Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pinocchio

Ah Pinocchio, what's not to love about this film? I love everything about I don't mind admitting. The animation is just beautiful, and I miss so much the days of the truly glorious painted background like you see in this film. It's just marvelous to look at with the highlight on that front having to be Monstro in all his glory. The story itself is of course straight forward as a puppet tries to learn what is to be a real boy, but hey that's more than enough. What I love is it hardly a sugar coated journey to be found as old Pinocchio has to avoid drinking, cigars, corrupt circus performers, and naturally child slavers before dealing with a man eating whale. It's not a simple fun adventure that some of that is to be had. It's gets dark and effectively so, which makes the more expected lighthearted Disney moments truly earned by the end. It's creates a rather grim world with some very terrifying aspects which make that warm ending we find something special.
5/5

The Duellists

The Duellists proved Ridley Scott to be a great director right from the start. The technical elements of the film are immaculate, and it is quite simply a stunning film to look at. The film goes past that with a great story. I always love the ability to find the intimate with the grand and here we have that of two men's rivalry, which starts over almost nothing, all around Napoleon's attempt to conquer Europe. Every duel is memorable in its own right, yet I love the certain darkly comic undercurrent behind the whole idea of how two proper men try to kill each other. This is flawlessly intertwined through each of the men's personal lives which change and grow as they keep needing to fend off the other. The casting might seem atypical with Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel in the roles of Frenchmen, yet both excel. It's a downright brilliant film.
5/5

The Patriot

The Patriot is the attempt at a prestige picture by Roland Emmerich who specializes in decidedly not so prestigious affairs as this film followed up Stargate. Independence Day, and Godzilla. Well I'll take the prestige attempt over those blockbusters, though I'll admit it has an advantage in that it's about the Revolutionary War. I won't lie, you set a film then and you already have my interest due to how few films are made about that war. Now this film decides to take that and basically also take 90's Mel Gibson to give us Braveheart meets the Revolutionary War. Not on that point the action here is also rather visceral and quite effective here. Like Braveheart it reduces the story mostly down to that of good and evil, with some more complex notions hanging by a few threads. This one matches this by giving us a downright viciously evil villain, well played by Jason Isaacs, for one man to seek his revenge against well participating in war. The film works in that's fun, even if it makes the Red coats more than a little Naziesque. The emotional currents in the story are often broad to be sure, yet still work largely due to Gibson's committed performance. Is it bloated? Sure. Is it the most intelligent film on the topic? No. Is it entertaining though? I'd say yes.
4/5

John Adams

John Adams takes upon the life the second president of the United States of America, and he is certainly a most interesting figure to examine to start with. He's the man among greatness yet never seems to be the one considered great from being instrumental in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, yet did not write it himself, being the president yet being the first one term president. It's an excellent series as it examines the man in detail from his political and personal successes and failures throughout his life. It does a terrific job at keeping it at a rather intimate level yet still making the grander achievements of the story still readily apparent. It's notable as it keeps the historical inaccuracies to the minimum, and captures both what made John Adams a great but still flawed individual. Each episode deserves special mention since each one is paced in a way to be really film of that given segment of Adams's life. The performances are uniformly strong, and unlike Tom Hopper's later cinematic work it actually is visually compelling.
5/5

Thursday, March 24, 2016

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave might as well get the central points out of the way. It has a great leading performance that pulls you through the struggle, has some very remarkable moments in terms of Steve McQueen's direction, particularly the hanging scene, or simply image the boat ride heading towards the wrong direction for any freeman. The intensity of the situation as found and the journey of Solomon Northup's attempt to regain his freedom is a poignant one. Now is it a flawless film? Well Brad Pitt the Canadian Christ figure would prevent that right from the outset. The film also does not feel like twelve years. Now this does seem like a double edged sword since you don't want a film to feel long, however the film's depiction of the passing of time is lacking. It can also be said that the only really well developed character is Solomon, which for the most part is true. This again is not necessarily as bad as it might sound as the film works in terms of following through on Solomon's perspective of the events. I'll admit this does leave some interesting threads that are not fully examined, and certain characters feeling a mite bit too thin. The film still succeeds in offering a moving and often brutal depiction of one man's attempt to survive through slavery.
4.5/5

Ghosts of Mississippi

Ghosts Of Mississippi is particularly poor example of the crusader for justice trial movie, that seemed to be particularly popular in the 90's. The film's actually proceedings are extremely by the book and downright unremarkable as a lawyer goes about trying to finally convict a murderer after skirting justice for so long. The one notable element in there is James Woods who at least beats a bit of life in to the proceedings as the murderer. Unfortunately the rest of the film is apparently too stuck in being notable to be at least interesting. None of the details are made engaging and the personal story behind it all feels especially muted. It was probably a story worth telling but this film did not do it justice.
1.5/5

Syriana

Syriana is a film with many things plot lines, twists, corporate intrigue, espionage, political intrigue, personal struggles of many sorts, corruption of the highest order, terrorism, you have it all in one film, yet it could not be more lifeless. The intertwining of the various threads works so poorly here in that looking up the film's various stories I forgot that many of them even occurred in it. Not a single one becomes engaging partially due to the lackluster performances, but also just the bland way the film is directed. The proceeds with speech after speech, something after something, some technically extreme things like explosions and torture. None of these elements ever become more than just something that happens as an overwhelming feeling of detachment comes from the storytelling leading to such an unremarkable interconnection of all these different elements that theoretically should be interesting.
1.5/5

