Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My final six reviews of the year 2013...

2013 has been quite a hectic year for me. I haven’t gotten around to as many movies as I’d have liked to, and I still have quite a bit of catching up to do before I call the year quits. In celebration of the New Year, I did some brief write-ups for a few movies I recently got around to. Hope you enjoy reading them, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks movie review.

Who doesn’t love Mary Poppins? You’d have a difficult task tracking someone down who doesn’t like this movie, and for good reason. It’s an iconic, imaginative, and lovely film with great depth to it. But did you know this classic almost never got made?

This is the topic of the latest Disney released live action feature, Saving Mr. Banks, a film inspired by the infamous butting of heads between the book’s author P.L. Travers and Walt Disney (Ya’ll know who he is),  over how the film ought to be brought to the screen.

Truth be told, the main reason I got so excited about this movie is because I’ve always wanted to see a Disney biopic, a character study that, while it would show him as the revolutionary he was, would also delve into his numerous vices. So, you could probably imagine my disappointment when I found out that this story would be more focused on Travers. However, I was still excited for it, and having finally seen it, I have a lot to say.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy birthday to Hayley Williams!

The fantastic lead singer of Paramore turns 25 today!
By the way, I love this song!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Past (Le Passé) movie review.

Merry Christmas, everyone! With The holidays in full swing, and the inevitable Oscar season beginning, I thought I would finally turn my attention to the Iranian-French film, The Past. Anyone who has been reading my blog since April knows that this has been my most highly anticipated movie of the year, mainly for two reasons. It’s the first film to be directed by Asghar Farhadi since his excellent, Oscar winning Iranian drama A Separation, and it also stars the fabulous Berenice Bejo, who had already made high marks in 2011’s The Artist.

Having been prepped by Farhadi before A Separation even began filming, and originally intended to have Marion Cotillard in the lead role (which, having seen the film, I’m not sure she would have carried it as well), The Past received a lot of hype and anticipation out of the Cannes and Toronto International Film Festivals. Personally, I was not disappointed. Acting as something of an unofficial sequel to A Separation, The Past explores the themes previously established in that film, and refines them to even more robust order.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Butler movie review - 100th post special!

After much waiting, I finally got around to seeing The Butler. Or, as it's more accurately called, Lee Daniel's The Butler

For many, it seemed as if the battle over a title (quite a nonsensical one at that) overshadowed the actual film, at least early on. Directed by Lee Daniels (obviously), who previously directed the much loved Precious back in 2009, the film is a collaborative effort between he, and screenwriter Danny Strong, loosely based on the life of White House butler Eugene Allen.

The film has generated much positive word of mouth and Oscar buzz, and… um… Okay? I can certainly see why a lot of people really enjoy The Butler, but for me, I did feel like it left a lot to be desired.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thor: The Dark World movie review.

With Marvel’s first phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe already completed, and having already set the second phase on the right start with Iron Man 3, we now venture back to the Nine Realms in following Asgardian Avenger Thor on his continued journey. It’s been two and a half years since his first solo venture, and having been directed by Shakespearean thespian Kenneth Branagh, it was a fun, kitschy, and suitably, refreshingly theatrical spin on the modern superhero film.

Flash forward to present day, where we are now witness to Thor: The Dark World. A product of much built up hype, as well as several production problems including reshoots, Thor: The Dark World, now under the directorial eye of Alan Taylor, is a beefed up adventure that rarely lets up. Just as the original Thor played like a big-budget Shakespearean play under Branagh’s direction, Thor: The Dark World can be seen as an extended episode of Game of Thrones under Taylor’s direction, albeit with less focus on politics, and more focus on action packed thrills.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Frozen movie review.

With a legacy spanning decades, Walt Disney Pictures has made some of the most beloved, iconic, and memorable animated features in history. Like any company, they’ve had their ups and downs, but when they got it right, they got it right. Any kid who grew up in the nineties is already familiar with their Renaissance era, which gave us their wonderful musical hits such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. This signature formula wouldn’t be revisited until years later with the release of The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, and then again with the subject of today’s review, Frozen.

In what has been a weak year in animated features, Frozen was always that one glimmer of hope that I held onto so tightly. After releasing to enthusiastic early reviews, what was my verdict upon seeing Frozen? Not only do I think this is their best animated feature since Lilo & Stitch, and their best musical since The Lion King, it’s one of their all time greatest animated efforts. From the second it began (marked by graceful Norwegian choir), I was in love with Frozen.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie review.

It’s been a year and a half since I first raved over The Hunger Games, the first installment of the film series based on the books by Suzanne Collins, of which I am a fan. An at once exhilarating, as well as brutal and emotional film, it also serves as an allegory of governmental oppression and society’s disturbing thirst of exploitative reality television. Clearly, anyone attempting to follow in the footsteps of Gary Ross was going to have a difficult task.

But attempt they did. Catching Fire, now under the direction of Francis Lawrence, goes even bigger than its predecessor. Despite being a fan of the first film, and of the books by Collins, I had reservations about how this second book would be adapted to satisfaction without rehashing material. Worry not. Bigger, better, and more brutal than the first, Catching Fire properly continues a great story and delves even deeper into the societal commentary.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Conjuring movie review.

