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video games, architecture, and online comics. He has a BA in
Studio Arts at UC Irvine. He loves talking about movies and dining and is a frequent contributor to IMDB, Yelp, Usenet, and various
movie and CG forums. He also enjoys travel, hiking, running, and wines. His online comics are also available at www.ninjasonmotorcycles.com.
A solid horror film with bite
This past weekend, I saw the movie "It" (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti ("Mama"), based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. First off, let me say that I enjoyed this movie quite a bit-- it was a highly entertaining monster flick with jump scares that surprisingly worked (which usually doesn't in many films). The movie stars various (mostly unknown) child actors and Bill Skarsgård as an evil entity called Pennywise the Dancing Clown, which terrorizes the town of Derry every 27 years. The main protagonist of this film is the stuttering Bill (Jaesen Lieberher), who wants to avenge his little brother who was killed by Pennywise. The film focuses mostly on the kids and their relationships, their school bullies, dysfunctional adults, and the sharp-toothed killer clown that moves around in the sewers.
I have the novel in my house, which I never got around to reading. I did, however, see the miniseries on TV, also called "It" (1990), starring Tim Curry as the titular killer clown. There were two parts to the miniseries--first half took place in 1960, and the second part in 1990. The first half mainly starred children, while the second half starred adults (the same children now grown up). The TV show was fairly creepy for TV (particularly the first half), while the second half was on the cheesier side, with monster effects that were not quite on par with theatrical films of that time. Tim Curry ("Clue") was an effectively creepy clown, given that he often just popped out of nowhere to harass the kids. The second half wasn't helped by the fact that it starred mostly comedians such as Harry Anderson ("Night Court"), John Masur ("License to Drive") and John Ritter ("Three's Company)--a baffling decision by the producers. Just imagine seeing a horror film starring Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, and Larry the Cable Guy, and you get the idea.
So, this 2017 film fixes a lot of the problems that the miniseries had. This film only tells the first half of the story (which still works as a standalone story), with only the children as the protagonists. It also takes place in 1989, taking cues from the nostalgic, retro look and style of Netflix's popular "Stranger Things." (To note, one of the kids from the show is in this movie). Unlike the miniseries, the creature effects in this film is impressively creepy and artistically done. And, this movie is rated R (also quite unusual for horror movies of this ilk), which pretty much tells you that they aren't messing around.
Bill Skarsgård is excellent as Pennywise. He is going full-on creepy-monster-mode here. This is to Tim Curry's Pennywise what Heath Ledger's Joker was to Jack Nicholson's. This Pennywise isn't interested in dishing out any humor or making puns--he is meant to be terrible and scary. With that said, Skarsgård's acting has just enough subtlety and the inflections of his voice to be original and interesting. The kids' acting are pretty top-notch. They feel like real kids, and their situation is often quite terrible. Adults are unlikable here for the most part, and are often one-dimensional. Maybe it's me, but I feel this quite often in Stephen King films (eg. "Carrie") where teens or kids are protagonists--all adults seem like terrible people.
The plot isn't particularly complex--much of the story is about the characters and the horror they face. Where it lacks in story, it has enough details about the characters that you care about their well-being (something many horror films fail at). There is plenty of humor in this film which thankfully offsets some of the gloominess of the situation. Much of this humor comes from the 80's references to films and music, and kids' sarcastic, bad-mouthed dialogue. Having been a child of the 80's myself, I found much to relate here.
As for the horror, as I mentioned, there is, yes, plenty of jump scares. However, this film isn't focused on the "JUMP" part of the "jump scare" but focuses on the "SCARE" part of the jump scare. Allow me to explain. Usually, in horror films, right when a "jump scare" comes, it's very quiet at first, then there's a loud noise (which is usually the part that scares you the most) and something "horrific" (or at least not quite as horrific as the loud noise) happens, then ends (usually quickly). In this movie, the horrific part lingers--you get a good look at what is supposed to scare you. The result feels earned, and not cheap. Remember back in the day when seeing a cool, creepy creature was the big payoff? It was the type of thing that many categorized as a well-done popcorn horror flick. The special effects are also quite good here, many of them practical. As the miniseries failed with its lackluster special effects, this film succeeds. Without giving away details, they did well with the budget. Director Andy Muschietti has made a solid horror film.
