fun and fitting.

SCORE: The score was very well done by Trevor Jones, a master of eighties synth and sound. The score gave the film more of a sound of wonder and whim. The soundtrack from rock master, David Bowie, was also very pleasant, with memorable, catchy songs, such as "Magic Dance" and "Chilly Down" and more in depth songs like "Underground" and "As the World Falls Down". Bowie's addition to the score definitely enhances the fact that this is a classic for fantasy fans and cult followers everywhere.

EFFECTS: The effects in this movie are excellent. Jim Henson's puppetry has been loved long before this for its cartoon joy, but in here, Henson's crew really shows what creativity can do with creating dozens of colorful characters, from an old man with a bird hat to red-haired monsters with removable limbs to four guards hidden behind a shield except for their heads. The creativity of the characters is definitely the best part of the movie, as well as the building of the sets for location. The labyrinth itself looks very well done and more realistic than a lot of CGI work done on films these days.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The movie itself is a trip into a completely-different world, not seen before by audiences around this time. So much is going on that you actually could be convinced that this movie could live and breathe with its own community. Simply put, this movie has been brought to life by its many perks of which Henson has installed. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and still rings true today as a classic in my book. However, growing older has revealed to me a couple of things about this movie. Firstly, the humor can span from slapstickish to potty humor to just family friendly jokes, and some of those jokes just end up growing old in the end, from the overall fear of "The Eternal Stench" to the goofball actions of the Fireys. The movie has a lot for everyone, but only at certain times for certain audiences, even more distinct than films today with references and wide spans of humor. Secondly, the tone in this movie tends to shift greatly sometimes, without warning. One minute you could be plunging into action, and the next you can be slowing down to an almost direct halt. A couple parts in particular would be the launching of Sarah into the labyrinth (fast, wastes no time) and the hallucinogenic dream from the apple's bite (slows the movie down greatly). The tone shifts sometimes seem effective, but not all the time.

   The Henson, fantasy classic definitely meets in the middle of dark and humorous, with wild fantasy and family humor laden throughout. The execution breathes life into the world Henson created, the acting puts Jennifer Connelly on the map and secures David Bowie's glam stardom, the score and soundtrack add memorable eighties sounds and music to the decade, and the whimsical feeling of fantasy drags the watcher away into a infinite world of possibility. However, the movie's humor becomes less relevant with age and the tone shifts become more noticeable.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Club Dread (2004) review


   Aside from the more popular horror spoofs (Scary Movie) and comedy troupes (Monty Python), modern comedians, Broken Lizard, decide to have their take on the horror genre with this mock at a slasher film. Some of the jokes are pretty hilarious and some of the imagery is pretty creepy as well, but most jokes fall flat on their face with acting either suckish or fairly decent.  I doubt one would completely dread Club Dread.

PLOT: A new masseuse, Lars (Kevin Heffeman), comes to fill in for a summer at tropical resort/island, Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, where women are everywhere, drugs are in circulation, the staff is very colorful, and the party never stops. Leading this tropical resort is Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a more-obscured, stoner version of Jimmy Buffet, whom he hates. Everybody's expecting another good time at Pleasure Island, staff and all. However, things start going awry when some of the staff members start disappearing and later are discovered as murdered. The staff almost loses its cool and makes the guests evacuate back to the mainland, but due to the promise of the killer, the staff either has to do their jobs with no worries or die. After some clever investigation, the staff decides that the killer must be another staff member, since he or she has access to the staff's knowledge of the island. The trouble is going to be figuring out who the true killer is. The plot is pretty well established, setting up the perfect scenario for a comedy horror movie. However, the execution is nowhere near as funny as it needs to be to pull the concept off as set up.

ACTING: The acting in this movie is mainly decent. Not very many performances in this movie shine out. The best performances in this movie would have to be from Bill Paxton as Coconut Pete, Paul Soter as Dave, Erik Stolhanske as Sam, and Kevin Heffeman as Lars. Paxton played his role as the smoked-out, played-out rock star with ease as though not worried at all. Soter and Heffeman both put a fair amount of emotion in their work, convincing me of their feelings, as did Stolhanske in more than one tone. Aside from these few, the performances in this movie were fairly average or just sub-par of being good. Even the director, Jay Chandrasekhar, who played Putman, couldn't put enough feeling or proper action in his role.

SCORE: The score is nothing too special. Aside from a few basic themes, there are some club tunes scattered throughout and some satirical tracks from Coconut Pete, including "Naughty Cal" and "Pina  Coladaberg", obviously poking fun at Buffet. The Coconut Pete tracks are fairly enjoyable.

EFFECTS: The effects in this comedy slasher were pretty decent. The blood didn't look completely fake and the dead bodies with severed limbs looked decently scary. The best effects had to be the head-on-the-record, the severed torso, and the speedboat explosion. The effects surprisingly were pretty good for a movie of this genre.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The comedy horror genre has been greatly overdone since the early 2000s, and this one isn't a landmark to prove my opinion wrong. This spoof uses all of the same conventions, poking fun at the usual cliches of horror movies, from fake jump scares to hidden messages. However, the movie does seem to borrow from some of the right places, referencing to Friday the 13th cleverly near the end. Also, some of the imagery was very pleasing to the eye, from some creepy murder scenes and killings to beautiful babes getting into trouble. For a comedy, some of the imagery is actually unintentionally creepy, and it works. Not all of the jokes succeed, however, for a comedy. Some jokes make you question whether it was meant to be funny and others are just too crude, yet some are so ridiculous that you just have to laugh and think about how unexpected they were.

   Broken Lizard is definitely no Monty Python, but this comedy horror could almost, if not, stomp the majority of the Scary Movie franchise. Though a good handful of the jokes fall flat, a fair amount of the performances are bland, and the execution is off-kilter to where it wants to be, there is some truly creepy imagery present with a few clever jokes and nods to other horror films and a handful of key actors that knew what they were doing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) review


   This iconic masterpiece of the stage and the screen not only puts Marlon Brando on the celebrity map, but also personifies the many themes of the taboo mind of the late-great Tennessee Williams. Excellent performances, filmmaking, and script authenticity make the film an enjoyable subject to watch. However, the changed ending really seemed to bother me compared to the play.

