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Room 237 (2012)
What's the real goal of this provocative film? Read my review to find out.
Room 237 is a great example of what happens when a state, and even a system, is in a crisis. What this entire film comes down to is that director Stanley Kubrick left hidden messages in his later films, especially in The Shining (1980). This may be true because filmmakers sometimes do this in order to show to the public what they really think or feel. As knowledgeable people know, there's no real freedom of speech. Everything that's made in Hollywood, and in the West in general, contains propaganda. Everything is controlled by the ruling class. The problem with Room 237 is that it's also propaganda. It offers the opinions of several people. These people are said to be Kubrick enthusiasts, and they kind of narrate while we're shown footage from Kubrick's films. The problem with this is that we don't find out who these people are and what their intentions are. Even their faces aren't shown. Why are these people saying what they're saying? Room 237 doesn't tell us. So, it turns out that the goal of this film isn't to educate but to provoke. What we're told in Room 237 is highly questionable. A bit of it may be true, but we, the viewers, have no way of knowing. We don't have access to such information. One thing that's clear to me, however, is that Room 237 is propaganda made by people that serve a faction of the Anglo-American ruling class. Ordinary people often make the mistake of thinking that the ruling class of a country is united and is of one mind. The reality is that the ruling class is composed of factions, each with its own interests. They agree about some things, and they disagree about other things. These different factions try to rally ordinary people to their cause, to their interests, by releasing propaganda through films, books, music, news and any other medium. So, when, for example, election time comes, a faction wants people to vote for the candidate that it's supporting. Each faction would like to have their own man or woman in power. The factions especially begin to disagree and even fight when there's a crisis, like the capitalist economic depression that began in the West in 2008. Based on this, I can tell which faction is behind Room 237. For example, in the film, it's claimed that the Apollo moon landings were faked. At least the footage was faked. This is probably true, but why are we being told this? Is it because the filmmakers are nice? No, it's because they want to shake up the situation and discredit another, dominant, faction of the ruling class. Ordinary people don't have access to secret information about the Apollo program, and the only reason why, in the last few decades, we've been seeing reports about the moon landings being faked is because ruling class factions are disagreeing. So, in this film, we're told about the genocide of Native Americans, the Nazis and other things that we often hear about in the West, but with a spin that's a bit different. It's meant to provoke and make us question what we know. But a lot of what's said in Room 237 is lies. As I've already mentioned, the goal of Room 237 isn't to educate but to provoke. Right after we're told about the Nazis, we're told that Joseph Stalin allegedly starved 3 million people in Western Ukraine. This is not true. It's an obvious capitalist lie. And Stalin never said that the death of one man is a tragedy and that the death of millions is a statistic. It's just another capitalist lie. So, why are we getting these anti-communist lies in Room 237? It's because even the faction that got this film made doesn't want a real revolution, a communist revolution, to happen in the USA. I'm thinking that this faction is the same one that promotes so-called conservative propagandists like Alex Jones, Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart. Half the time these people talk about liberty and the free market, and the other half they dedicate to lying about communism, the Soviet Union, and especially Joseph Stalin. They push the interests of their faction of the ruling class, but they also don't want for a communist or a socialist revolution to happen, one that would sweep away the entire capitalist ruling class. This is the faction that wants to lower wages in the USA and to destroy the welfare state. Sure, some of these people may be against America's wars, but not because they're nice. They just want to rally as many dupes as possible to their cause, to their political candidates from the Republican Party.
Big-budget, studio-produced franchise films don't get any better than this.
This modern take on the Rocky story is a lot better than I expected. I was never a fan of Sylvester Stallone, and no one would disagree that he eventually drove the Rocky series into a swamp. Rocky (1976) is an excellent and influential film. Its legacy can be seen in the wonderful The Karate Kid (1984), also directed by John G. Avildsen. Rocky II (1979) is good, but largely a repeat of the first. Rocky III (1982) is competent, but commercial, and it showed that the 1980s have arrived. Rocky IV (1985) is all formula and all propaganda. Rocky V (1990) is the worst thing ever (just kidding). And, finally, Rocky Balboa (2006) is flawed but better than expected. So, it's clear that every successive film in the series became worse. But now, because of Creed, the series is back on top. Creed is easily the best in the series since Rocky II. Why is that? Well, it's because the director this time is Ryan Coogler, and Stallone is in a supporting role. Coogler came up with a workable idea for the film - let's make the main character the son of former world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, and let's make Rocky his trainer and mentor. It's an idea that, with Coogler's writing and direction, works surprisingly well. One can say that Creed has the same formula as every Rocky film, but, if the film is this well-made and uplifting, is that a problem? As for Stallone, he delivers one of his best performances ever. In fact, he upstages Michael B. Jordan, who plays Adonis Creed, in just about every scene that they have together. But Jordan isn't a disappointment. He has the good looks for a big budget Hollywood movie. More importantly, he breathes remarkable life into the title role, showing that Adonis is a cocksure, exuberant and loyal character. The only problem with Adonis is his relationship with his love interest Bianca (Tessa Thompson). This relationship is poorly developed and not entirely believable. Still, some of the scenes with Bianca are tender and candid. The fight scenes are, for the most part, exciting. They don't have the same punch as the fight scenes that Avildsen and Stallone filmed in Rocky and Rocky II, but they're well-done and they pay off. One of the problems is that Creed's opponent isn't presented well as someone who's tough and dangerous. Because of this, one doesn't get the feeling that Adonis has to overcome a big challenge. By the way, Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti also did a good job filming in Philadelphia, showing a city in an economic depression. So, in my view, there are a few faults with the script and with characterization. Still, on the whole, Creed works very well. I definitely recommend it.
