Archive for December, 2012

Django Unchained Movie Review

django_unchained_movie_review_tarantino_foxx_waltz_dicaprioBy now, audiences know what to expect from a Quentin Tarantino film:  good story, developed characters, and over-the-top violence.  All his films meet those three elements so when you ask anyone what their favorite film Tarantino wrote/directed it is near impossible to guess what they will say since each film seems to have its own fan base.  Django Unchained is no exception.  I have heard die hard Tarantino fans say it his best along with some who do not peg themselves as Tarantino fans love it.  Then you got a portion of the audience at the other end of the spectrum that was utterly disgusted with it.  Oh yeah, Django Unchained is definitely a Quentin Tarantino movie when it can do that.

A brief introduction to plot of Django Unchained is as follows:  Bounty hunter, Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), buys the freedom of slave Django (Jamie Foxx) because Django is the only person who would be able to identify three brothers that have a bounty on them.  With his freedom Django tells Shultz his plan to find his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Shultz agrees to help if Django becomes his partner in bounty hunting over the winter before they seek to rescue Broomhilda from the plantation called Candyland owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who makes his money from staging slave fights.  Click here for the trailer.

There is no doubt that Django Unchained feels like a Tarantino movie.  The best characteristic of any Tarantino movie (in my opinion anyway) is the dialogue and the exaggerated violence.  Not only does it develop the characters better than any of their actions but in Tarantino’s case it just builds up the suspense without music!  Most other films escalate music during dialogue when a major point is reached in the conversation but simply the voices and silence does more than music ever could.  While on topic of music the soundtrack this movie is corny, funny, and just spot on for what Tarantino was going for.

Before Tarantino ultimately chooses an actor for a specific role he like to spend a lot of time with them going over the character and what the actor will bring to the role.  Boy does it show and pay off.  There is not a single poor performance in this movie.  Jaime Foxx does a great job of showing this evolving character that is near defeat but rises to be the badass he was born to be.  Plus his chemistry with Waltz on screen was magic, the two played off each other very well and seemed natural.  Here Waltz plays Shultz much like he played Colonel Landa in Inglourious Basterds, a man whose every action and word spoken is calculated to get the response he desires out of others.  I was a little underwhelmed by DiCaprio and Jackson’s performance.  For being villains in a Tarantino they never felt menacing or intimidating… or really smart.  Candie seemed completely feeble minded since he did not like people speaking French around him, a poor vocabulary, and had his right-hand slave played by Jackson point out obvious things to him.

Now to address any controversy regarding the subject matter of this movie, I think was blown out of proportion.  Yes, the n-word was used superfluously but it does not seem out of place for the setting of the movie.  I do not know if there is proof saying it was used that much back then or if it was not.  Although after three hours of it, I hope to not hear that word for a long, long time.  From discussions with friends we thought more people would refrained from saying it as much after seeing how it was used in those times (again not sure of the accuracies but many will assume it is close).

Overall, I do recommend Django Unchained.  It features great performances from Foxx and Waltz that aid a good story.  This movie is no more violent that past Tarantino movies and certainly has the harsh language.  I enjoyed it but it was not my favorite of his.  I’d put it at middle of the pack because I felt it was too long and the villains were underwhelming.  I give Django Unchained a 7/10.

 

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Les Miserables Movie Review: Adds Strong Emotions to the Lyrics

les_miserables_mis_movie_poster_2012_tom_hooper_live_singingFresh off the success of The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper tackles one of the biggest projects any director could ask for, adapting a successful musical to the big screen.  As if this would not have been difficult already, Hooper decided to up the ante by making the actor sing live for the scenes instead of a pre-recorded soundtrack for them to lip-sync to.  After seeing the final product I cannot believe this was not done before.

A brief introduction to Les Miserables is near impossible with all the years the story takes place over but here it goes:  Set in France in the 1800’s, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) just got out of prison for stealing a loaf of bread and is given to new lease on life from the generosity of a priest.  Valjean then break his parole and assumes a new identity to evade the relentless Javert (Russell Crowe) who is relentlessly seeking to bring Valjean back to prison.  Under his new identity Valjean meet Fantine (Anne Hathaway) a desperate woman doing whatever it takes to earn money to send to her child that is under the care of two thieves, the Thenardiers (Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter).  Valjean makes a promise to Fantine to rescue Cosette and give her the life she deserves.  Click here for the trailer.