This review’s a month late, but better late than never

Anybody who knows me knows this: I cannot stand modern horror. I’m sure there are great, smaller products that I haven’t gotten around to, but aside from a few selective titles (including 28 Days Later and The Others), I struggle to think of many mainstream horror films which aren’t terribly written, passively acted, or just flat out not scary. Most horror films have succumb to this atrocious and cheap cliché of jump scares, which usually exploits human reflex with startling images and loud noises as an illusion of being legitimately scary. However, this cannot be said of The Conjuring. Believe the hype, this movie is legitimately frightening. Clearly taking influence from the age of horror films such as The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror, the film details the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who take up the case of a family tormented by the spirits inhabiting their new home in Rhode Island.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Before Midnight movie review.

It’s been a long journey for Jesse and Celine, the main characters of Before Midnight. An effort of clear dedication and passion from Richard Linklater, his “Before” trilogy has earned a spot as one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. Featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as the main characters, Before Sunrise introduced the two star-crossed lovers' first evening together in Vienna, and nine years later in Before Sunset, reconnecting in Paris. Flash forward to 2013, and we are now able to follow their lives once more in Before Midnight.

I’ll be honest that I hadn’t seen any of these films until a few days ago, but what I saw has made me sorry I didn’t get to it sooner. With each new installment, this series has only gotten better, and with Before Midnight, they've created the ultimate culmination to one of the most realistic portrayals in romance of all time.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ender's Game movie review.

In 1985, author Orson Scott Card published his acclaimed novel Ender’s Game, a science-fiction book following a young boy who goes through military training to prepare for war against an enemy alien race. Having little familiarity with the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film adaptation.

Much of the press around the film has been controversial. This has less to do with the movie, and more to do with Card, and his views on gay marriage. Many have subsequently boycotted the film while the studio has made a point to create distance from Card’s beliefs. While his views are nothing short of ridiculous, that will not be the point of today’s review.

This film adaptation, which has been in development for years, felt custom tailored to make me despise virtually every second of its running time. While I wish I could offer some word of recommendation, I have nothing complimentary to say of this movie.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Animation catch-up: Despicable Me 2, Planes, & Turbo.

I won’t pretend to think this year in animated features has been a great one. I know many probably had issues with the medium in 2011, but trust me, this year for animation is easily worse. Not only is it the worst year for the medium since 2006, it’s one of the worst years in animation I can remember. I’ve already gotten around to a few of these films, but today, I decided to finish up some reviews of movies I saw earlier in the year, but I’ve been holding back for a while. Some I saw by my own free will, while others I was coerced into seeing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monsters University movie review.

Sometimes, even the mighty fall hard. It’s not that Pixar’s recent movies have been bad (I’d dare say that Brave is a great film underrated by most critics), it’s the fact that they just don’t hit the same heights that we’ve come to expect of the company. From 2007-2010, they made four movies back to back that all amounted to a level of perfection no other company could boast, so it’s clear they were only setting themselves up for disappointment. Monsters University, their most recent animated release, and a prequel to their excellent Monsters Inc., is a film that has me torn. Let me make one thing clear: I actually liked this movie, but I found myself wanting to love this movie more than I did. Be that as it may, the fact still remains that I actually liked this movie. While it’s certainly nowhere near the top tier of their best films, I still found myself charmed and tickled all throughout the film.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Captain Phillips movie review.

“Everything’s going to be okay” reassures Somali pirate leader Muse during Captain Phillips, the biopic thriller from director Paul Greengrass (United 93 and The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum) about Captain Richard Phillips, who captained the Maersk Alabama in April, 2009 when a group of four Somali pirates boarded the ship, and held Phillips hostage in a lifeboat for five days out in the Indian Ocean.

Given that many of us ultimately know the outcome of the situation, we know that, yes, everything is going to be okay. However, writing Captain Philips off for that reason would be unfair. An intense (if perhaps occasionally embellished, as I’ve read of real events) ride from start to finish, Paul Greengrass has crafted his best directed film with Captain Phillips, as well as one of 2013’s unquestionable best.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gravity movie review.

220 miles above the earth, without any oxygen or atmosphere, life in space is impossible. Thus, the stage is set for the latest film from director Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity. Best known for films such as Children of Men, and Y Tu Mama Tambien, Cuaron hasn’t been in the director’s chair for seven years. When this movie was announced, everyone got hyped. We followed all the big news on the project, waited impatiently when it went through development limbo, and for many, the wait was justified. Gravity is far and away one of the best received films of the year (arguably over the also raved 12 Years a Slave). It earned universal acclaim from the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, has so far raked in almost 300 million dollars in box office revenue from strong word of mouth (including breaking the record as the strongest October opening in history), and has even earned praise from director James Cameron as the best space film ever made. This movie sure has a lot of standards to meet, and I’m satisfied to say it met all requirements. Gravity is not only a masterfully directed and acted piece of extraordinary cinema, it accomplished what no movie, not even any horror movie in at least the last ten years has been able to do… it genuinely terrified me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Prisoners movie review.