If there are any complaints, I kind of feel that it has more to do with Stephen King's original story. The illusory part of how Pennywise operates in the world never seemed quite clear to me. This was also how I felt when I saw the miniseries. Maybe it's better explained in the book--the film is a bit vague on it. And, the adults, as mentioned, are mostly stereotypes--I'm not saying that's not allowed, but such things can make the world feel less real.
This is an entertaining horror film. The female audiences at my theater jumped and screamed in horror more than a few times, while laughing afterwards. If they weren't entertained, at least I was entertained by their reaction. Many also chuckled at the "New Kids on the Block" jokes--yep, we get it, sirs. Well played, dear fellows. Well played.
My Rating: **** 1/2 out of ***** stars
Review at http://ninjasonmotorcycles.blogspot.com/2017/09/my-movie- review-it-2017.html
Betoben baireoseu (2008)
A wonderful series full of humanity, artistry, and emotion.
Wonderful acting, brilliant writing, and great, classical music. One can't help but appreciate classical music that much more after seeing this series. Poetic, sad, dramatic, hilarious, and humane, I loved the high quality involved in this production.
The story involves violinist Doo Roo-mi (Lee Ji-ah)who hires Maestro Kang Gun-woo to lead an orchestra that has recently disbanded due to a former manager running off with all the money. She hires replacements for the orchestra, which consist of mostly amateurs, country bumpkins, and misfits with a dream to perform at a band. Amongst the members is a trumpeter who has the same name as Kang Gun-woo (Jang Geun-seok), who may prove to be a musical genius.
Kim Myung Min's portrayal of the perfectionist and arrogant Maestro Kang Gun-woo is both maddening and hilarious. Maestro Kang's scathing aggressiveness and sharp tongue exudes frank, sometimes admirable, efficiency and cold calculation. Things that come out of his mouth causes people to run off, break down, and cry. Carrying the nickname "Orchestra Killer" (because orchestra members tend not to stick around longer than six months under him), this character has a hard time dealing with regular people as he himself doesn't see himself as regular.
Despite the fact that Maestro Kang treats his orchestra like trash, we find that he is actually a very complex character. Adding to the complexity are the orchestra members' own personal, social, and financial issues, and a love triangle between the two Kang Gun-woo and Doo Roo-mi.
Be sure to check this out on DVD or Hulu.
Cars 2 (2011)
What 'Cars 2' does, it does well.
In this sequel to Cars, race cars Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his tow truck pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix race. Mater, however, gets sidetracked with international espionage. Helped by British spy cars, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), Mater must stop an unknown villain trying to sabotage the race, with Lightning McQueen as his possible target.
I liked the first Cars, but I admit, amongst the other works of Pixar, it was my least favorite. With that said, I really enjoyed Cars 2. Yes, more so than Cars 1. It's very entertaining with both subtle and not-so-subtle humor that not everyone will quite get nor appreciate. The scenes in Tokyo are colorful and extreme. The scenes in Paris and Italy are breathtaking and beautifully rendered. This is a story about cars. There's only so many ways you can go with this subject. With that said, Pixar has again created a piece of work that remains consistent to their high quality.
Admittedly, Lightning McQueen, the main character in the last film played by Owen Wilson, gets less of a role here compared to Mater, played by Larry the Cable Guy. I would guess some may have a big problem with this. To be frank, Larry the Cable Guy's brand of humor isn't to everyone's taste (nor mine), and perhaps represents what makes one feel embarrassed for being American especially when in a foreign country. Well, that issue is exactly what comes up in this particular film. Mater is a constant embarrassment for Lightning McQueen whenever he is aroundhe is ignorant, unsophisticated, and often gets himself into bad situations. What Pixar does here, however, is not to simply leave Mater to just be the butt of every joke. In fact, the characters here actually learn something or at least we do. The theme in this film is about friendship and seeing value in people we normally would rather not associate ourselves with.
