Films


Avatar is quite possibly the most anticipated film of 2009 because director James Cameron hyped his film so much. He claimed that it would “revolutionize” the film industry; he claimed that we will never look at film the same way again, etc. I was incredibly skeptical of all of this. Any time the creator/director/whatever is hyping his movie or video game or book saying it will change everything, I immediately go on my guard.

Let’s start off with the “revolutionary” aspect of Avatar. It was 3-D. Sure, it was well done 3-D, and sure the animation was impeccable, but it was hardly revolutionary. I’ve seen 3-D films before. I’ve been to Disney World where there are plenty of 3-D rides. Avatar is hardly “revolutionary.”

As long as we’re on the negative aspects of Avatar and the 3-D aspect, I’ll go ahead and mention a few things I didn’t enjoy. Sometimes it felt like Cameron was just showing us what 3-D can do. I know he’s a huge advocate of 3-D films and it really felt at times as if Cameron was jumping up and down screaming “LOOK WHAT IT CAN DO! Isn’t it cool how dirt seems to be flying at your face while he runs!? Look, water droplets are floating near your face!” It really felt like a commercial for 3-D at times. My other problem was the heavy-handed politics in the film. There are a lot of messages about how we have to go green and how we’re destroying the earth blah blah blah. I agree for the most part with going green, I’m all for saving rain forests, but I don’t want the message shoved down my throat when I go to see a movie. There also seemed to be some commentary about imperialism and the slave trade which bugged me.

So with all of that out of the way, I really did enjoy Avatar. The story was well done. Avatar is about humans going to the planet Pandora to mine a rare metal that is incredibly valuable. In the process, they are wiping out the indigenous people. I don’t enjoy doing full plot overviews, I’d rather let my readers go and enjoy the film’s story on their own. So that’s as much as I’ll say about the plot.

The characters were well developed throughout the film for the most part. The character and creature design was absolutely astounding. The design of the planet was brilliant. Some of the vehicle designs were less than creative. I’m relatively certain that Avatar completely ripped off the Hornet design from the Halo universe for their helicopter type things. The mech walkers were also completely unoriginal.

The mythology was well thought out. There was a rich back story to Avatar that was conveyed well. The traditions of the indigenous people was conveyed extremely well. I never felt confused about what was happening or overwhelmed by the amount of information.

The acting was well done for the most part. You liked the characters you were supposed to like and you hate the characters you’re supposed to hate. It’s nothing special, but it’s not terrible either.

Overall, I really enjoyed Avatar. And if you have 10 bucks to drop to see it in 3-D, it’s worth it.

Overall Rating: 8/10

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I first saw Hero when it was out in theaters a really long time ago. I thought it was incredibly stupid way back then. But, I was about 13. I decided I’d rent it again to see if my opinion was wrong. I’m glad to say that my opinion was very wrong.

I don’t even know where to start with what I liked about this movie. Since it’s a martial arts movie, I’ll start with the fight choreography. Absolutely stunning. Some of the best sword play I’ve seen in a film. I was glad to see that just because Hero was a martial arts film, it didn’t sacrfice story. Hero tells the story of the uniting of China from multiple different kingdoms into one unified kingdom. It does so through a story about 3 assassins trying to kill the king who is taking over the kingdoms. The acting is wonderful. The cinematography is absoltuely stunning. I was riveted to the TV throughout the entire movie.

The movie has it’s philosophical side as well. It ultimately teaches a story of peace over war. Hero does this without becoming too preachy and annoying. It asks questions such as “How far is it acceptable to go for peace?” and “How many must die that a kingdom may live in peace?” Again, it does all of this without becoming too preachy, without shoving its message down your throat.

I can’t praise this film enough. There really were no drawbacks. I did forget to mention that the movie is Chinese so don’t watch unless you’re willing to read subtitles. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a great story, great action, and absolutely beautiful cinematography and set work.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

RocknRolla: A story of sex, thugs and rock ‘n roll. I’m a huge fan of Guy Ritchie films. To this day, Snatch remains one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Therefore, I had really high hopes going into RocknRolla.

First off, the tagline is slightly misleading. There’s almost nothing about sex, and no nudity at all. It’s really a story of a heist, thugs and rock ‘n roll. I wasn’t too surprised to find out it was about a heist in London. In fact, nothing really surprised me. Sadly, Guy Ritchie seems to have found a formula that he sticks with. It worked for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but it didn’t work so much with this. Maybe I just got sick of slight variations on a formula by the third film I’ve seen.

I actually couldn’t make it through RocknRolla my first time through. I got through about half of the film before I got bored and gave up. I decided I’d try it one more time again the next night and actually made it through the entire film.

There are some amazing parts. Gerard Butler does a wonderful job playing a thug. And the shots are impeccable, at times downright amazing. Then there are some really boring parts, some parts where the movie just drags and it feels like a chore to keep watching.

There’s nothing here that causes you to really think. It’s a “sit back and enjoy” kind of movie, which is nice every once in awhile. When it’s not nice, is when it feels like a chore to make it through the rest of the movie.

Don’t rush out to see this. It’s worth a rental if you’re really bored. It’s not great, and it’s not awful. If you want to see a good Guy Ritchie heist film, see Snatch instead.

Overall rating: 5.5/10

away_we_go_poster

I love Dave Eggers. He is possibly my favorite writer. When I found out he had started doing screen plays, I was understandably pretty excited. So far, he has written two movies: Away We Go and Where the Wild Things Are. I got Away We Go from Netflix today and decided to watch it with my roommates. We were not disappointed in the least.

