Friday, August 30, 2013

The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Review

So some of my favorites Pixar films were made by Brad Bird. Don't you think it would be a good time to check out a film that is often considered to be his magnum opus in a time when Warner Bros. made good animated films. Let's take a look at a film that probably set the tone for Brad Bird's later work like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Let's do this.

When a giant robot (Vin Diesel) crash lands on Earth, a young boy named Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) discovers it and tries to hide it from public eye. Things get worse when a paranoid government agent named Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) discovers strange occurrences and is the only one who believes the giant is real. Hogarth hides the giant at the town scrap yard run by Dean (Harry Connick Jr.). Now Hogarth has to keep the giant out of reach of Mansley or else the giant will be destroyed.

Brad Bird has always been good with character design and this is no different. I love the design used for the giant as, combined with Vin Diesel's surprising performance, makes him a very likable character based on his naivety. Hogarth always makes a good kid hero which is a hard thing to do without coming off as annoying. The two best characters are Dean and Kent Mansley due to how completely different they are to each other (one is a chilled out beatnik and the other is a high strung government agent). The actors all to justice to the roles and the character design helps amplify this.

While the story may seem generic (kid finds alien, tries to hide it), it's done so well that you don't seem to care. The characters are so likable with some generally heartwarming and funny moments that this would pass for one of the best Pixar films...except this is Warner Bros (but this is on the list of films that HOLLYWOOD IS NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH!). I wouldn't have expected anything less from the mind that made The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The Iron Giant is a fantastic representation of how good non-Disney animation can be. The animation is great, the character designs are well done, the acting is well performed and the characters are likable. This was a treat from start to finish and is highly recommend to those that have yet to watch this film, especially if you're a fan of Pixar style films...even though it's 2D animation (which, in my opinion, is better).

Everything looks great and is well done. A classic example of a great animated film.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Osmosis Jones (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2001) Review

Yes, I lied. I think it's justified considering that the previous review was up at about 1 in the morning. Plus the extra time gave me some more time to think about what film to review next...apparently it's one that not many people have seen so I figured I would take a look at Osmosis Jones, a film from the makers of Space Jam so you should expect to see cartoons mixed with live action. Let's check it out.

Frank Detomello (Bill Murray) is a zoo worker and single father who, when out working, catches an unknown disease. Inside Frank is 'The City of Frank', a world full of sentient and anthropomorphic white blood cells. One cell is Osmosis Jones (Chris Rock), a cop who winds up having to act as a hero when a germ known as Thrax (Laurence Fishburne). In order to fight this unknown threat, a work partner for Jones is sent in, a cold pill called Drix (David Hyde Pierce). Together, Jones and Drix have to put aside their differences to stop Thrax from killing Frank.

Like Space Jam, this film takes opportunity of using cartoons with live action, however it keeps them separate until the climax which leads to a similar problem that The Lorax suffered from. The Lorax had a similar two story structure that made one so much better than the other, which therefore drags the film down. Osmosis Jones does follow this but it's not as bad considering that less time is given to live action world, which is a plus. It also gives more time to the animated characters who I actually enjoyed. Jones is a likable hero especially due to Chris Rock's performance, Drix is a great foil with David Hyde Pierce's great sophistication and Thrax is one of the best underrated animated villains (Laurence Fishburne did a great job and his design is well made).

This is a pretty weird film though. It definitely isn't for everyone as there are a few moments that were just unnecessary (one of which involves a ridiculous cameo from Kid Rock...definitely showing the film's age) Not just that but, while the animation is good for the most part, there are few moments where it was questionable (a Matrix parody used a bit of sneaky CGI).

Osmosis Jones isn't a terrible film but it's not amazing. Personally, I enjoy it but it's definitely not for everyone. The live action stuff isn't anything special but the animated world inside Frank is where the film is better off. I loved the actors performances as well as the characters but I feel that it needed a little more time to cook.

An enjoyable enough flick with good acting but is clouded by some average aspects.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) Reivew

Damn, this is a late review. I've just been so busy (or distracted, you decide) so I guess I'll have to do 2 reviews today (I know! Amazing!). This has been a film that I've been delaying for quite some time so i guess it's finally time to review The King's, there is no special event to tie this film to, I just picked a film and random as I usually do (I haven't been watching that many films lately...shocking for someone called Opinionated Movie-Goer...).

Telling the real life story of King George VI (Colin Firth), George (real name Bertie) suffers from a stammer which would be an obvious problem when Bertie is reluctantly made King of England. Bertie's wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), enlists in the help of Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist, after all the other speech therapists fail to assist Bertie. The film continues to follow their friendship through both good and bad/

We all know that this is supposed to be a great film judging by how it swept the Oscars is. Colin Firth deserves all the praise that he is getting due to how good of a job he does portraying Bertie. If I had to pick a best performance, it's gotta go to Geoffrey Rush as Lionel due to his lovable, deadpan performance that leads to some of the films best moments (of which there are many). All the supporting cast does a good job of accompanying the leads which is helped by the great writing (leading to the aforementioned great moments).

