Friday, May 30, 2014

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Review

As I mentioned in my review of Se7en, I have turned to IMDb's top 250 in search of entertainment but I noticed that I've owned Pulp Fiction for a while yet I haven't actually watched it. Number 5 (as of time of writing) is commendable so I figured "what the hell" and gave it a watch. With all the quotes and memes this movie spawned, how good is Pulp Fiction? Let's find out.

Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are two hitmen sent out to retrieve a mysterious briefcase for their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). After doing so in one of the film's best scenes (you know the one), Marsellus asks Vincent to look after his wife Mia (Uma Thurman) while he's out of town. Meanwhile, famed boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is paid by Marsellus to throw the latest match. Many crazy twists and turns lead all the stories together at random intervals making for an anthology.

Yeah, this is a good film. A VERY good film. Pulp Fiction is in a league of it's own. The actors are fantastic, hence why three of them were nominated for Oscars. I'm surprised none of them won to be honest as they are one of the best elements. I say "one of" because the single greatest thing about Pulp Fiction is the writing. There is a reason that this is one of the most quoted films of all time and that is because of the writing. The interesting thing about it is that a lot of it is technically unnecessary but it adds to the realism. The characters come to life as we see them in domesticated environments in contrast to the crazy scenarios they find themselves in. It's an advancement of what Burn After Reading was trying to achieve (actually, that was probably inspired by Pulp Fiction in terms of tone and multiple stories).

I absolutely love the way that the narrative is structured. It's one thing to separate to plot into an anthology but it's also out of chronological order. It knows that the audience will be confused and uses familiar dialogue to make the audience instantly realise what scenario is happening. It's a genius use of call-backs and use of sound editing. The tone is also handled very well. It balances out serious scenes with hilarious scenes (black humour applied).

Now that I've seen Pulp Fiction, I have a candidate for one of the best films ever. There is no fault in this one. Even if there were, the pros far outweigh the cons. Genius writing, a well structured plot, fantastic acting and a great use of black humour (it makes murder funny!). I cannot recommend Pulp Fiction enough...if you can get into it. Depends what you are expecting from a film by Quentin Tarantino.

Everything is done perfectly! One of the finely crafted films out there.

Also, Bruce Willis in this film will go down as one of the biggest Oscar snubs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014) Review

It's finally time for the King of Monsters to return to the big screen. That's right, it's Gojira...申し訳ありませんが、私は意味 Godzilla....Yep, I just threw that in (sorry, couldn't resist). If you read my review of the 1998 Godzilla film, you know that the last time the west tackled Godzilla, it didn't end well. It's finally time to see him take on the big screen once again for yet ANOTHER reboot in 2014...seriously, first RoboCop, then Mr. Peabody and Sherman and now this. Does it redeem the 1998 version's crappiness or does it fall not the same traps? 確認してみましょう (Google translate...not 100% accurate...).

In 1999, an unknown egg is found open in a destroyed mine while a presumed 'earthquake' is destroying a power plant in Japan. A power plant worker, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), witnesses a horrific disaster that leaves him an emotional wreck as a result of the 'earthquake'. 15 years later, Joe is now obsessed with what happened and wrangles his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), into visiting an underground plant where another egg is located. The egg hatches to reveal a giant monster labeled 'Muto'. To make matters worse, the world is thrust into a great battle as the Muto find themselves face to face with the king of monsters himself, Godzilla.

Godzilla does something I haven't seen be done in a monster film in quite a while (dare I say ever), it gave the monsters character. Godzilla isn't just a monster, he is an actual character. He's emotive, you connect with him and he displays a lot of personality without even saying a word. Just his facial expressions and movements are enough to make him the stand out character and my new favourite version of the king of monsters. Part of makes the monsters so memorable is the fantastic CGI. Good God, this is some of the best I've seen. I believe that Godzilla is really there and I believe he is really causing this devastation to the city (that's...not a spoiler, it's god damn Godzilla). While I do like his design, I do have a few minor nit picks about him but that can't even damage the film (although I do wish his eyes were bigger. That's kind of  a reason why Smaug is so great). Something that I picked up on quite quickly is that the music, while not memorable (a common problem with films I can assure you), fits so well. Not just asthetically but from a film making standpoint, the scenes are edited per As one might expect from Bryan Cranston, he is fantastic. Every moment he appears, he is just phenomenal as always. He is definitely one of our best actors at the moment. He leaves a strong impression and...well...he needs to considering a...rather controversial move especially based on the trailers.