The Martian (2015)
The Martian focuses on the triumph of human ingenuity under duress.
Is The Martian science fiction or science fact? Well, it's set in the near future, in 2035, so it's not easy to call it science fiction, although it's technically science fiction. It's not entirely science fact either because some of the science on display in The Martian is questionable. What matters, however, is that the film is entertaining and memorable. There's no question that Ridley Scott is one of the best directors working in Hollywood. Prometheus (2012) marked his return to the science fiction genre, and now we have The Martian, which is even better. Prometheus is a visually impressive film that, unfortunately, has a confusing plot, poor characterization, and pacing issues. It was an attempt to repeat the formula of Alien (1979) and maybe even Aliens (1986), with mixed results. The Martian, on the other hand, isn't dark and confusing. It's straight-forward and upbeat. It centers around an astronaut (Matt Damon) who gets stranded on Mars and has to survive. His struggle to get in contact with NASA and to return home is what keeps the film running. I was surprised by how entertaining the film is. Firstly, the characters in The Martian make rational decisions. They're not a bunch of degenerates and fools who run around and get into trouble, like in Prometheus. And the performances from the cast are all solid. Leading man Matt Damon did good work playing Mark Watney, someone who's often funny and hardly ever depressed. Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are in supporting roles. Secondly, the science that's on display in the film is interesting. Some of what is shown makes viewers think, and wonder what's going to happen. Viewers can actually learn a few things from the film. This is due to the fact that the film is based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel, which was adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard. And, of course, The Martian is visually impressive, something that's to be expected from a Ridley Scott film. Some of the scenes set on Mars are stunning. The designs of the suits and vehicles are excellent too. So, The Martian is definitely worth recommending. It's a great example of crowd-pleasing cinema.
A charming film with a winning performance by Keira Knightley.
Laggies is a lovely film that keeps viewers interested from beginning to end. It's actually very funny, something that I didn't expect. The pixie-ish British actress Keira Knightley provides a good, engaging performance as Megan, a 28-year-old who realizes that very little has changed in her life since high school. Knightley, playing the main character, is also the one who's the funniest in Laggies. She has a number of good scenes with Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays the 16-year-old Annika. However, all the actors, most of them famous names, provide strong performances, and this is what makes the film so likable. The versatile Sam Rockwell delivers again as Annika's father Craig. Rockwell's movie career goes back to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), but recently he's starred in must-see films like The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007), Moon (2009), Iron Man 2 (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) and The Way, Way Back (2013). The story by author/screenwriter Andrea Seigel is a memorable one too, taking a look at a woman who's still mentally stuck in her teen years. In conclusion, Laggies is a commendable effort by director Lynn Shelton. It's an entertaining romantic comedy that I definitely recommend.
Gareth Edwards fails to do justice to the monster's legacy.
If you've seen the trailer for this Godzilla film you probably thought that it would be a more faithful yet serious take on Japan's most famous monster. In the trailer Godzilla looked like a real threat. It seemed frightening the way it was portrayed. In the film though this isn't the case. We're yet again in that summer movie territory where the trailer was more inspired than the film itself. Does The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) come to mind? I think that the big reason why many people were disappointed with this Godzilla film is its lack of originality. If you pause and look at what's happening you'll see that it's actually very similar to the 1998 Godzilla film directed by Roland Emmerich. Godzilla is portrayed as a monster with some intelligence. It becomes a sympathetic creature. The American military and navy get involved, something that we've seen many times in Hollywood films recently. And, to top it all off, there's more focus on the human characters than on Godzilla. In fact, much time passes before the Big G even makes an appearance. So, just as in the 1998 film, we're forced to watch a typical human drama before anything exciting happens. But at least the 1998 film was entertaining. And it was a film about Godzilla. This 2014 film is lacking both Godzilla and entertainment. It's a summer movie, so I expected to be entertained. Instead I was left wondering what happened when the film ended. It wasn't just me. Other people in the theater were criticizing it right after it ended. Director Gareth Edwards really didn't have enough experience to make a big budget summer movie. The monster fights lack excitement, the acting is wooden, and the clichéd script lacks intelligence. I don't think that Edwards is a bad filmmaker. I think that he's an inexperienced filmmaker. His 2010 low-budget feature Monsters is a technical triumph that showed some promise. Max Borenstein's lazy script and studio interference are the two things that really ruined this film in my opinion. In a monster movie one would at least expect some exciting action but this film fails even at that. In addition, it's obvious that Edwards took the Jaws (1975) approach of obscuring the creature for much of the film's running time. Jaws, however, features interesting human characters and terrific performances. It keeps on movin' when the big shark isn't around. The human characters and performances in Edwards' Godzilla are flat, resulting in a truly dull middle section. Only Bryan Cranston, playing Joe Brody, stands out. Cranston is definitely one of the best Hollywood actors working now. His performance alone made this film bearable at the beginning, but even then the story's shortcomings were already noticeable. I have to admit that I had doubts about this film. I usually read reviews on a certain website before I go to the cinema. This time I made the mistake of reading the early positive reviews on IMDb, so I didn't wait for the review on that favorite website of mine. As it turned out, that website was right yet again and this Godzilla film made for an unpleasant night at the cinema. Some Godzilla fans might like what Edwards did, but casual moviegoers should definitely not buy a ticket. Remember, as was the case with the 1998 film, there's no hiding that this is a Western production. It has none of the quirks and cultural aspects of the Japanese films.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
