Her – Review

Her

Written By: Nicholas Fazio
Published On: April 6th, 2014
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde
 
her-movie-poster

This is a movie that stays. Out of all the Oscar nominees this year, Her tells the one story that I can see staying relevant in our culture for a long time to come. The plot follows the life of a man falling in love with an advanced operating system. The story woven within this plot provides a uniquely modern relationships that only other great romance movies (Sideways, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) can compete with. It even makes other unique takes on the genre (500 Days of Summer) look underdeveloped and amateurish.

It’s well acted, beautifully shot, has a mesmerizing soundtrack, and balances its sci-fi/comedy/drama mechanics with visible care. What more could you ask for? Her is not only the best 21st century romance movie I’ve seen, but it’s also the most tangible love story of this generation. Its characters are amiable, fickle, duplicitous, and, even when they’re just computers, real.

Her is more than deserving of its win for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards. It’s the most profound movie you’ll see all year, and, by a staggering margin, the most original. All hail Spike Jonze.

 

Overall= 95%

 

Acting

  • Lead Role(s): 19/20
  • Supporting Cast: 9/10
    Total = 28/30

Directing

  • Pacing/Flow: 19/20
  • Cinematography: 9/10
    Total = 28/30

Writing

  • Dialogue: 14.5/15
  • Story: 14.5/15
    Total = 29/30

Visual/Audio

  • Special Effects/Editing: 5/5
  • Soundtrack: 5/5
    Total = 10/10

 

 

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The Internship Review

The Internship

Written by: Nicholas Fazio

Published on: April 6th, 2014

Calculate risks aren’t risks at all. They’re decisions. Who decided to put the best comedic duo, chemistry-wise, in a movie about becoming interns at a search engine company? I don’t know, but that was poor decision. Whoever it was, they should’ve taken a bigger risk. Big risks are always more entertaining, especially in comedy.

The Internship is far from being a break-through in the buddy-comedy genre or even a straightforward gut-buster. It doesn’t dance on a tight-rope of comedy and drama like 2010’s The Descendants or 2012’s The Silver Linings Playbook. Instead it chooses to be dramatic only to fight basic criteria, and thus the comedy holds no weight and neither does the story. Where has the comedy gone lately? The Hangover Part III, Identity Thief, Grown Ups 2? Flops, the all of them. This Is the End and the equally-apocalyptic sounding The World’s End are the only bright spots in a quickly dimming genre.

This Shawn Levy (Date Night, Night at the Museum, Real Steel) film is so mediocre, and happy about it, that’s it’s bearable to watch, only because it goes along with the trending genre complacency. Unlike the great minds at Google, the plot, dialogue, and overall character structure in The Internship is cut-and-paste from Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s previous movies together, and not at all nuanced or creative. The story itself is so needlessly happy-ending-compass-facing-north predictable and close-minded that its whole concept feels like the creative output of a 10-year old falling out of a sugar-rush. The story is mostly harmless, with the exception of an absolutely terrible club sequence where far too much time is spent showing the interns-in-training consuming alcohol, only to have the entire scene’s purpose to be a set up for a “this world has an over-simplified logic system” plot point.

These two guys wanna work at Google but they don’t know how to use computers. That’s it. So simple. It really is a testament to the charisma and acting ability of Wilson & Vaughn that they are likable enough in their characters’ skins to keep afloat the major story barge of the multi-coloured, pseudo-intellectual canoe that is The Internship. I bet you they show this movie to Google employees, and when the film is done, they fire anyone who didn’t check their phone at least once. Watching The Internship is like tearing the fluff away from a present only to find the bottom of the box empty, and then a bearded tech-savvy 30 year old gives you a look that can only mean, “What did you expect?” I’ll tell you what to expect: Google, Google, Not Funny, Google, Google, Racism Joke, Google, Google.

Final = 52%

Acting

  • Lead Role(s): 16/20
  • Supporting Cast: 3.5/10
    Total = 19.5/30

Directing

  • Pacing/Flow: 12/20
  • Cinematography: 3/10
    Total = 15/30

Writing

  • Dialogue: 11/15
  • Story: 4/15
    Total = 15/30

Visual/Audio 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 2/5
  • Soundtrack: 1/5
    Total = 3/10

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This Is the End Review

This Is the End

Written by: Nicholas Fazio

Published on: August 23rd 2013

I remember watching Monty Python’s Life of Brian for the first time. It was unlike any movie I’d ever watched. It was funny, outrageous, historical, political, religious, insanely clever and unquestionably a work of genius. To me, its most striking factor, despite all of these great attributes, was its raw display of imagination. There are several scenes where the silly and absurd were presented so beautifully that the viewers were plunged under the waves, into a water world of pure creativity. There’s the scene where Graham Chapman who played the protagonist Brian was suddenly abducted by aliens as he attempted to escape Roman legionaries. And who can forget the famous crucifixion scene where, after a failed suicide squad rescue, all the condemned gradually burst into a jovial rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” which makes for one of the most absurdly happy movie endings of all time. The list goes on.

Almost 35 years later, directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen follow in the same footsteps as these British comedy forefathers. Adding an ensemble cast of well-known comedians, and a much looser script, they reincarnate an Americanized version of the Life of Brian’s comedy formula.

The religious plot-points, simultaneous mixture of outrageously stupid and modernly clever humour keep laughs perpetuating through the entire hectic story. Themes range from friendship to apocalypse and horror elements marry the grotesquely violent to make a completely unique experience.

While the writing isn’t always gold, it keeps things snappy, and there are only a few sluggish scenes for breath catching. With a starting cast of James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Channing Tatum, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Kevin Hart and Aziz Ansari all playing themselves, laughs are guaranteed. Top this off with cultural references and cross-movie jokes, and a very unique type of humour is achieved.

Even where it struggles, This Is the End succeeds somewhat by adding to the ever increasing mayhem. Some may find it too crass, unusual or unsettling, but that’s the whole point. False maturity is directly correlated with funniness in This Is the End, and if you’re not grossed out by a human possession, bloody limb removal or jokes about genitalia, then something is wrong. It’s a movie about 6 guys trapped in James Franco’s Hollywood home while an apocalypse is happening around them. Insane? Yes. Funny? Yes. Genius? Not quite.

Monty Python front-man John Cleese once said, “The most creative people have this childlike facility to play.”  This Is the End is a playpen, a chance to experience the creative insanity of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. This type of movie experience lacks the intelligent undertones of its great predecessors, but is rare enough to not be worth missing.

I give This Is the End 81 Backstreet Boy reunions out of 100 sinkhole-de-mayo celebrations. 

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 16/20
  • Supporting Cast: 8/10
    Total = 24/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 16/20
  • Cinematography: 7.5/10
    Total = 23.5/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 12/15
  • Story: 12.5/15
    Total = 25.5/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4.5/5
  • Soundtrack: 3.5/5
    Total = 8.0/10

Final = 81%

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Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Star Trek Into Darkness

 Written by: Nicholas Fazio

Working two jobs is tough, from what I hear. Working two jobs protecting something delicate and highly treasured, even more so. However, working two jobs with the extreme responsibility of coveted franchises resting solely on your shoulders like you’re Atlas himself, is another thing entirely.

