Rewind Review: The Impossible

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Impossible

Out of all the films that will likely end up appearing in this post before it peters out, this one was the most lamentable. This past year was the first time I that I jotted down a list of films I wanted to see before the year was out in order to create my lists and awards. This was the only one left on the the outside looking in.

All that aside, be it my awards, the Oscars or anything else, the film still stands and should be seen. The film has a very smooth and even flow, such that the climactic sequence feels like it may be a prelude of false hope. On the technical end the film is a small marvel, not only in terms of effects work but also in terms of sound design and scoring. That’s before you get to the narrative and the performances. There’s a wonderful, pitch-perfect cameo, which is as much as I will say. As for the leads: Ewan McGregor’s work in one particular scene is likely the best moment of his career to date, and he’ll have many more to come, Naomi Watts is brilliant and all her accolades for the film are more than deserved. Most critical is the involvement of Tom Holland. He’s the audience’s bridge to the narrative, we divide time between his mother’s plight and father’s search, and he shoulders much of the burden and has a star-making turn that out not be drowned out in the award season buzz and should be seen.

Perhaps the best thing one can say about this film is that its impact as a piece of cinema is not immediately felt because it really is a harrowing and intimate portrait of a tragedy, and all that credit goes to director J.A. Bayona. The tonality of the film never wavers in its intent so it for the most part continues to feel like an account of an event rather than fiction. It never really feels over-dramatized or sensationalized, it’s real enough such that it’s engaging if not entertaining in the traditional sense.

9/10

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The Best Films of 2015: #32-1

Due to the fact that time to write this post has been sparse I am mostly cobbling together my own quotes for this one list of my favorite films of 2016. Enjoy!

32. The Good Dinosaur

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Hi, I’m a Pixar film that’s quiet understated, not seeking to be the deepest thing of all time, but also not trying to be flimsy and broadly funny, but rather seeking simple truths, subtle beauties and humorous exploration of character types: please don’t hate me.

The above my facetious response to the massive amounts of hate this film got. Did The Good Dinosaur miss a chance to climb higher, sure, however it feels like the attacks it faced had to do with things it wasn’t and didn’t want to be. Much like The Interview was being lambasted for not being a satire, it was what I thought it would be, it seems that this film became a lightning rod because: a) It bombed at the box office b) Was a second Pixar release of 2015, and c) Had simpler aims, and thus for not aiming as high it takes a beatdown it doesn’t necessarily deserve because of what people thought it should be. Even if one dislikes it, which I could see, I couldn’t see how the film earned it on its own without outside factors contributing to the animus against it.

31. Metalhead

Metalhead (2013, Cinelicious Pics)

Capturing the unspoken truth of a subculture, of a music scene, is one of the meanest feats a film can accomplish and one the medium is uniquely suite for. As a film that hinges on music its Best Song is one of its centerpieces:

However, aside from being a great song “Svathamar” is a massive plot point in metal head and the apex of the film. Therefore, it’s an easy winner.

Yet it’s not just a musical showcase but a character- and performance driven piece that’s worth finding.

30. A Wolf at the Door

A Wolf at the Door (2014, Strand Releasing)

A Wolf at the Door is definitely not a story to be entered into lightly, and will most definitely not find universal favor. However, those believe that great art can and should be created from human immorality and depravity should give it a look.

29. Reckless

Reckless (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The film is one rife with twists each of which further elevates the stakes, intensity and suspense of the proceedings. None of them seem out of place and things resolve themselves naturally and correctly based on the momentum accumulated leading up to the climax. It’s not a case where the ending needs to be forced to satisfy audience expectations, but really feels like the only one that is just.

28. Jurassic World

Jurassic World (2015, Universal)

Clearly, allusions and fan service, whether fulfilling the desires of a majority or just one individual, are not enough to give a film legs it can stand one. In many ways it is like icing on the cake though and can make everything that much better.

The T-Rex’s entrance is great and helped by the fact that I didn’t quite grasp the “more teeth” line at first, but when I heard “Paddock 9” I knew, and it was a big part of the making-me-feel-like-a-kid-again effect. I was so psyched for the ending it was insane.

27. The Gift

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This was one of the most surprising in-theater viewing experiences. It is another triumph for Blumhouse but also the biggest one for actor/writer/director Joel Edgerton. It’s a tremendous character study of a thriller that’s suspenseful enough to earn that genre classification rightfully and frightful enough that you could call it horror if you like.

26. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Most lists I caught a glimpse of either had Star Wars much higher than me or omitted it entirely. I found a middle ground. I really loved all the new stuff like anything Rey and Finn did, and BB-8 for that matter; I appreciated the reunion aspects but the at-times-too-literal homages to the first series held it back some. The end is a great stopping point for the next installment to pick up from though.

25. Mr. Holmes

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This is a wonderful, albeit melancholy tale, of a great mind battling dementia and a soul struggling to keep a hold of himself and find some kind of redemption in his fading days. He faces much conflict and strife, and the film looks forward and back beautifully, and deals with the legendary Holmes respectfully.

24. Aferim!

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Aferim! is a portrait of the Szgany people of Romania. A tale of one man taken from the accounts of many and brilliantly done

23. Futuro Beach

Praia do Futuro (2014, Strand Releasing)

Futuro Beach is, from its start, about characters losing and trying to find themselves; connecting, disconnecting and trying to reconnect; saving each other and failing to save themselves; and, ultimately, finds beauty in the discomforts created by distance and yearning and the solitary journey of finding oneself. It takes a gamble with its narrative ellipse, but like a strong story it punctuates the end of its dramatic phrase properly and memorably.

22. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

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You have to love a fifth film in a series that not only still feels vital but also is one you can walk into cold, without having seen the others previously, and still get a huge kick out of.

21. Kingsman: The Secret Service

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As I was assembling my favorites of the year, I had a few ways I could parse titles. Usually, I rank films by genre before really comparing them unscientifically. This film in the action realm jumped just ahead of Mission: Impossible due to its comedy, commentary, and breakout star Taron Egerton.

20. Dark Places

Dark-Places-Movie-2015-starring-Charlize-Theron-and-Nicholas-Hoult

Gillian Flynn became an even more well known author with the release of the film adaptation of Gone Girl, however, this is a film with more twists and turns, more creative structuring, and more intriguing characters. This is not only the kind of film that can get me to read an author’s work but is also full of some of the strongest performances by some of the actors involved in some time, like Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Tye Sheridn.

19. Sinister 2

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Much but not all of what made Sinister a success was its witty retort to the standard found footage approach. However, what the Sinister films have found it seems is a mythology that it’s exploring to its fullest based on the self-assigned parameters of each film. Sinister, like the Purge, leaves fans wanting more, but in Sinister’s case it’s not a backhanded compliment but rather the highest praise.

18. 13 Minutes

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Normally, a tale involving World War II and Hitler can be exploitative. However, Hirschbiegel has done it before with Downfall, and with this film he focuses in on Elser, the man who narrowly missed killing Hitler before he could do his worst. In this case, it’s not just a historical oddity or a defiant soul that make it compelling but the personalization of the drama.

17. T.I.M.

T.I.M. (2014, Attraction Distribution)

The irony that at times the best examinations of humanity are made when contrasting us to artificial intelligence is not lost on filmmakers. The motif still appears to be fertile ground yielding much fruit, this is just the latest in a long line of great films to prove that point. Exactingly done and precisely performed, it’s an enrapturing experience that should be sought out.

16. Cub

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The above, as well as the overall success is of course also a tribute to debutante director Jonas Govaerts. Cub is a bloody, creepy film, that has some depth and can still satisfy a seasoned viewer. It’s not one that’s for the faint of heart because it “goes there” often. Horror must be unafraid to go into deep, dark places and this is a trip to the woods the worth taking for those fans of the genre with a strong constitution.

15. Cinderella

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This is what Disney should be aiming for with its live action remakes: the heart and essence of the story with added depth and awe. It’s the anti-Maleficent in that regard, and if this trend in quality continues this habit of rehashing will not get old so soon.

14. It Follows

It Follows (2014, Radius-TWC)

Perhaps only Mad Max handled its story as visually and subtly this year. There are so many inferences that can be drawn that don’t over-impose themselves on the story, but instead add texture. As do some of the unique production design decisions made in portraying an alternate reality Detroit.

13. Cool Kids Don’t Cry

Kick It (2014, Attraction Distribution)

This film is heartfelt, sincere, moving and beautifully done regardless for the emotion the film is striving for. It’s not a wonder that the book upon which this story is based is so popular, and that it’s already yielded two film versions. This film will have you chuckle, and also pull at your heartstrings but in a way that’s wholly intrinsic to the film and not in due in large part to manipulation. A truly excellent film.

12. The Lesson

The Lesson (2014, Film Movement)

The Lesson, like any lesson, could be an experience that is didactic, drudgery or could be an experience you’ll likely hold on to and cherish for a long time. This film is far closer to the lattermost option on that list.

