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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…

2014 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen

February 7, 2015 1 comment

Under the Skin - Eye

Finally, we come to the films that I actually did see! As with the films I didn’t see, these films will come at you in three parts: the films that were just somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, the films I greatly disliked, and the films I really enjoyed.

I use those qualitative terms just to avoid confusion over what I’m ranking here. The films in this section range from generally bad to generally quite good, but never elevating to excellence or making me fall in love with them or making me hate them with a passion. That being said, I didn’t expect to like some of the films here as much as I ended up liking them, and, of course, I was letdown by others I actually was kind of looking forward to.

If you don’t see the movie here and didn’t see it in the list of films I didn’t see, then you can almost certainly be guaranteed to find them on one of my next two lists, as this is just a portion of the 121 total films I ended up seeing from 2014 as of this writing, whether in theatres, on DVD/Blu-Ray, or through streaming. Read more…

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2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)

January 24, 2015 1 comment

Maleficent - Angelina Jolie

I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. For this second part of my review of films I didn’t see, we’re going through the summer blockbuster season, which is typically where a lot of hopeful franchises and big, loud, action-packed spectacles are typically placed. That doesn’t mean that they’re stupid or anything, as some of them look quite good, but don’t expect too many of them to be all that deep or groundbreaking.

Yes, 2014 may have been a record year for me seeing the most movies from that year, but there were still movies I never got around to or never even had the ability to see due to either foreign or limited release. I still like going over them, however, as this process often leads  to me finding some unexpected gems that I might enjoy. Some of these I might become so interested in that I see them before I even get to the films I did see, so there is actually a possibility you might see these films reappear in this 2014 in Review series if that becomes the case.

Anyway, here are many of the films from May to August 2014 that I didn’t see, for one reason or another. It’s by no means complete, but that’s what you get when you’re using Wikipedia and Best of/Worst of lists from other sites. Read more…

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REVIEW: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

October 22, 2014 3 comments
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetDirected by: Tim Burton
Produced by: Richard D. Zanuck, John Logan, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Written by: John Logan (screenplay)
Edited by: Chris Lebenzon
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolksi
Music by: Stephen Sondheim
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Ed Sanders, Jayne Wisener, Jamie Campbell
Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Sacha Baron Cohen
Based on the stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler and characters created by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest
Year: 2007

 

I haven’t seen it myself, but, given its large fanbase, I’d say that it’s a surprise that it took nearly 30 years for Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s 1979 musical to see a film adaptation released. Of course, considering that most of those years were pretty lacking in any non-animated musicals, this would have definitely been a misguided notion. And even if musicals were not considered the box office poison they were considered to be throughout the 80s and 90s (again, provided that you were not animated), then no doubt the very nature of Sweeney Todd would be enough to hold it back. It’s a grim, macabre musical that dares to shock audiences with its rampant and bloody violence, songs with swear words in them, and even a dark sense of humor largely built around some sneaky cannibalism on the main characters’ part. This is some dark material, and any adaptation during that time would have no doubt led to the film bombing and further sullying the idea that musical films have their place in this world. Luckily, fortune smiled upon musical film fans, as not only did the early 2000s provide studios with an unexpected small boom in that very market, with Moulin Rouge! and Chicago gaining both popular and critical acclaim (not to mention money), but the 80s and 90s also saw the rise in popularity in the one director who could conceivably adapt the play for film faithfully and still not have it bomb based solely on name recognition alone. I’m talking, of course, about Tim Burton. Read more…

REVIEW: The Nativity Story

December 23, 2013 5 comments
The Nativity StoryDirected by: Catherine Hardwicke
Produced by: Toby Emmerich, Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Cale Boyter, Catherine Hardwicke, Mike Rich, Tim Van Rellim
Written by: Mike Rich
Edited by: Robert K. Lambert, Stuart Levy
Cinematography by: Elliot Davis
Music by: Mychael Danna
Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscar Isaac, Stanley Townsend, Clarán Hinds, Shaun Toub
Year: 2006

 

“Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s what you always hear this time of year, isn’t it? And yet it seems like it’s pretty hard to find many movies exclusively based on the story of the birth of Christ, as opposed to His entire life or crucifixion. The Nativity Story is undoubtedly one of the few that does focus on this one aspect. I had actually meant to review this film long ago, when I first started this blog, but the movie’s always been checked out indefinitely this time of year on Netflix and Blockbuster (back when they, you know, actually did the whole physical movie renting). This was the first year I actually managed to be proactive and get a copy, and so I guess it’s only appropriate that I actually make good on that and finally review the film, right? Read more…

REVIEW: Chariots of Fire

September 25, 2013 2 comments
Chariots of FireDirected by: Hugh Hudson
Produced by: David Puttnam
Written by: Colin Welland
Edited by: Terry Rawlings
Cinematography by: David Watkin
Music by: Vangelis
Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, Ian Holm, Nicholas Farrell, Henry Stallard
Based on a true story
Year: 1981

 

I have a bit of a weird relationship with Chariots of Fire. The first two times I saw this movie were each divided across multiple classes in two different Christian schools – once in 8th grade, and again in 10th. Each time, I found the movie ridiculously boring and overlong, little more than an excuse to tune out and passively watch the screen as the time ran out, making sure to at least get as much in as possible so that I could turn in a respectable enough paper that was assigned both times. Both times, we were expected to reflect upon the Christian themes, primarily related to Eric Liddell, whose religious beliefs put him at odds with his passion and talent for running at one pivotal point in the film. Read more…

Review: “Ballet Shoes” (2007)