In the world of science fiction, J.J. Abrams might as well have been elected Pope. After Disney bought out the rights to the next trilogy of Star Wars movies, fans wondered who would step up to take the place of George Lucas and direct the next installment in the beloved series? What they never expected was that the man currently in charge of the revitalization of the Star Trek franchise would be the chosen one.

I mean, talk about a full plate. Being at the helm for both of these projects carries a ton of direct creative power, and with it (pardon the Spiderman reference) comes great responsibility.

So the major question for me when seeing Star Trek was whether Mr. Abrams would be able to pull off another blockbuster hit, or whether, in wake of recent news, he would allow his Star Trek series to slip under the cover of darkness and into mediocrity-land.

From its smash-and-grab, oddly Star Wars-esque opening scene on a distant planet, it is immediately clear that Star Trek Into Darkness is packing just as much action and eye-popping stylization as its 2009 predecessor. The lens flares – oh yes, plenty of lens flares – and very colourful art direction make this trekking of the stars an attractive voyage, and all the more memorable as a result.

On the acting front, the old crew returns; Chris Pine as James C. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura among others. The only significant changes to the roster were with the comedic injection of Simon Pegg as “Scotty” the hyperactive engineer, Peter Weller as the stern Admiral Alexander Marcus and a deliciously clever villain played to utter menacing perfection by Benedict Cumberbatch. In short, the acting is everything one could realistically ask for. Although, Into Darkness’ one fault here may be that it doesn’t seem keen on breaking the current trend with Hollywood action movies: Solid, yet self-destructive leads; likable, snappy supports; and phenomenally acted, so-evil-that-you-actually-like-them villains.

Trending archetypes aside, the story is actually decent, even though it’s nothing more than a modified retelling of an earlier installment in the series. There’s plenty of banter and things going boom, but what Into Darkness lacks is inventiveness. The plot is mysterious, but not really clever and the directing is sharp but not adventurous enough. While these are only minor gripes, they hold back Into Darkness from becoming what its 2009 precursor was; unpredictable, energizing and raw. Star Trek Into Darkness feels very conventional and TV-like. This felling of insignificance is definitely a negative that only draws attention to the lack of fresh ideas being put forward.

J.J. Abrams hasn’t lost his footing and drifted into space, but he hasn’t exited the capsule and gone exploring either. While it never reaches true warp-speed, Star Trek Into Darkness still surpasses most action/sci-fi movies this year, and is a good installment in an aging series.

I give Star Trek Into Darkness 80 alien man-hunts out of 100 transparent prisons.

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 16/20
  • Supporting Cast: 6.5/10
    Total = 22.5/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 18.5/20
  • Cinematography: 8/10
    Total = 26.5/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 12.5/15
  • Story: 11/15
    Total = 23.5/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4.5/5
  • Soundtrack: 3/5
    Total = 7.5/10

Final = 80%

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The Master – Review

The Master

Written by Nicholas Fazio
Published on July 5th 2013

 

This review is almost beyond me. Almost. It’s genuinely difficult to grasp the ideas put forth by this movie, and pick a place to start. Not since watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 oil epic There Will Be Blood have I felt so enchanted, so compelled, so haunted by a film. The Master is vulgar, existential, absurd, vicarious, uplifting, jarring and mesmerizing, all in near perfect balance. This movie moved me.

The Master is filmed in an episodic fashion, now synonymous with director Paul Anderson name, and follows a recently returned alcoholic World War II veteran, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) whose psychotic tendencies limit his ability to rejoin regular society. Freddie eventually finds solace in a strange boat captain named Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who, with his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) leads a philosophical movement called “The Cause”. The story itself, while merely a freestyle adaptation of John Steinbeck’s memoirs, fictionally crossed with a trip aboard the Scientology ship, is the perfect platform for a wide eyed look into the human psyche.

The script is monstrously deliberate – there are often major breaks with no dialogue at all – this makes the resuming words paramount, for they must hook the viewer seamlessly back into the experience, which is a delicate task. This is carried out with years of experience as template, however on the story writing front, the The Master suffers because if this. The loose narrative is often too muddled to be coherent on first viewing and the grand ideas that it reaches towards are never fully grasped as a result. This limits the power of the shock-and-awe lines, which must rely heavily on delivery instead of context. That said, there are still moments that will knock your pants off, including these three staggering pieces:

Receptionist: “You look like you’ve traveled here.”
Freddie Quell: “How else do you get someplace?”

Peggy Dodd: “This is something you do for a billion years or not at all. This isn’t fashion.”

Lancaster Dodd: “Free winds and no tyranny for you, Freddie, sailor of the seas. You pay no rent, free to go where you please. Then go, go to that landless latitude and good luck. If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first in the history of the world.”

The directorial finesse and mindbogglingly beautiful cinematography (done by Mihai Mălaimare, Jr.) all help paint the canvas for the actors to shine and create their standout moments, of which I am happy to say, there are plenty.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix are each deserving of praise and recognition in what is arguably each of their best performances yet. Joaquin plays the madman with a gnarly half-overbite and the perfect replication of a drunkards slur. In support, Phillip and Amy both present with remarkable skill a line delivery that is so ludicrously natural, it feels like you’re getting punched in the face every time they open their mouths. These performances are hypnotic and effortlessly enthralling.

Watching The Master is like time travel. Not Donnie Darko time travel. No, a deeper, more eloquent and poetic sort of travel, a horse-drawn carriage instead of a car, if you will. It has the ability to convince an audience, through beautiful escapism, that if they listen very closely, they will hear the whispering lion roar. And what a feeling it is, to have the ground on which you so strongly hold yourself be pulled away like a Persian rug. It’s exhilarating, scary and magnificent all at once. However The Master is still a challenging film, one not afraid to tackle religion, government, war, love. It is this locomotive mindset of critical thinking combined with a non-propitious time of release that perhaps contributed to its startling lack of cinematic awards.

Silverware aside, The Master still stands as one of the best, if not the best movie of 2012. One can only stand and applaud writer/director/producer of the film, Paul Thomas Anderson who has conceived and executed yet another masterpiece.

Perhaps the real purpose behind the film’s title is simply Mr. Anderson being a subtle egomaniac. Regardless, it is clear through the excellence that is The Master that Paul Thomas Anderson is the master of modern film; a visionary, an experimentalist and the best director of his generation.

I give The Master 96 flasks of moonshine out of 100 questionable sand sculptures

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 20/20
  • Supporting Cast: 10/10
    Total = 30/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 18.5/20
  • Cinematography: 10/10
    Total = 28.5/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 15/15
  • Story: 12.5/15
    Total = 27.5/30

Visual/Audio 10%

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 5/5
  • Soundtrack: 5/5
    Total = 10/10

Final = 96%

Radiohead’s guitarist/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood has provided another strange and riveting score that perfectly fits the scope and detail of The Master.

