Thursday, 26 June 2014

Mutiny On The Bounty

Mutiny On the Bounty, 1935
Directed by Frank Lloyd
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 1
Win Includes: Best Picture (yep, that's it!)

HMS The Bounty is headed off on a two year voyage to Tahiti to collect bread fruit trees (for cheap food for slaves). But the captain of the ship, Captain Bligh, is an extremely brutal tyrant, having workers flogged, rations cut to the extreme, and dangling workers off the ship. The voyage is gone for two years, and the trip to Tahiti is unbearable for the crew. But Fletcher Christian, his first mate, won't stand for the inhumanity that Bligh is showing his crew, and makes a stand. And after a blissful 6 months in Tahiti, Fletcher leads a mutiny against Bligh. But don't think Bligh won't wreak his revenge.

Mutiny On The Bounty was definitely much more interesting than I expected it to be. Clark Gable is just generally great and I find I very much enjoy most movies he's been in (even though all I've seen is his Best Picture Winners!) but the movie was not as boring as it definitely could've been, but it definitely suffers a little bit of 1930's caricature acting and censorship that's expected of the time period. While the suggestions of sex is definitely there, it definitely could've been a lot more explicit. However, the story was interesting and while it painted Captain Bligh particularly badly, in the end it didn't exactly paint Fletcher Christian in the best light either, but it was definitely a little biased in it's views.

The film definitely leaned more towards a condemning side for Captain Bligh. He's a vile and cruel man and we aren't often showed any humanity that he has. On the other side, first mate Fletcher Christian is quite different. He's caring and protective of the crew, and while understands the need for punishment for misbehavior, he understand that Bligh crosses the line way too far when it comes to punishment. Christian is painted quite the saint for most of the film, but the film even starts to turn on him a little bit in the end, which I think made the film more interesting, for sure. It's always a little boring when the movies are as one-sided as this one almost was. Then again, the film doesn't turn on him that much and still paints him as quite a glorious guy.

Most of the film takes place at sea (with an awesome fake pre-filmed background), so there's not entirely too much to say for visuals there, but the Tahiti scenes were quite pretty.

The acting was quite good, though there was definitely a lot of people guilty of over-acting or just being downright caricature. Clark Gable was quite good and never too extreme in his role, but Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh was quite the dramatic guy. There were also your staple stupid guy, drunk but lovable guy, the whiny guy, the "i won't take it!" guy, etc, all on this boat. It was a little over the top, but I was kind of thankful Gable was around to just sort of calm things down and actually act like a real person.

However, I still did enjoy the movie was what it was. I can forgive over-acting in early films, and when the film has an interesting story, it can be forgiven all the more. While the film wasn't terrible, it wasn't quite amazing either. However, it was a nice change and was quite different from other films on the winners list and was a bit lighter of a movie, despite it's subject matter.

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

Total: 74/100

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Great Ziegfeld

The Great Ziegfeld, 1936
Directed By Robert Z. Leonard
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 3
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Dance Direction

The Great Ziegfeld tells the story of Florien Ziegfeld, a man who aspired to be a showman. Starting in the 1893 World Fair, Flo is conniving and often uses his friend Billings to get the money he needs or steal the talent Billings is after. Flo is determined and using his wit and resources becomes one of the biggest showman ever.

Admittedly, I had extremely low expectations for this film going in. 3 hours, black and white, biopic, semi-musical. And while the film wasn't all that good, it was less terrible than I imagined it would be. However, the script and story was all over the place, never doing really anything consistent. The musical numbers were extravagant (both visually, but also in length). And besides the musical numbers, everything else was quite dull and not nearly as interesting.

The first hour or a little less of the story was Flo's rise to fame, and seeking out his stars and new talent, including Anna Helm, a French singer whom he ends up marrying. The second hour or so is mainly stage show numbers. As mentioned, many of them are quite long, and the film liked to do one after another, so that you're essentially watching Ziegfeld's actual show. The musical numbers are what makes the film interesting, for the most part. While the music itself is alright, it's the costumes and the set pieces that are so extraordinary. Flo is a go big or go home guy and this is shown by his stage shows. We have enormous stages and rotating floors and a huge winding multi-tier cake like structure, with stairs wrapping around, and stage floors divided into 5 parts, each of which can slide in and out one at a time. This was the most interesting part, and was expertly done. However, the rest of the film flounders around it and it's not enough to save this section of the film. There are also way too many numbers shown in a row that you really start not to care, and it loses some of it's wonder.