I know people have to take leniency with film trailers but here I have to draw the line. They lie. Forget everything you see in the trailers because not a single bit will be relevent. What ever predictions or anticipation to build from the trailers, forget them. You aren't getting the film you're predicting. Godzilla, ironically, isn't about Godzilla. Almost at all. The Muto get much more screen time and the hero seat is given to the Brody family. This may work in the film's favour, however, as every time Godzilla comes on screen, I get chills and am filled with excitement. When they get some right, they bloody get it right but in the off chance they do something wrong, it shows. The rest of the acting is perfect. Aaron Taylor-Johnson holds the film well enough (and I'm more than happy to see him join the Avengers) but the rest sort of fade into clichéd territory. Other than Joe Brody and the monsters, no other characters really stood out. In fact, dare I say that the film gets kind of boring at times....but then a monster tears around a bit and all is forgiven. Can I also mention the fight scenes....or lack there of...kind of...maybe. Yeeeeah, every time Godzilla tangles with a Muto, the scene cuts to something else...yep. That happens about three times. Sure it's building up but come on, you know you want to see lots of monster fights.

Godzilla is a flawed film, there is no doubt about that, but when it does something right, it nails it perfectly. The action and the CGI is everything you could ever hope for in a Godzilla film just as Man of Steel did you Superman worthy action. The monsters are absolutely brilliant even if the battles are limited. If you want some better monster action, I recommend Pacific Rim but Godzilla sacrifices more monster battles in order to make the monsters more memorable and more developed. This does backfire as I was much more invested in the monsters and felt that Godzilla was the most interesting character (makes sense since his name was in the title...which is a surprise considering how irrelevant he is in the grand scheme of things). This is probably the only time in my life that I have ever wanted to see a prequel. We're getting a sequel so I can't complain. 

When it does something wrong, it stands out, but when it does something right, my God does the film get it right!

Also, Godzilla has given us our best death in any film of 2014 so far. Trust's glorious.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Feet Two (George Miller, Gary Eck and David Peers, 2011) Review

I have a large, large number of films on my watch list, some of which I'm ashamed to admit to not seeing. Fight Club, Django Unchained, The Godfather, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and so on. I naturally went with the strangest one on my list after receiving a free month of Amazon's Prime streaming...thingy in the post (thank you, Amazon) and that is the sequel to Happy Feet naturally called Happy Feet least they were honest with the title.

Years after the first film, Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria (Pink) now have a son named Erik (Ava Acres) who ironically doesn't share his father's love of dancing. After running off, Erik encounters a flying 'penguin' named Sven (Hank Azaria) who becomes a role model for Erik. Mumble finds Erik and the two return home before learning that the shift in ice has trapped the entire colony in a chasm leaving Mumble having to call in favours from previous encounters to rescue the other penguins. In a bizzare subplot, we follow two krill named Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) as Bill is dragged along on Will's journey to rise up the food chain.

I'm going to start with my biggest compliment before I get to the weird stuff and is that the animation is simply wonderful. Happy Feet Two is a delight to watch visually. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the character models have improved since the first and it's evident that the animators have found a more stylised look. There is a lot going on on-screen and, surprising for a film about black and white creatures in the snow, the colours stand out (especially evident during the finale of 'Under Pressure' which is easily the film's highlight). In addition the voice acting is also good. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are hands-down the best people in the film while new addition Hank Azaria is his usual fun, zany self. The questionable cast member is Pink. She's good but in terms of replacing the late Brittney Murphy, she doesn't quite work. I'm also dissapointed at how under-used Robin Williams is. There's one thing you don't do with Robin Williams and that is restrain him.

Now...this is a bizzare film. Some of the decisions that went into making are just plain weird. The writing, music, use of narrative's just plain weird. To start with, the plot doesn't actually start until about half way in. The first half is just spent introducing concepts that are used in the finale. That would be smart if the film was long enough and didn't waste time getting to the plot...but it's not and it did we are. Erik's singing voice was also of some concern. They didn't really try hiding the fact that it was just some one pitch shifted. Are there just no high-pitched singers or something? Happy Feet Two also falls into the common sequel trap of not using it's exiting characters well and simply pushing their new characters which was one of the many reasons Cars 2 failed. Mumble's parents are nowhere to be seen...not even mentioned. Give use Hugh Jackman, damn it! That reminds me that Hugo Weaving is in'd barely know it but...he is in the smallest role there is. Yes, he was in the first one but we serves no purpose at all in this one.

