Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind, 2001
Directed by Ron Howard
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress

A Beautiful Mind is the story of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician, and also a man with schizophrenia. We start with John at Princeton, a co-recipient of the Carnegie Scholarship. John knows he's brilliant but is intimidated by his peers, whom have already published ground-breaking papers and have contributed very much to math, economics, etc. John is definitely different than everyone at school, which everyone seems to know, especially his classmates (not that John goes to class). But John is obsessed with having his "brilliant idea" and becoming published. With the help of his roommate Charles, John works hard, skips class, and eventually comes up with his brilliant idea one night at the bar when a group of classmates see a group of pretty girls and a standout blonde, and says "every man for himself". John responds it would be better if they had a cooperative approach so that they don't all go for the same girl and all end up alone at the end of the night. This is his brilliant idea! With this John becomes published and is offered an appointment at MIT, bringing along 2 classmates with him. From there, after a visit to the Pentagon to crack a code (which he does mentally), a mysterious man from the US Department of Defence recruits him to break more codes and to uncover a bomb plot. Meanwhile, John is asked out by one of his students at MIT, to which he says yes and falls in love and eventually marries her.

This seems like a great success story. Going into this I knew very little about the movie, only knowing it was about math and the man in it had schizophrenia. How bad his schizophrenia was, I did not guess. And this is where the story takes a huge twist that I truly did not see coming. John becomes obsessed with cracking codes for the Department of Defence, and is close to cracking the codes, is involved in a car chase where himself and William Parcher, the mysterious man who recruited him. But when he goes to give a speech at Princeton, he see's the same black coated men he's been seeing for weeks, paranoid they are Russians who are coming for him to kill him. But he is taken to a hopsital for mentally ill, is told what he has. We also discover William Parcher, Charles his best friend from Princeton, and the bomb plot are not real. Everything we believed in the first half of the movie only happened in John's head.

This movie had a great twist (is it a twist if it's a true story?) Nevertheless, I knew something had to be going on, something was wrong, but on that big of a level I didn't expect.

Additionally, I'm a Russell Crowe fan and had been disappointed that he did not win for this role. He won the year before for Gladiator, so I understand why he didn't. However, I feel this was probably some of Crowe's best work. It's very different from other roles I've seen him in, and he played the muddled yet brilliant yet self conscious and eventually angry and confused John Nash excellently. Crowe was able to convery so many things throughout this movie. He was sincere yet he had problems. You could see how hard John wanted to be better, was trying, but also succumbed a lot.

While this doesn't show mental health in the best way, nor is the story about John Nash 100% true in this film, it still made an enjoyable movie.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

Music- 7.5/10 Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 8/10 
Rewatchability- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     

Total: 77.5

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II, 1974
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 6
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (De Niro), Best Art Direction, Best Original Score

To put it simply, Part II shows us the origins of Don Vito, escaping Sicily and growing up in New York, and about his son Michael and his rise/fall as the new head of the "family".

I'm just going to put it out there; I know Part II is considered a classic, and some even say it's better than Part I. But personally, I felt this was a little pointless. It was alright in terms of the story, and didn't seem to tell us tons that really added into the story of the Corleone family. Yes, the best part of the film was the original Godfather's origins (played superbly by Robert di Nero). But Michael's story felt bland in comparison. Michael was a character I felt hardly any emotions or sympathy for, because he did not portray either of these himself whatsoever. Michael was incredibly distant, and unemotional. Which ultimately leads to, at the same time, his rise in the head of the Family, but a crashing in his own family.

Additionally, when it comes to gangster/mob/crime films, I do expect a little bit of action. Part I had a great amount, and balanced the talking with the action. Whereas I felt Part II did not. When it was Michael's story, all it was was talking, and lying, and betraying. Michael trying to protect himself rather than protect his family.

The origins of Vito is played in contrast to Michael's story. We see Vito rising and gaining respect through cleverness, and being able to repay a favour. Yes, violence was included, but we did not see it very much. Whereas Michael is "rising" because he kills anyone who gets in his way and is a danger to his own life and image. Which is quite the different legacy that his father had. Vito came to America, struggling to survive and built up an Empire. He did what he did to provide for his family, and to protect them. Whereas Michael came from a world of privilege and builds his legacy upon trying to prove himself in his family- a family he seems to always try to distance himself from.

Yes, the acting was well done. The music was great and the costumes and set were great, but I felt this movie lacked any sort of emotion or connection. Maybe that was the point, I don't know. All I know is the second installment was a lot slower, a lot less engaged and a lot less dramatic.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 

Music- 8.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5.5/10 
Entertainment- 6.75/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6.75/10 

Overall Package- 7.5/10     

Total: 74/100


Gravity, 2013
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Gravity was one of the most anticipated films of 2013. After being pushed back almost a year for post-production, becoming THE movie to see at TIFF, and then coming to have incredibly high reviews, it definitely become a film that had really high expectations. Personally, it's a film I've been pretty hyped for for a while. I had first heard about Gravity almost 2 years ago. Having loved Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, had heard how great Children of Men was, and being set entirely in space, I was pumped. Space I always find fascinating. And this movie did not disappoint.