This deftly scripted and unusually affecting film is truly memorable.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past marks the end of an era. The cast that people got used to over the last 15 years makes its final appearance. It's a bit sad to see actors like Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) go because they were so charismatic in their roles. In this film too they show their excellent acting abilities. It's actually nice to see familiar faces return. Halle Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) took part in the action, while others returned to nicely conclude everything at the end. Days Of Future Past is a sequel to both The Last Stand (2006) and First Class (2011). The satisfying ending isn't the only thing that director Bryan Singer was thorough with. This sequel has been called the best X-Men film yet by some reviewers. My opinion is that First Class is the best X-Men film so far, but Days Of Future Past is just about as good. But let's not forget about X2 (2003), which is another worthy contender for the best X-Men film. I'm not someone who likes the X-Men films much. I think that none of them have been perfect so far. They all have something that prevents them from being great films or some of the best superhero films. They're first and foremost blockbusters that are meant to entertain. Some scenes in Days Of Future Past can be seen again and again, especially the spectacular opening sequence that introduces a nightmarish new threat. In terms of action Singer is at the top of his game here. The tone is softened after the incredibly grim introduction. Some may think this wise, but once Wolverine is in the past the film loses momentum, introduces characters that aren't very interesting, humor that isn't very funny, action that isn't very exciting, and details that aren't very clever. Some people may think that Magneto's connection to the JFK assassination was clever but, in my opinion, it was handled poorly by Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg. The film slows down noticeably in the middle. This minor problem is what prevents me from giving Days Of Future Past a very good rating. What happens at the end though is just as interesting and entertaining as what happens at the beginning. The action is terrific and John Ottman's good score is used to great effect. Days Of Future Past is a long film, with 131 minutes of running time. Still, considering its epic time-traveling story and its many characters I can say that Singer and Kinberg succeeded in making the film satisfying. Much of the cast can be applauded for their efforts. Stewart and McKellen, as I mentioned before, are excellent as usual in their roles. Hugh Jackman is as reliable as always as Wolverine. Many people forget that Jackman is a good actor. He proved it in films like The Fountain (2006) and Prisoners (2013) and even in schlock like Kate & Leopold (2001) and Van Helsing (2004). Jennifer Lawrence, playing Mystique, is fine in her role but nothing special in my opinion. When she's covered with blue paint she's not as menacing or as sexy as Rebecca Romijn was in the role. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy get to impress only at the end of the film. Before that there's really nothing to write about concerning their acting. They're clearly not as charismatic as they were in First Class. In fact, McAvoy simply annoyed me while he was doing his depressed Charles Xavier bit. His acting, thankfully, improved when Xavier tried to convince Mystique to abandon the course that she was on. The only other thing that I have to add about Days Of Future Past is that it doesn't contain as much establishment propaganda as First Class. In First Class it was just obvious. "Mutant and proud" was clearly a metaphor for "gay and proud." In case you didn't know, I'll mention that for the Anglo-American establishment pro-gay propaganda is very important. It's one of their tactics to reduce human population on the planet because they think that there's way too many people now. So being fine with homosexuality and not having children is what the ruling class wants for the lower classes. Globalization is another thing that's very important for the establishment. The story takes place in different countries and there's also an international cast involved. In Days Of Future Past, the Russians and the Chinese are mentioned as enemies that are more dangerous than the mutants. This also fits into the establishment line. Russia and China are the main enemies for the ruling class of Britain and the USA. North Korea gets most of the hate these days, but China and especially Russia aren't far behind. Other than what I've mentioned there's really nothing to complain about. The visual effects, especially the Sentinels, are mostly impressive and so are the designs. Days Of Future Past suffers because of the plethora of characters. Not all of the key players are given satisfying story arcs, but I still recommend this epic yet entertaining film.
A superior sequel that, at the very least, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its whizbang predecessor.
The Winter Soldier is another solid entry in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's just as good and, in my opinion, even better than The First Avenger (2011). It's become the norm now that Marvel Studios films are some of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year. All of them have been good. Some people who've seen the film in the theaters have said that The Winter Soldier is the best of the bunch. I think that The Avengers (2012) remains the best Marvel film so far, though The Winter Soldier comes close. One often remembers the exciting action scenes when praising this film. There's a number of action scenes, and all of them are quite memorable. The neat thing about them is that they're as realistic as possible. In my view the film is simply a technological thriller that's meant to be both modern and realistic. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo gave this sequel a hi-tech sheen that's different from the steampunk visual approach of Joe Johnston for The First Avenger. The realism is largely due to Captain America himself and his comic book stories. He doesn't possess spectacular powers like the other avengers, so screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely constructed a plot that rotates around politics and characters. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow has her biggest role yet in this film and so does Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. Actually, the entire film is about S.H.I.E.L.D. and what happens to it. Chris Evans' Steve Rogers plays an important part in what's going on, but it's still only a part. When it comes to Rogers it's mostly the continuation of his adjustment to the modern world. This, however, isn't really interesting because there's not much to it. It is the focus of the film's humor however. Unlike Iron Man 3 (2013) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), The Winter Soldier contains little comedy. It suffers as a result because the political intrigue is, for the most part, not that interesting (at least for me) for a summer blockbuster. Still, thanks to Robert Redford playing the part of Alexander Pierce, this is made bearable. Rogers goes through a believable struggle in the course of the film, and Evans manages to appear vulnerable despite Rogers' strength and skills. The introductions of Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie as Falcon are exciting bits that reinforce the film's themes of trust and friendship. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) will follow The Winter Soldier, yet it already feels like plenty has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film is a fairly impressive feat. I can argue that the action and the characterization can be improved, but it's still a smart balance of story and action. Like the big majority of blockbusters of recent years it follows the movie formula of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). I also noticed parts of it that are influenced by Come And See (1985), which is one of my favorite films. The Winter Soldier already earned a lot of money at the box office. I'd recommend it but you've probably already seen it.