The story is strong and twists are rather mind-boggling enough to keep little kids confused (but as an adult, I thought it was great!). Making Mater the main character, on a practical level, makes sense. Frankly, there are only so many more stories you can really squeeze out about Lightning McQueen at this pointeverything already had been told in the last film. It's like a Rocky movie. Rocky sequels were okay, yes, but after a while, Rocky was no longer the underdognow it's all about him keeping his title (it's like a story about a rich man staying rich)there are not a whole lot of ways you can go with that plot (I suppose Rocky's next sequel could have him fight in space I know! Time machine! Brilliant!). One can say Cars 2 is like the further adventures of Rocky's Paulie, Mickey, or Adrian, from their point of view. I thought that was a good move. It's like how Empire Strikes Back was really Han Solo's film (although that is open for discussion).
In the previous film, I didn't care much about Mater. I learned to like him in this film. A simple character has been made a little more complex. Lightning McQueen learns a valuable lesson about friendship, and Mater learns to self-reflect. Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy are fun as always as Mater and McQueen. Michael Caine is excellent as Finn McMissile, a super agent spy car, and Emily Mortimer does fine work as Holley Shiftwell.
The overall feel of this film is more "mature"-flavored without being overtly mature. This is true for much of Pixar's films in general. If you think about many classic Warner Bros. films, for example, they had many underlying mature themes. As for Pixar, they have explored, among others, themes related to mortality (Toy Story series), the family unit (The Incredibles) and fatherhood (Finding Nemo, Up). Cars do come in harm's way in this film. Some do explode. Nothing shocking here. They're cars. I dug the action scenes. This plays like a spy thriller, which admittedly, is more exciting than watching car races. Like much of Pixar's work, there is plenty of humor, a great helping of emotion, beautiful renders, and a clever story. I can't think of anything more to ask for than that. Now, did Cars really need a sequel? Perhaps not, but I enjoyed this one and it makes me even like the previous one. I'm not really into talking cars, talking bugs, or talking fishes, personally, but Pixar still manages to make me like them.
For more of my review updates, you can find me on twitter.com/d_art
Source Code (2011)
'Source Code' is a unique, entertaining thrill ride
This film is a sci-fi geek's dream-- a cross between Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, and possibly a computer adventure game. The film starts off like an episode of Quantum Leap. The main character is Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up inside a commuter train, with an attractive girl in front of him, who already apparently likes him (perfect!). He looks in the mirror and finds out that he is someone else, at least to everyone else around him. He realizes too late that the train he is on has been set to explode in 8 minutes, which happens. He wakes up inside a pod of some sort, a part of a government experiment in which he can travel to the past, into the consciousness of a passenger's last 8 minutes of his life (multiple times). His mission was to find out who had caused that explosion, so the culprit can be located (in the present) before he bombs another train or building. To add, Colter can go to the past, but he can't change it to affect the present. The film goes on to explain all this with jibber jabber about parallel universes and its link to the last 8 minutes of a memory of a deceased passenger. Colter can enter into this new reality and interact with things that the passenger hadn't experiencedbecause it's actually a parallel universe, you see? (Say what?). Thankfully, the film doesn't try to explain this in great detail.
Now, once you can run with this idea, it's an extremely entertaining movie. Like Groundhog Day, death isn't a factor for Gyllenhaal's character because he will merely return back to the pod after 8 minutes. I'm partly reminded of the text adventure games I used to play when I was a kid--you'd die and you'd return to a saved point, where you can try a different route in the story. In essence, you don't even have to really focus on the mission. In each scenario, Colter would try different things to find the bomber, but on the side he proceeds to find out more about himself, of which he has only fuzzy memories of. Given 8 minutes each time, the pacing of this film is relentless. Understandably, it's not a heavily character-driven film, aside from Jake Gyllenhaal's character. The whole train motif, the confused protagonist, and pastel colors bring back a bit of Hitchcock. The pacing is consistent and the twists keep coming.