PLOT: Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) and his pregnent wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), live in a small, shabby apartment in New Orleans just getting by on life as it comes. Things are normal until Stella's neurotic sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), comes to visit and stay for a while. From here, life in the household only goes downhill as we're informed of the loss of the old plantation house and the dark past Blanche is trying to hide, all while we witness Stanley's mistreatment of the household and Blanche's attempt at love with Stanley's friend, Mitch (Karl Malden). The plot isn't real thick in basic elements, but golden in substance. The execution of the plot is excellent up until the end scene. The events in the film line up almost exactly with the events in the play and how they're carried on. I appreciated how the censors didn't completely butcher the themes of the play at the time and how Williams carried on filming his work.

ACTING: The performances in this film are excellent. The best performance had to be from Marlon Brando as the roughneck Stanley Kowalski. Brando, in his first film, played the memorable character with great style and emphasis, putting more personality into the character than seen before. Vivien Leigh played an excellent part also as Blanche DuBois, the neurotic heartbreak. I don't think the role could have been personified as well by any other actress than Mrs. Gone-With-the-Wind herself. From her perception of reality to the scary fantasy she lives in her head, Blanche is played excellently by Leigh. The other performances were very well done as well, specifically Kim Hunter as Stella and Karl Malden as Mitch.

SCORE: The score was fairly well done for the time with a jazzy overtone and heavy dramatic themes implied, sometimes overly done. The intense, jazzy themes added a tone to the film, but the overdone dramatic score just seemed to bring it down a fair amount.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This iconic film adaptation of the famous, critically-acclaimed play by Tennessee Williams sets the tone for films of its kind in the future, studying the more taboo aspects of people and society through intense character studies, as seen also in Lolita and Repulsion in future years. The fact that the film was made almost in line with the original play is excellent. However, the end of the film is changed for the screen in such a way that it feels rushed and cheesily done. The film would've been darker and more accurate had Stella came back and embraced Stanley, but she left again as if in limbo to earlier scenes in the film. Aside from this fatal flaw in accuracy, the film is greatly iconic with dialogue and scenes executed in great style.

   The play deserved a film adaptation to shake its time, and it got one. The excellent cast, stylish execution, and hard-hitting accuracy of most of the film makes this work a masterpiece of classic filmmaking. However, the abrupt change of the ending to suit the screen gave way for a big mistake of ruining the true mood and tone for the film, fatally but also just barely.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Boo (2005) review


   Looking back to when this first came out, I remember really enjoying this. However, age has proven me wrong again. There are still some instances of very creepy imagery and great jump scares, but bad acting, cheap effects, and a boring backstory put this movie into the bargain bin with the rest of the low-budget horror failures. This felt like a cheap haunted house at an obscure carnival.

PLOT: One Halloween night, a group of college students decide it'd be fun to set up a haunted house inside of an old mental hospital, which burned to the ground years ago. Everyone around the area knows, however, that the 3rd floor of the hospital is extremely haunted. Once the teens go in, they soon learn that there's no way out, for every the elevator only takes them to the 3rd floor and all of the doors are blocked. This isn't an ordinary ghost, however. The ghost of a former evil patient wants out, and he's willing to do whatever he can to get there. It's a decent plot but the execution is either hit-or-miss. Some scenes I enjoyed greatly as a horror fan. Other scenes, particularly during the backstory of the ghosts and the hospital, were greatly uneeded as well as cheesy and boring.

ACTING: The performances in this movie were quite terrible and inexperienced. Most, if not all, of the actors and actresses in this movie were either new or unheard of. No performances truly blew me away at all, but some were fairly decent, such as Arlo Ray Baines (formerly "Dynamite Jones") played by Dig Wayne and Jacob, the ghostly mental patient, played by M. Steven Felty. Honestly, Taylor Hurley played a better part as the ghost of the little girl than the majority of the people in this movie.

SCORE: The score in this movie is actually quite creepy. It's nothing too significant, but it definitely did what it was supposed to do. It set the mood for some of the creepy imagery the movie set up.

EFFECTS: The effects in this movie are just plain cheap. From the digital presence of the ghosts to the melting faces of the possessed, the effects just seem cheaply done. You feel like this is a low-budget movie. However, some of the effects were able to set a creepy mood. The deceased dog coming back to life and the editing effects of the ghosts moving actually helped set the mood, and I was fairly pleased.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The movie was more a fail than anything, but it succeeded in a couple things. A good bit of things in here helped set a truly creepy mood. The setting, a select few effects, and a couple mood-setting moments helped this come off as very creepy. Also, there were actually a few successful jump scares, if that's a thing someone could appreciate. Jump scares don't usually set a horror movie above the rest, but they actually worked in here a fraction of the time. Honestly, this had the potential to be a pretty good horror movie. However, bad acting, cheap effects, and a boring backstory that wasn't completely necessary made the movie just like every other generic, low-budget horror.

   This movie is filled with wasted potential. truly creepy imagery and working jump scares showed that this could have worked. However, actors pulled in from the street, unnecessary backstories, and effects from the dollar store muddled the good name this movie could have had. You don't have a ghost of a chance enjoying this movie to the full potential.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Avengers (2012) review


   The superhero movie the masses had been waiting for arrived with full-force action, intelligent and humorous dialogue, top-notch acting, and a unity of amazing superhero power. From Hulk to Captain America, the movie builds a steady character and chemistry among the characters while keeping the viewers on the edge of their seats. However, if you aren't a close Marvel fan or follower, you might just be more than lost.

PLOT: Trouble begins brewing at S.H.I.E.L.D. when the Tesseract, a source of unlimited sustainable energy, is stolen by the Norse god, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). From here on, it's a war and a race between S.H.E.I.L.D. and Loki's army to keep the Tesseract and restore each own's perceptions of peace. Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has only one idea in mind: to build the best army yet to capture it back. To do so, Fury gathers all the best strength and wits from around the globe, including superspy Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson), brilliant scientist Bruce Banner a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), billionaire playboy Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), ancient war hero Captain Amerca (Chris Evans), Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and pinpoint archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). These few must band up to create the powerful team known only as The Avengers to save the world, put a stop to Loki's army, and capture back the Tesseract. The plot is very basic in form but is executed brilliantly. High-energy action, intense martial arts, exciting twists, and superhero chemistry set the execution in line to make a movie as brave and bold as the heroes in this movie seem to be.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are excellently done. The heroes play their parts with emotional excellence and familiarity that makes you think they lived as that character their whole lives. The best of the superhero performances had to be from Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Bruce Banner/Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow. These performances were excellently done, putting personality into each role and making it a reality stronger than the pulp they were born from. I'm not saying, however, that the other heroes did bad; they were just as good overall. I just felt the roles mentioned earlier were the best played of them all. Tom Hiddleston also played an excellent part as the movie's central villian, Loki. I felt like he was the Joker of this hero movie, which means that he put more twisted style into the part than seen before. I was very entertained by Hiddleston's elegant yet disturbed Loki.

