Thursday, 29 December 2011

West Side Story

West Side Story, 1961
Directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 10

Synopsis: You know Romeo and Juliet? Yeah, it's that story, but set in 1960's New York, a gang war between the Peurto Rican's and local New Yorkers, and with guns, knives, dancing and singing. You get the idea.

I don't know if it's because of the day and age we live in, but does it feel like there have been millions of Romeo & Juliet remakes/modern-day tellings/spoofs? While the story has been frightfully overdone, there is a still a lot of creativity in this film. The cinematography was interesting and urban, the art direction was lovely, and the dancing was fantastic. What lacked was the story, and the lines.

I applaud this movie for being very unique looking, urban and beautifully put together, but there were many flaws in the movie I couldn't get over, and it really hindered.

First off, I couldn't get over the fact that many actors in the movies couldn't sing. Sure, Natalie Wood was fantastic, but everyone else was slightly less than good, and it bugged me.

Secondly, Natalie Wood, who plays Maria, is cast as one of the Puerto Ricans, though she is extremely white. This just felt a little less authentic, and authenticity is an important role and something that is weighing heavily the race and colour of a person. The PR's are very proud of their heritage and it is brought up all the time. Yet, they couldn't cast someone of Latin American descent.

Thirdly, I found myself laughing a lot, at the lines. Maybe it's because I'm living in the 2011 while this film was made 60 years ago that I found many of the lines and excessive use of slang extremely cheesy and gaudy. I couldn't take most of the character seriously, and didn't find much about it authentic and heartfelt.

I know, I know, this is such an unpopular opinion, not liking West Side Story. Usually I love musicals from this time, and then complain that they don't make films like this anymore, but I just really didn't like it, and was glad when it finally ended.

As pointed out before, the film truly looked fantastic. The cinematography was great, and so many contrasting colours and looks and backgrounds, that it truly stood out. The art direction and costumes were great and the dancing was really, really good. I feel this would've been better to watch on stage than as a film. You can get away with a lot more in theatre than you can film.

Overall, this film deserved all the art awards it got, though I don't seem to understand why it won best picture. Maybe I'm born in the wrong era to truly appreciate it, or maybe I just didn't like it regardless. Whatever it was, it wasn't my favourite movie, and definitely not my favourite musical.

Acting- 6.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 3/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 4/10 
Overall Package- 5/10       

Total: 56/100

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

War Horse (rewritten)

War Horse, 2011
Directed by Steven Spielburg
Possible Nominations Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Synopsis: Joey is an unusual horse. He is beautiful, and strong, and seems to change the lives of everyone he encounters. While still young, he is sold in an auction to a man, and is instantly loved by his teen aged son, Albert. But Joey is a wild horse, and the family feels they've wasted their money on him. They are already tight on money, and Joey must learn to plow fields in order for Albert's family to keep their farm. While everyone doubts him, Albert steps up for the job. And thus begins Albert and Joey's incredible relationship. But this story isn't about Albert. It's about Joey. He's eventually sold to go to World War I as a Calvary horse, but this film shows us just what happens to these horse, who are as much heroes as the soldiers themselves. We see the people Joey touches and changes, and the hardships he sees, and Albert's hope that he might be able to find his horse one day.

I've been really excited for this movie for most of 2011. I first caught wind of it around March or April, and watched the trailer immediately when it came out back in July, and was captivated by all the photos released over the year. Initially, I'll admit it, I was roped in by Jeremy Irvine's incredible good looks, but while that still remains, I was caught up with the story and the idea. And it just looked fantastic.

After watching the Tony awards and seeing the horses they used for the Broadway show, I decided to pick up the book. Luckily, the library had it On Order, and I was the first on the waiting list, and received it a month ago, and read it over the course of about a week. And I loved it.

