May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor

Yes I went to see The Hunger Games this weekend. After a lot of pressure from my friends, I read the series last week (3 books in 3 days, but that’s not that uncommon i hear). I was very impressed with the first and second, the third was quite disappointing after the setup from the first 2. An easy read that i recommend for most people. BUT YOU DIDN’T COME TO ‘HEAR’ ME REVIEW A BOOK. I shall refrain from just a comparison to the book, i could but I’m a movie critic for you guys. I just saw it this afternoon, but I’ve only seen it the one time so i might not be as detailed as I’ve been before. I may see it again at which point I might add some more, back to the point:

The Hunger Games

The world is in disarray, what’s left of us is 12 impoverished districts under the rule of the capitol. Enter our heroine: Katniss Everdeen, the names in this series are really bizarre, gotta trust the author. Katniss lives in the EXTREMELY poor twelfth district, in her free time she’s a hunter. Katniss finds herself in the unfortunate situation of representing her district in the Hunger Games, a death match in which 2 kids from each district are forced to compete by the capitol. Katniss and Peeta, her male counterpart must now overcome the odds and come out alive, but all the while be ready to kill each other, after all only one can survive. The whole situation is totally bonkers, a capitol forcing kids to kill each other and keeping all the constituents poor and why? to keep them obedient? right, that situation is a surefire formula for a revolution, wonder what’s gonna happen? The really is a watered-down version of Battle Royale, but that’s not a bad thing. Battle Royale was gritty and obscene to some. This way the same kind of message is conveyed but it’s still in the package of a blockbuster. I do believe it could have been better and more accurate to the book were they willing to go for an R rating, but then they lose a vast majority of the fanbase. All in all it really works, the elements are a bit cliche, but there is flow and the pacing is great, never really a distractingly slow moment.

Acting: This was the portion that impressed me the most, with a single viewing anyways. Jennifer Lawrence already impressed me between X-men First Class and Winter’s Bone, but her counterpart Josh Hutcherson, whom I’ve never seen really acting, managed to keep up marvelously. The two leads felt the parts without a break, their chemistry was great, and these two had to be in love for this film. Most of the remaining cast have rather underdeveloped characters in the movie, which is a shame, many of them had interesting characters in the book and could have been well done in a movie, but there need to be cuts. The one that surprised me the most was Woody Harrelson ad their trainer. His character has some subtle depth that i was worried would be ignored in the film, but Harrelson did a fine job, though they changed the character significantly. Good performances by those that matter.

Visual: With one viewing i haven’t had much time to observe the sights. What sticks out in my mind is some of the camera work. Much of the film is shot from a handheld, quite shaky. Now during the games this fits the mood and action: they’re fighting for their lives in harsh terrain which agrees with and handheld perspective. HOWEVER they use the handheld a lot in the beginning when the mood is tranquil and level. It’s quite disorienting there, took me quite a while to get used to it. Nothing else sticks out so consider this a praise through exception, I’ve not had to attack anything else.

Audio: this one is evenĀ  thinner. The score by James Newton Howard wasn’t remarkable, but very effective, and that’s enough, many films can’t even have that said about them. The sound effects seemed real enough, This is where I’ll put in more time if I see it again.

Overall: I really liked it, there were some minor but glaring flaws from the books, but many can be justified. That’s better than most adaptations i’ve watched. These books translate well into film, unlike the episodic style of Harry Potter which in my opinion is total rubbish once translated into a movie (takes cover from the fans), It’s still early and plenty of time with this one in theaters. I do recommend it strongly. It’s a solid blockbuster, a great way to head up the Blockbuster rush.

This year looks to be fantastic for blockbusters: Hunger Games, The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (snicker). I’m excited, you should be too

Cya in a few days :D

Apology

To my readers:

I’m sorry I’ve not written in so long. I’ve had one hell of a month, busy times, doing projects, making movies, all kinds of good stuff.
ANYWAYS I’m back. I shall write quite a bit more this next week as a penance for my abandoning my fans.

If you’re still here: Thanks for your patience

A Change of Pace

The Transformers Trilogy

So far i’ve been reviewing movies i love, but that’s not all that’s out there. There are many other popular films out there that i have gripes with. Now I’m not going to rail on it for betraying the source material (i never knew the original show),I’m here to make reviews on just the films.