11. Stranger

Stranger (2015, Tursunov Film)

Even though the film may not be traditionally uplifting its a wonder to see the world through Tursunov’s eyes anew. I’m sure that some will experience these same joys for the first time. For beautifully made films about difficult subjects that deal in the highest of artistry and a minimum of didacticism are far too rare, even rarer still is the hypnotic ambience of these Kazakh film worlds.

10. Paddington

Paddington (2014, TWC)

On its Best Adapted Screenplay nomination:

Paddington does the unlikely of capturing the spirit of a piece without being a literal adaptation.

It’s a film that makes a lot of things work, creates much magic, and executes simply and flawlessly.

 

9. Slow West

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Slow West does much: it is a western, a drama, a romance, a coming-of-age tale, and an action film and it does very well with all its disparate elements.

8. Bloody Knuckles

Bloody Knuckles (2014, Artsploitation)

Bloody Knuckles has to be considered among the best of the year, and it likely to make quite a bit of noise at the annual BAM Awards. It’s a brisk rollicking good time that doesn’t play it safe and is all the more hilarious, thought-provoking, and intriguing because of it.

7. Creed

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On Best Original Song Nomination:

As good as the medley in Creed is it merely accompanies a montage. The last three are showstopping numbers that are also functions of their protagonist(s).

On Best Makeup Nomination:

Creed does great work selling you on in-fight injuries.

On its Best Cinematography Nomination:

Creed‘s single-takes alone made it worthy of inclusion but it’s in for more than that.

On its Award-nominated editing:

Creed is one of many films that dispels the erroneous notion that there’s less aptitude in editing needed when several long takes are used. It’s a job brilliantly done, and it really hums.

On the Supporting Actor Nomination:

One of the more visceral checklist items for nominations are “my god he’s incredible in this” being a thought that runs through your mind. That thought occurred to me especially in three performances: Klaßner’s (though that was more about the fact that it wasn’t just The White Ribbon), Young’s and Stallone’s.

The two most powerful were Stallone and Young.

The film also boasted a Best Actor nomination (Michael B. Jordan) and Best Supporting Actress (Phylicia Rashad), making it the only film this year with nominations in three of the four major acting categories.

6. Still

Still (2014, Omnibus Entertainment)

Still is hypnotic and most effective because of how it manages to reverse fortune in its closing act, as well as have you dole out your empathy to many of the concerned parties, leaving your jaw agape at its conclusion. This is a film I’d recommend to anyone looking for a drama with a tragic arc, and serious real world stakes.

5. Inside Out

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So, yes, there are two Pixar titles on this year’s list.  Clearly, Inside Out is a great visualization of the emotional workings of the brain and an illustration of mental illness and the subconscious. The only thing that knocks it down one peg is the fact that I didn’t react as strongly to it viscerally as I would’ve liked to but it is great stuff.

4. Human Capital

Human Capital (2014, Film Movement)

This universality latches on to the film in such a way that it enjoys the high-class problem of being easily identifiable to a wide variety of audiences yet hard to classify. Its playing of suspense tropes, combined with its palpable drama and social commentary it can correctly be identified with the catch-all of ‘thriller’ but it’s so much more than that. In a film market that seems to, at times, think we can’t have our cake and eat it too this film knows that’s nonsense, and delivers emotion, pathos, and tension while also crafting a story of sociological relevance and leaving the soapbox out of it. It clicks like a film you can maniacally eat popcorn to and just let it wash over you, but invites you dig deeper and think on it long and hard. What more can you ask for?

3. Charlie’s Country

Charlie'sCountry (2013, Entertainment One Films)

Charlie’s Country is and unorthodox and brilliant tale of an an aborigine man struggling to hold on to his land, his life and his heritage.

On David Gulilpil:

If you can hold the screen in silence, and move me to tears likewise; there’s not much more you need to do to clinch the award, but he does so much more.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

AP FILM REVIEW-MAD MAX: FURY ROAD A ENT

Many of the reasons I love this movie are discussed in the various BAM Awards it won:

On effects:

Yes, much of it was practical. However, there were effects. It’s harder to notice because of all the practical stuff, but it is all a brilliantly strung together vision.

On Costumes:

Not only does this film paint its world nearly impeccably but it also has within it cultural icons in the making, Furiosa being among them and her costume being a big reason why.

On the cinematography:

Action doesn’t mean the camera has to do too much, the edit can work. The moves can be precise, the framing precise and balanced. The color here is blissfully deep, and in a world that bleak it’s a necessary antidote. Every single frame is glorious.

