Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark Review

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 adventure movie that is regarded as one of the finest blockbusters whereas in my opinion it is incredibly over-appreciated.

It follows Indiana Jones in search of the famous ark also chased by the Nazis. Now, the story has excellent themes – the search for treasure, the heist, mystical objects, Egyptian mythology, the jungles and excellent locations overall. But it never makes use of it with a tired and awfully predictable and clichéd plot which is of course dressed in the grandiose blockbuster clothing. And it literally copies the adventure movies from the thirties not only for the themes but for it is set in that exact period. But it doesn’t have the charm of those 1930s movies neither in the actors nor in the tone and it is never nearly as engaging or fun but rather dull and even annoying. But what’s the worst is that it is filled with action after action instead of effervescent adventure. There are literally scenes that go for over ten minutes of non-stop stupid action. And I blame this movie as one of the films that influenced others and started the stupid blockbusters over-reliant on spectacle.

Ok, so the plot is weak, but what about the characters? They are even worse! The character development is so subpar here that it quickly warms its welcome. Indiana Jones is fun for many people, I get that. But he is annoying and obnoxiously arrogant that I wanted to punch him in the face. He is the typical Harrison Ford, full of himself character that I honestly absolutely despise and he is the reason the movie does not work. His girlfriend is also not strong, she is better than the female character from the next movie, that’s for sure, but she is nevertheless very forgettable. And all of the other characters are so thin and badly developed that I have no need to talk about them.

The acting is good. Harrison Ford is okay in the role, I dislike him and the character, but there is no denying that he is a good actor and that he plays those types of roles very well. As for the other actors, they serve their purpose, but again nothing out of the ordinary and their performances are quite forgettable as are their characters.

The directing from Spielberg is weak here as he displays no purpose and no structure whatsoever. Technically, it is a solid movie with great effects for the time, excellent scenery and solid acting. But the approach with constant action is awful and because of awful editing, some action sequences tend to go forever. What is also troublesome is that the movie fails to bring any emotion or charm to the table whatsoever and add to that weak and annoying characters and a typical story and you’ve got an empty blockbuster movie that unfortunately influenced other American films to follow in its wake which is why big-budget movies nowadays are so bad.

The movie is also undeniably predictable and also stupid in many scenes with expected mistakes that just go against reason. As for the sound, it’s quite good and of course the score is iconic. But then again, even that score is not one of my favorites from John Williams and the movie relies on it a bit too much. As for the humor, it is awful. There is not a single moment where I smiled, not to mention laughed. And that is problematic because they evidently try. And the famous scene with the swords guy is not just ridiculous, but incredibly annoying and it gets on my nerves. And the tone in this movie is bad because it is too silly and not to mention that it possesses the unbearable amount of 1980s cheese.

With awfully clichéd and not a bit engaging story that was literally copied from the 1930s adventure movies but lacks their charm and authenticity whatsoever, too silly tone filled with unbearable amount of 80s cheese and incredibly thin characters thanks to weak character development with Indiana Jones being just obnoxious and annoyingly arrogant, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a big dumb blockbuster that looks good with excellent scenery, great sound effects, iconic score and solid acting, but it is badly directed, awfully edited with some action sequences going on forever and it is literally filled with action after action that it quickly becomes difficult to watch. It unfortunately influenced other movies and that is why nowadays we have these stupid blockbusters filled with endless action and no story or character work whatsoever and I am not going to congratulate this movie for doing that. This is one of the most overrated films made by one of the most overrated directors.

My Rating – 3

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A Trip to the Moon (1902)

 

A Trip to the MoonA Trip to the Moon is an undisputed classic according to critics and I totally agree. What George Melies did here is not only remarkable and groundbreaking but simply extraordinary and for all times. It technically looks splendid with astonishing costumes, excellent editing, expectedly terrific direction, unbelievable effects and above all outstanding set pieces with plethora of memorable moments with authentic imagery.

The plot has some silly moments, but it is mostly positively silly and it is also very fast paced which was unusual for the time but works for the movie fine. I wished for more scenes on the moon, but it was great to have first act on Earth and second out there and it was done with excellent editing and build-up. And of course the sequence with the moon getting hit on the eye is iconic for a reason as it is executed perfectly and so visually intriguing.

It is incredibly engaging, visually artistic and stunning, perfectly executed all around and it is an effervescent, fun and above all a revolutionary movie that truly is one of the best of its time.