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Iron Man 3 Review

When the first Iron Man movie hit theaters back in 2008, it brought to life the witty, fascinating, womanizing Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire philanthropist living a life that lacked true purpose. Over the course of the first movie his origin story was slowly unraveled in a sure-handed and well paced manner, keeping personal relationships and moral challenges at the forefront of its explosive experience. The sequel, released two years later, did the opposite, trading substance for eye-candy and cleverness for pretentiousness. Let it be known that director Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 takes the right path by trying to recapture what the first movie brought. His efforts go into harnessing real human motivations and political scapegoats to fashion a consistently themed, exciting, and surprisingly funny movie experience that viewers of all ages can enjoy. The problem is that sometimes just trying isn’t enough.

The set-up this time involves Tony Stark’s re-entrance into real life after the New York ordeal that took place in last year’s The Avengers movie. Tony is suffering from anxiety attacks and extreme sleep loss. In a moment of confession to his wife, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), he says, “Nothing’s been the same since New York. You experience things, and then they’re over. I can’t sleep, and when I do I have nightmares.”

During his coping period, Tony’s personal life is unceremoniously disrupted by a surprise attack from a new villain. Ominously named The Mandarin, this illusive terrorist poses a great threat to the people of the world which is demonstrated by unsolvable bombings and rampant mass media control, with The Mandarin himself taking full claim. To make matters worse for Tony, a ghost from his past thinks it’s the perfect time to come haunting back, with a manipulative vengeance in mind. When these two forces collide, Mr. Stark sets out on a quest for revenge, which ultimately leads to self discovery and revelation about his purpose in life.

The story certainly has more depth than the previous installment in the series, but in the end, Iron Man 3 is something of a one trick pony. I won’t spoil it here, but nothing is quite as it seems on the T.V. screens of America. Unfortunately, this one -and only- major plot twist leads to more comedic happenings than meaningful confrontations. While the rest of the plot does stay very loyal to the comic books in story related matters like pacing and action, it absolutely crumbles in its quality of dialogue and absurd, cliché-embracing predictability. This is somewhat saved by the phenomenally timed blitzkrieg of set pieces. It is quite impressive what the visual effects team managed to pull off. Gone are the days of blurry, shaky-camera, explosion miasmas – everything looks crisp and polished, even more so than in 2012’s The Avengers.

However, in the realm of character interaction, dialogue is spotty. For every snappy line that Downey Jr. whips out as the charismatic – becoming slightly less arrogant – Tony Stark, there’s a terribly plain and meaningless interaction between minor characters that awkwardly pushes the plot forward with the subtlety of a plot-hole repair van backing out of Jon Favreau’s driveway.

When Tony Stark isn’t keeping the film’s pulse going, Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Guy Pierce (Aldrich Killian) get a chance to play it up. Both do a fantastic job, leaving the only weak link in the support acting to Don Cheadle as the Iron Patriot which feels and looks as awkward as it sounds. Also, Sir Ben Kingsly (Gandhi, 1982) does a great job getting into the mind of the interestingly concieved Mandarin.

Iron Man 3 is really just another super-hero action movie. That means elongated violence and cheesy high-stakes scenarios are where the focus lies. I personally don’t even consider “action” to be a genre of movie, as it would completely lack substance if that’s all that a movie was. The action genre would be like a radio station that only played guitar solos. Sure, you’d get the big rush, but do you learn anything? Are you asking yourself questions after the credits roll? Is the movie emphatic enough with nothing but pillars of brutality and explosivity holding it up to actively consume your thoughts days later?

For Iron Man 3, the answer is “No” to all of these. Despite that, I can’t help asking myself another, more important question (to quote the great Maximus): “Are you not entertained? Are. You. Not. Entertained?…Is this not why you are here?” Now that I think about it, no Maximus, I am not – not entertained. In fact, when watching Iron Man 3 I was very entertained, as were those around me. So it is at this that I draw a conclusion. Iron Man 3 is an engaging movie. Not a critically thinking person’s movie, but just a good old-fashioned super hero extravaganza.

In allegorical terms to Tony Stark’s internal debate regarding man and metal suits, I’d say that it’s not the action that makes the movie, but the movie that makes the action – this is, to some extent, true in Iron Man 3.

I give Iron Man 3, 76 after-credit scenes out of 100 creepy Stan Lee cameos.

Rubric:

Acting

  • Lead Role(s): 18/20
  • Supporting Cast: 7.5/10
    Total = 25.5/30%

Directing

  • Pacing/Flow: 15/20
  • Cinematography: 6/10
    Total = 21/30%

Writing

  • Dialogue: 11/15
  • Story: 10/15
    Total = 21/30%

Visual/Audio

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 5/5
  • Soundtrack: 3.5/5
    Total = 8.5/10%

Final Score = 76%

-Alias “Zoo” Finch

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Many months ago when it was announced that Peter Jackson, the award winning director of The Lord of the Rings, would be directing the movie adaptation of The Hobbit, fans got excited. It seemed as though the perfect match had once again been made and that The Hobbit had a good chance of being impeccably crafted and fully realized the way The Lord of the Rings was, almost a decade ago. While overall cinematic success and loyalty to fans can be confirmed, they came at a cost to the average viewer.

The Hobbit tells the first part in the tale of Bilbo Baggins, a middle aged overly-complaisant Hobbit who is dragged into an adventure primarily for adventure’s sake (later to retrieve the treasure stolen from dwarves long ago). Along the way, Bilbo is accompanied by Gandalf the Grey, and is helped, but sometimes hindered, by a boisterous group of thirteen dwarves, all out for revenge against the evil Smaug.

From its opening fifteen-minute-long scene, The Hobbit impresses with its bright and gorgeous visuals, which are only enhanced by the not-really-that-controversial high frame rate. In its first fifteen minutes, The Hobbit also demonstrates a significant loss of the directorial finesse that made The Lord of the Rings feel so unique. While it does stay very loyal to the first six chapters of its paper counterpart, The Hobbit struggles to achieve that unconventionally realistic feeling that was so groundbreaking when Peter Jackson first started his work in Middle Earth. The movie feels more commercial as a result, which doesn’t flow well with the type of story that is being told. That being said, The Hobbit is definitely not an easy story to tell. While the characters like Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Thorin (Richard Armitage) are archetypal in nature, the story that they are drawn into is anything but. The book from which the movie is based off flows in a situation by situation manner, allowing for minor character development at each stop, and ends with a double climax, the second being less emphatic than the first. The movie, by being broken into three separate parts, has the opportunity to draw out each set of situations into its own story arch making each movie more climactic for audiences, which it does.

However, while the idea seems coherent on paper, it has some negative ramifications. These are easily visible when looking at the flow of the movie. Choosing to make a major climax out of a somewhat minor confrontation is one of The Hobbit’s major missteps. By doing this, the climax at the end of An Unexpected Journey feels far too forced and unnatural. In The Lord of the Rings, Jackson was fine with leaving open-ended, unresolved endings; but here he passes up this opportunity for the more commercial avenue, which in turn makes the trilogy look more and more like a cash grab.

