Saturday, January 31, 2015

BIRDMAN movie review

I'm Birdman.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. It stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up Hollywood actor who is famous for starring in the fictional billion-dollar film franchise, Birdman. He quit playing the Birdman after three films, and has lost superstar popularity because of it. The film focuses on him in the midst of the showing of the previews to his Broadway adaption of the Raymond Carter play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The film also stars Emma Stone as his daughter, and Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Andrea Riseborough as his co-actors and friends.

This was easily one of my most anticipated films of the second half of last year, but I wasn't able to check it out in 2014 for international release date reasons. I sat in painful anticipation as it won a lot of awards over this awards season, and as it leads the Oscar race with nine nominations. I was finally able to see the film last night, and I really, really enjoyed it.

This movie was immensely entertaining. The ensemble cast is just so perfect in this film. Michael Keaton gives undoubtedly his best performance in a lot of years, Edward Norton is equally as great in a supporting role, Emma Stone gives what probably is her best performance to date, and the rest of the cast also turn out pretty flawless performances. They all bring these crazy individuals to life in the best way possible. It's just so incredibly fun to watch these actors explode on screen.

I quite liked Iñárritu's directing of this film. I find the subtle aspects of it very innovative and brilliant. I liked the way the film was from the perspective of Michael Keaton's character, and how Iñárritu used things other than dialogue and action to show the growing stress and the burden this character was going through. Everything from the set design to the amazing drum only score in the film contributed to that, and those subtle little nuances just worked. 

I find it baffling that this film wasn't even nominated for the Best Editing award. It's perhaps the film's most defining attribute. The whole one continuous shot technique, shot by the brilliant Emmanuel Lubezki, was excellent. It captured the whole urgency and frantic nature of the backstage of a stage production, and that worked in favor of showing, as said earlier, the mental state of Keaton's character as well.

I said I quite liked Iñárritu's directing here, so you may be wondering why I'm not going down on my knees and praising his work as perfect to the heavens. Well, as I said, I liked the subtle aspects of it, and unfortunately, that isn't in a lot of this movie. 

The movie so obviously comment on too many things. It tries to provide commentary on social media, popularity, blockbuster movies (specifically superhero movies), critics, the news media, etc. I feel as though it jumps from topic to topic, providing commentary on all of them, but nothing with real insight or substance. It can't manage to stay on point on anything, it's just poking fun at topics that it feels so above and better than.

The movie is a bit too heavy handed with its messages as well, which is part of the reason I didn't love one of the scenes towards the ending where Riggan Thomson is having a subconscious argument with his imagination of Birdman. Characters so obviously recite things like personality descriptions, its high and mighty commentary, and themes just so they make sure that the audience doesn't miss it. It really threw me off. There's a scene not long into the movie where Edward Norton tells Michael Keaton's character to rewrite a few lines in his play because it's too repetitive and that the audience will pick up on it with just one line. That's exactly the advice I'd give this movie. Dial it back a little on the heavy handed messages, and just sharpen up your script and focus.

Iñárritu's is very vocal in his commentary, but the way he presented it wasn't very good. Despite that, the acting and the marvelous camera work makes it an immensely entertaining film and one not to miss out on.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

AMERICAN SNIPER movie review

"I live for the single things, like how much this is gonna hurt." - 2014 Bradley Cooper character right before firing a shot.

American Sniper is the film adaptation of the book of the same name that tells the story of the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, Chris Kyle. The film tells his life story, but mostly focuses on his four tours of duty and the effects of those tours on him everytime he returns home.

The film's premise got me interested in the film, because who wouldn't want to know about the effects of war on the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history? Also, Bradley Cooper was starring in it, and he's just a fantastic actor. Clint Eastwood's recent film Jersey Boys kind of limited my anticipated for the film, but to hear that this film got nominated for Best Picture, gave me a lot of hope, so imagine my disappointment when I was finally able to see this film last night.

The first act of the movie is quite good. It gives you the story of Chris Kyle before he joined the army and key moments in his early life that really lead into where ends up going, and you're totally invested in the character and where he's going. To top that off, Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller were giving really good performances. I was feeling good about this movie, but all of that was taken away by a painfully boring and bland second act.