Serpico

Serpico is a film with somewhat strange set path as we follow a good cop trying to uncover corruption in the system. The film chooses though to really go a step further by potentially suggesting him to be more of a hippie outsider to begin with making his journey a bit more detached. The film has a very odd flow to it because of this, and is often repetitive. As Serpico meets a new ally then his brick wall, get angry, finds a new wife, then repeat. None of this is helped by some problematic acting to be found in there particularly the wives who are pretty bad actually. Now having said that I don't think it is an outright terrible film, and really my feelings towards the film mirror my feelings toward Pacino's central performance. In that I care far less than I should however it really does have some very good moments in there.
3.5/5

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sorcerer

Sorcerer is the remake of Wages Of Fear, telling the same story about four desperate men taking on an extremely dangerous job of driving trucks filled with volatile explosives through dangerous terrain. Technically is suffers a somewhat similair problem as Wages in that the early build up is just a bit slow, and I would say in compared to Wages, despite perhaps more time being given to each individually, the chemistry between all of them is not as strong. There is still enough emotional investment to be found in each though to carry us through the journey, which like Wages is extremely effective. This remake makes use of color, and just a large scope to give an almost equally engaging portrayal of the very intense roadtrip of the four men. I'd say Wages is the superior film, but this one is also a very strong effort, though I think I probably prefer this film's ending a bit more.
4.5/5

Rain Man

Rain Man's a film that's easy enough to be very hard on, as is the common reaction to any film that dares win best picture. Looking at it as just a film though it's just fine as basically a buddy road picture with the gimmick of one of the buddies had autism. However it works well enough largely due to the unrewarded Tom Cruise who carries the film through his depiction of his character's own change of heart through his interactions with Dustin Hoffman's. It has some funny moments, some sweet moments, it works, even if it is not spectacular.
3.5/5

Running On Empty

Running On Empty intertwines the coming of age of a boy along with being a fugitive due to being the son of some 60's radicals. The stories each have their separate place for much of the film as we follow the boy, played by River Phoenix, through becoming acquainted with a new life and enjoying it. This leaves the nagging element of the radical past always ready to strike. Now the coming of age story is just fine though nothing too notable about it. The radical side of things has some good elements, like when the mother meets her father, the final goodbye, but too many repetitive elements as well as Judd Hirsch who goes from being very good to being very terrible. I think the sides of the film end up cohering well enough, but honestly those two scenes I mentioned above are the only ones that stand out in my memory of the film. Not that the rest of the film was bad, but it's mostly adequate with a few stronger scenes in there.
3.5/5

The Boys From Brazil

The Boys From Brazil tells the story about Dr. Mengele attempting to resurrect Hitler through a series of clones, but only one Nazi Hunter can stop him. The film in itself is hard not to marvel at as it embraces a definite ridiculousness while still doing it with a straight face. This is perhaps most shown through Gregory Peck's absurd yet very entertaining portrayal as the bad doctor, as well as the overbearing score, and just the extreme nature of the violence depicted. However it does sling shot partially due to the more humble performances, which do bring quite a bit of gravitas, given by James Mason and Laurence Olivier, but then again even Olivier must get in on the madness when he gets into a literal fistfight with Peck which is quite something to behold. Does this make for a great film, I would not say so, but an enjoyable pulpy thriller I would say so.
4/5

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Game of Thrones Season 5

Now the show was never perfect but it did not matter as it was so compelling that any imperfections could easily be ignored. Well this season refusing to allow one to ignore anything. Now it should be noted that no story line is completely terrible. There are good elements to found no matter what, as again the technical skill is still there, as is the acting well for the most part. Well again story by story is best. Jon Snow's continued maturation combined with trying to fulfill his duties is pretty outstanding with quite the high point in the battle of Hardhome. That high point is actually one of the high points of the series as a whole. There also Arya's story line which is not the most dynamic, as she deals with the bureaucracy of faceless men, but at least it seems to working towards something interesting. The King's Landing elements focusing on Cersei this which is strong especially thanks to the addition of Jonathan Pryce. Unfortunately then there's the rest. Tyrion basically feels like he's between story lines, though there are good moments to be found there still. Daenerys Targaryen's story line still has questionable elements as usual, but some strong ones in there as well. The Boltons and Sansa goes almost off the rails, despite some strong moments in there particularly due to Alfie Allen once again. Ramsay Bolton becomes too omnipotent of a villain and they decide to send Sansa's character development right back. With Stannis we get some downright amazing build up, thanks to Stephen Dillane being MVP of the Season, but then it all falls apart and is wasted in a messy apparent rush to get rid of the character that the show runners have always hated. Then there is Dorne, oh my. Alright actually buddy cop duo of Bronn and Jaime has some enjoyment to be had and Prince Doran as played by Alexander Siddig is pretty awesome. Then there are the Sand Snakes. They have some of the worst acting one will ever see in the series and there whole concept is extremely questionable. They are one element of the season which is downright bad. Now considering all the story lines together this time the series does many things wrong. Deaths are common in the series, but here they stop potential where pretty much all previous deaths created it. The story lines are this time disjointed. Some important characters are sidelined like Little Finger, and Brienne, and everything feels rushed. This is the one season that does not stand on its own at all leaving too many extreme cliffhangers for its own good. It's a season rife with problems. I'll admit though it is still very watchable. This is because there is still greatness and plenty of goodness in there.
4/5

