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The Academy Awards will be held on February 26, 2017.
Check out my site full of movie reviews at www.boymeetsfilm.net
* indicates current prediction.
The 88th Academy Awards will be held on February 28, 2016.
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The 87th Academy Awards will be held on February 22nd.
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The Oscar and film awards season has been a fun one this year, featuring one of the most intense Best Actor races of all time, but the sad thing is how many movies have disappointed. "Interstellar" was one huge supposed Oscar player that fell out of the race once people saw it, and the word right now is that Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" won't be as big a player anymore. However, since about July there have been two movies that have stayed in the race, and at the front of the pack. The first being "Boyhood," a great contender for winning the Best Picture award, and the second is "Birdman." So when I entered the theater I was praying this movie would be all it was cracked up to be. Let's just say it didn't disappoint.
Michael Keaton - an actor who used to be well known for playing the superhero Batman, but has since fallen out of the spotlight- stars in this movie about a man named Riggan Thompson - an actor who used to be well known for playing the superhero Birdman, but has since fallen out of the spotlight. See the similarity? In this film, Riggan Thompson is coming up on the opening night of his Broadway play which he has written, directed, and starred in as an attempt to reclaim some of his fame. As the play, and his life, begin to fall apart days before the premiere, Riggan begins to learn the difference between who he was, who he is now, and who he decides he's going to be.
Though there is a strong sense of irony in having Michael Keaton play a washed up actor in this film, his performance makes you wonder why that irony was even possible in the first place. Keaton perfectly plays the comedy in his timing, the dramatic pressure in his actions, and the sad truths his character faces in his eyes. Keaton is thick in the pack of Best Actor contenders for the Oscars which is exactly where he belongs. Edward Norton leads the supporting cast of this film giving a performance that proves his incredible acting ability and makes us sad he turned down playing the Incredible Hulk in "Marvel's Avengers." Emma Stone, who typically sticks to sarcastic comedy roles, finds new ground here that we didn't even see in her dramatic breakout "The Help." Though I love Emma Stone, I've always been skeptical of her dramatic ability, but here I was surprised in the best way possible. Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts also head up the incredible balance of comedy and drama that was featured in this movie.
In this world, there are two types of art.
Let's say you walk into an art museum and see a Picasso. The colors are vibrant, the geometry is fascinating, and the techniques are entirely unique. People gather around this painting with you to marvel at the decisions this visionary artist made and the perfection created on the canvas. You tell yourself you're happy you got to see such a famed and outstanding piece of art, then you leave the building and hop in your car to go home. As you're driving home you flip on the radio to keep yourself from falling asleep. A song you've never heard before, but you really like, comes on and you start jamming all the way home. You get home and your friend is there. He asks you how your evening was, and you tell him all about the Picasso you got to see. Your friend is really interested so he hands you a pencil and a piece of paper and he tells you to sketch the Picasso for him. You look at him like he's silly, but he urges you, so you hesitantly pick up the pencil. That's when you realize that you can't remember exactly what it looked like, so you set the pencil down. Your friend then asks if you've heard any good music recently, so you tell him about the one you heard in the car. He asks you to hum it. Piece of cake.
"Birdman" is a great film. The actors are outstanding, the score made up of solo percussion is a genius idea, and the technique to make the film appear as a single take is not only successful but adds to the film as a whole. However, when the credits of this movie finish and you hear the last drum beat, the movie and everything about it comes to a complete end. This movie was hilarious, dramatic, and practically perfect in every technical way. "Birdman," was a Picasso. This movie was absolutely outstanding, but the only thing I was able to take away from it was a couple funny lines.
"Birdman," like a Picasso, was a technical masterpiece and the combination of that and how well reviewed it was resulted in me liking this movie without even thinking about it. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made the choice to give "Birdman" an alternate title. That title is: "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance." I think that fits perfectly.
I give "Birdman" an 8.5/10.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Ba da lad da la da la
Whenever I watch movies on my own time, I typically like to pick ones that will help me prepare for the next film I will be seeing in theaters and reviewing for this column. Before "Fury" I watched some war movies, before "Lucy" I watched some action flicks, etc. I suppose I forgot to keep that in mind this week considering the three movies I watched most recently before "Big Hero 6" were "The Conjuring," "Interstellar," and "The Godfather: Part 1." So when an animated walking/talking inflatable white robot walked onto the screen, it was certainly a breath of fresh air.