The third part of the film shows marital troubles between Flo and Anna, especially with Ziegfeld becoming increasing obsessed with doing more and more shows, and with finding younger and prettier talent. At one point, Flo promises men in a barber shop that he will put on 4 shows on Broadway at once, and all 4 will be hits.

Besides some fantastic set pieces during the musical numbers, there is nothing really extraordinary about this film. It's extremely overlong and could've easily been reduced by 45 minutes or an hour. It's length and lack of focus is what hurts the film so much. There's just nothing all that interesting about the film, and only sometimes seems to have a plot or really any point.

Acting- 7/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 9.5/10 
Music- 8.5/10 
Emotional Connection- 5.5/10 
Entertainment- 5/10 
Rewatchability- 4/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 5/10 
Overall Package- 6/10       

Total: 63.5/100

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Tom Jones

Tom Jones, 1963
Directed by Tony Richardson
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium), Best Music (Score)

Tom Jones is a bastard, but was raised by Squire Allworthy as his own son after the Squire sent away Tom's parents (a servant girl and the local barber). And this story is basically about how Tom keeps getting into trouble because he's slept with someone. Tom has sexual relationship with a local girl, Molly, on the sly, while he is falling in love with Sophie Western, who has just returned from a few years abroad. They have to hide their relationship since Tom is a bastard and Sohpie knows her parents won't approve. Indeed, Sophie's mother tries to fix Sohpie up with Tom's dour and unpleasant cousin, Blifil. After Blifil's mother dies in an accident, Blifil and some friends convince the Squire that Tom is quite the villain, and sends him away. Much adventures follow Tom as he makes his way to London. Some involving the army, many involving pretty and promiscuous women.

 This movie, quite frankly, was quite bizarre. The first few minutes of the film, of when the Squire finds baby Tom in his bed and sends his parents away, are done in the style of a silent film, using title cards and everything. And while the rest of the movie uses sound, it often uses odd transitions, has characters breaking the 4th wall and addressing the audience, and even Tom put his hat over the camera lens to transition a scene. While the film is no doubt a comedy, these techniques are often odd, but I can't really say that didn't fit in with the film, really. All around the film was odd and quirky.

However, I didn't find the film overly entertaining or amusing. Admittedly the first 15 minutes or so I was having connection problems and had to switch where I was watching this film online, but still. Albert Finney did a great job as Tom but little else about the movie was very good at all. It's not the type of film I could ever, ever seeing winning nowadays, and it's very different from anything else that's won before or after. The film seemed to stay at surface level with all the characters so there was not really any depth or tons of ways to connect with these quirky characters.

The story itself was quite stupid and silly, and was surprisingly sexual for it's time, especially since the Hays Code was still technically in effect (though crumbling at this point). There were way too many silly characters and it seemed like none of them had very much common sense about them. Tom is constantly getting himself into trouble by either sleeping with someone or having other people think he did. The film was kind of all over the place, story wise, and I'm not sure if I was just bored and not paying full attention, but things and problems seemed to pop up randomly.

There's not much else to say about the film except it was quite silly and boring, and I can understand why it was so hard for me to find a copy to watch (and why it's like $50 on Amazon). The film is quirky and odd, and very strange. It's not a film I really ever need to watch again.

Acting- 7.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 
Music- 6/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 5/10 
Rewatchability- 4/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 5.5/10 
Overall Package- 6/10       

Total: 59/100

Monday, 16 June 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2, 2014
Directed by Dean DeBlois

How To Train Your Dragon is perhaps my all-time favourite animated film. It's was funny and adorable, has one of the best soundtracks ever, and has a great story. The film ended on a happy note, and a sequel was not needed whatsoever. I would've been perfectly fine if the filmmakers never touched this story again and left it at the one film. However, the sequel blew my expectations out of the water and delivered a grown up story in the form of an animated film, and was a completely worthy sequel.

The film is smart to set itself 5 years later than the original film. The original ended on such a happy note that trying to make an immediate sequel out of it would've seemed like they were trying too hard. But 5 years ahead brings a whole new set of problems. Hiccup and his friends are now adults, and Stoick has offered his son the place as chief on Berk when his time would come. Hiccup is still unsure who he is and if he'd be the kind of person to be able to be a good chief. But this film brings new problems and new villains. Hiccup and Astrid come upon some dragon trappers while exploring and learn that they work for a man named Drago Bludvist who is raising up an army of dragons. But Hiccup meets someone else as well, someone he never thought he'd meet. A dragon rider with a secret rescued dragon sanctuary. And while Hiccup means to talk sense into Bludvist instead of having Berk go to war, Hiccup and the new dragon rider find themselves in the midst of war anyway.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not quite a children's move. While the original was a delight and children and parents could both enjoy themselves, the sequel seems to have grown up alongside the audience and presents a much more grown up story and goes into some dark places. But because of this, HTTYD2 is able to improve upon the original in a bunch of ways and really find it's feet as a film with real characters that have depth and complexities.