I don't necessarily hate Happy Feet Two. In fact, I had more fun watching it than the first and is more memorable but that doesn't necessarily mean it's better. I could quote you more from The Room than from The Shawshank Redemption but it doesn't mean it's good. In a strange way, I'm kind of glad I saw this. The krill subplot appeals to my more silly side and we have that great 'Under Pressure' scene to take away from this but the rest...I just don't even know what kind of strange decisions went down in the making of this film.

The animation is wonderful but the rest is just a weird concoction of...weirdness...This is a weird, weird film.

You know what's weirder though? There's a video game based on this How is that possible?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Happy Feet (George Miller, Warren Coleman and Judy Morris, 2006) Review

Remember when Penguins seemed to be the big thing in Hollywood for a time? Happy Feet, Surf's Up, March of the Penguins and the Madagascar films seemed to shove the adorable little blighters in our faces and we could do nothing about it. I'll be honest, I'm going nowhere with this thought and am just admitting that I'm only reviewing Happy Feet because I just saw the sequel and desperately want to talk about it so it's only fair to give my thoughts on the first one. Makes sense right?.....right?

In a colony where penguins sing into order to attract mates, Mumble (Elijah Wood) finds that his singing voice is terrible. He instead has a unique talent of his own: tap dancing. His mother (Nicole Kidman) likes it but his father (Hugh Jackman) is strongly against it as it isn't what penguins should be doing. Ironically, Mumble's best friend Gloria (Brittany Murphy) is the best singer around however the two can't connect due to Mumble's difference. He is promptly exiled where he finds refuge with a posse of different a type of penguin named the Adelie Amigos led by Ramon (Robin Williams). Ramon and the Amigos decide to help Mumble be accepted back home by his penguin brethren. 

You'd think that a film based on the idea of a tap dancing penguin would be incredibly stupid especially considering the competition (Morgan Freeman narration and badass surfing penguins) and, while Happy Feet isn't amazing, it does manage to get away from the silly concept by using it effectively. As this is primarily a music based film that makes use of covers of real songs. At first I was sceptical but because of the use of timeless songs from the likes of Queen and Elvis Presley, it doesn't date the film because these songs are still great even after all these years. Safe bet, in other words. 

My biggest gripe really is that there isn't that much to it. The only thing I'm left with afterwards is "Wow, those songs were catchy" but not more after that. I guess, outside of the music, it just isn't very memorable. Brittany Murphy and Robin Williams are the most memorable performances (the latter was obvious to begin with). What I found interesting is the strange turn the film takes over half way through and manages to shoe-horn in an environmental message but, hey, as long as it's not as bad



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) Review

Pop quiz: who would you consider the worst director of all time? Michael Bay? Not really, he's good at what he's just that what he does is terrible. M. Night Shamalyan? Very likely but most people within the business would point their fingers towards Edward D. Wood Jr. Infamous director of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Bride of the Monster (maybe I'll look at them later), Wood's life was so fascinating that Tim Burton decided to take a crack at representing his life on film. How well does it do? Let's find out.

In 1950s Hollywood, Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) is a struggling director attempting to break into the film industry. His luck changes when he persuades producer George Weiss (Mike Starr) to direct a film about a famous transsexual. Wood turns it into a film about his own cross dressing fetish and his career grows from there as he tricks more producers, mingles with celebrities and having to deal with the issues of creative control. One notable day, Wood meets Dracula himself Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) and the two quickly become friends over Wood's respect for Lugosi despite him being a washed up actor at this point in his life.

Are you sick of Johnny Depp phoning in many roles and do you actually want to see him be a legitimately good actor? Look no further than Ed Wood. Depp captures the enthusiasm and childlike innocence of Wood while portraying his complicated nature. It's almost depressing seeing such an enthusiastic, inspired mind churn out so many terrible films. You want him to have that one big hit. What I love about Ed Wood is that every actor, even the extras, are all excellent and memorable. The tiniest of actor leaves in impression. It's so rare in a film but this nails it. The real star of the film, however, is Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. His acting is phenomenal and he mimics Bela Lugosi perfectly. What helps this is the amazing, Oscar-winning make-up to make Landau look exactly like Lugosi. It's like he rose from the grave (fitting, really).