SCORE: The score in this movie was bold, intense, and very well done by Alan Silvestri. The intense score brought the non-stop action more life and honor than expected normally.

EFFECTS: The visual effects in this movie were excellently done as well. Explosions, alien army craft, intense fight scenes, and the Hulk transformations were all fantastically done by the visual effects team. They made everything seem more real and textured, as if you could feel Hulk's skin or Iron Man's metal suit. I was definitely impressed with how things were done.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The movie is a fun ride of action and superhero movie glory, adding in intelligent moments of humorous one-liners, dialogue seemingly written by the scientists in the movie themselves, and impressive scenes of fantastic battles. However, you're not going to be following the story very well if you haven't seen the Marvel movies to date, or if you aren't even a Marvel fan. The whole movie itself is a nodding treat to Marvel fans everywhere, which is evident in the making and execution, where the character backstories are assumed and the references of the heroes power strengths and limitations are inserted. The movie is an amazing piece in action/superhero cinema, but as a stand-alone film in story and development, it's not for everyone.

   Marvel heroes have never looked as cool and clean as they have now, popping off of the pulp comic they came from before. The nonstop action and overlapping humor add personality to the performances of the classic heroes and convincing villain. The modern re-vamp has avenged the hearts of Marvel fans all over, but it won't successfully accomplish the same for those new to the franchise.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Corpse Bride (2005) review


   This animated film from the mind of Tim Burton combines a gothic animation style with cartoonish emotions while still keeping the mood dark and creepy. Well-cast voice actors, precise and caricature-like animation, and a plotline thick enough to bring the story to life turn the film into a nice little journey into the gothic mind of Burton's fancy.

PLOT: Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), the son of a wealthy family with new money, is set to marry young and beautiful Victor Everglot (Emily Watson), the daughter of a once-rich family of old money. However, Victor is still inexperienced, and doesn't even know how to get his wedding vows right. After embarrassing himself at the wedding rehearsal, Victor wanders off into the woods to hang his head in shame, practicing his vows along the way. He finally gets them right with practice, putting the ring on what he believes to be a tree. However, his recitation of the vows and placement of the ring awake a spirit in a wedding dress known as the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), who believes Victor has broken her curse and has actually proposed. Victor then proceeds to faint and awakes in the underworld, where many corpses are there to greet him and tell him the story of the Corpse Bride. Meanwhile, news gets out above ground that Victor's run away with a mystery woman and a suave Lord Barkus (Richard E. Grant) steps in to take Victoria away from Victor. Victor must find his way upstairs again and stop Barkus from stealing Victoria away, as well as escaping the "marriage" of he and the Corpse Bride. The plot is excellently written, with a story that will keep more than just the normal movie-goer lively. The execution also followed as pretty great, keeping the central gothic theme while enthusing a more cartoonish tone.

VOICES: The voice acting in this film is excellently done. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter played their parts very well as Victor and the Corpse Bride. I could feel the chemistry going on between their conversations, even if they didn't end up together in the end. Among the other performances, everyone did a very good job at adding a cartoonish personality to the characters we see. My favorites would be that of Richard E. Grant as Lord Barkus, Albert Finney as Finnis Everglot, Joanna Lumley as Maudeline Everglot, Tracey Ullman as Nell Van Dort, Paul Whitehouse as William Van Dort, Christopher Lee as Pastor Galswells, and Danny Elfman as Bonejangles. Each performance was done very nicely.

SCORE: The score and soundtrack of this film is very delicately done by Burton's favorite composer, Danny Elfman. Elfman composes a unique theme for the film that can grow memorable for ages, with a wonderful and gothic style. The songs throughout the film are also very well written, catchy, and cartoonish as well as everything else. They're just a lot of fun with a touch of morbidity thrown in.

ANIMATION: The animation in this work from Tim Burton is excellently done, showing the animated significance seen previously in Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. The style of caricature-like characters Burton crafts in here are both comical and unique to his way of doing things. The animation moves so smoothly as well, adding personality to the characters within.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This film succeeds in doing something tough to accomplish without evident ridicule: blend gothic and cartoonish themes together. As seen in cult classics of yesteryear like Little Shop of Horrors, the film's don't usually get very many mainstream fans. However, Burton succeeds to appeal to all audiences in this film's execution. With all of the stylized execution, involved storyline, and emotional weight, there's little bad to say about the film. The only problems I had were a build-up of minor continuity errors. For example, the Corpse Bride tripping over a branch and running around when earlier she was shown floating across the ground without a foot moving. All of the errors are minor, but they build up to show the film's imperfections.

   Burton did strike animated gold again with this gothic cartoon of a film, with an involved storyline, excellent voice acting, delicate Elfman score, stylized animation, and many other cinematic perks. Only the minor continuity errors can throw it off its axis of cult-to-mainstream classic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Great Gatsby (2013) review


   Compared to the attempts made in the past to personify the brilliant novel, this adaptation shows the source material at least a bit more respect. In fact, the whole way this film is made seems to celebrate and glorify the book in its near entirety. The performances are excellent and the vibrant, musical moods are jumping. However, the film doesn't match the time period as well as some would expect, and some important scenes are greatly left behind.

PLOT: Nick Carroway (Tobey Maguire), now in a mental institution, is told to write about his experiences with Gatsby to express all of his thoughts and emotions. Nick tells the story of how he moved to New York in the portion of West Egg, near his cousin on East Egg, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). Nick reveals later on that he lives next to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the millionaire who he sees as a mystery at first until one day when he gets invited to one of Gatsby's wild parties. Nick eventually finds out that Gatsby and Daisy used to be lovers before the war. At Gatsby's request, Nick invites Daisy over and they meet up again, falling in love again almost instantly. However, their love won't be long-lived, for Tom, who is also cheating, gets suspicious of Daisy and her doings. The excellent plot of the novel is brought to a new life in this adaptation. The execution is very good, adding dramatic emotion and personality in each scene, as to catch the true meaning and impact it means to bring on. The stylized, fast-paced mood of Baz Luhrman's direction may change a few details, but it definitely brings a new sense of life into the classic source material.