The film follows an unmarried couple who gets pregnant and tries to find a city to settle down in and raise their child. In every city they visit, they see old friends or family members who are parents and see how they interact with their kids. Each family represents a different stereotype of parenting. It’s hilarious and incredibly sad at the same time. There is one family that perfectly represents most American families, broken and careless. Another family represents the new-agers who are into spirituality and let their kids do whatever they want. Another family represents the adopters. And finally, there is a divorced and broken family. I think that the movie accurately portrayed all of these in moving ways.

One of my favorite parts of the film was one family discussing what holds a family together. The husbands answer was that love and patience is what holds everything together in a home. Towards the end of the speech you can see that he is miserable, but I think his idea was dead on.

The camera work and acting were exceptional, and the soundtrack fit the film perfectly. John Krasinski did a wonderful job playing his part. I was really worried that he was going to just play Jim from The Office, but he did a great job with a completely new character.

As far as “objectionable content” goes, this is a rated R movie. There is a decent amount of cussing and one awkward semi-sex scene, but no nudity. Also, as previously mentioned, the pregnant couple is not married. So, with that being said, it didn’t bother me but it may bother some more conservative viewers.

I absolutely loved Away We Go. I will most definitely be buying it on DVD, which is something I don’t do too often anymore. I highly recommend it.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

revolutionary-road

I saw an advertisement for Revolutionary Road at the beginning of the Gone Baby Gone DVD and I thought it looked amazing so I decided to rent it. I love Leonardo DiCarprio’s recent roles in drama films and Kate Winslet is in one of my favorite movies of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. Some of the camera work was brilliant and beautiful, I was amazed at some of the shots. Other shots seemed unnecessary. There was one shot of Kate and Leo walking down a hall side by side and not talking, the shot didn’t serve any purpose in advancing the plot, it just seemed extraneous. I thought the acting was great. The times when DiCaprio and Winslet were arguing with each other were some of the best instances of acting I’ve seen in a film.

Philosophically the film was rich as well. I can’t go into all the themes but most of the film was about purpose, what is our purpose here? How can I be meaningful? Frank desperately desires to be remembered and to make a mark on the world but falls short because of his fear and his comfort.

This was one of the hardest films to watch. It’s got a pretty slow pace, and the ending was emotionally devastating. This isn’t a happy film, you won’t walk away feeling better about the world or even about yourself, you’ll probably walk away the same way that I did, devastated.

Overall rating: 7/10

9-movie-poster1

9 sounded incredibly interesting to me. An animated movie created for adults and not kids set in a post-apocalyptic world? Yes please. Not to mention it had a killer cast, I was pretty stoked about seeing it.

I’ll start off with the positives. It looked really really good. The visuals astounded me. It is easily some of the best animation I’ve seen. Some of the character design was genius. Well that about does it for the positives.

The story was cliche. Basically a mix of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Terminator, and The Matrix, except not good (not that The Day the Earth Stood Still was good, but the other two were). The voice acting was decent, but not that great.

The philosophical musings on the soul were…well…they left something to be desired. Something about breaking up your soul into 9 parts and putting them in ragdolls to save the world? Oh and if your soul is captured by a big mean machine there’s a ceremony that will cause the captured and “dead” pieces to ascend into the atmosphere and bring about new life on earth. I think it was like 5/9 of a soul = new life.

This may be the shortest review so far. Which fits with the movie which barely clocked in at over an hour. Don’t waste your time, 9 is not worth it.

Overall rating: 3/10

gone baby gone

I apologize for the lack of reviews lately, with school starting back I haven’t had a lot of time to sit and read for fun or watch movies, but Labor Day weekend has provided me with an opportunity to enjoy being lazy once again. I’ve had Gone Baby Gone from Netflix for about 2 weeks now and finally got around to watching it today. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that Netflix told me I’d like it.

The film starts off with Casey Affleck musing about how the city is what shapes a person, how who we are is determined by where we live, what city, what neighborhood, and how that identity becomes such a major part of ourselves that we are unable to shake it off for the rest of our lives. The entire time this monologue is happening, the film is showing shots of various people in a rough Boston neighborhood, demonstrating that these people are who they are because they live in a rough neighborhood in Boston. This pretty much tipped me off right off the bat that this film wasn’t going to be a happy movie but that it was going to be a gritty ride. I was right. This isn’t the film for you if you’re looking for something clean and happy.

There’s a ton of cussing as can be expected in any film about crime set in Boston, and there’s plenty of violence as well. But it all has a point. The cussing is almost necessary if we’re to believe that the film is set in Boston, a gritty crime drama set in Boston with no cussing is about as believable as pro wrestling.

The film is about a little girl who is kidnapped and a private eye who is hired to find her. Casey Affleck plays the lead role as the private investigator and does a phenomenal job. I thought all of the acting in this film was great. Morgan Freeman did a great job as always, and the characters were all incredibly real.

I don’t want to ruin anything about the film for you but trust me when I say it’s full of twists. This is one of the few times I didn’t see the twist coming, and one of the very few times I’ve been morally stumped in a movie. I have no idea what the right thing to do would have been, and I don’t have any idea what I would do if put in the situation presented at the end of Gone Baby Gone. The moral dilemma presented is definitely one that I will be milling around in my head for the days to come.

Overall, I loved Gone Baby Gone. It dragged on sometimes, and I wondered where it was going, but the ending was more than satisfying, and the twists blew me away. If you love movies like The Departed or any gritty crime drama, Gone Baby Gone is the movie for you.

Overall rating: 9/10

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