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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
An exhilarating man-hunt phenomenon.
Zero Dark Thirty is possibly another great breakthrough film by director Kathryn Bigelow. It's about the hunt for the infamous terrorist Osama bin laden, which was dead as we all know. The purpose of marketing this film is because of how nerve-wracking it was to know that Bin Laden is finally been dealt with and people would be eager to find out on how did the ambush became successful. Like myself, I am eager to explore the dangers and the accomplishments that the Americans risked to be involved in the most successful manhunt in the US history.
The film is not only great at dramatization purpose, it's also great journalism. The film starts with a concise dash of the 9/11 bombing which was lately rumored that Bin Laden was on play. Then two years later, a lone-wolf CIA agent named Maya (Jessica Chastain) is focusing solely on the al-Qaeda who has spent her entire career for it. She is assigned to work with Dan (Jason Clarke) on a black site in Pakistan to interrogate Anmar (Reda Kateb) to who has several links with Saudi Arabian bombings.
Chastain's uses her acute awareness of every facial expression and vocal intonation to humanize and add authenticity to a defiant, hard-nosed CIA analyst who tells the US Secretary of Defense, "I'm the mot***r who found this place (Bin Laden's hideout)."
Maya is not a young woman you would care to have a dinner conversation with but she does have a no bullsh*t attitude needed to hunt down the elusive Bin Laden in a country she offhandedly describes as "kinda all f***ed up".
Over the course of the decade long manhunt, Maya transforms into a post 9/11 Captain Ahab of sorts. According to the movie's director, Maya is a fictional character partly based on a CIA operative that led the US Navy Seal team that killed Bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty is directed by Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow and written by Marc Boal, the same team behind 2008's The Hurt Locker. There has been controversy that the duo received "top-level access to the most classified information in history" as well as over the film's graphic use of torture from sexual humiliation, waterboarding, confinement in a tiny box to bloodied beatings.
Several inaccuracies in the portrayal of enhanced interrogation techniques have been cited by a CIA veteran and concerns have been raised that the movie promotes the use of torture. Bigelow has responded to these criticisms stating that depiction of torture is not an endorsement and reiterated Boal's comment that the movie is "not a documentary".
Screenwriter Marc Boal does a commendable job of condensing 10 years of intelligence gathering into a 2 ½ hour thriller. Though the first half of the movie does stretch a bit too long, the momentum immediately picks up once Maya locates the courier who leads the CIA to a compound in Pakistan.
It's fascinating how the CIA exhausted all possibilities in their attempt to determine the identity of an unknown third adult male living in the compound. The CIA considered obtaining DNA, such as from a toothbrush, but all the garbage was burnt. When their target stepped outside for fresh air, he was always hidden under the cover of thick leaves in the garden. They even started a vaccination program and sent a doctor to the house to get blood samples.
It's interesting to note that this movie was in development for many years and that the ending was rewritten due to the successful mission last May that killed the al Qaeda leader. The last half hour of the movie, as the US Navy Seals assaulted the hideout in the dead of night, is an incredibly riveting and suspenseful movie experience even when we know how it ends. It's hard to imagine how else the movie could have concluded.
However, above all else, the only memorable moment of the film is the final payoff, no doubt about that. Many viewers will think of this as just a predictable notion of a movie where Bin Laden will die. It's hard to make a film about something that just happened which makes the resulting action inevitable, but the whole narrative is compelling and less jaded despite this criticism.
The death of Bin Laden brings a certain sense of closure to Americans as well as for Maya having spent a decade of her life hunting the world's most wanted terrorist. In the final scene, she boards an empty military plane and the pilot asks the lone passenger "Where do you want to go?". She takes a moment for reflection. As she is overcome with emotions and thoughts, tears start to run down her cheeks. So where do we go from here?
Slo-Mo, Mo-Fo Connoisseur
Dredd is the kind of film that may satisfy Friday night audiences. Yes, it was fun, seeing a Mega-City One with the new 3D technology. It's more violent, relentless, and equipped with satire and deadpan humor. The action is peaked to the highest level of entertainment, probably not for the squeamish.
The film is set in the dystopian futuristic United States, where it became an irradiated wasteland called Cursed One. Adjacent to the wall is the metropolitan civilization called Mega-City One where the crimes are inexplicably high. The Judge are the only reinforcements who acts as judge, jury and executioner.