This is truly a fascinating film and a definite watch for anyone interested in the industry. We get to see a lot of scenes about the creation of film but also what NOT to do. We are positioned to side with the crew as Wood makes some 'interesting' creative decisions (only do one take, for example). It's fascinating because I can see WHY he would make these decisions as it assists in the realism of his films but there is a limit. Tim Burton's direction is a valuble asset here as is the brilliant decision to make the film black and white in order to recapture the style of Ed Wood's films (as well as being bookended by a monologue from Jeffrey Jones as Criswell).

Ed Wood is one of Tim Burton's finest films. The acting on all accounts is brilliant and Burton clearly had a lot of creative control, something that echos Ed Wood's films (in fact, Wood's relationship with Lugosi could be similar to Burton's relationship with Vincent Price...maybe). It's the perfect way to represent Ed Wood's work and makes me want to see his terrible as they are.

A fine example of creative control in a motion picture combined with top notch acting and a unique style.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) Review

I haven't had as much exposure to the works of Wes Anderson as I would like but, from what I've seen (only one all the way through I've seen of his is Fantastic Mr. Fox), he has a very distinct style of both writing and cinematography but I would like to see more of his work. I decided to do something about it by going to see The Grand Budapest Hotel which was a film that I would've seen earlier but it was sold out. Managed to catch the last showing. Yes!

At the Grand Budapest Hotel, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) is the manager of the famed hotel who finds himself accused of murder after a friend of his dies and her son, Dmitri (Adrian Brody), accuses Gustave. Gustave and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), accidentally stumble upon a great conspiracy and Dmitri sends out a hit man, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) to silence Gustave and Zero before they follow a trail of people and finding out what really happened. 

This is a very peculiar movie. VERY peculiar. Starting with the story as it's surprisingly complex. The film takes a "Russian doll" approch to the story by having it set in the 1980s...then the 1960s...and then finally in the 1930s where the bulk of the film with Ralph Fiennes takes place. Normally, this would be too overly complicated but Wes Anderson does a very good job of making this work through the use of aspect ratio. Each time setting is shot in a different aspect ratio to make to instantly realise when the scene is taking place. Wes Anderson has an amazing talent of gathering an amazing cast and it's no different here. Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Brody, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, the list goes on. All of them do a wonderful job to especially Ralph Fiennes whose character, Gustave H., is a memorable and hilariously written character. The way that he flawlessly switches from stern to panicky offer some of the film's comedic highlights.

This leads me onto my next big compliment is that it is hilarious. Ralph Fiennes may have done comedy before but I'm not aware however, he nails the comedic timing and delivery perfectly. It's also hard to believe that this is Tony Revolori's first film considering how good he is. We works off everyone so well and creates strong chemistry with Ralph Fiennes and make for one of my favourtie film duos in a long time. The plot is set up kind of like Burn After Reading, not necessarily in terms of structure but by the fact that the audience is as lost as the characters are...but at least it doesn't give up at the end (in all honestly, the ending of Burn After Reading fits the film perfectly so I can't complain)

The Grand Budapest is certainly the most unique film so far this year. I can't quite see there being any other film like it as we press on throughout the year. Wes Anderson clearly had a lot of creative control in producing this film and also manages to gather a tremendous cast who all do a wonderful job, especially Ralph Fiennes. It may be out of the cinema now but It's worth a watch when it comes to DVD which shouldn't actually be that far off now.

Hilarious, unique, well cast and performed, interestingly shot and an all round fun film.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Foodfight! (Lawrence Kasanoff, 2012) Review

I've been doing this for 2 years now! 
Again with the perfect timing!

To review an infamously bad live action film is easy. I don't have to sit through 2 hours of nightmarish animation since I am only seeing other people on the screen. I've already reviewed 2 of the worst films ever made, both of which were live action but now I've decided that, for my 300th review, I'll jump on the already departed band wagon (JonTron and the Nostalgia Critic beat me to it) and taek a look at Foodfight! me.

When a supermarket owned by Mr Leonard (Ed Asner) closes for the night, the store reveals itself as a whole city occupied by product icons. Dex Dogtective (Charlie Sheen) and his sidekick Daredevil Dan (Wayne Brady) begin on a case after Dex's girlfriend Sunshine Goodness (Hilary Duff) goes missing only to discover that a new product known as Brand X has entered the supermarket and plans on taking control. Lady X is sent in to seduce Dex to distract him from the Brand X conspiracy.