One of the film’s redeeming factors is the fantastic acting from Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Martin absolutely nails the role, flawlessly playing Bilbo as the both over-cautious and momentarily courageous hobbit. The moment when Martin really shines is in the final stretch of the movie during the infamous and possibly most influential fictionally-historical character confrontation of all time: The Game of Riddles.

When the first riddle is asked, and the game between Bilbo and Sméagol (Andy Serkis) begins, the theater gets very quiet, and what happens next is definitely the stand out scene of the film.

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

I could not have dreamed the scene any better. It makes the seamless transition from book to screen without losing any of its snarky, bitter humor or its cold and utterly captivating finality. Freeman and Serkis feed off of each other to make it easily the most magnetic scene in the entire movie. This scene’s momentum drives the rest of The Hobbit into its more entertaining and quickly paced final act. Also in this final act is a technological showcase where modern CGI capabilities are used to their full extent, for better (smoother fighting, bliss inducing actions set-pieces) and worse (Less dark and menacing enemies). This leaves the characters moving forward, not unscathed, but more determined.

With smaller morsels of Tolkien mythology (The fighting stone giants), and minor characters (The Necromancer and Radagast the Brown) all being slipped into the movie and not just as an afterthought, fans of the series will be pleased. However, while the minority which is the Tolkien fan-base will find this more than enough compensation for a slow start, the average movie goer might have to get a caffeinated soft drink to tide them over the sluggish bits, which weigh down the inevitably poorly paced first half of The Hobbit.

The hammer of Tolkien certainly hits down, and with Peter Jackson at the helm it is a directed strike, however poor pacing, a forced climax, and over anecdotal storytelling limit the great potential of The Hobbit’s source material.

I give The Hobbit 79.5 Gandalf’s out of 100 Triple-Chinned Goblin Kings.

Rubric:

Acting – 25/30%

  • Lead Role(s): 16.5/20
  • Supporting Cast: 8.5/10

Directing – 20.5/30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 12/20
  • Cinematography: 8.5/10

Writing – 25.5/30%

  • Dialogue: 12.5/15
  • Story: 13/15

Visual/Audio – 8.5/10%

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4.5/5
  • Soundtrack: 4.0/5

Final = 79.5%

Written by: Alias “Zoo” Finch

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Skyfall Review

Skyfall

Written by Nicholas Fazio

After experiencing the action-packed, gripping, and psychologically layered two-hour journey that is Skyfall, a few things become apparent;

1.) Daniel Craig plays a damn good James Bond,

2.) Roger Deakins is an insanely good cinematographer,

3.) The Bond franchise might never die.

Not only does Skyfall reinvent the James Bond of old by simultaneously abandoning silly villain premises and unnecessary gadgetry, but it also paves the road for a new era of British silver-screen secret intelligence.

The story this time round, as indicated in the trailers, is about retribution and rediscovery. Bond has his loyalty to M (aka “Mum”, the MI6 super-boss) tested as her past returns to haunt her, all while MI6 is under a devastating technological terrorist attack. The story is much more personal than previous Bond films, and thus more engaging. This thematic approach of personalized, large-scale revenge could have been muddled down and ruined by poor filming a la Quantum of Garbage, but luckily, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) has done a cracking good job with Skyfall. The pacing is almost as good as the seemingly untouchable Casino Royale, and the movie rarely feels like its dragging.

What really takes this Bond flick to the next level though is the cinematography. The movie literally drips off the screen during the lavish, tropical, aerial swoops; the gleaming, ornamental, midnight, casino shots and the deathly-sharp, blue-lighted sky-scraper scenes. Aside from this visual buffet, Roger Deakins just decided to make smart decisions, which is something that previous Bond cinematographers forgot was an option. His work with the Cohen brothers seems to have really taught him how to make each shot a work of art.

Skyfall’s greatness doesn’t just stem from formidable direction; the actors came to play as well. Judi Dench is unbelievably believable as the emotionally secretive M, and Javier Bardem cranks out yet another award winning performance, this time as the crazed genius Raoul Silva, a villain that is dark and secretive, yet Shakespearean in the ambitious nature of his plans.

As Adele shows off her powerful pipes in the opening sequence, she sings the line, “Skyfall is where we start”. This couldn’t be truer for the franchise. Skyfall is a new beginning, a breaking-down of the customary, comfortable 007’s of the past . It is also the sleekest and smartest Bond film since 1964’s Goldfinger, (though this comparison does neither film justice).

Skyfall has created a new foundation for the franchise, and all you have to do is observe Daniel Craig leaping off a speeding train, discovering a secret island and getting navigation advice from a twenty-something year old cryptanalyst to realize that this movie is laying the groundwork for a modernized, reloaded Bond. A Bond that plans on hanging around for a good while longer.

I give Skyfall 90 Macau Casinos out of 100 Old Scottish Gamekeepers

Acting- 27.5/30%

  • Lead Role(s): 18.5/20
  • Supporting Cast: 9/10

Directing- 27.5/30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 18/20
  • Cinematography: 9.5/10

Writing- 27/30%

  • Dialogue: 13.5/15
  • Story: 13.5/15

Visual/Audio- 8/10%

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4.5/5
  • Soundtrack: 3.5/5

FINAL: 90%


Click on these words to listen to Adele’s Skyfall opening theme

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Next Reviews

The next reviews you can expect are as follows, in no particular order;

  • Skyfall
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Puss in Boots
  • Brave
  • A Harry Potter #1-8 special movie review

 

-Alias

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Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted Review

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a maddening circus of a movie concerning the struggles of a group of animals who, while attempting to return to a New York zoo, must make a necessary European stop along the way. Decent voice acting returns in the form of Chris Rock as Marty the Zebra, Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion and the ever-great Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien the Lemur. Madagascar 3 tells an unoriginal, albeit funny, tale and its circus backdrop provides some dazzling visuals.

When it’s not insensitively glorifying the life of a circus animal, Madagascar 3 is telling a flawed, predictable, set-up story that really pales when compared to animated pictures from this year, and years past. As the story progresses it also becomes clear that even when taking itself seriously, Madagascar 3 never takes itself too seriously. Whether this is by design or by happenstance, it limits the emotional potential of the movie greatly by making the heartfelt feel trivial. Madagascar 3 has its funny moments, and is entertaining most of the way through, but it suffers from being too loose and unchained. There are plenty of smart jokes that are forced to hide behind boisterous action sequences and numerous illogical scenes that are dressed up in flashy colours just to progress the plot. As a whole, Madagascar 3 comes together nicely, however as the predictable and emotionally shallow finale comes along, you can’t even recall the first hour of the movie. It’s perfect for children but lacks the depth and elegant storytelling of let’s say a Toy Story or Wall-E, and thus brings absolutely nothing new to the genre. In the end, Madagascar 3 feels like something of a cash grab; it’s too rushed to achieve the emotional depth that was within reach, its visual style is somewhat dated, and it is too inconsistently funny to stand out. It may be the best movie in the Madagascar trilogy, but that doesn’t stop it from amounting to nothing more than a big, noisy, “meh”.