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate judge, tasked by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) for evaluating the new recruit Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), which is given a chance to pass a failed aptitude test; Thanks to her prestigious psychic abilities. Their task takes place in one of the 200-storey tower block called Peach Trees, where they are locked down by a drug lord Madeline Madrigal a.k.a Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) who kills three of his drug dealers by having them skinned, infused with the Slo-Mo, and thrown down the atrium. The Slo-Mo is some sort of asthma inhaler drug, which slows the perception of time experiencing reality at a fraction of normal speed.
The plot is to take down Ma-Ma by reaching the tenement floor-by-floor to make it to the top. It makes me think of The Raid: Redemption, which is even better action flick. Despite the similarities, it's still an acceptable plot structure.
You wouldn't watch this if it's not because of the gleaming 3D elements. It's just brilliant, makes us realize that 3D is a technical milestone ahead. The violence is gripping, by the time Dredd shoots the bad guys and blood splatters relentlessly. Every action scenes that is fueled by 3D elements is undeniably fun.
Urban is good in acting as a dead-serious character that can crack a few jokes in a straight facial expression. Given his seriousness in character, he maintains a good Christian Bale like persona on a Magneto- like helmet. Olivia Thirlby holds a strong female lead developing a good chemistry with Urban, given the student-mentor persona.
Fortunately, Karl Urban didn't took the helmet off, unlike Sly Stallone from the film Judge Dredd (1995) which didn't got it right. Instead, this new adaptation directed by Pete Travis is a new-improved retread and is simply excellent. Writer Alex Garland bolstered the script with sharpness and witty quips, correcting every mistakes that the film's predecessor made.
Dredd is a mesmerizing 3D action mayhem bolstered with a powerful script, and serves as a correction for the inane Sly Stallone adaptation.
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
About seven times more fun!
"Seven Psychopaths" is another crime-cum-comedy film bolstered with great cast ensemble that develops a strange connection on one another. It is a movie within a movie; it's strange that we can't see another film like this anytime soon. I'm giving it a praise for it is an exercise of lifestyle and self-awareness that whatever you do must rely on things that are motivating.
Colin Farrell is Marty Faranan, a screenwriter who suffers in writer's block. He needs an idea, maybe an inspiration for his screenplay, which is also titled Seven Psychopaths. He has some ideas, but only occurs as a dream sequence. His friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) is an unemployed actor and part-time dognapper, eagers to help him with his screenplay. Both of this guys is very funny, in a weird way.
Billy's friend Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken) is a Jesus-freak man who aids him to kidnap dogs and earn the money as a reward for bringing it back. The reason for this is that his Negroe wife Myra (Linda Bright Clay) is a cancer patient. Whether it's a gimmick crime or for the benefit of his wife, the business is good.
Not for long, a cold-blooded gangster named Charlie (Woody Harrelson) lost his beloved Shih Tzu named Billy. Charlie suspects that it is Hans who stole the dog because he's the man who's returning a kidnapped dog back to the owners. The goose-chase initiates after a suspected Jack the Diamond serial killer executes Charlie's men, and the trio hides somewhere in the Saharan desert where the film will rest for the action. A quite concern is that viewers may find this dull and long.
Here's a film that harness such serious craftsmanship. Any film, which is also about a film takes a good patient and ample timing to deliver the actual goods. In this case, the film is self-aware and knows that it is a movie.
Other supporting actors includes Abbie Cornish as Kaya, Tom Waits as Zachariah Rigby, and Olga Kurylenko as Angela. There's no good and bad with their performance. Although, it could've been enjoyable enough for us to get to know them better, especially Olga's role as Charlie's girlfriend.
It takes long time for the film to reveal its true purpose for the characters. But the director, Martin McDonagh knows how to develop certain slow-burn and whimsy dialogues and gruesome moments for us to enjoy the film enough. However, some may get bored within the second and third act. Just think of it as a Tarantino film, the script is patient but the payoff is irresistible.
Wonderful biopic of the Master of Suspense
As we all know, Sir Alfred Hitchcock is one the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. He's notable for his famous works such as my personal favorite "Rear Window" (1954) and "Vertigo" (1958). In this new film debut by director Sacha Gervasi (The Terminal scribe), "Hitchcock" is a story about the Master of Suspense himself and his controversial film "Psycho" set back in the 60s.