Noah is director Darren Aronofsky's best film to date.
If you go to see Noah don't expect just another old-fashioned Bible epic from Hollywood. The film's director is Darren Aronofsky, and this should tell you right away that Noah is complex, emotional and visually stunning. You can expect plenty of impressive visual effects, but this isn't what the film is about. It's first and foremost a character driven spectacle about Noah, his family, and people in general. Aronofsky got everything he could from the Bible story to philosophize about human nature. In addition, he expanded the story by including subplots that only improve the experience. Russell Crowe, playing Noah, leads the film admirably. Here he provides some of his best work. Noah changes in the course of the film. Crowe brings Noah to life by making him a character one can relate to. He ranges from compassionate to terrifying. Jennifer Connelly plays Noah's wife Naameh, and she gets to demonstrate how good of an actress she is. Aronofsky is known for getting good performances from actors. This skill is clearly on display in Noah. Connelly delivers the film's most impassioned, powerful speeches. Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Leo McHugh Carroll play Noah's children. Their performances are good all around. It's Lerman though, playing Ham, who has to handle much of the drama. He provides Ham with some genuine torment and, surprisingly, makes Ham into a likable character despite his actions. Yet another famous name in the cast is Anthony Hopkins, who plays Noah's ancient, wise grandfather Methuselah. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique give the film an otherworldly atmosphere. The Earth before the flood seems like an inhospitable alien world. Clint Mansell's music score for Noah is exceptional. It consists mostly of dreamy, elegiac, atmospheric pieces but when the action kicks in it becomes intense and brooding. What the viewer can expect from Noah is an absorbing and thought-provoking blockbuster. It may be based on a Bible story but Aronosfky delves into other themes, most notably environmentalism. I don't support environmentalism because of its elitist origins. Noah, however, is such a good film that I can easily overlook that. I definitely recommend it.
The Monuments Men (2014)
A war movie with an ensemble cast that suffers from poor pacing, direction and characterization.
From CFR member George Clooney comes the cartoonish The Monuments Men, a blatant piece of Anglo-American propaganda. It's a good thing that I got to see this film for free. Director Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov took a real World War II story and turned it into an average film with few redeeming factors. There are abundant war movie clichés and propaganda clichés here, like the American obsession with the value of every soldier's life, the constant mention of Jews and what they allegedly went through, and stereotypical portrayals of protagonists and antagonists alike. The film may be based on a true story but it's been changed so much that it has almost nothing in common with that story. Even the names of the main characters have been changed. Some of Hollywood's biggest names participated in the film but they're mostly just playing themselves. George Clooney, for example, isn't really playing George L. Stout. He's playing George Clooney. The propaganda is constant, so you're always reminded that all Americans and their British buddies are freedom-lovers. The filmmakers also wanted to squeeze in as much comedy as possible. The American characters come off as a group of bunglers who tell jokes every chance they get. The German characters too are played for laughs as often as possible, and there's hardly any menace to them. Strangely, the only characters that are portrayed with any seriousness are the Russians, and these allies of the Americans are the only ones who seem menacing here. My question is why were the Russians even included in this film? Was it just so they could see that flag left behind by the "freedom-loving" Americans? Talk about strange. The only information the film offers about the Russians is that 20 million Russians were killed during the war. Yes, but it would have been more worthwhile to mention that the Germans looted or destroyed plenty of Russian art too. For example, the historic city of St. Petersburg was heavily bombed by the Germans. Most palaces, houses and monuments weren't left standing there. So a lot of what can be seen in the city now was rebuilt after the war. It's obvious that The Monuments Men was made for propaganda purposes. It was a rushed job too. The filmmakers didn't take the story seriously. Therefore, the film is a big failure. The performances by the ensemble cast are muted. John Goodman, playing Walker Hancock, and Bill Murray, playing Robert K. Posey, are the ones who suffer most in this respect. They could have been replaced by unknown actors and it wouldn't have made a difference. The only part of the story that seems developed is the relationship between James Rorimer (Matt Damon) and Rose Valland (Cate Blanchett). Everything else seems half-baked, especially the humorous conflict between Posey and Lincoln Kirstein (Bob Balaban). There were times when Clooney demonstrated that he can be a very good director. However, The Monuments Men is flawed both as a history lesson and as a men-on-a-mission movie. I don't recommend it.
The filmmakers claim that the film is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves And The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History by Robert M. Edsel. That may be true, but I think that they got the idea for making it from a Voice Of Russia interview. Check the link below.