The second act takes away all personality or humanity away from our main character, and just makes him a pretty stoic army guy who kills people. I'm not really criticizing the actions of the actual Chris Kyle, that's not my place, but I am criticizing that the lead character of the movie was devoid of any character and uninteresting. Having an uninteresting lead character will make your movie unengaging and boring, and that's exactly what the second act of the movie was for me. Instead of taking time to explore the character, the movie just gives attention to moving the plot forward, but I wasn't really invested in the character anymore, so I didn't really care as to where the story was headed.

There's a line of dialogue that Sienna Miller says around halfway through the movie that goes something like "I want my husband to return home to us.", and I found that funny as I was feeling the same thing, because I was thinking I just wanted the character I invested in to come back as well.

It seemed like all hope was lost for the film, but the third act does slightly manage to rekindle some of the character's complexity and personality from the first act, but it isn't much to save the film. Something he said during the final battle sequence and his return home to the U.S. in the scene following brought back my interest in him as a character, and I really wish they took time to explore more of that throughout the film so the movie would've felt like it ended on a high note rather than a recuperation note.

The film is not without its positive aspects though, so I'd best not to forget it. As I said earlier, Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller turned in great performances. I also liked most of the scenes during his first and fourth tours. The action sequences in those two tours still stand out to me as rather good. 

American Sniper is a well-acted war drama that starts off with an interesting lead character, but it stumbles along the way and its character with complexity and humanity is gone, so the film sadly becomes unengaging and painfully boring. It's not even because of political reasons that I lost interest in this character. I'd still be interested in learning more about Chris Kyle and his story. It's just most of the movie didn't deliver an interesting lead character.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SELMA movie review

As far as I'm concerned, it's Martin Luther King week. Go out there and see this movie.

Selma tells the story of the campaign of activist Martin Luther King, Jr. to secure equal voting rights among American citizens through a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The film is directed by Ava DuVernay and stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.

I hadn't heard about this film until early December of last year, when it started getting some awards buzz. I was quite interested in the famous achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. in pushing forward racial equality in America, so I was completely sold on the movie.

This is, in my opinion, one of the better made films of last year. Ava DuVernay did a fantastic job directing this film and giving life to this great story. The film was so powerful and moving. You could feel the weight behind every scene, every performance, and between every conflict between characters. She handled the brutality and the subject matter of that time period very well. I'm happy that a bunch of awards shows are giving her recognition for this film, but I'd still say she deserves a lot more praise. 

I have the same feelings towards David Oyelowo. The man delivered a stellar performance.He just transformed into Martin Luther King, Jr. He absolutely commanded the screen when he'd deliver some of Martin Luther's public speeches, and he'd also bring some emotional vulnerability to the role, showing us who Martin Luther King Jr was in his private life, with he wasn't being brave in front of crowds and armed soldiers. Of course, the supporting cast was great as well. To name a couple of them, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Keith Stanfield all held their own and delivered very good performances in the film.

That's actually all of my thoughts on Selma. I'm sorry if it wasn't a very long review, but I don't really have anything else to add unless I go in-depth with the specifics of the scenes. There's not really any flaws I feel that are worth mentioning. The film has no significant flaws, at least to me.

Selma is a beautifully made, powerful and really moving film. David Oyelowo dominates throughout this movie, and the supporting cast is really great too. It's actually pretty relevant with what's going on today in some parts of the U.S. as well. Like its main character, it has powerful voice and would like you to all to hear it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2015

We've entered 2015, the age of... secret agents, deadly robots, furious road racers, superheroes, dinosaurs, force-wielders, and of course, a bunch of indie films that I wont hear of until October that'll most likely end the year with a bang. Before I get ahead of myself, I present to you the 10 films of 2015 that I'm looking forward to the most.

Now, this list doesn't necessarily foretell what I'm going to put on my Top 10 list of the year by December. It's just here to share with you what films I'm looking forward to the most. I may be excited to experience the popcorn fun it brings in the theater, I may be intrigued by what has been revealed about the film so far, or I may just be anticipating whether this film will be great or terrible. Let's get right to it. My Top 10 most anticipated movies of 2015:

10.) Silence

Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese. No official release date set.

First up is the Martin Scorsese film adaptation of the Japanese novel, Silence (by Shūsaku Endō). It follows the story of a Jesuit missionary in the 17th century who is sent to Japan to assist a Church in that area, but is later persecuted. That premise alone has me interested, and I have some general knowledge of that time and have yet to see a film about that. It's got great talent attached to it, with Scorsese being my main draw to it, but the film also stars Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield. Those two are really good (great, even) actors, and I'm super excited to see them share the screen under the direction of Scorsese.