Past attempts of bringing Les Miserables to the big screen have been disasters but thank God for Tom Hooper because his movie does the play/novel serious justice.  I have seen the play countless times but have never read the book, so when I saw this movie it was great to see the sets that better helped establish different songs and scenes to better understand the story.  The costumes and make up I’m sure is exaggerated for effect but it all looked fantastic!  The poor looked absolutely worn and disgusting while the rich were clean cut with clothing with not a single stray string.

Another major plus for Hooper’s Les Miserables is the quality of acting that brings a whole new meaning to the lyrics.  Hugh Jackman was phenomenal as Valjean both vocally and physically.  He has a great voice and Valjean is supposed to have near supernatural strength so Jackman’s physique does not seem out of place even for this time period.  In case you could not tell from the trailer Anne Hathaway is sensational as Fantine especially as she sings one of the most heartfelt versions of “I Dreamed A Dream” I have ever heard.  It appears to all be one shot/take and if it was my mind is absolutely blown.  Russell Crowe has received some flak for his singing but I must admit I rather enjoyed it.  Plus even if you were displeased with his singing, he so made up for it with his acting such as facial expressions and body signals, Crowe was a great Javier.  Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks were irreplaceable in their respective roles as Marius and Eponine.  And certainly not least Cohen and Carter as the Thenardier were great comedic relief in a rather depressing story.

The being that the songs are sang live in Hooper’s film there is a difference in how they sounded in the movie versus on stage.  In the movie the actor sang the songs with the emotion of the scene where as on the stage the actors sang the songs with precision.  Vocally I will always prefer to big booming voice that the actors on stage have but visually you have to go with the actors of Hooper’s movie for the emotions they evoke.

Overall, I cannot see anyone who loves the Les Miserables play not loving this movie.  My family and I certainly did.  Hands down one of the best movie of the year and possibly all time.  I give Les Miserables a 9/10 only because I prefer the powerful voices of the stage actors.

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Noomi Rapace & Niels Arden Oplev Reunite for Dead Man Down

dead_man_dead_noomi_rapace_colin_farrell_niels_arden_oplevNoomi Rapace is steadily becoming increasingly popular here in the United States since her break out performance as the dark and mysterious Lisabeth Salander in Niels Arden Oplev’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Of the three Swedish films based on the popular trilogy Oplev’s installment is widely known as the superior one.  Naturally when news broke that Rapace and Oplev were working together again for Dead Man Down many were joyous and anxious to see what lied ahead but now we have a rough trailer!

A brief synopsis of Dead Man Down from Collider.com is as follows:  Victor (played by Colin Farrell) an enforcer the “right hand man to an underground crime lord in New York City. He seeks to avenge the death of his wife and daughter caused by his boss. When his employer is threatened by a mysterious killer, Victor also becomes detective. Victor is seduced and blackmailed by Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a victim turned avenger whose intense chemistry leads them spiraling into payback delivered in violent catharsis.”

Here is a rough trailer for the film (as soon as a higher quality video for the trailer comes I will update the video):

I cannot begin to explain how psyched I am for this movie to come out.  The original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of my top 50 movies and I think Noomi Rapace embodies the roles she gets so I look forward to any movie she is in.  Even though I have only seen one of Oplev’s films I have heard good things about two of his other movies like We Shall Over Come and Worlds Apart.  Now toss in the acting chops of Colin Farrell and Terrance Howard and this movie has some serious potential.

The trailer suggests that this film will have a good balance of drama and action.  At least that is what I am hoping for.  The premise sounded interesting enough months back when I first read about it but this trailer gives the film off a vibe that Dead Man Down will be a very taut thriller.  Plus even though the quality of the video is poor, it still appears to be a beautifully shot movie.

Dead Man Down currently has a release date of March 8, 2013 and I will definitely be there opening day.

Reference:

Trumbone, Dave.  “First Trailer for Dead Man Down Starring Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, and Terrence Howard.”  Collider.com.  Date Posted:  December 29, 2012.