"Big Hero 6" is advertised as and makes up the perfect movie to take your kids to this season. Focusing on an intelligent, inventive, 14-year-old prodigy name Hiro, "Big Hero 6" is a wonderful example of how heroes can come from anyone and anywhere. After losing a very close friend in an accident, Hiro and his newfound companion and best friend Baymax, a gentle healthcare robot who looks like what inflatable sofas are supposed to be, go on a search to try to figure out exactly what happened. By circumstance, they end up in the lair of an evil mastermind and, with the help of some friends, do their best to foil his evil plan while learning the importance of friendship along the way.
Young actor Ryan Potter provides the voice of Hiro, the hero of the story. His work was fine, nothing noticeable to criticize or give extra praise to, which is fitting with a lead character. The real credit for impressive voice work goes to Scott Adsit and his hilarious portrayal of the huggable robot Baymax. Even through an auto-tune-like filter, Adsit was able to give character lovable life. Many extra hilarious moments were given to us through Adsit's work, along with the very comical physical actions that were given to this talking balloon. T. J. Miller was another highlight of the film, as he was allowed to let loose with his character. Over the top at times, but overall very funny. James Cromwell, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Alan Tudyk, and Daniel Henney also lent their voices to the life of this film.
Between the two directors and three screenplay writers of this film, there are loved Disney credits such as "Monsters Inc." and "Monsters University," "Tarzan", "Cars," "Meet the Robinsons," "The Emperor's New Groove," and "Mulan," along with others. An excellent team was put together to make this film, and with a storyline and character ideas like these, it would have been a surprise if this film had not turned out well. What I didn't expect though, was that it would turn out this well. The story was excellent, the messages were brief but good, the characters were hilarious, a level of emotion was achieved, and the score was fun, exciting, and different. Everything about this film made for an excellent ride, perfect for kids, and a top choice for parents forced to see a "kid's movie."
There were certain moments and ideas that I wished had been embellished even more. One of my favorite parts of the film was the invention of San Fransokyo: an ingenious crossover between interesting Japanese culture and standard, relatable American culture. The idea for this semi-fictional city was perfect, though I felt like they almost went halfway with it. It appeared as though the final creation of it wasn't a clever combination of the cultures, but rather that they took American culture and made only major things like names and structures Japanese. This is no way reflected on the final result of the film, but it is an area I would have enjoyed a little more thought.
Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams did a particularly excellent job of making this film unique. They were given a very stereotypical storyline and they created a world and characters that succeeded in standing apart. Along with having the classic superhero versus supervillain plot, "Big Hero 6" also features the current favorite 'unlikely friendship' story. Back in 2010, Dreamworks and Dean Deblois came out with "How to Train Your Dragon," my personal favorite animated film and the 'unlikely friendship' idea created and perfected in an animated film. Hiro and Baymax provided extreme similarities to Hiccup and Toothless from "Dragon," even to the point of having a relationship-bonding flight sequence. "Big Hero 6" could have very easily been called a copy of "How to Train Your Dragon" had it been done wrong. Thankfully, this film was executed very well, and we have a result that sets itself apart from the formula animated film that is made so often.
There were few flaws in this movie, other than that it was too short. When the credits began to roll, I would have been more than content to remain in my seat for another thirty minutes. A collective contribution of excellent animation, fun story, great score, and quality voice work. In the end though, the best part was the marshmallow. So as I walked out of the theater, I couldn't wait for the sequel.
I give "Big Hero 6" an 8.2/10
Biggest problem: it wasn't scary.
Halloween night and, after returning from a very unfrightening costume party dressed as an even less frightening Santa Claus, I decided I wanted to be scared. So I hopped on the internet and found the popular 2013 horror flick "The Conjuring." Two hours later the movie finished and I was well into November first, flinching at every little sound I heard, and trying to fall asleep as my feet tingled in fear of being pulled from my bed. For anyone who has seen "The Conjuring," you know the exact feeling. Now I'm not a particular fan of horror films, they are extremely overdone and rarely well, but this one got to me. From my limited experience, "The Conjuring" is certainly the best horror movie I've seen. Then they went and made a prequel.
"Annabelle" is the prequel to the ever so successful and ever so creepy "The Conjuring." The premise of "Annabelle" is that one shot in "The Conjuring" where the same Annabelle doll turns her head and you wet your pants. The plot, however, is found in an average everyday couple and their newborn child. As a gift to celebrate the new baby's birth, the husband (I'm saying husband and wife because as soon as the movie finished I forgot their names) surprises the wife with a doll. After a traumatic incident where the neighbors are murdered by members of a satanic cult and the husband and wife are attacked, one of the attackers commits suicide with the doll in her hands. Some evil spirit then enters the doll, and the average happy family soon begin to experience the horrors of a demonic presence.
