Friday, November 26, 2010

My Movie Review: Love and Other Drugs

My Movie Review: Love and Other Drugs

Opening Statement: Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is beginning to get into being a pharmaceutical rep, but he is slightly having a problem turning doctors onto Zoloft over Prozac. Soon he meets a woman with Parkinson's Disease played by Anne Hathaway they start with casual sex which soon moves to something bigger along with his career upon the release of Viagra. 

What's Good: Gyllenhaal plays a sociable, yet still flawed man pretty well. However,  the real star here is Hathaway who plays a highly damaged character in the denial stage of her grieving her own disease. Hathaway and Gyllenhaal offer up some great chemistry, if only the screenplay gave their performances justice. Hathaway is nude for a lot of the first and second acts of the film, but it is not gratutious, she embodies the characters ideals of sexuality which is quite impressive. I also enjoyed some of the dramatic conflict between these characters.

What's Bad: The big problem with Love and Other Drugs is that it is a romantic tragedy that tries to hard to be a romantic comedy. Some of the comedy is worth chuckles, but the subject matter calls for a more serious tone. With strong chemistry and great acting the potential was sky high, could've been the next Jerry Maguire or Love Story. However the genre blend is to out of the loop. The comic timing is embarrassingly not intact. If Zwick was to sacrifice the comedy I actually think this movie would've hit harder to us. There is also a mild blend on the medical world, and the world of modern medicine, not sure if Zwick was trying to highlight this or not.

Oscar Predictions: If anything Hathaway has a shot, but still has some strict competition. 

Consensus: I usually enjoy the genre blending, but Love and Other Drugs sacrifices some of it's key dramatic build-up  for some out-of-place only mildly funny comedy. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Movie Review: 127 Hours

My Movie Review: 127 Hours

Opening Statement: Canyoneer Aron Ralston was out by himself hiking when an accident happened and he was forced to amputate his own arm in order to survive. '127 Hours' is Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy's retelling of that story through ever sip of water and every drop of blood.

What's Good: James Franco is in the limelight for every second of this picture and even in the dark crevice of the canyon he shines. This is an actor who studied Ralston very closely and somehow discovered a way to channel him during the performance in front of the audience. We also have very notable talent behind the camera, and on the computer. Director Danny Boyle's films embodied poetic, fast-paced cinematography that act as a musical toward Rahman's gorgeous score. The script is very well done as well by Simon Beafoy who had to adapt Ralston's experience and handled it with care while still revealing Ralston's selfish flaws. 
                         This is a story of survival against all odds that develops into a a character study of a selfish man slowly accepting his own death before he has a moment of epiphany and realization that all he has in this reality is life and wants to grow old and create a family. This a gorgeously photographed re-telling of something amazing. Something overall incredible and I respect and adore it on all those levels.

What's Bad: It brings a bunch of inspiration but still not as much as would "Slumdog Millionaire" however the simple fact that this is non-fiction that causes its inspiration to over-ride the majority of movies in existence. The flashback's are kind of what killed bits of this experience for me. While they are handled with care it still pushes the edge of the emotion that we are experience what Ralston experience when at times it does very much feel we are. My reasoning for not giving this a higher rating is brutally subjective, so take it with a grain of salt.

Oscar Possibilities: Franco is in for a nod for sure, unfortunately I am hearing Firth in The King's Speech will take it from him. Besides that there is a very likely nominee for Picture and Director (doubtful wins) then we have the screenplay for an adaptation of the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" but the adapted script for "The Social Network" will certainly take that home. Technically we have Score. Cinematography, Possible Art Direction, and sound editing/mixing. 

Consensus: A movie based around this story could not have been done any better. Boyle for great directing, Rahman for score, Beaufoy for script, and most importantly Franco's incredible tour de force as Ralston. It may not be a classic, but it is definitely the most you will get out of inspiration in a film.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

My Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I

Opening Statement: The 7th installment to the epic series based of the book series written by JK Rowling. Harry and friends are back but this time things aren't so jolly. Voldemort is a lot more serious about his mission to find a destroy Harry Potter and to start his evil reign. Harry is on the run, searching for he hocruxes to destroy the bits of Voldemort's soul.

