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12 reviews in total 
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Ida (2013)
38 out of 51 people found the following review useful:
Will definitely be a front runner for 2014 Best Foreign Picture Oscar nominations, 12 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I knew that I was going to love Ida from the opening shot. It is a shot of the beautiful Ida, the main character played by Agata Trzebuchowska, at the bottom left of the screen, outside surrounding her in the frame is the depressing back drop of post World War II, 1960s Poland. Let's forget for a moment the fact that every single shot in Ida looks like a beautiful portrait, the shot also wonderfully sets up the tone for the rest of the film.

Ida is a nun who is about to take her final vows when she finds out that she is actually Jewish and that her parents hid her at a nunnery at the end of the war. Ida then meets her aunt and goes across the country, experiencing life outside of the church and trying to find out where her Jewish parents are buried. Both the actresses who play Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are incredible. Agata Trzebuchowska plays Ida with such fragility and innocence while Agata Kulesza, who plays Wanda, plays her character as a woman who has been beaten down by life, and as a result has become an alcoholic.

The rest of the performances in the film reflect the state of mind of Poland during that time period. I would imagine that some people may find the style of this movie bleak, but that is always the point. There is one moment when the film has some levity and it is in a scene when Ida is back at the nunnery after being out in the world. All of the nuns are eating dinner very somberly, and Ida lets out a bit of a giggle. It is after she has experienced new things, and she now realizes that maybe she doesn't want to be a nun. There is never any dialogue to suggest that she is thinking this, it is done visually in the scene.

The language of this film is very visual. Even though it is in Polish, the dialogue isn't very vital. Director Pawel Pawlikowski has patience with the shots and with the editing. There is a scene shot in a wide shot where Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are talking about where her parents might be. Eventually, Wanda leaves the shot. Most films would cut away with Wanda and follow her to where she is going, but the shot stays on Ida. It visually shows her as an orphan, she has nobody, except this aunt, whom she has only just met.

The ending of Ida is probably one of the most satisfying I've ever seen. As an audience member watching this movie you want certain conclusions for her character, without giving away any of the plot. Pawel Pawlikowski is a smart director to only answer a few, but leave some questions open for interpretation. But in the end, we know Ida has changed, and she is going to go out there and live her life. I think this film will definitely be a front runner for next years Oscars in the Best Foreign Picture category.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A cult classic I have never connected with, 24 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think it is safe to say that The Breakfast Club has become somewhat of a cult classic. It's hard to criticize a movie like this because it has been around for so long and continues to connect with audiences. I have just never been that audience.

It's a simple concept: five "different" kids attend an eight hour-long Saturday detention (sometimes it truly felt like eight hours to me). They all have their own stories, they tell each other and the viewer those stories, come to some kind of understanding of one another, and then leave. The film does succeed in its portrayal of the students. John Hughes seems to have a very good understanding of what goes on in the head of a high school student. The character of John Bender, played by Judd Nelson, does have serious problems, and should contact child services. The other characters really don't have as dire an issue, but to someone that age, it feels as though their universe is imploding.

The film is not very cinematic. It felt like there was very little thought behind the placement of the camera. Conversely, in a film like 12 Angry Men, which also basically takes place in one room, the camera-work has a voyeuristic quality, and the audience feels like they are peering into a forbidden world of life or death issues. There are also drastic changes in tone in The Breakfast Club, from scenes of serious drama, to over-the-top dance numbers.

The film's goal seems to be to move its audience and to teach the audience to take teenagers and their problems more seriously. It does succeed in moving me when I hear Brian Johnson's story about how he considered suicide. But then you realize he considered killing himself with a flare gun…so basically, he was just doing that for attention, right?

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A truthful and thoughtful high school film, 13 February 2014

The Spectacular Now was a movie that started off weak but ended really strongly. It opens with and uses a lot of high school movie clichés throughout the film, I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a comedy or a drama, but then I thought, why am I trying to put it into a category?

