Saturday, June 23, 2012



As I promised, I am being more attentive to this blog. Today I am here to review Pixar's newest film, Brave. I was debating between this film and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, both were on my short list for June. But I ultimately decided on the up lifting animated adventure.

Pixar has always been amazing at creating films that, on the surface, are for children, but have so much depth that it's usually the adults who leave with tears in their eyes. Brave certainly fits in with all the other Pixar masterpieces. As expected, it is visual magic, and eye candy of the highest quality. But, to be honest, it's not the best film they have put out. That title still goes to Cars in my opinion. That being said, it is still a heartwarming, action packed, and oddly funny adventure with one of the best heroines ever imagined.

This film is full of strange surprises at every turn, and it is impossible to review the film with out revealing some of them, so if you don't want spoilers, stop reading now.

The frist thing that surprised me, was the tone of seriousness that persisted throughout the film. I have a hard time categorizing this film as anything other than a drama-adventure, punctuated with comedic moments. It is not like Cars where characters crack joke, after joke. Its more like Toy Story 2, where the jokes are rather superfluous to the overall story, and really serve to break up the dramatic moments.

The story begins with young Merida, the crimson haired, Scottish, princess living a normal life with her parents, the King and Queen of a small, but proud, kingdom. Merida is a free spirit, and very much at odds with her status as princess. She feels most comfortable practicing archery, riding her horse, Angus, and cracking jokes with her father, Fergus (Bill Connolly). However, her mother Elinor has high expectations of her daughter, and forces her to dress and behave in a manner befitting a well mannered princess.

It is so easy to fall in love with Merida, and she comes off as a very real, and very dynamic character. She has so much energy, and light, that you can't help but get sucked into her story. A lot of this comes from the spectacular animation. Pixar only has a handful of notable human characters and Merida outshines them all. Her facial expressions are so detailed and honest. They were not cartoonish or exaggerated. They looked like the real facial expressions one would expect from a 17 year old girl, from the subtle lip movements, to the expression in her eyes.

As the film continues, the Queen tells Merida that she is to be married, much to the King's disdain. The leaders and their sons of the three kingdom realms will come together and compete in a contest, as chosen by Merida. The winner of the challenge will win the princesses hand in marriage. Needless to say, Merida is less than enthusiastic about the idea, especially considering her options. After a poor showing from her suitors, Merida defies her mother and attempts to win her own hand by besting the boys in the contest. This does not have the effect Merida desires, and only seeks to create a further divide between her and the Queen. This divide causes Merida to seek a way to alter her fate by changing her mother.

Another big surprise in this film, is the lack of magic. When I saw the trailer, I expected a magical adventure on the level of Alice in Wonderland or something similar, but the magic in this film only serves as a catalyst for Merida's adventure. It is not a magically saturated film, which I thought was an interesting choice. It rooted the film in reality, which is a breath of fresh air from a production company that asks us to suspend disbelief in every film.

Now some of you who have seen the film may say, 'What are you talking about? There is a sneaky witch, magical potions, and Merida herself seeks a spell to change her fate." Yes, that is all true, but that is not what the majority of the film focuses on. In fact, the film focuses much more heavily on the realistic aspect of Merida's struggle for independence. And that is what makes the film so compelling to me.

The serious nature of the film and the realistic approach to the story, I think, it has prompted people to say this film has no heart. Don't believe anyone who says that! This film will play differently to each person, which is why I am going to ask you to disregard any review you read (including this one) and just go see it. The film focuses on real human emotions, and real human struggles. If you are looking for colorful taking fish or throw away childish humor, you are going to be disappointed. This film is not trying to appeal to the kid inside of all of us, its not winking at us, and it doesn't exist to make us laugh. It is a real story, with real characters, and real lessons to be learned. This film is very different from any other film Pixar has ever done, and they are blazing the trail with their courageous and unique stories.

A- : Not Pixar's best, but still a Pixar film, lovely, moving, original

Pictures off google.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snow White & The Huntsman: Dark Kitsch

Directed by: Rupert Sanders


I am here today, ready to review a film I have been looking forward to for months. Snow White & the Huntsman has finally arrived in theaters to surprisingly good reviews.

It has been a breath of fresh air the past couple years seeing kick ass action films starring girls. Some of the noteworthy films include Hanna, Sucker Punch, The Hunger Games, Salt, Coloumbiana, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  and even the underrated hit, Haywire. I am also looking forward to Pixar's new girl power film, Brave, which will no doubt be a massive box office hit.

All these film belong to a group that is growing into a genera all its own. The best way to describe it, would be as a watered down, Americanized version of the Japanese 'girls-with-guns' genera that features young women as strong willed, fight to the death, protagonists. Snow White & the Huntsman fits comfortably in this category, and it is actually pretty good. But, be warned, it's no masterpiece.

