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Freelancers (2019– )
Frustrating: So Much Potential!
12 June 2019
This comedy troupe has some talent. James Perry, for one, is a fun character comedian - the bisque guy and the library janitor come to mind. Sadly, he is underused and rarely given roles that suit his style. Likewise, Matt Meese is probably good enough to have a career outside of YouTube and possesses a sharp sense of comic timing in nearly every role he's given. Mallory Everton is best when she is awkward and goofy, Stephen Meek when he is clueless, Stacey Harkey when he is Instagram-obsessed, Natalie Madsen when she is birdbrained, Adam when he is dressed ridiculously, and Whitney Call when she is... being bossy?

First of all, and I hate to say this, it's all too obvious that this is an amateur comedy troupe. While each cast member has a strength, they seem reluctant to typecast any of their members. For example, imagine if The Office decided to constantly change up Dwight's character from episode to episode. One day he is the stereotypical geek, the next day a self-absorbed jock - it would feel totally wrong. Imagine if they had fleshed out Creed's character and made him more prominent in the show - it would have spoiled the 'unwritten rules of the Office Universe' one of which is 'Creed must always be mysterious and predictable no matter what.' When characters and actors constantly act 'outside of character' the humor loses its sense of logic. For things to be funny, there has to be a logical context and sense of risk in which the jokes exist. In I Love Lucy, Lucy Ricardo is funny because you are imagining 'what will Ricky think when he gets home?!' Stan Laurel is funny because you're thinking 'what will Oliver Hardy think?' There must be a straight man as well as a logical, predictable universe for these people to exist inside of. This is why I feel that episode 1 of Freelancers had the only truly funny jokes.

At first, Natalie's boss character was a little absurd and funny; by the end of the episode, she had totally derailed and was offensively stupid. James' character was relatable and funny - the pencil bit was funny but ultimately dwelt on for too long. The bed sheet sketch worked - it was relatable and well timed. I loved how during the first half, each character seemed to have a way of thinking and it fit the actors very well - it was exciting to watch!

Although the episode started off funny and I laughed out loud several times, it fell apart half way through, and this absurdity and stupidity has continued through eight episodes. I feel stupid for watching the episodes. I wish I could love JK! Studios. I'm aware that Studio C has had countless uninspired sketches ,but every once in a while they would strike gold: Scott Sterling, Lobster Bisque, Labor Pains, TV show parodies, the Kyle sketches, etc.

I've seen every Studio C sketch several times and I plan to continue watching JK! Studios. They fill a niche in the entertainment industry: clean, clever comedy for all ages. It's nice to be able to binge on YouTube videos without worrying about profanity, crudity, sexual humor, or other things. This is why I love Studio C and plan to continue watching JK! Studios. I believe they need to improve some things if they are going to move to the next level. Their writing has become totally stale, the actors are too self-aware, the jokes lack cleverness, they come across as totally insecure (how many times do they have to try to convince the world of their smartness by adding cliché, tongue-in-cheek social and political commentaries?), they don't play according to their strengths, there is a shortage of inner logic to their universes, and they run jokes into the ground. It's frustrating to see such a talented group of people act so amateurishly and immaturely - sometimes their shows have the same flaws as a six-year-old comedy routine: sure, they're creative, but it's not cute to make these mistakes when you're in your thirties.

If they can get out of this rut, play according to their strengths, and rediscover their inspiration, they could be an unstoppable force. Saturday Night Live! is dying and people are hungry for clean, apolitical humor. Matt and James are absolute treasures and could be the keys to their superstardom if only they'd use them.

Just some honest thoughts. Good luck, JK! Studios! I'd love to change my rating, so prove me wrong.
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Complete Waste of Time if You Don't Think Harris is the Greatest Person Alive
15 September 2015
Apparently, someone out there thinks that Neil Patrick Harris is the most interesting person alive - one of them is Neil Patrick Harris. Never has a show seemed so forced, annoying, or completely pathetic. Poor Reese Witherspoon.

Everything in the show, despite its huge potential - with its star- studded debut - falls flat. I don't feel the need to laugh if I sense that the humor is being shoved at me. There was no humor being shoved at me - only Hollywood "stars" with bloated egos.

I have never been a big fan of Neil Patrick Harris, and this show did nothing to change my mind. #worsttimeever
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Not just good, very good!
11 July 2015
Masterful installment in the Harry Potter series and the only estimable work since Prisoner of Azkaban. Following two gloomy films, I enter Half Blood Prince skeptical, and understably so. Once again, the work is dark and brooding and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry seems drearier than a nursing home. The storyline is clearly good, but the filmmaking must stand as an altogether separate work.