Anthony Hopkins is Hitchcock, encased in a fat suit and covered with make-up, a genius filmmaker who plans for retirement after the success of his film "North by Northwest". Hesitating, he plans for a new project, turning down plenty of projects to direct such as an adaptation of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale for MGM studios. He opts for Robert Bloch's novel Psycho. After reading it, the serial killer that it was based in, Ed Geins becomes a figment of his imagination.
Everyone around Hitch thinks he's delusional for choosing Psycho. The novel itself portrays violence and horror, which in reality bounds to be entertaining. On the other hand, his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) offers Hitch just to direct the screenplay written by her and Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) whom Alma devote most of her time than Hitch, but disagrees.
From then, Hitchcock devours the rights for Psycho, by letting them buy copies of the novel nationwide. But Paramount Studios refuses to finance the film doubting its success. So Hitch comes up with the idea to independently finance the film with Alma and wave his directorial fee for Paramount, giving Hitch the chance to finally shoot the film.
Hitchcock is famous for his casting of blondes, making them a good product of horror. He casts the movie role of Marion Crane to Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson). She fears that the infamous shower-scene will destroy her reputation as an actress, which becomes a matter of movie censorship back then. And of course, the role of Lila Crane to Vera Miles (Jessica Biel).
The film develops enough details about Hitchcock in the film industry, including "making-of" scenes from Psycho. We get an ample narrative of Hitchcock's romantic relationship with Alma Reville despite his deep-set fixation from his films' leading ladies. But the film really belongs to Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, where develops wit and tenderness for playing the married couple and helping one another in Hollywood.
The casts is well-profound, especially to Toni Collette as Hitch's assistant Peggy, James D'Arcy as the actor of Psycho Anthony Perkins, Michael Stuhlbarg as uber-agent Lew Wasserman, Kurtwood Smith as the head of the censor board, and Ralph Macchio in a cameo as Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano).
Even though Hopkins couldn't be a great choice to play Hitchcock, I accepted him. He's well- characterized, personified perfectly, and he almost looks like Alfred Hitchcock. Thanks to the guys behind the make- up of Hopkins, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, who finally made a solid job of bringing Hitchcock to life.
Blessed by outstanding performances and wonderful creation of the Hitchcockian universe, "Hitchcock" is a pleasing commemoration of the Master of Suspense.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Indeed amazing with a large dose of CGI and long runtime.
It is very understandable why Sony Pictures got the idea of adding the word amazing for the next Spidey film. Probably because Sam Raimi, the director of the previous films gave up for a fourth film. Now in the helm of (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, the new Spider-Man gets its new magic touch.
Webb was also given an opportunity to direct Spider-Man (2001) before. And it's quite a welcoming for having this opportunity the second time around. His version of the Spidey reboot is embedded with sharp characterization, spoonful of backstory, and fresh performance from young and aged actors.
As a teenager, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a science student in high school where he's bullied by Flash (Chris Zylka), and later on befriends with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). It's obvious that the squeeze of Peter is going to be Gwen, considering that it was Mary Jane to be first on the film's predecessor.
Peter lives a struggled life after his parents Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary (Embeth Davidtz) left. Now in the hands of his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field), his ambiguity about his parents' disappearance remains unanswered. But soon, Peter is eager to investigate further about his parents' absence, and later finds out that his father is a colleague of Dr. Curt Connors. Moreover, he discovers a scientific formula that Connors and his father have worked on.
On the other hand, Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans) of the OsCorp lab is working on a serum to regenerate limbs, particularly his right arm. Peter finds out that he's still working on the formula for his sake, and Connors gives Peter an opportunity to work together to develop the cure. But it turns out to be a tragedy when Peter realizes that he's collided with Connors' dire obsession and leads him to his great responsibility.
Dr. Connors is in actual fact The Lizard, the new villain of the film. It's quite easy to guess how he becomes Spider-Man's enemy. It's a clash of prey and predator sort of exploit. I like the fact that in reality, the spider and the lizard make good enemies on the wall or roof. It's whimsical at that point, but the CGI is bloated with it and it deceives the eye. I can't blame the film for not using too much special effects. Unlike Christopher Nolan's hatred for using VFX in his Batman films, I wish they were stimulated to make the reboot no simpler like what he did to impress me.