A recurring motif in Prisoners, the first English language film from director Denis Villeneuve, is the inner angels and demons struggle within people. Using religion as a prime theme, the film seeks to show what can drive a person over the edge, warping their morality in the process. People can bear crosses, quote scripture, and all that jazz, but under times of intense crises, it’s still entirely possible for them to become obsessive, violent, and reckless under extreme stress. This is the ultimate struggle represented in Prisoners, and that’s only part of what makes this movie so compelling. Haunting, and even blood curdling at times, Prisoners takes influence from the grisly mood of David Fincher’s filmography, and crafts a classic thriller in the process.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pacific Rim movie review.


Not since Hellboy 2: The Golden Army has Guillermo Del Toro stepped onto the scene as a director. In the years since his last directorial feature, credits for Del Toro have been reserved as a producer for various horror films and Dreamworks projects, as well as screenwriting credits like The Hobbit. Needless to say, everyone was excited for the Pan’s Labyrinth and Devil’s Backbone director to sit back into the director’s chair, and with Pacific Rim, his unabashedly giddy love letter to anime and Kaiju media, we finally got our wish. As light and breezy as it is huge and exhilarating, Pacific Rim is enough to make you feel like a kid at Christmas.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beyond: Two Souls video game review.

I usually start my reviews off with a little history and backstory, but much like the library of French developer Quantic Dream’s several games, writing this review has made me ponder over many choices.

Quantic Dream (owned by frequent game director David Cage) has made games that blend cinematic storytelling and character development with gameplay to serve as further immersion, which includes the spectacular, Fincher-esque thriller game Heavy Rain. One thing that sets QD apart is how they take gaming’s choice-based structure to its fullest potential, giving the player choices meant to make them think hard before deciding. On top of that, they accomplish something that’s practically impossible; they make quicktime events NOT SUCK. As their second project for the PS3, they took a more supernatural turn with Beyond: Two Souls. They went for some inspired decisions, including casting actors Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in major roles. Much like Heavy Rain, you might expect everyone to love this game, right?

Of course not! Not everyone has to like the same thing, but this game’s reception is especially mixed. Some people have issues with the story, some think the gameplay has hiccups, and there are many – including myself - who simply don’t like quicktime events. It’s not for everyone. However, in my opinion, it’s a more than worthy follow up to Heavy Rain. Beyond: Two Souls is an opus on its own level.

Monday, September 30, 2013

More September side-reviews: Blackfish, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, & Much Ado About Nothing.

Well, I found some more time recently to get in a few new viewings, and before the numerous films I’m looking forward to finally come into play, I decided to get a few more write ups done. Hope you enjoy reading them!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

End of the World - Double Feature: This is the End & The World's End.

An odd topic to make a comedy out of, we had not one, but two comedies come out this year using apocalyptic settings for comedies. One being the gross-out, celebrity satire This is the End from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and the other being The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s third film teaming up with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It only seemed fitting to have a nice double feature for the two back to back, and believe me, many fits of laughter ensued...

Monday, September 16, 2013

My top seven most anticipated movies coming from TIFF - 2013.

Once again, the Toronto International Film Festival came and went. Numerous films screened, hype was built up, some films bombed, some broke even, and others exceeded preconceptions. So just like last year, in celebration of many of these films, I decided to make a list of my top seven most anticipated films coming from the festival. Please note that if you don’t see a favorite of yours, it’s because I’m not looking forward to it enough, not looking forward to it at all (*cough* Blue is the Warmest Color!), or I simply have never heard of it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September side-reviews - The Bling Ring, The East, Stories We Tell, & World War Z.

Hello again, everyone! Sorry for my long absence. Things have not been too kind to me in my personal life. However, I have recently found some time to get in a few new viewings. So, with the summer movie season concluded, and with the festival season in full swing, I thought I would put down some small side reviews for these films. Hope you enjoy reading them!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Byzantium movie review.

Bloody Undead! Un-Bloody-Dead! It’s even worse than bloody cats! Undead, what’s the bloody point?!

Indeed, the undead seems to be a popular trend at the moment. We’ve got plenty of shows and movies of zombies, ghosts, and vampires to go around. Shows like The Walking Dead do plenty of justice for zombies, but vampires, however, are not doing so strong. Popular hits like Twilight (noted for “bringing back” the vampire genre) have a deserved reputation for being weak, manipulative teen fare (highlighted by a terrible role model of a lead character). However, there are smaller, better films released that remind us what made the sub-genre so fascinating in the first place, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In being one of them. Byzantium, the latest from Interview with a Vampire director Neil Jordan, is also one such film.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

After Earth movie review.

Of all the careers in Hollywood, none was more unfortunate than that of M. Night Shyamalan…

Unfortunate, indeed. Believe it or not, there was once a time when Shyamalan made good movies. The Sixth Sense we all know is a terrific film, Unbreakable might be the most underrated film of all time, Signs is a great, suspenseful Sci-Fi, and even The Village has its own spectacular merits. But, after leaving Touchstone Pictures, Shyamalan fell from grace hard. Starting with Lady in the Water, he made three horrible films in a row, and has practically become a punchline in his own industry. His latest film, After Earth, didn’t ease things. A starring vehicle for Will Smith’s son Jaden, the studio went so far as to hide Shyamalan’s name in advertising. However, the plan backfired. It seemed like the film had bigger problems than just Shyamalan. So when all is said and done, the movie is finished, and I get to thinking, I come to the conclusion that… It’s not that bad.

