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Friday, November 29, 2013

Gravity: 2013

Release date: October 4, 2013 (USA)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Running time: 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
Budget: 100 million USD

Cast: Sandra BullockGeorge Clooney

Hello, my name is Colin, and I guess you could call me a reviewer. I barely qualify as a human being so any title given to me should be taken with a grain of salt. Today I’ll be reviewing “Gravity”. I read a lot of reviews, and they often start off with a paragraph description of the movie, followed by the views of the author. I hate to give descriptions. I never am able to accurately sum up the events of the movie in a logical, cohesive, or understandable fashion. Instead of trying to sum up what happened in the hour and a half movie I watched, allow me to give you two sentences of description. Sandra Bullock is in Space. She tries to get back to Earth. At any rate, the story takes a back seat to the acting and the visual feast that is “Gravity”. With that, allow me to continue.
The first thing anyone should notice about the movie is how well executed the cinematography is, and how amazing the visuals are. There is such a strong sense of place that, often, I had to remind myself I was just watching a movie. The first shot looking up at Earth is one of the most dizzying, disorienting, and amazing feelings I have had in Cinema. Dizzying is a word that accurately describes “Gravity”. The scale is most likely the most dizzying aspect of the whole film. While it is impressive to watch, I often had a strong sense of vertigo. If you like, or at least are used to the feeling of having an inner ear infection, then you’ll have no problems with “Gravity”. Otherwise, heed my advice. Every once in a while look down at your feet to remind yourself that you aren't floating, and gravity still applies to you. Drop a pencil or some @#!*% . Just remind yourself that you aren't going to fly the @#!*% off of earth.
I very much enjoy in movies not explicitly spelling out a character’s back story. Cuaron gives you just enough to each of his characters, so that you are satisfied with what you have, but can draw upon that information. Some of my favorite works of fiction have all done this from “Only God Forgives” to “Of Mice and Men” and I can appreciate when it is done well. As for the acting...  Sandra Bullock, or Sad Grandma Bullock, is absolutely amazing in this movie. She gives arguably the best performance in her whole career. It will be a shame if she is not at least nominated for an Academy Award, but I highly doubt she won’t be. The whole movie falls on her shoulders, as George Clooney has all of… maybe thirty lines. This means that Bullock is the only catalyst for the complex emotions and revelations the audience is supposed to feel, and subsequently experience as the character does. She does an amazing job of this, and the one scene that I keep coming back to is one particular one in which Bullock is in a pod floating through space, as she is sung to sleep. In an attempt to not spoil anything else, I’ll leave it at that. It was one of the most emotionally draining parts of the movie, and has haunted me since I left the theater.
Though I did like a majority of the movie there was one thing, other than the dizziness, that I did not. Some of the symbols were so apparently obvious, which to me is distracting, and @#!*% annoying. This is not the case with everyone, but to me it really takes me out of the whole experience if I can automatically tell what the writer was going for (I’m looking at you too “Evil Dead” remake). There was one scene in particular that I felt as if the cinematographer was standing over my shoulder, looking at me intently, asking if I understood. Forty minutes after the movie ended, I understood what the writer was going for, and I haven’t really needed to dissect the story since then. Usually I have to toy with meaning of movies for a while so it’s just unfortunate that the meaning didn't make me think much. Otherwise the movie was great. Every movie has its faults though. They’re made by imperfect creatures, so to expect perfection is ridiculous.
This is a movie for people who love the journey cinema can take you on, both emotionally and physically. It has one of the best performances I have seen from a leading female actress, and fantastic cinematography. It’s just a shame that at points it stumbles with a theme Cuaron couldn't figure out how to fit into the plot. I recommend seeing this movie, especially while it is still in theaters. Flying around the @#!*% earth is going to feel different in your living room with your forty inch plasma, than it would in Imax.


