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12 Years a Slave (2013)
A disturbing but powerful portrayal of slavery in America
Directed by Steve McQueen and staring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict CUmberbatch, newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, and a ton of other stars, '12 Years a Slave' is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a freeman who was living in Saratoga, NY before being tricked, drugged, and sold into slavery in the south.
McQueen is an auteur known for his honest and brutal direction, and he keeps filming when others would shut the camera off or look away. While making the picture that much more difficult to sit through, his steadfastness greatly elevates the emotional impact of the film. It's a must-see, if only for educational purposes—just as 'Schindler's List' is used to teach about the Holocaust and 'Milk' about the struggle for gay rights.
I'm not trying to compare the events depicted in this film with the events depicted in those I just mentioned, all I'm saying is that they are all equally important in portraying the reality of their respective situations. There is a moment in '12 Years a Slave' when, as a form of punishment, Northup is hanged by his neck, the tips of his toes just able to reach the ground below him. The camera stays on him for a few minutes. It is silent, and all you can do is listen to him struggling for breath.
This is one of the more disturbing moments in the film, but not the worst. Eventually, Northup is sold to Edwin Epps, a short-tempered and impulsive plantation owner portrayed by Michael Fassbender. He is by far the most villainous and terrifying character in the film, and Fassbender brilliantly captures his mood swings and tempestuous personality.
It is Chiwetel Ejiofor, however, who steals the show. He brings so much life to Northup, and completely disappears into his characters. He is able to depict so many deep levels of emotion, while also bringing dignity to a man who was unwilling to let anyone take away his will to "live" rather than just "survive." Additionally, Lupita Nyong'o, in her first big film role, is mesmerizing as Patsey, and hardworking and desperate woman, and the object of her master Epps's attention. She is hated by Epps's wife—masterfully played by Sarah Paulson— and most of the more dramatic moments in the film revolve around her character's tragic story.
If I have one complaint, it's that 12 years do not seem to pass by at all, mainly because none of the characters substantially age. Also, Brad Pitt is thrown in for ten minutes to depict a kind-hearted abolitionist, and while he does a good job, it just feels like Brad Pitt on a slave plantation, which is totally out of place.
Regardless, while the film may be harrowing and difficult to sit through, it is simply brilliant all the way through, and by far the most honest depiction of slavery that I've ever seen.
Captain Phillips (2013)
A pulsing, slow-burning, and emotional thriller
Captain Phillips, which came into theaters on Oct. 11, tells the true story of the eponymous captain whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates masquerading as fishermen back in 2009. Directed by Paul Greengrass, it starts off rather slow, taking a while to give all the background information and set up the story. Once it gets going, though, the film turns into an intense rescue mission and moral quandary that is impossible to turn away from.
Greengrass does a fine job at directing, but his hand-held camera-work is incredibly shaky and at times nauseating. That being said, almost the entire film takes place on the ocean, so the direction does do a fantastic job at immersing the viewer further into the situation at sea.
Tom Hanks, who stars as the titular character, gives his best performance in over ten years. He portrays Phillips as an average, slightly arrogant man thrust into a highly unusual and stressful situation. Phillips—who the pirates nickname "Irish" due to his heritage—is never directly referred to as a hero. Rather, the lengths he goes through to keep his crew safe are presented as completely natural, and are not particularly highlighted within the film.
Throughout the entire film, you can literally see the fear in Hanks's eyes—this isn't acting, this is more than that. While terribly afraid of the pirates who take him for ransom, he definitely feels sorry for them, and goes to lengths to help them settle the situation calmly. At one point in the film the film, Phillips asks the pirate leader, Muse, "There's got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people." To that, Muse replies, "Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America."
Moments like this present the pirates as actual people, simply doing their jobs and trying to bring money back to their villages and leaders. Barkhad Abdi, who portrays Muse, comes out of nowhere to give the standout performance of the film. He holds his own against Hanks the entire time, and while he certainly makes Muse into the villain of the film, it's clear that he really has no choice but to occupy this position. He gave empathy to a character that could have turned out be just another stereotypical villain, but instead was elevated to a complex, desperate human being.
Both actors are definitely in serious contention to snag an Oscar nomination come January, and I suspect the film will get a few more as well. I'd also like to point out the brilliance of Henry Jackman's score, which serves as an intense, pulsing backdrop for the action that takes place on screen.
Overall, while 'Captain Phillips' takes a while to get going, the wait is well worth it. The film turns into a complex moral thriller that, despite potentially knowing the ending due to the fact that it is based on a true story, remains very intense throughout.
A modern masterpiece
Gravity is a film I've been looking forward to for a ridiculously long amount of time. It's essentially about two astronauts who struggle for survival after floating debris collides with their spaceship, leaving them detached and adrift in space. It's not so much sci-fi as it is drama-thriller, and when I say "thriller" I don't mean that lightly. It was literally the most stressful 90-minutes of my life, but I was in awe of every second of it.
Cuarón, who directed, co-wrote, produced, and even helped edit the film, hasn't done a full- length feature since 2006's bitingly poignant Children of Men, but Gravity was well worth the wait. It's one of the best-directed films I've ever seen. Cuarón's use of incredibly long takes sucks the viewer in so that they physically cannot turn away. The film starts out with a 17- minute shot—no editing, no cuts. It's just the camera moving from one subject to another, in-and-out, close up and far away—all over the place, really. Space is limitless, and so is Cuarón.
It's tough to appreciate just how masterful this film is until you see it for yourself. Being set miles above earth's surface, every single take is absolutely gorgeous. The visuals are stunning, and the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is some of the best work I've ever seen, with Steven Price's electric and ethereal score only adding to the tense atmosphere. The earth itself turns into a character, and it's used brilliantly all the way up until the very end.