What's Good: Just a fair warning, some of the things I find good about this movie, you will not. First thing you need to FULLY UNDERSTAND before seeing this movie is that is only half of a story. A prelude, if you will, that goes soft on action. That is the point that will drive people to dislike it, the lack of action. I liked that they traded eye candy fast-paced action into eye candy dark visuals that help bring out more character development and make us feel strongly toward our protagonist. Now once the film abruptly ends (which you should know is going to happen) you really care about our heroes, you care about the mission and it still feels Harry is far from defeating the dark lord. Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson are all excellent in their roles, probably achieving some of the most top notch action seen from them in the series. We deal with some lustful sensuality between our protagonist when in Ron's dark vision we see a very naked Harry and Hermione in  a sexual embrace. Elements such as this show us that we have entered a very PG13 Harry Potter. The film series that appeals to the audience that is the same age as the protagonists (such as myself who has grown up with the series.)
                         All in all,  since the story is divided in half (which could be good, could be bad) we have to move a little slower. Fans of the book complained that previous films didn't translate enough onto the screen, these films also felt fast. This time it feels a little slow building a crescendo up to the high point of the orchestra that is Harry Potter.  Speaking of orchestra the score is hauntingly beautiful. Such a fantastic series, with such a fantastic addition. 

What's Bad: I liked that the film slowed done for character development and emotional nuance,  you may not. It is unlike any other Harry Potter film. The other criticism, which I will just talk briefly about, is that there is a chance they divided it in half for more money. That'd be awful for Warner Bros. to squeeze money out of us, however we don't know the full intention. Maybe they wanted the full impact of the book in the final story, so they divided the movies. 

Oscar Possibilities: Art Direction, Editing, Cinematography, Sound Mixing/Editing, Visual Effects, many of the technical categories. I'd like to say this could squeeze into the 10 for best picture, but it's looking highly doubtful.

Consensus: The division of the story causes Part 1 to move much slower than we are use to a Harry Potter moving. However this is a chance for the Yates to develop character, emotion, and really make us feel for these characters who will be enduring the ultimate peril soon. One of my favorite of the series.

Sorcerer's Stone                          3.5/5
Chamber of Secrets                      4/5
Prisoner of Azkaban                    4/5
Goblet of Fire                             4.5/5
Order of the Phoenix                  3/5
Half Blood Prince                      3.5/5

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Movie Review: Howl

My Movie Review: Howl

Opening Statement: There was a court case over a particular "obscene" poem written by a great man awhile back. The poem was called Howl by Allen Ginsberg. An exceptionally dark, yet beautiful poet. As we go through his life through his poems, his homosexuality, and overall who Ginsberg was.

What's Good: I wish I could truly say more for an biographical film about one of the greatest poets of our time. Unfortunately I can't. The best I can do is mentioned how great the poems are, which are said throughout the film with some beautiful art to them. I would also give kudos to Franco's absolutely transformative performance, the young man has a knack for acting.

What's Bad: It's just not a well-told story. I'm sure the life of Ginsberg is interesting, unfortunately we flash forward often to a court case for 'Howl' that is entirely uninteresting. In this court scene we find some great talent John Hamm, David Straithan, and Jeff Daniels who are playing some really bland one-dimmensional characters. I wouldn't be surprised if they are scripted as Lawyer #1 and Lawyer #2. I'm certain this case was a pivotal mark in the life of Ginsberg, but using it has a method of story structure fails completely. Also we have Ginsberg being interviewed Mockumentary-style. Here is where Franco has some time to showcase his talent, that and a couple actual scenes where he is not reciting poetry. So we have 2 structure holding up a film very unstably. I went in not knowing much about Ginsberg, and I came out knowing about the same. 

The Rant: When you are making a biographical film, you are taking someone's life in your hands to show the world. Don't treat it so messily. 

Oscar Predictions: None. Bad reviews counted it out, the slightest possibility for Franco if he wasn't already getting a nod for 127 Hours.

Consensus: A complete unstable movie about a fascinating and talented man. Howl tries to use Ginsberg's poetry to make up for their lack of telling us the story of his life, it does ease the pain. But in the end you will feel like you just watched a PBS special.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Movie Review: The Next Three Days

My Movie Review: The Next Three Days

Opening Statement: Russell Crowe plays a father of one in a perfect lovable family. When his wife is convicted of a murder she did not commit and taken away from him and his son Crowe becomes mixed with depressing emotions. He begins to concoct a dynamic, thought out plan to rescue his wife and son and take them away to Venezuela. 