I was nervous I wouldn't like the movie, though the book was great. I was a little of weary of how much they would change. It was told from the 1st person point of view of the horse, Joey, and didn't know how that would translate to screen. Also, RT stamped it with a 75%. Though not a bad number, it's not a stellar one either. So I lowered my expectations, convinced myself I would hate it (though knowing I would love, just not trying to expect so much as to ruin it) and found myself completely and utterly enthralled.

The bond we see between Joey and Albert is a very believable one. Jeremy Irvine (Albert) had never ridden on horses before the filming of the movie, nor had he had much interaction with them. But the chemistry between them was quite believable, which is what the first half hour, or so, of the movie is based around. We get a long introduction to build Albert and Joey's bond, through Albert's drunken father buying him at an auction, Albert training the horse, and the financial struggle in which the Naracott family (Albert's family) may lose their house. The solution to this it to plow their fields and to grow crops. But Joey isn't a farm or plowing horse. So Albert, once again, must train him, this time in front of the eyes of the community. By the end of this, Albert and Joey have formed a solid team, and a solid foundation for the rest of the film, making Albert's pursuit of Joey seem plausible.

Jeremy Irvine is a solid newcomer. He had been previously in the chorus of a community play, with no lines, before starring in this film. You can see a passion in him, as he acts out the innocence and earnest Albert Naracott. We see him wide-eyed and simple, but passionate in the first "Albert and Joey" act, and we see him (spoiler) beaten, scared and almost blinded (stop spoiler) in the second "Albert and Joey" act. His scenes in the war were perfectly done, mixing the levels of adrenaline, and fear in the trenches and on the battlefield. He embodied the emotions of a young soldier very well. Already being signed on to several more films (including the upcoming Great Expectations starring Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter), we shall see much more of him.

After leaving Joey, the film almost becomes a collection of short stories, all bound together by Joey, which shows us all different sides of WWI. We have the professional Captain Nicholls, the kind man who promises to look out for Joey. We have the underage German soldiers, who flee the war, because all they want is life. We have the French civilians, a young girl and her grandfather, who are occasionally raided by soldiers for food and supplies. And we have the horses pulling cannons, seeing the strain on them, and just how much the horses did for both sides of the war, and the men in charge of the horses. This film breaks down the idea of war, not into a good side-bad side, but into a human side. No side was shown as "evil", but were all shown that there are decent humans out there, and all they want is to live through the war and see their loved ones again.

In the height of the film, we see a moving scene of two soldiers, one British, the other German, meeting in No Man's Land to free Joey from an entanglement of barbed wire, which is one of the most touching scenes in film this year. It is an interesting contrast, seeing the two sides come together, something that happened for real in WWI on Christmas Day (though it included kick-about soccer games, and burying their dead), but it was well done, with a touch of humor and the revelation that, no matter what your background, or what country you serve, there are good people out there.

Additionally, the horses used in the movie were quite talented (for lack of better word). I've always found it interesting that they can train horses to 'act' as the filmmakers want them. But the horses used showed such emotion that you almost believed they were human characters. The showing of Joey's character was done well that we started to really understand the horse. Knowing when he was  nervous, or upset, or knew when he would or wouldn't like something.

Lastly, if nothing else, War Horse was a beautifully made film. Polish cinematographer, Janusz Kaminiski is no stranger to Steven Spielburg, or even the Oscars. He's been nominated 4 times, and won twice both for Spielburg made war films (Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan). I have no doubt War Horse can land a nomination this year, though it has tough competition, I have hope it can win. And was that last scene not stunning? The horse riding up the hillside, silhouette, and tiny against the landscape? And that nod to Gone With The WInd? Stunning, to say the least. I know the first time I saw it, I let out an audible "wow" more than once.

 Another non-stranger to Spielburg and  the Oscars is John Williams. While John Williams isn't usually my favourite composer (I respect all the scores he's written, especially his iconic themes like Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, I'm more of a strings-relaxed person, than a brass person) but I adored his score for War Horse. It was simple and innocent, but distinctly British, and early 20th century. It captured the spirit so well, and gave me chills when we see (spoiler) Joey, riding in the forest alone, showing us Captain Nicholls has died. Additionally, that scene was incredibly effective and chilling. The second time I saw this film, with a larger audience, there was a unanimous sigh of sadness, literally. It was a very well done, and effective moment, because you didn't see the death. (stop spoiler). I expect John Williams will be nominated once again. While I feel it's definitely his time to win again, we'll have to see. The Oscars never seems to award what I think should win.