I give Madagascar 3, 65 Simba’s from the Lion King out of 100 Cirque du Soleil shows

Rubric for Animated Films:

Acting: 21/30%

  • Lead Voice Acting: 16/20
  • Supporting Voice Acting: 5/10

Directing: 20/30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 16/20
  • Cinematography: 4/10

Writing: 12/20%

  • Dialogue: 6/10
  • Story: 6/10

Visual/Audio: 12/20%

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 7/10
  • Soundtrack/Audio: 5/10

Overall: 65%

-Alias “Zoo” Finch

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Moonrise Kingdom Review

Moonrise Kingdom

84/100

Moonrise Kingdom is another quirky, witty and dynamic film from acclaimed director Wes Anderson.  It is full of surprises, terrifically shot and well acted. The brilliant acting all stems from an excellent supporting cast consisting of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Bill Murray. And the leads roles are decently acted by the two young stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. All the great acting makes the story feel believable, fun, and serious, all at once.

While not following a conventional plot, Moonrise Kingdom still manages to captivate viewers, which would be a difficult thing to do, but is something we’ve come to expect from Wes Anderson [Wes has also directed the quirky comedies Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)]. With the exception of the repetitive “cheating parents” archetype that Wes Anderson seems so fond of, the first hour of Moonrise Kingdom is brilliant, funny and deep. This begins to fade though as the movie progresses.

Eventually, near the middle of the film, Moonrise starts to fall victim to a poison of its own crafting. The movie certainly soars when it focuses on character development, but after an elongated character-growth-dedicated middle, things start to unravel.  By the time Moonrise Kingdom is in its final half-hour, it has lost the jubilance and excitement that filled the beginning. Its ending, unlike the entire previous portion of the movie, is both predictable and rushed.

But overall, Moonrise does bring home the pudding. Usually when a film is told from the perspective of children it cannot handle the scope of the adult world, thus avoids it in order to eliminate moments that are potentially awkward and insincere. Moonrise Kingdom completely ignores this, and triumphs where other films have failed: by crafting a unique story that, while isn’t conventional, can still appeal to all audiences and age groups. It is here, in its wry, heartfelt core that Moonrise Kingdom really succeeds.

I give Moonrise Kingdom 84 high-end binoculars out of 100 tedious-to-acquire Boy Scout badges

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 18/20
  • Supporting Cast: 9/10
    Total = 27/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 15/20
  • Cinematography: 10/10
    Total = 24/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 13/15
  • Story: 12/15
    Total = 25/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4/5
  • Soundtrack: 3/5
    Total = 7/10

Final = 84%

-Alias Finch

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Prometheus Review

Prometheus

63/100

Prometheus is a tale of a human research team from the year 2089 that goes on a galaxy-spanning adventure to discover the origins of human life on a distant, mysterious planet. The result is a terrifying and poorly executed struggle to understand and cope with the truth of human origins.

Prometheus begins with grandeur, compelling scope and a mystery, but ends with frustrating, fallacious plot twists and ambiguity. The opening minutes are quite good; there is space exploring dazzle, an intriguing prologue and vast extraterrestrial cinematography. In the first twenty minutes the movie also generates legitimate magnetism via great acting from Michael Fassbender as a curiously malicious android. However, while these accessories all work as marketing points, none of them matter once Prometheus reveals its hollow interior hull.

If only the dark, gloomy and overly detailed art direction was traded for a consistent theme, or better yet, a magic pill to stop Ridley Scott from changing the theme and direction of the movie half way through filming.

It’s not just the substantial story arc that Prometheus misses; it’s the logic behind the movie. For a film that at least pretends to be scientific, you`d think that major illogicalities would have been eliminated by the scripting team, or editors? Think again. There are many moments that continually have one scratching their head, wondering: Why? What? and What th-Why-on-earth?!?

There are robots not abiding by previously established rules. People asking, after spending 8 years in cryo-stasis why they are going to have to spend 8 years of their life in cryo-stasis. And worst of all, map makers who have laser-technology-orbs-that-can-recreate-an-entire structure-as-a-virtual-3D-model (take that Google maps), that still manage to get lost.

These, sadly, are just scratching the surface. Prometheus has more plot holes than an ancient cattle herders’ road has pot holes. Ridley Scott seemed to bypass these obvious problems with the movie, and it suffers dearly for it.

After a chaotic and confusing ending, Prometheus leaves an underwhelming feeling in the viewer, proving that insignificant movies can come from large beginnings (a 130 million dollar budget in this case). Overall, Prometheus feels both lackluster, and strangely passé. If it fixes these major problems, its sequel will better find its niche, and maybe the visions of Ridley Scott will finally be achieved.

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 15/20
  • Supporting Cast: 6/10
    Total = 21/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 11/20
  • Cinematography: 8/10
    Total = 19/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 8/15
  • Story: 8/15
    Total = 16/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects: 4/5
  • Soundtrack: 3/5
    Total = 7/10

Final = 63%

-Alias Finch

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Many reviews coming your way…

This week, after a brief leave of absence, I will begin to periodically post reviews again. Its all going to start with the three following films, and possibly others;

Prometheus

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Moonrise Kingdom

 

 

 

-Alias

 

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The Break-Down: 10 Unreleased Movies to Watch Out for This Year

This is a list of 10 movies (in no particular order) that haven’t been released into theatres yet, but are already generating a positive buzz among critics. (Links to trailers are hyperlinked to the titles)

10.) Killing Them Softly
Killing Them Softly

Already generating lots of hype, this crime movie starring Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini is getting hefty praise. One critic calls it “A juicy, bloody, grimy and profane crime drama that amply satisfies as a deep-dish genre piece,”
Killing Them Softly releases November 30th 2012, worldwide.

9.) Flight

Flight

Starring Denzel “I’m a really good actor” Washington, and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Forest Gump), Flight looks like its going to be a great, motivational film. One critic compares it to Cast Away saying, “Flight’s narrative is set in motion by a wreck, a foundering, but this time there’s a sort of genius behind the wheel.” It releases this November 2nd, worldwide.

8.) Skyfall

Skyfall

The newest installment in the James Bond series looks like a winner, already critics who have pre-screened it are saying that it’s better than the Quantum of Solace (thank god) and a return to the great acting from Daniel Craig that made James Bond’s character so believable in Casino Royale. Javier Bardem is in Skyfall too: as a villain? Hopefully. (It releases November 9th, worldwide.)

7.) Lincoln

Lincoln

This period piece following the final months of struggle in the life of past American president Abraham Lincoln is already generating Oscar hype. It is directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role, has a loaded supporting cast which includes; Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sally Field, James Spader and Hal Holbrook. Could Lincoln, be this years King’s Speech? (It releases Nov 9, 2012 in limited locations.)

6.) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I think I’ve already said enough about the Hobbit in my other posts, so I’ll be brief: The Hobbit is sure to be a nice December treat.