On the Sound Edit:

The silence speaks volumes, as does the ambience. The home watch can be more detail-oriented listening: the engines roar, the guitars wail and the beat doesn’t stop.

On the picture edit:

Walter Murch wrote a book called In the Blink of an Eye. It’s his treatise on editing and his theory about how unconscious things like blinking can help dictate cut-points. Were Margaret Sixel to write a book on editing it should write Joining Dreams. In British English you do not cut film, you join it . Thus, the name indicates that her editing (joining) of dream-like imagery is some of the best I’ve seen. Exemplary.

On the score:

Music is one of several intrinsic pieces to the film. When there is a guitar geek credited you know music plays an intricate role even if it’s not about music. Furthermore, it makes the music almost wholly organic, and my word, is it pulse-pounding.

On Miller’s direction:

“I’ve got vision up the butt, so just go with it,” -Jack Black, School of Rock
There’s really one director on this list that that quote adequately describes, and it’s not that it was a blowout, but it’s truest of this man.

 

1. Krampus

krampus_movie

Similar to the film at #2 a lot of what I enjoyed was discussed in the BAMs, including why it was the top.

On Art Direction:

There’s world-building in any film but there are glimpses of worlds here, and locations that speak and breathe, and a few surprising choices that will not be spoiled here that clinch it for this film.

On the screenplay:

There’s so much this film does it’s not a wonder to see many names attached to the script, that and that’s how screenplays often work anyway. There’s a legend to build, laughs to deliver, and horror tropes to be brilliantly inserted. None are easy all accomplished easily in timely fashion and at times simultaneously.

On the cast:

Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, etc. Krampus

All these casts are great, strong and deep, but only one did I find no fault with at all. Not one.

On its winning Best Picture:

I saw each twice and liked Krampus more twice.

The two allusions I drew in seeing Krampus were to older films I now consider to be classics, in the standing the test of time way rather than in technique- Gremlins and Home Alone.

The Home Alone similarity is in Emjay Anthony’s rant about families. “I don’t want a new family. I don’t want any family. Families suck!” Kevin McAllister exclaims and his sentiments are similar and drew spontaneous applause in my second viewing.

There’s far more intangible things that it taps into, and that’s where Gremlins comes in: it’s not just the Christmas-set horror comedy aspect, Krampus is the 2015 PG-13 movie equivalent of Gremlins’ hard PG in 1984.

When you’re citing films that are 25 and 31 years old respectively, you know you’re entering rarified air.

Yet, much like Super 8 from a few years ago, it’s not just the Spielbergian-Amblin influence that makes Krampus work.

Krampus is hilarious, it’s very much the zeitgeist for the year of its release but like Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat may have conquered a mandatory viewing slot on a major holiday.

The Krampus is not a new or original creation. However, in the US knowledge of the Krampus and discussion of him has remained underground like he was out of the Necronomicon, or better yet has come to a heightened awareness and popularity many years after his “death” like Lovecraft.

Yet, though the Krampus has featured on quite a few TV shows, the feature film eluded it. Then as with any idea in Hollywood many raced to create a story based around a legend, a mythical figure so rife with potential especially in genre cinema.

Kevin Smith was the first name I heard associated with a Krampus-themed film, but that has yet to come to the fore as he’s developing many other thing. So, it’s a but like the victory that was Ender’s Game or other anticipated adaptations – it’s the realization of a dream except I didn’t know how this movie where this movie was going to go, just that I wanted to see where it went every step of the way.

It was the ideal major motion picture “debut” of this Icon.

It took an old mythology and made it new and vibrant, and like the film it tussled with so violently for the title it intimated of much story aside than what was on screen. Ultimately, I always try to compartmentalize; therefore, it’s not a matter of “Well, Mad Max is amazing and won all these awards therefore it has to win Best Picture.” What the equation really is is: How well did the film in question perform in all categories plus factor in the story and how that played.

Krampus got me and I got in a way no other 2015 release did, bar none. Not even close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rewind Mini-Review: The King’s Speech

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The King’s Speech

I have been reading some people either complain or just state how The King’s Speech is both rather bulletproof but also not mind-blowing. To re-iterate the above review if I had to go back would I slide this film in my Top 15, probably not, do I get the bulletproof comments? Yes.

There is even less to nitpick this film about, if you want to use that term than there is for True Grit. The only thing that slightly holds it back in my book is the intangible visceral reaction that I just didn’t quite get out of this film as opposed to others.