As for the performances, well, there are really only two significant roles. George Clooney plays a veteran astronaut out on his last mission, and serves as a form of moral support to Sandra Bullock's character—Dr. Ryan Stone—who's up on her very first mission. Clooney does a fine job and is an integral part of the plot line, but it's Bullock who utterly dominates the screen time, giving a fearless and absorbing performance like never before.
It's by far the best work of her career—Dr. Stone is so real that it's scary. You laugh when she laughs, you cry when she cries, and you're breathless as she's struggling for air. The emotions that Cuarón was able to elicit from her truly pull you into the film and make this an experience like no other. While the script isn't necessarily the best written, and most certainly skims the line of oversentimentality at times, those issues are secondary to the visuals and performances themselves.
It's truly an out-of-body experience, and probably the closet most of us will ever get to actually being in space.
Side Effects (2013)
An intriguing, complex psychological thriller
Steven Soderbergh has decided to end his career what can only be described as a pharmaceutical, psychosexual thriller that deals with several morally ambiguous characters all revolving around one horrible incident. Out of fear of giving away the intelligent, twist-filled plot written by Scot Z. Burns, that's really all I can say, although I can tell you that Soderbergh directs the film with extreme confidence, and it shows. He was able to convey a sort of quiet chaos with his frequent close-ups, and, by shifting in-and-out of focus throughout the screen, he was able to draw attention to the many small, yet important details.
The real strength of this film, though, is not necessarily the story itself, but how it is presented. To be honest, the story is almost too smart to the point of absurdity, but it never comes off as such. By releasing only one small piece of information at a time, we are kept waiting through interviews, court hearings, false trails, and many psychiatrist visits until, finally, everything comes together into one neat conclusion. The entire film is very subdued, but if you pay attention, you will be rewarded in the end.
Of course, the story would not have turned out so well without the multiple impressive performances that carry it all the way through. Rooney Mara is once again stunning as Emily Taylor, a woman who starts taking prescription antidepressants to cope with her husband's release from prison. Without giving much away, Emily is far more complex than she first appears, and Mara plays this perfectly by retaining a dark mysteriousness about her. She truly steals every scene she's in, and displays such a range of emotions that, at times, it's difficult to tell what her character is truly thinking. This is unfortunate for Channing Tatum, who does a fine job as her loving and sympathetic husband trying to make everything right after being released for insider trading, but who doesn't have close to enough material to compete with Mara.
Jude Law, on the other hand, is arguably the most central figure as Dr. Jonathan Banks, Emily's psychiatrist who is thrown into a scandal when his patient is involved in a tragic accident after taking an antidepressant he prescribed for her. He slowly mentally unravels as his decisions come back to haunt him, and eventually has to cross several moral boundaries in order to get his life back on track. Law shows this frustration with expert skill, and gives one of the best performances of his recent career. The same can be said for Catherine Zeta- Jones, who—as Emily's former psychiatrist Dr. Victoria Siebert—gives possibly the most complex performance, and does it brilliantly despite her lack of screen time.
To give away any more would be to say too much, as the film is so perfectly structured, it is difficult to discuss without giving away the whole thing. All I can add is, it is not so simple and straightforward as it may appear. It is a complex of characters, their motives, and the consequences of their actions, and, despite taking a while to get started, it is truly a spectacular, thrilling, and intricate journey that should not be missed.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
A fascinating, witty romantic comedy with multiple layers
I had heard so much hype about this movie that I finally caved in and went to see it. I have to say, for the most part, it lived up to my expectations, and even exceeded them in some cases. David O. Russell does a solid, and at times surprisingly inventive job at directing a story about a formally undiagnosed bipolar man trying to reconnect with his estranged wife while balancing a relationship with a younger girl who has problems of her own. He also wrote the screenplay, based off of the novel by Matthew Quick.
Although the story itself is not entirely original, the performances elevate to a much higher level, and they managed to consistently impress as the film played on. Jennifer Lawrence is captivatingly hysterical as Tiffany, the crazy girl next door who is attempting to deal with her husband's untimely death. She has many great one-liners and was able to display a fantastic range of emotions, but her performance was actually the only one that, to a certain degree, let me down. Don't get me wrong—she's amazing, but with all I had heard and with all the accolades she's been receiving, I expected her to be even better than she was.
The standout, for me, was Bradley Cooper, who was far better than I thought he could ever be as Pat Solitano, a man obsessed with impressing his wife after their relationship, somewhat traumatically, came to an end. His ability to switch quickly between numerous emotions— from anger to happiness to regret, and so on—was truly outstanding, and what I believe to be a pretty accurate portrayal of someone struggling with bipolar disorder. Additionally, his unrealistic belief that everything will work out well—in terms of his relationship with his wife, his parents, and Tiffany—provides a sort of comic irony as everything constantly spirals out of control.
That's not all, though. Robert De Niro was—finally—very good, and undeniably compelling, as the OCD, football-obsessed father who just wants his family to spend time together again. Also, Jacki Weaver does a fine job as the matriarch trying to hold her family together, and Chris Tucker provides comic relief, as if it were needed, as Pat's friend from the hospital. Rounding out the cast are Julia Stiles, John Ortiz, and Anupam Kher (who's actually pretty funny as Pat's psychiatrist).
At the end of it all, this film is a wild, comical, if not slightly predictable ride made all the more better by the fantastic chemistry between Cooper and Lawrence. While its main focus is on building and maintaining relationships, it provides glimpses into the thought processes of some completely irrational, oversensitive, and easily aggravated people, which at times can be stressful, and other times just downright hilarious. Because of this, it's definitely deeper and more complex than most romantic comedies, while at the same time remaining captivating and entertaining throughout. And really, if films are truly made to entertain us, then this more than succeeds on all accounts.