The suspense in the film works mainly because we care about Jake Gyllenhaal's character. Gyllenhaal is a great everyman. He reacts just as one would expect in such extreme circumstances. He struggles with his own desires, duty, and with his rights which are being infringed upon. Michelle Monaghan does well enough as Colter's potential love interest, Christinaunderstandably, due to time constraints of the situations, she is not complex. How many meaningful conversations ever stayed within 8 minutes, after all? Likewise, the government agents who are heading the experiment, as played by Jeffrey Wright and Vera Farmiga, feel mostly like archetypes.
Overall, this is a fun, entertaining thriller with many potential threads. Like Inception, as Hollywood films go, this is a unique film. The ideas aren't new, but it takes a fresh approach. The 8-minute gimmick forces the story to waste little time. Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal brings in the emotion and Duncan Jones' taut direction pulls out the suspense. Because there are so many ways one can go with this material, this could have been a pretty good ongoing TV series like Lost. If not, I imagine straight-to-video sequels coming soon.
For more of my movie reviews, you can find them through twitter.com/d_art
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
'Resident Evil: Afterlife 3-D' has good 3-D, less everything else
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, the latest, and fourth of the Resident Evil series, now called Afterlife, Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues on her journey, now with her sidekick Claire (Ali Larter), in a world ravaged by a virus infection to find survivors in L.A. and lead them to safety. Meanwhile the evil Umbrella Corporation responsible for the virus is after her.
This 3rd sequel has now went on to the Avatar-esque RealD 3-D format, and in all honesty, it looked amazing. The images were crisp, the whites looked white, and the raindrops Oh my, the raindrops. If you had a choice between watching it in 3-D or 2-D, I'd suggest the 3-D version, because, well, the movie itself doesn't fair as well on its own, meaning, in terms of characterization, plot, or even action.
The film starts off strong, particularly the beginning credits, which presents a rainy Tokyo street scene where a girl is standing alone without an umbrella amongst a crowd. The scene is filled with colors, tension, and mystery. Had the film carried that same sense of horror throughout the film, I think this film could've been something quite special. The pacing slows down considerably as well. As it is, it is a fairly standard action film with Milla Jovovich doing her usual badass, too-tough-to-bother action heroine thing. She looks cool, no doubtbut it's nothing new and she's mostly going through the motions by now.
The visuals are what sells this film. The sets, both virtual and not, are of high quality (and budget, too, I suppose). The storming of the Umbrella corporation in the beginning is quite out there, but kind of neat, too. A fight between two women vs. one baddie with a giant ax is a nice scene where you see 3-D blood splatter onto the screen. Personally, I don't see how the film could be better in 2-D, particularly these action scenes. These scenes are highly unrealistic, are often in slow motion, and not terribly exciting aside from the 3-D. They're great visuals, but there's hardly any tension, drama, or fear. Milla Jovovich's Alice has become a James Bond-ian superwoman where no bullets or sharp edges can touch her. She twirls and jumps in mid-air, easily dodging bullets as if they were tennis balls on American Gladiators. Advertisement And, this is all in slo-mo. Now, this is where 3-D gets useful. You can appreciate the details, the textures, and the spatial awareness. I've read in an article recently that one of the tough aspects about filming fight scenes in a 3-D film is that you have to actually connect, or hit the other person because you can't use fake distance with camera tricks like you can with the regular film. I suppose that could be the reason for the use of slo-mo. Then again, one can always do the other way as in some Hong Kong Films, where they "undercrank," so people can fight slower with slower frame rate so it looks faster in normal speed. Either way, it works aesthetically well in 3-D. Motion blurs could look odd in 3-D, after all.
The plot involves a group of survivors stranded on a prison facility surrounded by flesh-eating zombies. It is up to Alice and Claire to help them get to safety to a ship offshore. The characters are fairly generic, with couple of fighter-type guys, a wimpy guy, a sleazy guy, and a pretty chick. Their backstory doesn't figure much into the plot, so it doesn't really matter what they do.
Milla Jovovich has played this type of role for so long that it's nothing surprising. She plays Alice with great physicality and delivers her lines as it is written. The dialogue is generic, lacking humor. Ali Larter plays Claire, who looks more like a feminine version of Alice. Shawn Roberts plays the evil head of the Umbrella Corporation, Albert Wesker. (Who pays for the Umbrella Corporation, by the way? And, do they still pay money?) Wesker resembles Ice Man from Top Gun, donning sunglasses, looking robotic--I suppose he symbolizes the cold, robotic nature of big corporations.