The film is also one of the most beautifully animated films I've pretty much ever seen. The flying sequences are much more complex than the first film and the amount of action going on in each shot is incredible. We constantly have something going on in the background. As well, the dragons are as beautiful and fun-loving as ever. They are colourful and complex and there are so many different varieties of them. If nothing else, the film is an absolute delight for the eyes and is just brilliant to watch. But thankfully, this is not the only thing the film is boasting. We have John Powell who has come back with many of his themes from the first film, but brings some great new material as well, expanding upon the original score. We also have a tender singing moment that is so sweet and special between two characters who completely deserved such a wonderful moment and is just as good (if not even sweeter) than any Disney love song in recent years.

But what really brings this film to life is the characters and the interactions between them and the journey they go on. Hiccup and Astrid are in a great spot together and we see such a healthy relationship between them. No drama, but they are happy as ever together and work seamlessly as a team. While Hiccup is off by himself, Astrid is there to take over the team and help further Hiccups mission. We also have some fantastic interactions from the secondary characters. While not too interesting in the first film, we have the hilarity of Fishlegs and Snotlout both trying to catch the attention of Ruffnutt. And probably the most hilarious part of the film, is Ruffnutt's attraction to the dragon trapper Eret. It makes for some hilarious moments, ones I won't spoil as they're way funnier to watch. On a different note, Hiccup is surprised that this new dragon rider he meets turns out to be his mother (it's not a spoiler if the trailer told me this ahead of time). Her story of why she left him and Berk is heartbreaking, and the interactions she and Hiccup have are some of the best and most moving I've seen in a while. It feels incredibly real and natural, and there is so much emotion there, on both sides, that you can't help but be moved. And what's even more sweet is the scene we get of Stoick seeing his wife again for the first time. I won't spoil the scene for you, but it's incredibly beautiful and one of the most moving scenes in an animated film. I won't lie when I say that I got a little teary in this moment.

If I was going to complain about anything about this film, there's only one thing that comes to mind. The only way that this film did not improve upon the original was the "problem". In the first film, the problem was the dragons themselves and the people of Berk, who couldn't seem to stop fighting each other. However, this film we have a specific villain with a face and voice, and he is particularly underdeveloped compared to everyone else around him and has somewhat weak motives. But this is me being extremely picky because all the character development and interactions of the rest of the film more than make up for it, in my opinion.

The film succeeds because of where the film goes. It has grown up along with it's audience, and it takes a dark turn that was foreshadowed, but still unexpected. And as dark and sad as it was, it was extremely brave and gave me a lot of respect for the film and where it's going. The film really trusts the audience and isn't afraid to take a drastic and surprising turn, one that will definitely bring tears to children's eyes. However, it's moves like this (and others) that make me respect the film so much because of the risks it's willing to take, showing that animated movies aren't solely just "kids movies" but can be respected as movies on their own. The film doesn't play it safe but instead tries to be true to real life (or as much as you can when the story involves vikings riding dragons). This film is about characters with disabilities but yet isn't focused on them. While the first film focused on Toothless relearning to fly since losing one of his tail fins, Hiccup now has only one real leg (the other a mechanical contraption). We have a children's movie starring characters with disabilities who still go about life normally. You'd think there would be more internet rejoicing over this, but whatever.

Overall, this film was unnecessary in every sense, but it's one I'm so happy they made anyway. I was so skeptical upon hearing all over the internet that this film was perhaps even better than the original, something I thought completely impossible. However, while I don't think it completely surpasses the original, I feel with all the growing up it's done, it certainly gives the first one a run for it's money. The two films, while very similar, are quite different and do really compliment each other. While I would've been alright without a sequel, the team behind this one crafted an incredibly beautiful story about family and loyalty, and is a completely deserving sequel to the brilliant original.