Chasing Ice (2012)
Beautiful, yet haunting
James Balog has one goal in mind throughout this entire documentary: to photographically demonstrate the rapid melting of our earth's glaciers. He doesn't throw statistics at us (okay, maybe one or two), and he doesn't bring politics into it, all he does is undeniably prove that the vast majority of the world's glaciers are disappearing right before our eyes.
What this documentary does is capture his journey to photograph these glaciers. It shows his struggles, his failures, and his successes. Yes, he may come off as a bit of a hero, but what he's doing truly is heroic and simply cannot be missed. The photography throughout this film is spectacular--absolutely gorgeous. In fact, he photographed an article on this topic for National Geographic, and if you've seen their photographs, you know the level of quality we're talking about here.
At the same time, however, there's kind of this sense of impending doom amidst all the beauty. It essentially shows all the damage humanity has done, in the past ten or so years alone, and I can only hope it's not too late to fix at least some of what we've caused. If this documentary can't get you to see the world and it's people differently, then I don't think much else can, his results are simply that stunning.
Lo imposible (2012)
Harrowing, emotional portrayal of a devastating event
It would be impossible to try and capture the widespread loss and destruction of this horrible, devastating event. The scope was so large and far too many people lost their lives to even attempt to portray on film. Instead, director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez focused smartly on the true story of one family's struggle for survival amongst all that had happened on December 26th, 2004.
This allows the film to be much more intimate, and the audience is quickly able to connect with the Bennett family, starting simply with their arrival to Thailand. While the audience was filled with dread in anticipation of what was to come, the Bennetts were blissfully unaware and enjoying themselves over vacation. However, everything soon takes a terrifying turn as the tsunami hits their resort in a horrifyingly realistic manner, sweeping up people as they attempt to flee before it or protect themselves from its awesome power.
At this point, I, too, felt like I was drowning. The camera bobs in and out of darkness, in and out of the water, as the family's matriarch, Maria, struggles for breath. Then, clinging hopelessly onto a palm tree, she screams all too realistically for anyone who could possibly help her in a desperate, surprisingly shocking moment. It is at this point where she spots her son, Lucas, floating in the fierce waves, and I held my breath as the struggled for what seemed like an eternity to reunite in the water.
In a way, Lucas, brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Tom Holland, carries the film from this point forward. He takes on the role of protecting his stubborn yet badly injured mother, and in the process he's forced to mature far too quickly. During every moment, his emotions and facial expressions convey more than any words ever could, as she shies away from and is frightened by his mother's injuries and nudity, all the while attempting to deal with the scope of the pain and devastation.
However, it is his mother, Maria, whom the film truly centers around. Naomi Watts gives quite possibly her finest performances to date, portraying harrowing desperation, stubborn determination in the face of incredible pain and agony, and, ultimately, a sense of love and care despite her deteriorating state. True, she is bedridden for about half the film, but it is during this time where there are these small moments of tenderness and humility which undoubtedly makes Watts's performance one of the best of the year.
In fact, the entire cast was exceptional, including Ewan McGregor, the father desperately trying to put together his family again, and the two littlest sons, Thomas, played by Samuel Joslin, and Simon, played by Oaklee Pendergast, both of whose innocence prevented them from thoroughly capturing the extent of this tragic event. The story of these three is intertwined with that of Maria and Lucas, as they all struggle for survive amidst the destruction and reunite amidst the chaos.
Ultimately, this is a touching and heartwarming film, as the true kindness of humanity can be seen in this time of great loss. Yes, the tsunami is terrifying, the injuries gruesome and shockingly realistic, and the pain and suffering visible on just about everyone's faces. However, the Bennetts' story is a remarkable one of love, determination, and hope, and it simply cannot be missed.
Resurrection at its finest.
Going into this film (and it truly is a film, that's how beautiful it is), I had heard all the hype from overseas, and so I was expecting it to be good, but not this good. I was worrying that it was going to be too action-heavy, but its not: it takes the time to establish relationships between the characters, so when there is action, it actually matters. I'm really not qualified to say if this is the best Bond film, or even if Daniel Craig is the best Bond, but I can say that this is by far the best of the one's Craig has worked on, and I also believe Craig is incredibly believable as Bond--he's a person, with actual emotions and feelings, rather than just a spy.
Now even though I gave this film a perfect rating, it is not perfect--it's absolutely fantastic, but of course a few things could've been better. However, because of the way this film ends, I could not rate it anything but a ten. The ending is absolutely mind-blowing. To say much about it would be to give away the entire film, but I will say this: they have changed the future of the series forever (and by series, I mean the ones staring Craig).
Speaking of Daniel Craig, I have to praise him even further. He really is an amazing actor, and brings so much to this role. I think this is one of his best performances--he might've even been better here than in last year's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, although that's a close call. Like I said earlier, though, his Bond is the most grounded--he's still a tough, cunning spy, but here he manages to appear more vulnerable. Other actors did a great job as well: Javier Bardem is terrifyingly sly as Silva, Naomie Harris does a good job as the rookie field agent, and Bérénice Marlohe has a short but memorable role as the complicated Sévérine. Additionally, the dynamic between Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Craig is fantastic, as well as the dynamic between him and Ben Winshaw's ingenious Q.
The true performance, however, comes from none other than Judi Dench. This is by far her biggest role as M, as well as her most impressive performance in along time. In my opinion, her character's storyline makes the film. The emotion she was able to bring to her character while still staying stern in the presence of others is absolutely breathtaking, especially in the courtroom scene and the incredibly emotional ending.
The locations, too, helped make this an amazing film. From the chase scene in Istanbul-- which was one of the best I've seen in a while--to the towering heights of Shanghai; from the reinvented MI6 in London to the beautiful moors of Scotland, the sights are impressive throughout. Equally as impressive is Roger Deakins' cinematography, which was truly stunning and made the film all the more beautiful.
Skyfall truly is one of the year's best films. It may lag a little bit in the middle, but that's only a minor fault as it hurdles towards the climactic ending. One of the best parts for me, actually, was finding out the meaning behind the title, and, however subtle it was, it was a great moment and perfectly integrated into the plot line.
