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REVIEW – Trading Places

January 1, 2017 1 comment
Trading PlacesDirected by: John Landis
Produced by: Aaron Russo
Written by: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod
Edited by: Malcolm Campbell
Cinematography by: Robert Paynter
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Denholm Elliott, Paul Gleason, Kristin Holby, James Belushi, Tom Davis, Al Franken
Year: 1983

 

I’d always managed to forget this movie for the Christmas/New Year’s season in years past – it takes place predominately over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Not this year, though, thanks to a friendly reminder to not do that. My family was pretty big on this movie when I was growing up. Sure, I had to cover my eyes quite a few times (it’s an R-rated ‘80s comedy, after all), but apart from that, even I found it pretty enjoyable as a kid. But I haven’t seen it in a few years, as evidenced by my constant forgetfulness of its existence, and as the years went on, and the cycle of trying to remember this film at an appropriate time, forgetting, and then holding off until an appropriate time continued, I began to wonder to myself – was it actually Coming to America that I liked better than the other? Well, I don’t really know the answer to that one, as I also have to watch Coming to America again for the first time in years. However, the time has at least finally come for me to get around to reviewing Trading Places at what is ostensibly an “appropriate time” of year. So… Read more…

REVIEW: Wizards

August 5, 2016 Leave a comment
WizardsDirected by: Ralph Bakshi
Produced by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Ralph Bakshi
Edited by: Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Andrew Belling
Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers, James Connell, Susan Tyrrell, Mark Hamill
Year: 1977

 

I’ve only seen a few films of Ralph Bakshi – Cool World, Fritz the Cat, and now this movie – but there was a time when his works were always in the back of my mind whenever the subject of animation history came up. Ever since I was a kid, in fact, which is funny since almost none of his work is remotely child-friendly, except for perhaps his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. As a nerdy kid who studied almost anything that piqued my interest (but especially movies and video games), reading about Bakshi’s subversive, gritty, adult, and oftentimes controversial works always fascinated me. Revered as, if anything, noteworthy departures from the traditionally family fluff that, even today, is usually thought of as the default mode for animation in America, his stuff always stood out as almost mythical or even forbidden to my adolescent mind. I’d see references to it in stuff like The Simpsons and recognize the reference for what it was, but apart from maybe a few clips here and there, Bakshi’s animated films seemed to be spoken of in terms normally reserved for “banned” films like Song of the South and the infamous Censored Eleven – eleven Warner Bros. animated shorts that have been withheld from distribution due to their controversial, racially insensitive material. (I wasn’t far off in that regard, in retrospect, either.) Read more…

REVIEW: Stormy Weather

Stormy WeatherDirected by: Andrew L. Stone
Produced by: William LeBaron
Screenplay by: H.S. Kraft
Story by: Jerry Horwin, Seymore B. Robinson
Edited by: James B. Clark
Cinematography by: Leon Shamroy
Music by: Harold Arlen
Starring: Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, Fats Waller, Fayard Nicholas, Harold Nicholas, Ada Brown, Dooley Wilson
Year: 1943

 

I’d largely forgotten this film’s existence until I saw that Screen Archives had done a limited release of the film on Blu-Ray (Thanks, Blu-Ray.com!). The name immediately stuck out, and so I alerted my mom, an avid fan of old musicals, to the film, knowing about its historical significance as one of the earliest major studio films to feature an all-black cast, but having admittedly very little knowledge of what it was actually about – apart from the fact that it was a musical, and I had seen Lena Horne’s performance of the title song somewhere, probably in one of those musical documentaries that always aired on TCM or AMC. After purchasing it (and accidentally shipping it to myself instead of my mom), I did watch it, though, and realized something fairly interesting about the film, divorced from the racial significance: It’s actually kind of boring if you’re not that invested in the characters or their story, and I wasn’t. Read more…

2013 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year

February 16, 2014 1 comment

Rush - Chris Hemsworth

FINALLY! The moment I’ve been building up to for far too long! It’s been a busy month… and a half… for me, but I’m finally done, and this is my last of my 2013 in Review articles! (Consequently, while none of these are exactly final reviews, many of them may as well be and portions of what is stated here may show up in a future review. For the sake of my sanity and my time, however, I’ve decided to present what I felt the need to write without very many edits!)