Story: Giant robots are on Earth. They have the ability to transform into machines. These Transformers are split into 2 factions: the Autobots (good guys) and Decepticons (bad guys). Autobots fight for the humans and the Decepticons seek to rule. I don’t need to go into more detail for the entire trilogy, all 3 are spoken for in that description. The STORIES within each film are ok, that is to say the overarching plot is reasonable for giant space robots. However, the scripts are an abomination. They take an odd approach: Scenes of action between robots then attempted humor between all the humans while the robots aren’t fighting. It comes off a bit disjointed, but i can live with it, but wait, it gets worse. The human characters are extremely shallow and annoying, I’m still baffled as to why they get so much attention in a film about GIANT SPACE ROBOTS. The dialogue is cheesy at best and very uninteresting jokes. So about half the movie is scrap, but at least we still have robots and action right?…..RIGHT??

Visual: There was SO MUCH potential in this movie for excellent visual, but it’s all lost. The robots look very nice, better the makers design their own fashion of robot instead of just recreating the toys and cartoons with CGI. So the art design is very good, but the direction and action coordination is slipshod at best. Watching the fights are really disappointing, most of the time you can’t tell what you’re looking at. The transformers are so badly framed and move in and out of shots so quickly that all that is certain is that a transformer did indeed run by the camera. There is also a great deal of chaos that obscures them, between the explosions and rubble, the transformers sometimes get lost in the shot. The final stake in the heart is again the humans. Most actions sequences are focused on the human characters running about so you get to see the transformers duking it out while the camera is forcing you to watch the teenagers duck around. I don’t know about you but when I paid for transformers i want to see giant robots fighting!!

Acting: >.< it’s a stretch to call anything in this film ACTING. It helps that many of the cast could act their way out of a bucket *Coughcoughmeganfoxcoughcough*. Shia Lebeouf leads in all 3 films. Now he’s not a bad actor, there are quite a few good actors in the films: John Turturro, John Malkovich, Alan Tudyk. The problem is that the roles that they play and the lines they have to deliver are bad, i mean they’re REALLY bad. sure it’s kinda amusing the first time, but they quickly degrade into annoyances (especially those who are in all 3 films). They never really came up with any new material it was always the same: Shia Labeouf in a new place and being awkward until the robots show up in the second half and take back their movie.

Audio: this is definitely the least offensive category, that doesn’t say it’s good, it’s just not bad. The sound effects work, and despite the large amounts of gunfire and explosions, the mix never gets overwhelming. The Score isn’t anything special, it greatly resembles a Hans Zimmer score, but i think at this point Zimmer has set the standard for blockbuster scoring. Not much else to say, like i said not great but not bad at all.

Overall:

  1. The first movie wasn’t bad, I enjoyed it, it was still new, the action was cool and there were some very nice moments. 3.5/5. Not terribly offensive, you can do far worse for a sci-fi action flick
  2. OH DEAR GOD GET IT AWAY!!! GET IT AWAY. Horrible, terrible action, terrible new characters. It was two-and-a-half of staring at Megan Fox as much as possible, i don’t get it at all. Steer clear, this movie is unrequited garbage
  3. Meh. better than the second one, but doesn’t take much. The new girl is a sight better than Megan Fox, but not by much. The highly praised “Chicago war” left a lot to be desired once i finally saw it. So i guess you could go see it, but why would you?

So readers: SOMEONE PITCH ME A MOVIE, let me know you guys are there :)

Thanks for reading and I’ll post again next week, have a good one!

Anime can be for everyone

Princess Mononoke

Once upon a time i was a massive fan of Anime, back in the days of Toonami, Dragonball Z and the like. But i grew up and stopped with those shows. Once again my days in college and my access to Netflix revitalized my love for new and great films. Mononoke is not just a great anime, but an overall great film

We begin the journey with Prince Ashitaka, one of the last of a samurai-like tribe. Ashitaka slays a demon that threatens his village but in so doing curses himself to a slow and painful death. As per usual, he sets out on a pilgrimage to find the source of the demon and perhaps find a cure. Far from home, he comes upon war, a war between the animal gods and the men harvesting their land for precious metals. Ashitaka is now forced to decide between preserving nature or aiding his fellow man. The title comes from the princess San, a girl much like Ashitaka that was raised byt he animal gods and fights on their side. This sounds really familiar doesn’t it? but SORTA SPOILERS: Ashitaka takes a much higher road than Last Samurai, Avatar and all those guys, He elects to fight for a union between the two worlds, not to crush or destroy.