Game of Thrones Season 4

Now for Season four which still continues to excel as a series. The Far North story line culminates, at least for the moment, in a single episode battle spectacular that is indeed spectacular. The North story line perhaps is somewhat repetitive of the previous season, but it really does not matter due to just how good Alfie Allen is in his portrayal of Theon/Reek. Also I probably would not really question that story line at all if I did not know where it was headed next season. We get Sansa finally out of King's Landing and we get a fascinating development of her into a shrewd survivor. Again though next season, alright alright I'll get to that in a bit. Again the show really is strong enough at this point that even the Stannis/Davos, story line is interesting to follow despite mostly being build up. Old Daenerys Targaryen continues to be not great, though not every element involved is terrible just most elements are lackluster. Again the good and the great is more than enough to make up for it. The greatness following Arya and the Hound road trip which is amazing and King's Landing which is particularly potent through some deaths and trial. It's terrific and once again it builds so nicely to a satisfying continuation.
5/5

Game of Thrones Season 3

The third season continues on as exceptional television, and there's nothing to add on everything that's great about the series, it's still there. The stories again. Jon Snow's doubt agent story and particularly what happens to the rest of the Night's Watch is great, the King's Landing relationship plays is not technically the most dynamic element this season but it's still great stuff due to just how well played and realized the characters are. The rest of Theon Greyjoy's journey might seem excessively brutal for some, but it actually does earn where he ends up by the end of the season. Bran's story is a bit standard, in that it's mostly just some marching around. Daenerys Targaryen's story is better than last season, though again certain elements remain weak, and also every one of her victories seem handed on a plate whereas every other character has to earn them by the skin of their teeth or not at all. On that front Robb Stark's story is particularly effective as it builds to something special, though not to what many might have been expecting. Arya's story is also great as she begins her most fascinating relationship with The Hound, and which results one of my favorite sequences in the series. There is the Stannis story line which allows some time for Ser Davos to shine which is always good.  Then perhaps the highlight for me is Brienne of Tarth and Jamie Lannister who make for quite the memorable and moving escort mission. Again great stuff throughout and it's particularly notable how the season feels satisfactory while it still leaves you wanting more.
5/5

Game of Thrones Season 2

Now the challenge after season 1 comes in terms of making a cohesive whole at of many lingering threads that sprout up. There's not too much reason to mention the technical elements as they remain unchanged, and always impressive except the notable extra of actually depicting a grand battle which is rather remarkable. This season can also be noted as successful in keeping every thread alive while keeping all of them appropriately connected to another, well almost all of them. It's best to look at story by story. Jon Snow and the Night's Watch journey beyond the wall I always find engaging, and I love that throughout the show you see the maturation of Jon, partially through Kit Harington apparently becoming a better actor each season. There's excellence to be had in the King's Landing story centering around Tyrion's try as Hand of the King as again the show even in the grand scope of battles, always keeps the personal relationships pivotal. My favorite thread though is Theon Greyjoy's betrayal of Robb Stark, that ends up being surprisingly moving tale of a man losing himself. Robb Stark's own story I suppose is mostly a standard romance but it works. Arya Stark own story is particularly good as she runs upon a peculiar assassin, Tywin Lannister, and begins a certain descent towards a darker path. There is also the introduction of Stannis who is apparently such an inherently great character he still is compelling despite the show runners apparent hatred towards him, and his steadfast righthand man Ser Davos who is one of the most likable characters in the series. The weak link is Daenerys Targaryen, whose story worked in the first season, as she not only seems detached from everyone else, but her story is pretty weak amplified by Emilia Clarke's performance which lacks the needed charisma for the character. Even that is not terrible though, and the season is still stellar.
5/5

Game of Thrones: Season 1

Game of Thrones takes on a genre that seems rather difficult to pull off right, that being fantasy, and it's an even greater challenge given that this one takes itself in a dead serious fashion. The first season really is the set up and perhaps a few kinks had to be worked, with any show really, but there are too many. The main kink here is the use of nudity which in this case goes past that border of being needed for the story, then right across the next border to being more than a little ridiculous. This element of the series, though it obviously sticks out, actually does not make up as much screentime as popular sentiment would suggest, and the series toned it down further in the succeeding seasons. Past that though the show pretty much found its mark from the first season. Now this season is technically even more intertwined than later seasons in that the connections are given more physical distance in the later seasons, therefore far more separated by when they do appear on screen. This season there is far less of the set locations/set of characters found in the later seasons. Now on to the actually show which is excellent. Now purely on the technical side of things the show is phenomenal in terms of production and costume design, makeup, music, one can't fault it there. The same goes for the acting which only has a few minor weak links most everyone is good and so many are great. Now as for the story itself, which has strong source material, the show does a great job in terms of its adaptation. It keeps pretty much all of the strength, while limiting exposition a bit, yet still creates the complex and captivating world it does which is always defined by character. In some regards the show even trumps the novel, mostly in the realization of certain characters. The show succeeds in not only making a fantasy world seem real, but finds the emotional elements of it all in heartbreaking detail. The story is truly moving and the season as a whole almost flawlessly sets up what is to come while being wholly compelling on its own as well.
5/5

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Man For All Seasons

A Man For All Seasons is a triumph of an adaptation of play. It takes just enough without adding too much nor trying to over compensate for the material. It certainly has some visual splendor in the visuals particularly in the costumes. It however is well aware of the strength of the material itself allowing the words to have their places front and center, most well realized by Paul Scofield's brilliant performance, though the rest of the cast uniformly strong particularly John Hurt as the duplicitous Richard Rich. The writing itself is terrific in realizing the complexity of the story while still following through in the technically more straight forward element of one man refusing to compromise his beliefs. It creates the right cinematic feel through the right flourishes, I particularly like when everyone can here King Henry's bluster In his private conversation with Thomas. It finds just the right blend in that all the power of the play is retained, yet properly amplified by what is offered by the medium of film.
5/5