Overall, I really, really liked the film. The strongest parts of it were the scenes with Albert, the beginning half hour, and the last 45 minutes or so, of the Battle of the Somme scenes at the end. While the stories in the middle are admittedly a little bit weaker, they are moving, nonetheless. This film was a very moving one, and taught me a lot about WWI. While I think it definitely has the stuff to compete and win Best Picture, not enough agree with me, though I'll be happy to see it's nomination, and see what awards it can garner in the art and visual categories.


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy, 1989
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 4

Synopsis: Miss Daisy, a Jewish woman, can no longer drive. She is getting older, and her son Boolie, insists on hiring her a driver, a man named Hoke. It's the 1950's, and this means her driver is black. At first Miss Daisy is quite resistant, but when Hoke points out he's being paid to do nothing, she starts letting him drive. And slowly, the two form a life-long bond.

Here I am again, reviewing for the second day in a row. And right after this, you'll be reading a review for War Horse! Christmas break is certainly the time to watch movies!

This film is certainly a touching one. Having watched 'The Help' only 2 days ago, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. While both have quite comedic moments, and some very serious stuff to make you cry, they are very different movies. While The Help focuses on the relationship between all the black maids, and the children they care for, as well as other women they don't tend to, this is strictly a movie about a Jewish white woman, and her black driver, and how unlikely their friendship is too.

I must say I absolutely adored this movie. I have nothing but praise for Morgan Freeman, who played Hoke, the driver. Hoke is an enthusiastic, talkative and charming man, which is very different from the roles I've seen Freeman play (such as God in Bruce Almighty, Lucius Fox in the Batman series, and Eddie in Million Dollar Baby). He played the role extremely convincingly and I thought he did a fantastic job. I'm quite surprised he didn't win an Oscar for the role, but he had tough competition that year, being up against Daniel Day-Lewis, Kenneth Branuagh, Robin Williams and Tom Cruise.

On the other hand, I was also vastly impressed with Jessica Tandy, who played Miss Daisy (and subsequently won an Oscar for it). She was brilliant as a stubborn woman, and aged perfectly over the 25 years the movies is set in.

Additionally, this is one of the few times I really noticed make-up in a film (other than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- another brilliant film). It was phenomenally done, and the aging was done perfectly. Nothing looked too cheesy, or too forced. It was shocking how well they really aged, and it deservingly won the award.

Overall, I thought the film was fantastic. It was well-told, extremely well acted, and looked fantastic. I laughed, I teared up, and I smiled. So far, one of my favourite winners.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 8/10 
Entertainment- 8/10 
Rewatchability- 8/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 
Overall Package- 7/10       

Total: 75.5/100


Casablanca, 1942
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 3

Synopsis: Rick Blaine is an exiled American, living in Casablanca, Monaco, during World War II. He is running a hot nightclub in the city, which attracts all sorts of different people. It attracts Europeans who are trying to flee their homeland, to Lisbon so they may get to America. It attracts those selling Exit Visas for the desperate. It attracts Nazi's, who are seeking a man named Victor Laszlo, a Czech Underground leader who has escaped from a Concentration Camp. And it attracts Victor Laszlo himself, and his pretty lady friend, Isla. Rick is shocked to see Isla, a one-time lover, when he (and she) lived in Paris. He's very bitter towards her, for she left him, but there are many secrets between them, and those around them. Rick has been handed some important Travel Letters many people are desperate to have, and could be helpful in aiding Victor in his escape from the Nazi's. But Isla just may have more shocking secrets than Ricks...

Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Boxing Day! Happy Holidays, etc, etc. This is my first, of what will be many reviews, over the next few weeks as I'm off for the holidays! I settled down this Boxing Day Evening after a day of Christmas with family.

Opening up on this film I had absolutely no idea what this film was about. I didn't know Casablanca was a place, or that it was set in WWII, or anything. All I knew was that Humphrey Bogart was in it, it looked romantic, and is said to be a classic. Other than that I went into this film with very little expectation.

Like many films, this was in black and white (I didn't know this either, before starting it). It opened up, showing the nightclub, introducing the circumstances and political climate of the time, and why so many people flocked to Casablanca (it was easy to get to Lisbon, and Lisbon was constantly shipping people to 'The New World'- or America). We see those desperate Europeans, and we see the arrival of the Nazi's. And we are quickly introduced to our main characters, Rick Blaine, Isla, Victor Laszlo, and the Nazi's.

This story was told with suspense. We slowly learn bits and pieces about each character, and nothing is revealed quite off the bat. My mother and I were constantly trying to guess at what was going on, and what these characters were about. They were all portrayed with much mystery, which can be quite crucial. Nothing was obviously told to us, and it was very well written.

Of the nominations that year, this film racked up noms for Best Cinematography (Black and White), Original Score, Editing, Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Best Writing. All of which were very much deserved. Humphrey Bogart was great, and did a truly wonderful job as the mysterious, irresistible man, all while pulling off the heartbroken man, that is still in love with Isla. The Original Score was really great, and I really noticed it. It played up every moment really well. Swooning music for the love scenes, suspenseful music for the heightened scenes, and so on. The cinematography was also quite good; the film overall looked really nice, and well filmed.

In the end, I enjoyed the film, though it wasn't my favourite. It was well-told, and had enough romance, but didn't over do it. I liked it, it was a classic, though I don't find the need to watch it again. But that's just me.

Update (2014): I had the opportunity to see this film, along with a large audience, at Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall, and to have the Toronto Symphony Orchestra play the score live alongside the film. Watching the film with an audience, and hearing and seeing their reactions always gives new insight to films. Casablanca had more sarcasm and humor than I remembered. The score was especially sweeping and romantic, and the performances were larger than life. I have since updated several of the scores on my score chart, giving it with a final total of 80/100 rather than the 77 it previously held.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 9/10 
Visuals- 9/10 
Music- 9.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10 
Overall Package- 9/10       

Total: 83.5/100

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire, 208
Directed by Danny Boyle
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 8

Synopsis: Jamal Malik is an eighteen year old uneducated boy from the Slums of India. And he's one question away from winning India's Who Want To Be a Millionaire. But how could a boy, who's uneducated and from the slums, know answers and get farther than doctors and lawyers have? Jamal shows us, exactly how every question is answered, showing us his life growing up.

I'm going to start this off right now and tell you that my favourite film of 2008 was David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Yes, that long one, with Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, who aged backwards. While it was my favourite, I know and accept why it didn't win Best Picture, and why Slumdog did. Even if I think The Dark Knight or Doubt were way more deserving (and subsequently not nominated)

The film was well-done in the way of telling Jamal's back story. The little boys who play him, and his brother Salim, were most excellent and I thought they were quite brilliant. They were hilarious, but they also dealt with the hard things in life, and saw so many things that many of us will never see in our lives.I appreciated the fact that, while this was sort of a story about Jamal's life, we saw the significance in everything. While I felt the love story line to be slightly detracting about from the film, overall it was well balanced between focusing on Jamal's life, and showing us how he knew all the answers.

The cinematography was quite excellent. Similar to The Hurt Locker, is was shaky, and "unprofessional" looking most times (especially when in the slums), and made you feel like you were there with Jamal and Salim. It creatively and beautifully portrayed the slums, the cities, the Taj Mahal, and everything in between. We see shots us children digging through trash, and being abused by cops, and just playing and having fun, not having much of a care in the world.  The colours were beautiful, and the use of Indian music in the film was great. 