The happy couple, Mia and John Gordon (I just looked up their names on IMDb,) were played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton, respectively. I was not impressed by either performance, as they were both very single noted. Ward Horton in particular had zero depth to his character making him entirely forgettable at the times even when he was not on screen. In "The Conjuring," one of the strongest things about the film was the performances. Patrick Wilson was fairly dull as well, but Vera Farminga and Lili Taylor gave the film a depth that really brought it to another level. This was nowhere to be found in "Annabelle." Alfre Woodard provided some interesting development and did save a couple scenes, but she was simply not allowed enough screen time to have any sort of effect on the final result of the film.
John Leonetti took the director's chair for "Annabelle," after being the head cinematographer for James Wan during filming of "The Conjuring." This is not the first time Leonetti has directed a sequel or prequel to a film he was head of photography. There is one consistency throughout his work though: the originals were fairly well received but when Leonetti was placed as director, the sequels were widely disliked. This is Leonetti's third film to direct, the first two were "Mortal Combat: Annihilation" and "The Butterfly Effect 2." It is a wonder to me that the prequel to "The Conjuring" was placed in such unreliable hands. However, it was, and "Annabelle" was the result.
As the previews finished and "Annabelle" began, I adjusted in my seat, bracing myself to be scared. Leonetti used a clever tool in beginning this film by using the same shots that began "The Conjuring." Unfortunately, after using up all these shots and displaying the title with a climactic musical swell, it went black. I was sure something was about to jump out and scare me. Instead, I looked up and I was in church. And a nice church too; very well lit. Church finishes and after a very lovely conversation with some friends, our average couple returned to their suburban California home with palm trees in the yard and the sun shining as bright as ever. At this point I almost began to wonder if I had sat down in the wrong theater. This continued for the rest of the film. There were different scenes where circumstances would climax and it would be fairly frightening, but seconds later it was morning again and the birds were chirping.
The thing that made "The Conjuring" work so well was the constant feeling that something awry was about to happen. It was the polar opposite here, where I found myself feeling like I was watching a pleasant drama rather than a horror film. It could be that was Leonetti's intent, to make you feel comfortable before he scares you, but it simply didn't work. In the end, the only credit for scares that got me go to the film's musical composer Joseph Bishara. Save some weak dialogue and performances, "Annabelle" was a decent film overall. It just wasn't scary. So as I walked out of theater, the doll never bothered me anyway.
I give "Annabelle" a 5.0/10.
Short Term 12 (2013)
This movie has changed my life.
I am sixteen going on seventeen, about to begin my senior year of highschool, and about to begin my life. Just about every person, I've learned, has been in the exact same position I am in right now: faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of their life. So no, I'm not unique in my dilemma, I have ninety classmates in the exact same place I am, but I can surely tell you that it's as real as ever. So this week I am in New York City, taking a week long course at the New York Film Academy, hoping to learn something, have some fun, and most of all praying that I can answer some of these questions that loom over my head as I stand on the doorstep of life. I may return knowing what to do and who to be, I may not, but what I do know is that you're getting this instead of the review of "The Expendables 3" that you probably expected.
As I began the second half of my junior year of highschool I decided I needed to begin thinking about what to do once I graduate. I have five siblings who had finished highschool by that time and so I was able to take a look at what they'd done to try to get an idea. What I observed is that they all followed they're passions: what they loved and what came naturally. One loved books as a kid: she became an English teacher. One was good at art: he's studying to be a graphic designer. Another was fascinated by the human body: she's headed for Medical School. So what's my passion? Easy, I love movies. . . Okay, well where do I go with that?
About this time I stumbled upon Short Term 12. I hadn't heard that much about it, no one had. It was a little independent film that hadn't gotten much notice. It made big splashes at smaller awards shows and festivals, but otherwise it was completely unknown. But somehow it found its way onto my television and what I found when it finished was that I had just had a ninety minute emotional ride. I laughed more than I expected, I cried more than I care to confess, and I loved these fictional people more than I thought was even possible.