Watch The Trailer Here
Next Analysis: Only God Forgives 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

50/50: 2011

Release Date: September 30, 2011 (USA)
Director: Jonathan Levine
DVD Release Date: January 18, 2012
Cinematography: Terry Stacey
Music: Michael Giacchino

   Most people would hear about a film about cancer and think to themselves "Wow, how could anyone possibly make a comedy about cancer?" Well, I'll tell you. 50/50 uses only realistic situations that can be found in everyday life. If you know anyone with cancer, you know by now that it is a tragic thing and is no laughing matter; however, you may also know that there are funny moments that come along with it. 50/50 is a great example of this and displays the perfect comedy to drama ratio. It keeps you happy and laughing, but not enough to distract you from the tragedy that is cancer.

   When I watched this film for the first time I thought to myself "Hmmm, I really don't know about this. Who names their movie 50/50?" I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. The film has everything a good film needs: great camera work, great story, hilarious and dramatic writing, and of course a great director.  The movie was written by Will Reiser, who actually had cancer himself. When he wrote the screenplay he didn't want this to be a story about himself but about someone that hopefully most people could relate to instead. I personally think he did an amazing job with this. Almost everyone I know that has seen the movie will agree that the writing was superb.


Watch the Trailer
Next Review: Moonrise Kingdom 2012

Carrie: 2013

   We all know the story about "Carrie" right? Girl get's bullied, girl gets endowed with telekinetic powers, girl gets revenge. It's a horror film classic by Brian De Palma, adapted from the lengthy horror novel by Steven King with the same name. Recently, a shot for shot remake of the same film was released, directed by Kimberly Pierce. This is that movie. I do not know why "Carrie" was remade. When audiences think, "horror film" nowadays, they think "constant, bloody, body count", but with this movie, they've sort of only got the nonstop violence saved up until the last half hour. It did appear that the director was trying to market a horror film from what can only be described as a "teen drama" But the film is certainly no horror flick, as the drawn out, comedic-ly forced soft core gore suggests in the climax. And I'm not saying that a horror film has to be exactly that, but if you're trying to warp a film's structure in order to comply with the consensus then you're doing something wrong.

   I also found it hard to believe that Chloe Grace Moretz  was the right person to cast as Carrie White herself, not because of anything wrong with her acting but because she...wouldn' Sissy Spacek in the Brian De Palma film looks like this abused, misunderstood, teenage girl, whereas Chloe Grace Moretz looks like someone who might be the one picking on Carrie! However, she does do a good job as Carrie, and Julianne Moore does an even better job as Margret White, Carrie's mother. The only reason that people should watch this version of "Carrie" is when they watch it back to back with the incredibly superior original film. I would not even go as far to say that "Carrie" is a good movie on its own. Truth be told I had very high hopes for this film. I only forgot to stop and ask myself, "Why does there need to be a remake of a timeless film?" 

If your thinking about watching "Carrie", do yourself a favor and stick to the classic.

Watch the Trailer Here
Next Review: Predator 1987

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Carrie: 1976

Release date: November 3, 1976 (USA)
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Travolta

   I know it's November, but I just love horror films so much it's hard to stay away. It's like a drug. This sort of thing just plays with my mind and I can't tell the difference between TV and reality. I'm about to don a Scream outfit and butcher Neve Campbell in a broom closet. But let us venture away from the masked killer genre of horror, but not too far. We will be dealing exclusively with high school. High school drama, boys, girls, gym, prom, revenge, and John Travolta. Those two last one's are the most important parts to a good, old-school, high-school slasher flick. This is Brian De Palma's "Carrie".

   Once upon a time there was a girl named Carrie White, who lived with her psychopathic mother, Margret White in a weird and spooky house that everyone stays away from. Carrie is hated by almost everyone at school, but her luck begins to turn around for once when mostly popular student Tommy Ross asks her to the prom, and when she suddenly is endowed with telekinetic powers from beyond in order to exact her revenge on all the kids who tormented her in the past...MUUUHAHAHAHAHAHA! So, yeah, just your average, ordinary, quirky high school movie. I don't even know why I'm including a synopsis for this review in particular, because almost everyone knows the story about "Carrie". It's classic, and as far as I know, not many directors have borrowed this story-line about unpopular girls gaining powers to exact revenge on others. 