This film gave so much interesting insight to the culture of India; the living conditions, the poverty, and exactly what people (children and adults alike) will do for money, including lie, cheat, steal and murder. It's an uncomfortable look that forces us to evaluate and certainly appreciate what we have, because there are so many others around the world who don't have what we do. It has such a strong story about real life poverty. Not the poverty we see on the TV ads, or read about in an article then don't look at again. It's a story of one boy's life, and how he deals with it, all the trouble he gets into, how awful he life really was, and how he still came out on top, knowing most of the answers on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? However, the fact that all the questions on the game show happen to be in chronological order to Jamal's life is extremely unbelievable, and I felt it very much detracted from the story. The film didn't shy away from too much, though often times it felt cliche and over-done. Like I mentioned before, the love story was a major detraction and the film would've been much better without it. The tension and relationship between the two brothers was far more fascinating.

This film definitely opened my eyes up to the rest of the world, and how fortunate I am to have the life I do, while I shall continue to pray and help other less fortunate than I am.

While this film wasn't my favourite of the year, many of the films I did enjoy from this year simply weren't nominated. While this may not have been the film I picked, it was a good pick for diversity-sake, and admittedly, a more mainstream and popular choice than it could've been.

Acting- 8.5/10 
Directing- 7.5/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 
Music- 8/10 
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10 
Overall Package- 7.5/10       

Total: 76/100

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Look at the Pre-Cursor Oscar Nominations

Hello folks! Just wanted to quickly say, before I get started, thanks for all the international views! It truly means a lot! (:

Anyways, so as you all know, a bunch of Pre-cursor Oscar nominations were released within the last week. We had the Critics Choice Awards, The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Nominations, and the Golden Globes.

Starting with the Critics Choice Awards, we didn't see too many surprises here. All the Best Picture's were to be expected, and along with all the acting awards. Though one surprise, at least I thought, was the choice for "Bridesmaids" to be nominated for Best Acting Ensemble. I haven't seen this film, knowing it's only some raunchy movie that features women (instead of the usual men) and filled with sex, but other than that, i don't know much about it. Maybe it's not surprised, but to me, it was. Additionally, we saw the nomination of Andy Serkis for his motion capture role in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There's been a big lobby going on for his nomination at the Oscars, and it looks like it's starting to head in the right direction.

The SAG Nominations didn't hold all that many surprises, though, again, we saw Bridesmaids for Best Cast in a motion picture. And all the films nominated, at least last year, ended with Best Pictures nods. Could this mean Bridesmaids is going for Oscar Gold? Time will tell! The only surprises we have here is the nomination of Demian Bichir from A Better Life, and Armie Hammer being Nominated for J. Edger and Jonah Hill for Moneyball. Though Gary Oldman and Michael Fassbender both were snubbed in the Best Actor Category.

The Golden Globes, again, not too many surprises. The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Moneyball, War Horse, The Artist, Bridesmaids, My week with Marilyn, Midnight in Paris, 50/50. You get the idea.

Overall, the Race seems to be on.

So far, leading the nominations are:
The Artist- 19 (6 GG, 3 SAG, 10 CC)

The Help- 17(5 GG, 8CC,  4 SAG)
Hugo- 14 (3GG,11 CC, 0 SAG)
Descendants- 14 (5GG, 7CC, 2 SAG

It looks like these 4 will be the big contenders for Best Picture on Oscar night.

Gary Oldman and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy were snubbed, overall, in general.

Harry Potter (though it's been included in several of the art & tech categories, and should do well come Oscar night) has also been unincluded in any of the Best Picture/Ensemble categories. The elusive Alan Rickman has also not appeared on any nominations list, though his performance was good, I'm frankly not surprised. They should hold out hope for an art/tech award and nomination only

Shame has also received very few nominations, though Fassbender was nominated at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes .

War Horse has received some but not many nominations, including Speilberg being snubbed for Best Director at the Golden Globes.