And stand it does! Not since Chamber Secrets has the stylization so preferred things like storyline, characterization, dialogue, acting, and other actually important things. There is real pathos (despite the cliché love affair between Ron and some random blonde girl) and sustained intrigue - all in all, the film fosters a genuinely interested audience (that is not weary from bricks being thrown at them every so often). The atmosphere rarely slaps you in the face (my cheeks were sore after Goblet of Fire) and the cinematography has a pleasing blend of close-up and exterior shots. Yes, I love a brighter Hogwarts, but thanks to this film's addition of the color yellow, I had little to complain about in Yates' vision.

All-in-all this film makes the series. Without it, Harry Potter could have been buried with Dumbledore (for all I care); but with it, I am excited to say that the audience stays with Harry to his climactic and exciting end in Part 2 (which, thanks to Half Blood Prince, becomes one of the highest earning films of all time). Jim Broadbent is marvellous as Slughorn and Michael Gambon became a Dumbledore whom Richard Harris never dreamed of being. Still not perfect, but a masterful piece of filmmaking.
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A Visual Masterpiece
20 April 2015
The Magnificent Ambersons delivers on so many levels. This is a deep, complicated film about life, the passage of time, the vanity of wealth, and humanity in general. Where Citizen Kane was a carnival, The Magnificent Ambersons is a grand ball. It is one of the most sophisticated things I have ever seen - yet retains enormous raw power despite its delicate nature.

The only real problem with The Magnificent Ambersons is its place in history. Hidden under the gargantuan shadow of its predecessor Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons is hardly a drop in the bucket. And buried beneath the weight of its own legendary debauchery myth, it cannot seem to stand on its own legs. However, in my opinion, The Magnificent Ambersons as it stands is every bit as good as Citizen Kane. The real mystery about The Magnificent Ambersons is where it belongs when not evaluated in light of Welle's artistic oeuvre.

One could say that The Magnificent Ambersons is a more mature film than Citizen Kane. I believe they would be right. And to think that Orson Welles is merely 26 at the time of its making. Truly remarkable...

I end this review with a thought: If Renoirs "Rules of the Game," Welles' "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons," Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and Hitchcock's "Vertigo" were given a pure reading which one would be considered 'the greatest' on pure artistic merit? I don't know.
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Better than I Expected
6 April 2015
As a Christian, I have learned to never trust Hollywood with Bible stories. After all, Isn't Hollywood run mostly by "Satan's cronies," anyway? Bible stories are very powerful - as written and described in the Bible. When Hollywood rewrites the script, much is inevitably left out and the result is diluted mush. However, I think the people behind A.D. The Bible Continues have displayed a refreshing sense of reverence and faithfulness to the Scripture in their pilot episode of the story. Still, much is left out - but very little is changed.

Many of the scenes in the episode are very powerful. In particular, I appreciated the scene where the roman soldier approached Pilate and informed him that Jesus was certainly killed. This is an important detail, given the many "resurrection-debunkers" who claim that Jesus was not on the cross long enough to die. I also appreciated the majesty of the scene where the angel descended and rolled the stone away from Jesus' tomb. While both of these scenes do not usually make the cut in other movies about the life of Jesus, I believe that they effectively put skin on an otherwise all-too-familiar story.

Whether or not one has accepted Christ into their heart, there is no denying the polish and accuracy of this episode when compared to other interpretations of the story. Of course, it's not The Passion of the Christ or The Gospel According to St. Matthew, but it is impressive. Christians, I believe, will be especially impressed.
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Inception (2010)
Shades of Kubrick, but far too complicated
28 March 2015
Stanely Kubrick was full of great ideas that would, maybe to others, be unfilmable; but under his hands, they were living, breathing dreamworlds. Surprisingly, for how mind-numbingly intellectual his films were, it seems they were (wisely) portrayed minimalistically. Everything that happened in Kubrick's films did not happen on screen and his scripts, while complicated, were amazingly coherent. The audience's imagination is freed this way. Of course, both Nolan and Kubrick are expressionists, but where Kubrick's films were coherent Nolan's are often frustrated into utter incoherence.

The Dark Knight series lacked real emotional power due to this over-complicatedness, despite having, at times, the "cool" factor. Inception is no different. It could be riveting and interesting IF there was intellectual breathing room. Instead, the mind is suffocated with concepts taken to extremes that would better fit a TV series than a single film.

Inception has good action and a really interesting concept, but as usual Nolan takes it as far as it can go - and than a little bit further, eventually crossing the line into incoherence. Like Kubrick, I think Nolan is one of those amazing people straddling the fence between genius and insanity. Sometimes we get the insanity.
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CREEPY... but interesting
14 March 2015
I felt lost during this movie. I don't think that Spielberg was ready to make it. It needed just a little bit more time to simmer down in the brain before being made. I'm sure that if it contained a better sense of direction, purpose, movement, etc. it would have been a film for the ages. As it is, it is much, much worse than it should be. At the same time, it is not a bad movie - relatively speaking.