The hardest part of reviewing Foodfight! is that I have no idea where to begin. I guess the most obvious thing to start with is the animation. Now, do the film's credit, the reason the animation is so atrocious is because the original version of the film was stolen. Seriously. Someone out there has the original version of Foodfight! and probably has no clue what to do with it. I wouldn't, to be honest. This meant that the film was delayed...for almost 10 years. However, it's my 'job' to look at how the finished product is. It's bad. Very very bad. The character models look cheap and lifeless but they combine these stiff models with jaded and over the top movements that look unnatural. Have you ever used a Kinect? I like to imagine the film was animated by that.

Charlie Sheen is our star for this film and boy, I wish he wasn't. Sheen sounds very bored with every line he delivers and puts no energy or emotion to it. Wayne Brady, on the other hand, is way too over the top although this might be because his voice is combined with the stupidly exaggerated animation to amplify the annoyance. Most other actors just seem faded and other some awkward line delivery. The only actor who seems to be having any fun in the film is Christopher Lloyd. Like Wayne Brady, his awkwardness is combined with the terrible animation but its so bizzare that I can't help but laugh and enjoy every second his character is on screen.

Do you want to know the worst thing? I could find enjoyment in the terrible animation, I could also find enjoyment in some of the over the top voice acting (thank you, Lloyd) but the script is the nail in the coffin. The dialogue is abysmal and filled to the brim with horrendously bad jokes and puns. Character development or even character building wasn't a priority of the writers. They had no intention of creating memorable or likable characters outside of making them perform horrendous jokes. The plot is also terrible as there is no incentive to pay attention to the events...if any. One scene even has Dex and Dan travel through the supermarket itself, meaning that the how point of the film is contradicted and unexplained.

Foodfight! is arguably one of the worst animation films out there and for good reason. The animation is sloppy and jaded, the actors sounds very bored (except Christopher Lloyd), the script is heinously bad and the world that the film attempts to construct is inconsistent and contradicts it's own rules. This was not a film made from the mind of someone with vision. This is a constructed, hour long commercial...ironic since half of the icons that appear are lazy parodies of real product icons. The only reason to watch it is to witness how bad it is. I can only explain it as The Room of animated films.

Terribly animation, poorly performed, horrifically written.....and stupidly enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Rob Minkoff, 2014) Review

Dreamworks is a company that seems to zig-zag in film quality. For every How to Train Your Dragon, there's The Croods. For every Kung Fu Panda 2, there's a Shark Tale. After some rather lack-luster films, I was curious as to whether or not Mr. Peabody and Sherman could pull them up despite basing a film on an already existing product. Well, does it? Let's find out.

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a hyper-intelligent talking dog who has developed his own time machine known as the WABAC. Peabody and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles), travel through time and meet many historic figures such as Marie Antionette (Lauri Fraser) and Leonardo Da Vinci (Stanley Tucci). After Sherman gets in a fight in school with a girl named Penny (Ariel Winter), Peabody invites her family over to try and clear things up. In order to impress Penny, Sherman shows her the WABAC and Peabody, Sherman and Penny find themselves on a time travelling adventure.

I am very, very surprised by this film. While Dreamworks can make some amazing films such as How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2 (seriously), I was expecting this one to be a stupid and souless product of "what's in" and to start with, it looks like it's heading that way with an introduction that displays Peabody being the inventor of things such as Zumba and Auto-tune. However, we are thrust into a heartwarming, hilarious and surprisingly dark film (any film that opens with the French Revolution might do that). Mr. Peabody and Sherman has a big heart and the relationship between Peabody and Sherman comes through well with the great performances by Ty Burrell and Max Charles who nail the characters perfectly. 

I think the most impressive thing about Mr. Peabody and Sherman is that it is a smart film. A lot of though and research went into it. Kids will probably have no idea who Maximilien Robespierre is but they still throw him in. While they do take some creative liberties, a lot of the historic things featured are actually accurate (even mentioned Oedipus...were the censors asleep?) and could entice kids to look up these historic figures and actually learn something. Subtle education is fine by me. I will admit that not every joke lands and there are a few moments of pandering towards the kids in the audience because..I guess it's predominately a kids film but it's a kids film with a brain and a heart. 