Friday, 13 June 2014

You Can't Take It With You

You Can't Take It With You, 1938
Directed by Frank Capra
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 2
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director

You Can't Take it With You is a classic rom-com that you've more or less seen probably a few times since 1938. It's a tale about a young couple and their two families. Alice is a sternographer and is in love with the new, young vice president, Tony. Tony comes from a rich snobby family and his father is extremely powerful. Anthony Kirby Sr is dealing a monopoly in the trade of weapons, and is hoping to buy up 12 blocks of land. The last house to buy just can't seem to be bought. It's owned by a man named Martin Vanderhof, an eccentric man (and family) who doesn't care to leave his home, despite how much money they're offering him. But Martin is Alice's grandfather, and when Alice and Tony get engaged, Alice states it's mandatory for their two families to meet (Martin unknowing that it's Kirby trying to buy his house and Kirby unaware of Martin being the last homeowner). However, Tony thinks this is a bad idea, and it turns out he may have been right. The Kirby's are snobs and rich while the Vanderhof/Sycamore's are fun, creating fireworks in the basement, dancing Russian ballet in the living room and painting in the dining room. 

Like I've mentioned before, and also mentioned with It Happened One Night, is these feel like movies you've seen before, but they are recent releases. There have been dozens of films about couples getting engaged only to have the families meet and all hell breaks loose. However, this doesn't make the movie less fun as it's a charming story, and we get more classic and talented actors than what usually happens with romantic comedies like these nowadays. 

James Stewart was so young and it was cute to watch, as this is one his earliest work. The whole cast was quite fun and it was fun to see them at work, raising all sorts of antics, whether their fault or not. The film is not completely predictable (only like 90% predictable) and does have a twist or two I personally wasn't expecting. However, the film wasn't anything overly special. While James Stewart was fun to watch, Capra's other Best Picture winner was quite superior. That's not to say this was a bad film. Not even close! While the film was probably a little too long (126 minutes, which probably could've been shaved down a little) but the story was funnest when we had Alice's family altogether, being the quirksters they are.  

However, the film was still fun to watch, even if it wasn't quite Best Picture quality, it was a treat and it's always nice to have a lighter non-serious, non-war film to win, because goodness knows there's not many of them on the list. 

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

Total: 73.5/100

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Hamlet, 1948
Directed by Laurence Olivier 
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 4
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Art Direction- Set Direction (Black and white) Best Costume Design (Black and White)

I'm going to put it out there that watching a classic Shakespeare movie on a day that you're staying home from work sick is not the brightest idea. Especially if you didn't even read Hamlet in high school. Yes, I decided, on my sick day, to watch Hamlet. It seemed the easiest to find online and one I didn't mind getting out of the way. However, my head was really stuffed up and cloudy that not much was processed. Especially since this was really my first exposure to Hamlet, as that was not one of the plays by Shakespeare I read in high school. 

So this review will be quite short. Laurence Olivier was obviously fabulous. He was kind of born to do Shakespeare, and the fact that he was mainly a stage actor reflects that. However, he outshone pretty much everyone around him. Olivier was great, but no one else really even felt like they were coming close. 

The story is interesting, and not unlike other Shakespeare plays I've read. However, having not ever read it or seen it performed before now, it was hard to pick up. Thankfully my husband was working from home that day, so was peering over shoulder and letting me know, occasionally, what was going on. Thank goodness for him and all his smarts. I also got the impression from him that this was more or less a straight reading from the text of Shakespeare and wasn't overly creative, which I got a little bit of a feeling that was happening anyway. 

That being said, however, the set pieces and costumes and sets were very well done. If nothing else, the film looked great and the costumes were great as well. Also did anyone notice how Hamlet's mom looked like not that much older than him? It's actually because she's almost 10 year younger... So not exactly the most accurate casting in this one... But Olivier can do what he wants because he's starring and directing, right? 

Anyway, the film was neither really bad not really good. It was simply a performance of Hamlet that was not done very creatively or excitingly. There didn't seem to be much changes and while the performances were good, it wasn't as gripping as it could've been. 

Acting- 8/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 7/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 6/10 
Emotional Connection- 5/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 
Overall Package- 6/10       

Total: 63/100

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

My Favourite Films Starring Women

Okay, so sexism in Hollywood is not new, and Cate Blanchett called them out on Oscar Night, letting people know that films starring women aren't "niche" and actually do make money! The shock!

