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El laberinto del fauno (2006)
Unexpectedly good dark fantasy film
I just finished watching PAN'S LABYRINTH and it was an unexpectedly good film. At first I was confused because it was in Spanish, I thought my DVR recorded the airing from the Latin channel; but as it turns out, that's the way the film is. If you understand Spanish it should be no big deal, and if you don't understand Spanish don't worry, there are English subtitles.
Set in Spain of 1944, a young Ofelia, escapes to a dark fantasy world of The Labyrinth. The set design is spectacular, it's very dark, very Tim Burton like. The creatures of Labyrinth, particularly the old faun, are great. Through the whole film I could not figure out if the faun was sincerely trying to help Ofelia or manipulating her for evil deeds. PAN'S LABYRINTH really reminded me of a dark Chronicles of Narnia film. The cast as a whole gave great performances, but the one who really stood out to me is the performance of Captain Vidal by actor Sergi López. Whenever I tried to anticipate Captain Vidal's next move, he did the complete opposite.
Overall, PAN'S LABYRINTH is an entertaining dark fantasy film that will take you on a ride. I was surprised to see that this film is rated R, now I know why. PAN'S LABYRINTH is a dark fantasy film that is NOT FOR CHILDREN, but great for adults. Don't let the film being in Spanish stop you from seeing it. If you get pass the subtitles, you will enjoy this film.
Les Misérables (2012)
From Broadway to the Big Screen
Let me start by saying, I have not seen the Broadway musical for Les Miserables nor have I read the book. My only reference to the songs were from the 25th Anniversary Concert videos on YouTube. The only adaptation I have seen was 1998's Les Miserables with Liam Neeson. Tom Hooper's version of LES MISERABLES is my favorite adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel.
Tom Hooper chose to have the actors sing live while filming other than prerecording the songs for playback (as they usually do in musicals). This was a great choice, leaving the actors freedom to act (or in this case sing) with emotion as they see fit. Anne Hathaway's portrayal of Fantine is phenomenal! The preparations she took, like losing some weight when her character was starving and actually cutting off all her hair when she could have worn a wig. Her performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" is heartbreaking. Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Jean Valjean is equally phenomenal. He looked completely unrecognizable in the beginning of the film with his dramatic weight loss. I was surprised by the fact that he can really sing! Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen performances are amazing and the roles really suit them. Eddie Redmayne's portray of Marius is great, he really gave emotion to "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables." Samantha Barks is perfectly cast as Eponine, her performance of "On My Own" is flawless.
I could go on and on about the great performances of the cast, but here are some things that lacked. I felt that Russell Crowe as Javert didn't perform to the level the other actors did. Though his performance with Hugh Jackman in "The Confrontation" was great, his performance of "Stars" was a bit weak. Amanda Seyfried's portrayal of Cosette was also a bit weak compared to the others. It felt like her singing was drowned out by the other actors in songs like "Heart Full of Love" and "One Day More." Both Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried did great in the film, but their singing could have been improved. Also, Eponine and Marius' "A Little Fall of Rain" is cut too short, it would have been nice had it been a bit longer. The ending scene where Jean Valjean is dying and is greeted by Fantine's spirit is beautifully done.
Overall, LES MISERABLES is an amazing film full of great songs and powerful performances. This is a great film for people who have not seen the Broadway musical or even if you have. Tom Hooper's LES MISERABLES is exactly how I envision the Broadway musical would be. I must warn you, most of the film is singing with very little speaking words, this may not be for everybody. But it is loaded with amazing songs, you may not care. I recommend seeing this film and have tissues at the ready!
The Godfather Part III (1990)
Unfairly Criticized and Underrated
This final installment of "The Godfather" trilogy, THE GODFATHER: PART III really is unfairly criticized and underrated. Though it lacks the intensity of the first two films, it's still rather enjoyable.
Al Pacino's final performance as an aging Michael Corleone is incredible and again, his character's transformation from beginning to end is very well done. I am very impressed by Andy Garcia's performance as Vincent Mancini, the role fits him perfectly. Though I do think Sofia Coppola's performance as Mary Corleone is a bit weak compared to the other actors, but it was not that bad. Diane Keaton's performance surprised me, especially in one particular scene; this is a side of her I have never seen before.