Acting: it’s an anime so not much ACTING is done per se. The voice talent is a group of fairly well known names, and they each do a fine job, but it’s not spectacular. The character drawing is quite interesting. The animal gods don’t actually mouth their words when they speak, it’s almost as though they’re speaking with their minds to those around them. as for the human characters, not much can be said, they’re the same as any other Miyazaki characters (not to say they;re bad or boring, but they’re not that special).

Visual: this is where anime shines. Princess Mononoke was the longest animated film ever produced (it may still be). each frame is a painting and it’s 130~ minutes long. At 24 frames a SECOND that’s somewhere in the range of 190,000 individual frames, just try and imagine how much time that takes even with the aid of computer technology. The scenery is just GORGEOUS, between detail and color. Like i said it’s like watching paintings, not cheap cartoons. The intricacies of the backgrounds are astounding, it’s to be expected that great attention is paid to the foreground, but when the background of a shot that you see for maybe 5 seconds is as intricate as a landscape masterpiece… It speaks for itself, if that kind of detail doesn’t impress you i don;t know what will.

Audio: As i said the voice acting is fine. There is nothing particularly fancy about the sound effects. Guess that leads me to my audio ranting: the score. The music of Joe Hisaishi is fantastic. The stuff he writes is orchestra class material. I’ve always been a sucker for Japanese scoring, from animes to JRPGs, the stuff is amazing. The moods are very well carried in the music, swelling melodies for the epic journey and dark horns for monsters. Hard to describe (i swear I’m gonna use this copout every time but it’s true) but lovely, listen and you’ll see what i mean.

Overall: If you like anime and you haven’t seen it already, i don’t know what’s wrong with you. If you’re not an anime person you should see it anyways, it’s probably the most friendly anime to break in with. Like i said before, change it from anime to actors along side good graphics and you’ve got a blockbuster summer movie. It may be a bit long, but it never drags. The only drawback is the ending is a bit lackluster for me, but that’s entirely up to you to make your own judgments. Very high marks, a good film, Go see it.

Thanks again for reading, feel free to make requests and you’ll hear from me next week!

An unsung Scifi Gem

Sunshine

This is probably one of my favorite movies. Definitely the biggest discovery i credit to my netflix. I remember seeing the trailers for this one thinking: “this looks cool, maybe i should see it” and almost doing so with my girlfriend, but never did. 2 years later i got this movie, and my god was i missing out.

The Story So Far: The Sun is dying (don’t strain yourself on the science of that nor the insanity of trying to fix it cause the film doesn’t) and the Icarus II is on a voyage to to set of an ENORMOUS nuke in order to save the sun and thus save the earth. The film begins with the crew already 18 months into their trip just as they reach the dead zone (from here on communication with Earth is impossible). On the way, they discover a beacon, the Icarus I (which vanished in the dead zone years before) is still there, but it’s unknown whether or not anyone is still alive on it. They decide to take a risk and venture to the other ship, and bing bang boom disasters cause the crew to die off one by one. As disaster movies go it follows the formula, many people draw heavy parallels to the film Event Horizon. The stories are quite similar, but there is one significant difference, this one is actually REALLY GOOD. Sure the story isn’t fantastic, but that’s the weakest link in a fantastic film.

Acting: There are less than a dozen characters in this film, one of them is a computer, so there is nowhere to hide, and each actor delivers. No single actor stands out, but suffice to say each one does a great job, it’s in the subtleties, each actor feels more like a member of the crew than people on a set. Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Inception) it the lead as Capa, the crew’s nuclear physicist. I guess i’ll retract my last statement, though they are all awesome; Chris Evans (Fantastic 4, Captain America) never really had roles to demonstrate him as an actor (though he now has done so quite well) and in this film he’s surprising, a part of a hardass would seem simple, but he manages to give it some personality and depth. I like the character and feel sad when they inevitably perish.

Visual: It’s a shame that Danny Boyle (28 days later, Slumdog Millionaire) and his cinematographer and visual director didn’t get any recognition for this film. It is in every sense of the word gorgeous!! The biggest sensation passed by the film is claustrophobia and total aloneness (if that’s a word). Every shot is subtle cramped by the bulkheads of the ship, even more so when there are spacesuits involved. The suits have cameras mounted within them so you get to see the actors in a VERY confined space and without the standard giant visor on the spacesuit. When outside the ship, there is nothing else there, there are no stars, no planets, absolutely nothing, just the Icarus and the Sun growing ever closer. The crowning moment of awesome (that won’t spoil anything) visually is mercury, i won’t go into detail, but i’ll throw up a link. trust me, it is visual gold. Sadly, very few love movies just because they’re amazing to look at.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp7z8Gvexas