What the film dealt with extremely well was the use of dialogue. The conversations the high school characters had with each other were not particularly interesting, witty, or philosophical, but they were truthful. I thought it sounded like what people sounded like in high school, though it has been a while since I was in high school, so I may be wrong about that. From what I do remember, the "cool" thing was to not care, not care about life, grades, college, or any of that stuff, it was "cool" to go to parties, a sentiment the main character, Sutter, would agree with. The passionate people were the un-cool people, the "nerds." I guess this would be the love interest Aimee. Shailene Woodley brought life to this movie, where as before it was just about an alcoholic, pain in the ass teenager. She loves science fiction. She's a dreamer and she fell in love easily. She might be considered naïve, yet, she was the one who planned for the future, and caused Sutter to think about his.

I found it hard to believe that Shutter would keep getting into bars to drink excessively, what I did believe was his character and his journey, mainly the relationships he had, and his philosophies on life. The film does not have a climatic ending, nor should it. Stupid high school life sucked and real life kind of sucks too, but that's life.

102 out of 162 people found the following review useful:
Another Great Coen Brothers Film, 19 November 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis is a hard film to quantify. It is very much a Coen Brothers movie, and it is very much its own thing. I did not know the history of the story. I did not know the story behind the Gaslight club in New York nor did I know of the famous figure who started at the bar back in 1961 when the film takes place. I found out after the film was over. However, not knowing that, I still thought this was an incredible movie.

There are oddly poetic scenes in the film. There is a scene where the main character Llewyn Davis hits a cat with his car. As he watches the cat limp away into the darkness injured, I felt that it was an interesting image that seemed to mirror Llewyn's life in the film. Although I was aware of the poetic aspect of the film, I did not feel that they were forced moments. In interviews the Coen Brothers always seem to play dumb. In an interview for this film the Coen Brothers talked about the cat in the movie, and how they didn't know what to do with the story, so they threw in a cat. Anybody who has seen a Coen Brothers movie can appreciate that this is far from the truth. Every moment and image seems to be very specifically placed, and that was the case for this movie as well.

You can't judge this movie the same way you would judge every other film this year. It's almost as if the Coen Brothers have their own language that they are speaking, that the audience does not fully understand. We catch some things, and even with those few moments, I was mesmerized. Sometimes I really notice their style like in their film A Serious Man, and I find myself confused and bored, but this film felt very true to me. I sympathized with the main character and his struggles, perhaps because I consider myself a creative person as well, so I know how hard it is. At one point Llewyn says, "I'm just so f-ing tired," this line says a lot more than just I want to sleep. It is something we can all relate to, a feeling of just wanting to give up, and in this way, the story is a universal one, but then again it's the Coen Brothers, so automatically I know some people might not like it, but I loved it.

Gravity (2013)
16 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Gravity is an experience, 4 October 2013

The first image in Gravity is a space shuttle slowly floating towards us. Of course, in actuality, the space shuttle is moving incredibly fast but speed seems relative in space. On the space shuttle is Ryan Stone, a medical engineer, Matt Kowalski and Shariff, both astronauts. They are installing a new system to better view the universe, I think, something like that. It really doesn't matter because in a few minutes the space shuttle is going to get hit by debris, sending the story off. A story about a character's will to survive in the most hostile environment most people will never know. That's the story. Most of the dialogue in the film is very situational based. Except for one scene when one of the characters divulges a rather traumatic event in their life. But the film could be completely silent, for the movie goes far beyond story.

In space sound can't travel, a point that is made in many films involving scenes in space. However, most films that contain scenes in space ignore this and when a ship explodes we hear it explode. When a person opens a door in space, we hear the door. To Alfonso Cuarón's credit, he does not shy away from the terrifying silence of space. In moments of sheer terror, the audience is left in the quiet. Most of these moments are filled with musical score, but they would be just as effective without as well. I found myself sometimes wanting to scream in frustration at the characters on screen in these tense moments. But I didn't need to. In the silence, I found the sound of the audience in the theater, yelling at the characters for me.