9.) Pan

Pan, directed by Joe Wright - July 24, 2015

Yes, you did read that right. Every year, I get excited for a new live-action version of a classic fairy tale, and every year, I'm disappointed. However, I put Pan on this list, because the trailer gave me a reason to believe that this one could be good, and when a movie of this size is on the tipping point between great and terrible, my anticipation for it just sky rockets. Anyways, the film focuses on the "untold origin story" (heh) of Peter Pan. Director Joe Wright's visuals looks hella good here, and the film stars Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, and Garrett Hedlund. I'm just hoping for a really pan movie.

8.) The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four, directed by Josh Trank - August 7, 2015

And another movie that's on the tipping point between great and terrible, The Fantastic Four. I should be purely excited for this movie. I should be jumping around the room, screaming it's title. It has found a great director in Josh Trank, who was practically born to do a sci-fi/superhero movie, and it has landed a pretty damn good writer with Simon Kinberg (who wrote X-Men: Days of Future Past). Plus, look at that cast! Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jaime Bell and Toby Kebbell are all terrific actors who have proven themselves great up and comers. That should be more than enough to land it in the Top 5 of my most anticipated list by pure excitement alone, but every story (emphasis on story, not casting) details I'm hearing makes me question it being a good Fantastic Four film. I look forward to a teaser trailer, and I hope it all the best, but right now, I'm completely on the fence about it.

7.) Furious 7

Furious 7, directed by James Wan - April 3, 2015

Coming in furiously at number seven is Furious 7. I insanely love the (recent) Fast & Furious movies. They're dumb, over-the-top, insanely fun movies that pack a lot of heart. With the sudden and tragic passing of Paul Walker, I am happy to see that they're still continuing on his legacy, going at it full throttle. The action, the cars and the girls, all look sweet. The Rock flexes his muscle out of an arm cast. Yup. That trailer really boosted my excitement for the film. That last line though, "I don't got friends. I got family." Boom. That is what I love about these movies.

6.) Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller - May 15, 2015

More fury and roads in my number six pick. I admittedly know nothing about Mad Max. All I know is that he had a trilogy of movies that came out around 25-30 years ago, and this is sort of a reboot-sequel type of movie. Whatever it is, it looks awesome. The trailer really got my attention, and just those two minutes landed it at number six of my list. The action and chase scenes looks incredible, Tom Hardy looks like (and probably will) kick ass in the role, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult transform into their roles (I mean seriously, almost unrecognizable), and I loooooove really fun, upbeat and creative action sequences.

5.) Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn - February 13, 2015

Speaking of fun and upbeat action sequences, you know who directs those amazingly? Matthew Vaughn. Kingsman: The Secret Service is Matthew Vaughn's next film after Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class (two of my all time favorite comic book films), and he's directing another one? Sign me the hell up. The film is kind of like James Bond, but very cartoony, over-the-top, and very rated R. Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, and many up and comers star in this film, and it looks super entertaining. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this movie when it hits theaters in one month.

4.) Spectre

Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes - November 6, 2015

Bond is back in action. Skyfall was one of my favorite movies of 2012, and the whole team behind that movie (Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, etc.) is coming back for Spectre, so naturally, I'm going to be excited for it. Plus, we also got the addition of Christoph Waltz as the main villain, Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci continuing the roster of Bond girls, Dave Bautista bringing back the old-school big henchmen, and we have the director of photography of Interstellar and Her, Hoyte van Hoytema, doing cinematography for this film.  They're all matches made in heaven, really. I admittedly don't know what Spectre is, but apparently, Spectre is to James Bond is what Hydra is to Captain America, so I expect a lot of conflict and a lot of trouble for Bond this go around, and I can't wait to see it all go down.

3.) Inside Out

Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter - June 19, 2015

It's been absolutely too long since I had a Pixar movie on one of my Top 10 most anticipated movies of the year lists. All the buzz I'm hearing about Inside Out suggests to me that it is Pixar's return to form after the pretty bland and generic Cars 2 and Monsters University. From the looks of the trailer, it looks to bring back the inventive and fun ideas that great animation movies are born from, and it does look to be like a very emotional film (a genuine pun).