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Revenge Of The Sith is the finale of the whole underwhelming trilogy and it is the best, which is not saying a lot. This one at least has some semblance of a plot with Anakin finally going evil and going on a killing spree though there are other hanging threads, where Yoda and Obi-Wan go, which still seem so haphazard. This one does occasionally have a memorable moment for better or for worse. In that it has the most unintentionally funny moments many of those involving a security hologram line which even Ewan McGregor could not keep a straight face saying. There's also the full version of the Emperor where Ian McDiarmid goes for UNLIMITED HAMMMMMM, but I'll admit entertainingly so. Plus he has his opera scene beforehand which still is not great, but somewhat interesting. There some light saber duels of varying qualities which also go on too long. There's plenty of bland moments to be found in excessively fake sets throughout. The acting again for the most part is extremely uninspired with Christensen failing miserably to be the least bit menacing though I must just be "underestimating his power". The film's a disaster still really but like a good disaster there's some emotion to be found as well as some amusement. It still is not a good film, but there's more there to enjoy than its predecessors.
2/5

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Attack Of The Clones is the very worst that the prequels has to offer as more than anything this one is downright boring. We get our introduction to the older Anakin played by Hayden Christensen and the problem is he's no better than Jake Lloyd. Once again we see nothing of the villain he would eventually become as his evil moments sound much more like a whiny brat than anything else. I'm really glad Adam Driver's performance in the Force Awakens exists as it stands as a decent approximation of how Anakin should have been portrayed. It does not help though that he must had his romance with Padme since he and Natalie Portman have absolutely no chemistry. Though I'll admit the atrocious dialogue of those scenes does not help. There's the rest of the film though which also does not help. There is a bizarre lack of urgency in the story and the plot is extremely disjointed with random strands of assassinations, seizing of power, creation of clones, other droid attacks, the whole thing is a mess. Even the villain in this case, played as well as he probably could be by Christopher Lee, is completely wasted. It's basically a series of scenes that build to nothing. Then we have a climax that's just kind of there, which in itself are a lot of colors without weight.
1/5

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace is actually getting a bit of odd resurgence lately with some rather misguided individuals suddenly claiming the prequels, due to all their daring ideas, are better than the Force Awakens which was certainly derivative in many areas. Those individuals forget one thing though it's movie, you want a movie to be engaging the Force Awakens succeeded in that, the prequels on the other hand. Now on the point of Lucas's concepts there's many visuals of worlds. Visuals that are framed in always a banal fashion, so what's the point. We know nothing of these species and none of them house characters we care about it. Instead we get the infamous Jar Jar which can be used as a great example of how not to use comic relief in a film. How about our trusty humans? Well Ewan McGregor is wasted as young Obi-Wan, since they keep him in the ship, Liam Neeson begins his middle period between dramatic leading man, and action badass as doomed stoic mentor who is character who can only be described as stoic mentor. The worst of it comes in our pivotal character Anakin Skywalker the whole reason for the prequels existence really. Jake Lloyd perhaps unfortunately was the worst prominent child actor of all time. There needed to be at least an idea of Darth from the very beginning some conflict. Instead we get a cute kid, despite being slave. The majority of the action is weightless CGI, in some very poorly paced sequences the worst of them being the quite awful pod race sequence. However not all of the film is bad just most of it. Darth Maul looks cool, his light saber is cool, the song the duel of fates is cool, and his showdown with the Jedis is cool as well as has the only moment in the film that has any emotional weight to it. Unfortunately even that sequence is interspersed with other terrible scenes, but hey at least there were some new worlds, at least new in that they had a new name and establishing shot. No not really, who cares about concepts in the long run if you don't intertwine it with good storytelling.
1.5/5

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan actually does not have one of the greatest openings of all time. It instead has a prologue which stands as a serious problem with the entire film. It then goes to the D-Day invasion scene which is downright outstanding in its visceral detail of the battle. The film progresses but that nagging prologue was not just a fluke it is instead a huge strand of the film. The whole idea of the of the troops going to save one man frankly is over analyzed by the film. For some reason it states as though they are risking their lives for the one man, but they'd be risking their lives anyways. In fact throughout the film the deaths only come when they get in standard military action that has nothing to do with Ryan specifically until the ending. The film decides to go on this as its dramatic core unfortunately as it makes sure we know the sacrifices around Ryan, and just in case we did not get it from the main action we have that prologue and the epilogue to make sure we remember that he had to "earn this". The problem is that's not it even for Spielberg who in this case pours it on way too thick in too many scenes particularly in his use of some especially sentimental orchestra swells by John Williams. Now this makes it feel oddly disjointed against how harsh much of the warfare is depicted and there is one brutal death in the film which Spielberg allows to play out in a pared down and very effective fashion. There's enough great elements in the film for it to be considered good, but it is an uneven effort largely due to Spielberg keeping to too many of his trademarks.
3.5/5

Where Eagles's Dare

Where Eagle's Dare is an offering of the off-shoot genre type of war film that was popular in the 60's, that being the men on the mission type of story. This is the very best example of that type of film that I have seen. It makes for one memorable pairing of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. This film pretty effectively pares them down to their best individual features as a performer. That being Burton's eloquent voice, which is used so well particularly in one long monologue that makes a whole lot of exposition rather wonderful, and Clint Eastwood's steely glances which are well suited for his soldier who most often pulls the trigger while having very little to say. The action is a whole lot of fun, but so is the dialogue here. It manages quite the engaging plot involving multiple spies, and I especially love the final confrontation between Burton and the top spy which involves no shooting though it has quite the memorable conclusion. It's simply great entertainment from beginning to end.
5/5