Let me just clarify. I am not saying this is a good movie, but it’s perhaps Shyamalan’s least bad film since leaving Touchstone.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Spring Breakers movie review.

Seems like a dream. That dream being Spring Breakers, a thriller from Harmony Korine told in pseudo-Malick montage: just saying such a thing out loud sounds… ridiculous. And I’m not gonna lie, that’s how the film initially struck me. Truth be told, I expected to hate this film. Being a complete newcomer to Korine, I had no idea what to expect from him personally, but the film’s premise had me less than sold. But when I finally sat down and watched the movie, I was surprised by how well acted, how stylish, and how hard hitting the film’s punches are. I could never take my attention away.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Only God Forgives movie review.

Drive was one of the biggest unexpected hits of 2011. Featuring a strong performance from Ryan Gosling (Whose niche as mostly silent characters in thrillers have made him a regular Gordon Freeman), and terrifically directed sequences of slow burning suspense courtesy of Nicolas Winding Refn, critics loved it, and it even got some loving attention in the mainstream as well. Refn’s next film would be highly anticipated, a sort of spiritual successor to Drive called Only God Forgives (albeit with completely different moods). This film seems to split people into two camps: those who love it with the highest of passions, and those who despise virtually every second of the film. At least I had an idea of what to expect, but it’s unfortunate then for me to say that I’m on that second boat. Whereas Drive wound up becoming one of my favorite movies of 2011, Only God Forgives struck me as a discordant purgatory all its own that I couldn’t wait to be over.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lone Ranger movie review.

Summer is not kind to us all, kemosabe. Even amidst the spectacular summer thrills (Iron Man 3 and Star Trek, for example), there will always be those of considerably less quality to dampen things. Man of Steel can already attest to this. But for as many problems Man of Steel had, it has nothing on The Lone Ranger. Having been trapped in development limbo for years, the film saw a troubled production, specifically due to a constantly rising budget. It at least had the promise of being a fun little ride, having been directed by the great Gore Verbinski. Unfortunately, the film was a train wreck, not only bombing at the box office, but garnering much critical hatred as well. I ignored all the warning signs in hopes of some decent popcorn entertainment.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Side Effects movie review.

Steven Soderbergh is a master of versatility. For close to 25 years, he’s tackled numerous genres for films such as Traffic, Erin Brokovich, and the riotously entertaining Ocean’s Trilogy. However, for every good film of his, he has a bad film. In particular, the last few years have been baffling to me. Contagion, Haywire, and Magic Mike all pleased critics, for reasons I don’t understand. I find his recent output overrated and uninteresting. However, I was getting excited for his most recent release (apparently his last theatrical release), a psychological thriller of sorts called Side Effects.

This was one of my most hotly anticipated films of the year, and while I still think it’s a limp product, it’s not as bad as his other recent output. It’s his best film since The Informant.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Last of Us video game review.

Can video games be considered high art? This is a topic which has been debated for years, especially in the current generation. The medium has evolved over the years from a plumber rescuing princesses from gorillas, as well as Sega taking cheap shots at Super Nintendo with their "Blast Processing", to now telling stories that would rival even those from Hollywood. The medium has been continually breaking new ground, leading to cinematic quality tales such as Metal Gear Solid and Half Life, but could they be seen as art?

In my opinion, yes they can. If someone were to ask me why, I would immediately refer them to That Game Company’s visually poetic Journey, or to 2K Games’ haunting industrial commentary BioShock. There are many more I may possibly be forgetting, but those are what would immediately come to mind, and that list has already started growing as of recent.

Following up their success from the Uncharted trilogy on PlayStation 3, Sony developer Naughty Dog now takes themselves down new, haunting roads in complete contrast to Uncharted. The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic tale that combines the best of survival horror gameplay, and the richness of a fully developed motion picture, was arguably the most hotly anticipated game of the year. Critics have obviously been showering it with immense praise and perfect scores, but what do I think about it? Does it rank highly with Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted 2? In my opinion, not only do I think it surpasses Uncharted 2 (Which is one of my favorite games of all time), I’m seriously thinking endlessly about whether or not I’d consider it the greatest game I’ve ever played. That may sound hyperbolic, but when you’ve just finished a game this poignant, beautiful, terrifying, emotional, and all around powerful, you have reason to be so ecstatic.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel movie review.

I always get annoyed when people bash Bryan Singer for the “horrible and disappointing” Superman Returns, but let me ask. Was it honestly disappointing? Bash Singer if you want, but that movie was as good as it gets, by which I mean it’s almost impossible to make a good Superman movie, or good TV show (looking at you, Smallville). Only Richard Donner’s 1978 film accomplished this task, but not because of the main character. Simply put, I think Superman is a boring character. As a pop culture icon, he’s an undying symbol of hope in the darkest times, but as an actual character, he’s incredibly bland. There’s little to him, though everyone else sees something in him that I don’t understand.

When Warner Brothers announced Man of Steel, a reboot to Superman similar to Batman Begins, I was hoping it would be a rich, character driven experience. That was, until I found out it would be directed by Zack Snyder. Even though it had The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan’s good will as producer, I’ve made no secret of my hatred for Snyder as a director (specifically for the terrible Sucker Punch and Watchmen). In stark contrast to the hype built around this movie, I thought this was going to CRASH. AND. BURN!

