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REVIEW – Mustang

April 28, 2017 Leave a comment
Directed by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Produced by: Charles Gillibert
Written by: Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour
Edited by: Mathilde Van de Moortel
Cinematography by: David Chizallet, Ersin Gok
Music by: Warren Ellis
Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal G. Koldas, Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoglu, Burak Yigit
Year: 2015

 

What does it mean to be a young woman in a Muslim community? I obviously cannot answer this myself, being a Christian male who grew up in a predominately Christian culture in America, but it’s nonetheless something that has actually crossed my mind a few times. Needless to say, there are certain stereotypes that exist, particularly (and often ironically) in the minds of non-Muslims, regarding Muslim women. This doesn’t hold up for me, though, as there are always exceptions, and, more importantly, there are also women who should be allowed to tell their own stories about growing up in their own culture without our presuppositions clouding our judgment. You’d think that such a thing wouldn’t be a rarity, given the widespread attention of, for example, Malala Yousafzai, who you may recall was nearly assassinated for her outspoken views on educational rights for women, but the rarity is still sadly the truth. Before I saw the film at the center of this review, the only other one that really came to mind is Haifaa al-Mansour’s 2012 film Wadjda, hailing from Saudi Arabia – a truly great story about a young girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, which is frowned upon for women in their society. Of course, now we have French-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang, which may not be as overt as Wadjda but is no less eye-opening in terms of the varieties of perspectives so often ignored in order to confirm certain biases. Read more…

REVIEW – Logan

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment
LoganDirected by: James Mangold
Produced by: Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenplay by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Story by: James Mangold
Edited by: Michael McCusker, Dirk Westervelt
Cinematography by: John Mathieson
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jayson Genao
Year: 2017

 

Released in 2000, about 3 years after the abomination known as Batman & Robin seemingly killed off the superhero film genre, the first X-Men, even more so than its 1998 predecessor Blade, proved that comic book superhero movies really could find new life in cinemas, provided that the filmmakers took their subjects seriously. While Fox’s X-Men films have had more than their fair share of stumbles, particularly last year’s massively disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse as well as more egregious works like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand, they have also proven that the studio is willing to take some bold chances, too, rebooting and reorienting timelines with period films, or greenlighting a breakout R-rated comedy action film that proved that risks sometimes pay off with Deadpool. By far, however, the breakout element out of any of these films has been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who has been a constant presence throughout all these films from the very beginning, appearing in films even when his presence wasn’t necessarily needed because the studio knew he was just that good in the role. Hugh Jackman’s a talented guy, no doubt, but we’re all curious about whether or not it would have been as good as it has been had it not been for his casting in the first X-Men film – something that both nearly didn’t happen and was once a controversial decision at the time due to Jackman’s height betraying the comic character’s usually small stature. That was over 17 years ago, however, and now we’re facing the end of an era, with Jackman declaring Logan will be his final film as the iconic berserker. And thank God for that, as I think we’d all be disappointed if his cameo in Apocalypse was the end and not the phenomenal Logan – a film that may very well be the best superhero adaptation since The Dark Knight. Read more…

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 – Beauty and the Beast (1991)

September 24, 2016 2 comments
beauty-and-the-beast-1991Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Produced by: Don Hahn
Screenplay by: Linda Woolverton
Story by: Roger Allers, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders, Burny Mattinson, Kevin Harkey, Brian Pimental, Bruce Woodside, Joe Ranft, Tom Ellery, Kelly Asbury, Robert Lence
Edited by: John Carnochan
Music by: Alan Menken, Howard Ashman
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti, Hal Smith, Jo Anne Worley, Mary Kay Bergman, Kath Soucie, Tony Jay, Frank Welker
Based on the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Year: 1991