   It's not very simplistic of a story, but it's not so crazy that the audience can't connect to the characters. In fact, Brian De Palma does an exceptional job of revolving a film around high school kids that relates to adults. However this may have a little to do with the fact that most of the "high school students" that were cast are almost all out of high school. I know it is very strange, but it's true! Adults like the kids in "Carrie" more because they're older. If you want to test that, look at the recent remake of "Carrie" starring Hit-Girl I mean Chloe Grace Moretz. But I digress, If I wanted to compare the two films realistically I would probably do a back to back review of both of them...

   I can't really explain the joy that Brian De Palma brings to the horror genre with "Carrie". He can make a scene scary. He can do it very well (I'm looking at you, ending scene)! But there is something that he brings to the table, that I don't think I have ever seen in a horror film so far. There are certain scenes in the  movie that are dedicated to developing character, and it's done in a very subtle and quirky fashion. That might seem like a death sentence for a horror film, but the writing is so flippin' good that it works. Nearing the climax Tommy is dancing with Carrie and the conversation that follows is so good! And for a moment you forget what the entire movie is building up to. Scenes like this, where Tommy and his friends go out to buy tuxedo's and where Ms. Eleanor Snell is teaching gym class, are so well done and contrast from the dark and dismal predicaments and settings Carrie finds herself in. "Carrie" is able to accurately depict life being in High School by placing rather comedic sequences next to horrific and depressing one's

   "Carrie" is both a technically and aesthetically appealing film. The story is incredibly crafted, backed up with stunning performances by both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie and Margret White. It's a wonderful example of a "revenge" movie centering more around the characters and less around the whole "revenge" aspect. Brian De Palma has done an excellent job accurately depicting High School life (for the most part) and centering a simple plot of "prom drama run rampant" around a character that we can connect with and follow through her rise and fall journey.


Watch The Trailer Here
Next Review: Carrie 2013     

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Captain Phillips: 2013

Screenplay: Billy Ray
Director: Paul Greengrass                                  
Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd 

 So I lied to all of you guys... I said I'd review "Rush" next, but I changed my mind. Instead I'll be reviewing the new movie "Captain Phillips" which is directed by Paul Greengrass. (kind of a sketchy name if you ask me)

   "Captain Phillips" tells the semi-true story of Captain Richard Phillips and his Maersk Alabama cargo ship, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in over two hundred years. The real Captain Phillips is supposedly not the brightest or nicest guy in the world, and apparently the movie's storyline doesn't quite match up with the real story. I'm sure that the reason for this was so that Captain Phillips' character  could be molded into something more courageous. All of this aside, "Captain Phillips" had a pretty decent storyline. There were no obvious flaws in the story because it's really quite simple, there isn't a whole lot going on at once.  The story starts to slow down towards the middle of the film because like a real hostage scenario, there isn't much happening when the hostage is being held in captivity. Just A LOT of waiting.

   With "Forrest Gump" as one of my favorite movies as a kid, I can't exactly agree with the people that think "Captain Phillips" is "Tom Hanks's best work yet." I do think that he was quite good in this film, and there was one point in the film where Phillips is supposed to be in shock, and Tom Hanks looks exactly like what I picture someone in shock to look like. That scene made me like the movie a lot more and really displayed Tom Hanks's acting ability.

   Okay, lets get technical. The film was shot mainly with very closeup, shaky-cam shots of scenes and characters. The shaky-cam is a cool effect to have for some portions of the movie, but I started to get really tired of seeing the same shaky, tight, and uncomfortable shot over and over again. Many of the interior shots of the lifeboat almost made me feel claustrophobic, although I'm sure that was their purpose.  I'm sure the handheld look won't bother most people, but I felt that it was overused and kind of distracting from what was happening. If "Captain Phillips" were re-shot minus the shaky stuff, I think I would have really enjoyed the movie. "Captain Phillips" was by no means "a bad movie" but I really wished that it was shot differently.


Watch The Trailer Here