The final verdict... it’s better than I thought it’d be, and it’s Zack Snyder’s best film to date, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. To be fair, it is enjoyable, but still VERY flawed.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Epic movie review.

Figured I’d get this review out of the way before the man in the red cape takes away my attention.

Animation normally takes a favorable lean towards Disney and Pixar, but one company that has also made a name for itself is Blue Sky. Though they’ve yet to make a truly incredible film, they’ve had their share of modest hits, mainly their full fledged comedies like Ice Age and Rio. Here, they take a decidedly more serious turn with Epic, an adaptation of the tale “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” by William Joyce.

Joyce, a respected children’s author, is a fascinating individual, in that the worlds he can create from pure imagination are a spectacle on their own level. Epic is no less visually stunning than you would expect, but perhaps the filmmakers should have gotten an equally imaginative story to go along with this world.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Arrested Development Season 4 TV review.

Often considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Arrested Development is this guy’s favorite show ever. With its razor sharp writing, excellent ensemble cast, wonderful editing and back stories, and especially the flawless build up of the jokes, the show about the riches to rags Bluth family rightfully earned its title as one of the best written shows ever made. Every time you go back and revisit one of the older episodes, you begin noticing new jokes you missed, probably because you were too busy laughing at another joke. That’s how hilarious it is.

Ever since the third season’s finale, we’d long been hoping to see a movie teased to us by Ron Howard at the show’s very end.  For years, we buzzed around like impatient bees, stuffed our faces with mayoneggs, and continually got tired by everyone’s “illusions”, feeling as if we’d never see that movie. However, with the devoted fanbase growing, a long awaited fourth season was FINALLY put into production, thanks to Netflix. When news broke out, you bet that I was hyped for it. So, were we in store to get that same lightning in a bottle once more, or was our hype all for naught?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness movie review.

Anybody who regularly tunes into Fox, ABC, or NBC will immediately be familiar with J.J. Abrams. The spearhead of hit shows such as Alias, LOST, and Fringe has also made his fair share of entertaining films such as Super 8, and 2009’s reboot of Star Trek, a thrilling, funny, and intelligently written and acted experience that never gets old. So, for what I assume was his “audition tape” for his upcoming continuation of the Star Wars saga, we all got excited to finally see its sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness. One of the charms of the original Abrams film is that it hit the right chords with die hard Trekkies, but had enough of a broad scope to also win new fans, but does the sequel hit that same mark?

Well, yes, but not with as much success.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Great Gatsby movie review.

Baz Luhrmann: Artistic visionary or artificial hack? Those are the only choices, ‘ol sport.

The Australian director, best known for films such as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, leaves anyone watching his films polarized. He’s a stylish director specializing in lavish sets and costumes (both designed by his wife, Catherine Martin), frenetic editing, eclectic soundtracks, and comical vibes eventually forming into full on drama, all of which either enchant, or disgust his audiences. Everyone was both skeptical and curious when his next project was announced to be The Great Gatsby, a book I’m sure we all read skimmed across in high school. A book as famous and as hard to film as Gatsby is probably not the best bet for Luhrmann to make, but with the talent that he got on board for this movie, and the studio’s clever marketing, people definitely stopped to take notice, the film beckoning their attention like a flashing green light.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Croods movie review.

Dreamworks Animation, much like many studios, suffers their ups and downs. Whether that’s with incredible heights like How to Train Your Dragon, or tired rehashes like Madagascar 3, they fluctuate quite often. Personally, I tend to prefer the side of themselves that take the material seriously, like with How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians. Their latest effort, The Croods, had me incredibly hopeful that it would be another really good film from them, being directed by Chris Sanders of Dragon and Lilo & Stitch fame. What I got, instead, is the side of Dreamworks that I usually have a tough time sitting through. Does that make it a bad movie, though? Well, no, but it still isn’t as good as it should be.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3 movie review.

Guys, I’m about to drop a bombshell. Don’t hate me too much when I say...

I DON’T LIKE SHANE BLACK! I think he’s just a weak movie maker. His early screenwriting credits (the first Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout) failed to impress me, and even his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is a mediocre movie, an interesting idea with inconsistent executions. So when I heard he was replacing Jon Favreau as director of Iron Man 3, I said “That’s it! I’m done with Marvel. They have clearly given up.” So when I finally saw the movie... It was actually better than I thought. Gasp! Shane Black made a GOOD movie? Yes, and while Iron Man 3 isn’t as good as installment one, it is a grand improvement over Iron Man 2.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jurassic Park (in 3D) movie review.

Movie studios are a wonder today. Ever since James Cameron’s game changing use of 3D in Avatar, companies have been cashing in on the dreaded 3D craze. They usually serve no other purpose than to gain more income from an inflated ticket price, and most of the time, it doesn’t make ANY difference to the presentation. The studios stand on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as they can, and before they even know what they have, they’ve already packaged it, patented it, slapped it on the front of a plastic lunchbox, and now… they’re selling it! They want to sell it!