Sound: This film SHOULD have at least gotten an oscar nomination for sound or audio or anything of the sort. This film reminds us that sound it’s all there is, there is substance in silence, there is beauty in simplicity. The crew must have had a lot to work on, between the pings and beeps of the ship countered against the crushing silence of nothing and somehow translating the intense light of the sun into noise (sure it’s fake but it works). My total praise goes to John Murphy (Kickass, 28 Days Later) for composing. As I said before, simplicity doesn’t mean bad. The score is very simple, but extremely elegant and moving. You’ve probably heard the main tune: Adagio in D Minor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQXVzg2PiZw. It’s been used in some films/shows and a lot of trailers. I love it, but i’m weird :) .

Overall: I don’t think non movie people will really appreciate this film, Its fairly slow and isn’t really sensational compared to disaster movies of the decade. But since you’re here reading this blog, I’m fairly certain you’re not one of those people. If you haven’t seen it, you should, either to find you like it too or just to prove i’ve got no taste. One of the little things i love about it is that MOST of the physics are realistic, they put in genuine effort to be scientifically accurate, and the final product is pretty close. It is gorgeous, it is very well made, it’s an all-around good movie. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Please go see it.

Once again feel free to request reviews. I think how i’m gonna run the site is i write one of my own each weekend and write request reviews as they come in, at least until it picks up. Thanks for reading.

Woo, My first movie review

Just to re-establish, I’m not giving it a number rating, I’m critiquing it then sum up if i like it and if you will too, So without further delay

The Last Samurai

Seemed as good a place as any to start, My family found this movie while randomly sweeping blockbuster so many years ago, and we all loved it. It comes mostly from the fact that my entire family has a soft spot for samurai, Japan and the like.

Anyways

The story is simple enough.1876, Tom Cruise is a military hero of the civil war and Indian campaigns that followed. He finds himself in the employ of a Japanese business tycoon who wants him to raise an army for Japan to suppress a samurai uprising. In battle he is captured by the samurai and forced to spend winter in their village. He spends his winter become enveloped in the culture, learning the language and how to fight alongside the samurai. When the winter ends, he is forced to choose between his life as a soldier and his new found love for the peace he finds with the samurai. Battle, blood and lots of pretty landscapes follow and overall the effect it quite good.Now don’t come here looking for history, the rebellion of the samurai was real, but nothing else about the movie.The story isn’t fantastic, it’s very simple and has been done time and time again. People who haven’t seen this one i’m betting are comparing it to James Cameron’s Avatar in their heads. But this one is far better.

Visual: The Cinematography isn’t complex, but it keeps up with the action scenes really well. We’re not subjected to a Michael Bay style of action where we haven’t the slightest clue what’s going on, no when Tom Cruise is impaling people it is very clear. As said above the sets and landscapes are superb in my opinion, the sleepy town really feels peaceful.

Acting: it’s funny, after my family watched this movie we sat there for an hour debating what other actor we could see playing the lead, and honestly we couldn’t come up with one. Tom Cruise is absolutely golden in this role, his normally wooden demeanor actually plays into the character. I challenge any reader to come up with someone else and let me know your choice. The other star is Ken Watanabe (you probably know him from Inception), in his first American film. His part is that of the Samurai leader. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, that says enough in my opinion.

Sound: good lord. I could spend pages and pages ranting why Hans Zimmer is the best film composer ever to walk the Earth, but i won’t subject you to that. It’s a beautiful sweeping score that varies greatly and reflects the scenes and amplifies the mood. Not something that can be told, you’ll just have to see it. A special note goes out to the fact that people ACTUALLY SPEAK JAPANESE in the film, including Tom Cruise. Since subtitles are such a rarity i applaud those that use the native language. I can understand why people wouldn’t it takes more thought to follow it, but to me it makes it feel more authentic, more real.

Overall: A beautiful film, i love it. Now will you? it’s kinda slow, there are a number of very nice action scenes scattered, but between them can be dry for some. Best comparison is to Edward Zwick’s (the director of this one) Glory. very pretty, kinda deep, and garnished with bloody battles. If you love Samurai culture definitely see it. If you don’t mind movies with subtitles that are a bit slow, definitely see it. If you want action, you could do better, but in my opinion it’s far better than having James Cameron shove his pro-environment agenda and now famous graphics into your face for 3 hours.