This is now a different Bond. I'm sure the writers realized what they were doing when the made one of the major themes resurrection, as after the alright-but-disappointing Quantum of Solace, Bond needed to be reinvented--again. They have made some sacrifices, but ultimately succeeded. This Bond is modern, but true to how the books make him appear. There are also some great references to older gadgets, like the exploding pen and ejector seat, although they don't necessarily feature in the film. Bond nowadays is more about ingenuity rather than gadgets, and he is all the more realistic and impressive for it.
An enthralling film, yet could've been better-developed
Let me start by saying that this is probably the best science-fiction film of the year. Somehow, Rian Johnson was able to turn time travel into a relatively unique, fresh concept that was at times very dark. In fact, this entire film is very dark, yet it handles it well--you are not consistently being hit over the head with it, although it is definitely always there. This film absolutely takes you on a journey, and I was highly entertained the entire time, and found myself wondering what was going to happen, and how it was going to end.
This film also makes you care for the characters, which I feel many movies and films today skip over. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job as the present-day looper Joe, trying desperately to close his own loop before the mob catches up with him, and Bruce Willis is fantastic as Gordon-Levitt's future-self trying to avenge the death of his wife by murdering the potential past-selves of a mass-murdering vigilante (it gets a little complicated, but by no means is it not followable). All the while, Joe comes to know Sara, portrayed by Emily Blunt in a fierce and standout performance, and her son, who are both hiding dark secrets. All of the actors, from Jeff Daniels to Paul Dano, actually do very good jobs, and as I said the characters are really well thought-out.
However, this film is absolutely not without it's flaws. I was actually expecting something quite different when I walked into the theater--it was definitely more supernatural than I thought it would be, which sort of detracted from the otherwise-believable world, but ends up being a central plot-point. Also, there are plenty of loopholes and paradoxes that could've been explained better or fixed within the confines of the script. Lastly, many people are saying that this film has three acts, but I'd almost say it only has two, at least based on the setting. For me, the two halves have completely different feels to them, possibly because of the contrasting settings, which doesn't necessarily detract from the film, but makes it somewhat incoherent.
(Half of it is essentially set in a rundown, futuristic city, and I liked the fact that, although it was not beaming with future technology, there were hints here-and-there where you could tell it was in the future. The other half is set in a farmhouse that's old even for today's standards. It's quite a contrast, although I felt as if Johnson was saying something about how modern society is slowly taking over traditional values.)
That being said, the script is still great, and there are actually some genuinely funny moments of dry humor, snide remarks, and comical situations. I'm not sure if all of these were intended to be taken as comical, but the majority of the theater was laughing at some points throughout the film. Overall, though, it is definitely quite dark and dramatic, but don't come expecting an action movie. There is action, for sure, but this is more of a character's film, and I'd say that despite the fact that it could've been better-developed, it definitely didn't disappoint.
Big message wrapped up in a warm and comical film
I can't say that Juno is necessarily realistic in the way the some of the characters handle Juno's unexpected pregnancy, but I don't think that was the point. The point was to explore the different meanings of love through numerous and varied characters, and in that sense this film is very successful. Some of the dialogue is quite frank, which definitely provides for some comical moments, and everything is done rather straightforwardly, but that adds to the quirkiness of the film, and without the amazing screenplay by Diablo Cody, not to mention Jason Reitman's very sure direction, this film would be nothing.
Ellen Page does an incredible job as a teenager, despite getting pregnant at such a young age, acting beyond her years in maturity in dealing with the situation, and yet she is still a child at heart, and wants so deeply to hold on to that, which is shown in everything from the way she dresses, to the things in her room, to the very fitting and sort of indie soundtrack that goes along with the movie. Michael Cera does a great job as Juno's shy and diffident best friend, Paulie Bleeker. He doesn't get very involved with the pregnancy, and almost seems unaffected by it until the end, when everything sort of starts to fall apart and come together at the same time. Their relationship is fantastic--some of the best parts of the film are the few times they're together. Everyone else in the cast, from Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, to Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons also do well in their roles. Ellen Page, however is still by far the star of this movie--no one else could've played this role except her.
What sets this movie apart from others, though, is it's feel, and there's really no other way to describe that, except perhaps maybe the way it makes you feel. The whole film, despite dealing with very mature subject matter, is almost casual and laid back. It is not immature or inappropriate in the way that it handles the complex situations it throws its characters into, but it does so very lightly, only brushing on the mature parts, which is somewhat childish, but this is from a teenager's point-of-view. It is not a feel-good movie, and yet you do feel good at the end, not necessarily because of how the movie ended, but because how the characters got to that ending.
It's kind of a love story, but more of a quest to discover what love truly is, which sounds a little corny, but the characters don't even know that that's what they're doing the entire time. This is all shown brilliantly throughout the end sequences, which were probably designed to elicit tears, but at that point you should be too self-satisfied with how everything turned out to be able to cry.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Quirky and touching
This film impresses you within the first sequence, as the camera, fixed to one spot, spins around the various rooms of Suzy's house, with a single piece of music playing multiple times in the background, each time with different instruments. It is this kind of uniqueness that Wes Anderson brings throughout the entire film--in fact, this is definitely one of the most unique and quirky films I've ever seen.
It's screenplay was very well-written, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't Oscar nominated come the awards season. The dialogue is frank and to the point, but that somehow adds to the charm of the film, and definitely provides for some comical moments. Most of the story is essentially seen through the eyes of the twelve year-olds, Suzy and Sam, as they both attempt to escape their depressing live and flee into the wild together. They don't necessarily know each other, but they love each other, if that's possible. In fact, they get a little swept away, but I think that's the entire point of the movie: they have nothing that's important in their lives, nothing at all that they care about, except their first crush, so, to them, that's all in the world that matters. Both actors do a great job at portraying kids on the run--they were as realistic as one could be in a situation like that, and really entertaining.