Short Term 12 is a story about a twenty-something young woman named Grace. Grace works at a place called Short Term 12: a home for young teenagers whose home and family lives have become unsuitable and detrimental places for them to live. As can be expected, these kids have rough lives. Many have tried to harm themselves, most fall into extreme stages of depression, and yet amidst this all of them have found a couple of people they can call a really good friend: Grace, Mason, Nate, and Jessica. Grace and her co-workers aren't social workers, they don't have a certificate and they haven't gone to school for this, they're just the person who's there for the kids when they need it.
I'm unable to describe with words the things that take place in the short ninety minutes that make up Short Term 12. The way director and writer Destin Daniel Cretton knows these kids and how they behave and react in such delicate situations makes the story so personal even when there is no other way for a person like me to relate to them. I never imagined a short children's story about an octopus could bring an ocean of tears to my eyes or that someone could find such personal value in something as simple as shaving your head. These kids have been forced to live awful lives, yet they still have those little things to give them hope. Even more amazing seen in the story is the character of Grace. Brie Larson's incredible mental performance is one that should be treasured forever, and one that makes you love the person that Grace is. Grace, along with Mason, Nate, and Jessica, is a good person doing an incredible thing. They're not going to be recognized for it, no one's going to give them a military medal or a sports trophy at the end of the movie, all they are going to have at the end of the day is the knowledge that they've done a great thing. And tomorrow morning, it's back to work. Every time I watch this movie I realize more and more how much good these people are doing. Sure they're fictional, sure they can put whatever they want onto a movie screen. But what makes this movie stand out from the rest is that it's real. Grace and Mason are so real. And it makes me jealous because they are such, in the most simplistic way, good people. I still don't know what I want to do as a career, but I do know what I want to do with my life. I want to be a good person. I give Short Term 12 a 9.6/10.
One of the most incredible experiences.
As I write these reviews each week I begin by opening the Microsoft Word app on my computer. I create a new document and select the font and size I prefer. Before I start writing I unnecessarily hit bold and type out my name, the film I'm reviewing, and the title of this column: "Boy Meets Film." When I came to this ritualistic point of my weekly writing, I stopped. I don't know why I chose the title I did for this column, I suppose I thought it was catchy. But right now, I see it as slightly providential.
This is not a typical film, everyone can agree to that fact. When someone is asked what this movie is about they will every time answer by telling how this film was made. In 2002, Richard Linklater had an idea. His idea was to take the same couple actors, same crew, and same vision and over the next twelve years film in real time the childhood and young adult years of a boy named Mason. When the movie begins Mason is six and staring at the clouds thinking about whatever it is six-year-olds think about. When the movie ends Mason has just begun his first day of college. He's lived through his learning years with all the crazy ups, downs, insides, and outs that all of us have had the privilege and burden to bear. And thanks to Richard Linklater's insane idea, we get to live through them again.
I could talk all day about how great an idea this is and what commitment it must have taken from everyone involved, because it really is outstanding. But we all realize that, so I won't linger too long. The actors performances, save for Patricia Arquette's (Mason's Mom) incredible breakthrough, were good, but mostly because they could just be themselves. I don't know if Ellar Coltrane (Mason) or Lorelai Linklater (Mason's sister Samantha) have any special acting talent, all they had to do was see themselves in that situation and respond as they would. What was amazing about what they did here didn't come from their acting, it came from their vulnerability. I feel like I know exactly who Ellar Coltrane is as a person because he nakedly put himself in front of the world free to be judged. I don't know if he has an acting career to follow, but he did let me know exactly what kind of person he is and has become.
That's the part of the movie that scared me. As I watched this film and as I watched Mason grow into the independent adult that he became, I got chills because I felt like I was watching myself. None of the physical circumstances related: Mason's parents are divorced from the start of the movie - my parents are running on thirty years, Mason got involved in teen drinking and partying I don't think I even know what beer tastes like. But what I did find was that deep down inside Mason was a hard thinker; he thinks deeper than he needs to or even probably should. As a result, he had questions. I had to keep myself from screaming in the theater because I have found myself asking those same questions day upon day upon day. The ones that we can ask repeatedly, but will always remain unanswered. These questions about life. The same ones I whined about it my review last week. The way people work, the relationships we have with them, the wishy-washiness of life: all of these came echoing back to me as I watched Mason go through the part of life I am at right now.