So I thought I'd make up a list of my favourite films that definitely star women. Whether or not they pass the Bechdel test (because Gravity doesn't and the fact that it "fails" as a feminist film is silly) is not coming into question here, but I thought I'd just highlight films that I love that star females. It's a range of films, some critically acclaimed, some not, but it's a list of films I personally enjoy, and I hope you like as well.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Okay, you all knew I was going to list this one. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books and favourite films. Beautifully shot and starring a vastly female cast it's a story of first impressions and how wrong they can be. Elizabeth Bennett is a fantastic icon for women. She's strong and independent and knows she shouldn't just take the first guy to ask her to marry her. It's got a great cast and even has a fab role for Judi Dench being amazingly mean (which she's brilliant at). And while the movie is about romance and husbands and parties, it's still a film about a diverse range of women and one worth appreciating. There's room for strong female leads in a romantic film!

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire
The first and second The Hunger Games movies are also filled with great characters. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was great casting and these films really show that both men and women will enjoy a female lead action film. Catching Fire was one of the top grossing films of 2013, and nabbed a 89% on RottenTomatoes to boot. Katniss is another strong (but also vulnerable and scared) female lead, and while she does lean on Peeta and/or Gale for a lot of support, she ultimately follows her own heart and mind. 

All About Eve
An oldie here, but definitely a great female film. An aging star and a bright new star, and a satire on Hollywood. Bette Davis is fantastic (as always, really) as the older "mentor" star, and Anne Baxter is great as Eve, the young girl clamoring for fame and success. While these women do have male counterparts, they definitely don't need them to get where they are, and pick their battles between each other on their own. 

An Education
Carey Mulligan is perhaps my favourite thing about this movie, but this also says a lot about the importance of education and feminism. Jenny is doing everything she can to get accepted to Oxford, and has a fantastic shot at it. But then she meets David, a much older man who shows her the world outside of school, and even charms her parents. But she has to make choices, between her education and a life of wealth and marriage. It's a great little film and Carey Mulligan gives a great performances. It's also pretty cute and really pretty. 

Julie and Julia
Gotta have some Meryl Streep on here! Meryl has played such a range of women and I just love her in this. It's 2 contrasting stories. The first is of Julia Child, a woman recently moved to Paris and is trying to find her place in the world, knowing she loves food and takes up cooking. She bursts through the sexist barriers of the time and becomes a legend. In post-911 New York, Julie Powell has a terrible job, is now 30 and needs a hobby. She decides to cook through Julia Child's cookbook in 1 year. It's about marriage, and cooking and the power of food and a bond between two women who have never met. Amy Adam is also quite fun and it's overall a nice little film. 

Easy A
Emma Stone is fantastic and the fact that she hasn't starred in more films as a lead is beyond me. Olive lies to her friend about what she did over the weekend and the rumors spread, labelling her a slut. Instead of correcting these rumors, she decides to play them up. A definite nod to the Scarlet Letter, Emma Stone is hilarious as Olive, and never needs a guy to get her out of her situation. 

The Help
I have a sort spot for the Help. I know it's not the most brave film about racism and definitely is a little glossy, but there are such fantastic female performances and the film has very few men (and even less of importance). It's a role about unlikely friendships and the barriers they break in the process. Octavia Spencer is a stand-out and Viola Davis is heartbreaking and Jessica Chastain is such a riot.

The Devil Wears Prada
I'm a sucker for this film. Meryl Streep is extremely fabulous and, like tumblr likes to say, Miranda Priestly is everyone's inner sass. It has such a fun range of women, from Meryl Streep as cold and fabulous, Anne Hathaway is just trying to fit in, and Emily Blunt as the self-obsessed Paris fashion fanatic (and I can't help but mention Stanley Tucci as he's awesome always). Even though this film is about fashion, the women are definitely not weak. 

Mean Girls
How could I not include this one? One of the most popular films ever stars a mainly female cast, most of which went on to make great careers for themselves to boot. I don't even think I need to say anything about Mean Girls. It shows how funny women can be. Also Amy Poehler makes an appearance which is kind of my favourite part 

I love Gravity. And I love Alfonso Cuaron for saying no to the studio when they requested he make the lead a male, and when he said no to giving Sandra Bullock a love story and flashbacks. We see Ryan Stone exactly how she is at the moment and where she's going. Sandra Bullock is fabulous in this film and entirely carries the movie. It's beyond beautiful and immense and is an amazing cinematic experience, all of it resting on the shoulders of Sandy. 

So this concludes my personal list! There's probably tons more I could've added but these are the ones I love lately and the best ones I could think of. I'm sure I could've added a rom-com or two here, but whatever. Sound off in the comments on your favourite movies starring women!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter, 1978
Directed by Michael Cimino
Nominated for 9 Oscars, Won 5
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Chistopher Walken), Best Sound, Best Film Editing

The Deer Hunter is a 3 hour, 3 part film about a group of friends, Vietnam, and the affects of war on an individual and also a community. To try to explain this film without spoilers would be incredibly difficult, so I will try my best, but be warned.