Overall, despite the simple plot and characters, Milla plays Alice as I suppose she is meant to played, with lots of action. I was still happy how good the 3-D looked and it could be a good reason to at least check it out in theaters. There's good potential and effective use of this medium, if coupled with a good script and characters we can care about.
The Town (2010)
'The Town' is a complex, engrossing thriller
Directed by Ben Affleck, based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, The Town takes place in Charlestown, Massachusetts. It is a heist/police thriller about four masked bank robbers--Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James "Jem" Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert "Gloansy" Magloan (Slaine), and Desmond "Dez" Elden (Owen Burke)--who wind up taking a hostage during a robbery--the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall). They release her, blindfolded. Unsure whether Claire might somehow be able to finger them, Doug pays a visit to her (her not having seen him) and asks her out on a date, which turns into a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is tailing the four suspects.
After seeing this film, as I was stepping out of the theater, an elderly man who just walked in, asked me, "Was it good?" I replied with my first two-word review: "Very good." He said, "Okay!" For some, that short-and-sweet review would suffice. For the rest, the following is my longer version.
If you have seen the trailer, it appears to be the standard Hollywood plotthe sympathetic villain falls in love with the hostage, betrays his own guys, and maybe end with an elaborate hail of gunfire, and so forth. It's the general plot line for films that involve professional killersThis Gun For Hire, The Killer, The Professional, Bittersweet Life, etc. Luckily, this film is more complex. In fact, the love story doesn't take that much of the center stage. The story looks more into the environment, the people, and the relationships that form a person. Advertisement
In terms of style, this film could be considered a close cousin of Heat and a second cousin of Point Break, but with more drama. The action scenes have an efficient coldness to it that makes it look realistic. As impressive as the action scenes are, this film is mainly character-driven. Ben Affleck's direction is top notch. The pacing is nearly flawless. The car chases through small alleyways of Boston is reminiscent of French Connection. The gun-fights are loud and gritty. The film has just enough small surprises and cleverness that makes it unique. The characters' back stories, their history, and the crime culture bring an extra bit of dimension. The dialogue is frequently witty and playful. I suppose it helps that the story was based on a novel.
Ben Affleck is understated and solid as Doug MacRay, the planner of the heists. While it is not an unusual role for Affleck playing the sympathetic one, he feels like a real person. His relationship with his jailbird father played by Chris Cooper adds an extra dimension. Particularly noteworthy is Jeremy Renner's intriguing performance, which invokes an unnerving unpredictability to the character of "Jem," Doug's close friend and cohort. Renner's character is nearly the opposite of the soft-hearted hero he played in The Hurt Lockerhere, he is creepy, erratic, and has no problem killing people off.
Overall, this is a character-driven, solid crime thriller with good direction from Ben Affleck. The performances are first rate and while the action is strong, the film's focus on human drama is what brings this film up a notch. I couldn't quite predict where the film was going. The pacing is good. It's been a while since I've seen an engrossing heist thriller like this one. It's good. Okay, very good.
You can find more updates of my movie reviews on http://twitter.com/d_art
'Devil' has its ups and downs, but mostly ups.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine), written by Brian Nelson (30 Days of Night) based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, who also produced, this film takes place with five peoplea security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), a young lady (Bojana Novakovic), a middle aged lady (Jenny O'Hara), a salesman (Geoffrey Arend), and a hooded young man (Logan Marshall-Green)--stuck in an elevator. As time passes by, a person inside gets killed off every time the lights go out. One of the security guards operating the security camera believes, based on a tale his mother told him as a child, that one of the five is the Devil who is killing each other off. Meanwhile, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) tries to dig deeper into the history of the five passengers while trying to find a way to get them out of there.
