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The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
A man and his motorcycle...and his tattoos...
A tattooed man flicks a knife between his fingers. The man puts down the knife and exits his trailer only to be lost in a crowd of carnies, customers, the night's life. The man approaches a tent of roaring spectators waiting for a show of minimal thrill. The man puts on a helmet while sitting on a motorcycle. The man drives his motorcycle into a cage. The man's motorcycle is lost within the rising roars of an audience.
This is the opening scene of "The Place Beyond the Pines". The scene is so wonderfully crafted and lyrical one would think they are seeing a Cormac Mccarthy novel being projected into instant images. Although this scene(as well as some other scenes) seem to promise a great sense of craft, their level of ingenuity cannot be said for the rest of the film.
Make no mistake, in its structure "The Place Beyond the Pines" is an ambitious movie and because of this ambition the movie could very easily be considered great. The movie attempts to paint a canvas of the relationship between fathers and sons within three segments while by the end trying to make them all seem coherent. While on paper the idea of building a movie in such a way may have sounded enticing the final product ends up a bit disjointed and tedious.
Director Derek Cianfrance has a knack for writing engaging characters.(As also seen in "Blue Valentine") As to the notion of Cianfrance's characters being likable is an idea worth debating, but what can be said is he has a craft for establishing people one would want to know more about. Yet where Cianfrance seems to fall short is finding ways to keep his story constantly fluid after introducing such interesting characters.
It is understandable why themes of parenthood and the repercussions of parenthood would be ideal for a film revolving around interlocking characters. In a recent interview Derek Cianfrance mentioned he looked to films such as "The Deer Hunter" as inspiration for "The Place Beyond the Pines". What "The Deer Hunter" has is a coherent sense of direction and where each character harbors their emotional beats while covering enormous themes within its lengthy time frame. "The Place Beyond the Pines" on the other hand seems to freeze in its own massive structure, not knowing what to do with its simple theme for two and a half hours. Perhaps if Cianfrance chose to refine his vision for his film's repeating theme he would have had a poetic masterpiece on his hands, instead what he has is a movie that is crushed under its own weight.
Also an extra star for Ryan Gosling's abs.
Six Feet Under (2001)
Six Feet Under- Beautiful, Healing, and simply put the best show of all time
What is there to state that has not already been proclaimed about Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under"? Repeatedly, the show has been marked as one of the greatest television shows to ever grace people's homes along with the triumphant, and flawless, series finale that redefined character send offs for years to come. Moreover if any aspect should be illuminated within the show it should be the way Alan Ball makes every character feel unceasingly existing, veritable, and even sometimes present.
By "present" I do not mean relevant, rather the characters will eventually reach a vital point in plight that will inevitably coincide with the viewer. While watching the series I was withstanding a grievous time with my mother and felt no outside sense of reliability, until I watched "Six Feet Under". While I wouldn't consider the show therapeutic, as in performing some cheap sense of yoga on one's mind, it gives characters that feel like your best friends that are simultaneously facing everyday problems with you.
Rest assured, "Six Feet Under" has enough themes and motifs to even keep the biggest Shakespearean suck up satisfied. Yet "Six Feet Under's" artistic mosaic becomes an after thought in the viewer's mind once they've accepted the Fischer family as their own.
Where's Tron? Just Kidding
Its been a near 30 years since the initial release of the original Tron. A film that at the time split the opinions and beliefs of it's many viewers. Some found it revolutionary and others found it to be complete sci-fi jargon which led to its inevitable cult following. Has the sequel delivered only to it's cult or has it also delivered to what could possibly be a mass success?
The answer is simple; Tron: Legacy will be a massive success. The reason for this? In an age where special effects rule the box office, Tron is absolutely full of them. And some pretty damn impressive effects at that. But sadly, the story is a complete mess. Its a lot of checkpoint non-sense. "Lets go here and find this, then go here" etc etc. But what it lacks in story it makes up for in technical splendor. From the 3D, to the effects,sound, and fantastic action sequences.
The acting all the way around is expectedly mediocre with the exception of Jeff Bridges whom is always entertaining. His dual role as the elder Kevin Flynn and the corrupt version of himself, Clu is quite impressive and always interesting to watch. A lot of his performance is fresh due to the uncanny motion capture that went into Bridges' Clu who looks like twenty something version of Bridges.