However, I like how the narrative where structured carefully to provide many details of Peter's background. It's very patient, but less stirring nevertheless, giving a painful 134 runtime. I hope they made some good exposition in the first act. In the second act, it gives a slow-burn feel, making you laugh more than thrilled. The script wasn't that bad. With three scribes James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves (Harry Potter screenwriter), they combine an elaborative story and hilarious quips to maintain the film alive and welcoming. But the problem is, I have seen this before. There are more obvious points than original.
The casting is quite a surprising treat, with Andrew Garfield on board, which made a good performance in The Social Network. I admired Emma Stone more than I like her, maybe Amanda Seyfried could've been a good Gwen Stacy, but I accepted her. Martin Sheen maintains a strong character of Uncle Ben, probably better than Cliff Robertson. The same goes to Sally Fields as Aunt May as well. Lastly, the role of Denis Leary as Captain Stacy is a serious persona for Peter in maintaining a balanced relationship in character.
As a whole, for passing what superhero films should have, The Amazing Spider-Man is actually fine. With a well-picked cast and a stunning remake, the film is worth the shot if you're up for a new Spidey universe. But then again, the hype is becoming like Sam Raimi's.
Django Unchained (2012)
The D is Silent, Hell yeah.
After Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, which packed an irresistible powerful punch three years ago, he establishes a great imprint of what his customers were looking for on a video store when he was working for one. Yes, it's the Spaghetti Western flicks, and now it's a bloody wish fulfillment. Django Unchained is one of Tarantino's greatest passions in Western flicks. Whether you're just starting to get to know QT, Django perhaps is a great way to start.
Much has been said about Tarantino's portrayal of gore, mayhem and relentless moments, he transform it in forms of merriment. Like any films in the director's filmography, it's full of hilarious moments which came from his own correspondence. And most of all, the film is peppered with his own music collection: From Johnny Cash to John Legend, and wait, from rapper RZA? That's just funny, but tolerable.
Tarantino's script is also patient and edifying. It's in no hurry to show what QT fans are waiting for. Obviously, every Tarantino films are comprised with slow-burn dialogues because it's funny how smart and mad he is about the movies. It serves as a retaliation of what he likes and what he doesn't like and I don't blame him for it. We can never be defiant in Tarantino's universe, we owe a lot to him, and he's just doing the favor.
The film starts in 1858 in Texas, two years before the Civil War. Django (Jamie Foxx) and a number of chained slaves have been a victim of slavery and was bought by the Speck Brothers (James Remar and James Russo). Meanwhile, a dentist named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) confronts the brothers and frees Django. The reason that Schultz chooses Django is because the latter says he knows the Brittle Brothers, perhaps Schultz next move. As Django agrees to help Schultz in bounty-hunting, they first embark to confront the Brittle Brothers. Afterwards, it leads Django to become Schultz's associate in bounty-hunting across Texas. From there, Django discovers his forte: For wielding pistol in cowboy style, and shooting rifles (even magnum and shotguns) on intimate long range.
Django also explains to Schultz that his wife Bloomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) is also sold in slavery in Mississippi. Her current owner is a man named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a plantation owner, and an audacious man. His slaves, probably the Mandingo people, are forced to fight each other. The duo plans a plot to rescue Bloomhilda from Candie by pretending to negotiate in buying one of his fight slaves, but consider in proposing to buy Bloomhilda instead. I imagine it to be very lucrative, but I also imagine Candie to be like Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. The deal is terrifying and so is the suspenseful notion.
Here is a film that looks absolutely fantastic, shot wonderfully but also superbly constructed from the ground up. The costume design and production values make a comeback in the likes of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Tarantino never hesitated to bring it back to life and keep piling all of what he likes on a Spaghetti Western flick.
In addition, the Blaxploitation is stunningly awesome, with its over- the-top gritty performance, and of course the mayhem, and the "n" word madness. It is noticeable that one of QTs film trademark is quick zooms, and rotating camera pans from his collaborator DP Robert Richardson. In addition, the film is still successfully edited even though QTs collaborator in editing, the late Sally Menke wasn't there anymore.