5.) Django Unchained

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino directing Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz in a bounty hunting, western, slave-tale. What more could one ask for in a Christmas present? (Releases on Christmas Day, worldwide)

4.) Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Based on a book of the same name, the Life of Pi tells a terrific story, and the early critics are raving already. Directed by Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain, this is sure to be a hit. One critic says: “There isn’t a dull moment in the film, and there are about 300 worthy of a “wow.” (Releases on December 14th, worldwide)

3.) Hitchcock

Hitchcock

Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson star in the riveting account of Alfred Hitchcock’s life and marriage during the time of the filming of his hit movie Psycho. (Releases November 23rd, limited)

2.) Les Miserables

Les Misérables

An absolutely LOADED cast: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Helena Bonham Carter all with Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) behind the helm. This is a winning formula for a classic tale. (Releases Christmas Day, worldwide)

1.) Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

With Jennifer Lawrence already being hyped up for a best actress award, and Bradley Cooper acting better than ever, The Silver Linings Playbook is looking like a great film. Oh yeah, Robert De Niro is in here too. One critic says “With great pacing, a great sense of the moment and some of the most entertaining one-liners you’ll find this side of a Coen brothers’ film, there’s much to like about Silver Linings Playbook.” (Releases November 21st, worldwide)

What movie are you most excited for this year? Leave responses in the comment section below…

-Alias Zoo Finch

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There Will Be Blood Review

There Will Be Blood

97.5/100

The story of There Will Be Blood follows chapters in the life of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his son H.W. Daniel Plainview is an early 20th century oil man, drilling in western America, trying to make a fortune. Throughout the expansive, episodic journey of his life, Mr. Plainview has his physical strength, mental dexterity, and most importantly his morals, tested to their limits. During all of his ordeals over oil, family, money, religion and pride he constantly has to choose between good and evil, pride or humility, oil or water. These tests define him as a person, and slowly reveal where the demons lie that incessantly plague his world.

There Will Be Blood is a cautionary, tragic and meticulously created movie that is perhaps the finest film to grace the silver screen in this past decade. Not only is the directorial work by Paul Thomas Anderson spot on, but so is the cinematography, scripting and acting (the latter being bolstered by a jaw dropping performance from Daniel Day-Lewis).

Even with its episodic and somewhat unfriendly style (the pace can drag at times), this film achieves perfectly the vision that it set out for, all while delivering insightful glances at the origins of capitalism, and the cruel humanities of life. There Will Be Blood explores magnificently and elegantly, through the microcosmic scope of one man’s life, the fundamental trials and tribulations our very existence and is undoubtedly a true masterpiece.

I give There Will Be Blood 96 milkshakes out of 100 Eli Touchdown Passes

 

-Alias Zoo Finch

Fantastic Soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HjWIr80ln4

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 20/20
  • Supporting Cast: 10/10
    Total = 30/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 18/20
  • Cinematography: 10/10
    Total = 28/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 14.5/15
  • Story: 15/15
    Total = 29.5/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 5/5
  • Soundtrack: 5/5
    Total = 10/10

Final = 97.5%

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

76/100

While certainly not as climactic or action packed as the previous Planet of the Apes’ movies, Rupert Wyatt’s prequel does manage to have a far greater emotional impact than the others. The CGI for protagonist Caesar the Chimp (Andy Serkis) are the best since Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, and the story is as solid as they come. Add in some great support acting from James Franco, and the experience created is both thought provoking and entertaining all the way through. In the end, even with its terrible title and prequel mentality, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a huge, revitalizing step for an old franchise.

RATING:

I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes 76 Julius Caesar assassinations out of 100 Hanoi Towers.

 

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 17/20
  • Supporting Cast: 7/10
    Total = 24/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 15/20
  • Cinematography: 8/10
    Total = 23/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 9/15
  • Story: 12/15
    Total = 21/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects: 5/5
  • Soundtrack: 3/5
    Total = 8/10

Final = 76%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Alias Zoo Finch

Soundtrack sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vnMz5-8nw4

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21 Jump Street Review

21 Jump Street

75/100

21 Jump Street is as raunchy as it is charming, and as flawed as it is funny. The story of two young cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) going under-cover at a local high school pays great respect to the original 21 Jump Street television series, while making funny modernizations along the way. Jump Street starts off strong, and hits funny moments often (largely due to Jonah Hill’s raw comedic ability). Yet, half-way through the 109 minute movie, the story falls apart, and with it goes the humour. The jokes that flowed so easily in the beginning of the film suddenly become forced. This is when directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller resort to plan B: Slapstick, and use it as a crutch to keep the movie upright for the final act. A predictable climax, and juvenile plot twists don’t do much to salvage the movie either.

21 Jump Street is entertaining enough, and its sequel would do well to replicate its success, but this attempt at back to school humour leaves something to be desired.

I give 21 Jump Street 75 prom night dances out of 100 Johnny Depp cameos.

-Alias Zoo Finch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 16/20
  • Supporting Cast: 5/10
    Total = 21/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 18/20
  • Cinematography: 7/10
    Total = 25/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 13/15
  • Story: 11/15
    Total = 25/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 3/5
  • Soundtrack: 2/5
    Total = 5/10

Final = 75%

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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises Review

                                                             (Spoiler Free)

90/100

Riveting. Explosive. Engrossing. Monumental.

These are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when I recall watching The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), the latest (and last) installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. TDKR tells the tale of a broken, retired Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his need to rise from the darkness, as Batman, to halt the menacing force that is Bane. Bane (played by the excellent Tom Hardy) is not only physically superior to Batman; he also has his neurons firing on all cylinders behind his menacing mask. The stage is set, and the struggle begins.

What follows is a more intricate story than 2008’s the Dark Knight. This is partly achieved by the expansion of important characters. New additions like the sultry burglar, Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), the rookie cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and business mogul Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) all expand a variety of horizons and make the whole Gotham experience more cohesive than ever. Even the occasional over-long dialogue piece between these new characters is scarcely distinguishable, as those moments are instantly followed up by a blazing, heart pounding action sequence.

Underneath the slick action, Christopher Nolan and his crew have worked their magic again. Weaving through the story is intricate symbolism and significant concepts about ideals, truth, justice, and revolution. This gives the movie the true depth and realism that is touched upon as a superficial courtesy in most comic book movies (*cough, The Avengers, cough*).

Christian Bale’s Batman hides in the shadows for the beginning of the film, but when the action gets going, he is in full flight, and Christian Bale has never been better as the caped crusader. Gary Oldman delivers his patented performance as inspector Jim Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as well as Michael Caine return to play Mr. Fox, and Alfred the butler, respectively.   

TDKR succeeds visually, emotionally, and intellectually. Characterization is more thorough, plot twists are better timed, and action sequences exhilaratingly choreographed. The movie clips by its nearly three hours at a fluid pace, as if you were soaring around Gotham, jumping from shadow to flame, experiencing action for yourself. TDKR resonates deeply with the viewer, and much like 2010’s Inception, is epic to the core. TDKR also never out does itself by over emphasizing the finality of the trilogy, instead the movie just feels like another chapter of Bruce Wayne’s life, albeit a significant and entertaining one.

Over all, The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting finale to the Batman trilogy, one in which the Dark Knight does indeed rise to the occasion.