ACTING: The performances in this film are excellent. Tobey Maguire plays very good part of Nick Carroway, adding a hint of lost time to the story's narrative view. Carey Mulligan also played her part as Daisy about as well as Maguire did for Nick. The two shining performances of the show would definitely be Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan. The two not only breathed vivid life into the characters the novel fans have grown to know, but they also played off each other excellently, bringing both fantastic realism and emotional drama to the table. I had to say that I was most entertained and kept tense by DiCaprio and Edgerton's performances. No performance was truly bad in the film, and a lot of the cast along with these few are is all-star, including Isla Fisher as Myrtle, and Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker.

SCORE/SOUNDTRACK: The soundtrack in this film is lively and jumping, with artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Ray, Jack White, Gotye, and many others. The songs are all nice and fit the mood well, but not the time, however. The score itself was very excellently done, with emotional, dramatic, and intense themes to glorify the mood of the moment. Luhrman's style of coordinating modern with classic in music was not fully effective here, however, as it has been done in his past works.

OTHER CONTENT: This adaptation of the film isn't as blasphemous as some critics see it to be. The style of the film may be suited a bit more for modern times, but that doesn't always ruin the emotional impact the source material has. This is more of a celebration of Gatsby. The most memorable lines are kept memorable within a bout of stylized film-making and inserted into the modern background as a symbolism of the novel's living meaning today. However, this isn't the perfect version of the novel most have been looking for. The flaws aren't many, but they are major. The music and choreography of the film didn't match the time that the film took place in at all. The utilization of hip-hop music and dance moves to style the source material to modern times, as Luhrman often tries to do, doesn't succeed in this film. The overall feeling just comes off as more distasteful than anything else. Also and like the version from 1974, some important details were left out in the conversion from literature to cinema. Likes of Myrtle's speech about when she first met Tom to the moment we meet Gatsby's father at the end are just lost and forgotten in the wild hustle and bustle of the film. These two flaws set the film back and definitely didn't show it the honor it deserves, but this film is the best we have so far for film adaptations of the Fitzgerald classic.

   This adaptation isn't as blasphemous as it's believed to be. In fact, it's a sort of celebration for the mass readers. The performances are excellent, the music is lively, and the execution is marvelously emotional, breathing life we have not yet seen into the beloved classic. However, matching up the times and including all of the important scenes from the source are major factors that fail.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Altered States (1980) review


   This film is basically a body horror with the brains of a college professor. The complexity of this horror film and its many details make it a trip worth taking. The performances are amazing, the effects are mind-blowing for the time, and the overall horror feeling it gives is awesome. This isn't just a horror for the masses, however. The amount of intelligence put into this is almost incomprehensible unless you pay attention to all the details.

PLOT: Dr. Eddie Jessup (William Hurt), a Harvard research scientist, believes there are other states of consciousness as real as reality itself. Through sensory deprivation brought on by an isolation tank, Dr. Jessup explores these altered states while also taking untested hallucinogenic drugs that he discovered overseas, to the disdain of his wife, Emily (Blair Brown) and fellow colleague, Dr. Mason (Charles Haid). However, he does gain the support of his other colleague, Dr. Rosenberg (Bob Balaban). Jessup sees an early species of man among other curious images, but it starts to harm him. After a few of these experiments, Jessup's body starts to transform with him to form that of the early species of man he saw. What ensues after too many experiments is madness unchained. The plot is very well thought-out with brilliant execution. The way the plot is set up leaves it open for many artistic shots, which the director definitely takes advantage of. You will feel truly as if you're on the trips with Jessup as the film progresses.

ACTING: The performances in this film amazed me. I was very impressed with the acting skills of these performers. William Hurt played a very memorable part as the over-curious Dr. Jessup. His speeches describing what he's seen make you think he's an expert at what he does. For his film debut, I think he did really well. My favorite performances, however, were Charles Haid and Bob Balaban as Mason and Rosenberg. There back-and-forth insults and conversations with each other were just excellently done with great emotion and shocking realism. Blair Brown also did very well as Emily Jessup, though she didn't have as big of a part.

SCORE: The score in this film was actually very nice. There were definitely some memorable, freaky themes that accompanied some of the more suspenseful and disturbing parts. The same could be said for the parts with more action and jump.

EFFECTS: The visual effects in this film were just marvelous, especially for their time. I don't think I can express enough words to even state how much these surprised and blew me away. From the last time Jessup enters the isolation tank to his forced exit from it, the effects are overloaded, stacked, enhanced, and excellent, showing his body change and the whole area around him light up to mimic his hallucinations. Even the surprise climax at the end of the film was just mind-blowing. The make-up effects were very authentic to for the Indians and the early human. The effects in this film hands-down made it memorable.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The film, along with its effects and performances, was just brilliant. Even with the possibilities of any of this even happening being preposterous, the film still succeeds to amaze me and entertain the cinephile in me. The film was amazingly intelligent with how it went about accomplishing this, from script to execution. However, that's what separates the audiences of this film. This film feels just a bit too smart for the general public; it makes you feel like you have to be intelligent to be able to follow it. Sadly, not everyone likes or can comprehend films like this to their full extent, so it's definitely not for everybody, though the effects could probably shock or surprise them as well as they did I. There also seemed to be a great amount of symbolism in the film that I thought was a nice treat for those who could notice it.

   The film is excellent, intelligent, well executed, and amazingly performed with mind-boggling effects and memorable score. I'll probably be talking about this film for days to come as a horror buff and a cinephile. However, this isn't everyone's cup of tea. One might need to educate themselves just a little bit before watching this horror/sci-fi marvel.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby (1974) review


   The classic novel has never seemed quite as shamed as I've seen it become in this sad attempt at a recreation. Even with the Luhrman version in mind, I have to say this failed to capture the magic the book gave and refuses to even acknowledge its presence. There were a few decently good scenes and performances in this movie, but they all fall like dominoes in succession with the rest of the movie's mediocrity, which tries so hard to succeed.