While people complained about Tom Hooper's cinematography in Les Miserables but that doesn't seem to be as bad in The King's Speech some shots are well done and it has a great look with costumes and sets. This is a very nice looking film. It also has a surprisingly memorable soundtrack which was surprising as I didn't expect that form a film of this genre. It was a nice surprise.

The King's Speech is deserving of all the praise that it has gained. All the actors are great, the music is memorable, it looks great and has some clever writing. I enjoyed this film thouroughly...but I think Geoffrey Rush was cheated out of the Oscar...can't say I've seen The Fighter (it's just sitting on my DVD shelf gathering dust...). Now if you excuse me...I need sleep...

Great acting, good music, looks nice and is very well written. A good film through and through.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Invention of Lying (Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson, 2009) Review

I've been watching and reading a lot of things to do with Karl Pilkington recently. I've been reading his books and watching An Idiot Abroad and The Ricky Gervais Show so I figured I would watch a film featuring Ricky Gervais, a cameo from Stephen Merchant and a deleted scene with Karl Pilkington. I was also intrigued by the concept of the film so lets get right into The Invention of Lying...I'm sure the film features exactly what it says on the tin.

In a world where everyone tells the truth, Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a loser who is out of money, lost his job and has a dying mother in the hospital. While closing his bank account, he manages to discover the secret to lying and winds up becoming the most powerful man with the ability to make and rewrite history. He tries to use this ability to win over Anna (Jennifer Garner), a woman he tried to date when he was a loser, but becomes famous after creating a description of life after death to appease his dying mother. 

I absolutely love the premise and concept of the film as it could lead to some great moments if done correctly...and it was....for the most part. While the film does stay true to the premise, half way through it does lose its focus to focus on social commentary of religion. While that isn't a bad thing, I just wish that they didn't retire the concept halfway through. It does lead to some down right hilarious and clever moments as Ricky Gervais has definitely put a lot of thought into the concept and it definitely shows. 

While I think that Ricky Gervais starring wasn't entirely necessary, he does bring joy to the role and, having watched his other work, he feels familiar (even if he is playing himself). The other actors do a good job but in the first third, everyone other than Mark seems lifeless and have no personality. Luckily this is fixed as the movie progresses but it is easy to detract the actor from the character. Still, the cameos from the likes of Stephen Merchant, Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman are great. 

The Invention of Lying does bring forth what is advertised and I think that a lot of thought went into the great concept. It works well and leads to some hilarious moments. The aspect that focuses on religion may definitely turn people off (hey, it's a touchy subject!) but, all in all, it's a funny feel good film that delivers in what it sets out to accomplish.

A funny film that delivers an interesting concept that clearly had a lot of thought put into it.

Also I'd say it's a good thing that we hit 40,000 page views! YEEEEAH!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002) Review

Quite a while ago, I did a review for the film Silence of the Lambs so I figured it was time to return to the world of Hannibal Lecter to see where it all began (yeah, this is a prequel to Silence of the Lambs since it's based on the book...which came out before the book of Silence...kind of dropped the ball on that one). Let's get straight to it. 

FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton), an agent made famous for apprehending Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), is called back into action when a new criminal known as 'The Tooth Fairy'. The problem is, The Tooth Fairy has gaining information about Will's personal life and is beginning to use it against. Will has to use Lecter to get inside the Tooth Fairy's mind and work out who he is. 

Let's begin with the obvious, Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins continues his excellent portrayal as Hannibal and shows no sign of slowing down (except being replaced by Mads Mikkelson...and his age). He also works well along side Edward Norton (an actor I feel is great in everything he's in) as, unlike Jodie Foster's Clarice in Silence, Hannibal hates Will which makes Hannibal more threatening and makes us feel more sympathy for Will. Other actors such as Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson also do a good job. 

Now, you could argue my big complaint is a moot point as this story initially came first, but Red Dragon does feel like a re-hash of Silence of the Lambs. While it does have a much more thrilling climax with some great twists, it does feel a lot like Silence. I'm not saying it's a complete re-hash, it just has similar plot elements. Will and Clarice are vastly different and the villains are too (although they have similar motivations).

Red Dragon takes what made Silence of the Lambs great and experiments with it. Making a protagonist that Hannibal detests is a nice spin on the other story but I wouldn't really say there is enough to make it stand on its own. I would recommend it to those that want more insight into the world of Hannibal but don't start with this one.  

A nice twist on Silence with some terrific acting and plot twists but it doesn't really make enough difference to stand on its own.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974) Review

Oh I'm sorry, were you expecting a different film with the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire...yeah, we're looking at a completely different one. Since reviews for the newer film were...mixed, to say the least, I decided (or was forced into watching) to watch a different version of the same tile since I would assume it's the same story. Well, let's get this done then...

After moving to Long Island, Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) finds himself caught up in the affairs of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford). He becomes one of Gatsby's best friends but when his old flame, Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow), returns into his life, events unfold that lead to scandals and violence while Nick tries to patch up Jay's life by becoming a witness to Gatsby's life both through the good and bad. 