And Albert Brooks and Shailene Woodley both were, shockingly, snubbed out of the SAG nominations, though they will both, most likely end up with the Oscar nom.

Needless to say, the race has been shaken up a little, though has solidified many already favourites, and given perspective on what to expect January 24th. Predictions will be updated by tomorrow morning, and happy Christmas and awards season!

Friday, 9 December 2011


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Hugo, 2011
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Possible Oscar Nominations Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Costume<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Synopsis: It is the 1930's. And a little orphan boy named Hugo Cabret, lives in a train station in Paris, France. His father died in a fire, but before he did, they learned how to fix things. Clocks, wind-up toys, etc. But they're best project was automaton. But it's broken and rusted, and missing pieces. After his father dies, Hugo goes to live with his uncle, apprenticing as a clock repairman in the station. But his uncle is gone too, before long, so he lives in the train station, with automaton, trying to fix and repair it. During this time, he meets a cranky old man who works at a toy shoppe in the station, and his adventuresome god-daughter, Isabelle. When Hugo discovers that Isabelle, and her god-father Papas Georges might have a connection to do with his broken automaton, he embarks on his biggest adventure yet.

Before I write anything, I must apologize. I didn't like this film. Yes, yes, I know. You're crying out "but it's Martin Scorsese!" and shouting "but it's won so many awards already!" and bellowing "there's so much Buzz for it!" but I, whom frequently has unpopular opinions, didn't enjoy the film that much. But let me review it properly.

I thought the story was paced well. It wasn't action packed, but it wasn't slow either. There was always a new development going on, and Hugo was discovering something new. Asa Butterfield, who played Hugo, I thought, was terrific. He completely stood his own ground, and led the film on a journey. He was a good crier, which seems to be a terrible hard thing to do, especially if you are a younger male actor. And he did cheerful really well, and mischevious, and the whole time I was quite convinced that Asa simply was Hugo, and had no doubt about it. He gave a great performance.

Another solid point for this film was the Score. Howard Shore's score was really darling, and I quite enjoyed it. It was cliche French, but this was the 1930's Paris! It was fanciful! It was cliche! And I think Shore did a splendid job. I'd love to see this nominated, and I'm sure it has a good chance.

The tribute to Silent Films was very well done. When we get a big reveal from one the characters, it is very well done. This is where we see some fantatsic art direction, costume, makeup, etc. That was my favourite part of the movie, and thought it was a great tribute to Silent Films, and the entertainment industry of those days. This was definitely the strongest part of the film, while I felt the storyline with Hugo and Isabelle, and the automaton was weak.

On the other hand, I saw this film in 3D. I don't know if it's because I don't fancy 3D that much, or if this is true, but I thought it was too 3D. Like, the 3D was too much that I almost felt like I was watching an animated film a lot of the time. It didn't look realistic, and I think that really bothered me. While the Art Direction in general was good, I didn't think it fantastic. Though this could be the fact that the 3D was trying way too hard. Anyone else agree, or am I crazy?

Overall, the film disappointed me. I try to never go into a film with any sort of high expectations, but it'd been talked up so much that I got my hopes up. Additionally, I probably would've liked it better in 2D. Things wouldn't have looked so animated and unrealistic and...distracting. Asa Butterfield certainly impressed me, as I mentioned, and Chloe Moretz was fun and charming as Isabelle. It was an interesting storyline, and after taking an Introduction to Film Studies class, I felt having the knowledge about silent films, and even having seen some of the ones glimpsed at was fun. The Silent film era was an interesting one, and I loved the focus on that, and the background in it, which was true and interesting.
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Will it win Best Picture at this years Academy Awards? Certainly not, though it stands a very good chance for Art Direction, Costume and Original Score.<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Descendants