Rating

I give the Dark Knight Rises 90 Pittsburgh Steelers touchdowns out of 100 League of Shadows members

-Alias “Zoo” Finch

Hans Zimmer creates yet another great soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLqKSv1F42A&feature=related

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review

Rating: 67/100

A Game of Shadows is under the curse of the sequel. It sputters, spins, and struggles in places that the first Sherlock did not. Neither the musky aroma of ever-present gunpowder, nor the stern and comical words of a soon-to-be-married Dr. Watson, can raise this chapter of Sherlock’s life up to the high standards of its predecessor.

A Game of Shadows (AGoS) has made Sherlock Holmes’ character so changed from the original that the movie feels like Guy Ritchie’s personal play thing rather than a modern homage to the greatest detective of all time (sorry Nancy Drew). The movie benefits from the story being told more from Watson’s angle this time round, in that respect, the original Sherlock is honoured. Ultimately, though, the story is frail, Moriarty (the new villain played by Jared Harris) is all talk and little action, and Guy Ritchie’s fighting scenes feel repetitive and dead beat. That’s really the best way to describe AGoS: tired, laboured, and not cohesive with the first installment.

Sherlock spends most of his time chasing around professor Moriarty (played by Jared Harris) 

There are major plot twists; some good and some bad. Holmes’ love interest takes an unprecedented turn, and new characters are drawn into the story (Noomi Rapace as a quick thinking gypsy, and Stephen Fry as the very quirky older brother of Sherlock himself). But these characters satisfy only very specific roles in the film, and because of this feel extremely one-dimensional. Also, Holmes seems to have gained an unfortunate addiction to swashbuckling. Not enough time is spent on character development and detective work, and too much is spent on needless action sequences (a la Pirates of the Caribbean 2), and gallivanting around, which is not what Holmes is known for.

 

 


Notice the similarities?

In the first film, it was easy to embrace a new take on an old story, but the essence of Sherlock Holmes is being completely lost is AGoS. The atmosphere is scrambled like an egg, the story wavers on a limb from action-comedy, to awkward romantic-comedy in unfavourable ways. The script is very loose, the tone is a thin as a wafer and Jude Law, in my opinion, felt very stiff as Dr. Watson.

As a whole, A Game of Shadows feels like a bogged down, drunker version of Guy Ritchie’s 2009 exhibit on how to modernize the face of a classic franchise. Instead of providing the same invigorating experience as the original, this flick just hides in its predecessor’s shadow (pun intended). However, thanks to: terrific acting from Downey Jr., clever bits of dialogue mixed in with all the substandard action, and the occasional moment of true exhilaration, Sherlock manages to elude capture and leave the average viewer satisfied enough to come back for a third installment.

 

I give Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, 67 old Scottish butlers named Stanley out of 100 knocked over chess pieces.

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 16/20
  • Supporting Cast: 6/10
    Total = 22/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 11/20
  • Cinematography: 7/10
    Total = 18/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 13/15
  • Story: 7/15
    Total = 20/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 3/5
  • Soundtrack: 4/5
    Total = 7/10

Final = 67%

-Alias “Zoo” Finch

soundtrack is good as per usual, mostly because Hans Zimmer is amazing —–>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN4N1ZHo8Ks

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The Descendants Review

The Descendants

(This review is certified spoiler-free)

Rating: 89/100

The Descendants is filmed by critically acclaimed director Alexander Payne (Sideways) and follows the story of Matt King (George Clooney). Clooney plays a middle-aged man who struggles with life, marriage, family and business in the wake of a terrible speed boating accident off the coast of Hawaii. The Descendants examines a major crossroads in King’s life, which plays out in both humorous and heartbreaking fashion.

The Descendants touches on almost every aspect of the slowly unraveling life of Matt King, in an articulate, balanced manner. The film was shot in Hawaii, and uses the location well to express how life can be fragile, beautiful, terrible and magnificent all at once. Most of the importance throughout the film is placed on family interaction and the spider-web of problems that family is creating for Mr. King, with almost every region of his current life. The Descendants succeeds in evoking real life emotion, but whenever the point of melancholy is achieved, the tone shifts deftly to another aspect, like comedy, or new characters and settings. This keeps the story from falling into darkness, and wards off that “bad-taste-in-your-mouth” depressed feeling that dramas are plagued with. This type of tonal shift is vaguely similar to Little Miss Sunshine, in that lovingly disastrous sort of way.

But The Descendants doesn’t just steer clear of becoming a stereo-type drama. It also surpasses other good dramas, and it does this by creating momentous occasions. There are many times during the movie that moments were created, moments that stood out, made an impact and stayed in my head days after the credits rolled. There are about six of these moments that I can recall clearly, and these six scenes alone could be what makes The Descendants such a good film. The acting in these scenes is incredible, the script is dead-on, and the story crosses fundamental thresholds. They elevate the movie from being a well shot drama-comedy to a captivating, engrossing movie experience. Furthermore, crying violins didn’t need to be blasted into the ears of the audiences to make these scenes feel complete, the soft chords of Ukulele’s were used instead (a welcome change to a genre cliché).

Yes, there are times when Mr. King is all too noble, and where predictable scripting is covered up by nifty camera shots, but these never drag the movie down. By the end, you want to stay in Matt King’s world, in Hawaii, despite its flaws. Then when the movie finishes, you realize that you are in Matt’s world. There may be no beautiful mountains, and turquoise water, but we are all on the same blue marble, going through our own unpredictable lives, and it is this fact more than any that makes us, and The Descendants, human.

I give The Descendants 89 dashboard-suction-cup-Hula-dancers out of 100 new golf courses.

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 19/20
  • Supporting Cast: 9/10
    Total = 28/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 17/20
  • Cinematography: 8.5/10
    Total = 25.5/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 13.5/15
  • Story: 13.5/15
    Total = 27/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4/5
  • Soundtrack: 4/5
    Total = 8/10

Final = 89%

 

 

 

 

-Alias Finch

A little something from the soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzHdbO8fq2o

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The Hunger Games Review

More Like: The Younger Games

Rating: 65/100

Holocaust imagery, a camera man with Parkinson’s disease and more cliché’s than a Disney movie.

The Hunger Games have begun.

In the post Harry Potter age, (and soon post Twilight age) the film industry is waiting for a new film series to fill the gap of entertainment for the pre-teen demographic. The Hunger Games is that series. With three books available to be made into film, and a dystopian quasi-future full of teenage romantic intrigue, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger games trilogy is ready to take the stage and enter the movie games.

"The Hunger Games is basically Survivor, crossbred with American Idol and cranked up 
ten notches, or the Mandatory Olympics of Death, if you will
(every district is required to send two representatives to compete)."

The movie starts off with a bang, wasting little time on introductions. After a quick meet and greet with the shaky-forest, and shaky-mine-town of District 12 (a city in the country of Panem), we are thrust into the cruel, killing, unforgiving, and inhumane world of the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (the strong female protagonist), sacrifices herself to take place in the Hunger Games after (against the odds) her sister Prim is chosen as the female representative of District 12. Katniss is whisked away into the luxury, danger and broadcasted ceremonials of the Hunger Games. Immediately she begins to see the absurdity of living in district of poverty, when others live in excess, and the irrationality of the everyday vanity that plagues the richer districts of Panem. (The snarky symbolism of the rich dressing clown-like typifies this). These strong messages translate excellently from the novel, even if they are displayed in a depressing manner.