It’s not a daringly original film in terms of concept or structure it’s just very well executed, acted, edited, and shot. It’s the kind of Best Picture contender that while I may not have nominated I can really get behind because it is the best film that the lowest common denominator can get behind. Seriously, who can hate this film?

Before you answer consider the fact that I may need to ask you what your problem is. This is a really easy film to get into whether it blows you away or not and is a really likable kind of story. It’s a “feel good” movie without all that “feel good” movie cheese in the mix.

9/10

Rewing Mini-Review: Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

I discovered that this film existed through Instant Watcher, more specifically their Twitter. It is a website that it perhaps the best source for what’s new to stream on Netflix. I was not surprised to see that this film is a popular streaming choice. The title is designed to intrigue and get people watching. Based on the fact that it’s a French film, and the totality of the synopsis, I expected more scenes like the one between the matriarch of the household and the grandfather. So, my expectation of more of a chamber drama was mislaid, OK. I won’t, and can’t, penalize it for that. What I can penalize it for is that for as short as it is, the insightful, charming, touching, intelligent scenes are few and far between. Instead, you get many love scenes which are protracted and only add minimally, sometimes not at all, to the story. The intention of the film is one I understand and respect, and it is successful in a few of its attempts, but ultimately it left me wanting and a bit bored.

5/10

Rewind Mini-Review – Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is an interesting film in a couple of ways. The first is that the writers actually felt the need to justify the sequel, which most don’t and they did that in two ways. The second creates a bit of an issue. The exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History are being moved out to make way for holographic exhibits. Why they felt the need to make a point by creating that bogus scenario or why they felt the need to move the story to the Smithsonian is beyond me.

Ben Stiller’s rendition of an infomercial pitchman was rather humorous. What I feared going in was that there would be too many characters in this one and that fear didn’t really come to fruition. A lot of the supporting cast with smaller parts were really good and did a lot with them. It’s truly a case of the actors outperforming the script. Many of them put a lot more into their part than any reasonable person could ever expect to get. Amy Adams especially was breathtaking and took simple dialogue and made it profound and took things that could’ve been cheesy and made them poignant.

Having said all that, the film really does start to drag in the latter half of act two. Alan Silvetsri’s score at many times seems discordant to the action especially the seemingly “Tubular Bells” inspired piece when Ben Stiller is first breaking into the Smithsonian and skulking around.

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What does make up for that is that the dialogue remains pretty sharp throughout and despite pacing issues it does stay funny. The device of walking into picture frames, especially having some scenes and even a character or two in black and white, helped keep the film fresh.

Ultimately, it was a sequel that, again, wasn’t altogether necessary but conversely not a complete waste or disappointment.

6/10

Rewind Review: The Tooth Fairy

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Tooth Fairy (2010)

The Tooth Fairy is a predictable and poorly executed family comedy which leaves everyone uncomfortable, including a majority of the cast and the audience who is asked to try and sit through it without squirming. It’s the kind of film that even if you give your intelligence or critical faculties a holiday you’d have a hard time enjoying.

The film takes a brash, arrogant athlete knocks him down to size, he rebels then embraces the changes that have come into his life then rebels again before living happily-ever-after. It’s the old template tried and true except it is not handled with any precision whatsoever.

The writing of this film seemed to borrow generously from the Big Book of Clichés in assembling the story: you have a single mother, musician kid, a fantastical world to which our protagonist is whisked away, a guide, a mentor, a moral and redemption. All that is well and good but the execution issues are what make those things fall flatter than they should. Too much of the comedy in this film is based on puns, which is one of the lower and least tolerable forms of comedy. There is also the Moment of Apparent Defeat which is written more like an Irredeemable Act, meaning had our hero acted this way in real life there’s no way anyone would have forgiven him.

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Sports are often turned into a shell of what they really are and bastardized in film to no end. Ice hockey usually suffers the most because it has a bad reputation in the U.S. and is being written by writers who don’t know the game. The writer’s familiarity is something that yours truly cannot testify to but it is without question the worst depiction of the sport ever put on celluloid to those who know the game. A depiction so bad that it might be worthy of a second article, however, it is dubious whether writing about such a film a second time is justified for any reason. More confusing than the poor depiction is that both ESPN and anchor Steve Levy would agree to appear in such a project when one would assume they read the script before saying yes.