Tron: Legacy may not be the epic sequel die hard fans were waiting for all these years. But one thing can be said, Legacy is spectacular visual entertainment. But if I were to highlight my one major complaint it would be this; in a Tron film where in the world is Tron himself? Though he is in the film, and without spoiling anything, I was highly disappointed with the amount of screen time and the role he had to play for the story. Maybe this bothered me because Tron was always my favorite character from the Grid.
With a few reservations aside, Tron: Legacy is truly worth shelling out a few bucks to turn off your mind and just watch some awesome visuals invade your mind.
Jackass 3D (2010)
Hilarious, awesome, and surprisingly heartfelt.
Jackass 3D has intentionally done something I did not expect it to do. It purposely tugs at your heart if you have been watching the show since it's original inception in 2000. Seeing these guys at their age now and how well their chemistry is evoked on the screen makes you long for the early 2000's so this crew can always be around.
The purpose to see this film is to be grossed out of your mind right? Well rest assured you will laugh hard and be extremely grossed out. The film flows with a great pace just as the predecessors did.
As I said before, if you are a huge fan of the show, like I am, the closing credits of the film unexpectedly tugs at your emotions. It really is nostalgic to see this cast at their current age. Though they are all still in good physical shape, you can't help but wonder how much longer their bodies can handle the abuse.
Heres to more good times.
Let Me In (2010)
Coming from a hard core fan of the original...Let Me In is Fantastic
Both Let the Right One in and Let Me In are both masterful bites on the vampire genre and cinema alone. With both films I felt the exact same sensation. It was a mixture of every adolescent feeling I had endured throughout my life. For me its beyond a movie going experience, it's being absorbed into a thing of beauty and art. This is when you know you are being wrapped up into something that will forever leave an impression on you.
If your not familiar with the original's story, which is kept essentially as the exact same thing in Let Me In, tells the story of a lonely pre- pubescent boy whom is an extreme outsider of anything relatively well, that has to do with life. This connection he can't make is due to the hindrance from the lonely home life being endured from a divorce mother and bullies at school. The boy evokes every attribute of innocence, something that is trying to be corrupted against his will thus the loneliness. All is cold and somewhat hopeless until a mysterious young girl who is the same age as Owen moves into the same apartment complex. After nights of awkward mingling on the freezing, iced over playground belonging to the apartment complex, Owen and the mysterious Abby who only comes out at night barefoot, finally make an immediate intimate connection. Oh yes, did I forget to mention that Abby is a vampire? From there the film spirals into the emotions of lost childhood, innocence, beauty, regretful violence, and every intimate emotion that has been dealt with in life.
What has made this story so great from the start is that its a tale of emotion, and not horror. But more importantly the horror of our confused emotions as children. We have all felt this and we can all connect to it.
The story of Let Me in is constructed beautifully by Matt Reeves' chilling directing. Some shots evoke a mirror image of the original thus showing his infinite amount of respect for the original. Yet Reeves adds enough of his own talent to make it his own vision. There is one scene in which I won't spoil that is probably one of the most well constructed scenes I have seen in quite some time. Reeves knows how to direct quite moments of loneliness, and pulse pounding action scenes. The best addition to the directing is the tone of the film. When you watch it, you feel cold, and you feel as if your in New Mexico with the characters.
All the acting in the film is sensational rivaling they're Sweedish counterparts. Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit Mcphee are flat out THE BEST child actors alive. Kodi as Owen portrays the feeling of lost innocence with spot on portrayal. Although Chloe as Abby isn't physically as menacing as her Sweedish counterpart, she plays the role with the right amount of anger, and the look of a lost soul. Watching these two characters interact is a true privilege.
If there are any problems with the film, its with the Richard Jenkins character which is Abby's caretaker who drains his victim's blood for Abby to feed off. The problem I had with this version of the character juxtapose to the original's is that the character's back story is kept completely ambiguous in the original. In Let Me In there is sort of a hint as to who he was at one time. This felt as if the filmmakers were depriving the audience of letting us use our imagination. This isn't to say Richard Jenkins gave a bad performance though. He is actually quite good as this character.
With one subjective criticism aside, Let Me In is truly a remarkable film. A film that doesn't come around too often. Its something that you make an actual intimate connection to. After its viewing you feel as if you have relived your journey of growing out of adolescence.
Something we all miss right?
Let your imagination fly...