All the actors were actually fantastic--for me, the standout was Bruce Willis, who took on an unusual role for him, but did a great job with it. Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinton also all did a good job.
This film is definitely not ordinary--it stands out amongst recent ones that I've seen. It's quirky but not too odd, it takes you on a journey but never gets lost. It's realistic in it's character portrayal and development, yet still manages to surprise you with genuine, unique characters that for the most part haven't been seen before, at least not in this context, and definitely not all working together as they somehow managed to do in this film.
Real Steel (2011)
Predictable yet entertaining movie
I thought this was going to be just another dumb action movie that is entirely pointless, but I was totally wrong. This movie, although it is extremely predictable, definitely has some heart and makes you really care for the characters, even the robots. Speaking of the robots, they are incredibly well-done and one of the better parts of the movie. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar for visual effects--they are highly realistic and seems to have their own personalities.
The acting, too, was actually pretty good--definitely better than in most action movies like this. Hugh Jackman was quite good in his role, and you could definitely see the determination in his face. Evangeline Lilly was good too, although she could've used a little more screen time. However, the standout performance for me was by Dakota Goyo, who was a surprisingly good actor (and a pretty decent dancer, too...). He acted just as a kid should act--he wasn't overly mature, he was at times overemotional, and he pretty much just wanted to have fun. Some of the interactions and dialogue between him and his father was very well-written and realistic, although each character throughout the movie definitely has their share of cheesy lines.
The movie overall, though, is pretty entertaining--it's impossible not to get attached to the characters, and thus entertained. The fight scenes are very exciting, although the ending was an interesting choice. I didn't necessarily see it coming, and at first didn't understand why someone would choose that ending, but then it dawned on me: it doesn't matter what the ending is like, it just matters how you got there, and I think that's what the characters realized too.
Spectacular end to the franchise!
So, yes, this movie does waver from the book, and yes, they did get a bunch of things wrong, and yes, many parts of it could've been better, however, everything else was so incredible all this mistakes are soon overlooked. This movie is simply epic, and while the spaces for the most part are confined, it is on a grand scale. Unlike the last movie, by like all the others previous, most of the action takes place at Hogwarts, which for some reason they changed the architecture to. I don't get why they did that, but the sets are still amazing, especially Gringotts, which was much darker this time, the sequence on the bridge, which I thought was a good addition, and all of the destroyed courtyards.
David Yates does a good job at capturing all the emotion that goes into a battle like this. Most people just relate war with action and violence, but it's also extremely emotional, something that J. K. Rowling did a great job at portraying, and something that Yates carried through with the movie. However (only a spoiler if for some reason your haven't read the book or seen the movie yet), with the exception of Snape's, he sweeps through all the death scene rather quickly, sometimes giving character only mere seconds of screen time. The hardship and loss still definitely gets across, but it could've made more of an impact if more time was spent on it.
Speaking about Snape, I think Snape's memories is one of the greatest sequences ever filmed in cinematic history. I'm not joking--they couldn't fit all of it in there, and they added some stuff for the movie's purposes, but it is just so powerful, it's impossible not to feel affected by it. It is a spectacularly and masterfully done montage with many different layers and footage from almost all the film, which really brings back some great memories. It was definitely the closest I've ever come to shedding a tear in a movie theater, and trust me, that doesn't happen. Alan Rickman also does in absolutely breathtaking final portrayal of Severus Snape-- if the Academy wasn't so afraid of Harry Potter movies, and fantasy in general, he would've gotten an Oscar nomination, which definitely would've been deserved.
In fact, all the acting is top-notch, especially Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Michael Gambon, Warwick Davis, and Julie Walters, as well as Helena Bonham Carter, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, and Gary Oldman. The kids, too, although they're not really kids anymore, were all very good, namely Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, who have really grown and turned into some fine young actors throughout the course of this series. Evanna Lynch, Matthew Lewis, Devon Murray, Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, and Alfred Enoch also did great jobs.
Not everything was perfect, though. (Mild spoilers again, if somehow you don't know the plot.) The sequence with the Grey Lady was not at all like in the book--it didn't have the same feel to it, and she seemed angry instead of upset. They also changed how the ghosts look for the last movie, which I didn't like and thought was a little pointless. Also, towards the end, Voldemort sort of beats up Harry while Harry is taunting him, and Voldemort does some weird thing with his cloak and picks Harry up with it, and then they both jump off the bridge and fly around to their final battle. This whole sequence doesn't really fit in, and Harry never Voldemort the whole story behind the Elder Wand, but instead tells it to Hermione and Ron afterward, which I also didn't like. He then proceeds to dispose of it without fixing his own wand, which was broken in the previous movie, which was a terrible thing to leave out.
Looking past all the small errors, though, this movie is absolutely spectacular in every sense of the word, and it is accompanied by and equally-as-impressive score by Alexandre Despalt. Everything comes together in an incredible way, and, if you look past some of the minor deviations from the book and embrace some of the larger ones, you won't be disappointed.
Fantastic, but not without some major mistakes
This movie is very fast-paced, thrilling, dark, and overall well-done. A lot of material needed to be fit into a short amount of time, and although it is fast-paced, it never seems like you're being left behind. Director David Yates also does an amazing job at making it feel a lot more mature--you can definitely tell that everything is starting to build upon itself.
As far as the acting goes, it should be no surprise by now that the Harry Potter movie always have great acting. Harry, Ron, and especially Hermione do a fantastic job while on the run-- you can the they stress, fear, sadness, love, and determination in their faces. The supporting cast is also very good, especially Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, and Rhys Ifans. Additionally, David O'Hara, Steffan Rhodri, and Sophie Thompson do really incredible jobs as Harry, Ron, and Hermione impersonating the Ministry officials they represent.