The film's vehemence is fresh but rather unoriginal. Tarantino wanted the violence to be relentless like his partner in crime Robert Rodriguez did with his Grindhouse (2007) feature header "Planet Terror". He planted the idea that stunt performers must have blood bags to imitate oozing gunshots and make it an extreme action exploit. But who cares, it's kind of fun ain't it? Black folks shooting all folks?
Aside from the action, it also balances drama and romance. Think of it like the late Tony Scott's film "True Romance" (1993), where Tarantino made the script, and it came from his true voice. It was romantic and appealing, a story about a bimbo-cum-best-pal hooker and a man who falls in love with her. I love the impression that Tarantino made an actually romantic clash between Django and Bloomhilda. It's not just a freedom from slavery which actually historical, but it's also a deliverance from suffering and nightmare of being a slave.
The actors made such winning performance as always. Leo DiCaprio, as I've said, steps in Christoph Waltz's much terrifying performance like that of being a Hans Landa on screen. He's terrifying as Candie, making him a solid Oscar contender for it. For Django, there're plenty of great black actors in mind, but I'm not saying that Jamie Foxx isn't the greatest. I accepted him for what he is as Django. His character is a comeback that the Django name in films must once more reign supreme. However, Sam Jackson is suited more like a comedian with a Southern accent in the film. His performance is somewhat inevitable, he dress as the good guy suspecting the protagonists as bad guys. But wow, what a performance.
Django is probably the greatest smart-ass Spaghetti Western royale that Tarantino crafted. If not one of his greatest in the filmography, then it's one of his finest achievement ever since he became a director himself.
Jûsan-nin no shikaku (2010)
An electrifying Samurai flick since Akira Kurosawa
Takashi Miike, notable from his excessive portrayal of sexuality and ghastly violence on his films "Audition" (1999) and Ichi: The Killer, is on top of his game once more. His next picture "13 Assassins" is a true masterpiece since the late and legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa reign supreme. Probably influenced by his unforgettable works in the Japanese film industry, Miike is simply engrossed with the idea that he himself could revive his notion into something bold and more compelling. And there's no denying the fact that Miike has outdid it gain, with a compelling story and strong performances, he follows Mr. Kurosawa's legendary epic with a touch of his modern and relentless style of filmmaking.
The film is a slam-bang remake of Eiichi Kudo's film back in 1963 of the same title, though it didn't go well that year. The story is set in 1844, the medieval Japan is threatened by the barbaric Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), and is posed as threat for the Japanese era and is becoming powerful. After the hara-kiri protest of one of the Namiya Clan members, the protagonist shogun samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho) is summoned by a shogun adviser Sir Doi (Makijiro Hira) to listen to the tragedy of Makino Uneme, whose son and daughter-in-law have been murdered by Naritsugu.
After Sir Doi has revealed what Lord Naritsugu has done brutally with a woman, Shinza has been requested to defeat Lord Naritsugu to avenge her and all the people who have been murdered by Naritsugu's madness. Though the senior shogun adviser cannot defeat Naritsugu, Shinza gathers 13 samurai and plots to defeat him and his samurais, 200 warriors to be exact. Takashi Miike has the wit that a number 13 samurai warriors may and can defeat a number of 200 villains, even though the odds are pretty rare. Pretty much like Zack Snyder's 300, but I wouldn't compare this one into a somewhat mediocre sleaze-fest premise that Snyder made.
13 Assassins is a big-budget Blaxploitation film fueled with breathtaking narrative, great cinematography and costume design that really fulfills the wish of an epic world for Miike fans. The characterization is sharp and develops some humor which is evident in most of Miike's filmography. Though it'll take some gradual time before the film takes off to what the viewers are waiting for. As any Miike films filled with fountains of gore, 13 Assassins is a bloody-wish fulfillment.
The action remains to be the longest samurai battle of this century, but it is absurd to look at the time when it's over. It'll make you glued to the screen and harness a great action film. It's bloody and gripping especially when the Samurais are now engaging in a killing spree of clanging swords. It's impossible to resist an action battle like this.
Much has been said about the narrative, it's also quite long and talky. It'll take time before the action to arrive. But the film is ingenious on dialogue and is decisive. No matter how long we wait for the greatest moment on the film, it still matters how great the actors were. It is a balance of diminutive drama with more laughs and much more anticipation. But what it really bothers me is that somehow the film relied on CGI effects, though it's not that noticeable.