The story is essentially a combination of the short stories The Lottery, and The Most Dangerous Game, with a little extrapolation, and isn’t all that original, and thus is predictable, (especially given the knowledge that two more movies await). This being said, the drama is engrossing, and the acting very solid all around. However major problems do arise through hiccups in the script, and the ever-present shaky camera that ruins the transition from calm to chaos by making every moment chaotic.

"Someone has to tell Director Gary Ross (pictured here) that the shaky camera effect 
only works well in action sequences, and even then it needs to be restricted lest it
harm the viewing experience, which it does, in the Hunger Games."

The Hunger Games isn’t a broken film, but it’s not a brilliant one either. The movie struggles with trying to keep the film PG-13 when blood, gore and children killing other children are an integral part of the story. Also, the depressing adult overtones do not mix well with the cliché teenage love. All of these problems combined made the odds never in the Hunger Games’ favour.

Third from the left is Woody Harrelson.
Pretty much what I looked like while watching the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games gets 6.5 tributes out of 10 Panem residents…(it would have been 7, but one of the tributes was chopped in half during the underwhelming climax)

 

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 17.5/20
  • Supporting Cast: 6/10
    Total = 23.5/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 14/20
  • Cinematography: 4/10
    Total = 18/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 9/15
  • Story: 8/15
    Total = 17/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 3/5
  • Soundtrack: 4/5
    Total = 7/10

Final = 65%

 

-Alias “Zoo” Finch

Music sample from the movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgZz_2-Gauc

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The Avengers Review

The Avengers.

The super-powered-culminating team of Marvel’s best, is based on the story written by Stan Lee himself (who makes a cameo). It is supposed to be the summer blockbuster of 2012 (aside from maybe The Dark Knight Rises) and had high hopes of delivering the goods…did it?…Well, sort of…let me explain….

The story, without giving too much away, is centred on Loki, Thor’s evil stepbrother, wanting to get a quantum-cube called the Tesseract, and return it to his masters for whatever diabolical reason. Basically, the cube (a MacGuffin plot device) is way too powerful and mysterious to be given away to aliens, especially violent ones, so a secret branch of United States military officials that form the group SHIELD, need to resort to a back-up plan called “Avengers Initiative” when the Tesseract is stolen from them.

From there the plot involves recruiting the Avengers, assembling the Avengers, multiple switches in allegiance, occasional romance, and a ton of brawling with the baddies. This works for the movie, allowing it to clip along its mostly predictable path with few hiccups, maximum speed and many deliciously explosive set pieces.

There is also surprisingly good characterization…with some of the characters. The Avengers consist of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Hawk Eye (Jeremy Renner). The story really relies on the fact that the audience has seen at least 1 of the Iron Man movies, and both the Thor and Captain America movie. This being the case makes the amount of time spent with characters like the Black Widow, Hawk Eye and the Hulk much more lengthy. While its great to find out about these less broadcasted characters, if one haden’t seen the other films, one would feel completely out of the loop as to the goings on of the two major characters (Iron Man and Thor). This method of characterization does work in time slimming efforts, but makes the movie almost centered around the Hulk and the Black Widow, giving them the best lines, and the most important roles, which feels odd at times. Also, the slower, more intimate moments of the film seem forced, and predictable. Overall though, the characters are good enough, and decently acted as in previous installments of this Marvel Universe.

The Avengers is directed by Joss Whedon, a fairly amateur director who is just getting his big break this year, and is written by Zak Penn, who was previously nominated for Worst Screenplay at the 1993 Golden Raspberry awards (an anti-Oscar award show). So the hands that were guiding this story are inexperienced to say the least. But despite all of this, the movie holds its own, it is well shot, even has a few moments of intriguing dialogue. However, while Zak Penn could still learn how to tune up his writing a lot, matters concerning script quality usually have no affect on comic book films, and the Avengers is no different. Basically, the writing matches and balances out the filming quite nicely (especially the humorous scenes).

But….There is a persistent problem with the Avengers, though it’s tough to explain. The Avengers has the action, and the acting, but the characters, both in the fictional world, and on the big screen, are all leaders. What this means is that the director of the movie has to conduct a balancing act just to get the right amounts of screen time for each leading character.

The result is 4 people who are all lead roles in their own movies, now acting as supporting characters in a group of 6 equals.

Oddly enough, this is one of the tests that the Avengers have to face in the film. They must realize that the only way to defeat the enemy is to embrace the timeless cliché of “We can only do this, if we do it together” and “There is no I in team”. This results in decently good movie-to-real-life scenario, albeit an unfamiliar and unexpected one. And these cliché’s are easy to pass on because, hey, it is a comic book adaptation.

So your probably thinking, how is this a persistent problem? If they pulled it off, then isn’t it all good? Well the answer is mixed. They did pull it off, but that’s just it. Nothing about the movie was that spectacular, they never pushed the envelope, they never attempted to ask the tough questions. The movie just stuck to its linear plot, tutting along the predictable path, like super-bees on a trail of money-making-honey. The acting was decent, the action sequences admittedly good, but that’s it. The script was poor, the cinematography was alright, and the whole movie just felt way too cautious and far too routine, almost like I’ve seen this movie before.

The Avengers is propelled to greatness based on the coolness of its base concept alone. Nothing about the movie is formidable or award worthy, and as a whole, the movie seems solid, but looking back, this super-hero episode can easily be overshadowed by its current and future competition. I hope that the only reason for the movie being so 1 dimensional was to set a strong base for the sequel, which I have very high hopes for…Or had high hopes for (another let down!). After watching the “secret” scene after the end credits, I was uninspired to say the least. It was so reminiscent of the Transformers movie ending that I got a Michael-Bay-action-shiver just watching it.

In Conclusion:

The Avengers is a really well-managed considering the enormity of the cast, decently shot, and overall exciting action packed adventure. This being said, the experience is linear, unoriginal and leaves something to be desired. The first unity of the worlds biggest super heroes falls short of the greatness that it could have achieved. The Avengers sticks to what works and doesn’t push any boundaries, and while not amazing like everyone seems to think it is, it does what works, and to be honest, despite its flaws, its stil a fun movie and is just what the Marvel movie-sector needed to get back on its giant green feet.

Rating

I give the Avengers, 73 Captain America Shields out of 100 Hulk Smashes

Rubric:

Acting 30%

  • Lead Role(s): 15/20
  • Supporting Cast: 6/10
    Total = 21/30

Directing 30%

  • Pacing/Flow: 17/20
  • Cinematography: 7/10
    Total = 24/30

Writing 30%

  • Dialogue: 11/15
  • Story: 8/15
    Total = 19/30

Visual/Audio 10% 

  • Special Effects/Sharpness: 4.5/5
  • Soundtrack: 4/5
    Total = 8.5/10

Final = 73%

 

 

Great Soundtrack! :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Esmxa3Zk7TA

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