The format I’ve chosen for my annual Year in Review articles is a bit insane, I know, but while it’s time consuming, its also quite fun, and it’s just as much about sharing all the films released in the last year (or at least most, as I probably missed some in the sections where I went over films I didn’t get around to seeing) as it is about me locating films that you and I have both overlooked, which is also why a lot of the films I didn’t see this year made repeat appearances, as I couldn’t resist the urge to watch them, and it’s not like I’d be able to do another year in review for them, too, you know? This year, one of those movies I didn’t see at first but did during my writing these articles even made it onto this list, My Top Films of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street - Jonah Hill, Marching Band

So why don’t I call it “The Best Films of the Year”? It’s simple, really – it’s subjective, yes, but it’s also because even I switch around the order at times. I guarantee you that at some point in the past and future, I might have ordered these films differently. It took some time and thought, and this is ultimately what I felt comfortable enough with to publish, but I’ll tell you that this was a hard process, particularly in the top 10.

All of this year’s Best Picture Academy Award nominees are on this list. Seriously – I’ve even decided to mark the Oscar nominations this year. They were all very good and justifiably nominated, and while I might have my preferences as to who should win, they’re all remarkable, worthwhile films if you should ever consider watching them. Some of the other movies on this list, however, are also quite awesome, some of which I like better than the films that were nominated, and one of which I’m still very annoyed didn’t at least get the tenth vacant slot in their nominees list, just out of principle for how awesome it was. (I’m just going to tell you now, that movie is Inside Llewyn Davis.) How annoying!

The World's End - Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan - beer

So what of the rankings? Lists like these tend to demand them, so I include them, and I do think they are helpful in making priorities in our very busy lives as to what to see first and give preference to. Since the rankings are so subjective and sometimes even arbitrary, my main rule is to go with my gut on these things. Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. It’s a mixture of favoritism, enjoyment, entertainment, and, yes, the actual skill behind the scenes and within them. As such, films that were without a doubt brilliant masterpieces that will go on to receive tons of accolades and be remembered forever may be outranked by flash-in-the-pan popcorn films that have very little to say except, “Hey, look at this awesome thing we did!” but were also very skilled at doing so and are films that I will revisit time and time again whenever I want to be entertained. It’s hard to rank films of these sorts against one another, and if I felt that I could be that much more objective about these things and take out the entertainment factor, I would probably top load this list with all the heavyweight dramas and such. But I don’t think I can, so I don’t put up any airs of being able to do so.

But, you know, I think that’s alright. Variety is the spice of life, you know, and to say that dramas should be exalted at all times above the comedies and action films is, I think, false doctrine when it comes to film criticism and lessens the true value of joy and wonderment that isn’t always found in those serious dramas – so long as that joy and wonderment is done very well, of course.

So, with that all in mind, I feel I’ve prepared you for this eclectic list of my picks for not just the best films of the year, but also the ones that are my favorites, the ones I find most enjoyable, and the ones that blew me away with their spectacle. Read more…

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Theatrical Review: “Elysium”

August 15, 2013 5 comments
ElysiumDirected by: Neill Blomkamp
Produced by: Neill Blomkamp, Bill Block, Simon Kinberg
Written by: Neill Blomkamp
Edited by: Julian Clarke, Lee Smith
Cinematography by: Trent Opaloch
Music by: Ryan Amon
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir
Year: 2013

 

Already not nearly as universally praised as District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s second theatrically released film isn’t poised to achieve the same surprise Best Picture Oscar nomination the way that his previous film did. That’s okay though because, flawed though it may be, Elysium is an incredibly entertaining movie with plenty of spectacle, gory action, and an intriguing but surprisingly disagreeable lead character. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “Fruitvale Station”

August 13, 2013 2 comments
Fruitvale StationDirected by: Ryan Coogler
Produced by: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker
Written by: Ryan Coogler
Edited by: Claudia Castelo, Michael P. Shawver
Cinematography by: Rachel Morrison
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O’Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Jonez Cain, Caroline Lesley, Ariana Neal
Year: 2013

 

It’s important to take any and all “based on true events” stories with several grains of salt, especially when there’s clearly an agenda on the part of the filmmaker – be it political action or just to earn himself an Academy Award. Ryan Coogler, a first time director, most likely has the best of intentions with his debut film, and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that monetary gain and accolades were not his only or even his primary concerns. That being said, in order to create a compelling story and film, he has the incentive to take creative license with his subject matter, and, truth be told, I do not necessarily hold that against him, either. Sometimes, the facts just do not make for good cinema, and it is my opinion that we must always keep that in mind when taking in these kinds of films. Read more…

Theatrical Review: “The Purge”

June 9, 2013 4 comments
The PurgeDirected by: James DeMonaco
Produced by: Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sébastien Kurt Lemercier
Written by: James DeMonaco
Edited by: Peter Gvozdas
Cinematography by: Jacques Jouffret
Music by: Nathan Whitehead
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Tom Yi, Chris Mulkey, Tisha French, Dana Bunch, Peter Gvozdas, Karen Strassman
Year: 2013