There are, however, some big mistakes in this film that I'm surprised J. K. Rowling, being a producer, let slip by. For one thing, the scene explaining how Voldemort's name is taboo was deleted, so the action over at Xeno's house can be a little confusing. Also, for some reason Dobby knocks out Pettigrew at Malfoy Manor, instead of having his hand choke him to death. This is a huge mistake, as Pettigrew owed his life to Harry, and, at least in the movies, never repays it. Lastly, the scenes with the Dursley's were cut extremely short--poor Fiona Shaw only has about five seconds of screen time, but a brilliant deleted scene. There are also a ton more smaller mistakes, but they are more understandable considering what they packed into the running-time.
What they did do right, however, was the telling of the Tale of the Three Brothers. The entire sequence is animated is a sort of shadowy two-dimensional formant, and it was simply fantastic. The whole concept behind that was really ingenious, and it was very well-done. Another positive is Alexandre Despalt's enthralling musical score, which perfectly suits the adventurous feeling of the movie.
So even though there were definitely some huge mistakes in this film, it is still a great lead-in to the final film, and definitely worth the watch. It never gets boring, as many people said, and at times it is even comical--I was entertained the whole way.
Look at it as a movie, not a book
I realize that this movie, although it does follow the basic plot of the book, is completely different from it, but it is still incredibly entertaining and well-done. There are so many things that stand out in this movie, from the brilliant acting, to the masterful and toned cinematography, to the haunting, magical soundtrack, and the competent direction. Everyone seem definitely gave it their all on this movie, and it shows.
The acting is simply the best yet, from everyone involved. The trio is fantastic--Daniel Radcliffe who has to take on Harry's even more complicated life, Rupert Grint does a does a great job making Ron truly love-stricken, and Emma Watson provides us with a smart, fierce Hermione who's heart is broken by her best friend. One of the standout performances, however, is Tom Felton, who finally gets a major part as an ambiguous Malfoy being forced over to the dark side. He doesn't have very many lines, but is spectacular to watch--you can just see all his torn emotions in his face. The veteran cast is simply amazing--Jim Broadbent is the perfect pick for Professor Slughorn, and is absolutely hysterical. Michael Gambon gives an amazing performance as a more vulnerable Dumbledore full of determination to beat the Dark Lord. Also, Alan Rickman is darker and more mysterious than ever, as his true loyalties are finally tested. Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Helen McCrory, Mark Williams, and Julie Walters, too, all do a great job.
This entire movie is a lot tenser than the others, and you can feel that everything is starting to add up and go somewhere, and yet it is by far the funniest Harry Potter movie. Many scenes are very comical--in fact, almost the entire movie is, except, of course, when it doesn't want to be. There are some very dark undertones, and the scenes in the pensive provide a haunting look into Tom Riddles past, although many memories were deleted from the film.
One scene that is done to near-perfection is the cave scene. The set was absolutely stunning- -dazzling, dark, creepy, and mysterious at the same time, and everything seemed to just fit together. However, the scene that doesn't fit into the movie is the burning of the Burrow. It was not in the book at all, and I realize they wanted more action in the movie, but if they had put in the scene that's supposed to go there and introduced the Minister of Magic, it could've provided for a pretty tense situation.
However, this hardly detracts from the film. Overall, although the movie is certainly more comical than the book, and many parts were changed or left out, this film is nonetheless highly entertaining and the perfect lead-in to Harry's last and final journey.
Overall a wonderful adaptation
Let's face it. The entire book was never going to fit into a two-a-a-half hour long movie. People are complaining that there are so many aspects of the novel missing, and although I do have a few complaints, I think it was well written enough, and it was definitely very entertaining.
For some reason Steve Kloves decided not to adapt this movie, but I think Michael Goldenberg does a fine job. The movie is essentially propelled forward by a series of montages, that David Yates does a good job with, and which are accompanied by great scores from Nicholas Hooper, whose music overall was very fitting.
The acting, obviously, was excellent. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are getting better every time now, and some others in the younger cast, such as Matthew Lewis, James and Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, and, making her film debut appearance, Evanna Lynch, all did a great job.
The rest of the cast was amazing, which they are every time. Ralph Fiennes is even better as Lord Voldemort, and Imelda Staunton was absolutely brilliant as Professor Umbridge. Additionally, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman do a great job. Also, Emma Thompson, although only in the movie for about five minutes or so, gives and exceptional performance as Professor Trelawney.
The only complaint I have is, and this is somewhat confusing, but the running time for this movie is only 2 hours and 19 minutes, which is long, but not for a Harry Potter movie. They removed the scene where Harry and the others visit the hospital, and many scenes in the department of mysteries. I understand that these might've been expensive to film, but it's not as if they have any lack of money, and these would've added greatly to the film.
Overall, though, this is a fantastic movie that, although it does waver from the book, does a great job at getting all the important parts in. It flows fluidly with great direction from David Yates, and is definitely worth a watch.
Great movie, but some poor choices were made
This is a great movie overall, even though it does waver quite a bit from the book. The three tasks were done very well, and the whole atmosphere of the film matches that of the book, which I always think is important. Also, Mike Newell does a very good job at directing--there are some really fantastic close-ups as well as wide, seeping shots, and shots from interesting perspectives.
However, some of the choices made during or for the filming of this movie weren't very good. For instance, I believe the director wanted all the male actors to grow out their hair, but it simply looks ridiculous, especially Rupert Grint. Also, sometimes characters act in ways that doesn't seem very natural according to who they are, such a Dumbledore and, occasionally, Cedric Diggory.
Overall, though, the acting is top-notch. The trio seems to have improved even more, including Emma Watson, whom I didn't think could improve. Some other stand-out roles were Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort and Brendan Gleason interpreting Mad-Eye Moody. Also, Miranda Richardson does a fantastic job with Rita Skeeter, although her role is rather small.