The cast was underutilized and not put into a position where it could succeed. Dwayne Johnson, who I enjoyed in Escape to Witch Mountain and other action roles, was asked to play an occasionally goofy, arrogant jerk and his usual steadiness shares screen time with some embarrassing and unfortunate moments and readings. It’s rather unfortunate that both Billy Crystal and Julie Andrews not only were in this film but likely spent multiple days working on it. Crystal’s scene with the amnesia powder is the worst thing he’s done and is hacky – a word one thought might never be associated with him. It would be better if Julie Andrews didn’t take this part as well it’s better to not see her than see her in this. Then there is Ryan Sheckler, who really isn’t an actor but rather a skateboarder who has appeared in a handful of films. Not only is he horrible but he adds to the denigration of the sport of hockey in this film by playing a hot-dog rookie who cops the kind of attitude usually reserved for the NFL and NBA. Stephen Merchant was occasionally funny as Derek’s caseworker but more often than not he was trying too hard. Typically in a film like this the only people who escape unscathed are the kids that is true in the case of this film as well, Destiny Whitlock and Chase Ellison are both quite good especially Whitlock.

The most confusing casting question was actually, “What is Seth McFarlane doing in this film as the counterfeit fairy accessory dealer?”

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This film isn’t immune from issues outside story though. The score sounds as if it was pulled from stock and had been recycled on many family films in the past.

The effects work, specifically on the popped out tooth and stretched face sequence were weak.

Those who may be forced to watch this film by their kids do note that in spite of the previous comments this film was still nowhere near as bad as expected. There are a few laughs despite the poor writing style and it is not too painful an experience.

Rewind Review: The Prince and the Pauper (2000)

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Prince and the Pauper (2000)

The Prince and the Pauper is the kind of film/story that is hard to knock unless extreme liberties are taken with the story – if it’s modified, modernized and bastardized as Disney did with its recent Sprouse brothers’ version, which had as much to with Mark Twain’s version of the tale as the film The Lawnmower Man had to do with Stephen King’s.

The television rendition that is the topic of this article, however, is more like the version you’re used to seeing. Thus, it turns into one of those traps where you could worry more about comparison than about execution. As is not unusual twin brothers, Robert and Jonathan Timmins, were found to play Prince Edward and Thomas Canty. Their progression through the tale was subtle and quite well done. As they are at the beginning they are decent and bordering on boring seeming both to be nice polite boys, a bit too much on Tom Canty’s part, however, their role reversal brings out the best in them as actors and them as well as the cross-cutting nature of the tale really get the film moving.

The film’s pace is never an issue as it clocks in at a brisk 90 minutes; the only issue is that it might just be a tad too quick. While emotionally you don’t mind the climax being resolved too quickly, if you compare that to the denouément (where several wrongs from the tale are righted) it is rather quick. The denouement is typically not seen and was a delightful twist but it just seemed that the Lord Protector’s enmity to the false King had just been announced and then things were nearly at a head.

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The character of Miles Hendon is always a great vehicle and Aidan Quinn played the role quite affably and very well indeed. However, while Jonathan Hyde is an effective enough villain he does wander a bit too close to being over the top and cartoonish at times- some cartoons being more realistic.

The scene where Miles discovers what happened while he was gone was great and nearly makes up for the fact that he is repeatedly over sarcastic in his disbelief of the Pauper’s tale that he is Prince.

This is the kind of tale you almost want more time to tell. Disney’s version in 1962, featuring one of the most spectacular performances by a child actor on celluloid, Sean Scully playing both parts, was two hours and felt about right and could have been longer. It’s a loaded tale which says a lot merely by the situations the two boys are put in they don’t need to preach the stories and pictures do it.

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The cinematography is quite good and is aided in great part by the fabulous art direction and costuming which was sure to pack many of the frames full of vibrant colors. The locations, rarely mentioned, were very well scouted and all looked quite good and made for a very “authentic” feel and created great possibilities for the film’s visuals.

All in all this is a good rendition of one of the best and most repeatable stories ever written.

8/10

Rewind Review: The Kids are All Right

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

The Kids Are All Right is a film for whom success, marginal as it may be, rests entirely on the shoulders of its cast. The film tells the story in a rather tight nucleus focusing on the parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), the kids (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) and finally their heretofore unknown sperm donor/father (Mark Ruffalo). Ultimately it is the compelling, truthful, funny and touching performances in this film that make it worth watching even in spite of some very serious problems.

While this is a more sure-handed feature effort from Lisa Cholodenko than the disjointed and awful Laurel Canyon it is not without its serious deficiency. That deficiency to be discussed in full warrants a spoiler alert.

Having said that the major conflict of the film occurs when Jules (Julianne Moore) starts having an affair with Paul (Mark Ruffalo). At one point you think it may just be a one time thing but the film almost revels in showing the multiple relapses that Jules has and her enjoyment of this seemingly inexplicable affair. Your hopes that it will never surface are also quickly dashed.