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 The Descendants, 2011
Directed by Alexander Payne
Possible Oscar Nominations Include: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Matt King is the "back up parent", as he solely puts it right at the beginning of the film. He is an attorney, an owner of a huge chunk of land of Kauai, and a descendant of Hawaiian Royalty and American Missionaries, a husband, and a father of two (messed up) daughters. Alex, 17, is recovering from drug addictions and drinking problems, while Scottie, 10, is acting way too old for her age, and is completely inappropriate on many occasions. How far they have fallen from the royal status. Matt's wife, Elizabeth was in a boating accident, and he receives news, after about a month of being in a coma, she's won't make it and will be taken off life support. After he tells Alex, who was recently (and currently) fighting with her mom, she reveals that she's been cheating on him. Meanwhile, his family's land on Kauai is going up for sale, and they're trying to decide who to sell it to. So, Matt, Alex, Scottie and Alex's friend Sid, all jet off to Kauai together, firstly to find the man Elizabeth has been seeing, and secondly, surprisingly, they change forever.

Incidentally, I went and saw this R-rated movie with my grandmother and my father. I already found that a little bit funny, and just a little ironic. My grandmother was the one keen on seeing it, so my father and I joined in. Which I was excited about because I wanted to see it, but no one else wanted to go with me.

I was excited to see this film. I'd been hearing lots of good things about it. It's been getting lots of Oscar Buzz, is nominated at the Gotham awards this year, and it's Alexander Payne's first film since 'Sideways'. So I went in with medium expectations (hyped about the movie, but haven't seen anything by Payne, or watched many films with George Clooney in them).

The film was great. Like many reviews I've read, I was crying one minute and laughing the next. It was a touching film, and Clooney was really fantastic as Matt King. He gave an extremely convincing performance at being at a loss to do with his messed up daughters and how to handle them. He didn't know what to do about his wife being taken off life support, how to tell people and what to do next. And then he finds out she's been cheating. He's, again, at a loss. And Clooney gave a hilarious and heart-wrenching performance. I cried when he cried, and felt awkward when he did, and felt elated when he did too.

On another acting note, Shailene Woodley (a newcomer to film) also gave quite a good performance. She's messed up, and angry, but we see her transform throughout the film. She did an angsty, potty-mouthed teen well, and really stood her ground beside Clooney. The pair made the film so alive and so real.

Overall, the film was pretty good. The Hawaiian scenery was beautiful, the score was ironic (you'll understand when you watch) but well done. The acting was top notch, and the story itself was complex and interesting. We see the best and worst of humanity, but leaning more towards the worst. What would we do if we found out information about someone we loved, that would forever change our views on them, of what we thought we knew? We see in this film how we're all people, wherever we live, dealing with the crappy stuff, with the bad stuff, and you just gotta get through it, and appreciate what you have. We all make mistakes, and we all get angry and scared, but in the end, you have to make the most of everything you have, before it's gone.

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Will this movie win best picture at this years Academy Awards? Honestly, I don't think so. Will it be nominated? That's pretty much for sure. It was a great film, and really funny AND moving and I really enjoyed it, but I don't see it winning. However, George Clooney is one to be reckoned with for Best Actor. Mr. Pitt had better watch his back.<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 2 December 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, 2011
Directed by David Yates
Possible Oscar Nominations Include: Art Direction, Visual Effects, Makeup, Original Score, and Best Picture<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Synopsis: Leaving off part I with a just-barely escape from the Malfoy's house, Dobby dead, only 1 Horcrux down, and Voldemort acquiring the Elder Wand, we know there's a way to go. With their next location to search being Gringotts and Hogwarts, the movie escalates into a high-action and powerful film that doesn't stop until it ends. Will Harry find all the Horcruxes in time? Will he defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Who will die? Who will survive? And what secrets will he unfold next?

Surprisingly, thus far of reviewing movies, I haven't mentioned that I'm a huge Potter fan. And I mean huuuuge. So anticipation levels were high when this movie was released in theaters in July. Sadly, I wasn't able to see it at midnight like I did for Part I (I was working at camp and didn't have access to a car, or permission to stay out all night), so I saw the film the day after it's release in 2D. The second time, in 3D, though I'll comment on that later.