Gravity starts off it's story with a routine mission. Matt Kowalski is on his last mission before retiring. Ryan Stone is on her very first. They are just doing a simple, routine mission of going to make some repairs on the Hubble Space telescope. But when Mission Control alerts them that debris from a Russian anti-satellite test is speeding towards them at incredibly fast and destructive speeds, they aren't able to go for cover in time before the debris arrives. Completely annihilating anything in it's path, Ryan Stone finds herself detached and spinning out into the void until Matt Kowalski is about to attached her to him. And then to find that they are the sole survivors of the attack, and don't have long before the debris will strike again. So they must find their way to safety.

While this is a somewhat simple story, of 2 astronauts trying to find safety, and eventually, to find their way home, it is told incredibly well. We have an objective and that is the focus of the film, told by Dr Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock. It's an everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. But that does not seem unrealistic for a movie that has debris destroying everything in it's path, and for a movie set in space. I would imagine it's quite easy for something to go deadly wrong.

But the thing everyone is talking about is how good this movie looks. Which, to say, looks impeccable. The graphics never looks fake, even for a single moment. And Cuaron employs many long shots that it feels as though the whole film was taken in one shot almost. The film starts with a long 13 minute shot, which is incredibly beautiful and effective. It gives the movie such a different feel, since Hollywood seems to be obsessed with short shots and lots of editing. Cuaron and his team give this a very long and realistic look. The long shots make you become drawn in and makes it feel more real. Having seen this is 3D (and I always have trouble seeing things in 3D), but this looked so great. It wasn't flashy 3D, but gave the film depth. You could really feel exactly how deep and vast the space around our 2 leads is. And how scary it is to become lost in it.

Additionally, the score and sound was almost spectacular. There is much debate about whether Cuaron should have included a musical score or just left if silent. I think a score was risky, but the one that was composed was perfect for what this film was. It was subtle enough that it didn't intrude, and blended in with typical "space noises" using the beeps, and radio static frequently heard. Also, while I did not notice this myself, but had a friend point out that we only heard things the characters touched, which the sound would come from the vibration of them touching it. The small, small details that Cuaron is able to pick up on is astounding. And while there are some inaccuracies to this film and it's science (which Cuaron readily admits), it's an incredibly effective film that has a very wide audience appeal. Gravity, because of it's simple yet powerful and emotional story, and it's amazing graphics, is a film that an incredibly wide audience can find they love. This is a film with a very wide appeal and that is something that doesn't come around that often.

Of course, with awards season coming up, this movie has gained immense Oscar Buzz. And I can say with complete confidence, it deserves it. With pretty much all the technical awards locked down (if not locked down for wins), we also have the possibility of some of the bigger awards. Sandra Bullock has gained much buzz for her performance. She truly did a great job and it's the best I've ever seen of her. Yes, it was a lot better than The Blind Side. As well, we have Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. I would not be surprised if this film ended up with possibly 9-11 Nominations.

And personally, I would not complain if it was the big winner and took home Best Picture. I loved Gravity a lot and feel like it would be something very different to win Best Picture, and with it's wider appeal, would be a great choice. Though we'll see and right now I'm not counting on a win. Just crossing my fingers at this point.


Saturday, 5 October 2013


Rebecca, 1940
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Nominated for 11 Oscars, Won 2
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Cinematography

Rebecca tells the story of a young woman who has a whirlwind romance with an older, widowed, rich man she meets while in Monte Carlo, as a companion for her obnoxious employer. They quickly fall in love and get married very quickly. The rich man, Maxim de Winter, takes his new bride to his mansion in Cornwall, called Manderley. While there, she realizes there is a lot more behind Mr de Winter's first wife's death than she had realizes and is constantly haunted by the thought of her, while everyone in Manderley still seems to be obsessed with the first wife, Rebecca.

Being this is a Hitchcock movie, and him being known to make "scary movies", I literally thought the new Mrs de Winter would literally be haunted by Rebecca and came out disappointed. While the movie threw twists and turns that I didn't quite expect, it still wasn't exactly the movie I thought it would be. And wasn't altogether overly interesting.

Mrs de Winter always seems to be doing something wrong in the eyes of everybody. Though often times she is set up. She doesn't come from money and servants so is therefore not used to the life at Manderley. But is constantly reminded of how beautiful and fabulous and lovely Maxim's first wife Rebecca is. I don't blame Mrs de Winter. This would drive me crazy too, but would also make me curious in Rebecca.

And while the end of the film did bring out some twists to the story of Rebecca's death that I didn't expect, I was a little disappointed with the rest of the movie just being about Mrs de Winter constantly not being "good enough" and not being "like Rebecca". There were no ghosts (which I expected, or at least I expected nightmares/dreams that Mrs de Winter has about Rebecca and is therefore "haunted").

Though this movie was well made. The costumes, the sets, the acting. Hitchcock does make fine movies and this was a well-made one for sure, even if it was quite slow and not overly exciting.

The creepiness of Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, is definitely the best part of the film. She is incredibly creepy and cynical. Always seeming to be plotting something in regards to Mrs de Winter.

But overall, this film was pretty sub par to me. It wasn't a bad movie, but there have definitely been lots of better winners. It was a well-made if a slightly slow film.

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7.5/10 

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 6.5/10 
Entertainment- 6.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 7/10 

Overall Package- 7/10     

Total: 70.5/100