PLOT: Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) lives in the western area of Long Island, referred to as West Egg due to the shape. Nick has a rich cousin on the eastern side of Long Island, referred to as East Egg, named Daisy (Mia Farrow), who's married to orderly man, Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern). Nick also lives next door to one of the wealthiest gentleman on West Egg, Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford), whom Nick has never seen before. One day, Nick gets invited to one of Gatsby's wild parties where they finally meet. Through an anxious chain of events, Nick learns that Gatsby has had a crush on his cousin, Daisy, for years and wants to use Nick to meet her, having her cheat on Tom like Tom's cheating on her. Gatsby and Daisy hit it off eventually after they meet again, but good things never last, for a disturbing chain of events occurs in the end. The plot is excellent, as it is in the novel, but the execution is more than just sloppy. It's purely terrible. Not only does the director add scenes and remove important details from the source material, but he also tries to pass off the mistakes he adds as Fitzgerald's true writing. He smears blasphemy in the name of this great author.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are nearly hit-and-miss. There are a few really decent roles, but the majority of the performances in here were greatly miscast. Robert Redford was far from the right choice for Jay Gatsby. He performed the role with little to no emotion or interest added to it, as compared to his work in that of Jeremiah Johnson; Bruce Dern had this same problem as Tom Buchanan. Mia Farrow I also didn't think play the part of Daisy Buchanan very well. She played the part as a southern belle pretty well, but she overacted her role in general. The same was true of Karen Black who played as Myrtle, Tom's love interest. Sam Waterston actually did a decent job as Nick, but I don't find it as anything too memorable. The performances in here I seemed to enjoy most would be Lois Chiles as Jordan Baker and Roberts Blossom as Mr. Gatz, These two showed a fair amount of emotion and suitability for their parts. I actually wished Blossom would've had a bigger part in the movie, for he gave an effective performance.

SCORE: The score in here, aside from the show music used in the parties to show the era of time, was purely cheesy. The conductor of the score seemed to try so hard to make the themes sound nice and memorable and intense, but they didn't even enhance the scene. If anything, they made the movie seem very cheesy and of cheaper taste. I couldn't stand the score.

EDITING/CAMERA: The editing in this movie feels so much cheaper than it intends to be. The fades from scene to scene at times are greatly delayed and sloppy, but seemed as if they were trying to reveal some kind of inner meaning. The camerwork itself is greatly overdone and shaky. The close-ups are too close and the positions are too far off.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This movie adaptation of the famed novel by Fitzgerald falls flat on its face. It attempts to be a great film adaption of the book, but doesn't pull of the right moves to make it there. Leaving out so many important details and changing them to suit the director's wishes just shows lazy film-making, unless you attempt to do what Kubrick did with The Shining in transforming the movie into something way more than it was intended to be. However, there were some scenes in the movie that I even have to admit were done excellently, such as that of Gatsby's death scene at the pool. Everything in that scene was shot just ominously right that it actually started to come off as a great cinema moment. The flaws this movie has also almost make it the one thing Gatsby doesn't need to be: bland. Aside from the extreme flaws, this movie just succumbs into being a bland attempt at overall film-making.

   This Gatsby is not so great. This is by far not the film version the novel deserves. The execution is all messed up due to subtraction and addition of details, the performances are all miscast or overdone, the score is cheesy, the editing is terrible, and the whole thing just seems badly bland. However, there were a few shining stars and a few excellently done scenes that show the director had at least some kind of comprehension of what he was talking about.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Evil Dead 2 (1987) review


   Watching this film is literally the equivalent of walking into a carnival funhouse. The scares, many perks and execution of the film itself just ensue hilarity, and overall feeling of glorious camp, and a good spirit for the world of horror film. From the performances to the amazing yet cheap effects, this film will sit you down, crack you up, and quite possibly even scare you, but not too much. Unlike it's predecessor, it's not meant to be as serious. 

PLOT: Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his girlfriend, Linda (Denise Bixler) decide to take a trip to an abandoned cabin in the woods to spend some time together. However, things start getting strange when Ash discovers a recorded message reading off details of a race of demons and performing an indication to summon them. Soon after, Linda gets possessed by one of these demons and Ash must kill her off and stay the night in the cabin alone, for the one road out has been destroyed by the evil. Meanwhile, Annie Knowby (Sarah Berry), the daughter of the voice on the message, has found certain pages of the involved book: the Book of the Dead, and plans to bring them back to the cabin to research and preserve. Up until the point Annie and her party meet with Ash, and even past that point, chaos ensues in and around the cabin, from possessed corpses roaming around to laughing furniture and even to a possessed hand. The plot is excellently executed, with the execution mixing it up anyway it can be. If predictability would be your worry while watching this film, I can guarantee it won't be a problem. This film's plot execution goes in so many different directions that you would swear it's a staged show of a sort. The plot in itself is pretty nice for a horror film: a young couple having to fight demons in a cabin in the woods. It might be a bit general, but it's definitely interesting. 

ACTING: The performances in this film were all done very well, with Bruce Campbell being treated as the shining star as Ash. Campbell's performance in this film is known as one of the most iconic in the history of horror film-making. From a highly-quotable script to key scenes emphasizing the emotion of insanity and pure exhaustion in Ash's character, Campbell definitely cleans house with a truly campy performance of a new horror icon. Aside from Campbell, the other performances were also very well cast. Denise Bixler , Sarah Berry, Kassie DePaiva, and Dan Hicks all fit their parts well as the sultry Linda, the wise Annie, the roughneck Bobby Joe, and the redneck Jake. Their performances would have probably been a little different had they not been cast just right for the character they were willing to play. 

SCORE: The score in this film is very well done, but nothing too special. It enhances the drama, horror, and intensity of the moments, but it doesn't introduce any truly memorable themes to the horror world. 

EFFECTS: The special effects in this film are very well done. To get the special effects just right, director Sam Raimi went from having make-up effects, to digital effects, and even to claymation effects, just to have the mood and image just how he wanted it. The make-up effects are definitely well-thought out but full of camp. Some pretty freaky-looking monsters are introduced throughout the movie, from a deadite Frankenstein to a large, madman of a creature. The digital effects were very cool and enhancing to the film, such as the clouds clearing out of a possessed one's eyes. The claymation effects had to have been my favorite variety of effects Raimi used. The creepy style of the effects and also the camp mood they gave off made the film ten times better than some would believe it to be. 

MISC. THOUGHTS: This film is like a horror film funhouse in several ways: you never know what's going to happen next and it's always going to make you laugh. This film is a creative trip through horror camp that's meant to be fun and unpredictable as well as memorable, which it is without a doubt. However, the sequel's added length of humor takes away a key aspect that its predecessor, Raimi's original Evil Dead, had. The original Evil Dead actually had the potential to be scary. The way it was shot and how vague it was in how it was meant to be taken seriously or not gave the original an accidental potential to actually be frightening. This sequel doesn't have near as many opportunities to come off as scary as its predecessor had. This, however, is the only flaw in this film filled with B-movie camp and glorification. 