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Now while I will not dwell in the land of film theory in this review and speculate on the potential impact of yet another homosexual character engaging in a heterosexual tryst in a film it is also a plot contrivance that fails in terms of cinematic mechanics in several ways.

First, to simply state it it’s lazy. My major grievance with Valentine’s Day is that even with the sheer number of couples in that film nearly all of them were dealing with infidelity. Oddly enough that film deals with its one homosexual couple in a unique and taboo-breaking way and they have no issues.

While barring some other grievous offense this is the biggest cause of conflict possible it’s not one that had to be introduced just to create drama. While it does allow there to be a very emotional tearing apart and subtle reunion of the family as Joni (Mia Wasikowska) goes off to college one wonders if there would ever be a film that would ever do the opposite and get away with it. Would a man be able to have an affair with another man and be able to repair his marriage, family and have an audience believe it? Doubtful. However, here a gay couple faces the ultimate betrayal and while you want them to resolve things it doesn’t make it any less implausible that they’d manage to stay together.

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Yet, plausibility is overrated and almost anything can be accepted in a film if it is sufficiently set up but aside from the one cliché I-Hate-You-I-Want-You glance they exchange right before they kiss you don’t see it coming and further more when pressed Jules doesn’t have a satisfactory answer for Nic (Annette Bening) that would explain not only an extra-marital affair but one with the opposite sex. If that is going to happen in homosexual relationship more needs to be cited than a lack of attention. It’s not like flipping a light switch and while sexuality is between the ears and the affair doesn’t make Jules suddenly straight, this kind of thing does take convincing to make sense and it never quite does.

Unfortunately, this affair is a major event and does take up a significant portion of this film and thus this review. Ultimately, the audience is the determinant of meaning so it is the director’s job to convey that meaning clearly so we can see intent. I am quite sure that perhaps there was some symbolic or representational intent with the affair and that Cholodenko didn’t want it interpreted in a possibly negative way, however, whatever message or motivation existed there was not clearly conveyed.

The overall affect the film has on an audience is a positive one. It is a touching and fitting conclusion and Julianne Moore’s apology scene is a tear-jerker as is Laser’s (Josh Hutcherson) final assertion of why they belong with one another. It’s a film that makes it by on the strength of its actors and its finale it’s the journey I would’ve preferred changed somewhat. Perhaps the message lies in the title that The Kids Are All Right even if the adults aren’t but isn’t that an awfully dangerous mixed message?

6/10

Rewind Review: The Next Three Days

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Next Three Days (2010)

The Next Three Days unquestionably has some good elements to it but there are far too many occasions it trips itself up just when it is gaining momentum. It ends up being too far-fetched, silly and to an extent anti-climactic to be an effective action film.

The biggest strike against it in the far-fetched arena is that this film uses the Youtube-created myth of a punctured tennis ball being able to unlock a car door. Either the filmmakers never saw that Mythbusters episode or they don’t care. This makes even less sense when you consider the bump key plan, were John (Russell Crowe) learns to fashion a key that can open any door. At least there the way it’s explained it seems feasible. In terms of being far-fetched it almost doesn’t bear mentioning that this film contains the obligatory scene where Liam Neeson is brought in to be awesome. The information he gives is crucial but the way he delivers it and how its used is somewhat suspect.

Neeson’s performance is wonderful but it gets a bit expository and at some point and you wonder why he doesn’t lower his voice and/or look around to see if he’s being overheard, which I blame on the director- even having written a book about escaping prison you’d think he’d want to be a little discreet about being an accomplice before the fact. Then the numbers on how long it’ll get to put certain lock downs in place are taken as gospel and placed on a map and on our protagonist’s wrist, as if he would forget like this is Memento or something.
There are a few miscalculated story devices that end up working against the film: The first being the ticking clock element. It is treated like gospel but when the time runs out there really isn’t an overt threat that makes it seem as if our hero is going to get caught. Then there is the question of guilt or innocence. Due to the fact that the film wants to leave that question in doubt we rush through the early part of the story, are left thinking the protagonist is a little delusional and then are escorted through a moderate twist-ending.
Perhaps what is most difficult to embrace about this film is that our lead does resort to extraneous criminal activity to pull off the escape. To go into more detail would be to give too much away. Suffice it to say that decisions are made to cross a line that needn’t be crossed to get the job done.