Overall, THE GODFATHER: PART III is a great ending to the trilogy and I enjoyed it very much. The story held my attention from beginning to end. Not being much of a fan of "The Godfather" at first, I can now say watching PART: III, Francis Ford Coppola won me over.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
A Sequel and Prequel in One
THE GODFATHER: PART II is one of the best sequels I have seen. PART II is like a sequel AND prequel in one. It takes place right where the last film ended. It continues the story of Michael (Al Pacino) and also tells the story of a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) in 1920s New York.
The use of flashbacks to tell Vito Corleone's story is perfectly edited and flawless. Robert De Niro's performance is fantastic and I have a better understanding of Vito Corleone. I really enjoyed the flashbacks in the PART II. Al Pacino's performance is also fantastic in this film; his character's transformation from the first film to the end of PART II is incredible.
Overall, THE GODFATHER: PART II is a great sequel that will not disappoint. The performances are great, the storyline is amazing. As I stated earlier, I really enjoyed Vito Corleone's story. Both Michael and Vito's stories fit very well together. If you liked the first film, you are sure to love PART II.
A silent film ahead of its time...
First of all, I don't consider myself a silent film fan. Actually, I never really seen a silent film until METROPOLIS, unless you count THE ARTIST. Like most people, my first impression would be that silent films are boring. But I was wrong...
METROPOLIS took me completely by surprise. I was impressed at how advance the special effects are. The set design of the city is fantastic, looks very similar to something you would seen in Sci-Fi films today. The story is original with a powerful message. Though the performances of the actors are a bit over the top, which I suppose is to be expected in silent films. Also some lost parts of the film were recovered and restored, so the transitions of different qualities throughout is a bit distracting.
Overall, METROPOLIS is a great film ahead of its time. Though, I must admit it is a little hard to sit through; I myself ended up stopping it occasionally, it is a good 2 hours long.
A Dark, Twisted Shirley Temple Persona
I just happened to come across this film on TCM during their 31 Days of Oscar celebration. I read the plot summary: A former child star torments her crippled sister in a decaying Hollywood mansion. This peaked my interest and since it was at least nominated for an Oscar (to my knowledge), it may be worth watching. And so the feature presentation began...
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is probably the most disturbing thriller I have seen thus far. The story is compelling, dark and suspenseful. Bette Davis' performance as the spoiled former child star is chilling. Joan Crawford's performance as the rising new star Blanche is a perfect contrast to Davis' Jane. Together, Davis and Crawford are perfect as rivaling sisters. The story is original, captivating and thrilling. I was glued to the screen wondering what would happen next.
Overall, WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? is a great film full of suspense with great storytelling accompanied by amazing performances. I highly recommend watching this film.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
One of those feel good movies...
Through the years I have heard many great things about this musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. One day I had the chance to watch it on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Going into the film my expectations were set very high, and surprisingly this film met those expectations.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is one of those films that will brighten up your day! Set in Hollywood in the late 1920s, a time when the silent film era was coming to an end, a film production company makes the transition to "talkies." This film is full of laughter, music and romance. With its many memorable songs like "Make 'em Laugh," "Good Morning," and the most iconic "Singin' in the Rain," I was humming along and tapping my feet. The musical numbers are fun and catchy, I am sure they will be stuck in you head. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen, you will surely be entertained throughout the film.
Overall, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN makes you want to really sing (and dance) in the rain. With memorable songs and a great cast, this film will entertain audiences for generations to come.
Tim Burton Ruined a Classic!
First of all, let me just say that I am a fan of Tim Burton's films. I love the dark Gothic themes he usually sets his films. But his version of the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory completely ruined it for me.
Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the worst remakes I have seen. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Willy Wonka is just terrible! And the Oompa Loompa musical numbers are horrible! Also there is no need to add the Willa Wonka back-story into the movie. I did enjoy Freddie Highmore's performance as Charlie and the other children were also good. The set design is great, the only thing Burton did get right.
Overall, this is the worse of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, both of whose work I normally enjoy. This film is a major disappointment.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
A Darker Take of Snow White
Snow White and the Huntsman is actually a pretty good movie. When I first saw the trailer, I was intrigued by the darker spin of the classic story of Snow White. It was interesting to see the character of Snow White not as the helpless, damsel in distress, but as a strong warrior.