   The sequel to Raimi's original horror classic holds up, with fun situations to watch around every corner and an awesomely-played lead to crack the audience up, as well as amazing, lower-budget effects to enhance the film's mood. The film is full of camp and B-movie glory, much like its predecessor, but it doesn't have the potential to be truly scary, as its older sibling had.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Screaming Skull (1958) review


   Though this movie may seem like terrible, B-movie garbage to some, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun watching this one. Though cheesy, the intended scares and concept of the movie's horror aspect came off as very entertaining and nostalgic, if you will, in relation to the time of the black-and-white, B-movie mania. Even with that, the performances have great potential, and the movie carries a great spirit of the horror it wants to be.

PLOT: Newlyweds Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni (Peggy Webber) Whitlock have just moved back into the large house of Eric's late wife, which has been carefully maintained by the creepy groundskeeper, Mickey (Alex Nichol), who withholds a deep respect for the dead woman's memory. The marriage is going great for the newlyweds until Jenni starts seeing strange apparitions in her home, such as random skulls everywhere and flashes of Eric's late wife. With all these apparitions of terror, she starts hearing random screams similar to the peacocks that waltz around the yard. Eric, hearing of these occurrences, even starts to think she's going insane. Is her mind getting to her or are these apparitions really coming to her? The plot is actually pretty decent if you replace the skulls with more threatening apparitions of a sort. The execution is both a letdown and a prime factor of the movie's camp. The execution makes the movie come off as ridiculous, with imagery failing to even give you a chill until maybe once near the end. However, the execution also seems to glorify the camp in the movie, making the bad seem so much more entertaining and hilarious than it really is.

ACTING: The acting performances in this movie are actually really good, though the content lets down the potential. Our two leads, Eric and Jenni Whitlock, are actually very well played by John Hudson and Peggy Webber. Anytime the leads needed to show emotion, it was performed excellently, with several blood-curdling screams from Webber and general conversation with Hudson. Along with our leads, Alex Nichol (also the director) supplied a more-than-decent performance as Mickey, the creepy groundskeeper. His performance of the groundskeeper really tried to set the mood for the movie, even though the true mood it was setting was never really reached. The movie in itself is extremely low-budget with characters; aside from these three, we have exactly two other characters: Russ Conway and Tony Jackson as Mr. and Mrs. Snow. They didn't do anything significant performance-wise, however.

SCORE: The score of the film tried to set a creepy kind of mood to freak the audience out, with operatic-type themes suggesting something ghostly. However, with all of the cheese and camp of the movie, it feels misplaced and almost laughable. It's definitely a well done horror score, but it just doesn't fit and kind of enhances the hilarity and entertainment I feel during this movie.

EFFECTS: The effects in here were really cheap. There really isn't much to say about them, considering the majority of them were skull props and occasional faded-out flashes of skulls and ghosts a.k.a. people in sheets. The one effect I thought to be decently interesting for its time would be the skull corpse near the end, for it actually stands and moves and looks a little like it poses a threat.

MISC. THOUGHTS: With all of the low-budget fails of which I have described, including the non-threatening effects, not-scary imagery, and ensuing, unintentional hilarity, you would think I would mark this movie as terrible. However, I don't have the power to say that this movie didn't entertain me one bit. The promise of needing a coffin in the beginning to the unintentional hilarity of the scares to me just come off as glorious camp. This seems like it unintentionally wanted to be a parody of its own time frame of film. The era of midnight shock-horror in the 50s and 60s were very well cheesy yet known as notorious days in early horror filmmaking, and this film seems to accidentally glorify just that. It feels almost like this is intended to be just a low-budget camp fest to glorify its own era of horror. Though it may not have been intended to come off as that, it came off as that to me and I really have to say I enjoyed the movie with this aspect in mind. It was actually a lot of fun to watch.

   This old midnight horror flick was very cheaply made and quite bad, but it was very fun to watch. The acting performances were actually pretty good and the unintentional camp made this a fun movie for me to watch, as I found it hilarious and all in good spirit of this sub-genre of horror back in its time. If you look at it from a more serious standpoint, the execution is ridiculous, the score is almost misfitting, and the effects are failed attempts, making this feel cheaper than it actually is. The factor that determines whether you like this movie or not is how much fun you actually have watching it, and for me, there was a lot of fun had actually watching this.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hoboken Hollow (2006) review


   This low-budget, roadside horror had to be one of the worst I've seen. I didn't expect much from it to begin with, but when it promises to "scare the hell out of you", I expect it to at least give me a jump. Wooden performances, cheap effects, bad plot execution, and amateur editing show the true meaning of "low-budget" in a movie.

PLOT: In a small town area near the border of Texas, drifters tend to crowd to the highway, hitchhiking for a place to go. A small ranch nearby always seems to have their eyes on these drifters, however. We follow a small group of guys who get picked up by the owners of this ranch to work for a few days. However, they don't know that once they get "hired" to work on the ranch, they can never leave. The owners of this ranch, the Broderick family, shackle up the new "transients" and force them to work for food or succumb to drastic torture, such as abuse by cattle prod or hanging. However, the brains of the operation is kept hidden from the audience, with deals being made secretly within business and law to get land and make more cash. The plot itself wouldn't be so bad if it had more colorful and actually scary elements, but with the major execution, it just falls flat on its face.

ACTING: The performances in this movie are atrociously hollow and wooden. No actor or actress gives a performance memorable enough to be a realistic character. The writer/director of this film decides to use grotesque characters, including a half blind man, a disfigured woman, and a mentally ill main character, to give them some kind of significance. If it wasn't for the blatant physical traits on these characters, you wouldn't know exactly who was different from the other. I'm not even kidding when I say some performances are downright laughable. We do have some slightly notable minor performances, however, by Dennis Hopper and Robert Carradine. If we had more by them, it might have saved this movie by maybe one or a half rating. The only performance that I thought to have been fairly decent would be Rudolf Martin as Howie Beale. He played his part fairly well compared to the rest of the cast and the terrible script/screenwriting.

SCORE: The score wasn't anything too special. The score marked the changes in emotion and suspense, with some southern-sounding songs to set the mood. The score we hear in this movie is basically just the generic horror movie intense jump score.

EFFECTS: The effects in here were cheap and lame, to put it bluntly. The effects of the grotesque characters' appearances and the blood and gore were so cheaply done that the effects they meant to set off were only labeled as pathetic in my book. Literally speaking, there is a fake eyeball stuck on a stick, portrayed as the eye stalk. Along with that, the blood, severed limbs, and defects on the characters looked like something I could do for a Halloween party. Low budget is definitely squandered on this movie, because you can make low budget look good, as seen from Raimi's original Evil Dead films.