I think what makes this film so good is that I'm not the only one that feels this way. I encourage everyone to look up Drew McWeeneys review of "Boyhood" on HitFix.com because after watching this movie because he along with hundreds of others, had the exact same relationship with the film as I did, though in the way that most relates to the kind of person he or she is. I think that's what Linklater achieved with the most profoundness in this film. He set out to portray life and he did. Yes it's a feat, but it has been done before. What he accomplished in the most remarkable way is that he portrayed everyone's life. We come away from this film with Mason as such a firm character in our minds, yet Linklater used the one fictional human being to create a universe full of lives that each and every one of us can relate to in our own very personal way.
I apologize for using this column as a personal journal these past two weeks, but these two films are ones that cause you to think about who you are and why you do what you do. That isn't for every movie, but when it does come along it is beautiful.
I give "Boyhood" a 9.0/10
Let's Be Cops (2014)
Funny for now. . .
As you walk in the theater to watch "Let's Be Cops" you have to have a little bit of understanding what movie you just paid to fill up 100 minutes of your life. This is a dumb movie made in a cheap way that is intended to be dumb and cheap. I went in to see this movie with those expectations and as a result I was fairly entertained for the time I was sitting in that seat. To begin with "Let's Be Cops" has an absurd premise: two loser guys dress up as police officers for a costume party, and because the earth is apparently populated with people who have elementary levels of intelligence, the citizens of Los Angeles believe that they are legitimate officers of the law. In the most ridiculous and illegal ways they decide to use this to have some fun, get some girls, and get away with whatever the heck they want. But since this is a motion picture, their partying does come to stab them in the back as they get involved with a mafia- style gang, which is where we get the meat of the story.
"New Girl" co-stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. reteam for this film as Ryan and Justin: two of the biggest losers ever put onto the big screen. Their performances were good, granted the fact that absurd comedy is perhaps the easiest to do well in a film. Johnson specifically took on the role of a loser very well leaving you with the amount of distaste for his character which was needed to tell the story. Wayans did an excellent job of grasping the ridiculousness of the film and putting it into his character at the correct times. Ryan and Justin were not nearly as funny as they could have been, but for the budget this film was given Johnson and Wayans did an excellent job of providing very funny performances that are very necessary for a film like this to work. Also among the cast were James D'Arcy as the stereotypical villain, Nina Dobrev as the stereotypical girlfriend, Keagan-Michael Key as an over the top gang member, Rob Riggle as the only person who gets anything done, and a surprising appearance from Andy Garcia as the stereotypical gang leader.
When it comes to making a comedy of this style there is a precise formula that is easy to follow, works very well, and as a result is done very often. Director and co-writer Luke Greenfield clearly decided early on to stick with this formula and it can be seen throughout the film: We start with two guys. Both are over the top, both are good-for-nothings, both are funny, but are ten times funnier when they are together. Enter a ridiculous plot which they innocently get mixed up in and is way out of their league, usually something that comes up a lot in other films and TV shows. Add a creepy villain here, a girlfriend for one of them there, and a scene where they drop the comedy and say something deep and profound. Finish it up with a moment of true courage, cut quickly to another stupid joke before the credits roll, and you're set! A guaranteed twenty-five million dollars on opening weekend.
I'm not saying I dislike the formula, it works. It's irritating, but it works. At least some credit is due for that. It does bother me, however, that the films that follow the formula are often extremely successful and well-known, when there are so many really good films that take huge risks and are only seen by a select number of people. On its own scale though, this movie was fairly delightful. A good percentage of the jokes were very funny, there were numerous cringe-worthy moments, but it worked because somehow a laugh will always win that battle. The film also featured an excellent climax which was funny and even slightly suspenseful.
If you do decide to go see this film, which I don't think I'd immediately recommend, go in as I did. Have zero expectations. In fact, have low expectations. You're not going to find a "Dumb and Dumber" or a "Bridesmaids" in this movie, but it isn't a terrible thing to waste an hour and forty minutes on if you go in with very low expectations. I enjoyed it for the brief bit of my life, but I do know that I don't ever want to see it again. So as I walked out of the theater, I was ready to move onto the next thing.
I give "Let's Be Cops" a 5.8/10.
When the Game Stands Tall (2014)
Pretty boring, very predictable.
As the brief opening credits finish and the film begins, the first thing we are given by this film is a single brass chord in black followed by a shot of Jim Caviezel's silhouette in a locker room with light pouring from an open doorway behind him. He then begins to give the first of many inspirational speeches found in the movie, which is when you adjust in your seat as you've come to the conclusion that you are watching a football movie and nothing more. "When the Game Stands Tall"is a true story about the De La Salle Spartans, a northern California high school football team who, after a record breaking 151-game winning streak, lose. In a pessimistic nutshell, this is a movie about a bunch of arrogant teenagers who become temporarily depressed, but in the end become the best again and are happy.