It doesn’t stop with new movies, either. Studios have even gone so far as to convert older movies to 3D, specifically in the case of Titanic and The Lion King. Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is the latest to receive this treatment. Most cynics of 3D will be forgiven for not giving it the time of day, but it provides many an excuse to give this film the big screen treatment it deserves. Indeed, the 3D is not the most enticing feature. I, like many other Jurassic Park fanboys, could not pass up the opportunity to watch a movie we had originally fell in love with on VHS on the big screen for the first time. As I often consider Jurassic Park my favorite movie of all time, this was a deal too juicy to ignore.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To the Wonder movie review.

There are few directors in Hollywood who refuse to be boxed in, and refuse to compromise their unique visions to cater to general audiences. Terrence Malick is one of those people.  Despite a career that spans over forty years, he’s only ever directed six films. He’s a perfectionist, a visual poet who could shoot an entire movie in two months, but could take three years editing that one feature. That dedication is what has brought us great films such as The Thin Red Line (one of my favorite movies of all time), and 2011’s divisive The Tree of Life. It’s something of a wonder that his follow up to The Tree of Life came only two years afterwards. This is To the Wonder, which once again sees the director taking a meditative approach to life and love’s philosophical nature, but does so in one of the most experimental fashions in his career.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Host movie review.

Last year finally marked the end of Stephanie Meyer’s undying Twilight saga. However, the mainstream wouldn’t be safe from her grip for too long, because another book of hers, The Host, was gearing up for a release. Though the book was not warmly received, it only made sense to adapt it. Initially, things seemed to be stepping in the right direction. The film was directed by Andrew Niccol, and even though he hadn’t directed a good movie in a long time, there were those who were hopeful. What really got ME hyped to see the movie was Saoirse Ronan, one of the greatest young actors currently working, cast in the lead role. I couldn’t wait to see this, and... I should not have gotten my hopes too high. While it certainly isn’t a horrific movie, it manages to do the impossible. It’s even worse than Twilight.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My top ten most anticipated movies of 2013!

Since 2013’s been going really slow for me (I still haven’t seen anything this year), and seeing as how my Bond retrospective has finally reached its end, I thought I’d take this time to look ahead, and talk about my top ten most anticipated movies of the year. There are plenty being released that have caught my eye, and plenty that look quite exceptional and entertaining. On the whole, 2012 was a very good year, but 2013 has the potential to be even better, with a lot of juicy projects, highly anticipated sequels, and plenty of talent pre-existing, and yet to be discovered. We don’t even know if many of the movies we’re looking forward to will be any good (For instance, I was excited to see The Host, and now I’m thinking twice about that), but whether they’re disappointing, or whether they exceed expectations, I still can’t wait to see them.

So, here are my top ten most anticipated movies of the year. If there are any you’re looking forward to that aren’t on here, it means I either don’t know they exist, that I’m excited for them, but not enough to put them on here, or that they don’t interest me at all (I’m tempted to include The Counselor in the latter category).

Sunday, March 31, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective: In Conclusion...

Well, there you have it. 50 years, and still going strong. James Bond, which started as a partnership between two people, has now evolved into the longest running franchise in history, earned billions in box office sales, shared a hefty number of Oscar nominations, and has jump started the careers of many classic actors. The series has suffered from serious low points, but it’s also had incredible high points. It’s evolved over the years to fit various times, and has gained many a fan with each new installment. It’s earned its position as one of the most beloved franchises ever.

So, how will the future affect the series? Well, Daniel Craig is still confirmed to be doing two more films, and we’re not sure what the next films will be about, but here’s hoping for great things. But once Craig’s time is done, the studio will have the impossible task of finding someone to fill his shoes. Rumors have circulated about possible contenders like Idris Elba, but no matter what actor the studio chooses, I hope they never lose sight of what made these movies a success, but still continue to try new things.

Needless to say, the franchise will always have its devoted fanbase ready for more thrills. Whether your favorite movie is Goldfinger or GoldenEye, whether your favorite Bond is Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, your favorite Bond song by Paul McCartney or Tina Turner, everyone has their connections to Bond, both positive and negative. And though we don’t know what the future has in store, we can only hope that the next 50 years of vodka martinis will be just as incredible.

James Bond will return...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #23: Skyfall

Before Skyfall came out, we didn’t know what to expect. We weren’t totally sure what the film was about, either. All we knew was that EON was intending to kick Bond’s 50th off in style. One of the chief indications of this was by hiring Sam Mendes are director. Mendes was known more for character driven dramas like American Beauty and Road to Perdition than he was for action, so there were some who were skeptical of him being chosen. Not me, as I was too busy shouting “INSPIRED DECISION!” Next up, the studio started hiring some of the best technicians in the business, and enlisted some of the best actors currently working such as Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, and Albert Finney. Naturally, we all got excited, but I don’t think any of us were ready for how much this would change the way we look at the series.

Throughout this retrospective, you’ve probably noticed me bring up Goldfinger a lot, usually in the case of comparison. So, with how much I hold the other films up to its standards, you might assume it was my favorite. As a matter of fact, it’s not. For that honor is held by Skyfall, which is just about the most perfect blending of everything I already love about Bond, and every new road I wanted it to go down. Thrilling, rich in character, suspenseful, funny, superbly acted, terrifically directed, and flawlessly produced, Skyfall is not only a fantastic James Bond film. It’s simply a fantastic film!