Although probably being my least-favorite Harry Potter movie, this movie is definitely very good, especially when you take it as a movie and not a recreation of the book. Some things could definitely have been improved upon, but nonetheless, everyone involved did a great job.
Beautiful--absolutely breathtaking adaptation.
I might be the only one who thinks this, but in all honesty I think this is one of the best directed movies of all time. Alfonso Cuarón changed the Harry Potter series forever with his stunning, mature, and rather dark vision of Prisoner of Azkaban. Some of his shots are beautiful, especially when he zooms in and out through the clock tower when the go back in time. He is and extremely creative director and although he only did one Harry Potter movie, he has forever left his mark on the series.
The acting from the young trio is also much improved--they seem more comfortable as students in their magical world, and definitely more comfortable as friends. They are growing up and dealing with many new issues and emotions, such as stress, despair, and anger, but also friendship and love. It is really amazing to just watch the entire young cast interact with each other in such a realistic way.
The supporting cast is also great, especially the new additions of David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, who tries to be kind and helpful despite his inner torment, and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, who, as usual, was flawless in his insane interpretation. Something must also be said for Michael Gamban, who replaced the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and seems to have added a level of seriousness and maturity that goes along with the kids' growing up. Everyone else does a fine job too, but some more that stood out were Robbie Coltrane, Timothy Spall, and Fiona Shaw.
However, I cannot say enough about the new vision this gives to the Harry Potter series. Even the landscape has changed to one that's much more wild and untamed, and the use of lighting made the entire film more grey. The costumes, too, are less childish, as the actors in a way got to dress themselves, and it definitely shows. This movie is really fantastic--there's just something about the story that gets to you. It's so imaginative, and really in the end the only enemy is fear itself. Nothing is necessarily defeated, just overcome, yet it is all the satisfying because of this.
Solid adaptation of the novel
This movie is just as good as the first, and although it is definitely a bit longer, it has much more action and mystery. It also tended to stay rather true to the book, although many scenes did have to be deleted in order to cut down on the running time, but that is understandable.
Chris Columbus does a great job again--there are some wonderful sweeping shots and some beautifully filmed scenes, especially towards the end when they are in the Chamber. This film is also a bit darker than the first one, so the lighting is toned down a bit, and many scenes occur during the night. Additionally, and interesting choice was made during a flashback in which everything is very dull--almost black and white--except Harry, who is in full color.
The acting from the younger cast is definitely improved from the last time, namely Daniel Radcliffe, who seems a lot more comfortable as Harry. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint do fantastic jobs again, and seem to have improved even further. I would also point out Bonnie Wright, who actually had a decent role in this film, and does a good job when it counts. The more experienced cast of course is amazing, especially the new additions, Kenneth Branagh, who is simply hysterical in his self-centered role, and Jason Isaacs, who plays Malfoy's sinister father. Richard Harris is also wonderful in what turned out sadly to be one of his last films.
Overall, this movie is entertaining an has action, mystery, rivalry, and even the very beginnings of a love story, so you really can't go wrong.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Not even close to a Bourne movie
In a way I think this film disgraces the Bourne series, and here's why: it simply did not have the feel of a Bourne movie. Between awkwardly chosen locations, some sci-fi drug twist, and and incredibly over-simplified and at times dull plot line, this is hardly an action movie, let alone a Bourne movie. Also, and this part really bothered me, I feel like Tony and Dan Gilroy did things with some of the Bourne characters that were not true to Robert Ludlum's vision, even going so far as to change the initiation program and the amount of information leaked at the end of Ultimatum.
Secondly, the direction was very close up the entire time, and during many of the chase scenes I found myself unable to watch. The entire time it is very shaky, and because of the closeness, it's difficult to get the whole picture of what's going on.
Lastly, some of the acting wasn't very good. I've never liked Jeremy Renner, and this movie didn't change my opinion on him. It's not that he's a bad actor, it's just that I don't like him as an actor. Edward Norton, though, was incredibly stiff and robotic the whole time, as were some of the other government workers. The best performance was probably from Rachel Weisz, who did well as a woman trying to deal with shock and guilt.
If you happen to like almost all action movie, go ahead and watch this, but if you're a Bourne fan, I wouldn't bother wasting your and tarnishing some aspects of the past movies.
Great job at adapting a great book
This movie is simply magical, and I think that, along with introducing you to the wizarding world, is the entire point. Their are so many details that enrich the story, which can be found in the costumes, props, and the magnificent sets. Also, Chris Columbus does a fine job at directing--several sequences were really well done, and you can tell he's good at working with the younger actors.
Almost everybody by now knows Harry Potter's story, and although this does waver from the book a little bit, it covers all the important things, and does a fantastic job at introducing us to all the characters, who are brilliantly acted. Everybody from Maggie Smith to Robbie Coltrane to David Bradley does a fine job, and on top of that, the casting was superb, especially with the choice of Alan Rickman.
Of the three younger actors, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, oddly enough, stand out above Daniel Radcliffe, with Emma doing just slightly a better job than Rupert. She gives such an attitude to Hermione that I think was really important to carry over from the book, and Rupert has great comic timing that really shines. Daniel, however, is just alright. At times he's wonderful, but other times he's a bit stiff and robotic in how he speaks, which is understandable considering his age at the time.
Overall, this is a fantastic start of what turned into a fantastic franchise. If for some reason you haven't gotten into Harry Potter, hurry up! You won't be disappointed.
The Iron Lady (2011)
Not even Streep can save this...
Meryl Streep is really the only reason to watch this film--her performance as Margaret Thatcher is simply brilliant, but other than that, this film is rather dull and, at times, boring. I also found it somewhat biased, as it mainly portrays Thatcher in her later years when suffering from dementia, and so those with little idea of who she was are left thinking she was rather insane.