July 12, 2013 5 comments
Ballet Shoes (2007)Directed by: Sandra Goldbacher
Produced by: Piers Wenger, Michele Buck, Damien Timmer, Patrick Spence, Heidi Thomas
Written by: Heidi Thomas
Edited by: Adam Recht
Cinematography by: Peter Greenhalgh
Music by: Kevin Sargent
Starring: Emma Watson, Yasmin Paige, Lucy Boynton, Richard Griffiths, Emilia Fox, Marc Warren, Victoria Wood, Eileen Atkins, Peter Bowles, Heather Nicol
Based on the novel Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage by Noel Streatfeild
Year: 2007

 

Remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail, where Kathleen’s store shuts down and she goes to the Fox Books and tearfully helps out a Fox Books customer desperately looking for “the Shoe books” that the store clerk has no idea about? “I’d start with Ballet Shoes because it’s my favorite, although Skating Shoes is completely wonderful,” she sobs. It’s one of the best scenes in that movie, because it shows how passionate Kathleen was about the job she had just lost and how the books she sold weren’t merely a means to a profit, but a means to make the lives of others better.

When I requested that my friends recommend some movies for me to review on Facebook, feeling rather uncreative and unchallenged in my own choices lately, this was the first of the recommendations that was something I hadn’t ever even considered watching before. (My recent review of Oscar was recommended in person and inspired my Facebook solicitation, which led to my reviewing The Road, as well, though I already owned that.) Read more…

Review: “Titanic” (1997)

May 15, 2013 2 comments
TitanicDirected by: James Cameron
Produced by: James Cameron, Jon Landau
Written by: James Cameron
Edited by: Conrad Buff, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris
Cinematography by: Russell Carpenter
Music by: James Horner
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, David Warner, Victor Garber, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Danny Nucci, Jason Barry, Suzy Amis, Ioan Gruffudd
Year: 1997

 

Titanic is responsible for exposing me to what is very likely my first experience with the phenomena of backlash toward something popular. Though I was just 11 when the film first released back in 1997 and had very little interest in actually seeing this 3-hour epic romance, I distinctly remember getting caught up with the other guys in my class who took great joy in teasing the girls who had begun bragging that they had seen the movie multiple times and memorized every moment. I even remember writing a sort of anti-fanfic of the film that I read in front of my 5th grade class for an English writing assignment wherein I was transported into the setting of the film and took the place of Jack and Rose at the end of the ship as it was sinking, thus dooming them both to a watery grave. There was also probably some destruction of a certain famous drawing from the film and the theft of the giant blue diamond. I hadn’t even seen the film at that point, but I had heard so much about it, I basically knew all the plot points and buttons to press that would set off the girls’ tempers and win the favor of the guys. Read more…

Review: “The Notebook”

May 7, 2013 6 comments
The NotebookDirected by: Nick Cassavetes
Produced by: Lynn Harris, Mark Johnson; Toby Emmerich, Avram Butch Kaplan (executive)
Written by: Jeremy Leven (screenplay); Jan Sardi (adaptation)
Edited by: Alan Heim
Cinematography by: Robert Fraisse
Music by: Aaron Zigman
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen, James Marsden, Jamie Brown, Sam Shepard, David Thornton, Kevin Connolly
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Year: 2001

 

Nicholas Sparks adaptations have become something like an annual event, it seems. Sure, it’s not actually true, but it feels true, what with all the films attempting to cash in on this film’s success as a tear-jerking romance novel adaptation. It all started with Message in a Bottle in 1999, and then there was the Mandy Moore film A Walk to Remember in 2002. The biggest film in this series of cloying romantic fantasies, though, seems to be The Notebook, a film that even romantic movie haters had at one point or another assured me is actually “a pretty decent movie.”

Now, I admit that I had basically pecked out portions of story from this film based on scenes I had caught glimpses of while on various trips back home, mostly when my oldest stepsister was still living at home. There were probably two or three good efforts thrown in there, too, of me actually trying to honestly follow the film with them before something else caught my attention and I wound up not following through with it. When I started Girly Movie Month this month, however, I knew that this would ultimately have to be reviewed, being basically the girly movie that comes to my mind when I think of the term “girly movie.”

Having finally seen the film all the way through in one sitting, I feel as though I can honestly sit down with anyone who may have told me in the past that this was actually a “decent” film and tell them to their faces: “You are so full of it.” Read more…

2011 in Review: My 10 Favorite Films, 7 – 4

January 23, 2012 4 comments

<<  2011 in Review: My Favorite Films, 10 – 8

Now we come to a portion of the list that, by pure coincidence, I am dubbing the nerdiest portion of my list. Three comic book films and a semi-obscure sci-fi film from a director who did an even more obscure sci-fi film with Sam Rockwell a few years ago.

This was the final year in which we got pre-Avengers films for the last two superheroes who would be getting them (with Hawkeye and Black Widow likely to be given their own post-Avengers films after that is an undoubtable success), and it was also the year that superhero films began to experiment with formulas, styles, and audience taste.

The three comic book films here largely exemplify what studios need to strive for in order to keep this genre alive and interesting, while the other film, the more obscure film, is itself a great example of using a familiar genre and its tropes to catapult a film into a touching and yet still intriguing human story.

7.  Thor (May 6)

When The Avengers were slated to get their film debut sometime in the future, I doubt anyone could have thought that this film would be any good, let alone be better than either of the Hulk’s two major film adaptations (though I did still pretty much like 2008’s take). While nobody really balked at the thought of adapting the story of a radioactive scientist who, you know, hulks out when he gets angry into an entertaining film (likely thanks to that character’s familiarity to audiences through various smaller mediums, especially the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno 70s TV series), somehow the story of the tortured dichotomy of Bruce Banner and the Hulk comes off as far more believable and, more importantly, relatable on a metaphorical level than Thor — a being who, depending on what version you go with, is either from a parallel dimension who inspired the Norse god of thunder or, more classically, actually is the god of thunder himself. Read more…

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