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REVIEW – The Iron Giant

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment
The Iron Giant.jpgDirected by: Brad Bird
Produced by: Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff
Screenplay by: Tim McCanlies
Story by: Brad Bird
Edited by: Darren T. Holmes
Cinematography by: Steven Wilzbach
Music by: Michael Kamen
Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, Vin Diesel, James Gammon, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman
Based on the novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Year: 1999

 

Disney may have reigned at the box office in the 1990s, but by the end of the decade, the quality of their non-Pixar-produced films was undoubtedly beginning to slip, and so it’s no real wonder that other studios – particularly DreamWorks – were taking notice and trying to take a bite out of their share of the box office. Despite having the backing of a major studio behind it, however, Warner Bros. Animation struggled to find its footing with theatrical releases during this era. Space Jam, the studio’s first in-house feature film production, was a considerable success, but it relied upon familiar Looney Tunes characters and Michael Jordan (and an already existing and popular advertising campaign for shoes that already merged the two brands) to basically have the film market itself. Later films wouldn’t be able to use that crutch, however, and anemic advertising strategies for films like Quest for Camelot, Osmosis Jones, and even Looney Tunes: Back in Action – which no longer had the brand popularity and the basketball star to rely upon – did little to drum up ticket sales, and none of the films achieved the critical acclaim to even make them legit cult classics. There was, of course, one film released in between all this, however, that, despite the botched advertising (some of which, for some reason, used Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane”) and underperformance, did manage to eventually make a name for itself not just as a cult classic, but as truly one of the most underappreciated animated film classics. Read more…

REVIEW: Only You (1994)

Only You (1994)Directed by: Norman Jewison
Produced by: Robert N. Fried, Norman Jewison, Charles Mulvehill, Cary Woods
Written by: Diane Drake
Edited by: Stephen E. Rivkin
Cinematography by: Sven Nykvist
Music by: Rachel Portman
Starring: Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Jr., Bonnie Hunt, Joaquim de Almeida, Fisher Stevens, Billy Zane, Siobhan Fallon, John Benjamin Hickey, Tammy Minoff, Adam LeFevre
Year: 1994

 

I’ve never seen this movie before recently, though I was completely aware of its existence, as it’s been in my mom’s collection since I was a kid. I was never very interested in seeing it at the time because it was a “chick flick” romantic comedy, and I was a boy and not having any of that (though I made plenty of exceptions at the time to justify calling me a hypocrite). Through a number of circumstances, however, my mom ended up buying the movie a second time – a habit she has because, like her son, she has a very large library of movies and sometimes raids the bargain bins, but, unlike her son, she doesn’t keep tabs of which ones she already owns very well. As a result, it’s not abnormal for my sister and I to come visit now and then and point this out to her, and, because the movies are opened, they can’t be returned, either, so we end up taking the copies off her hands, regardless of whether we really wanted the movie in the first place. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

April 24, 2015 1 comment
Kumiko, the Treasure HunterDirected by: David Zellner
Produced by: Jim Burke, Andrew Banks, Cameron Lamb, Chris Ohlson, Nathan Zellner; Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (exec.)
Written by: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Edited by: Melba Jodorowsky
Cinematography by: Sean Porter,
Music by: The Octopus Project
Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Bunzo
Year: 2015 (wide)

 

Opening with a distorted epigraph declaring the following tale to be “based on a true story,” Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is actually based more in legend than true events. The true story became muddled thanks to a misunderstanding between Bismark, ND police officers and a Japanese woman named Takako Konishi, who had come to America from Tokyo and who the police had trouble communicating with thanks to a language barrier. Konishi was seeking some kind of refuge from her overwhelming depression somewhere near Minneapolis. She had lost her job back in Tokyo and had spent some time there with her married American businessman lover, whom she possibly came to see before tragically committing suicide near Detroit Lakes, MN. The language barrier between the police and Konishi, however led to the creation of an urban legend that Konishi had instead come to seek out the money-filled briefcase Steve Buscemi’s character had buried in the Coen Brothers film Fargo, believing the briefcase was real thanks in large part to that film’s epigraph declaring the story to be based on truth (it wasn’t) – this epigraph is, in fact, the very same one that Kumiko borrows for its own story. While David and Nathan Zellner here choose to focus on the myth for their story, however, in so doing, they actually manage to do justice to Konishi’s tragic story by portraying the heartbreaking truth of her emotions that were lost in translation through the story that far more people were compelled to listen to. Read more…

Review: “Star Trek”

April 30, 2013 4 comments
Star Trek (2009)Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Produced by: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Edited by: Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon
Cinematography by: Dan Mindel
Music by: Michael Giacchino, Alexander Courage (themes)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldaña, Karl Urban, Eric Bana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, Ben Cross, Clifton Collins, Jr., Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison
Year: 2009

 

It’s one of my favorite films now, but at the time this was first announced, I absolutely hated the idea of revisiting the original series characters. It wasn’t out of any sort of loyalty to the original cast, really, nor out of any sort of deep respect for their final film together, The Undiscovered Country (which contends with The Wrath of Khan for the best film), but more because I was sick of the franchise staying in the past. Other fans were seemingly of the same mind, with viewership so low for the prequel series Star Trek Enterprise that it resulted in the first Star Trek cancellation since the original series, and the abhorrently tacky Next Generation send-off Star Trek Nemesis earning the lowest box office in the series. So why was the studio and director J.J. Abrams, a self-admitted non-fan of the franchise, so keen on moving backward with the new film when stagnation was the series’ biggest problem in the first place? Read more…

Theatrical Review: “Brave”

June 26, 2012 8 comments
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Produced by: Katherine Sarafian; Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton (executive); Mary Alice Drumm (associate)
Written by: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi (screenplay); Brenda Chapman (story)
Art Department: Emma Coats, Nick Sung (storyboard artists); Mark Cordell Holmes (graphic artist); Jason Merck (artist)
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, John Ratzenberger
Year: 2012

 

Many have worried, and even after seeing the film continue to assert, that Brave is a step backward for Pixar in terms of quality and storytelling. The film’s current score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, while nowhere near as low as last year’s 38%-scoring Cars 2, still puts the film just barely above the first Cars (74%), and just below the recent Madagascar 3 (76%), and though I haven’t seen the latter, I doubt these films would ever be considered in the same league as Pixar’s masterpieces like Up, The Incredibles, the Toy Story films, and Finding Nemo. Audiences and critics alike are seemingly seeing signs that this studio, once heralded as being home to the kings (and queens) of their craft, is taking its first steps towards the abyss of mediocrity — an assertion only further enforced by the fact that Brave had Pixar’s lowest grossing opening weekend of any of their films, despite taking the number one spot. But is Brave really the harbinger of a string of “just average” films to come? Has Pixar lost its edge, its brilliance, its originality? To be quite honest, I don’t see Brave in that light at all. Read more…

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