We open to a small town in Pennsylvania. We have a large group of (male) friends who work in a mining factory. They work together, they go to the bar together, they go hunting together and spend just a lot of time together in general. However, this particular day will change them. Steve is getting married and the reception is doubling as a Farewell party to Michael, Steve and Nick, three of the buddies, who are leaving for Vietnam. While the opening sequence of the wedding and the last deer hunting trip that comes after is roughly an hour long, we get a grasp of this group of friends. Steve is somewhat naive but cheerful, he's marrying Angela who is pregnant with another man's child, but loves her all the same. Nick has a beautiful girlfriend named Linda, who is best friends with most of the guys. However, Michael, the macho man and leader of the gang, also seems to love Linda. We have others spattered in the group, but the movie goes on to mainly focus on Nick, Steve and Michael, as well as Linda in parts 1 and 3. But the beginning also puts into perspective the blind hopefulness and naivety about the war at hand. This is best instanced during the wedding when the guys see a soldier, in uniform, at the bar. They try to get him to tell them about Vietnam and what it's like over there. The soldier doesn't say much and obviously doesn't want to talk about it, but the guys (mainly drunk) push him. So the soldier raises his glasses and toasts to them "f**k it", several times before the guys leave. After the wedding, Michael and the guys love to hunt, but especially Mike. Mike believes in a "one shot" theory, saying you can only really properly kill the deer in one shot, anything more is unfair.

The second act has us abruptly opening on Vietnam. We have a Vietnamese man harshly shoot a young woman carrying a baby. Mike, who was asleep in some bushes near the village), uses the flame thrower on the shooter, killing him. Some helicopters land, and we see Nick and Steve, who are shocked to see Mike. We cut again to what is the most defining (and controversial) scene of the film. The three guys are now POW and are in the water under a bamboo hut while the Vietnamese soldiers are forcing the POW to play Russian Roulette, the Vietnamese betting on the outcome. It's utterly horrifying and grotesque. Steve is already suffering some sort of PTSD and can't stop crying when it's his turn to go up against Mike. Mike, solid as ever, urges him it will be okay. But when Steve shots, he's gotten the bullet, but tilts the gun, having the bullet just graze his scalp. For this, he is thrown into "the pit", which is a bamboo cage underwater with only a sliver of air at the top, filled with other dead bodies and rats. It's now just Nick and Mike left, and Nick is also starting to become unnerved. They decide to up the ante and get them to load the gun with three bullets instead of one. However, what the Vietnamese don't understand is Mike will use these three bullets to kill the guards, steal their machine guns, and kill their way out, rescuing Steve on the way. A helicopter comes to rescue the guys from the river, but only Nick manages to be rescued after Mike and Steve lose their grip trying to climb in. It's from here that the movie says a lot about the effects of war on individuals, communities and how we all deal with it.

I'm not going to try to get too much into the philosophy of this film. I was born long after the events of the film, and long after the film itself was released. I'm not American, so know extremely little (actually, pretty much nothing at all) about the Vietnam War. So much of this flew over me a little bit. However, The Deer Hunter is an extremely metaphorical film. The film itself is not actually about the events of Vietnam and this is what makes it still so powerful. But Mike, Nick and Steve deal with the events they experience in Vietnam very differently. While Russian Roulette never happened during the Vietnam war, it's what the game symbolizes that says a lot. It's like war and life itself, it's such a gamble but ultimately you still have fate in your own hands. You're making the choices that will kill you or keep you alive, but you often don't know what each decision will bring. As well, all three men reacted differently to the roulette itself. Steve was already suffering, and was reduced to quivering each time he heard the gun go off. He couldn't even give himself a clean "one shot". Nick, on the other hand starts strong but slowly starts to lose his cool with the increasing pressure of the game and slowly succumbs to something even more terrible later on. However Mike is stoic and calm, trying to help his friends get through, and focusing on survival, whereas both Nick and Steve are focused on the fact that they will probably die. This says a lot about their behaviors after the war has ended.