Alex Jones is a British agent
Alex Jones is an agent of British intelligence whose mission is to create his own monopoly in the 9/11 truth movement and wreck it from the inside. He's discrediting calls for independence with his manipulations and obnoxious behavior. Sending in deceiving and ranting characters is one of the most common ploys by the British propaganda machine. He's misleading his listeners and filling their heads with deceptions and half-truths. He's leading them into the wilderness where they act like useless conspiracy theorists instead of doing anything against the British and the financiers. He's closely linked to the British and he surrounds himself with anti-American characters. He's opposing progress and anyone who stands up for the American state. He's fooling millions of people while the financiers and the City of London are wrecking the American economy and the American state. He's ranting against a "New World Order" while in practice fully supporting the plans of the London-based oligarchy. And he farts on air.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were killed by British special-forces. The CIA is a branch of British intelligence. Allen Dulles worked with the British for decades. After World War II the British captured key positions in the United States and launched an information war to continue dominating the world.
Ender's Game (2013)
A good attempt to adapt a complicated science fiction novel that features thrilling action and impressive visuals.
I noticed a trend in Hollywood recently. More science fiction films are being released. That's a very good thing because people like science fiction and a representation of a progressive future. In the future of Ender's Game Andrew Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) trains to win the next great war between the human race and an alien species called the Formics. Wiggin is a brilliant misfit with the right balance of killer instincts and compassion. Butterfield delivers a good performance but, most importantly, makes his character sympathetic. His performance gives the film some much needed soul. He had also done admirable work when he played Hugo Cabret in Hugo (2011). Hailee Steinfeld, playing Petra Arkanian, is another standout in the cast. Her scenes with Butterfield in Battle School are exciting. The simulated war games in an impressive zero-gravity training room could have dragged, but director Gavin Hood managed to make these scenes some of the most entertaining in the film. Hood should also be commended for making an efficient film from a weak screenplay. The film isn't really inspired but with a $110 million budget and a good cast it works surprisingly well. The generally excellent special effects create a visually interesting future world both in space and on Earth. Wiggin's scenes with his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) are handled well too. It's in the performances of the adult actors where the screenplay clearly shows its weakness. Viola Davis, playing Gwen Anderson, has little to do except look worried while Wiggin deals with one challenge after another. Harrison Ford, playing Hyrum Graff, brings his usual authority to his role but awkwardly alternates between caring and uncaring. Still, the film wins in terms of adapting the very complicated novel by Orson Scott Card. It doesn't have the same emotional impact as the novel though. Ender's Game isn't only for a young audience because it doesn't whitewash politics and war. Adults will enjoy this futuristic action film too. I recommend it.
Stuck in Love. (2012)
A pleasant romantic-drama with sympathetic characters.
Stuck In Love is a satisfying first film by director Josh Boone but it's not an original one. The plot is rather predictable but the film is certainly well-cast. Greg Kinnear managed to provide a good performance as the famous novelist Bill Borgens. He doesn't have his life together at the beginning of the film but, gradually, he becomes a likable character. His scenes with his family and Tricia (Kristen Bell) are funny and heart-warming. The other two standouts in the cast are Lily Collins as Samantha and Logan Lerman as Lou. Collins was excellent as Snow White in Mirror Mirror (2012). Her portrayal of Snow White's sweetness seemed natural. Interestingly, Collins often seems nice and polite in real life too. In Stuck In Love she plays a completely different character but does it well also. Her hard, protective demeanor was again natural. We find out more about her in the course of the film. She changes and becomes a likable character as well. Thankfully Boone put some effort into capturing Collins' good looks on film. Lerman is excellent at playing Samantha's kind classmate who wants to be with her. Rusty, played by Nat Wolff, is a less interesting character however. Rusty's lack of will makes him sappy and boring. Wolff's approach to his performance doesn't help the proceedings. But there are no bad performances, and Jennifer Connelly and Liana Liberato fit the roles too. With Stuck In Love it's clear that Boone is good at characterization and casting. His screenplay for the film isn't entirely convincing though. Still, it's an enjoyable romantic-drama. I recommend it.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Though formulaic The Lone Ranger is still a thrilling Western.
After the Pirates Of The Caribbean film series director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer decided to bring a different genre movie to the big screen. The Lone Ranger is a big budget action-packed Western with a cast of talented actors, including a number of Brits. Johnny Depp's Tonto is another original comedic creation by the actor. Depp is often funny in the role and Tonto is easily the most memorable character in the film. Armie Hammer plays Tonto's partner John Reid, a masked vigilante who seeks the perpetrators responsible for his brother's death. Hammer is fine in the role but I found his interpretation to be somewhat stiff. It's not entirely his fault because the screenplay by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio is clearly weak sometimes. This hurts the film too because it takes a long time to reveal the back story of the characters. William Fichtner, playing the ruthless and cannibalistic outlaw Butch Cavendish, is excellent as one of the villains in the film. Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole and Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid also deliver good performances. Hans Zimmer composed a memorable score. I like Zimmer's atmospheric, eerie score for The Dark Knight Rises (2012) very much. He composed a rousing score for Man Of Steel (2013), and he again aids The Lone Ranger with a set of music themes that may compel some viewers to get the soundtrack. In the action department Verbinski delivers a number of enjoyable, cartoonish action sequences. They're lengthy but they're something that viewers have never seen before. I found The Lone Ranger to be an entertaining blockbuster. One can say that it lacks originality, that it's ponderously plotted, and that it's made according to the Pirates Of The Caribbean formula. Still, there are enjoyable bits throughout the film. More time should have been spent on developing the characters though. Like John Carter (2012) before it The Lone Ranger is another Walt Disney Studios release that underperformed at the box office. This may be because it's a high-concept Western or because, as Armie Hammer said, many critics unjustly bashed it. The film earned $239 million on a budget of $225 million. In the end, however, The Lone Ranger is an adventure comedy that's well worth seeing. I recommend it.
