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THEATRICAL REVIEW – Don’t Breathe (2016)

September 2, 2016 2 comments
Don't BreatheDirected by: Fede Alvarez
Produced by: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, Fede Alvarez
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Edited by: Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford, Gardner Gould
Cinematography by: Pedro Luque
Music by: Roque Baños
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang
Year: 2016

 

Isn’t it nice to see horror movies that succeed both financially and critically? It wasn’t too long ago that the biggest horror movies given wide release were mostly sequels, remakes, and cash-ins on trends. I mean, we’re seeing that still, sure – that’s just part of how the movie industry works in general – but, specifically in regards to the horror genre, it’s not nearly to the degree from back when the Saw flicks were an annual tradition. Don’t Breathe, the latest surprise critical darling, is currently sitting at the top of the box office in its first week and is also maintaining an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – not just a good approval rating for a horror movie, but any movie in general. And while it doesn’t reach the same heights as films like The Babadook and It Follows in terms of vision, style, and execution, I was still incredibly pleased to find that not only were the positive reviews well deserved, my own expectations based on the trailers and word of mouth were exceeded. Read more…

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REVIEW: Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back

February 25, 2016 Leave a comment
Pokemon: The First MovieDirected by: Kunihiko Yuyama
Produced by: Choji Yoshikawa, Tomoyuki Igarashi, Takemoto Mori; Norman J. Grossfeld (U.S.)
Written by: Takeshi Shud­o; Norman J. Grossfeld, Michael Haigney, John Touhey (U.S.)
Edited by: Toshio Henmi, Yutaka Ito
Cinematography by: Hisao Shirai
Music by: Shinji Miyazaki; John Loeffler, Ralph Schuckett (U.S.)
Starring: Veronica Taylor, Ikue Otani, Rachael Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ken gates, Philip Bartlett, Megan Hollingshead, Stomi Korogi, Maddie Blaustein, Tara Jayne, Jimmy Zoppi, Ed Paul, Lisa Ortiz, Kayzie Rogers, Ed Paul
Based on the Pokémon series of video games created by Satoshi Tajiri and the Pokémon TV series
Year: 1999

 

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon video games, and so I thought I’d commemorate the event.

I used to be very into the Pokémon games and anime. My sister and I used to recite the Team Rocket motto for fun (I can still do it all from memory, inflections and all, in fact), and I used to own all three versions of the original games released in the U.S., not to mention a whole slew of the trading cards (including the three original legendary birds – Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, which my mom so lovingly sought out by name for my big Christmas present one year – and the Ancient Mew card that came out with early tickets of the second film) and some of the spinoff games. There was also my prized Game Boy Printer, which is yellow and Pikachu-themed and was released only in Japan, where I was living as a very nerdy 10 – 12-year-old when the games initially released. I even had a pair of Pikachu and Togepi boxer shorts, and my first ever email account was pokemonmaster1@hotmail.com – because while plain ol’ “pokemonmaster” was already taken, I didn’t care because I was #1! Read more…

REVIEW: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

December 17, 2015 2 comments
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)Directed by: Ron Howard
Produced by: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
Screenplay by: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Edited by: Dan Hanley, Mike Hill
Cinematography by: Donald Peterman
Music by: James Horner
Original song by: Mariah Carey, James Horner, Will Jennings, performed by Faith Hill
Starring: Jim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Josh Ryan Evans, Clint Howard, Anthony Hopkins (voice)
Based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Year: 2000

 

I’m not really certain what makes studios think that live action adaptations of things that belong in animation are good ideas, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say it’s because they make money. Obviously, that trumps artistic expression, more often than not. And that’s how you end up with things like The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers. These movies are at least technical marvels, when sufficient effort is put into them, and the environments in How the Grinch Stole Christmas are really quite incredible and well realized. The makeup effects are also mostly impressive, too. That being said, I’ve only once ever seen a live action adaptation or extension of a property that I ended up liking more than the original, and that was this year’s live action Cinderella. Still, that’s one exception, and none of this can overshadow the fact that Dr. Seuss’ book was already perfectly adapted decades ago by Chuck Jones in the 26-minute-long, 1967 animated TV special, complete with the perfect look and tone, and, best of all, with absolutely zero filler to pad out the original book. The same cannot be said about Ron Howard’s admirable but misguided adaptation. Read more…

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…

Special Review: “Man on Fire” (2004) – In Memory of Tony Scott

August 31, 2012 4 comments
Directed by: Tony Scott
Produced by: Lucas Foster, Arnon Milchan, Tony Scott
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Cinematography by: Paul Cameron
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams, Lisa Gerrard
Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke
Based on the 1981 novel Man on Fire by A.J. Quinnell (Philip Nicholson)
Year: 2004

 

While I had already seen a few of Tony Scott’s films well before this one — Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and Spy Game specifically — it wasn’t until his 2004 adaptation of A.J. Quinnell’s novel Man on Fire that I truly became aware of Tony Scott as a director and, more specifically his signature style: the high contrast, gritty visuals combined with high saturation of color, the energetic and often hectic editing, and the often broad portrayal of the characters featured in his films by big name actors… Man on Fire may not have been the first Tony Scott film I’d seen, but it came out at a time when I was transitioning into my interest in cinema beyond just the entertainment value. I remember when I first rented Man on Fire, which was also the last time I had seen the film before just this past week, how enamored I was with the movie’s sleek and arresting visuals, which extended into the film’s extensive use of subtitles, and the story’s relentless and violent portrayal of a damaged man being finally broken. Read more…

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