If the synopsis sounds garbled, that would be because it was quite hard to explain not only in good length but without giving away spoilers. This leads to my biggest complaint. Until about 3/4 into the film, there isn't really much of a narrative. Only towards the end does something that resembles a plot seems to emerge. You could argue that it's so they can set up the characters and their backstories but Nick and Tom are the only characters that I was actually invested in. Gatsby was only memorable because of Robert Redford's portrayal (granted, he was good in the role). 

Now I haven't read the book (I'm too busy reading books by Karl Pilkington), but apparently this is an accurate interpretation...but that doesn't seem to help the film as it drags horrifically. I already mentioned the lack of a clear narrative as well as introducing characters that seem useless until the which point I've lost all care and empathy for them so I therefore do not get engaged with the characters. Like I said, Nick and Tom were the only likable characters (okay..Tom isn't 'likable' but he was memorable).

The Great Gatsby was interesting. I'm glad I saw it just for the ending but otherwise, it wasn't very memorable. It's not a terrible's just not very memorable. It proves that accuracy to the source material isn't exactly essential since it just drags in this case (hell, films like The Dark Knight and the entire James Bond film franchise prove that we don't always need accuracy to the original source material).

A not very memorable flick with good acting...but not very engaging due to bland characters and lack of clear narrative.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Frankenweenie (Tim Burton, 2012) Review

Yes, I am alive. I always love being on holiday...especially when you forget to leave a message on your website and it winds up being empty for a week. Well anyway, I'm back and still continuing on with catching up on films I missed from 2012. At least I've now seen all the films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Does Frankenweenie deserve the nomination? Let's find out.

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a young boy whose best friend is his pet dog Sparky. When Sparky is hit by a car, Victor hatches a plan to reanimate him and bring him back from the dead. When the other kids in his class learn about this, they wish to replicate this on other animals in order to in the science award. Things don't go to plan as the kids have to team up with Victor in order to save the town from reanimated monsters. 

While the film does scream Tim Burton, it pays much more homages to his older days rather than what you might expect from him now. No Johnny Depp, no Helena Bonham-Carter...and I'm glad. Burton goes back to using actors such as Cathrine O'Hara and Martin Landau and it reminds me of when Tim Burton made much better films than now (Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Batman and so on). This leads me onto the voice acting which is good for the most part. While actors like Martin Landau and Martin Short do a good job but certain actors I can easily distance them from the character not a good thing.

It is a pretty creative and imaginative film that delivers some great references to classic horror movies (characters based on Vincent Price and Boris Karloff for example). If you love classic horror movies, I think you will enjoy this film. The whole film is also in black and white which adds to the effect which is definitely a strong point of the film. I guess I'm glad that people got to see this as not many people saw the original short film Tim Burton made.

Frankenweenie is a pretty decent animated flick. It gets a bit too ridiculous towards the third act but it's good entertainment for kids yet still manages to retain that dark Tim Burton feeling. If you like older Tim Burton films or classic horror films, you will probably enjoy this but otherwise, this might not be for you. Rise of the Guardians was a much better candidate for Best Animated Film....Wreck-It Ralph should've still won though (yes, I'm still bitter about it)

A creative animated flick that does a good job of referencing classic films but other than that, there isn't much to it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Boat That Rocked (Richard Curtis, 2009) Review

America, What are you doing? 'Pirate Radio'? What the hell is that? The film is called The Boat That Rocked. Do you not understand the pun in the title. Why is there a need to change a great title to a basic and simple one. Considering how traditionally British this is, I'm surprised it was released in America but it's Universal so that makes sense I guess (not sure how well it did). Let's take a look at The Boat That Rocked.....not Pirate Radio...

In the 1960s, the radio played around 45 minutes of music a day. To embrace music and play it 24/7, a group of people set up a pirate radio station headed by Quentin (Bill Nighy). Quentin's godson, Carl (Tom Sturridge), is sent to their ship where he tries to fit in among the gang including The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Dave (Nick Frost) and Simon (Chris O'Dowd). Back on land, Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) is trying to do everything within his power in order to take down pirate radio once and for all.

I absolutely love this film. To begin with, the cast are excellent. Kenneth Branagh is positively brilliant in this and is easily one of the best characters. He had me laughing in every scene. The other cast members are also brilliant. Philip Seymour Hoffman works well off of Rhys Ifans while Chris O'Dowd plays a very likable character who you will definitely feel sorry for over the course of the film. There isn't a bad character among nor is there a bad actor. It's brilliant.

The comedy is also stop on. There is a heap of memorable comedy moments in this film which is helped by the great characters (Kenneth Branagh especially). A thing that really shines in this film is the use of music. As you might expect, music plays a big part in the film as it does a good job of accompanying scenes effectively. It's even worth buying the soundtrack because it's filled with great 60s yeah, the music is a great part of the film.

The Boat That Rocked is an excellent comedy which is easily one of Richard Curtis' best works. The actors doe a great job and, accompanied by some hilarious writing, make for some likable and memorable characters. The comedy has stuck with me for ages and the music is great. I look forward to seeing this again and am always ready for another watch.

A great comedy with memorable characters that makes good use of writing and music.