2.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron, directed by Joss Whedon - May 1, 2015

You knew this was coming. Marvel is on a high streak right now, after knocking it out of the park two times in a row with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, so yes, I am totally excited to see what they're going to bring with Avengers: Age of Ultron. You got director Joss Whedon and the main Avengers team back to bring the popcorn fun you had with the first Avengers movie, and now we have the additon of Ultron, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision to bring a much needed sense of consequence to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. James Spader sounds great as Ultron, the actions sequences planned look great, and the film looks like it's going to really test and beat up their characters.

1.) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams - December 18, 2015

Without a doubt, this is my most anticipated movie of 2015. I've loved Star Wars pretty much since I was 10 years old. I've watched the Original Trilogy many times (who hasn't?), and Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the universe and the wide array of stories that can be told, and the fact that they're coming back for an Episode VII just blows my mind. Thank you, Disney and Kathleen Kennedy. I'm mostly talking about Star Wars as a whole franchise here, but that's because that's the reason it's so high up on the list. Star Wars is a franchise that shapes blockbuster cinema, and now they're coming back from a carbonite sleep after the Prequels, and their first movie out the gate is being directed by the guy who revived Star Trek, J.J. Abrams. It's nice and comforting to know that Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO and R2D2 are coming back, but that magnificent teaser trailer showed us all these new characters (played by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Andy Serkis), and gave us a peek at all the new stories they can tell. They're not tied down by being prequels, they're expanding the universe.  There are so many story directions this can go in, and it's just the first of many, and I'm just losing my mind over here. The power of Star Wars, folks.

Well, that's my Top 10 most anticipated movies of 2015. As you can see, most of the movies on my list have a thing in common, they're all being directed by great directors I have put my faith in. From the master of horror James Wan directing a Fast & Furious movie to the proven talent of directors like Matthew Vaughn, Martin Scorsese and Sam Mendes to the directors like Josh Trank and J.J. Abrams who're taking on the task of reviving franchises, they're all very talented directors who've managed to get me to anticipate their films.

I hope I've pointed you to the direction of films that I'm interested in seeing. There are a lot of movies I didn't include on this list, so voice your opinions in the comment section below so that I know what films you're interested in too. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

ANT-MAN trailer review

You'll be seeing a lot more than just movie reviews on my blog now. In my next step as a blogger and a film and TV enthusiast, I have decided to challenge myself and have a write-up every now and then on anything movie or TV related, so from now on, you're most likely going to see me post about all sorts of things, Top 10 lists, thoughts on major movie news, and what, you're about to get right now, a trailer review.

Let's kick off that next step with something big, shall we? Here's my review for the teaser trailer of Ant-Man.

I'm quite torn on the trailer. Two things this trailer has going for it are Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas as Scott Lang and Hank Pym, respectively. I'm just dying to see these two great actors play superheroes. It's quite clear they're going to rely on Rudd, with his natural charm and charisma, to carry the film, and by the looks of the trailer, he can carry the film and he'll be cracking a couple jokes while doing so. I loved Michael Douglas' voice-over in this trailer. The trailer wanted to showcase the dynamic between the two actors & characters and the focus of the film, and I believe they nailed that part. I also liked how the trailer centered more around Scott Lang's life, his family, him being a criminal, and how he'll be put on the path to redemption rather than just focusing on cool action sequences with Ant-Man's shrinking ability. I think the trailer shows that the film's heart is in the right place, and with Peyton Reed (an Ant-Man fan) directing the movie, I think they're somewhat on the right track in giving us a proper redemption story.

The characters and the few action shots all look pretty good for a teaser trailer and I like what I'm getting so far from the story, so what do I not like about the trailer? Well, for starters, the pacing, the feel, and the look of the trailer was pretty generic and plain in my opinion. There's not much wow, that looks new and interesting factor there, which is a bummer, to say the least. Even before the previous director Edgar Wright (one of my all time favorites) left the project, I expected the first trailer for this movie to be fun and eye-catching. I expected it to be like that even more once Wright did leave the project, so as to get the attention of those a little disappointed. Some of the marketing for this movie did look eye-catching and inventive ("ant-sized" trailer teaser and poster), so I'm just wondering how they could they possibly have made a trailer for a movie about a superhero who can shrink to the size of an ant so generic. 