When I saw the trailer, and read that M. Night Shyamalan was involved, despite his reputation as of late, it intrigued me somewhat. My first reaction was probably that it'll have a twist ending. It looked low-budget and perhaps more character-driven, perhaps a film more about human nature instead of people just getting killed off by bad guys. And, this time, it had a different director, which sounded more like a collaborative effort (which can be a good thing).
After having seen the film, I found it to be an interesting little thriller, and a little different than usual. The five characters trapped in the elevator annoy and distrust each other, each of them with a little bit of baggage behind them. The whole situation reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode, Five Characters In Search of an Exit...except each of them get killed off one by one. The story is indeed more about people and their responsibility for their pasts, which I found to be an intriguing subject.
It isn't particularly a scary film, but director John Erick Dowdle does a competent job with the material. The atmosphere is, of course, claustrophobic. The building looks sleek and almost futuristic. The film does feel low-budget, admittedly, as much of the film takes place in one area and majority of the characters are not well-known nor do they give stand out performances. And, admittedly, they don't always react realistically in regards to such extreme situations. There's a suicide jump through a window at a corporate building which seem strangely unnoticed by many people in such an urban area. There's some violence and blood as certain characters get killed off in different ways, but much of it happens pretty quickly. The film isn't particularly shocking or terrifying, but still unnerving. Advertisement
Admittedly, I couldn't help but notice the rather generic dialogue. It gets the story going, but doesn't really bring us close to the characters. The characters have a slight B-movie quality to them--they're interesting, but not detailed. Chris Messina is competent as Detective Bowden and Geoffry Arend provides much humor as a mattress salesman. Bokeem Woodbine does fine as a claustrophobic security guard. The female casts feel a little underwritten. I think the deaths would have more drama if we knew the characters better.
Overall, while I wasn't at the edge of my seat, I was still entertained. There were some pacing issues whenever the film focused outside the events of the elevator. The police investigation regarding the passengers' history felt tacked on, and even when the characters' secrets were uncovered, it was not quite as shocking. There is a reveal at the end somewhat, but not what I would call a twist, per se. Or, at least the film itself is not so much about the twist. It isn't so much about the horror, either. Shyamalan seems to have a somewhat different approach, which is novel. This is supposed to be the first film of a trilogy called Night Chronicles, each directed by different people based on Shyamalan's story. I'm actually quite interested to see what the next film will be about, which is a good sign.
Visually dazzling 'Legend of the Guardians' is a mixed bag
Based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky and directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is the latest CG-animated RealD 3D picture from Warner Bros. Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) is a young barn owl who lives with his parents, his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), and his sister. Soren and Kludd gets kidnapped by evil owls called the Pure Ones, who turn owlets into brainwashed soldiers for their empire. Kludd decides to join their order while Soren and his friends escape to the island of Ga'Hoole, where they try to get help from the Guardians, the good warrior owls who had defeated the Pure Ones in the legends.
Before the film started was a CG Road Runner cartoon short. I wasn't particularly impressed with this version of the original 2-D cartoonsthe cartooniness of the original wasn't quite captured in the best way here. It was a small letdown, but my hopes for the following feature film were still high despite the fact that owls do not particularly appeal to me. I mean, Finding Nemo was about fishes and while I wasn't a big fish fan either (except for eating), that film was still good. As for this film, despite the hard efforts by the filmmakers, I felt this was ultimately a mixed bag.
What separates this particular animation from Pixar's and other CG features is the realistic look of the characterscertainly, a daring decision. These owls look like real owls. They are not idealized, cartoony, nor particularly cute, for that matter. It must not have been easy to market these to kids. Because they looked so far from human, it was hard for me to connect with them. I also often couldn't tell the owls apart, let alone tell if the characters were smiling, sad, or if that was their natural face. Figuring out the gender and age of an owl was another issue. How does a female owl look like, really? Do they walk more like they're on heels? I could've sworn Soren looked more female. Thank goodness for the voices to help me differentiate them. The voice actors, with the likes of Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, and Hugo Weaving, do the best they can. Advertisement
The story is steeped in fantasy, legend, and funny names not unlike The Lord of the Rings series. It is a film about heroism with a medieval element, yet the story is not an unfamiliar one. Perhaps to fit the genre, the characters also have British accents. I found it odd that these owls used tools like humansthey had helmets, gauntlets or metal claws, and such. It's novel, I guess. This film would have been great if there was actual humor, though--it's somewhat dark like LOTR. Still, knowing that Legend of the Guardians is part of a bigger story, I'm open to the idea that there may be amazing surprises along the way in the sequels. The film's story is self-contained and while not too complex, little kids might have a hard time deciphering some of the British accents of the characters and the funny names.