Monday, March 14, 2016

Schindler's List

Schindler's List is indeed the great film many note it to be. Spielberg's technically does not tone down his usual style, but for almost the entirety of the film this actually works extremely well for the material. The Nazis were not subtle and Spielberg's brutally realizes this in the harrowing depiction of their casual murders throughout the film. He does not allow them to be merely inhuman monsters though giving them their moments of humanity making their lack of hesitation in their acts all the more disturbing to witness. The film does overwhelm though in a good way in its stark black and white cinematography, and John Williams's incredibly moving score. As one would expect from Spielberg there is hope to be seen in the film. It's only ever a glint of it though which is used in a most affecting fashion. The only part where I would say that Spielberg tips his hand slightly too much is the ending where he decides to doubly enforce what Schindler did. We already have it, it's already powerful, then Spielberg decides to show it again, and just is not needed. That's only a minor quibble in what is otherwise a tremendous achievement.
5/5

Troy

Troy is a good answer for the question of what make Gladiator good. Troy now is frankly not good. The film struggles in a most problematic fashion in terms of capturing the right tone for the material. It chooses to reject using the gods that were an intricate part of the source material instead apparently going for a grittier approach to the material. This is faulty approach in its frequency to have downright ridiculous elements throughout the story. Then it attempts at the same time to try to have its allegorical elements which it hammers so poorly in part due to the way they so poorly intertwine with those ridiculous elements. The strength of Russell Crowe's work in Gladiator becomes readily apparent if you compare it to say Orlando Bloom and Brad Pitt in these films. The two are not only bland they lack any conviction in their approaches to both their characters and the material itself that they allow to be as nonsensical as it is. There is a shining star in the film through Peter O'Toole he shows up on occasion to bring that gravitas needed, but he can save the whole thing. It's a film too timid in its approach refusing to choose what it should be, instead allowing itself to tonal mess.
2/5

Gladiator

Gladiator and its other best picture winning counterpart, Ben-Hur, really stand as the very best examples the sword and sandals genre has to offer. If these films don't work, then none of them do quite honestly. I've come around wholly to the film in its specifically grand scale story of good vs evil through the story of one man who must rise above the arena to take down his enemy who naturally is the emperor of all of Rome. Is the film broad in terms of its style? Most definitely but I think it does work in that style. The action scenes are memorably brought to life by Ridley Scott, but there is still enough of a human element to keep altogether with of course the revenge plot and my favorite side element involving Maximus's former gladiator owner Proximo (Oliver Reed) though that story is unfortunately cut short. I must admit I was wrong to ever have hand waved Crowe's performance in this film. No one else could have played the part other than him, and the next film on this list will help me explain why. Do I think this a perfect film? No of course not. I still can't quite support Joaquin Phoenix's villainous turn here. It is a terrific example though of a genre that might be one of the hardest to pull off well.
4.5/5

The Yearling

The Yearling is the usual story of a boy and his pet though his pet happens to be a dear. This is not some sweet story evidenced by its rather harsh ending. The film has many admirable elements. The technical elements are memorable particularly in the stylized realization of Florida in pioneer times. Claude Jarman Jr. gives a fine leading performance as the boy. Jane Wyman also does well actually despite having the thankless role as an extremely cold mother. Gregory Peck though sticks out like sore thumb the entire film with his awkward turn as struggles to speak the dialect of his character. The story also seems somewhat unsure of its tone at times as it has some extremes that hinder the natural flow of the story. It still works in the end despite some obvious flaws.
3.5/5

Battleground

Battleground is one of the very best war films of its period. This is one film that does not at all romanticize the idea of war in the least in any respect. The harsh conditions are shown in intimate detail by the absolutely stunning set design. The film was all shot on sets, but you'd never assume that from watching the film. The characters are not all shown to be heroes. There are moments of hesitations, or outright cowardice as it shows us men rather then some image of a proper soldier. The wear of the battle is shown as the men are beaten down by the battle physically and mentally. William Wellman's direction here is exceptional as the chaos of the warfare is realized in brutal detail. My only slight criticism, and it's pretty slight, is that some the actors simply say their lines a little too loudly. Not that there performances are bad, but it just seems odd for some of them to speak as they do when they are trying to not alert the enemy. That's really a nitpick in what is an excellent and unfortunately rather underrated film.
5/5

Twelve O'Clock High


Twelve O'Clock High is a film that fails in rather odd ways in its detailing of the war effort of bomber pilots during WW II. A major failing is its use of real combat footage which despite being the real thing fails to be cinematic in the least. The faked footage from 30 Seconds Over Tokyo worked in a far more effective fashion just a few years before. The scenes here just kind of sit there as no connection to the people in the planes can be made unfortunately. This is also caused by the cast where honestly its far too difficult to tell who's who within the film. When it is announced that one character died, I could not tell you who he was or who played him. It's not a terrible film as it tries to capture some difficult themes, such a mental trauma from combat, but it has too many fundamental flaws to make a successful film.
2.5/5

The Best Years of Our Lives


The Best Years of Our Lives the film that unfortunately for some may merely be that film they say "what's that" when they see what beat It's A Wonderful Life for Best Picture in 1946. Well that's unfortunate because it deserved its success, and is one of the best films to take the top prize. The film details WW II veterans difficulties when coming back from the war through three stories. The film is terrific in actually the unassuming approach it takes to the material. There are some intense moments in there, but that's only part of the film. It's just as well is a film that just is attempting to capture everyday life of a moment in time, which it seems to do marvelously. The emotional payoff of each story is well earned, as it paints such a moving depiction of the way life goes on even after such a life changing experience as war has interrupted the flow of it all.
5/5