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
A film that's better suited for intelligent viewers. It's a charming romantic fantasy with an esteemed supporting cast.
As far as romantic fantasies go Beautiful Creatures is very good. It's better than any of the Twilight films. There's some quality film-making here so even if you dislike the Twilight franchise you might still like Beautiful Creatures. Sure, it's passionate and sappy but there's a terrific supporting cast, including Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson. Irons is especially memorable as Macon Ravenwood, a mysterious Southern gentleman who's also obsessed with Google. The teenager with the supernatural powers is, for a change, a girl by the name of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert). She has to decide her own fate instead of one being handed to her. The romance between Lena and Ethan Lawson Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is handled well and they don't fall in love in an instant. Director Richard LaGravenese adapted the film from the young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The result is an intelligent, funny and dramatic motion picture with several good underlying messages. And let's not forget about the cinematography by Philippe Rousse, who does a good job capturing the scenery of a Southern town. Unfortunately, the film's box office returns didn't exceed the budget, which means that there may not be a sequel. It's really too bad because, unlike Twilight, this deserves to be a franchise.
A fantastic return to Middle-earth.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fine return to form for director Peter Jackson. Guillermo del Toro, who's one of the writers for the film, was initially supposed to direct but he left the project in May of 2010. If this first film in the new fantasy trilogy is a sign of what's to come I certainly look forward to seeing The Desolation Of Smaug and There And Back Again. As Gandalf the Grey says at the beginning of the film this is an adventure. Ian McKellen is just as good as ever in his role as the wizard. Maybe he's even better than before since I found his character more likable. While watching the film I didn't at all doubt that he is Gandalf. Martin Freeman is excellent as well in the role of Bilbo Baggins. He does well with his character's insecurity and the humor, which comes often in the course of the film. At first Bilbo is clearly reluctant to get involved in the adventure but after everything that happens he manages to prove his importance to the company. The company of dwarfs is well realized, just like everything else. Richard Armitage expresses authority as Thorin Oakenshield. Every dwarf has a distinct look and personality. The special effects are impressive too. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy has special effects that look good even now but in The Hobbit it's clear from the beginning that CGI improved in ten years. The look of every creature is impressive and even terrifying. This is especially noticeable with Gollum (Andy Serkis), who now looks completely realistic. Some people questioned Jackson's decision to make a trilogy out of one book, expressing that there's not enough material for this. It's not really a problem however. In Jackson's hands the film doesn't lose steam until the very end and the grandeur is still there, made clear from the very begging when Bilbo describes Thror's rule of the Lonely Mountain. The running time is 169 minutes but it seems much shorter because there isn't really a dull moment. Like I mentioned before the acting is impressive. Of note is Sylvester McCoy's appearance as Radagast the Brown. The Hobbit doesn't have the sense of drama of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy yet it's a perfect prequel. I recommend it.
Django Unchained (2012)
Django Unchained certainly isn't a masterpiece but it's bold and funny for sure.
I'm a cinephile but I wasn't looking forward to seeing Django Unchained. Still, since I had some time, I went to the theater where the film was being screened. Django Unchained is a long film. Its running time is 165 minutes. Some people say that Quentin Tarantino is a great filmmaker, so he must have filled this project with meat. But no. There's just not enough meat here to justify the long running time. Instead there's fat and plenty of it. After Inglourious Basterds (2009), which is one of his best films, Tarantino wanted to make a spaghetti western. But he wanted the setting to be the Deep South before the Civil War. So he called his project a "Southern." He's not the first filmmaker to twist the word. Russian filmmakers made Western-like films as far back as the 1960s. They called them "Easterns" or "Osterns." One of the best films from that genre is White Sun Of The Desert (1970). Tarantino also said that he wanted to tackle the issue of slavery in the United States because America hasn't dealt with it well. The plot of Django Unchained is a simple one. Tarantino doesn't shy away from showing some of the worst abuses that happened as a result of slavery. But he still keeps things entertaining. The actors deliver good performances, especially Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. The film contains some of Tarantino's best written dialogue. The gunfights are some of the best ever committed to film. Despite all this the film is still, for the most part, a stylistic failure. For such a simple story it's too long and there are a number of scenes which serve no purpose. Tarantino gets good performances from the actors but his direction doesn't impress because he didn't do a good job at building scenes. He's known for including things that he likes in his films. Here he goes too far by including too many of his influences and too many songs that aren't really suitable for the material. Tarantino's previous editor Sally Menke knew how to cut his footage for a good result and when to reign him in. But now that Fred Raskin is the editor the film doesn't seem like the work of a great director. So, even though the cinematography by Robert Richardson is beautiful and even though the film is entertaining we still get something that seems average but bloody as well. With better direction and better editing it could have been a great film. Django Unchained is also Tarantino's funniest film yet. I recommend it but my recommendation isn't enthusiastic.
For a Good Time, Call... (2012)
It's a surprisingly intelligent film with plenty of laughs.
