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Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla production couldn't afford good writers?
13 August 2014
This movie was LAZILY made. The only props I can give are:

1) they do a good job of portraying Japan without being racist - except for the fact that just about everyone speaks with perfect English accents and that a white gaijin (foreigner) is throwing around orders at a nuclear power plant at the beginning of the film. Yeah right. But they use actual Japanese actors (err.. one) at least. Watanabe Ken!!!!

However. Evoking the fear and pain of Tohoku earthquake and subsequent fukushima meltdown in certain scenes (Hawaii, Japanese power plant) I won't spoil, was really, really cheap. Hollywood evokes the terror of 9/11 all the time, so using disasters as an easy hot button isn't new or surprising. But for God's sake, we haven't even fully rebuilt Miyako yet. We only just this year even confirmed the death toll. Couldn't they wait a couple more years for God's sake? Too soon, man.

2) the action scenes were pretty cool - as to be expected from a high-budget Hollywood film. Anyone giving this movie a high rating is probably thinking of the special effects, because most people seem to be easily dazzled by flashy CGI. But the CGI is all this film has got. This production team was so lazy they even CGI'ed friggin' Mt. Fuji instead of filming on location. Seriously, why bother even using real actors? Make yourself another Final Fantasy travesty, why don't ya. It's too obvious... and there's nothing worse than really obvious CGI.

But the story is terrible and filled with plot holes. Just because the concept is fantastic doesn't mean you have to make it COMPLETELY implausible. If a movie that takes itself as seriously as Godzilla completely dispenses with believability, it interferes with the audiences ability to escape into the movie because they're too busy saying, "yeah right" to themselves. When I say "implausible" I'm not even talking about radiation-eating giant creatures. That's the most believable bit of the whole movie. Maybe they used all their budget on the actress/actors' and CGI team's salaries, so they didn't have enough money to hire decent writers.. ?
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Pretty packaging, hollow box.
26 February 2014
Visually, this movie was brilliant. Pretty good special effects, beautiful costumes, opulent sets - the works. I also love the steampunk style of the film, and there were some decent actors. But the story, while imaginative and potentially interesting, was erratic and at times unconvincing - but totally predictable. There wasn't a single twist you couldn't see coming from miles away. The acting, while occasionally decent, was generally mediocre at best. Most of all, the character development was TERRIBLE. The villain, heroes, everyone is one dimensional - almost a punch line.

Also, for God's sake, it's 2014 - but you would think that in addition to the movie being about a fantastic Victorian world, the movie's writers and director are themselves actually Victorian. There are three women in the movie: one is the mother of the protagonist, one is his love interest, and the other is the sexy lover or wife of the main villain. While they are clever and help the movie along (with their emotions.. god help us, the gypsy card scene?! wtf?) , the women of this film have no roles other than as supporting characters for the males of the movies: the movie should have been called "AdventurER: Mystery of the Antique-Loving Old Boys Club - But Your Girlfriend Can Come, Too". I am so sick to death of this trite, sexist, racist Hollywood-style crap. I'm starting to turn into JD Salinger and dread movies. Also, speaking of racism, while I'm pleased they made an effort at diversity, no matter how half-a**ed, it 's bizarre that there is only one black guy in the whole movie, which has a large cast. In a 99% white, patriarchal, hetero Victorian world he reads obviously as a token, not a necessary character to the plot. They could very have thrown in a few more POC, even as extras. One of the villain's henchman, a fellow porter, a villager, someone at the reformatory, a guest at the hotel, some extras on the street, audience members.. the list is endless.
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The NGC documentary was better.
16 February 2014
This movie is based on a really interesting story, but the movie itself is dull and tepid. If Clooney wanted to inspire audiences with the monuments men's heroic acts and passion for the work they were saving, he failed. The actors are generally half-hearted and the movie is completely devoid of momentum and suspense. The story unfolds like the dramatization of a textbook, with few exceptions (the scene with the Christmas carol, and the letter/operation to rescue the Bruges Madonna were pretty good). Why? In part because the script is too full of dry little quips, yet this movie is not actually funny enough to be a comedy. . Clooney tells the monuments men's story like a guy relating an epically bad backpacking trip to his bro-friend at a bar. Comedic relief is only successful if there is something dramatic enough to relieve us from (the landmine scene? seriously?).