Most films that employ visual effects, the effects are noticeable. What I mean by that is, when watching an action film, you can tell when a real object shot by a camera has turned into a CG object. No matter how good CG gets, this fact will probably always be true. Space is an interesting place to portray using visual effects. Space is not a place many of us will ever go in our lives. It is a place filled with mystery. It is the most terrible and yet the most awe inspiring place. And the visual effects in Gravity portray space and the events that unfold in it brilliantly. I could not see the filmmaking. I had no idea how they filmed it, I would imagine mostly in front of a green screen, but I just couldn't tell. I thought I was in space. I was completely engrossed. On a side note, I did not feel that the IMAX or the 3D improved the viewing experience. When watched again (yes I have already watched it twice now) in a normal 2D theater, the film was just as breathtaking and exhilarating.

Both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are great at playing their prospective roles. The cinematographer is dazzling. I felt as though the cuts were non-existent. I was never aware of an edit, almost as if the entire film consisted of one continuous shot. All the elements of the film came together perfectly to make this movie and to serve the story. But as I said before, Gravity goes far beyond just a simple story. It is an experience.

I truly believe that any film sets up its own expectations for the audience, as to what kind of film it will be, and what the ultimate conclusion should be. Every movie has a beginning, and they all should have a feeling of barreling to the end. And once we get to the end of a great film, there is a feeling that that ending was always going to be the ending. The story was chaotic and out of control as it raced to this end, and it was destined to be this way… although perhaps I have a more romantic view of film than most normal people do.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A great over the top action/horror flick, 4 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a movie where the main characters, instead of killing the witches while they are down, decide to pose majestically with their weapons as the witches get away. The good news is that the movie pretty much sets up this over the top formula right off the bat, and if you go in expecting that, you will have a great time watching this movie.

There are some great story aspects in the film, but it seems as if they were just ideas that were never fully developed unfortunately. The fight scenes can get a little repetitive at times. There's only so many times Jeremy Renner can get the crap beaten out of him, but he seems to have a good system of grunting and wiping himself off after being throw at a tree and crashing through the floor of a ginger bread house. Hansel and Gretel fight the witches, they get thrown down, the witch attacks, Hansel and Gretel counter with some outrageous solution, and the tables are turned on the witch. This pretty much happens during every fight. The visual effects get the job done. The witches themselves aren't very scary or very smart for that matter. But who really cares?

The movie isn't pretending to be anything. It is what it is and it is entertaining and fun. There are a far share of sappy moments that might leave you rolling your eyes, but there will soon be some 3D gore to cheer you up. I don't think this is on the level of a Evil Dead or Dead Alive in terms of the over the top comedy/horror flicks, but Hansel and Gretel has it's moments. And I would suggest it to everyone I know.

Lincoln (2012)
7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Lincoln works superbly, 17 November 2012

At this point I suppose it is almost expected that Daniel Day-Lewis will give a great performance in all of his roles, but that doesn't make his performance in Lincoln any less phenomenal or memorable. The theme of the movie is an old and familiar one, but that doesn't mean the message is any less effective or relatable.

The film is not a political thriller, more a political conversation between old men and we observe their conversations during a very important time in American history. It was the right decision to make the movie in this way. Considering that most of politics, even to this day, seems to be a bunch of old men, and now women, sitting around discussing issues. An audience can laugh during certain scenes at the backwards thinking of some people back then, considering how far we have come as a country since 1865, but we still get the sense of just how vital those conversations and debates are, that these characters were having. Since I am not the most political person in the world, some of the language that was used in the film I was not familiar with and some of the information may have been lost on me, but the overall risks these people were taking, and the reasons why they were taking them, were very apparent to me. And whether or not you let every single word sink in, you will be just as caught up in the argument.

Daniel Day-Lewis is surrounded by other great performances, notably from Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field, among many others. The film feels like it was built for actors. The movie does not rely on editing or fancy camera work to tell it's story, most of the time people are just sitting around a room in a dense layer of cigar smoke rambling and banging on their desks to illustrate their points…not much has changed, although we may have nicer desks now. I at times thought Lincoln felt a lot like a play, and maybe even would have been more effective if it was done as a play. But the film works and works superbly.

