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2012 IN REVIEW: Neither the Best, Nor the Worst Films I Saw

February 2, 2013 2 comments

This same section of my 2011 in Review had 17 films listed on what I, at the time, called “The Films I Liked.” 2012 being the first full year that I was blogging, I made a concerted effort to see as many films released in the year as I could afford. And, wouldn’t you know it? This list has 31 films on it — films that I realized I didn’t always entirely like, too, but were not necessarily worthy of being put on any kind of definitive “Worst of…” list that I could come up with. I could have been a pessimist and just put all the bad movies on the naughty list or something, but I’m feeling especially upbeat right now, and so I’ve decided to rename this list as a list of the films that were “Neither the Best, Nor the Worst Films I Saw.”

Dredd - Karl Urban as Judge Dredd

As the name would imply, these are a mix of films that range from bad to good, but never awful nor excellent. Some of these films are possibly even films that I may not even feel much of anything towards, so I just put them here because I saw them and they met the criteria for making this year in review — that is, they were released (at least widely) in 2012, and I saw them at some point before writing this, either theatrically or on DVD.

There is one exception I made for this list, and I will be making it again for another film in a future list, and that is for the film that is marked with an asterisk (that’s the little star symbol that looks like this: *). It featured previously on my 2012 IN REVIEW: Films I Didn’t See list, and yet I finally saw it now that it’s on video, and I felt that it was good enough to comment on here. I won’t be making that exception for every film I’ve since seen from 2012 since starting this year in review, but I’m making some exceptions and marking them as such.

Anyway, without further delay, here are the films that were neither great nor awful, the good films on down to the bland ones that I saw from 2012: Read more…

2011 in Review: Notable Films I Managed to Avoid, For Better or For Worse, January – April 2011

January 5, 2012 157 comments

A lot of people will say that 2011 was a dull year for film. Unlike previous years, there haven’t been very many huge Oscar-worthy films this year that I, personally can think of. Though The King’s Speech saw its wide release in 2011 (and I even saw it in theatres this past year), it was ultimately a film from 2010 and had, by this year’s Oscars, already won several Oscars and other accolades in the year prior, so it was no longer a contender for this spot.

Of course, 2011 had its share of noteworthy films, such as Moneyball and The Tree of  Life, both fo which I still have yet to see but hear fantastic things about. And there’s Hugo, which is a wonderful family film from Martin Scorsese and my top pick for the year. But 2011 was largely a year of recycling. Sequels aplenty, some great, some good, and some completely awful, with plenty of expected and unexpected revivals of old franchises, many of which were completely unnecessary and, yes, unwanted.  (Yes, I’m thinking of The Smurfs.)

2011 also saw the end of a few eras in film history, as well. The final Harry Potter released this year to high critical acclaim. For the time being, we’ve also gotten what is intended to be the final film in the Transformers trilogy (until Michael Bay decides he wants to have more money and toss in Jason Statham, who has been rumored to be taking over the lead human role for quite a while now). And we also saw Pixar release their first widely derided film ever in the admittedly-watchable-but-ultimately-thoroughly-mediocre Cars 2.

I went to the theaters plenty of times this year. Most of the films I did see were quite good, if at least enjoyable. A couple were quite bad. But there were still plenty of notable films that were released throughout the year that I didn’t see, neither in theatres nor in my own home. Before I tell you what were my least and most favorite of the year, I thought I’d go through the daunting task of a quick rundown of each notable film released in 2011 that I, for one reason or another, for better or for worse, did not see in theatres or get around to watching on home release. Read more…

Grudge Match Review: “Scrooged” vs. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” vs. “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Rounds 6 – 10

December 29, 2011 5 comments

<< Part I
Round 6: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Robert Hammond (uncredited), Robert Tygner (performer), and, yes, Jim Carrey as The Ghost of Christmas Future

Easily the ghost most people remember, and also the one where almost nobody seems to deviate from the tradition — not even Scrooged. The cloaked figure known as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (alternately, of Christmas Future) is often seen as the most dramatic of the spirits, revealing to Scrooge how the future could turn out if he doesn’t change his ways. There are differences in how each movie portrays the spirit, of course, but ultimately, the horrific aspect is the same, and it’s only a matter of how horrific and in what way.