It's A Wonderful Life


It's A Wonderful Life is rightly stated as one of the greatest films of all time, and it is certainly Frank Capra's best film. This film above all his rest managed to capture the exact tone he seemed to be trying to establish with all of his other films. Where others he could fall on the sides of melodramatic or corny at times, this is never the case in this film. Capra strikes the right balance as he does have some sweet moments in there, but overall it's actually a depressing story of a man who fails to live out any of his dreams sacrificing it all, at his own choice, for the common good. The film brilliantly builds to its supernatural climax which comes in a surprisingly effective fashion. The performances are uniformly excellent with James Stewart giving his career best performance which is really saying something. The supporting cast does not have a weak element with some memorable turns particularly from Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers. It really is the film Capra spent his whole career building to as it is the perfection of his style. It is also proof that a happy ending can be just as effective as a sad ending, as this has one greatest endings of all time.
5/5

All The King's Men


All the Kings Men is almost a venomously pessimistic film about the political process with men using common folk for their own power, innocents becoming subservient to these men, a potentially honest reporter becoming hatchet men, good men revealed to have terrible pasts, and the one purely good character is reduced down to an assassin. Now really I don't mind pessimism if done well, and I don't think this is even done poorly actually. The problem for the film I think largely comes from the acting since certain parts of the film work brilliantly. Any scene focused on Mercedes McCambridge's character, and the scenes that reveal an directly evil Willie Stark played by Broderick Crawford. These work extremely well the problem is John Ireland, the other lead, is horribly bland, as are most of the supporting players. They fail to make any impact,  and to make it worse is I don't find Crawford entirely convincing in his scenes when he's not power hungry Willie. I actually think the screenplay and direction are there the acting just isn't.
3/5

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a film I have not watched since 2007 but I will mention the elements I remember most clearly. That being the animation of the food, which is downright scrumptious, and Peter O'Toole very memorable vocal cameo as a venomous food critic Anton Ego. That's not to say the rest of the film falls short though. I will say I don't think the majority of the human characters are terribly interesting, even our secondary lead who just kind of a standard hapless doofus. Remy though is an enjoyable enough animal lead along with the fact that he's haunted by a chef for some reason. I don't think the plot really quite adds up exactly, nor all the characters. It works still well enough as it is really when it deals directly with food. That's more than enough of the time to make the movie work.
4/5

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Incredibles

The Incredibles is the best possible Fantastic Four movie we'll get and it's not even about the fantastic four. Well that being in it effectively creates the superhero family by quite simply making them feel like a family. That's is all great stuff as is more directly the superhero element of the film. It's really just a whole lot of fun, though it manages to involve a few darker elements, that work surprisingly well despite being quite grim for a Pixar film actually. The animation here is particularly memorable in the action sequences, the voice acting is good all around, but one does wonder with all the Pixar films that have sequels why this one is taking so long, considering it actually established itself for a series by the end of the film.
5/5

Frozen

Frozen is one feature that has not stayed with me over time I must admit. The animation is good, though I will freely admit my preference for two dimensional, and the songs are more than memorable. The plotting is very sloppy though particularly in the final third where it becomes particularly messy. The characters are entertaining enough though to get over those problems, and really the film's problem is the plot keeps getting in the way. The film does not feel especially cohesive in the random elements of either the trolls, a talking snowman, an evil snow man, the two villains. Many of these aspects seem oddly disconnected from each other. I suppose as a film as a whole it was not particularly memorable for me in that in general it has not left that much of lasting impression. Now that's not terrible since it did not leave a bad impression either.
4/5

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is infrequently marked along with the other Disney classics from the period, though I do believe this is unfortunate. The animation for the film is stunning and particularly unique in terms of style. The music is majestic despite not being the typical songs one would expect from a Disney film. The story is servicable of course but stands out through four memorable characters. Those being the fairies, and of course the great villian of Malificient. Now the Princess and Prince are not the most dynamic characters, though really Prince Phillip seems like Hamlet compared to the princes from Snow White and Cinderella. They do serve their purpose to be sure, and are made up for the supporting cast around them. The film may be case of style over substance, but when the style is as good as this that can be enough.
4.5/5

Mulan

Mulan again is animated well as one would expect, but this is one where I think it works well in a single aspect of the film though is lacking in almost all other areas. Mulan and her time posing as man in the army camp is all great. The interactions between her and the men do work well. This is another one with a direct comic relief in Eddie Murphy's dragon, but I say he works in the part. They also decide though to give him his own comic relief the cricket, and in fact the horse, who he frequently interacts with is also comic relief. Now outside of it though the actually conflict feels oddly poorly drawn, not literally, with the occasionally cut away to a one note villain, and also Mulan's original motivation, to protect her father, seems oddly muted since her relationship with her family seems strangely meaningless by the end of the film. The musical side on this one seems particularly limited with only one memorable song, though that song is very memorable. Strange for a Disney film is that it works best in terms of its action, and the dynamic in the army. The elements outside of that are not exactly stunning, but the good parts certainly are good enough.
4/5

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beauty and The Beast

Beauty And The Beast is suggested by many to be the crowning achievement of the Disney Renaissance period. I as usual with animation it seems am not as enthusiastic as some in that regard, though once again do not take that the wrong. The animation is splendid for the most part though I must admit I've never cared for the CGI ballroom. The characters are memorable though I've also felt Belle is perhaps slightly one note in order to be opposite of say a Snow White, though in the end she's really not the opposite anyways. The Beast though is great, as are the household items, and of course Gaston makes for a memorable villain. Add in some terrific songs, and you have a very good animated film.
4.5/5