It is definitely a thinking person's film - as long as that person doesn't think TOO much. If he does, he will see that the film is trite an over-complicated. (If anyone remembers 2001, that film was minimalistic - as this film should have been). Anyway, it still succeeds in raising many interesting questions and in causing viewers to think. I just feel that it was a touch on the stupid side.

Haley Joel Osment, on the other hand, was incredible. He handles his material convincingly and takes the audience on a ride toward "David"'s eventual emotional maturity - It is quite an arch for a child actor! The music by John Williams is another asset - it supports the material of the film.

Overall, Spielberg and Kubrick's vision did not, I believe, come to full fruition. Still, it was a wonderful and special film that, I believe, still carries some level of importance.
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The Rules of the Game Can Not Be Treated Like Other Films
10 March 2015
The Rules of the Game is not like any other film that I know of. It can only be evaluated as a historic work of art - it certainly transcends its medium. It is so untheatrical, despite a riveting finale and a luscious script, that it can hardly be described as entertainment. But in terms of powerful cinema it is fireworks. Renoir really outdid himself with this film, which will always be relevant because it reveals such basic truth and says the unthinkable.

One particularly interesting quality of this film is the dynamics of its character development. The characters, as Renoir describes them, are simple, yet they are developed to their furthest conclusions. It shows the harsh reality of private life in comparison to public persona as well as the harsh reality of fate and judgment.

"Sensitive hearts, faithful hearts Who shun love whither it does range Cease to be so bitter Is it a crime to change? If Cupid was given wings Was it not to flitter?"
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Pleasantly surprised, even moved.
8 March 2015
I really haven't expected much from The Hunger Games after seeing the first movie. I thought that the books were engaging and, at times, dramatic and felt that the first book was not adapted well to the screen. There was no real tension between Peeta and Katniss and some of the finest moments of the book were butchered in the film.

Interestingly enough, Mockingjay, I felt, was the worst book of the series; but as far as I am concerned it might be the best film so far. The first film, in my opinion, was a train wreck; the second film was a brilliant recovery; and this third film is far above my expectations.

Jennifer Lawrence is a good actress, but this is not her best acting. I feel that the script is so poorly written that she is forced to do unthinkable things on screen - yet she manages to pull them off. For instance, how many times can an actor be expected to cry, gasp, or yell in a single film? Jennifer Lawrence does very well under the circumstances. I think that the surprise performance, however, was from Elizabeth Banks as Effie. I have never truly enjoyed her character until this film, and in this film she nearly steals every scene she's in.

I was not convinced that this story was worth filming until I saw this film, which is far better than it should have been. See it. It is dramatic and even touching - and very timely. You won't likely be disappointed.
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Good, but surprisingly bland
25 February 2015
Unfortunately, I'm not sure what The Theory of Everything is about. It ventures many places but arrives nowhere. Everything seems to be in place. The acting is some of the best I've ever seen and the musical score is fitting. Nothing comes across to me as sappy in the entire running time of the film. Still, I am left empty.

Maybe the blandness of the film is derived from the fact that Hawking is not yet dead. Maybe, if he was it would be easier to pinpoint exactly what his life was about. Instead, we are left with a film about theories and scientific discoveries but are also left absolutely clueless as to what they are about. Personally, I do not know much about Hawking, but this film did not succeed in making me any more interested in researching him.

Don't get me wrong. This is a very good film. It takes the viewer on a real journey and gently presses you to feel. Can we live with ourselves? If we had to carefully select our words, as Hawking does, would we have anything to say? I believe each of us would live much differently if we were truly grateful for what we have. I don't think anyone realizes this as much as Dr. Hawking.

Overall, a well-deserved Oscar for Redmayne.
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Best animated film ever made?
24 February 2015
When I think of animated films, my mind is not filled with enchanting scenes from Fantasia or talking toys or many of the other things that seem to be so exhilarating to mass audiences. Popularity and entertainment have grown less exciting to me the more that I watch movies. I want to be caressed with a beautiful idea and allowed to ponder it for a while. That's why I love Studio Ghibli. Or, that's at least one reason why I love Ghibli.

Other contenders for best animated film might be... Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke, or the beautiful "recobbled cut" of The Princess and the Cobbler. I think that The Tale of Princess Kaguya is easily a contender. Not for greatest of 2014 (WHY Big Hero 6?) but of all time.

Animation-wise, it is near the very top. It is every bit as entrancing as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Of course, Princess Mononoke has more detail in its art and The Princess and the Cobbler is in a class of its own. (If you've never seen The Princess and the Cobbler - Recobbled Cut on YouTube, watch it now - its Salvador Dali meets Andy Warhol). The animation is minimalistic to the point that it actually enhances and adds to the experience. Your mind is allowed to fill in the blanks. The "suggestions" made by the animators are absolutely breathtaking. The spirit of Japan comes to life in their strokes.