EDITING/CAMERA: The editing in this movie is cheap and well. It looked as if a teenager were put in charge of when to cut and how to transition. Often during the movie, we're faded out into a direct next scene, as if this were a television special on Sci-Fi or the like. Also, we're left with too many seconds of fade into black. The audience is left staring at nothing for a good portion of the time. If one is going to make a movie, one should at least make it look professional.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This movie actually would have had potential if the execution and screenwriting had been greatly revised and written with thought put into it. I could see this being a pretty decent horror movie if it had just been put into more professional hands or at least treated with greater professional manner. Not everybody can be a filmmaker, especially not a rich one. I will admit that the twist at the end did catch me off guard and satisfy me to an extent, but if the rest of the movie could just catch up to the one moment of clever plot it had, things might have worked out for Hoboken Hollow.

   This movie definitely was one of the worst in its genre I've seen, with the major plot execution failing, atrocious performances, generic horror movie score, lame, cheap special effects, amateur editing, and wasted potential. However, it got a few small things right and did actually have the potential to do something decent.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

MirrorMask (2005) review


The movie may be a fall from Jim Henson's original works, but it's definitely a visionary piece of effect art with an interesting plot and decent scripting.

PLOT:Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is in a circus troupe with her father (Rob Brydon) and mother (Gina McKee). She's never liked being confined strictly to the circus and always wanted to get out in the real world and live for herself. To deal with her pain, she draws out her feelings in creative styles, covering her walls in her bedroom. One night, Helena's mother has an episode and passes out, putting her in the hospital for immediate surgery. Helena blames herself for her mother's illness and falls asleep the night of her surgery with stress on her mind. When Helena wakes up, she finds herself in a dream world made up entirely of the drawings she has hung on her wall. While there, she discovers strange creatures and meets new people, who all wear masks as a normal tradition. Helena befriends a juggler named Valentine (Jason Berry) and learns that she has switched lives with the Princess of Dark in that land. The Princess had stolen the charm that put the Princess of Light to an endless sleep, which is referred to as the MirrorMask. Helena must restore the normality in this dream world while still trying to get back to her own world and stopping the Princess from ruining her life. It's a great plot executed very well. There's a few minor holes and problems with the fabric and basis of the plot, which I'll discuss later.

ACTING:The performances in this movie were fairly good. Stephanie Leonidas played a decent part as Helena and the princess, Anti-Helena, but didn't truly shine out. She didn't impress me too much. The performances I really enjoyed were Rob Brydon as Helena's father and the prime minister of the dream world; Gina McKee as Helena's mother, the Queen of Light, and the Queen of Dark; and Jason Berry as Valentine. These performances weren't excellently done, but I enjoyed the way they were played, especially Jason Berry's part. He added personality to the part of Valentine, the juggler and "very important man" of the dream world. The rest of the minor parts were decent but nothing that absolutely blew me away. The acting in here is just fair: nothing extremely spectacular.

SCORE:The score in here was decent. The themes were cool sounding but not extremely memorable. The most memorable part in the soundtrack would have to be the cover of "(They Long to Be) Close to You", which is haunting and very well organized.

EFFECTS:The effects in here is what sells the movie as a unique artwork. The effects in here are from the mind of the great mind of Jim Henson and his crew. The effects combine Henson-style costume design with CG animation and the result is mind-bending and rather freaky. I like the effects, but I believe they haven't aged as well compared to the effects used in today's film industry. The effects were really good and nice for their time, but they just don't hold up now as Henson's traditional puppet fare does today.

OTHER CONTENT:Neil Gaiman, writer of several books and TV episodes (including episodes of Doctor Who and Coraline), collaborated on writing for this movie. The plot itself is very interesting, while all the while deriving from the right places (The Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, etc.), but I found a few holes such as: What happened to the Princess in the end? Did this even happen or was it just a pointless dream? Many other questions arise in my head as I think about this movie's outcome and execution. Also, the script had moments I both loved and hated, including clever riddles and dialogue among pointless gags and cheesy conversations. There were points in the movie overall I loved and hated. However, the movie did entertain and did wow me with its effects and vision, as ancient as they seem now.

OVERALL,it's a good movie with an interesting plot, fair performances, decent score, and unique effects. However, the effects didn't age as well as Henson's other fare, several plot holes arise, and the movie/dialogue's likability fluctuated with me.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jersey Boys (2014) review


Eastwood's take on the famed musical breathes new life into The Four Seasons history, but it seems like the film doesn't know what it truly wants to be, as well as proposing a failed narrative style.

PLOT:Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) is a training hairdresser in the streets of New Jersey. Everyone claims his voice is a God-given gift, including his best friend and bad influence, Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), and his protective mob boss, Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). One day, after days of jail time for many of his associates, Tommy decides to start a group with Frankie and try to get famous, hiring Bob Gaudio as the songwriter (Erich Bergen) and collaborating with Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) as the recording agent. After recording "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", and "Walk Like a Man", the fame of The Four Seasons shoots to the top. However, many obstacles still stand in the group's way for true fame, such as large, unpaid debts, family conflicts, and personality conflicts between the members of the group. It's a great plot idea executed decently well. Some things could have been better.

ACTING:The performances in this film were very well done. John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, and Michael Lomenda as Frankie, Tommy, and Nick were the top performances of the film. The emotion and chemistry between the characters in the film caught and held your attention to the fullest extent. Every dramatic scene is pulled together in the fullest extent by these three performances, as well as Erich Bergen and Mike Doyle as Gaudio and Crewe. Veteran actor, Christopher Walken, also played an excellent part as mob boss Gyp DeCarlo, adding a complex yet gentle stoicism to the character's outlook. Almost every performance in the film is nicely done, with extra regards to Frey Tingley as Francine Valli, Barry Livingston as the accountant, and Katherine Narducci as Mary Rinaldi. These performances weren't the best I've ever seen, but they definitely did their jobs with pride.

SCORE:The score and soundtrack to this film is excellently done. John Lloyd Young and the rest of the crew did a brilliant job of covering the hits of The Four Seasons, with a sound almost just like the unique sound of classic Valli and his Four Seasons. All of the major hits are included in here, from the three mentioned earlier to "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You", "My Eyes Adored You", "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)", and many others. The covers sound almost as good as the official tracks.