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Jack Reacher Review: Reaches for Action Gold

jack_reacher_review_moview_poster_tom_cruiseJack Reacher is the macho action flick that I usually like.  Jack Reacher as a protagonist is intelligent, a skilled driver, a master at hand to hand combat, and just gets chicks.  The movie has a mystery with lots of twists and turns.  It also features beautiful lady for Reacher to work/flirt with.  However, something just rubbed me the wrong way about how it was put together.  Action movies to be really good have to have a story to support and warrant the fights, gunfire, and explosions.  Yet Jack Reacher seems to somewhat forget about that at times and is quick to be stereotypical.

A brief introduction to the plot of Jack Reacher is as follows:  When a trained snider, James Barr, that used to be in the military is arrested for the murder of five seemingly random victims, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) a former military investigator that might as well be a ghost shows up.  Reacher had investigated Barr in a past incident and warned Barr that if he got in trouble in the future Reacher would show up to make his life hell.  But when he teams up with Barr’s lawyer, Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), they learn Barr may have been set up due to a traitor inside of the investigation.  Click here for the trailer.

The place this movie excels is in the action and the characters.  The fight scenes, gunfights and car chases were very well choreographed.  Easily the highlight of the film is its introduction through the sight on the sniper scope.  That was just so cool and plain suspenseful.  Jack Reacher as a character was cool with his knowledge and skills even if his wit got irritating at times.  Jai Courtney also played a great henchman so now I am really excited to see him play John McClane’s son, Jack McClane, in A Good Day to Die Hard.

One reason I cannot tell if I like it or not is because director Christopher McQuarrie could not seem to make up his mind what kind of action movie he wanted Jack Reacher to be.  Whether he wanted it to be along the lines of a Bourne movie (serious action) or like a previous Tom Cruise movie Knight and Day that was more of a comedy.  For example, the scenes where Cruise interacted with Pike and was supposed to be helping but instead would drop hints at her rather than actually solving the case and it just got really annoying instead of being comedic.

My other minor quarrel with this movie is that it too heavily relied on the action that I praised above.  The actual mystery just seemed very simple and they rushed through many plot points or twists just to show you some action.  As a said this is a minor problem I had.  It does not hinder the flow of the movie or the understanding of the mystery, just felt like the movie did not really care about how they discovered the details of the case only what they pointed to.

Overall, Jack Reacher delivers on the action but disappoints in the development of the mystery.  I give Jack Reacher a 6/10.

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The Sessions Review

the_sessions_movie_review_john_hawkes_helen_hunt_mark_obrienThis movie most likely flew under the radar for the casual movie go-er which is sad.  The Sessions follows an award winning writer, Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) who requires an iron lung to live so needless to say his sex life is next to inexistent.  After conversations with doctors and his priest (William H. Macy), Mark decides to lose his virginity before the iron lung is no longer able to support him he hires a sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt).  Cheryl does her best to keep the relationship professional but Mark is quick to fall in love which complicates the situation further than it already was.   Click here for the trailer.

Let’s get the obvious thing about this movie out of the way, yes there are plenty of awkward moments.  There is a lot of sexual subject matter that will shock a lot of people that are not used to see it in a movie… especially out of Helen Hunt.  And no, it is not necessarily awkward because of Mark O’Brien’s condition but the sex scenes are very authentic and Mark experiences the same difficulties of a your average everyday guy.  Personal demons that date back to childhood experiences and the trauma it causes mentally later which inhibits them sexually.

The Sessions features two top notch performances from John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.  I am so glad to see John Hawkes get a leading role in a movie that will finally earn him the respect he deserves as an actor.  As Mark O’Brien he conveys both physical struggles as well as emotional battles stemming from guilt about a childhood experience.  Until now I think most people see him as that creepy/funny guy with the goatee from a lot of his supporting roles.  But now he gets to show his true versatility as an actor.  As for Helen Hunt, I think she definitely made the male audience happy in this movie.  But really her performance goes far beyond the nudity and more about the struggle of her profession.

Overall, The Sessions is worth at least a watch for John Hawkes’ phenomenal performance and the very real subject matter of the story.  My one drawback is that it gets boring at times even during the sex scenes (a tough task I must admit) and very predictable.  I give The Sessions a 7/10.