Another problem is the characters. These historical figures are absolutely fascinating and are part of what makes this story so compelling, yet in the script they aren't nearly as fleshed out or interesting as they could be. Clooney's depiction of Claire, for example is insulting. She was they key to the entire operation, but instead of depicting her strength he reduces an enigmatic woman into a desperate love interest - as though it is cinematically impossible to have a female character in a movie without using her for romantic tension. FAIL.

The documentary I watched prior to seeing this film got me really excited for the movie because as an art lover, I'm eager to see a mainstream film that gets people excited about art. Instead, I'm left feeling almost betrayed.
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Finally, a feel-good comedy that celebrates women!
8 August 2013
Susan Seidelman's gem of a comedy tells a story that run-of-the-mill Hollywood flicks are loath to tell: The story of underdogs such as women of colour, queer women, women of a certain class, and most notably women of a certain age. This movie challenges the viewer by making its subject a demographic of people who are grossly underrepresented in film and media, and yet it's hardly a shocking or radical film. Seidel brings us to the American heartland where we find ourselves welcomed by surprisingly believable characters (for the most part) in outrageously comic situations.

The film had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments: in particular, the cheerleaders, the second game, and Wanda Sykes' hair moments. Actually, everything Wanda Sykes says and does in this movie is a riot. However, it could have been funnier. The jokes are there, but sometimes their delivery isn't quite ostentatious enough to really knock them out of the park. Also, though most of the characters were quite believable (especially Camryn Manheim's character, Roxie), other important characters such as the antagonist mom whose name I forget were a bit two-dimensional, and some of the dialogues felt a bit lazy. Honestly, if this movie had been about a group of middle aged guys returning to basketball to raise money for prostate cancer, all other things the same, I probably would have given the movie a 6 or 7. But seeing a feel-good comedy that actually celebrates women (in a suffocating media environment where relegating female roles to either sex goddess, love interest/love obsessed, or obsessive villain is the norm) is such a welcomed and needed breath of fresh air that its occasional cinematic mediocrity can be overlooked. Now, if only Hollywood could make a movie with the spirit/guts of this flick combined with the technical prowess of a movie like the Avengers...
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lack of budget no excuse for lack of spine..
4 August 2013
To say this movie was a disappointment would be an understatement. I feel BETRAYED.

The trailer and lack of an all-star cast warned me that "The Crown and the Dragon" was probably going to be a low-budget film, so I was not surprised or disappointed by the poor quality of the acting or the mediocre cinematic aspects of the film. The effects actually somewhat exceeded my expectations, which are pretty relaxed and forgiving for low budget movies. However, a small budget is no excuse for terrible writing. The story made little sense and the dialogues and narration were heavy handed. The directing was also mediocre.

The Crown and the Dragon's greatest fail, however, was the quality of its characters. This movie touts a female director/co-writer and a plot synopsis that gives the impression of a progressive storyline with a strong, inspiring female protagonist (rare in the fantasy genre):

official synopsis: " In a country cursed with a dragon, Elenn, an arrogant young noblewoman, accompanies her aunt on a mission to bring an ancient relic to the secret coronation of the rightful king of their people. When her aunt is murdered on the road by occupying enemy soldiers, Elenn hires a smuggler and criminal, Aedin, to escort her across the dangerous country so she can take her aunt's place at the coronation. But when Corvus, a rogue magister of the empire, employs a dark magic to retrieve the ancient relic for his own evil designs, Elenn must find the humility and strength within herself to fulfill her aunt's calling to free her people, and become a Paladin - the long foretold dragonslayer"

Elenn sounds like a hero, right? Wrong.