Friday, March 29, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #22: Quantum of Solace

With Casino Royale making such a splash back in 2006, EON was quick to get their next film out, and contracted Daniel Craig for more Bond films. Quantum of Solace (meaning a small amount of comfort amidst sorrow or disappointment) was that next film. Release anticipation was hyped up to extremes, and… the title bore an ironic metaphor. While fans and critics certainly gave it positive notices, it failed to generate the same passionate love that Casino Royale had. And while I certainly can get behind that same sentiment that’s it’s not as good as the previous film, there’s still some REALLY good and fascinating stuff in this movie. If you’ve seen my reviews of Diamonds Are Forever, Thunderball, and Moonraker, you know I’m quite critical of follow ups to great movies, but this movie is doing exactly what I want it to do. It’s a proper continuation showing how the previous film’s events affected Bond, and NOT a rehash. This movie’s better than any of those follow ups.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #21: Casino Royale

With Die Another Day leaving a sour aftertaste, EON decided that they needed to begin focusing more on quality. They were gonna be consistent this time, but what were they gonna do? Taking a cue from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (which was actually inspired by the Bond saga), the studio rebooted the series from scratch, serving up a brand new timeline. Their next movie was going to be Ian Fleming’s first novel Casino Royale, which had been adapted as a Peter Sellers parody in the late 60’s… and it sucked. There had been a number of potential directors interested, including Quentin Tarantino, who had planned to shoot the film in black and white, set it in the novel’s original 50’s setting, and would have used Brosnan once more as Bond.

Fascinating idea, but the studio once again enlisted GoldenEye director Martin Campbell, but casting Bond himself was a tricky task. They had a number of considerations including the likes of Goran Visnjic, but the actor they eventually went for was Daniel Craig. Craig was a respected actor who’d been in several great films, but he was not a household name at the time, and having never headlined a major release before, many had doubts that he could pull it off. In my opinion, not only do I think he was the best possible choice, I’d dare call him the best Bond ever, but maybe that’s a personal bias. For many viewers, this was their introduction to 007. I was 14 at the time this movie came out, and this was the first Bond film I ever saw, and when you’re a newcomer to a franchise decades older than you, this is exactly where you want to start.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #20: Die Another Day

I don’t want to go so far as to say everyone hates Die Another Day. I’m sure it has its fan, every Bond film does, but of all the films I had to watch this month, this was the one I was looking the least forward to reviewing. I was hoping for a pleasant surprise, as I’d come across several during this retrospective... sadly, there were no surprises to be had. Good god, I hate this movie! This is up there with A View to a Kill as one of the most uninspired, unproductive, and all around clunky James Bond films ever made.

One thing that everyone seems to agree in criticizing is the over abundance of CGI. This film was released in 2002 (the franchises 40th anniversary), and it was at a time between here and the mid-90’s when CG was all the rage. Movies like The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean used it to inspired effect, but most others were exploiting it to cut corners. Comedian and online critic Doug Walker described this period of movies best, stating “Mostly, [CGI] was just used as a dodge, a way to save money on much bigger effects. And the filmmakers seemed to think ‘If we have CG, we don’t need to try that hard on the stories, either.” Sad to say this is the exact pitfall Die Another Day suffers from: Preferring to value flashy visuals as opposed to good storytelling.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #19: The World Is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan’s era as James Bond was doing well enough, and while Tomorrow Never Dies didn’t quite duplicate the same level of success as GoldenEye, it was still a capable hit with plenty of fans. The same couldn’t quite be said for The World Is Not Enough. I’m not gonna lie, this was one of the movies I was looking the least forward to reviewing. While it’s not the one I was looking the least forward to (just wait until tomorrow for more on that), I think it’s just one of the most bland, jumbled, and undercooked films in the entire James Bond franchise. Don’t expect me to say too much on this one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #18: Tomorrow Never Dies

All the way to 1997, GoldenEye was just the success that EON was hoping for. The film had shattered box office records, word of mouth was strong, the video game was doing gangbusters at the stores, and it had sent Pierce Brosnan’s career soaring. Brosnan had been contracted to do three more films after GoldenEye, and one of the movies that came afterward was Tomorrow Never Dies. This became the very first film in which original 007 pioneer Albert Broccoli did not work on, having passed away over a year and a half before the film’s release, and his friend and partner Harry Saltzman had died almost two years earlier. In the case of Tomorrow Never Dies… It was something of a mixed result. Opinions were split down the middle, and everyone agreed that it just wasn’t GoldenEye good. While I certainly can say it’s not as good as GoldenEye, what’s good in this movie is still REALLY good.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #17: GoldenEye

Licence to Kill hadn’t been the success that EON was hoping for. It resulted in a sort of death for the old style of Bond, and the studio wanted to act fast. For the first time, Albert R. Broccoli opted to be a consulting producer as opposed to a full on producer, handing the job over to his daughter Barbara Broccoli, who had served as an assistant for previous Bond films. They decided to go for an original story, and handed the director’s chair to Martin Campbell, an action director also responsible for the exciting and undervalued The Mask of Zorro. Timothy Dalton opted not to come back, but the studio had made their decision. Enter Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, best known for television roles such as in Remington Steele, but also for films such as The Fourth Protocol and Mrs. Doubtfire. It made for a refreshing step in the right direction, and when it opened, it blew up. GoldenEye was exactly the success EON needed, and it’s arguably the most famous Bond film ever. But why is that? Well, let’s take a look.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #16: Licence to Kill