Mr. Peabody and Sherman was a very nice surprise. Dreamworks still proves that they are a competent animation company regardless of the likes of Shark Tale and Shrek the Third. It's a likable film with a lot of heart and is surprisingly smart. It's not a timeless film (ironic, given the topic) as it does throw in a few pop culture references (I got vibes from Indiana Jones and 300) but, for now, it might be worth a watch if you can't see The LEGO Movie, currently the best animated film this year (excluding The Wind Rises because of it's...complicated release date).

It's great to see a kids film with a brain and the film delivers a heartwarming yet hilarious adventure.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, 2013) Review

It's no secret (I think) that I adore Studio Ghibli and I believe that they are the best film production company out there. They haven't had a single dud film unlike the 'supposed' best animation company, Disney, who have had MANY terrible films. Even Pixar churned out Cars 2. The fact that Hayao Miyazaki is the head of it (or...was) is probably the reason behind the high quality of films. For his possible last film (I'm not buying his retirement), he has The Wind Rises. Does it live up to the rest of the amazing film list? Let's find out.

Very loosely based on the life of Japanese plane designer Jiro Horikoshi,(VERY loosely), Jiro (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young man fascinated by aviation and what goes into designing aircraft. He encounters his idol, Count Caproni (Stanley Tucci), in his dreams who inspires Jiro to follow his dreams and go into plane designs. Jiro gets a job working professionally with his best friend from University, Honjo (John Krasinski), dealing with the Japanese obsolete technology and the pressures of developing fighter planes for the war. He also develops a relationship with a painter named Nahoko Satomi (Emily Blunt).

The Wind Rises is Studio Ghibli's best film since Howl's Moving Castle. Blunt, I know. I was worried that, because of the topic, that Miyazaki would have to tone down his imaginative side so sake of realism. He did not and the film is more memorable as a result. Using Caproni as someone existing in Jiro's dreams was a great idea as he acts more like a spiritual guide rather and it makes Jiro seem more down to earth as he never actually meets his idol, only fantasies about it. The animation is also some of Miyazaki's best. He already had flying scenes down hell but the textures and environments look beautiful. You actually sense what everything is made out of (the metal planes especially) and the backgrounds are wonderful. Some of the events that happen could prove challenging but it's pulled off brilliantly (you'll see what I mean).

The emotion in this film is incredibly powerful. It's the film that had be fighting tears back the hardest. One minute, we have a funny scene featuring Jiro and Hinjo's banter and the next we see more development into Jiro and Nahoko's romance. While I am unsure that many of the events displayed happened to Jiro in real life (in fact, I'm almost certain that they don't), you are still invested in what happens in Jiro's life. If I HAD to nit pick, I would say that there is a sub-plot that is dropped and forgotten about ut sicne it's a (sort of) biography, I can't really fault that because I am unsure what's true and what's not plus the film ends rather abruptly so maybe it's something Jiro encountered later. Even then, the ending is beautifully written.

The Wind Rises is everything I expect from Studio Ghibli. The animation is just beautiful, which is to be expected from Studio Ghibli, and the story is wonderful and keeps you attention throughout. I will admit that this is the very first Studio Ghibli film that I've seen in the cinema and it lends itself to the big screen seeing as it's a film based on aviation. Inspiring and wonderfully presented, this is more than worth a watch ASAP.

Beautifully crafted and wonderfully written, The Wind Rises is an inspiring film from the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki.

Friday, May 9, 2014

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999) Review

In addition to being a huge fan of film, I'm a huge fan of video games too. That explains why I've already tackled video game films such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie with more planned on the way. Anyone who follows gaming knows that South Park: The Stick of Truth was the big game of the last few months and, as a student, I haven't planned yet but, instead, I present you with South Park's big screen debut...and...only big screen appearance, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

In the mountain town of South park, Stan (Trey Parker), Kyle (Matt Stone), Cartman (Trey Parker again) and Kenny (Matt Stone again) go to see the latest Terrance and Philip movie, Asses on Fire. It turns out to be filled with foul language that the boys begin to imitate. Soon, every kid in South Park is swearing and their parents have had enough. Kyle's mother Sheila (Mary Kay Bergman) begins a campaign against Terrance and Philip but the boys band together against her in order to stop the oncoming war against Canada and the rise of Satan (Trey Parker...yet again) and Saddam Hussein (Matt Stone again again).