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Lion King

The Lion King is one of Disney's most popular animated features, though I can't ever been a particular favorite of mine. It's well animated to be sure the songs are pretty good, particularly the villain song, and the score is quite great. It's one that I feel does work wholly in its story in that's it's moving when it needs to be and funny at least enough of the time. Though it certainly tries that more often that it is given that it has three different sets of comic relief. Scar of course is great thanks in large part due to Jeremy Irons's voice work. However even Scar skirts greatness due to the odd decision to have him basically do nothing once he's in power, and due to his underwhelming defeat. The film never quite adds up in the end to something truly special as the story wavers a bit too much particularly in its message which is not particularly well realized. It's still good though, so I can't complain too much.
4/5

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Snow White And The Seven Dwarves is the first Disney musical and I suppose that can be noticed in its rather simple story. Snow White runs she hides with the Dwarves, get poisoned by a Queen and saved by a Prince. Now the film's animation is wonderful, I've always been especially found of the old style Disney painted background. It has great sequences throughout particularly those involving the Queen/Old hag. The Dwarves also a great bunch of fools. Now Snow White herself is as bland as her skin is white and the Prince is so one note that he only has one song. In addition the songs are simpler here, but they are memorable in their own right. The movie is really all for its moments which it has plenty of whether they be comedic, sweet or occasionally sad it works.
4.5/5

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame contains the best the Disney Renaissance has to offer. It has all time great songs, grand visuals especially in the realization of the titular cathedral in particular and two particularly strong characters in our hero Quasimodo and our hero Frollo. Even the more straight forward, and by nature blander roles, of Phoebes and Esmeralda have more character than they might have been otherwise. Of course the most overt tragic elements of the novel have been removed or changed yet the adaptation still succeeds in telling a darker story about Quasimodo's life, and as well as the particular motivations that compel Frollo. Unfortunately the worst is found in the three unfunny comic relief, in the worst possible way, gargoyles. They waste time with their shtick, but worst of all they horrible mess with the tone of the film. It honestly could have been the masterpiece of the Renaissance, but due to their inclusion it falls short.
4.5/5

Billy Budd

Billy Budd is exceptional and underrated film about a sea faring ship during wartime. Like Master and Commander it so effectively creates the sense of life aboard the ship. Even the smaller character seem vivid in part due to the performances as well as the terrific screenplay. It in addition to that creates well an understanding for the naval code and how it is that Robert Ryan's sadistic Claggart is even able to exist. It's a marvelous film though in the way the good vs evil originally conflict is set up between Billy who is innately good against the life loathing Claggart. It transitions well though to the secondary conflict of doing the right thing against doing the lawful thing. Both eventually build to very memorable and powerful conclusion to each.
5/5

Friday, March 4, 2016

There Will Be Blood

Ah the film that will eternally baffle me. Not in terms of its themes or its meaning but rather exactly how much I like it. In some viewings I will love the whole things from beginning to end, despite the seemingly purposefully polarizing nature of that ending. However in others I will have those moment were indeed seems as though Anderson allows the film to become indulgent in order just for there to be a scene of some Daniel Plainview madness which is not bad, nothing around Day-Lewis's performance can really be considered bad. Day-Lewis's performance is masterful in the creation of this self-proclaimed Oil man and his story is a fascinating one to be sure. The vision is without a doubt awe-inspiring more often than not. Another film where the technical aspects are impeccable and the score is mesmerizing. The film is perhaps a masterpiece I will view it as one now, I may not some other time, but now I will say that it is.
5/5

10 Rillington Place

10 Rillington Place is a brutally effective film by telling the cold harsh truth as straight forward of a fashion as it can. Richard Fleischer's direction here is downright brilliant by the way he neither sugarcoats nor glorifies Christie's crimes. He shows them as one unfortunately would imagine only shying away in one instance yet the implication of that moment is bone chilling even in the restraint. The most horrifying scene actually though is not one of Christie's direct murders but his indirect one as he bluntly depicts the injustice that feels so cruel because of how normal the whole event is. The performances here are strong with the standouts being John Hurt who is as heartbreaking as Richard Attenborough is terrifying. A message can be taken from the film yet it never enforces the idea the film believing its audience is intelligent enough to recognize it from the natural order of the proceedings. It's one of the great serial killer films ever made, and one of the most unnerving in its reality. As the man does not get caught by his guilt, or by a quick thinking detective,  but rather because he simply runs out of money.
5/5

Get Carter

Get Carter is very interesting film in the way it seems to pull you in with the promise of a glamorization of both the life of a criminal and revenge. It technically ends up delivering on neither of these promises yet that is what makes the film so effective. It gives the glimpse of why Carter is Carter. He is indeed a cool crook with Michael Caine giving perhaps one of his best performances. However these elements only hide the real seedy nature of the life that is bluntly realized by the victims of it. One victim forcing Carter is forced to see directly in a brilliant scene that relies on Caine's performance. The revenge though itself is not pretty as Carter ends up taking essentially no prisoners and there is a cold callousness as no one is allowed to escape his wrath which is painfully emotional. It's a terrific film as it coldly subverts the whole vision one might take of the film before watching it.
5/5

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange now succeeds where Barry Lyndon faltered. Once again the film is visually striking as Kubrick's goes about creating a warped perspective fitting for a story of a very warped mind. This time though we have an alteration through the human element. The human element being that of psychopath, yet still human as played by Malcolm McDowell. McDowell's performance importantly anchors the film within Kubrick's imagery and the purposefully absurd performances from much of the rest of the cast. He brings us through Alex's journey in a captivating if rather disturbing fashion. The visuals never overwhelm the human element, instead that intertwine wonderfully(though that does not feel like the right word for this film), to create a great film.
5/5