Probably my only complaint would be that I had thought the film should have ended during a wonderful scene about five or ten minutes before the movie actually ended…but who am I to disagree with the brilliant Steven Spielberg? I do not at all mean this statement in a sarcastic manner, and this should be quite apparent to anyone who watched Lincoln.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A refreshing, real, and intimate film, 26 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hello I Must Be Going is not a glamorous Hollywood film. Not that I don't enjoy the big budget blockbusters every once in a while, but this film was a refreshing departure. There are no flashy cuts or fast-paced action sequences, because it is attempting to tell a far more intimate story. The film is not rushing you along with plot. When the characters talk, they are talking about their inner most fears and desires.

The subject of the film, whose life we are let into, is Amy Minksy. A character, who if we met in real life, we would want to walk up to her and just give her a hug. When we first meet Amy, we find out that she is a woman in her mid-thirties, has just been divorced, and is living with her parents at home again. To call her depressed would be wrong, she seems more to me like a person who is stuck, not knowing what direction to go in for the rest of her life. She is slightly assisted in finding her way through the newfound love/lust she gets from 19-year-old Jeremy. An actor, who hates acting on stage, but likes to pretend he is gay in his real world life. They are the perfect couple for each other, and yet the worst, because at any minute the families could find out about their affair, and cause much embarrassment for the two families and trouble in a certain business venture.

This film shows us Amy's life, in all of her moments of loneliness, happiness, embarrassment, lust, and so on. And the great thing about the film is it doesn't try to sugar coat anything. The movie feels more real than most I've seen. All the characters that surround Amy have hopes and dreams. You get the impression that everyone has some sort of secret, the audience is just only aware of Amy's. And the most interesting and successful sequences of the film are when those desires are exposed, causing conflicts for the other characters, as it would in real life. All of the actors do a fantastic job of making their characters feel real. And I can't imagine it to have been too difficult for the actors, since the screenwriter seems to know every detail of every character's personal life story, without abruptly stating it in dialog. The script is brilliantly subtle in that way.

I think that some people might have a hard time sitting through Hello I Must Be Going, because it is in a lot of ways very different from the usual. The story is told to the audience in quiet conversation. And sometimes, the film can feel repetitive and claustrophobic. There are multiple scenes when Amy and Jeremy go off to have their affair in a different place than before. Although we do learn new information about them in every scene, they still seem to be stuck doing the same things over and over again, in different positions and different places, but really the same thing. Also the movie is told through Amy's eyes, so we only see the things she sees and does, so mainly Jeremy. Amy is unemployed and Jeremy is just a kid, so both individuals don't do much. While I understand the movie is about Amy and should be mostly from her point of view, I wish the film opened up a bit more and explored some of the other characters in their own world. In one particular scene, we learn about Amy's mother Ruth, who is played by the wonderful Blythe Danner. Through most of the film, Amy and Ruth are at each other's throats. But there is a moment they have of understanding one another near the end of the film, which was my favorite scene of the movie, particularly because Blythe Danner and Melanie Lynskey are so fantastic in the scene, and I must say in the entire film.

The ending felt a little sudden. Characters continuously ask Amy throughout the film what she wants to do with her life, but she never has an answer. And by the end, she still doesn't have an answer. But she seems okay with that. We don't get the perfect happy ending for Amy, but we get the sense that she is happy. Perhaps that is the point the film is trying to make, sometimes you just don't know what you want to do in life. Maybe the point of the film is it doesn't matter what you do as long as your happy, which Amy seemed to be for a brief moment with Jeremy. Still her plan for what she wants to do by the end of the film doesn't seem like much of an improvement over her plan at the beginning of wearing the same shirt and watching the Marx Brothers everyday. The entire film, we watch Amy through all of her misery, it would have been nice to give her that moment of: "she's going to be all right." Well, she seems perfectly content. So let's just hope she can figure it out.