A comedy about phone sex may not sound like a good idea, but For A Good Time, Call... manages to pull it off thanks to a good deal of humor and character development. Much of the humor here is raunchy but it works. It's not one of those dumb raunchy comedies. Some of the best bits happen when Lauren and Katie talk to their customers. One of them is Captain Jerry who's played by Seth Rogen, Lauren Miller's real-life husband. Miller plays proper young woman Lauren Powell. She was also one of the script writers, along with Katie Anne Naylon. They based the script on their real-life experiences as college roommates. Miller's performance is suitable and works well opposite Ari Graynor as Katie Steel. There's commitment from every actor involved but it's Graynor who steals every scene she's in. She has the best lines and she knows it. She plays her character like a pro. At first she doesn't seem appealing to the audience, but as the film progresses she becomes a rounded and likable personality. Although the story is set in the modern day the film still seems like one of those films from the early-1990s. It reminded me of Clerks (1994). A good script and a good setup make For A Good Time, Call... one of the better comedies of 2012. I recommend it.
An impressive debut by Andres Muschietti. It's a spooky and intelligent horror film.
Mama is the best horror film I've seen in a while. It works thanks to the efforts of director and ambitious newcomer Andres Muschietti. Another reason why the film works is because it was produced by the visionary Guillermo del Toro. Barbara Muschietti, the director's sister, was also a producer. The scares here are a product of the mother's attachment to the children, and this theme works well in the context of the film. The mother in question is certainly a frightening creation. While there are jump scares the majority of the horror involves tension and mystery. This makes Mama seem similar to Gore Verbinski's The Ring (2002). The cinematography of The Ring is dominated by the colors blue and green. Antonio Riestra's beautiful cinematography for Mama is dominated by brown and black. All this makes the film an interesting chiller, and I enjoyed the atmosphere as much as I enjoyed the story. In the end though it's not easy to feel sympathy for the mother. Some scenes show to the audience that she's a sympathetic character, but she's still too scary and her acts too gruesome to make her really sympathetic. Another quirk is that the acting isn't always suitable, so even critics' darling Jessica Chastain doesn't always deliver with Muschietti's direction. One of the influences on Mama was obviously the Japanese horror genre. The best releases from that genre ended before the mid-2000s, but Mama shows that elements from it can still be effective. All in all it's an engaging horror film, and I recommend seeing it.
Astro Boy (2009)
An educational and entertaining fusion of American and Japanese animation standards.
Like many anime this film, which is loosely based on the Astro Boy manga, has dark themes but it's still a good entertaining release by director David Bowers. The computer animation has a polished vibrant look which fits the science-fiction story well. Astro Boy is a story about finding oneself and doing good. Its message is that if you do good you will be rewarded for it. And it's a good message, especially for children. This, along with other lessons, makes Astro Boy an excellent film for children. It features the voices of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy, Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage. Some adults may find the film simple but it doesn't cease to entertain so sitting through it is definitely not a chore. Just don't expect a great animated film. The animation here is often gorgeous and the action, which features fights between robots, is exciting. There's also a fair amount of comedy. When Astro Boy was released in 2009 I didn't go to see it in a movie theater. But I should have. This film has heart, or rather a glowing blue core of positive energy. I recommend seeing it.
Eye-catching sets, a highly watchable cast, and a brisk action-packed story make this film a treat.
The film that could have been one of the worst by Marvel Studios instead turned out to be one of the best. Captain America: The First Avenger gets everything right, but the studio hasn't really released a bad film yet. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers is pretty much perfect here. He's believable as someone who goes through a big transformation, but more importantly he's believable as a righteous sickly young man who wants to serve his country. He's transformed into the super soldier Captain America, and he gets a good-looking costume which looks perfect for its era. The 1940s in this film is an optimistic retro-futuristic time that's important in world history. Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jumanji) captured that era very well. The talented supporting cast includes Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper and Stanley Tucci. Jones is great as usual in the role of Colonel Chester Phillips. Tucci gives an interesting performance as the deeply humanistic Dr. Abraham Erskine. And Atwell as the tough Peggy Carter looks just like one of those pin-up girls of the 1940s. Captain America: The First Avenger is an action-packed summer blockbuster, so there isn't a dull moment. One of the highlights is a motorcycle chase reminiscent of the one in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989). But there's still a good deal of drama, and the film takes an honest look at its hero. Even though the Nazis, or more precisely the terrorist organization HYDRA, have things like laser weapons this still seems perfectly believable. Some people might interpret the film as a piece of American propaganda, but I don't care because it's an exuberant great-looking superhero film. For some reason Captain America has always been one of my favorite superheroes (maybe it's the cool costume and shield), and I'm glad that now there's finally a good film about him. In conclusion, Johnston and cinematographer Shelly Johnson crafted a satisfying colorful adventure film. I recommend seeing it.
The fourth Marvel Studios film is another triumph that's witty, dramatic and entertaining.
Thor was one of two films by Marvel Studios released during the summer of 2011, the other being Captain America: The First Avenger. Both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) appeared in The Avengers (2012), a film that I initially didn't like much but after some time have grown to appreciate. The Avengers is a superb superhero film, one of the best of all time in fact. In Thor the best performance is by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Tom again played Loki as the main villain in The Avengers. Loki is clearly up to no good but Hiddleston managed to show that he's a complex sympathetic character. Hemsworth was a good choice to play Thor, the crown prince of Asgard. With his dirty blond hair and ridiculously chiseled physique Hemsworth has plenty of charisma as Thor. The humor is frequent here and so is the action. The CGI was put to good use, and the realization of Asgard and the Bifrost is especially impressive. Still, the center of the film is the relation between Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his two sons. Director Kenneth Branagh was a good choice to tell this drama reminiscent of a play by William Shakespeare. Hopkins is a commanding presence as Odin, so his is another standout performance. But really, all the actors deliver here. There's Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three, there's Heimdall (Idris Elba), and there's Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). The love story is a bit rushed since Thor and Jane fall in love by the fire with a starry night sky behind them. The pacing too isn't perfect but Thor is a thrilling film which can improve just about anyone's mood. Patrick Doyle delivered a good score, and the Foo Fighters song Walk was also included in the film. In conclusion, there's much to like in Thor and I highly recommend seeing it.