More and more films will still follow Miike's love of the Samurai films. Having said so, the next film he will direct is Hara-Kiri: The Death of a Samurai in 2012. I'm not quite sure whether fans would think of it as a sure bet for another Takashi Miike experience, but what the hell, if he can make a good film as good as 13 Assassins, I'm already sure that the next great experience is still yet to come.
"I gave her my heart, she gave me a typewriter."
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" wins the heart of many viewers seeking a film with genuine teen melodrama. Sure, the concept of the film may be hackneyed, but with a bolstered star-power from the casts, and a plausible script, it surpasses another coming-for-age substance on the silver screen. Filmed in the traditional John Hughes and Cameron Crowe style, it's probably nostalgic for some, but nevertheless overwhelming and heartfelt. I never been this instantly hooked for a teen drama film like this before, it's like everything about the genre is getting so much better as the year passes by. Though it's the last teen movie for 2012 to be a clever one, it's impossible to look for a film like this for another year or two.
Logan Lerman plays as Charlie, a young man who's pressured for his first day in high school. He's subtle but rather awkward in making friends. As any teen that has new doors to go in, Logan partakes a test in high school life. His first and the only closest friend on his earlier days where his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). They're both connected in the same page, and they're also indebted in reading the classics.
Not long after Charlie's melancholic episode, he befriends one of his classmates named Patrick during a football game. Patrick is a funny senior student with an offbeat humor. And then later on, his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson). The trio have made an intimate friendship ever since, and that's the obvious part. Charlie has had the impression that Patrick and Sam were a couple, but Sam explains that they weren't. So what unfolds is that Charlie will start to get in love with Sam. In addition, Patrick turns out to be gay and is in love with a football jock (Johnny Simmons).
Before Charlie starts getting the ideal attention, there were fleeting series of flashbacks about his aunt which died in a car accident. Charlie have been bearing the pain ever since, so he has been acting very differently. But all of this he can't forget. Instead, he relied on the support of being a wallflower among his friend. This has become immediately effective because of the sympathizing monument.
"Perks" is a strong film about strong characters which thoroughly exists beyond our own self. Part of me tells that the narrative is impossible to resist. It's embedded with nuances and dramatization which we can recognize easily. It can make you cry, pitiful, and make you develop this longing which the characters feel to maintain their friendship together. There is one scene in the film where I consider really sweet and sublime: Where Charlie and Sam develop a sense of hesitation but turns out that Sam really wants to love him at their brief moment alone together.
I felt for the actors' persona on-screen. Logan Lerman, whom the last well known project to be the Percy Jackson film attains a fresh coming- for-age male breakthrough performance. He's quite funny and also quite the gentleman, but some of his stubborn dialogue is a downer. Emma Watson ignores the commotion that surrounds her about her Brit qualities. Instead, she perfected to be on an American shoes like how Meryl Streep mastered plenty of accents on many of her films. Lastly, Ezra Miller gave a great feel of being a profound alpha-male bravado. It's funny that the trio develop an unadulterated chemistry which is appealing in the eyes and ears. It's all in shape and form, there's no denying it.
The director, Steven Chbosky (based on his book) has written an incredible and profound story with believable materials and voice. He attributes Cameron Crowe with John Hughes into something less generic. The chosen setting for the film was 1990s, but to make it more alive, Chbosky hired Michael Brook to pump some great tunes including The Smiths and David Bowie. As a whole, the film has proved itself to be perhaps a Golden Globe nominee.
The Big Year (2011)
Found my first bird, and he's called Steve Martin!
"The Big Year" is the kind of film that makes the viewers determined to what they do, important or not. See the film is simply about doing the big year, where factually explained that it's a big game hunting done during Christmas season. But the modern big year is not about killing the birds, it's about patronizing most importantly counting them. What a brilliant idea to make it just an "I-Saw-Many-Birds-This-Year" contests. Otherwise, the film would've bombed. But of course, the film is marketed as comedy, so the doubt should ease.
The film has crafted three interesting characters. They're all determined to win the big year. First is Brad Harris (Jack Black), a fat and a computer enthusiasts decided to quit his job. Second is Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), a CEO of his own Manhattan based company. And the third is the current big year winner Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson) who doesn't quit and do whatever it takes to keep holding on his title.