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon is a flawless film on the technical side of things. The cinematography, the costumes, and the production design are all immaculate. The story itself should be interesting in its focus of this conman making his way up through schemes and his personal charm. The problem is two fold, though in the end could have been solved by fixing only one side. As one would expect Kubrick is cold and clinical in his style. This usually works in his films as the emotions come from the performances. The problem is the emotional center should be Barry, but the problem is he's played the vapid Ryan O'Neal. There's no reason to believe he could charm or trick anyone as he seems quite happy to be just part of the scenery. He keeps the story from being engaging because he seems as detached as Kubrick is. Now this is not say the whole film does not work. Marisa Berenson and Leon Vitali do provide some emotional elements to the film, but neither are in the film enough to make up for O'Neal. There are still some exceptional sequences in there, the final dueling scene in particular, but the strengths cannot fully outweigh its fundamental flaws.
4/5

The Razor's Edge

The Razor's Edge is a film that feels as self-important, as our central hero's personal journey to enlightenment. There's a serious problem with the film in that the potential for the story should have been found in the transition of a troubled war veteran to a self-actualized individual. The problem is Tyrone Power can't pull that off, or at least does not try, as his changes are not earned in the least by his performance. The films other elements are scatter shot, there just so our hero can fix them, or almost fix them all in the last act. We get a catty Gene Tierney, a troubled Anne Baxter, and Clifton Webb doing his usual thing. The first is resolved as you'd expect with Power's character ignoring her shallow advances, the second tragic and is one of the best elements of the film due to Baxter, and the third is weird. Webb does his pompous routine the film views him as pompous then suddenly it wishes that we really care about him in order to end the film on. The film may have been able work with a stronger leading turn, but as it is it feels just like a messy of strain threads that fail to intertwine.
2/5

Disraeli

Disraeli is a rather poor example of an early sound film. It basically just sticks the camera to look in the general vicinity of the actors and calls it a day. Now this could almost at least make for a decent film if the screenplay and acting was there. The problem is neither of those things are. The film is just a long series of scenes to say how great Disraeli is which is a shame since I think there is a fascinating story to be found in his rivalry with fellow Prime Minister William Gladstone. None of that is to be found here as it tells its story that lacks really a single dynamic moment in it. It's not helped by a bland cast, where you know there's a problem when George Arliss gives the best performance, and he's also more than a little musty himself.
1.5/5

West Side Story

With West Side Story I really should admit that I do have somewhat of an aversion to musicals, in that rarely do I like them. The problems tend to be the same in that they are always too long, and too often they are content to be boring whenever music is not playing. The worst of them though are when the ones with terrible songs. West Side Story has good songs and the direction actually is rather commendable in bringing some cinematic life to the proceedings. The performances though are shaky. There are a few good ones, Rita Moreno for example, but too many of them are rather bland particularly the very miscast leads. I don't believe its a failure as a film, some of it does work, its bloated most musicals are, but there are good things in it.
3/5

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady has the advantage of a few good songs, a Stanley Holloway, the fact that Pygmalion is good, but not much else. George Cukor's direction is very tired here almost embracing the idea of making the film look as stagy as it possibly can. This is unfortunate as there are many films in his past filmography that were set on sound stages but certainly did not look like it. Rex Harrison's singsong style and Leslie Howard impression wear thin very quickly. Audrey Hepburn is rather curious in that her innate charm almost allows her to get away with a terrible performance, only almost though. It's an extremely slow film that loses most of its energy by the second act and comes basically to a halt long before the ending.
2/5

The Big Country

The Big Country has one exceptional element Burl Ives. Everything he touches is improved at least somewhat by being near him. He's great, he makes you understand his character, and even manages to make the father/son relationship in the film rather heartbreaking, despite the son being a pretty one dimensional character. The films struggles in every area outside of Ives. The relationships are very thinly drawn and there direction is obvious the moment you see them. The parts don't help for the most part Peck plays a bland leading man, Charlton Heston plays a bland bully (a role I assume he must have played to be in Wyler's far superior Ben-Hur the next year), Jean Simmons plays a bland "good woman" and Carroll Baker is the bland "bad woman". The performers don't add anything to what is written, but there was almost nothing there to begin with. Charles Bickford's part had potential but he wastes it with an extremely uncharismatic performance. The film seems so oddly misguided in almost every respect. I always go back to a pivotal scene where Bickford's men first stand against his plan to basically cause a massacre. Then for whatever reason when he's riding alone it plays heroic music when his men come back to join him all embracing a pointless demise I guess.
2/5

Dogville

Dogville is a brilliantly written and brilliantly acted film. It's a shame about visual direction though. It's purposefully underwhelming visual style becomes tiresome very quickly and adds up to be more of a distraction than if the film was shot on an actual location. There is no real reason for it, I guess to hide any beauty of the nature of America, but that could have been easily accomplished without the soundstage. It bogs down the proceedings and makes far more of a slog than it needed to be. However the acting is still very strong in creating the various broken individuals who's even worse nature only reveals itself all the more over time. The relationships are well drawn and I think its portrait of a communal decay is rather fascinating. Again greatness is skirted by the indulgence of its visual style.
3.5/5

Master and Commander

Master and Commander is one of the greatest sea faring films of all time. It is a beautiful looking film in every respect, and it goes even further than that as give you such a sense of place within the sea. It's such great film as it's set during a war but that's only part of story. It's fantastic in terms of so effectively creating the environment of the ship not only in terms of the roles of each person, but also their personalities. There is a real rich history felt in the relationship particularly in the central one between the Captain and the doctor. Though it has a wavering focus it never feels vague, each aspect of the story is well realized and adds up to make a great film.
5/5