Jim Caviezel stars as Bob Ladouceur, perhaps one of the best high school football coaches of all time. Ladouceur is an outstanding man who has his priorities in the completely correct places for a high school level football coach. However I felt like this movie, specifically Caviezel, did not capture that. As an actor, Caviezel did a fine job. He found the character he wanted to play and he played it well. The only problem is that this film is a true story, and the "character" that Caviesel decided on was not the same person as Ladouceur. Jim Caviesel's performance here was good, but his work behind the camera was what ultimately hurt this film and this character. The remainder of the cast did a fine job, and fit their roles very well. Much like the rest of the film, these roles did not strive to be anything more than what works for a "football movie", so not much risk was taken anywhere. Laura Dern, Michael Chiklis, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Stephen James, and Ser'Darius Blain made up this supporting cast, along with an awkward cameo from Oakland Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew.
It seems strange to say, but this film's screenplay was adapted from a book which was written about this story which took place not ten years ago. Scott Marshall Smith and David Zelon scripted the adaptation from Neil Hayes book before it finally arrived in the hands of director Thomas Carter. I think that could be where this film had its greatest fault. All throughout the film, I had an incredibly difficult time following all the tiny subplots and supporting character's extra stories and determining how they tied into the main storyline. In the end, most of them actually didn't. I think what the film's ultimate problem was that there wasn't a single idea for the film. After taking a true story, it being filtered through the documentation of the book's author, the creative minds of two screenwriters, and finally the vision of a director, what we were left with was a million different ideas shoved into a very long two hours.
In the end, the ultimate responsibility of the film's confusion falls on director Thomas Carter. If Carter had used his authority to simply cut a few characters or a couple of the many subplots and focus on the main storyline, we could have gotten a sturdy football movie. Instead, his solution to this, intentional or not, was to cut the scenes of closure for these many subplots. There were at least two characters in the film who I began to care about and see how they turn out, but I was never allowed to. This film was given way too much setup and so little closure, that it took me a little while to realize that the big final game was in fact the final game. The direction was not entirely terrible. The music/training montages were well choreographed, though after four of them I did begin to get a little bored. Which further adds to where the root of this film's struggle lies. If Carter as a director had the knowledge when to say no, the movie could have been great. But he didn't, and we were left with and entirely jumbled mess. In the end then, we didn't get anything more than a football movie. In fact, we got less. So as I walked out of the theater, it felt like it had been a lot more than two hours. I give "When the Game Stands Tall" a 5.2/10.
How do you like this Terrence Malick?
Oddly enough, the best film that "Lucy" can be compared to is Terrence Malick's 2011 film, "The Tree of Life". I know with confidence that every person's initial reaction to that statement would be a confused question, for two reasons. The first being that you probably haven't seen or even heard of that movie. The second reason being that if you have seen that movie, you think there is no way this action flick starring superstar Scarlett Johansson could be in the least bit similar. "Lucy" is a film about an ordinary young woman who unintentionally gets caught up in a drug deal with a sinister Korean gang. After being transported bearing a precious package, Lucy undergoes a phenomenon which allows her to gradually access more and more of her brain capacity, ultimately rendering her a superhuman.