The film itself raised a lot of questions about the effects of war, the idea of "macho manliness", sacrifice for others and killing as a game. All the guys who go hunting, they all view hunting as a game. Some differently than others, but it's a game. And maybe the three who went off to war viewed it as a bit of a game too. This is especially shown when they are trying to talk to the soldier at the wedding but receive only a "f**k it" from him and don't understand. But they eventually do get to play a game and they realize what exactly is at stake. Nick, who is the only one to escape via helicopter thinks Mike and Steve are dead. However, he is now suffering extremely from his time in the field, but especially from the roulette sequence. Nick stays behind and starts playing roulette underground and is undefeated for several years. However, no one knows where he is. He has never come home. And (spoiler) he never does. Whereas Mike is still all about survival and looking out for his friends. He's wounded emotionally from the war but is not physically worse for the wear, but does not seem too proud of what he's done and spends a lot of time trying to deal with coming home and what exactly that means. And then there's poor Steve, who, after dropping from the helicopter, becomes a double amputee and is refusing to leave the Vet's hospital, leaving his wife practically comatose. And I think these are 3 of the various stages that takes people during the war. You either come home emotionally scarred, physically scarred, or you don't come home at all. And while these are pretty strong anti-war messages, they are definitely powerful to think about, especially considering the places the guys, especially Mike (who now can't take the "one shot" and kill anymore). The messages of the film are extremely strong, and it's what makes the movie as powerful as it is. The film doesn't spend anytime trying to explain the war or even tell you it's views and whether America should've been involved. And while the Vietnamese people seemed a little demonized, it's a film just to show, whether the war is worth it or not, everyone is effected.

As well, we have some incredibly fantastic performances. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage and Meryl Streep are our stars. All four give out incredible performances. Meryl Streep, one of her earliest roles, gives a quiet, nuanced performance that was worth recognition and helped launch her career. John Savage was extremely under-appreciated in this film, and gave some incredible work in the Roulette scenes. How he was overlooked is beyond me. However, both Walken and De Niro give fantastic performances that solidly root the film. They are like brothers and are constantly looking out for each other. This is some of the best talent working together and it made the film much more life than it wouldn't have had otherwise. The film does some of it's best work by making this large group of friends seem real. It always felt real and like something you would actually do with your friends while out for a beer or at a wedding. The chemistry was great between everyone and this was one of the strongest parts of the film for me.

The roulette scene is indeed fantastic and really is the best part of the film. All the scenes are shot with master class and even the dull hunting scenes are given a grand background and are framed to perfection.

However, I mentioned this film is 3 hours long. While it definitely need to be a long film, much could've been cut. We have some gratuitously long shots that could easily be cut shorter. Things like characters walking, or getting a meal ready etc. Some trimming would've made the film a little bit more compact, but it still would've packed the punch it did. I won't lie and say I didn't get a little bored at points, but the questions it raises are worth the watch. Not a film for everyone, especially a stickler for historical accuracy (aka my husband!), but it's a film definitely worth seeing, and a film that portrays war and its effects so well.

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8.5/10 
Screenplay- 8/10 
Visuals- 9/10 
Music- 8/10 
Emotional Connection- 7.5/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 6.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 80/100

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Favourite Movie Scenes Blogathon

So I've definitely seen lots of blogathons that different bloggers I follow, but I've never actually participated in one myself. And since my blog consists pretty much entirely of just movie reviews, I thought I'd do something different. Hitchcock's World is hosting this one, and it's "Favourite Movie Scenes". This was an easy, but really fun, one to start with. I'm still making my way through watching all sorts of classic films, so my choices may not be the most "critically acclaimed" as I do kind of have an odd (and often slightly cliche) taste, it was fun to come up with a few for this list. So here goes!

Pride and Prejudice (2005)
This version of Pride and Prejudice is one of my absolute most favourite movies ever. I love the book, and this film was absoutely beautiful. A scene that always stands out to me is a scene right near the end. Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley have come back again, unexpected by the Bennett women. They quickly leave again, but you can see the chemistry between Jane and Bingley, whom haven't seen each other in a long time. After this, Darcy and Bingley go out by the river and you can see Bingley practicing proposing to Jane, trying to figure out his words. The shot is beautiful with such a gorgeous landscape. The setting is perfect. The music is also happy and great and we get just a low enough dialogue volume to roughly hear what Bingley is saying, but not entirely. You know what's going to happen, and you see him fretting over exactly how he'll word it. At one point we see him address Darcy as "Jane" and Darcy gives a little bow. It's always been a scene I loved in this film, as it's just simply adorable.