For 25 years, the James Bond films had been well known for their light tones, but that standard had been abandoned in favor of a more serious tone in 1987’s The Living Daylights. The film was a success, and took James Bond down routes he should have gone down much sooner. Naturally, the studio wanted its star, Timothy Dalton, to come back for the next film. This time, they were gonna blow preconceptions of what Bond should be out of the water. The last film may have been gritty, but this next one was going to up that grit, take on a weighty tone, and give Bond the depth he hadn’t been given since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This was Licence to Kill, a film which proved divisive among its audiences.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #15: The Living Daylights

Roger Moore concluded his time as Bond on a weak note with A View to a Kill, and is currently regarded for playing 007 the most times in any of the EON produced films with a total of 7 (I’m not including Connery’s non-official canon Never Say Never Again). Suddenly, the studio made a turnaround. Rather than focus on hit and miss campiness, they finally did what they should have done. Give the series a legitimately gritty tone. But who would play Bond? The studio decided on Shakespearean thespian Timothy Dalton. If you don’t know who Dalton is… watch Hot Fuzz, because he’s terrific in that. You may also know him for prestigious roles such as Alexei Volkoff and Mr. Pricklepants. All introductions aside, The Living Daylights was the right way to start off a new era.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #14: A View to a Kill

For Your Eyes Only started the official downward spiral of Roger Moore’s career as James Bond, as people were starting to get pretty sick of him. Octopussy didn’t help in giving it any new life. But, when A View to a Kill came out, it slaughtered that era.

This was the first Bond film to be produced by current Bond co-producer Michael G. Wilson, and what a weak way to start that trend. This is such an uninspired, ridiculous, half baked, overblown and boring mess of a film that, at the time, was the worst Bond film yet. IT DIDN’T EVEN DESERVE TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, AND YET THEY STILL GAVE IT THE GREENLI-okay, let’s just talk about it for a minute.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #13: Octopussy

Roger Moore’s downfall had begun with the release of For Your Eyes Only, and over time, the reception of every new release would only get worse, and worse. The second step of the downfall came two years later in Octopussy, a confusing and downright dry exercise in Bond filmmaking. The Roger Moore films always had a knack at being downright absurd, which either hurt or helped the movie’s case, depending on how it was used. Octopussy isn’t always so absurd, but it does have its moments, but that’s not why it’s so bad. It isn’t just ridiculous, it’s boring, which you could argue is even worse.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #12: For Your Eyes Only

There came a period in Roger Moore’s career when his time as Bond started to fade. When did it all begin? Some say it started with Moonraker, others say it started with Octopussy, but I say it started right in the middle with For Your Eyes Only. This was the first film directed by longtime editor of the franchise John Glen, who had never directed a film before, but was interested in taking the franchise in new directions. By new directions, I mean a complete demonstration of why he was so unqualified to be given the reigns for this project in the first place. Not that the story gave him anything to actually work with.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #11: Moonraker

If you’ve seen my reviews for Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever, you know I’m quite critical of follow ups to great films. Moonraker kinda falls into that same pit, but I enjoy it more than those other two. It was made at a time when Sci-Fi was all the rage, none the least of which was Star Wars, which eclipsed The Spy Who Loved Me in popularity. That idea is pretty outlandish, and I suppose the goofy charm of Roger Moore is starting to wear a little thin, but if you can get past its gimmicks, it is fairly enjoyable.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #10: The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me was a film of many firsts for the James Bond franchise. It was the first film that was not produced by original co-head of EON, Harry Saltzman. It was also, despite taking the title from one of Fleming’s books, the first Bond film that didn’t use a SINGLE element from his original story. The Roger Moore films had this reputation of being fun, albeit quite absurd and light films. This was the movie that people had been waiting to see of James Bond since Goldfinger, and it is the best Bond film since Goldfinger. Thrilling, romantic, funny, superbly acted, beautifully filmed, and even occasionally intense, this is everything that makes a great film, and The Spy Who Loved Me is a great film.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #9: The Man With the Golden Gun

Out of all the entries in the 007 franchise, The Man with the Golden Gun is probably my vote for most underrated. Nowadays, that’s not a popular opinion. A lot of people seem to have really mixed feelings about it. Yes, it can be said that maybe the film is a bit too goofy at times, especially since I recently criticized Diamonds Are Forever for that very reason, but I feel like this earned more of the silliness. With a great setup, great action, and a fantastic villain, not only do I think Golden Gun is as good as Live and Let Die, I think it’s even better.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #8: Live and Let Die

After the disastrously disappointing Diamonds Are Forver, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli looked to the future, targeting Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die as their next entry in the series. With Connery finally retiring from playing the character, and going on to torment Alex Trebek in the future, they sought after new talent to fill his shoes. This was the era of Bond number three, Roger Moore. Moore was an English actor best known for his role in the long running TV series The Saint, and had his own history with Bond. He was reportedly one of the actors considered by the producers to play 007 in Dr. No, but Moore claims he wasn’t approached about it until this very film. Whichever the case, it appears they learned from their mistakes, for Live and Let Die is one of the more entertaining entries in the 007 saga.