The screenplay, too, was simply awful. Not only did it jump back and forth between present and past, which is fine, but within the past itself it jumped around, getting ever closer to the present but never quite concluding each event in her life. I found myself wonder numerous times what had happened the this person, and how she'd dealt with this event, etc.
And even Meryl Streep who, don't get me wrong, gives a spectacular performance, I felt did not deserve all the accolades she received. To me, and amazing performance in a dull movie does not have the same impact as an amazing performance in an amazing movie, and for that I believe Rooney Mara outdid her this year, but I seem to be one of the only ones with that opinion.
Anyways, if you are and avid Meryl Streep fan, go ahead and watch this movie, but otherwise, it's really not worth it.
21 Jump Street (2012)
I went into this movie thinking it was going to be your average, somewhat stupid yet mildly decent teem comedy, but what pleasantly surprised. This movie was actually pretty good--I was definitely entertained, and found myself laughing a lot. There are numerous reasons this movie is better than most of today's similar comedies, some of which include:
1. There are some genuinely funny moments that aren't the usual crude teen jokes. Some of the lines are great, and the ways which the characters handle certain situations is sometimes comical.
2. The acting was really good, especially Jonah Hill and, for what little screen time he had, Johnny Depp. Hill and Tatum, who I generally don't care for, worked well together, and the constantly changing dynamic between them was one of the best parts of the movie.
3. This movie parodies a lot of common misconceptions about movies and life in general. For instance, upon becoming cops, Hill and Tatum are saying how awesome it's going to be to chase down bad guys and jump over cars, etc., and then they are immediately shown on bicycles patrolling a park. Also, on numerous occasions, incidents happened that, in your average movie, would've lead to an explosion, but in the real world, wouldn't have. The characters kept expecting these to explode, and were disappointed when they didn't, but it was comical. (And don't worry, there are plenty of explosions anyways.)
The only real complaint I have is how they handled Johnny Depps cameo. He finally reveals himself after all that time, only to be shot to death along with his partner minutes later. Albeit, he saved Hill and Tatum, and it is definitely a turning point in the film, but now his character line ends, which is kind of disappointing.
Despite this, though, 21 Jump Street was highly entertaining, incredibly funny, and definitely worth seeing.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Stick Around for the Ending
This movie has one of the best endings ever written in the entirety of film history, however, it takes a long, long while to get there. I'm not saying that the rest of the film is boring--it isn't by any means--however, there were definitely long, drawn out sequences of just Bane, and eventually you just wanted it to get back to Batman and see how this whole thing would wrap up.
That being said, the plot was generally very good, and really well thought-out, as with all of Nolan's movies. There was, however, (minor spoiler, not really) a long, drawn-out prison sequence that I felt didn't really fit in with the rest of the movie, but that's just my opinion.
The acting was, of course, great, and the cast is definitely packed with stars. The standout performances were definitely Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle--who was a great addition to the cast--Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine (who did a fantastic job however little he was in the movie) as Alfred, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake, who was actually one of my favorite characters.
And then, of course, you have Bane. Now, a lot of people are comparing him to the Joker because they are both the villains, however, I think this is unfair for numerous reasons. First of all, Heath Ledger gave an absolutely breathtaking performance as the Joker, which I don't think anyone will be able to go against. Secondly. Bane is a totally different character with completely different motives as the Joker, so they should really be looked at separately. Personally, I thought Bane was much creepier and violent than the Joker, but I was really annoyed by his voice. They tried to make it sound scary, but it seemed whiny and high- pitched to me, and was at times difficult to understand.
Anyways, there are certainly many flaws in this movie, and, at least in my opinion, (not really a spoiler) certain characters were killed off in unsatisfying ways, but again, that is just what I thought. The ending definitely makes up for all of this--it neatly ties up everything, and manages to leave you in a state of wonder. You have to pay close attention, though, because important lines go by very quickly. There are still twists within the last minutes of the movie, and yet, as I said, everything comes together. That was really amazing to watch.
The King's Speech (2010)
A Simple Masterpiece
From the beginning scene in this film, where Colin Firth, then the Duke of York, struggles so much to speak in front of a large audience, you can tell that not only will the acting in this movie be incredible, but so will the movie itself.
From then on it move, albeit somewhat slowly, through the different stages of Firth's speech therapy. First his wife, portrayed by the always-amazing Helena Bonham Carter, finds him a speech therapist, played very well by Geoffrey Rush, and then he goes through the numerous stages of therapy, while encountering various struggles along the way, and eventually becoming king. This is also set to a classic score by Alexandre Despalt the truly compliments the mood and atmosphere of the film.
Now, I agree that that might not sound very entertaining. Who wants to watch Frith and Rush talk to each other for two hours while Bonham Carter looks on? And yet, it is the way these incredible actors bring the characters to life that, combined with this little-known tale from history, makes this movie so good.
And the acting truly is top-notch. Colin Firth delivers his best performance--and in my opinion, one of the best performances in cinematic history (although I can't pretend to be an expert on that sort of stuff)--and was totally deserving of winning the Oscar. Helena Bonham Carter is impeccable, although I might be a little biased as she is my favorite actress, but I know I'm not the only one who believes she deserved an Oscar as well. Geoffrey Rush is also great, in my opinion the weaker of the three performances, but still one of the best of the year. Others throughout the movie, such as Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall (who does an amazing Winston Churchill), and even Jennifer Ehle all do very well in their respective rolls. It's really a master-class of ingenious British actors and actresses who all work together and help create this unique and wonderful film.
The story, too, is extremely fascinating, as it is definitely one you won't hear about in history class. You really get to learn how the royal system works, and it touches on the relationships between certain members of the royal family, and also how they live. I would definitely recommend this movie, even if you don't tend to like history movies in general, because if you look past all of that, it's still a very uplifting story--you will be rooting for Firth the entire way, believe me.