Legend of the Guardians is director Zack Snyder's first attempt at a completely CGI and children's film while his other credits are all hard "R" films. So does the king of slow-mo succeed?
The quick answer is yes. Guardian's is a film that takes the liberties 3D and photo realistic CGI have to offer, like Avatar, to make a world and characters larger (or smaller) than life to let your mind be soothed into something beautiful, mystical, and most importantly, entertaining.
The story takes the classic yet reliable fable of good versus evil. To put it simply, an army of Evil owls who have obvious horrid intentions of ruling the Owl Kingdom must be stopped against all odds. The only creatures powerful and wise enough to defeat the army are the legendary Guardians of Gahoole.
The film follows main owlet Soran, voiced heroically by Jim Sturgess. Soran is kidnapped by the army of the Evil Owls. After being exposed to the armies wrong doings, Soran knows the only hope in defeating the baddies are to warn the Guardians. From there, the film takes flight into an epic adventure of action, companionship, and beauty.
Guardians is a rare treat in computer animated cinema. While Pixar is always reliable, Guardians is a very different film that strives to be an epic while appealing to a mass audience and succeeds in doing so. From the fantastic action scenes, to the articulate directing, spectacular animation, smart 3D, and top notch voice acting, Guardians is a film that will leave you mesmerized days after it's viewing.
Despicable Me (2010)
"Despicable Me" juxtapose to "Toy Story 3"
"Despicable Me" is centered around main character Gru voiced by a foreign sounding Steve Carell. Gru's main intention or only intention in life shall I say is to become the world's most renowned super-villain. His plan to achieve this status? Pull off the most insane heist known to man of course, steal the moon. But being the slouch Gru is, Gru must defeat his arch enemy Vector voiced by an underwhelming Jason Segal. Seeking help for his heist, Gru decides that adopting three orphan girls will be the missing ingredient to his heist. Will Gru pursue his evil plan, or will he eventually have a change of heart for the three little orphan girls?
Of course being an animated film, characters need a voice to give them soul, right? Of course they do, let's not be silly! Steve Carell voicing the lead character Gru is probably the only thing this film has going for it. His accent is so goofy that you just buy it and roll with it. His delivery as always is spot on, making even the weakest of jokes seem funny. So in summary Steve Carell does exceptional work here. I wish I could compliment the rest of the cast here which is a disappointment considering the film has such an expansive cast of comedians. As I said earlier, Jason Segal as Gru's enemy Vector is extremely underwhelming. His voice is both annoying and conventional almost seeming like a knock off of Mandark on "Dexter's Laboratory". Also the fact that majority of the potty jokes were handed to Segal doesn't help either. Danny Mcbride voices Gru's neighbor, a character that has no impact whatsoever to the major story line. Such talent should have not been wasted on such a minor position. "Get Him to the Greek's" Russell Brand probably does the most tolerable work next to Steve Carrell as Dr. Nefario, Gru's right hand man. But even this performance isn't a standout.
Perhaps what made the voice acting disappointing to me were the lines the actors had to read. Majority of the dialogue here resorts to toilet humor. It would have been okay if only some 5% of the jokes stooped down to this just to please the kids but when a whole movie's gags are based around this it becomes incomprehensibly annoying. Doing this really creates a barrier for likable character development. Sure the film is a cartoon, thus creating a world and characters larger than life but with clever writing even a rock can become a character in which you connect with.
So maybe I was a bit spoiled with the animated masterpiece "Toy Story 3" that came out last month but seeing "Despicable Me" helped me realize something. It helped me realize why Pixar's movies work so well and other animated movies fall short of their glory. It's because above all else, story comes first. Not the voice talent, not the jokes, not the slapstick, but the main ingredient that makes any film in general enjoyable: the story. Pixar makes sure that everything is serviced to the story and not by it's minor counterparts. Contrary to "Despicable Me", it relies on it's gags and it's star talent. This is something if any film in general relies on it fails. May lessons be learned.
A Legendary Cinematic Experience.
Kick-Ass is one the best cinematic experiences I will never forget. Period... Now onto the review!