Considering the animated films that are being released today (Walt Disney Studios, for example, treats its audience like mindless garbage receptacles), Princess Kaguya is more than a breath-of-fresh-air, it is a very important film. It says something that very few movie studios have the guts to say. That money doesn't matter - life should be pure. That's what this movie pines for - purity. And how so lacking are America's studios today! Hollywood has become a business rather than a laboratory. It no longer makes films; instead, we are subjected to 2- hour-long trailers for merchandise. Kaguya is a real masterpiece and work-of-art. It deserves to be celebrated. And it deserved the Oscar. Maybe it's too good for the Oscars.
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Big Hero 6 (2014)
Wow, every cliché in the book?
24 February 2015
I just finished watching Big Hero 6 for the first time. I was stunned... by how many clichés were able to fit into one film. It's amazing how entire films can be made without a single original idea. Maybe I'm being too critical. But I don't think so.

Take the "E.T." climax for example or the "let's become superheros 'idea'" or the "my best friend's a robot" or "my parents are dead" or basically anything else in the film. None of it's truly original. All the way down to the achingly bad "San Fransokyo" thing. There were a few times when I was genuinely entertained. The only problem is - that's not why I watch movies, to become a mindless garbage receptacle. I hate to admit it but what was said about Krei early in the film - that he basically cheats his way around science and only cares about money is EXACTLY where Walt Disney Studios is right now. I hate to say it but Disney is showing that it is not concerned with true art, only $$

On the other hand, a truly beautiful work of art came out in 2013, from a real film studio with integrity Studio Ghibli. Did it get the credit it deserved? Not even close. If you want to watch an actual film that's worth your time, look up The Tale of Princess Kaguya. The Best Animated Film Oscar was stolen from Kaguya - if not bought off. Somehow it ended up with this piece of garbage? Big Hero 6? It's all about $$
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Mary Poppins (1964)
A Movie that Speaks to Adults as Much as to Children
2 October 2011
Is it wrong that it bothers me that so many films advertise themselves as a "film for the whole family"? This usually either means that the film is really lame (having won a Dove Foundation Award - puke) or that it is filled with hidden obscene references that are inappropriate for ANY audience (Sorry, Shrek, adults aren't all perverts). Mary Poppins actually is a film for virtually any audience. It has the charm, energy, and joie de vivre to enchant any child at heart and the reverent maturity to move any audience. For every "Supercalifragilistexpialidocious" there is a "Feed the Birds."

Is it wrong that I am not a fan of Finding Mr. Banks? I found it particularly annoying how, at times, matter-of-factly or gushily the film revealed traits of Mary Poppins that, at least to me, seemed really obvious. To any adult who pays attention during Mary Poppins (and doesn't treat it as background noise), it becomes apparent that the film is really about Mr. Banks - he is the character with the dramatic arch. Everyone else is simply blissful unaware of the trials of life - but also unaware of how unassumingly Mr. Banks carries their burdens for them. The film spoke to me plainly as a child - its themes were clear and powerful. And it continues to move me today.

This film contains many things that I would consider my "favorite." First, it is my favorite musical. It is my favorite Disney film and favorite family-oriented movie. It also contains my favorite song "Feed the Birds."

The beauty of Mary Poppins is so pure, you just might miss it. That's why I love it so much, Bert and all.
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Better than Spirited Away
22 October 2010
In no way am I slamming Spirited Away! It is a great film! But there is something about the purity of Castle in the Sky that blows me away. Has there ever been a more beautiful title sequence than the one in this film or a more beautiful musical theme or a more breathtaking castle? Each scene seems patiently thought through and carefully timed. The character development is plentiful but not overdone. I really love this film. More than anything else, I think it is dear to my heart.

For one thing, I can't get over the action sequences. The mother is hilarious and totally runs the show with her band of hyper-masculinized idiots. It is a real joy to see the cars swerve back and forth as characters speed down the road in a tense car chase. There is real humor and grit in this film, and I believe that it belongs on anyone's list of classics, along with the rest of Ghibli's repertoire.

My introduction to this film was upon reading Leonard Maltin's movie guide book about 7 years ago. I was very surprised to see that he had given a Japanese anime film 4 stars. (If anyone is familiar with Maltin, you would know he doesn't just "give away" four stars). He said that it was one of the best action films ever made, animated or otherwise. I was already familiar with Miyazaki's work via Spirited Away and was very excited to get my hands on a copy of Castle in the Sky. At first, I wasn't all that impressed with the film. It seemed melancholy compared to the flat-out dynamism of Spirited Away. But over time this film has warmed up to me and has earned a special place on my shelf. I would recommend to anyone interested in seeing this film, or who has seen it before and didn't really like it, to give it time. Allow Castle in the Sky to enchant you. It is SO worth it.
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