Being a massive fan, I know this review will appear slightly biased with my undying love for the series, but I'll try to do my best.

The film opens up on Harry at Shell Cottage. We see him at Dobby's grave, and then see him question the Goblin, Griphook, about potentially breaking into Gringotts, the Wizarding Bank, and to Mr Ollivander, the wand-maker  about the Elder Wand. While we know Voldemort just recently acquired the wand, we realize what Harry's choice is... He's going to break into Bellatrix LeStrange's vault at Gringotts to search for a Horcrux. This involves stolen wands, polyjuice potion, more disguises of the non-polyjuice variety, and invisibility cloaks. To say this heist goes successfully is only half true. But you can watch the movie.

Next we land at Hogwarts, where the finale truly begins, 35 minutes into the film. It's ending.

Several things I must comment on now. Firstly, the visual effects were stunning in this film. I mean, seriously. And combined with the use of the 3D the film was a masterpiece for the eyes. I'm not, by any means, a fan of 3D (unless it were animated movies only, and were cheaper), but it's not really my thing. But I had the change to see the movie a 2nd time, and they chose to see it 3D, and I got in for free with my Scene Card. But seriously, I was a big fan of the 3D for this film. No, there wasn't anything jumping out at you, etc, but I felt like this film had infinite layers to it. I felt like I could stare really far into the distance and see so many different things. It felt very real, and like you're actually looking out a window onto all these scenes, not looking at a screen watching a movie. And the use of things flying away from you, in 3D, is also very cool, and has a much better effect. But enough about 3D. Overall, visually, this film was fantastic, and my favourite beside Part I and Prisoner of Azkaban.

Also, the music in this film was perfectly used. 4-time Oscar Nominee, and my favourite composer by far, Alexandre Desplat, combines new themes, themes from Part I, and themes from past films, predominantly using Hedwig's Theme and Harry's Wondrous World for particularly nostalgic scenes. But Desplat's original work is just as emotionally moving and fantastical as William's work. This film switches between 2 different themes. We have the 'Lily's Theme' Theme, which is shown in the emotional moments, or all things concerning Snape and Harry. And we have the 'Statutes' theme, which is the battle theme used throughout the film. Both of which are beautiful themes. And just let me say, the final Harry vs Voldemort battle tracks are just so triumphant and stunning. I could never choose a favourite track from this score. I would be surprised if this doesn't get Oscar nominated, as it's already been Grammy Nominated.

In the end, this film was well-balanced, having Part I been all talk, and Part II, most definitely, being all action. Some complained that the film was non-stop and the story got lost, but I disagree. As Harry put's it in an early scene, "we plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose" and that's precisely what happens. There's not a solid plot (hence the vague synopsis earlier), but that's okay. Battle and war isn't solid, it's crazy and unplanned and chaotic. So many different things happen to Harry this day (if you were really paying attention you'll notice pretty much the whole of Part II, minus a few scenes, takes course over 24 years. Yep) that it just can't be mapped out of planned. It's a very strong film, with a very strong story. Love is the guiding light, and something we cannot live without.

Overall, I loved this film (maybe not as much as Part I, but I adore Part I). It was visually beautiful, well-acted (specifically from Alan Rickman, duh, and Helena Bonham Carter.. her imitation of Hermione is brilliant and spot-on), and was overall a fantastic film. I foresee many nominations for this film, and if we're lucky (fingers-crossed) a Best Picture Nomination could be on the way. Though we'll see about that one, it's for sure, and would be nothing less than robbery, should HP still not achieve winning the Little Gold Man, in any category.
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Will Harry Potter finally receive a Best Picture Nod at this years Academy Awards? It could go either way, honestly. With the new voting system the academy instituted for this years nominations, this could either be a good thing for Harry, or a bad thing. Had it been last year, and 10 nominees were for certain, it would've definitely been nominated. This year, we'll have to see, and cross our fingers.<!- google_ad_section_end ->

Rating: 9/10