OTHER CONTENT:This film was a very great portrayal of the life and times of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but the execution had a few minor problems that kept the film from being a true gem. The film tries to please as many audiences as it can with sensational musical numbers, mature drama, and a light-hearted style of narrative. Not only does the narrative style fail and come off as unnecessary and cheesy, but the constantly-switching tones of the film deter it from being what it was truly meant to be, which was either a light-hearted play or a serious docudrama. The film had its high points, which were greatly high in regards to the professional direction of Clint Eastwood, but it won't go down in history as a masterpiece of a film, as a great handful of Eastwood's works have in the past.

OVERALL,a great docudrama with a great plot idea, captivating performances, excellent soundtrack breathing new life into Valli's music, and some great high points. However, the narrative style fails to flow along with the film itself, also adding to the problem that it's inconsistent with what type of film it truly wants to be.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014) review


This obscured-to-me revamp of an old cartoon was way more than I predicted with a little something for all ages, a nice cast, and a sense of fun adventure embedded.

PLOT:Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a wealthy, smart, and famous dog in the world of most fields of education, with an adopted son, Sherman (Max Charles). The two go on several crazy adventures all the time in a time machine Mr. Peabody invented called the WABAC. Things are going normal for the two until Sherman's first day of school, where a girl bullies him and he bites her to fight her off. Things start getting complicated when Mrs. Grunion (Allison Jenner), a mean-spirited social services worker, decides to stop by Peabody and Sherman's house to investigate. To patch things up, Mr. Peabody invites Penny (Ariel Winter), the girl Sherman bit, and her parents (Ellie Kemper and Stephen Colbert) over for dinner to make up for things. Sherman and Penny are still against each other, but things start to change when Sherman disobeys his dad and shows Penny the WABAC. From there on out, things get very complicated. It's a good plot executed very well.

VOICES:The voice acting in here was pretty well done. Ty Burrell voiced the part of Mr. Peabody excellently, putting a good, matching personality. The younger performances from Max Charles and Ariel Winter were alright, but easily separated from the rest. The cameo voices and supporting cast is mainly what takes the cake. Stephen Colbert, Stanley Tucci, Mel Brooks, and Patrick Warburton all played excellent parts as Paul Peterson, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Agamemnon. All of the supporting cast was definitely very well chosen. The voices overall were pretty entertaining.

SCORE:The score was interesting, detailed, and very well done by the great Danny Elfman, with cameos by John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.

ANIMATION:The animation was very fun and pretty detailed in a cartoonish sense. The animation of the past history, the WABAC, Mr. Peabody's plans, and even the characters faces were just well done, with every piece falling right into its place.

OTHER CONTENT:This was definitely a fun-filled movie with many references peppered throughout its length, from a Spartacus in a crowd of people to a flash of classic rock in the midst of dinner. The movie is definitely made for a wide age range, including reference humor for the older generation, familiar things for the middle generation, and even juvenile potty humor for the younger generation. The movie, however, isn't perfect by all means. The plot is just impossibility stacked on impossibility, making the whole aspect of time travel seem overdone. The humor also seems so wide that it isn't sure which generation it wants to please the most. This is a good, fun viewing, but it's nowhere near the best family animation.

OVERALL,a great revamp with a well done plot, excellent voice acting, interesting Elfman score, detailed and cartoony animation, many references, and a wide target audience, but the plot seems to overdone in convoluted time travel aspects and the humor doesn't seem to know who it wants to please.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014) review


This blast of wild and wacky fun entertains with many creative jokes, a smart few plot twists in relation to the reality of Lego, and a very fun cast to work from. However, the plot seems way too familiar overall.

PLOT:In the world of Lego, everyone is the same. They all follow the instructions set before them and like all the same things with little creative thought in mind. One Lego person in particular, Emmett (Chris Pratt), becomes special one day when he discovers an unknown red object under his job site. Within discovery of this apparently special piece, Emmett is arrested and taken in for question by the Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) about a secret resistance Emmett's never heard of. After being busted out by rebellious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmett is taken to the secret alliance of the master builders, the most creative Legos in the world, including the blindly wise Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the always-cheerful Unikitty (Alison Brie), Batman (Will Arnett), the reassembled Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) and Spaceman Benny (Charlie Day) among many others. The team of greatly experienced allies along with everyday Lego. Emmet, must unite to battle the controlling force of mastermind President Business (Will Ferrell) and stop him from destroying the Lego worlds with the mysterious Kragle. It's a good plot executed greatly.

VOICES:The voice acting in this movie is excellently done by a very impressive list of top actors. Chris Pratt did a very great and humorous job as inexperienced hero, Emmett, setting the scene just well for everyone else, including Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle, who was just as great. The best performances besides these two lead performances would have to be from Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius, Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop, Will Arnett as Batman, Will Ferrell as President Business, Charlie Day as Benny, and Alison Brie as Unikitty. These performances all sounded great and just added the tones of humor and emotion to the movie's plot, entertaining all the way. Among all of these great performances, many other cameos and quick roles occurred excellently that were definitely worth noting, including Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Billy Dee Williams as Lando, Shaquille O'Neal as himself, Channing Tatum as Superman, Todd Hansen as Gandalf, Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln, and Jonah Hill as Green Lantern. All of these extra performances were brilliantly and humorously done with nods to every fan in the book.

SCORE:The score in this movie is very well done by the great Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and Rugrats fame. Mothersbaugh did an excellent job at composing a fun score of modern and classic sound for true cartoon effect. Also on the soundtrack is an original song by Tegan and Sara with The Lonely Island, which is fun and gives the movie a very memorable song for the kids and fans.

ANIMATION:The animation in this movie is fantastic with very great detail to the Lego world and its several perks. The CG animation of each piece, building, and motion just goes together very well with excellent detail and impressive vision, from the movement of the people to the fast building of the master builders and from the abstract thought of Emmett's mind to the sea and widespread effects of the Lego world. The animation in here is just excellent eye candy.

OTHER CONTENT:This movie is a great treat for kids, teenagers, and even certain adults that can catch all the references. This movie is just impressive entertainment for all ages with many cool plot twists and a subtle realism to the Lego culture and its people. However, this movie is by far completely original in plot. Aside from the borrowed characters and character references, the plot is derived greatly from Orwell's 1984, using the basis of complete thought control and rebellion of few people to give freedom of choice back. Aside from the constant derivations for the plot and its twists, the movie was a fun ride that could entertain nearly anyone.

OVERALL,an awesome movie with a good plot, impressive cast, excellent cartoon score, fantastic detailed animation, lots of references, plenty of entertainment, and many Lego perks, but there are far too many derivations for the plot development for it to be original humor.