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may have been Disney’s (and the world’s, for that matter) first animated feature film, but, for many people (including myself), its recognition as still being their best has long since been overthrown by Beauty and the Beast, a film that was so well regarded that it also became the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and the first film, period, to have three songs simultaneously nominated for Best Original Song. When you know the production history, it’s also apparent how much of a miracle it was that the film turned out so well, too. Originally planned as a non-musical, the original concept was thrown out after the success of The Little Mermaid (the film that reignited Disney’s animated feature division and pretty much audience’s interest in animated films and musicals worldwide). This change saw both the original director depart the project and the hiring of first time directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise to take his place, and then the writing and recording of songs to fit the new format – songs written by Howard Ashman, who had also just found out that he was dying from complications caused by AIDS. Sadly, Ashman died eight months before the film’s release, but, at the very least, it was knowing the film he had worked so hard on was being well-received at early screenings, even in its incomplete state. The film would go on to become a massive success and would even become the first animated feature Disney would adapt into a Broadway production – one that was itself nominated for multiple Tonys (albeit, in spite of critical reviews at the time being somewhat apprehensive towards the unprecedented production) – and an upcoming live-action remake, which, if it’s closer to Cinderella than it is Maleficent, should be quite a decent film in its own right. Read more…

REVIEW: The Babadook

October 17, 2015 1 comment
The BabadookDirected by: Jennifer Kent
Produced by: Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere
Written by: Jennifer Kent
Edited by: Simon Njoo
Cinematography by: Radek Ladczuk
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear
Based on the short film Monster by Jennifer Kent
Year: 2014

 

It takes a lot to scare me these days when it comes to movies. Sure, some might have a lot of high tension, and others may exploit our squeamish tendencies through excessive, torturous gore (amongst other things), but when it comes to genuine terror, I can’t recall many movies that genuinely get under my skin and terrify me. The Babadook, an independent Australian film that came out of nowhere and almost immediately became a cult classic thanks to word of mouth marketing, is undoubtedly one of the most unnerving, scariest movies that I’ve seen in quite some time, from any era – and I recently saw The Exorcist for the first time. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “The Dark Knight Rises”

July 25, 2012 8 comments
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (screenplay), David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan (story)
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman
Year: 2012

 

Foreword

In the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, I felt a bit odd about writing my previous review and preparing for my next, as I was writing it in the late night hours as the events were unfolding, unknown to me until the next morning. Much of what I wrote about The Dark Knight reflected a lot of what was happening there, none of it necessarily original or new information, but it was stirring, all the same.

I had no common connection to any of the victims there beyond our similar interest in seeing this new Batman film, all of us anxious in seeing how this trilogy would end, and, unfortunately, many of them never got to see this film, and many more will forever see this film and be reminded of the horrible things they saw that night. What was supposed to be night of fun and entertainment turned into a nightmare, and it affected me, and still does a great deal the more I hear about the events, much more than I thought it would — not because I thought of myself as some tough, emotionless, apathetic person but because it made me realize how even the most mundane things we take for granted can connect strangers based on a mundane commonality.

This just happened to revolve around a movie theatre, a highly anticipated film, and audiences across the world who waited, maybe not in the same proximity, but with the same spirit that united us all in excitement and, unfortunately, also in an unexpected tragedy. In that spirit, if there is anyone out there who is reading this and was affected in some way to those events, I hope you know that, even if I don’t know you, I send my prayers and condolences to you and your families.

Review

Let me just say this now: Christopher Nolan is destined to go down in history as, if not one of the most influential or important filmmakers in blockbuster history, at the very least one of the most revered and respected. The man hasn’t made a bad movie in… well pretty much ever! Some have varied in quality and appeal, of course, but none have been able to cross the general consensus threshold of being considered anything less than a quality film: FollowingMementoBatman BeginsThe PrestigeThe Dark KnightInception. All masterful works of not only high art, but high entertainment. No other filmmaker since maybe Spielberg has managed to pull this synthesis of style, spectacle, and skill as well as Nolan has. And now, with The Dark Knight Rises, we have been given this amazing film that not only provides plenty of thrilling action, but is also an intelligent and thought-provoking conclusion to what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest film series of all time, The Dark Knight Trilogy. Read more…

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