The background visuals, contrasting colors, and the glows in this film look gorgeous. Flying scenes look great in RealD 3-D. They are not quite as breathtaking as How To Train Your Dragon, but still holds their own in quality. The stormy scenes happening on the seas look particularly gorgeous, with individual raindrops popping out of the screen. Also impressive are the action scenes, which look realistic and a tad on the violent side, although it may be too rough for the young ones. I hope kids won't try to get metallic fingernails like these owls and poke people's eyes out with it. There are also Zack Snyder's signature slow-mo and sped-up action scenes. Some of the camera-work seemed too jerky for my liking. Still, some kids may like this stuff--it's not my aesthetic.
Overall, the material has good potential, but I wasn't impressed with the execution of it. Despite flashy visuals, rougher-than-usual action scenes, and good intentions, I couldn't fully connect with the characters. The story couldn't fully engage me because I wasn't engaged with the characters. Little kids may find it a little dark. Maybe I just couldn't figure out how to fully appreciate this film. Perhaps I'm just not an owl person.
You can also follow my movie reviews on http://twitter.com/d_art
Barry Munday (2010)
'Barry Munday' is a surprisingly poignant and introspective comedy
In this comedy directed by Chris D'Arienzo based on the novel Life is a Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon, Patrick Wilson plays Barry Munday, a suburban wanna-be ladies man, who makes up in the hospital with both of his testicles gone after being attacked in a movie theater for hitting on the wrong girl. To make matters worse, a paternity lawsuit is filed by a woman he can't remember having sex with. Realizing this being his last chance to ever be a father, Barry decides to take on the responsibility on being a good father.
My initial impression of the concept of this film was that this film could either be a feminist revenge fantasy or a raunchy comedy. Thankfully, this film was neither of those, but turned out to be a surprisingly poignant little comedy, with a honest, introspective look at what being a man entails beyond having the body parts, if you will. Given it's a comedy, there were many predictable directions this film could have taken at the expense of Patrick Wilson's character, Barry. Surprisingly, the film avoids the obvious and portrays Barry in a sympathetic and real way. Barry starts off as an irresponsible loafer, whose main interest involve bedding women, who soon after loses his most prized asset and what he feels makes him a man. He goes through a slump until he finds out that someone may actually be carrying his child (from a previous fling he had no recollection of). In a sense, he realizes being a father may be the only thing left that connects him to his manhood.
Barry meets the mother of the child, Ginger Farley (Judy Greer), who isn't particularly a looker, to put it nicely. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Farley, as played by Cybill Shepherd and Malcolm McDowell, seem to agree that Ginger hadn't quite lived up to their expectations, in beauty and otherwise, unlike their model daughter, Jennifer (Chloë Sevigny). There's noticeably a bit of a sibling rivalry between Ginger and Jennifer. As we get to know the characters, we see personal baggage behind both Ginger and Barry which perhaps contributed much in how they viewed themselves and their lifestyle. With Ginger full of bitterness and resentment toward Barry, the relationship between Barry and Ginger is often awkward and comic as Barry is honestly trying to know her better for the first time. Advertisement
Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) is close to perfect in the role of Barry, where he deftly milks the comic aspects of his shallow character as well as his eventual change to a deeper, sympathetic, and more serious side. Judy Greer plays the awkward Ginger Farley with caustic wit and consistency. Cybill Shepherd and Malcolm McDowell in their supporting roles as Ginger's parents, the Farleys, turn in expectedly seasoned performances. Bill Dee Williams (do I even have to mention Empire Strikes Back?) is his usual charming self as Barry's Delorean-driving boss, who happens to be close to the Farleys. Jean Smart is great as the blunt, yet sharp-minded, Carol Munday, Barry's mother.