The film is directed by freshman director Rupert Sanders, and it shows. And while I personally enjoyed the visual element,  this film fails in many other areas. The biggest problem is the story. They rely too heavily on the classical tale that we all remember and don't do enough to define their own ideas.

The film starts out with the young princess Snow White, played by Raffey Cassidy, living a happy life with her parents, the King and Queen of a magical kingdom. All is well until the death of the queen, and the king's grief stricken decision to marry Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Soon after, Ravenna shows her true colors as an evil witch. She murders the king, forcibly takes the throne and locks Snow White up in the tallest tower.

The film, up to this point is pretty solid, but I was rather underwhelmed  with Theron as the evil queen. Don't get me wrong, Charlize Throrne is one of the great actresses working today, and she certainly looks the part. But her performance was flat. I hesitate to blame her for this, as the fault rests with Sanders and his inability to inspire great acting. Most of her scenes involve her yelling at people, and I didn't find it particularly inspiring.

As the film continues, the story becomes really hard to follow, but there are some story element that are quite compelling, like the Evil Queen's obsession with beauty and youth and the way the filmmakers interpreted the magic mirror. I wont spoil the surprise, since the mirror's reveal is the single greatest moment in the film.

It is the magic mirror that sets the action of the film in motion. It tells the queen the only way she can stay young forever is if she consumes Snow White's heart. This promps the Evil Queen to send guards to the tallest tower to retrieve the now grown Snow White, played by Kirsten Stewart. However, Snow White escapes the grasp of her captors and disappears into the dark forest.

Kirsten Stewart gets a bad rap, people say she can't act and only has one facial expression. I get it. I see it. But I still like her. Luckily she chooses roles that don't necessarily require a wide range of emotions. I think the stoic, unemotional way she portrayed Snow White worked well. I don't think it was anything groundbreaking, but it's certainly watchable.

So, the Evil Queen enlists the help of local drunk and sympathetic beef cake, The Huntsman played by Chris Hemsworth, to find Snow White in the woods, in exchange for the life of his dead wife. But for a film titled Snow White and the Huntsmen, there is a real lack of emphasis on the Huntsman and makes him rather forgettable. His whole story is antiquated and lacks any sense of originality. (sarcasm) "Oh my wife is dead, I'm a drunk, but then I met this HPOA*, fell in love and changed my ways"  Ugh, spare me. From here the film slowly trudges towards a anti-climactic ending in which Snow White and the Huntsman team up to defeat the evil queen. However, at a certain point you are just waiting for the film to end.

But as I stated earlier, there is a real magical quality to the imagery in this film.When you take the poor acting, lack of plot, and hit-or-miss direction out of the equation, you are left with quite a stunning picture. The high contrast, and saturated colors really appeals to me. D.P Greig Fraser is a relative new comer to the scene, but I was very impressed. It's safe to say that this film would have been rather unwatchable with out him.

Also, I can't do a review of this film with out talking about the costumes. Snow White's costumes are wonderful, but the real story here is Ravenna's costumes. They are amazingly beautiful and are true show stoppers. The hard, metallic design really compliments the character, and does more to define Ravenna as a cold, superficial woman than the story does.  Costume designer, Colleen Atwood is a giant in the industry and she was the biggest asset to this film

Overall, I liked this film. It appeals to my sensibility in many ways, but I desperately wanted it to  be better. I think the filmmakers missed too many opportunities to make this film worth seeing twice. But, if you like cool imagery, then it's definitely worth seeing once.

C+: Lovely cinematography, great costumes, but confusing story and inconsistent direction.

images off of google.

Monday, June 18, 2012



I am working on a review for Snow White & the Huntsman, but while you wait, I thought I would post something fun. Here are a few of my most favorite movie moments under 2 minutes. I don't pretend to be a connoisseur of comedic film, but I think everyone has those moments that stick with them forever. Here are a few of my favorites.

Classic moment from Mel Brooks's History of the World Part 1. It gets me every, single time.

Heavy Weights is arguably one of Ben Stiller's best characters. Heavyweights is a classic from my childhood, so this clip nostalgic for me. It was hard to pick just one moment from this film, but I love this quote.

Beerfest is one of my favorite rainy day movies. Not only does it star a home town hero of mine, it is also one of the best films celebrating alcoholism in existence.

I LOVE Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Everything about it appeals to my sensibility. This scene is perfect on so many levels beyond the comedic effect of watching people get slapped in the face.

This is probably insensitive of me, but there is something about watching these porky humans sliding down and squishing on the window that is so satisfying. Wall-E 

Simon Pegg is a personal hero of mine. He is not only a fabulous actor and writer, he is also a genuinely funny person. The over the top gore in this Shaun of the Dead is gruesomely hilarious.