What's Good: For the lengthy time it's on it does a pretty good job keeping attention. There is some good performances from Crowe as a lead, but the real acting to watch here is Banks who is in tears every scene, going above and beyond any movie she has been in. Whenever action is on screen it is captured well, and quite honestly even though we don't know too much about these characters we sympathize with them. For what it is worth it keeps the heart racing, for a nice chase thriller, which consists entirely of action in the final third act.

What's Bad: Unfortunately Haggis's attempt to blend sympathetic drama and quick action makes everything seem a bit unbalanced. The first half of the film consists entirely of setting up the plan  and visits to prison where we see a crying Elizabeth Banks. The primary theme here is for Crowe's character to overcome being a nice simple man and to have to go all out, and become a violent person to help save his wife. A lot of that stays intact for the majority of the film, but by the third act the film trades characterization and emotion for heart-pounding action which is ok to watch, but kind of a jerk to the brain to transfer.

The Rant: No rant today.

Oscar Possibilities: I quite honestly can't see this getting any recognition against some of the other nods. Not even for Banks, which is most likely.

Consensus: Paul Haggis's drama-thriller strikes average in its attempt to blend the genres. A lot to keep your attention here, but not much to think about afterwards. Average.

My Classics: Casablanca (1942)

My Classics: Casablanca

Opening Statement: Inspiring some of the greatest quotes, and scenes in cinema history, Casablanca is the story that takes place in unoccupied Africa during WW2. A fugitive is tracked there and that man turns out to have a wife who had a previous relationship with the local, beloved bartender. Humphrey Bogart plays Rick, a man always in the "neutral" on every topic, a metaphor for America at the time if you will. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) finds that her former lover is the only way to get the proper transit papers to exit Casablanca.

Why it's classic: Toping many lists of the all-time greatest, including lists for best scenes and lines in movie history. Simply why it is classic. It was probably a more topical film for its era, which at the time was taking place in "present" not "past." As we see it now. Michael Curtiz is behind the camera and offers some beautiful sets. He sets a tone that adds an unpleasant, but appropriate blend of tragedy and romance. 
                         Originally based off the play "Everybody come to Ricks" the film proves to have a very witty, yet well-paced adapted script. Much is owed to the artful delivery of dialogue between both the main cast, and the supporting cast. Bogart, Bergman, Henreid, and Rains give very note-worthy, if not paragraph worthy performances. At the time the "romance" genre was at its peak, no doubt. With "It Happened One Night" and "Gone with the Wind."
                        During my second viewing is this classic, I still didn't once feel impatient at its length, like I did with Gone with the Wind. Instead I smiled at the sheer 'classic-ness' of the dialogue and the wit of Bogart's Rick. However the second viewing did decrease that warm feeling of surprise. Not necessarily a five star classic, personally of course, it has aged well but I can't see it attracting many younger viewers unfortunately. 

Consensus: Classic scenes, classic characters, classic lines...Casablanca has classic literally written all over it. It is a beautifully photographed tragic romance, that could possibly go beyond Shakespeare's famous romantic-tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Classics: It Happened One Night (1934)

My Classic Review: It Happened One Night

Opening Statement: Claudette Colbert plays Ellie, a spoiled rich girl who has just ran away from her father. As she becomes a pretty big news event she runs into a man named Peter Warne played by the ever-so-witty Clark Gable. Once Peter finds out he makes a deal with her to get an interview, but a lot can happen in "one night."

Why It's Classic: From the get-go you can tell this is a Capra film. Not one of his best particularly, but the man does go down in director history a couple films later. It's a sweet romance, filled with enjoyable comedy that has aged well, and surprising innuendo for its time. This film was released only a couple years after sound was invented and filmmakers learned that using the sound technology they had to make some pretty damned interesting stories. This was one of the bigger accomplishments for it's time.
                            It creates itself as a classic in my book primarily because it has so many different elements that are used countlessly in our modern films. The acting is incredible from Gable and Colbert, but story is key. The reason it doesn't receive a perfect score from me personally is simply because I enjoyed it at a 4/5 pace. Nothing i'd watch again and while this was a major picture for the time, audiences back then had a railroad of amazing flicks coming (Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane.) 
                             Basically, the film majors in mood, and makes itself one of the greater romantic comedies. Scratch that. Probably the in the running for the greatest romantic comedy to date. Up there with "When Harry Met Sally" a very enjoyable flick.

Consensus: Frank Capra is always excellent with his modest, feel good direction, mixed with an excellent adapted screenplay from Robert Riskin, all in which is helped greatly by two powerhouse performances from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. A movie to be seen by any movie lover.