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Life of Pi Movie Review

life_of_pi_movie_review_richard_parker_tigerLife of Pi is getting some Oscar buzz and after seeing it I can completely see why.  Life of Pi is visually stunning on top of having a great story.  A brief introduction to the plot is as follows:  A struggling writer in need of a story to help regain his popularity turns to an Pi Patel for a story of adventure that “will make you believe in God.”  Pi’s story starts with his upbringing in the zoo his father owned but is sold to pay for an opportunity to move the family west to Canada.  A storm flips the boat and the only survivors are Pi, and orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and a tiger named Richard Parker.  Pi’s faith and will are put to the test as he struggles with nature and the animals on the boat with him.  Click here for the trailer

Ang Lee tells a very thought provoking story.  Having never read the book I can only go by what is in the movie but with all emotional ups and downs that Pi experiences with Richard Parker the tiger I could not help being captivated by it.  The struggle of power with the tiger and the attempts to bond with the animal was so well done that it does not feel drawn out like I thought it would have been.  By the way I found Pi’s attitude towards Parker to be very similar to the relationship Tom Hanks developed with Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away.  Pi would say Richard Parker’s name whenever he would address him just like Hanks did when he talked to Wilson.

Not going to lie there were times I forgot that Richard Parker was CGI and the same goes for a lot of the other visual effects in the 3D format.  It is not on the level of Avatar by any means but he still creates a very real and beautiful world that you buy into all the vibrant colors.  I am a little never about how it might feel in 2D however.  I felt the same way about Avatar.  Watching it in 2D on my television at home, though still enjoyable, the movie just lost some of that in theater magic.

As far as the acting is concerned, I cannot believe Suraj Sharma is not getting the attention he deserves for this movie.  You can see him wearing down while getting stronger at the same time and I would easily give him at least a nomination but I might be alone there.  Irrfan Khan for as little screen time as he gets is still phenomenal and I really started to believe that the story he was telling was his own.

Overall, Life of Pi was a very enjoyable theater experience.  The only drawback to me was that some of the scenes are simply in the movie to utilize the 3D so I fear in future watches I will be a little less impressed with the effects in 2D.  I give Life of Pi an 8/10.

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The Collection Review: Gory Slasher Fun

the_collection_collector_sequel_movie_poster_horror_booby_trapsThe booby-trap slasher, the Collector, is back after one of the more memorable slasher movies as he shows us what he has horded over the years in The Collection.  In the first installment audiences were shown what this mystery man was capable of turning an ordinary house hold into over night but The Collection shows us what he managed to do to a warehouse where he spends countless nights with those he specifically chooses to go home with him.

A brief introduction to the plot is as follows:  The Collector makes his biggest trap yet as he butchers patrons of a hidden night club.  Amongst the mayhem Arkin (Josh Stewart) is able to escape for the chest he has been imprisoned in for months but the Collector fills the chest with Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick).  Arkin is then blackmailed and recruited by Elena’s wealthy father to aid a squad of men through the Collectors warehouse where they unearth the Collector’s devious creations.  Click here for the trailer.

The Good:  A good mix of old and new.  Writer/director Marcus Dunstan is back at the helm and his passion for the genre and this edgier, modern slasher that utilizes traps, knives, and guns; a dangerous trio for the good guys.   Josh Stewart reprises his role as Arkin who is now a seasoned vet when it comes to the Collector’s ways.  He knows where to expect triggers for any of the rigs the Collector has set up.  The new features the expanded fun-house shenanigans in the warehouse and a leading lady that not the typical victim.  The warehouse does a lot for developing the Collector and his methods behind the torture and kidnapping by shedding some light on his interests in insects which was interesting.  The highlight of the film to me was Emma Fitzpatrick as Elena to be honest.  I say this because she is one of the few female leads I have seen in recent horror movies that is not annoying and I really found myself pulling for her to escape.  She is smart, resourceful, and never really begs for sympathy.  It gets really annoying when these characters sulk and scream at every attack of the killer.  But Elena is a much stronger and likeable protagonist.

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The Bad:  Granted there was a slightly bigger budget for the Collection over its predecessor but the effects were kind of cheesy.  The traps were much more elaborate so I am sure they needed some CGI doctoring along with the gore they create but sometimes it was just laughable.

Final Verdict:  As you can see the good far outweigh the bad to me.  Fans of The Collector should enjoy The Collection.  It was cool to see what the Collector was doing with people like Arkin that was locked in the chests and some cool new traps.  There surely will be a third, at least I hope so.  I give The Collection an 8/10.

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