Out of all the big animated sitcoms like South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy that attempted a feature length iteration, South Park did the best. It delivers the best jokes, the best narrative and the all around strongest film. This film is witty while also being poignant and taking a stab at real issues even if they take a fictionalised and exaggerated road to expressing it. The film serves a purpose while delivering some hilarious moments and even turning it into a subtle parody of Les Miserables (tell me that 'La Resistance' is not like 'One Day More').

What I find commendable about this movie is that it very well could've been a lazy extended episode. It goes far to define itself as a movie and making it a musical was a good move. The songs in the film are legitimately good songs that are catchy and well written to the point that this film was nominated for an Oscar. Yes, South Park was nominated for an Oscar. What a time to be alive. I suppose the biggest problem is that, yes, it is very crude. It's par for the course for South Park though so I can't really complain. South Park has done much worse. 

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut knows exactly what it is. It delivers a hilarious and poignant animated comedy that captures what made South Park a success and transfers it successfully on the big screen. The songs are well written and catchy with many, many memorable scenes and quotes along the way. Watching this makes me realise what I love about South Park and that is that Matt Stone and Trey Parker aren't afraid to take risks like so many other creative minds are. It's just good to see animations with strong creative input.

Funny, witty, poignant and memorable with some legitimately good songs.

So if South Park was out of the equation, who in this genre did the feature length itearions best? It isn't The Simpsons or Family Guy so you'll have to wait a see.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

North (Rob Reiner, 1994) Review

If you were to look at movie posters, you'd notice that one of the main selling points is that the actors (whether lead or cameo). The cast is an important asset for marketing because, if we like an actor, we're naturally going to go see their latest film. It's important to note that, even though the cast may be strong, the film won't necessarily be good. North is a fine example of a star studded cast including Bruce Willis, Dan Aykroyd, Jason Alexander, Alan Arkin, Jon Lovitz and even Scarlett Johansson as a kid (seriously) but...well...let's take a look...(that picture sets the tone well...).

11 year old North (Elijah Wood) is an average kid who has had enough of his parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The twist? He actually does something about it. North takes the matter to court and is given to months to find a new set of parents or else he has to move back with his original parents. North finds himself travelling the globe finding new parents with the assistance of a supposed 'guardian angel' (Bruce Willis).

The reason I chose to review this is because, in my last review, I quoted Roger Ebert's review of this exact film so I figured I would find out what he hated about this film. I as intrigued. Now, while North isn't as horrifically made, audience insultingly bad as The Human Centipede II [The Final Sequence], it's pretty bad. The two big elements that make this a stinker is that 1) it's stupid and 2) it's insulting. The film basically runs on racist stereotypes from Hawaiians to Inuits (that was probably the most infamous). The film revels in ignorance and runs with the stupidest sub-plot you'll ever see. Even the ending felt like a punch in the face due to how much of a cop-out it was.

It sounds pretty terrible so I think Ebert is justified in his hatred. The thing that he over looks is that there are some very minor good things. The film as a whole is bad but the main selling point, the cast, is probably the best bit about it. Like it or not, Elijah Wood does a good job as do a few of the random cameos but the rest of main cast falls flat. You can just tell that Bruce Willis wanted to be done with the film as fast as possible (just listen to that rushed opening narration).

North is a weak, insulting and stupid movie. It runs on some horrible jokes and an idea that just doesn't work to begin with. There are more actors that phone it in rather than put the effort in so it makes the others look bad. It decides to use racist stereotypes in a poor effort to get a quick laugh...which fails miserably. Mr. Ebert, I now see what you meant by you hated this movie. Next time, I'm probably going to look at a more positive film...can't guarantee it but...we're almost at my 300th review! Yeah!
Insulting, stupid and relying on terrible jokes to get doesn't get by.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Human Centipede II [Full Sequence] (Tom Six, 2011) Review

This is the least disturbing picture I could find...I tried, really.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. There are many things wrong with this review. 1) It's not Halloween, why am I reviewing 'creepy' films? 2) Why this horrific nightmarish film of all films? 3) Why review it when you haven't seen or reviewed the first film? I'll tell you why. I decided to watch this film on Netflix on a boring night in while staying with relatives and I was opened to the world of the controversial reception of this film. I wanted a bearing the response so the only way to do so is to dive right in. As to why now? I just had to address it ASAP.