Now there is in this film a few very good touches which make it watchable and do build suspense. One of the best touches being that upon leaving his house John removes all materials from his “war room.” It ends up filling three bags of garbage. Two he takes with him and one he leaves in the trash can to be found. This acts a diversion and is very well done.

However, as with everything in this film, it seems that for every step forward there was a step back. As enjoyable as that little ploy was it does try to bury something that was a niggling concern throughout, which is that he very clearly has details of his plans and calculations plastered all over his wall simply because they accommodate the aesthetics of the cinematography and tosses aside any semblance of realism. Should anyone have entered this room it would be obvious he was plotting something.

Ultimately, there are a few elements to latch on to that will get you through this film mainly watching the plot of the escape unfold, however, there are too many elements that hold it back and stop it from staying afloat.

4/10

Rewind Review: Kick-Ass

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass had been touted by some who had seen it prior to its release as the next generation of comic book movies which is a lofty moniker to live up to and some have fallen woefully short of this expectation. Kick-Ass not only reaches this lofty praise but fair exceeds it on many levels. It is a film that takes the subgenre in a new direction bravely and boldly.
One of the biggest contributing factors to this film’s overwhelming success is the outstanding performance of its lead cast. Aaron Johnson, as the title character, delivers what is likely to a be a star-making performance. While that ability has always been apparent he has yet to have such a showcase as this. His American dialect is not only unique but completely bulletproof such that many who have recently seen him interviewed were completely unaware that he is, in fact, British.
Probably the second biggest contributing factor of the film’s success, in terms of casting, is Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit Girl. While she too recently proved herself in a smaller role in the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid she absolutely breaks out here with a film that was released later but clearly shot first. In one of the better plot devices the film employs the title character/protagonist/narrator is the least skilled of the would-be real life superheroes and it is Moretz as Hit Girl and Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy who give us the audience the jolt of the graceful, intelligent, funny and nearly infallible heroes we expect. Yet as seeing this film will prove as the events are taking place in the real New York City and not Gotham there can be grave consequences for these vigilantes.

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Nicolas Cage delivers a performance in this film that once again is making me eat my words to an extent. Last year in the marginally bad film Knowing I lambasted Cage. It seems he took that film, and many in the action genre (Many of which are Bruckheimer-produced) off. It’s not an excuse for his line-ready badness at times but just a fact because in this film he was, dare I say it? Glorious. And this coming on the heels of The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He had something here to sink his teeth into and went at it full boar and created a superhero alter ego who seemed to be the bastard child of Adam West and William Shatner and was so funny he challenged my ability to control my Coca-Cola filled bladder.
Last but certainly not least in deserving a mention is Christopher Mintz-Plasse. While he will never be able to shake being McLovin’, nor does he really want to, he was starting to run the risk of being pidgeon-holed in a very small subset of roles with this he is still in the nerd vein but he did get to stretch a little bit and does play a character with dimensions, a struggle, an arc and ambition. In another fantastic twist, which shouldn’t be that hard to do, Kick-Ass gives us the origin story first as opposed to other comic franchises who insist on backtracking towards them in spinoffs, sequels and/or reboots.
Another major element this film benefits from is the implementation of verisimilitude. By constantly giving you reminders that this film is different from others in its ilk in as much as these are real people and not aliens beings or billionaires with fancy toys the stakes are raised greatly and almost anything can happen.
It is this very verisimilitude that allows the film to hit many different notes of emotion throughout the film and also play with tone going from comedy to drama to suspense with ease and in the blink of an eye.

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The facile nature of bouncing from tone to tone also allows the pace to stay steady such that when the pedal hits the metal and the film is driving towards the finish you are hooked and literally at the edge of your seat.
Another aspect in which this film separates itself and makes it somewhat different is that it also seeks to please by having our heroes have good kills. Generally this is a notion of the horror film genre when you know that the body count will be high so it’s a matter of creatively disposing of victims not so much the fact that they do die. The same applies here in this film where there are many henchman to work through before getting to the ultimate villain and the film really thought about how to fluidly and creatively have these obstacles eliminated.
One sequence towards the end where Hit Girl is in the enemy’s lair is not far off the finesse and prowess of the massive fight scenes in Kill Bill but like with that film to reduce this film to a massive bloodbath would be an injustice.

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As I frequently say, and will write on shortly, I am not one for hyperbole so take the following statement as an apt comparison, due to the fact that Kick-Ass ends with Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) reciting a line from the following film: I, not being a comic book film completist by any means, have been waiting for something like this since Batman and it is good to know that it can happen and that the exalted feeling I had leaving the movie theatre is not reserved for childhood.
10/10