Scarlett Johansson of course stars as the title character Lucy. The character choices Johansson was required to make were extremely difficult, as she was having to invent a kind of person whom we have zero insight as to how they may be. Some of her choices I did question at times, but they were her choices to make, and in the end they played well. Morgan Freeman also co-starred in the role of Morgan Freeman. His character was some sort of scientist whose name I've easily forgotten, but in reality that's the only role Morgan Freeman seems to play anymore: himself. It's not great for telling a story, but it works, because the world likes him. A lot. Min-Sik Choi and Amr Waked took the only other parts of any significance, but truthfully the characters in this movie made zero difference to the final result of this film. Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" came to the world with a very limited release in 2011, and for a good reason. After seeing the film, the distributors realized that what they hand in their hands was something that is only going to work for a certain type of people. The reason for this being that in this film Malick let his thoughts, emotions, and imagination run wild. There wasn't a story told, there was a message spoken, and that message was about life. Casual moviegoers who saw this film only because Brad Pitt's name was on it immediately hated it because it ventured past where they wanted to go. Most filmmakers and film enthusiasts who saw, however, fell in love with these visions Malick had and somehow put onto the screen. It's the strangest thing, but this movie was the same way for director Luc Besson. This film is clearly something that had been on the mind of Besson for a long, long time. His thoughts about evolution, time, space, human capabilities, and our purpose overflowed in this film in the most beautiful way. When the movie started I expected to see Scarlett Johansson riding a motorcycle being chased by some drug lords with machine guns, not a visual analysis of human evolution and why we do what we do with a beautifully unique score playing behind it. Initially, it took me a while to adjust because from the way it was marketed I didn't know this is what I was getting. But after I came to that realization, I started smiling. My favorite part of this film has to be how we were allowed to see into the imagination of Luc Besson, and how he translated that onto the screen. The visuals in this film were absolutely outstanding, providing a legitimate feast for the eyes. From the animation of the electrical anatomy of the human body, and the visualization of cellular and radio waves, to a perfectly written and choreographed travel through time. There's a brief sequence in this movie where Besson creates a time lapse where we see in reverse the construction of Times Square in New York. This moment sent me to the edge of my seat with genuine excitement. The entire movie provides instances of extraordinary visualizations, which in the end makes the film as good as it is. My only recommendation for this movie is to not expect what the film's advertisements say this movie is going to give. As an action flick this movie falls very short. It has the formula car chase, and one or two scenes where we get to see Johansson kick some butt, but overall there really is not much action. There is also very little story to this film, which is perhaps the biggest surprise of all. If this is realized though, there is only one thing about this movie that remains undesirable. The length. Just as film reaches its ultimate climax that it has been hinting at for the entire 90 minutes, it ends. I have never come to a conclusion whether or not it's a good thing for a movie to leave you wanting more, but here I felt the problem was instead that it didn't give you enough. So as I walked out of the theater, the credits had finished and I still wanted to stay. I give "Lucy" an 8.0/10.
The Maze Runner (2014)
Around 2008-2010 all the people my age, teens and young adults, started on a craze of reading similar dystopian novels and series. There were countless ones: "The Hunger Games", "Divergent", "The Giver", "Ender's Game", etc. After "The Hunger Games" paved the way with huge success, we are now in the middle of the phase where all those books are being made into movies. "The Maze Runner" is an addition to that phase. Based on the novel by James Dashner, "The Maze Runner" is a film about a young man who suddenly wakes up in a strange place with no feasible mode of escape and no memory of who he is and how he got there. He gradually discovers more and more of the suspicious place he is forced to live in and the people he is forced to live with, and what chance he has of escaping the Maze with his life.
Dylan O'Brien takes on the role of Thomas, our protagonist and a person who is about as average as you can get. O'Brien wasn't given much of a character to work with at the start, but he put little extra into this role which honestly made him rather boring to watch. Practically all the other characters in this film played the same way. Will Poulter's performance is by far the most noteworthy and Blake Cooper's character of Chuck was the most interesting character in the screenplay, but every character was hard to get attached to. That may be mostly on the screenwriters, but when it comes to personality a lot of weight is put on the shoulders of the actors. And here, they just didn't deliver.
Ultimately, I think character development could have been the best choice to make this movie stand out. The story is set up where a large number of young men are thrown together, forced to live in an enclosed area. Freedom is not initially an option, so they have to learn to create a society and work together to survive. What I loved about this story is that this happened; they did work together and had peace before they tried to have freedom. This is an incredibly unique choice, so I wish it had been a major focus of the story. In order for that many young, hormone raging, teenage men to create such a society, many mature decisions had to be made by these characters, and we never got to see that happen. The Maze is cool, the action and killing giant robotic spiders was cool, but the coolest thing was these strong characters that were hidden behind the curtain for the whole movie.
Clearly, a choice by director Wes Ball was made about what his focus would be. After he decided to make the recipe young adult action flick instead of this "Lord of the Flies" type story, he needed to make some changes from the story in the book. A book can succeed in having two such different types of stories survive, but a movie is sadly not capable of such a feat. His changes needed to be on what he wanted to do with his characters, specifically Will Poulter's Gally and Kaya Scoledario's Teresa. Teresa's purpose in the film was entirely unclear to me, and whether or not Gally was going to be a villain or the unlikely hero was a mystery to me until the final five minutes of the movie. Poulter really gave a good performance in this film, and Ball's poor character choices made that completely irrelevant. Had some decisions been made about what to do with the people on screen, the movie could have been much, much better.