Without revealing too much, I will say that the "heroine" Elenn is far from an inspiring female figure. She's a damsel in distress trope who, despite supposedly being the protagonist of the film with purported powers, is reduced to a love interest/the object of men's affection... men who are the ones that ultimately drive the plot. The other few women of the film don't escape the filmmaker's internalized sexism, either.

In short, this film is a B movie that promises a breath of fresh air to the fantasy genre, but delivers little more than stale, hot wind. Thanks, Anne K. Black, for throwing women under the bus.
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Sinister (I) (2012)
Great atmosphere, too much bad cgi...
19 June 2013
My mother taught me that looking great is important, but to seduce one should leave a little to the imagination. Scott Derrickson could learn a little something from my mother.

I will admit, the film is really, really creepy! What makes the movie horrifically entertaining is its atmosphere and sound effects/ambient score. The 8mm scenes are brilliant and are what give the movie style. The director is on the top of his game when he uses shadows and out-of-focus images of horrors I won't mention at the risk of spoiling the film . The story is also interesting, albeit reminiscent of Paranormal activity 3 and about a dozen other films I've seen. However, all of those strengths are deflated the moment the movie crew starts using second-rate CGI for extended periods of time, in clear focus. His creatures are only scary when we can't see them clearly.. when they're popping in and out of the shadows, hidden in the blurry images of photos, or when we see their reflection in a bit of something here or there. Casting monstrous villains in a bright spotlight strips them of their mystery, their creepiness, and their horror. Also, the longer we have to look at the creatures, the more obvious the film's budget.

The characters and dialogues were mostly stale, with few exceptions. I was rather bored with the stamp-like story completely revolving around a white guy and his pride, who is the master of the house and who makes all of the decisions for the family despite his wife's intuitive pleas and half- hearted ultimatums. Like that story hasn't been told before. How about some new family dynamics that aren't a throwback to the 50's and 60's? Also, some of the main character's reactions to different scenarios weren't entirely believable.

So: good job overall, but needs work on excessive, unnecessary use of bad cgi, and, well, a better writing/editing team, particularly with regards to character development.
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Black Rock (2012)
Hunted-in-the-woods Thriller done right!
21 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
These kinds of thrillers aren't normally my cup of tea. But I had heard such good things about Kate Aselton's work, I decided to put my normal preferences aside, and was pleasantly surprised.

What makes this film especially good, despite its lack of budget, is the writing, dialogues, and character development. (Passes the Bechdel Test, y'all!) The main characters are multi dimensional and real. Their conversations are conversations women might actually have. They react in ways that are believable, if at times comedic, and the actresses' performances really carry Aselton's ideas forward. Audiences can really connect with these women, and it's that connection and empathy the audience feels for the characters that creates the tension and suspense that makes the movie good.

(spoiler part here) The villains' acting is a bit heavy handed at times - Hate to say it, but Jay Paulson's performance is kind of wretched - Although Henry Bouvier was pretty good, in the brief bit he was in the movie. Also, the movie, despite its otherwise believability, can be really ridiculous at times. (Two people with apparently zero combat training, armed with a TINY pocket knife and sharpened stick, plan to take out two armed ex-military? C'mon. There's one scene where Abbey plans to sneak up on one of the villains, who is injured, and slit his throat. She says, "so, is there a vein or something, here?" LOL) However, these moments of ridiculousness seem intentional, and create a kind of comedic relief in what is otherwise a very intense film.
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Great B movie
12 May 2013
If you're looking for a flashy, high budget film with stellar cinematography and top notch acting, this movie certainly isn't it. It's definitely a cheesy indie B-movie. However, considering it doesn't come from a major production company, it's pretty good. The story, though historically inaccurate, is interesting and very entertaining. The characters are compelling though not necessarily multi dimensional - some characters you really love, and others you really hate. But you definitely connect with them, one way or another. It passes the Bechdel test, and though it does have a lot of scantily clad women and a few nude scenes, there isn't an excessive amount of sexploitation and it generally stays true to its Amazon theme. Overall, this movie is good for men And women.
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