If you want an example for what I'm looking for, just look at Marvel's last teaser trailer for a new property. The teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy caught the attention of audiences by giving us brief descriptions of the Guardians, plus it was accompanied by a pretty catchy song, Hooked on a Feeling. I'm not saying Marvel should just put songs in their trailers, I'm saying do something that catches your attention like that. In fact, that is my one fear for the movie, that it'd just become a "plain and okay installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe". I'm not entirely confident Peyton Reed's directing, as I feel he doesn't have the capability of producing a film with real style and flavor as Edgar Wright can, so all I really have to judge the film right now is the trailer, and I'm not super impressed.

Well, that kind of went longer than I expected. I know I may have went on longer than I should've about how generic it feels, but I really felt that I needed to get those thoughts across. I still think the trailer is an okay teaser, and I'm more than happy to geek out about Hank Pym, but as of right now, I really just can't say I'm all that excited. 

You can watch the trailer here, so be sure to reply to me with your own opinions, whether you share your views with mine or don't, and don't miss my Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2015 article, which will probably arrive late in the weekend or early next week.

Monday, January 5, 2015

SEVENTH SON movie review

Hello, 2015. Hello, January movie season.

Seventh Son is the film adaptation of the book The Spook's Apprentice. It follows the story of a mentor, played by Jeff Bridges, as he trains the seventh son of the seventh son (of something) to defeat a witch because she wants to destroy the world (for some reason).

I only heard about this movie when I saw some articles pop up concerning it's release date push-backs (yes, plural), and that's almost certainly a bad sign (adding the fact that it is a January movie), but I remained positive because I saw some trailers, and they didn't look half bad. Well, I was pretty wrong.

This movie is The Last Airbender of 2015, and what I mean by that is that it's a good looking fantasy movie, with lore that looks to be interesting, but all of that is washed away by a lot of expository, pacing issues and a bunch of underdeveloped characters.

Let's start with the lore. The lore and backstory the movie presents looks interesting. There's a few characters and events there that really could've provided an intriguing and exciting story if delved into correctly. However, the film breezes through most of it and focuses on a bunch of other things instead. It doesn't help too that the film is mostly entirely composed of exposition. It never gives the fundamental elements of its story depth. The characters, the story, and the lore are all pretty surface level and quite boring since the film never took time to develop any of it.

The film has quite a lot of pacing issues. It's like the writers hadn't learned how to properly introduce nor develop characters. You spend like seven minutes focusing on our main character's home, family, background and "motivation", and then you're thrust into this adventure where you weren't really given enough time to connect nor really learn anything significant about this character. 

Speaking of which, the characters introduced into this movie are pretty stereotypical fantasy adventure characters. Our two main characters, the young protagonist destined for greatness and the wise hot tempered mentor really don't have any other personality other than young protagonist destined for greatness and wise, hot tempered mentor, respectively. Continuing on with our checklist, we have the underdeveloped love interest (check!), the evil villain with magical powers (check!), and the henchmen that are there for special effects use (check!). They're all underdeveloped characters with the film not really showing any motivation as to why they do this or do that.

I will, however, say that a couple action sequences here and there are watchable and almost entertaining, if you can get past the pretty ugly special effects. It's not a fantasy extravaganza, and it's certainly no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, but if you're looking for a redeeming factor in this movie, that is where you'll find it. 

The acting is pretty satisfactory. The lead actor, Ben Barnes, wasn't horrible. He did hit a few comedic notes here and there, and he was certainly better than Jeff Bridges, who apparently thinks making himself sound like he's gargling water while talking is "acting". Julianne Moore is in this movie, that's pretty depressing for her, but she's good. She's always at least good in a movie, so there's that. I don't know who allowed Alicia Vikander to have a main role in an fantasy adventure film, but that person is insane if he/she thinks Vikander can act. What makes it worse is that she had a scene with Julianne Moore, and she just totally flopped. Also, Kit Harrington and Djimon Honsou are in this movie for a few minutes, if you want to see them collect their paychecks.

Seventh Son is a movie that is underdeveloped and generically boring in all the wrong places. Some of the acting and the action in the movie is satisfactory, but it doesn't save it. You may have some fun with it, but I doubt it. It's not as bad as The Last Airbender but it sure belongs in the same bunch.