 

Bad news: This thing’s probably making money on its opening weekend. I went to go see Mud last night (excellent movie, by the way), and the lines for this movie, which disturbingly included several families with young kids, were pretty large. Look forward to next year’s sequel, people. I kind of regret paying into the box office success by going to this, but my friends were all chattering about it so I guess I kind of felt obligated to see it, if only because we were all coming up with theories as to what would occur in the movie, and I would’ve felt left out if I was the only one who hadn’t seen it come Monday’s carpool.

I have to admit, aside from maybe one little plot point early on, none of our predictions came true. Guess we don’t see that many crappy movies to actually get a handle on how these kinds of movies work. Oh, and spoiler alert, if you couldn’t tell already, I hated this dreadful excuse for a movie. Read more…

2012 IN REVIEW: The Best Films of the Year

February 16, 2013 Leave a comment

At last, we come to the climax of my review of the films of 2012. To those of you who continue to keep up with me, I one again apologize for the slow updates — I saw so many movies this past year and have been doing so much this past month that it’s been hard to keep up with a regular update schedule!

This is how I felt ALL WEEK!

This is how I felt ALL WEEK!

I’m currently in the process of moving, with my best friend / roommate moving back to his hometown to be closer to family, so it’s been tough keeping up with the blog, hanging out with him a few more times after seven awesome years of being roommates, while also just figuring stuff out for the next period of my life living as a single person for the first time. It’s tough, but thankfully he lives where my family lives, and it’s only 100 miles away. Lucky for any fans I may have (Hello!…?), it’ll likely result in me doing more reviews, though the higher amount of rent I’ll be paying will undoubtedly impact my ability to go to the theatre as often as I have been.

On that note, before I get to the meat of this final entry, I want to thank everyone who has been reading this blog, regularly or even sporadically. I may not know you, but I appreciate you! This may be a hobby of mine, but it’s meaningful to me and keeps me sharp. I started The Viewer’s Commentary in September of 2011, after lots of personal setbacks and a good long while of feeling stupid and even being made to feel stupid for wanting to start a blog about movies, and by the time I finally decided to just go for it and not listen to the negativity, I still didn’t really know whether I was going to still be writing in even a few months’ time. So to already be in the middle of my second year and still be having a blast getting my thoughts and opinions out there about one of my favorite subjects has truly been a great experience. To those of you who have read, continue to read, and even to those of you I know personally who encouraged me and maybe don’t even share my passion and probably aren’t even reading this now but you supported me all the same, thank you again for being there! I’m definitely looking forward to what 2013 promises to bring! (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS! FINALLY!)

The film's villain amongst a bunch of red shirts. This isn't going to end well...

The film’s villain amongst a bunch of red shirts. This isn’t going to end well…

Anyway, enough self-reflection! You’re here for the rundown of the best films of 2012, aren’t you? I assume so, since you are continuing to read this. I’ll let you get to that, but first, let me explain how this list is working, as I’ve changed it up a bit from last year and from most other “Best Of” lists.

First off, last year I did it in multiple parts (here, here, and, finally, here – in order). None of that this time. You’re getting this all in one big wave!

Secondly, and this is related to the third alteration, there are no longer just 10 films on this list, but rather a whopping 17. Why?

Well, that’s because the third alteration I made is that I’ve decided that a lot of the best films of the year weren’t necessarily my favorites, but I wanted to recognize their greatness by putting them on this list anyway, rather than lump them in with the films that were just average. (I did something similar with the “Films I Liked” this year after realizing I didn’t necessary love nor despise a lot of films enough to put them on the worst or best of lists.)

Honestly, what the hell?!

This did not make the list. This shouldn’t make any listsBECAUSE IT SHOULDN’T EXIST!

So, while the films below are all fantastic films and deserve to be considered among the best of the year, their order has everything to do with favoritism over quality. After all, lists like these are highly subjective, and while it’s certainly possible to objectively call a film “one of the best,” ultimately by ranking such diverse works against one another, you just have to acknowledge the fact that you’re playing favorites.

 

So, yeah, anyway to review and summarize: These are, in my opinion, THE BEST FILMS OF 2012, but they are ORDERED ACCORDING TO FAVORITISM. Make sense? I hope so! If not, then just keep reading on, ’cause I think you’ll get it, anyway! Read more…

Categories: Favorite Movies, Reviews, Year in Review Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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