The story of Kick-Ass is quite simple yet extremely original that makes for a fantastic movie going experience. The film takes the concept of a Bruce Wayne, or a Tony Stark esquire concept and projects it in a literal form. It asks the question: what would happen if an average Joe...or teenager in this case would pose as a masked vigilante and decide to fight crime? The main character in this film, High School comic book geek Dave, played by the wonderful Aaron Johnson, decides to put this question to the test and decides to pose as Kick-Ass. His motive for this task as I said before is to answer the inevitable question and decides to stand up to crime when other people don't. When taking on the responsibility of Kick-Ass he finally gets a chance to fight crime against three hoodlums. When fighting them a crowd is gathered around a fight filming Kick Ass with their camera phones, Youtube Gear what have you. This video of Kick Ass fighting crime causes a Youtube sensation and gains much popularity. Little dos Kick Ass know though, that he has just entered a realm of other masked vigilantes. These other crime fighters are Big Daddy played in prime form by Mr. Nick Cage. And Big Daddy's daughter Hit Girl, which is a surreal performance by the new young comer Chloe Moretz. These two vigilantes have a mission themselves to stop a local Drug Lord in town played by Mark Strong(whom by the way is the main villain) who Bigg Daddy has personal beef with. Something i wont spoil. Oh and how could I forget the hilarious Red Mist played by the charming Mclov'n himself, Chris Mintz Plasse. All these characters and stories tie in a very clever manner that is blast to sit through.
So what do you get with Kick-Ass? A movie that in my opinion is one of the only movies I have ever seen to coming close to perfection. Call my boasting propaganda but I seriously have no complaints here. This film has essentially everything that makes a film enjoyable; great directing, great writing, great acting, and memorable characters. Sure the story has no real deep intellectual moral behind it aside from telling to stand for others when others don't, but it's how this story is told about a few characters whom we come to love and care about. We care about their actions and we feel connected to them. Vaughn has somehow grounded this film in reality yet takes us on a journey larger than life. And succeeds in doing so. So in summary what is Kick-Ass? It is simply put the best super-hero movie ever made if not one of the best movies ever made in general. Period.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
A Comic-To-Screen Masterpiece...
As I had stated in the title of this review this is truly a comic-to-screen masterpiece. I am a religious Incredible Hulk comic reader and fan and it takes a lot for me to be impressed by anything adapted from the Marvel universe. And I am happy to say that this film is nearly perfect on all accounts staying quite faithful to the comics and the classic Bill Bixby live action TV show.
The story is pure brilliance and in my opinion was written in such a way that could only work for an Incredible Hulk film to be acceptable and enjoyable to the masses. You may hate me for this but I really don't want to go into great detail about the story because I really don't want to spoil anything pertaining the story because I really want you to be as thrilled and surprised by the story as I was when I first experienced this masterpiece. I promise YOU WILL buy into the story and be absorbed with the characters and will feel a passionate connection with the main love story involving Betty and Bruce. I mean how can you not?LOL.Tee-Hee. Okay joking aside with the whole giggle thing, YOU WILL LOVE THE STORY! PERIOD.
In a nutshell this is just a great comic book film for the masses consisting of everything you would want in a general film not just comic book films. Everything works in the film. The special effects, acting, writing, music, and directing. I really love this film and have not met a person who doesn't. Forgive me for not going into a great detailed review but I really don't want to spoil anything or really say anything because this is a great movie going experience that shouldn't be spoiled in the least bit. If you haven't guessed by now I strongly suggest you should see the film.
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Flat out one of the best movies of this decade.
Okay let me start of by saying that this film gives a huge bite to a dying genre. You can see my video review of this if you would like if you don't feel like reading this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhLCZWkNGh0
ANYWAY. There is a reason why this movie is so good. It's simply because it's not a horror story. Yes, it does have horror elements to it by being very violent at times and of course containing vampires. The story is a very sincere tale of pre-pubescent childhood. The story centers around Oskar a young boy who is lonely and confused. And the only connection he can make with mankind is something that is NOT human. The movie takes a huge look at the lonely feelings we all deal with at certain times in our lives. And the attributes of the story are never told dull at any given moment. The film keeps you wrapped up in it's mystery, fantasy, and it's emotion. This is just a solid film full of great directing, acting(EVEN FROM THE CHILD ACTORS) and writing. I could go on and on about this film but why should I? What can I say? YOU must experience this film. And a last I will leave this review by saying that any teen, adult, (this maybe a bit far fetched) but even kids will feel much more connection with the characters in this Vampire flick than something like Twilight. This is truly a superb film.