3 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
We are not used to this Batman, 25 September 2012

We are not used to this Batman in cinema. In the Christopher Nolan films recently, we are treated to a Batman that must exist and operate in the real world. The Batman that is presented to us in The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, could not do the things he does in the film, in the real world. But that is okay. Whereas Christopher Nolan was adapting for his own personal take on the character, this film takes a shot for shot interpretation from the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

Batman is brutal and punishing to his foes, to the point where we almost feel sympathy for them, but not quite. For he is operating under a strict code, a code that most of the cops in the film can't even live up to. He does the things we want to do because we know they are right. But this also makes him a quite terrifying individual. This once again is not a bad thing. The film, like the graphic novel, loves to show us Batman's flawed and vulnerable sides. He even recruits a new young Robin, the most realistic Robin in my opinion to ever be introduced to the Batman comics, even though he had previously promised to never again work with a partner.

I like the story of this Batman film, better than the story in the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's series. But, I prefer Christopher Nolan's film as a piece of cinema. There is a reason why graphic novels are graphic novels and films are films, because they each get away with certain things. A straight from comic interpretation never breads a wonderful film, but it sure will make a perfectly decent and entertaining one. The main reason is because graphic novels are mostly meant for kids. Now, adults can enjoy them too (after all I do) and a lot of new writers of comics say they want to write for an older audience, but graphic novels will forever have the huge amount of young followers. So even though writers say they won't, it's unavoidable that comics will be catered, at least a little bit, for kids.

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 doesn't seem to take itself completely seriously, it goes dark, but at the same time it seems to wink at the audience, saying: "Don't worry, it's just a comic book film." The sophistication is sometimes lost, a character like Batman can believably exist in the real world, but not this one. Maybe I am being a little too nit-picky though, after all, this cartoon is a lot of fun.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A ridiculous and fun ride that will be around for a long time, 4 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As I go back and watch Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I find the viewing experience just as much fun as the first time I saw the film in theaters. I also find the film more and more ridiculous.

When I first saw the film I was 13 years old, and I was just starting to realize that I wanted to be in the filmmaking business. Where films like American Beauty, Signs, and the films of Kevin Smith and Mel Brooks, really influenced me in the types of stories I wanted to tell, the original Pirates of the Caribbean really influenced the type of colorful characters I wanted to explore with my stories. In particular, and I'm sure to no surprise, Johnny Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow dazzled me (for the record, and for no particular reason, the other performance that significantly effected me in my life was Heath Ledger's as The Joker). I can remember imitating him for a long time, something that caused much frustration for my parents I'm sure. And also probably contributed to my unpopularity in high school. But I didn't care, I loved the film and the performance, and it once again helped solidify my certainty in wanting to write movies for a living (now that I think about it, this might have been the aspect that frustrated my parents the most.)

At some points the movie has a complicated plot and can also be quite long. By listening to the commentary of the film, the director even mentions at one point, that at that particular moment in the film (when Captain Sparrow and Elizabeth are stranded on the beach) the audience has all the information they need to end the story. Yet the film will continue for another 40 minutes. The film is flawed, as with ALL films I think. But with the eclectic characters, the overall plot of pirates and treasure, and the fact that it is just a fun ride, what's there not to love about this film?

When I look back now, I have the same feelings I would image a grown up viewer of films like E.T., Goonies, Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark might feel. When you go back and watch the movies from your own childhood you are aware of the dated effects and sometimes unbelievable sequences, but you also are reminded of the magical feelings that you felt upon first viewing those images. Now, I do not mean to compare E.T., Goonies, Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark to POTC, but the feelings for me are similar. Classics are in a way defined by the generation in which they were released. Huge amounts of people saw E.T., Goonies, Star Wars, and Raiders, and some have now deemed them classics of their time. And if you don't want to call POTC a classic of a more recent generation that's fine, for the record I'm not particularly calling it that. But I do think that this movie, whether we like it or not, will be around for a long time. And well deserved.

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