Scrooged, for instance, keeps with the thematics, with the ghost having a heavy, ghoulish cloak with blue streaks and a TV screen for a face that flashes static and images from Frank’s life. Inside his cloak are hellish ghouls, moaning in agony. The visions of the future he shows Frank are abstract and look completely unlike anything else in the film, showing a bleak and sterile future, free from passion and compassion.

The Muppets keep it grim and faithful, but they are sure to make sure that families who show this to their children will not have tears by the end of the film. And, ultimately, that’s okay. It doesn’t break out into song, it doesn’t speak, and it certainly isn’t the most joyful spirit in the world, but we do need a Christmas Carol adaptation that is faithful without being both syrupy sweet and cheaply made. This spirit didn’t make that much of an impact on me as a viewer, but I get that I’m not necessarily the intended audience here.

Of course, it’s remarkably clear that Disney and Zemeckis were aiming for a much older audience with their collaboration on A Christmas Carol, as the ghost maintains his scary nature, multiplied by ten, with only Jim Carrey’s performance to keep things a bit lighter. Not nearly concerned with being grim and more concentrated with being terrifying, this ghost is seemingly the byproduct of merging the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Headless Horseman, with a hint of shrink ray. It seems as though the filmmakers were concerned that they didn’t have a big finale for the talky climax, and so the final spirit, who first appears as a living shadow, gains a red-eyed horse and a chariot of nightmares, shrinking Scrooge and chasing him the horrors of Christmas Yet to Come — and also the horrors of sewers and being the size of a rat. I guess that’s symbolism? Read more…

Grudge Match Review: “Scrooged” vs. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” vs. “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” – Rounds 1 – 5

December 18, 2011 8 comments

There are so many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it would be impossible for me to review them all, not to mention the fact that I’m sure many of you who read this would be bored by the endless barrage of adaptations of the same tale. As luck would have it, though, I’ve already watched three drastically different adaptations of the story this month, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, and each very unique. Rather than split these up into three separate reviews, however, I decided to do something different for this review: a grudge match! After all, what is the Christmas season without a little conflict, right?

The three adaptations for this review are, as I said, drastically different in tone, style, medium, and even decade.

Scrooged is the least literal of the translations and also the earliest film in this grudge match. Starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Alfre Woodard, and several other big actors and celebrities from the 80s, it is also the most “adult” of the three adaptations.

Next is The Muppet Christmas Carol, which, as you may have guessed, is a Muppetized adaptation. What is surprising about this adaptation, the first Disney-produced Muppet production and the first film released son after Jim Henson’s death, is that it doesn’t strictly star any of the recently revived puppets in the lead role. Rather, Ebenezer Scrooge is instead portrayed by a rather famous human actor, Michael Caine, with the Muppets instead taking on roles as the supporting cast.

Finally, we have what is currently the most recent theatrical release version of the film and the only one to bear the original Dickens name, A Christmas Carol, another Disney production and their first to star Jim Carrey. Director Robert Zemeckis used the same motion capture techniques he used in his first Christmas adaptation/motion capture production, The Polar Express. The film also features the captured performances of Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, and Robin Wright Penn. Coincidentally, despite its high tech trappings, big Hollywood names, and Disney’s involvement, this is also the most serious and literal adaptation of the three films.

What I want to do here, though, is to breakdown the various aspects of the basic Christmas Carol story, from the roles and the actors, the presentation of the ghosts, the artistic styling, the music, the overall effect of each of the films’ presentation of the Christmas Carol message, that all time classic one about charity and compassion for others, and, of course, the overall quality of each film as a whole. Instead of addressing each film on its own, I will pit each of these films against each other in the various categories, and each category will have a definite winner. The final reviews, however, do not necessarily reflect an average of each category’s results, and are to be considered my final score for each film overall — effectively determining the winner, you might say!

I must add this disclaimer: I’ve committed the sacrilege of having never read the original story, so I apologize for my ignorance on this likely crucial bit of research on my part. Hehe… *ahem* Read more…

Review: “The Polar Express”

December 7, 2011 6 comments
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Produced by: Robert Zemeckis, Gary Goetzman, Steve Starkey, William Teller
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles, Jr. (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Chantel Valdivieso
Music by: Alan Silvestri (score), Glen Ballard (lyrics)
Based on: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Year: 2004

The Polar Express… What a divisive film this has been. Look at its ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and it looks as though it’s almost torn down the middle as to how many people actually liked this film. Many marveled at its technical wizardry, while on the other end of the spectrum others were left disturbed by the character models and their “dead” or “doll-like” eyes. Read more…

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