Disturbed loner Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) works at a parking lot and spends his time on duty watching The Human Centipede (yeah, apparently it's non-canon...good job, guys). He is aroused by the flick and decides to copy it. He kidnaps 12 random people in the parking lot and joins them up "ass to mouth" in an attempt to reconstruct the eponymous 'Human Centipede' from his favourite film.

This is filth. I feel dirty calling this a film. It is not worthy of the title. Acting, cinematography, plot, script and atmosphere are the most important aspects to a film and it doesn't have any of this. The acting is abysmal with actors who have little to no credible experience. The script is non existence in its failed attempt at being 'artsy'. The plot is a poor excuse of a rehash of an already terrible idea. You'd think that the black and white eeriness would make for great atmosphere, right? Nope. There is no depth to the world and therefore no incentive to care, leaving the audience disengaged.

Okay, so why is this film so infamous? Because it's horrific, gory and disturbing...supposedly. That's right, the main element that they squeezed to sucker people into cinema seats isn't even its saving grace. I had to look away once, sure, but good gory films like the Saw films had me doing the same at least 3 times. Why it doesn't work here is because it isn't warranted. There is no purpose to it here. It's not like it's trying to be scientifically accurate (the poster even boasts "100% Medically Inaccurate") so what's the point? On my part, it is a tad unfair since I'm in the UK where the film was apparently censored but any excuse to trim this crap is fine by me.

The Human Centipede II [Full Sequence] is junk. Pure filth. Allow me to quote the late great film critic Roger Ebert..albeit for a different movie (that's next, by the way)  "I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated hated this movie. Hated it! Hated every stupid, vacant, audience insulting moment of it!". This is an abomination of cinema. It tries to be artsy and fails. It tries to be edgey and fails. All the essential film elements fall apart and leave behind one of the worst 'films' I have ever seen in my life...although Son of the Mask might JUST be a little bit worse...

This filth is below scum at the bottom of the barrel. A horrific mess of a cinematic abomination.

Here's a tip for you. Since they're making a third one, do yourself a favour and don't watch it. Let it fail so this smut can stop.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Se7en (David Fincher, 1995) Review

One plus side to being trapped in University is that I am given free time not to socialise with people I know (call me anti-social or what not) or play video games since...I have no consoles here, I am left watching many, many films. To pick what I watch, I'm been using IMDb's top 250 list. I don't plan to watch all 250 but I'll get some major ones down. Films like The Matrix or Pulp Fictions are films I've sought out after checking the list but let's take a look at one such film, Se7en....or Seven...the DVD cover wasn't sure.

Two detectives, Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt), find themselves working on a homicide case seemingly linked to the seven deadly sins. The killer, known as 'John Doe', is taking down one person at a time starting with gluttony which gets Somerset and Mills on the case. The two have to set aside their differences and figure out the clues behind Doe's killings and get one step ahead of him. Somerset researches the seven deadly sins in order to get inside the mind of the killer while Mills sits on the sidelines going for a volatile and head on approach.

Right off the bat I must say that Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt compliment themselves very well. The two make a surprisingly memorable duo and are the main element that hold the film together. I can't really imagine the film being done with any other actors. It's a unique chemistry that shines through. The other actors are also excellent. I can't ruin who plays 'John Doe' (otherwise it would be on the DVD) but they are the best actor in the film. They embody the strange compromise of rationalism and insanity somehow (can they even exist together).

If it had to bring up one complaint (and it's a big complaint) is that the film takes a while to really get going. The opening is slow and a bit tedious but when it gets going, it becomes an intense, unique thriller with the core idea of the seven deadly sins. This film has had many iconic quotes and scenes taken by the audience, most notably "What's in the box?", and it's easy to see why. It's a film with lasting appeal and some of the dark imagery and twists will stick with you.

Se7en is a strong film that did a good job of depicting a serial killer with a good performance (with an actor I won't spoil for you) with Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt being strong contrasting roles. Is it the 22 best film ever as IMDb claims? No. It takes a while to build up speed and get going which is a major issue. The ending is brilliant which is probably where all the hype is built from. It's a recommended watch, just don't expect a 10/10 film.

Tense, well acted and runs well with an intriguing concept even if it's a bit slow to begin with.