Each character have more priorities outside of work. Brad just quit his job to do the big year. But he seeks the help of his father (Brad Dennehy) to consider giving money for his aide. His mother (Dianne Wiest) never hesitated for Brad, and gave him support to embark on the big year. On the other hand, Stu wants to quit his job and also do the big year. But his job and his employees would be at stake if he continue to pursue the big year. With the help of his wife (JoBeth Williams) she allows him to join the big year.
Alas, there is the sort of antagonist Bostick. Currently he's holding the world record for the most number of bird seen with 732 species at hand. Besides that, she have his live-in partner Jessica (Rosamund Pike) who's doing her best to stay in shape to be with him. Unfortunately, Bostick can never fall for that. His obsession with birds are tempting him to be more passionate about his dream. It's actually quite ironic. Bostick is the man with the plan. No one would dare to step his own shoes.
Now that there're three main characters and one contest, you can only place your wager on who's going to beat Bostick. Is it Brad or Stu? Whoever wins the big year, you would never be disappointed.
Owen Wilson may be forgettable in this film. His last film to be more brilliant could be Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011), but his charm makes The Big Year mesmerizing in the genre. Jack Black made a bit slapstick approach, though it is mild but there's a sense of indebtedness. Steve Martin has quite made a character, I still love him to be making stand-up comedian jokes even in motion pictures. I would bet on another film where Martin will make another brilliant acting.
The Big Year has not only surpassed the genre, it also implies the message of grit and determination. Sure, the film may disguise the theme to be laughable and entertaining, but the lesson to be learned is never abandon your goals and dream, even if it's meant to destroy important things. But the funny thing at this movie is that you cannot give up now, or else it is over.
Biohazard: Damnation (2012)
Better than the live-action films that strangled us in the neck.
It's been a long time since our little Japanese folks have made a CGI feature film boasting a successful video game in the racks. To be exact, if possible, you may have seen Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within (2001). It's a groundbreaking milestone for such films to improve with less mediocrity. And when it comes to reviving the Resident Evil films, it's the salvation. Starting with the first CG feature of RE titled Degeneration, the new sequel brings something if not good, refreshing to the tables. With its eye-candy CGI and sharp storytelling, Damnation is the best Resident Evil to date.
Why does RE fans have to suffer from Paul W.S Anderson's live-action mash up? It's not just me that's saying this. We all somehow hate the franchise that this director made since 2000. We could've preferred George A. Romero's version if it wasn't because of staying too far from the video games' jaded narrative. In Damnation, we get a solid touch of the games' serious story.
The film starts with a backstory of the American and Russian's civil war. Afterwards, Leon S. Kennedy (voice acting by Matthew Mercer) get sucked it on the Eastern Slav Republic determined to destroy the BOWs (abbreviated as Bio Organic Weapons). The BOWs have a master-slave relationship with the Plaga parasites, a jelly-looking infecting organism. The Plaga parasite may introduce gamers to Resident Evil 5, where it played a huge role. But in the film, it may introduce well for the plot.
Meanwhile, another RE character Ada Wong (voiced by Courtaney Taylor) also disguises as a member of the BSAA under the republican President Svetlana (Wendee Lee). Ada's mission is to retrieve a sample of the Plaga. Other than that, she's under incognito.
Resident Evil Damnation combines what's fun when playing the video games: The story is intriguing and thrilling, the voice acting is cheesy but otherwise good, and the action setup is over-the-top. I had fun with the Bluray version of the film, the CG elements has never been this jarring. Although, the camera setups looks like it's been ripped out as game cutscenes. Comparably, Degeneration focused more on escapism, and the story looks solid as its sequel.
The movie made the video-game feel. There are scenes where we experience first-person perspective. There's no good and bad with it. Although we expect something more with the movie, other than seeing the characters do their exploit maneuver (fight scenes) to make the CG elements eye- popping without the 3D glasses. But the high-definition elements is not pretentious, it's a guilt-free ride.
The only main downside is that it is less scary than that of its predecessor. Because it focused not on the usual zombies, but on the Lickers (creatures with vicious tongue) and the Tyrants (huge stomping creatures). But when it comes with the games, it's fatal to kill. All we could do is to plead with Leon to kill it for us.
Now that my hands are down for another installment, Damnation is the kind of movie that hang RE fan for a sequel. It's a thrill ride and a technical breakthrough.