An informing look at Abraham Lincoln's final days that's elevated by excellent performances.
Lincoln is Steven Spielberg's best film since Munich (2005). For Lincoln he assembled a terrific cast, one of the best ever. The film is full of dialogue, a result of Tony Kushner's rich screenplay. Because of this Lincoln doesn't even seems like one of Spielberg's films. It doesn't have his typical thrills and action. In fact, it seems very much like a theater play. Daniel Day-Lewis's impressive performance was singled out by some critics as one worthy of a Best Actor Academy Award, but Day-Lewis is only the first among equals here. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a fervent abolitionist, has some of the best lines in the film. Sally Field as the grieving Mary Todd Lincoln is at the center of the film's dramatic subplot. Both Jones and Field deserve an Academy Award for their performances. James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo steals every scene he's in. Other famous names in the cast include David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jared Harris. Day-Lewis made his Lincoln a fully-realized and likable character. When he's talking one can't help but listen to his every word. The film covers the final four months of Abraham Lincoln's life, focusing on his efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution pass the United States House of Representatives. Slavery and war are the two issues here. It's made clear that it took a lot of effort to abolish slavery in the United States. The film presents arguments in favor and against slavery, though it's not a detailed look at American politics of that time. In addition, it seems like an idealized look at American politics. The Civil War was a war between the industrial North against the agrarian South. Seeing Lincoln is really like a trip back in time because the sets and the costumes are very good. In conclusion, the film is easily worth recommending.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Wreck-It Ralph is a familiar story for children, but it's still a colorful adventure film.
Wreck-It Ralph is a film for children though even adults will enjoy it because of its smart humor and clever references to the arcade. The story is simple, with Wreck-It Ralph representing adults with a mid-life crisis and Vanellope von Schweetz representing children outside of the pack. The film starts slow but it builds to a thrilling ending which can easily compel viewers to see it again. The influence of Japanese animation on the story and the animation is obvious. One of the songs on the soundtrack is Sugar Rush by the Japanese girl group AKB48. Another nice tune in the film is When Can I See You Again? by Owl City. An excellent voice cast was assembled to bring the likable characters to life, including John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk. Wreck-It Ralph was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and not by Pixar. It doesn't reach the level of excellence of Pixar's best releases but it's still better than Pixar's worst, and even Pixar's worst are quite good. In conclusion Wreck-It Ralph, by director Rich Moore, is a good piece of entertainment, however I have to mention that it doesn't make good use of 3D. It's the 52nd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. I recommend seeing it.
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
It's gorgeous, it's entertaining, it's fresh. It's a must-see!
I very much enjoyed watching Rise Of The Guardians. It's a wonderful computer-animated film. It does play like The Avengers (2012) for the kids, but its intelligent story and humor make it a fun time for the whole family. The animation here is gorgeous, surpassing most efforts by Pixar and Disney. And the influence of Japanese animation greats like Spirited Away (2001) is more obvious. The film has an interesting fresh take on each of the five Guardians, who are beautifully designed. When they do battle they have a variety of skills to thrill with. The antagonist, Pitch the Boogeyman, is a complex character just like the Guardians who, it turns out, has some similarities with the protagonist Jack Frost, the Guardian of Fun. The excellent voice cast features Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law. Rise Of The Guardians is an entertaining fantasy-adventure by director Peter Ramsey, but it's still a well-meaning film from which children can learn a good deal. The icing on the cake is that it makes excellent use of 3D. I highly recommend watching it, and I won't be surprised if it becomes a holiday classic.
A terrific action summer movie with a fresh visual style.
After watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at home I asked myself why I didn't go to see it in a movie theater during the summer. I should have but I guess the reason was that I thought the premise was silly. Too bad because this is a terrific action film. It's very entertaining but I stress that it's not dumb. All the actors deliver good performances. Benjamin Walker creates a fantastic hero in Abraham Lincoln, a secret vampire hunter and the 16th President of the United States. Walker is good in the action scenes as well as at delivering Lincoln's historic lines. He begins hunting vampires as a young man with the assistance of his mentor Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper). Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Lincoln's wife Mary Todd and Anthony Mackie plays his closest friend William Johnson. Rufus Sewell as Adam is the film's main antagonist, a powerful vampire with an interesting story. The film is based on Seth Grahame-Smith's mashup novel of the same name. It plays very much like a comic book movie, and it takes liberties with the facts of Lincoln's life while poking fun at some of them. Director Timur Bekmambetov has a talent for creating impressive visuals, but here with the assistance of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel the look of the film is often stunning. The scene in which Lincoln fights Jack Barts on horseback at sunset is just one amazing highlight. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter earned almost twice its budget at the box office but it should have been a bigger hit. It's serious fantasy horror. I won't be surprised if it becomes a cult movie. It's one of the best films of 2012, and I definitely recommend seeing it.