Making his second appearance on this list is Ben Stiller. There's Something About Mary is classic, and this scene is not only cringe worthy, it is also a great comedic moment.

We all know this guy with the guitar, we all hate him and we all wish we had the balls to do exactly what John Blutarsky (Jim Belush) did. Animal House

Tommy Boy is a great film, and Chris Farley is a comedy god. Man, I miss him.

I am sure I will revisit this theme sometime in the future. What are your favorite movie moments?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Avengers: Summer at Last

Hello all. I have been away for a while. Safe to say, my life is chaos. I'm getting ready to move back across the country to New Mexico, and I have had little time to devote to my blog. That being said, I haven't forgotten about all you amazing people who take the time to read my posts. I am hoping that I can be more present from now on.

Directed By: Josh Whedon 

Today, I am here to talk about The Avengers. Yes, I know I am super late, but I am still going to review it because it marks the beginning of my favorite season, both weather wise, and film wise.

Some say the summer movie season is just for teenage boys. Well, I disagree. I think summer marks the time when we discover, again, why we love movies. It is a time to be swept away into fantastic worlds and go on amazing adventures. There is no room for stuffy castles, british accents or historical dramas. Now is the time for movies designed specifically for our entertainment, and it's a great time to be an audience.

I have been anticipating The Avengers for a long time. I saw Thor, Iron Man 1 & 2, Captain America and the past few Hulk movies, so I was well prepared for this film. I think many people had high expectations (myself included), and despite suffering from the obvious flaws, this film will satisfy those with an invested interest in Marvel characters. If you have no interest in superheroes, I don't know why you would bother buying a ticket and this review is not for you. In fact, if you haven't seen this film, the rest of this review will make no sense.

It must be said, this film has an irresistible charm that makes you want to see it again and again. That charm comes, undeniably, from the great cast. The biggest stand outs are pretty predictable. Robert Downey Jr, has, and always will be, the perfect Tony Stark. Samuel L. Jackson got more screen time as Nick Fury, after cameo appearances in several of the prequels. Jackson is one of the greats, he draws the eye, and he brought a level of  intensity to this film, which suffers from a bit of juvenile humor. And, we cannot forget the always sexy, Scarlett Johansen as Black Widow. Not only is her character a knock out in that skin tight super-suit, she's also pretty bad-ass and a borderline sociopath.

The other big names rounding out this star studded cast included Chris Hemsworth, the Australian hottie who also starred in the revamped Snow White and the Huntsman. The awkwardly handsome Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, and boy-next-door, Chris Evans as Captain America. There is also Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, but the real stand out, for me, is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Though not a superhero, Gregg has some of the most compelling scenes in the film.

The story of The Avengers takes quite a few Hollywood liberties, which means the story makes no sense at all. So, I'm not going to waste time going through the plot. But if you can set aside the glaring plot holes, you will see that the strength of the film comes from all of the great little moments. Like when Iron Man and Thor battle in the woods while throwing cheeky insults at each other, or when Agent Coulson, after being mortally wounded, urges Nick Fury to carry on the fight. But, the best moments, and the biggest crowd pleasers, are the scenes with the Hulk.

There is some debate as to the merits of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. Some say that Ruffalo is just an empty shell, and does nothing to make Banner an interesting character. But, Ruffalo is my favorite Bruce Banner. His unassuming nature lends itself perfectly to the way I have always pictured Banner and the softer side of the beast.

But as much as there is to love about this film there is, no doubt, a lot of room for improvement. The biggest weakness of the film comes from the fact that there are so many scenes that make no sense or are completely superfluous.

One of the stand out awkward scenes comes after Loki (Tom Hiddleston) crashes a fancy party and scares all the rich people into the streets. He then begins to lecture a group of maybe 150 old, over dressed people about freedom and servitude until an old man stands up and makes a reference to the oppressive nature of man. This might have worked, if it didn't look like the filmmakers couldn't find enough extras. It looks like Loki is lecturing random people on the street, which, given the fact that he is an all-powerful god, makes the whole scene idiotic.

Another stand out awkward scene comes right at the climax of the film. When, Bruce Banner drives up on a crappy motorcycle, in tattered clothes, in the middle of a battle field. What makes it weird is the fact that the Hulk fell out of an airplane into an abandoned building on some island over the ocean. Yet, he is some how able to commandeer a motorcycle, traverse the distance to the city, and find the other heroes just in time to save the day. It doesn't work, even in a film that defies reality at every step.

But despite some of the awkward scenes, there is no denying that it is still a lot of fun. The combination of great actors and nostalgia come together perfectly to make this one of the better Marvel films. I loved it, and I can't wait to see the inevitable sequels.

B+ : It's everything you expect, but still a good time.

(Pictures from Google)