Perhaps the most impressive work done in this film was by Artistic Director Douglas Cumming. His visualization of the Maze and especially the Glade were superb and made the film both beautiful and mesmerizing. An intense score provided by John Paesano accompanied the film, which added to the awesomeness of the film's appearance. Some may suggest that Cumming's work was unoriginal, with many scenes appearing like other films. The film's main villains, robotic spiderlike creatures called Grievers, had an uncanny resemblance to the spider Shelob in "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." However, with similarly choreographed chase scenes and shots identical to "The Return of the King," I think the responsibility falls more again on director Wes Ball. The end of the film also provides us with an escape almost identical to 2005's "The Island," along with other unoriginal frames.
Overall, "The Maze Runner" was enjoyable. It had cool action scenes and was a really good idea for a story. As a young adult action flick, it meets the quota. It definitely doesn't go anywhere past that though. I just had a hard time getting into it because I didn't have reason to care about any of the characters. So as I walked out of the theater, I was ready for bed.
I give "The Maze Runner" a 7.5/10.
"The Maze Runner" is now showing at the Vermillion Coyote Twin.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
Gross. . .
There is a brief moment following the credits at the end of "The Boxtrolls" that shows a couple characters in action, while also showing those characters being created by the incredibly talented clay artists. This is a movie made using stop motion technology: a technique that takes hundreds of thousands of modeled photographs and runs them together to create the visualization of movement. Each photograph has to be delicately set up by human hands, and for this specific film, it is done with handmade clay figures. The precision and attention to detail that goes into making these films is of itself incredible, and I loved that after credits sequence where we were allowed to see that in action.
"The Boxtrolls" is a story is about a bunch of fantastical creatures wearing cardboard boxes who live under the streets of a fictional British city during the Steam Punk era. Every night, they come out of the sewers and scavenge the streets for objects, trinkets, machinery, and anything that sparks their curiosity. This specific story is about a human boy, named Eggs, who has been raised by the Boxtrolls. A fat and gangly villain is trying his best to eliminate every last Boxtroll from the city, and through the Boxtrolls' attempt to survive, Eggs begins to discover who he really is.
Isaac Hempstead Wright voices the lead role of Eggs, along with Elle Fanning in the second lead of Winnie. The main Boxtrolls were voiced by Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum, who did an entertaining job with their grunts and growls, though it was very difficult to not compare the Boxtroll characters to that of the ever so popular Minions from the two "Despicable Me" films. Ben Kingsley took on the role of Snatcher, the evil villain. Kingsley's work here was honestly my favorite part of the film. He found the character he wanted to play, however exaggerated, and he played it with commitment. It wasn't until the credits rolled that I finally realized what part he had played. In my opinion, when an actor has done their best job is when the viewer is completely unaware what role they were in. This is especially outstanding when that actor has become a celebrity, which unfortunately happens quite often in the film industry. Kingsley disguised himself in that way here, which added a much needed depth to the film.
As outstanding as the precision and attention to detail is when working with "clay-mation," some part of it has just always put me off. There is clearly an audience for it, but I know that I'm not a member. I find that it's extremely difficult to prevent stop- motion filmmaking from looking just plain gross. Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is one of my absolute favorite films and it uses this style of animation. However, when I watch that movie I find myself loving the story and the surprising depth of the characters and forgetting about what they look on the outside. I have yet to see a clay-mation film that does the same for me, because this one certainly did not.
Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi headed up the storytelling, visualization, and overall mood of the film as the directors. I remember reading part of an interview with those two about making this film and in it they went on and on about how difficult it was for them to get everything to click in the right place, and how great it was once they finally achieved that. After watching the film, I don't understand how they found the latter part to be true. Practically every moment of this film was entirely unpleasant for me to look at, to listen to, and to overall just be thrown into that world. Had some serious depth and reason to love the characters been introduced, the movie could have been something to get into. It would have been easy, they were working with tiny creatures that wear cardboard boxes like turtle shells, but in the end they just left them empty.
It wouldn't surprise me if I went out on the street and found someone who said that "The Boxtrolls" was one of their favorite movies. It had parts that could have been funny or clever I did particularly enjoy the whole dilemma of "who's the good guy?" the main villain's henchmen faced during the movie but because of the way things looked and felt, I just had a hard time enjoying myself while I watched it. So as I walked out of the theater, I was hoping my headache would go away before I sat down to write this review. I give "The Boxtrolls" a 6.6/10.