This independent film marks Chris D' Arienzo's directorial debut and it is a strong one. The comedy feels natural because it's fairly close to life for the most part. The emotions of the characters feel genuine. It is unexpectedly touching. Patrick Wilson does great work in his role as the titular character. It's not what I would call a laugh-a-minute comedy, but a deeper, thoughtful film that happens to have much comedyusually the type of films I gravitate toward. This film left me with some thoughts long afterwards, which says a lot about a comedy, let alone any film.
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'Leaving (Partir)' brings strong performances despite conventions
Suzanne (Kristin Scott-Thomas) is a well to do middle-aged, married woman and mother of two teenagers in the south of France. Bored of her idle bourgeois lifestyle, she decides to go back to work as a physiotherapist as her husband agrees to fix up a consulting room for her in their backyard. Once Suzanne meets the man hired to do the building, Ivan (Sergi Lopez), they develop a mutual attraction which leads to a torrid affair, which Suzanne decides to sacrifice everything else for.
The film starts off with a bang. Well, literally. There's a gunshot heard in the household of Suzanne and her doctor husband, Samuel (Yvan Attal). Majority of the film takes place before that event. The film establishes Suzanne's happy life in the house, her supportive husband, and kids. When the hired handyman Ivan fractures his foot while trying to save Suzanne's car from rolling down a hill, Suzanne feels responsible. She helps him recover and one thing leads to another. I have to admit the whole high class lady getting on with a blue-collar guy story has become cliché by now--it happens fairly easily in the film. Once the affair begins, Suzanne becomes increasingly desperate to keep it going. Considering that she is giving up a comfortable life and professional goals, and the effects it will have on her children, her decision to stay with Ivan, who is poor and an ex-con, is an unusual choice (although it does emphasize the "extreme" measure of her passion).
She soon confesses of the affair to Samuel, wanting a divorce. Samuel refuseshe wants her to come back to him, using whatever means possible in his disposal. He does this by (other than canceling her credit cards) using his political (?) influence and power to keep her from finding a job, which I found contrived (unless he was some kind of a mob boss). The film now reveals Samuel to be somewhat the antagonist. This leads to an emotionally dramatic scene of Suzanne trying to sell her expensive watch at a gas station just to get money for gasScott-Thomas' desperate performance makes the scene very believable. Advertisement
It's hard to deny the rawness in Kristin Scott-Thomas' performance. One can read everything from just her expressionsurgency, desperation, or torn indecisiveness, even without use of any dialogue. Her realistic reactions make her character sympathetic despite the fact that Suzanne isn't a very moral character.
This film seems to be about unbridled passion despite the consequences and the façade despite what goes on underneath. I suppose it's understandable for the filmmakers to want to make Samuel a "bad guy" just so Suzanne seems more sympathetic. I think it would have been stronger without that aspect, so we can see what's going on inside Suzanne without her suddenly becoming some sort of a "victim" or condoning her actions. Still, Samuel isn't physically abusive, which would've turned this into a whole different type of story. What is really going on inside her is open to interpretationdoes she really love Ivan or is it all about her? Is she giving up everything for sake of lust and justifying that by calling it love? Will she eventually move on to the next guy? Perhaps it is the fleeting aspect of it all that makes it enticing for her. As for Ivan, he doesn't play a very strong role, or a definable personality. He is a sympathetic character and has a cute daughter who gets along with Suzanne. Quite convenient, I'll wager.
There's nothing new about the story itself, and it doesn't necessarily fill in the gaps. It is true that the plot contrivances do hamper the film somewhat. The film appears to be more about the details, subtleties, and interpretation that the viewer brings to the film, an aspect I liked. I'm not clear whether co-writer and director Catherine Corsini was trying to make a specific point in this film. Suzanne's actions may be questionable, but not unbelievable due to Kristin Scott-Thomas' performance. This film is arty. There's always tension whenever one discusses film as a commercial, or transactional, medium (money for entertainment) or piece of art. This film falls more on the latter. It left me with an impression, which might not be everyone's, nor not always my, cup of tea.
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