Singin' In the Rain
 Another favourite film of mine, this is right at the beginning. Don Lockwood, absolute movie star, is told to recount his past and rise to fame. However, I often feel most people I watch this with miss out on the straight lines that Don tells about his past. Saying he and Cosmo went to the best academies and had an easy ride to fame. However, it is the absolute opposite that happens, and I feel like hardly anyone picks up on this. However, you get lots of great shots of child Don tap dancing in a bar, sneaking into the cinema and then wearing fantastic checked suits, tap dancing and playing the violins to lots of booing. It's a great scene to set up the humor of the movie ahead and you get a glimpse into who exactly Don Lockwood is (aka not who he often says he is)

The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker was a movie I never expected to enjoy as much as I did. However, I found the film completely compelling and such an interesting story. The scene that stands out to me is a pretty obvious one. So obvious it's classic shot makes various posters for the film. Will James is the new team leader of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit in Iraq. Considered reckless, he goes out, nearly blind to his watch-guys to dispose of some explosives on an Iraqi street. But he discovers there's not just one bomb, but an attached 7, which he pulls up out of the sand. The moment when Will pulls them out of the sand, and we see him surrounded, is chilling. While it's not exactly the most realistic, it has an incredible effect and is a wow moment from the film. And for a flicker, you see some vulnerability within reckless Will. But he then gets down to business, cause this is what he does. 

21 Jump Street
A film I've watch twice within about 2 months, 21 Jump Street is a pretty hilarious film. I'm not usually into raunchy R-rated comedies, but I love this one. One of the bizarrest and funniest scenes in the film comes after Jenko and Schmidt, undercover at a local high school to do a drug bust, were forced to take the drug, instead of just purchasing it and reporting back who the seller is. The various stages of the drug, and the fact they have to go through the effects while during class is fantastic. It's all highly ridiculous, and includes a scene where the gym teachers head is turned into an ice cream cone and Channing Tatum filling an entire school white board with 4's in chem class is by far my favourite moment. The scene was crazy and had me in complete stitches. It was never too much, but at the same time it completely was, in a good way. Channing Tatum's creepy laugh during "The Gigz" phase of the drug is fantastic. 

I'm sure I could've thought of more, just these are 4 films that I really enjoy, and they had some stand out scenes in them. I definitely could've included the opening sequence of the Dark Knight, but that felt just a tad cliche. 


Cimarron, 1931
Directed by Wesley Ruggles
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 3

Set at the end of the 19th Century, the government has opened up the Oklahoma territory for settlement and men (and women) from all over the country have come to try and claim Oklahoma land. Yancy Cravat, after losing his territory he meant to claim to a young woman, he moves his family (his wife and son) there anyway. Settling in Osage, he becomes a leading citizen, as well as the newspaper editor. The film spans many years as we see how the world is changing and seeing the growth of Osage.

Cimarron is a movie that has not aged well at all. There's a lot of racism, anti-Semitism, and, obviously, sexism. The film is constantly stopping and starting in terms of story, and never really seems to know what it wants to do, plot-wise.

The movie focuses on Yancy and his wife Sabra after their move to Osage. Sabra is unsure of moving here because she's left her entire family back in Wichita, and they're not exactly fans of the outspoken and liberal Yancy that she married. However, Sabra is willing to come with him. As mentioned, the film spans something like 50 years. The first half of the film is more of less stable, not flipping ahead in time. However, not a lot happens. And with every time-flip we seem to get a new "story" that isn't really connected to the part of film before it.

In ways, I can forgive this movie for a lot of its follies. This was made over  80 years ago, so I can forgive the overacting. The over-acting, especially from Richard Dix, got a little much, and was very tiring through the 2 hour run time. Irene Dunne, as well, was a little painful to witness, but she was much better than Dix.

As well, I can forgive things such as not-entirely convincing set pieces. This film was filmed in the depression, and while it did have a large budget for the time, is obviously not quite what we're used to seeing in films. Although the opening scene with the race to claim Oklahoma land was quite good, but it was pretty much the only interesting thing about this film.

Similar to winners like Cavalcade, this film fails because it tries to skip time too much and we never really get attached to any character, because we don't seem to know them for too long before we've fast-forwarded 10 years or so. So this film fails on many, many levels, however I feel some of it is forgivable given the time period. However, the year before's winner, All Quiet on the Western Front, was much more of a success than this, and was able to give drama and decent acting and visuals. So this is still not a film that can really be enjoyed very much in 2014, and probably hasn't been enjoyment for much longer before this.

Acting- 6.5/10 
Directing- 6/10 
Screenplay- 5.5/10 
Visuals- 7/10 
Music- 7/10 
Emotional Connection- 4/10 
Entertainment- 4/10 
Rewatchability- 0/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 4/10 
Overall Package- 5/10       

Total: 49/100