Charlize Theron's portrayal of Ravenna, the evil queen, is spine chilling. Her costumes were simply amazing! Chris Hemsworth is cast perfectly as the Huntsman. Kristen Stewart's portrayal of Snow White is not her best, she could have done better. The Dwarfs have their own twist from the original miners and are entertaining to watch.
All in all, Snow White and the Huntsman is entertaining. Though this version is more for teens and adults than for small children, as the scene in the Dark Forest may be a bit too scary.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
This modern attempt of Shakespeare's famous Romeo & Juliet was a failure. The Shakespearean language in a modern setting do not mix! If director, Baz Luhrmann, wanted to modernize Shakespeare to appeal to a younger generation, he or the writers should have modernized to language too.
The performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes were less than average. As the star-crossed lovers they lacked on screen chemistry. Their individual performances were fair, but considering this was early in their respective careers, I am willing to overlook it. Though I must admit, I am a fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes work, but this was not their best. Furthermore, what pains me is the iconic ending scene; it made no impact on me whatsoever.
Overall, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet is a disgrace to Shakespeare. I would be ashamed to have this film credited to my name.
Boyhood has to be the most highly overrated film of 2014. Though the story is good, it's not great. Boyhood follows the life of Mason, from early childhood to his arrival at college. The film is too long and drags. Though the story is unoriginal, what sets it apart is that it was filmed over the course of 12 years.
The girl who played the sister was fun and energetic in the beginning, but lost her flare really fast. She, in my opinion, was the worst character in the film. Patricia Arquette did a great as the mom, but who really impressed me was Ethan Hawke.
Overall, Boyhood is average. The story didn't hold my attention throughout the film. Boyhood was a bit too long and would have been more effective had it been shorter.
The Help (2011)
A Must Watch Film
Adapted from Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name, The Help is the perfect adaptation. The story is powerful and inspiring, the the cast is simply perfect, and though there are some differences between the film and the book (as there always are with adaptations), The Help is the perfect example on how to adapt a book into a film.
The cast as a whole is amazing. It's great to see Emma Stone show a dramatic side apart for her usual comedic roles. Octavia Spencer is perfect as Minnie Jackson, a role she was born to play; a well deserved Oscar on her part. The rest of the cast played off each other wonderfully. I was entertained throughout the film, there was not a dull moment. I laughed and laughed, and felt sympathetic for some of the characters. I read the book after I watched the film, and it was just as entertaining (with few minor differences). Usually when I read a book that was adapted into a film, the book is better. The Help is the exception, as both are enjoyable.
Overall, The Help is one of those films everyone should watch. It's a part of American history in the 1960s, between white and black. This is a problem we still face today, though we have made some improvement. What makes this film so compelling is that it tells the story from the perspective of the colored maids and the struggles they dealt with. Great storytelling, amazing cast!
Exceeded my expectations
I was surprised how truly great this film is; the story is captivating, powerful, intense and inspirational. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, something unexpected happen. Both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons gave incredible performances. J.K.'s portrayal of Fletcher, the music instructor, was remarkable (a well deserved Oscar win).
The scene when Andrew (Miles Teller) is at the dinner table with family spoke to me. Andrew is passionate about music, but his uncle doesn't care to try to support Andrew and his music. All he seems to care about is football like the world revolves around it, which makes Andrew seem like the "black sheep" of the family (which I can relate to). Andrew will stop at nothing to accomplish his dreams.
Overall, Whiplash is quite the roller coaster of ups and downs with a great inspirational message about following your dreams and overcoming obstacles that get in your way. In my opinion Whiplash should have won the Oscar for Best Picture over Birdman. This film gave me a newfound respect for drummers. I highly recommend this film.
The Godfather (1972)
For years I've been hearing great things about this "epic" film, The Godfather. It's been aired on television numerous times, but I really didn't feel like sitting through a 5 hour run time (with added commercials). So I finally decided I should watch this film and get it over with, so through my local library I checked out The Godfather.
The film was very disappointing through the first watch, though the length of the film didn't bother me, I couldn't understand half of what Marlon Brando was saying. I was ready to rate The Godfather 5 stars when I came across a review from someone with similar feelings that said they watched the film again with subtitles. So I thought why not try to watch this disappointing film again with subtitles. What a difference!
The second watching with subtitles completely change my experience of The Godfather. I was able to understand the story a lot better and I'm glad I gave the film a second chance. It's 9 stars for me!