My Rating – 4.8

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Slow West (2015)

Slow WestSlow West Review

Slow West is a 2015 western movie and a directorial debut for John Maclean. It garnered positive reviews and it stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender.

It follows a young man who travels across America in search of the woman he is in love with. Along the way an outlaw makes him company. This is why the movie doesn’t work. It is a pretty ordinary and overly simplistic story. It never has any special moment whatsoever and the storytelling is troublesome with unbearably slow pacing and weak character development. There are some interesting sequences here, but this is mostly a very tedious movie that fails to get you excited whatsoever.

The characters are poorly developed. The protagonist is just a nuisance and he never is interesting to watch which is highly problematic having in mind he is the center of the movie. And all of the characters are very badly written and are extremely flat.

As for the acting, Michael Fassbender is good as always. He is one of my favorite modern actors and you will be hard-pressed to find his weak performance. This is no exception. Like last year’s ‘Frank‘, it is a movie that I disliked, but I liked him and he made the whole flick tolerable. But while he made it tolerable, Kodi Smit-McPhee made it excruciatingly difficult to watch. He is a very weak actor and he annoyed me not only with his face, lack of charisma and behavior but also with the evident lack of talent. He was also the weakest link in excellent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I never bought him here as well because his appearance is so modern and does not suit that time at all. Yes, he is the reason why Slow West fails along with the story of course.

Technically, it is a splendid movie. And that is its only big strength. The directing is quite solid, especially for the first time director. But the cinematography is absolutely amazing with beautiful scenery that is breathtaking at times. And the acting is solid beside the lead actor. But the editing is weak with dragged pacing and very short running time.

Slow West has solid direction, quite good acting and the movie looks good with some beautiful scenery, but it is unbearably boring with flat and badly written characters, simplistic and weak story and Kodi Smit-McPhee is incredibly annoying which is problematic for he is the lead. It has some strengths, but overall it is a forgettable and uninspired western.

My rating – 2,5

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelThe Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Review

Directed by John Madden and having once again the powerful cast of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy among others, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a British comedy drama and a sequel to 2012’s very successful film. It is quite similar to its predecessor both in its strengths and its weaknesses.

It follows mostly Sonny’s attempt to open the second hotel in his line and his troubles with his girlfriend. This is why this story is weaker than the one from the original. The emphasis on him is a poor choice and it starts to get rather annoying later on mainly because of Dev Patel’s overly theatrical performance and an annoying, overloud character. And his story is highly typical, uninspired and never interesting. But others have a fairly interesting storyline. Evelyn’s business plans and relationship with Douglas and the appearance of his former wife are all interesting stuff. And Norman’s problems are once again hilarious, this time with his wife’s proclaimed polygamy. And Richard Gere’s character and relationship with Sonny’s mother has some charmingly romantic moments. But Muriel is once again the highlight here not only because of Maggie Smith’s acting, hilarious lines but also because of her warm moments, especially near the end. The film quite solidly explores the troubles of the elderly and the theme of time and its passage are wonderfully touched upon with endearing ending.

As in the original, the script is very clichéd and ordinary. But the characters are once again likable and very well developed. All of the characters have their moments, but Muriel steals the show naturally. She has many hilarious lines and it is especially funny how she immensely dislikes America. Those lines are funny little gems. And I think that although changed somewhat at the end of an earlier film, she still remained a bitter old woman which is great and very realistic. And it is wonderful from the filmmakers that they chose her to end the movie which was done on a high note.

The acting is superb across the board and as in the first ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, it is the movie’s standout aspect. Judi Dench is superb along with of course Bill Nighy. Dev Patel as mentioned before is rather annoying in his overacting, but other Indian actors all did a fine job. And of course I won’t talk about Maggie Smith more, I won’t repeat myself as I already stated that her character is the highlight and that she is marvelous in everything she does.

The humor is solid at times, but there was never enough of it. The film started off on a very good note and for a moment I thought it was going to be better than the first one because of great humor, but it quickly got worse thanks to that emphasis on Sonny, less humorous moments and more boring and typical storylines. The editing is very problematic because there is not a single reason why this movie needs the running time of two hours and there are because of that too many tedious and dragged parts, especially in the second act. But the directing is solid, the acting is top-notch and of course the scenery and costumes are exquisite and colorful. And the music is solid but that singing and dancing sequence at the wedding in the end definitely had to be reduced.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is more of the same, it isn’t better, but it isn’t particularly worse from the original. The story is once again typical, the editing is awful with too long running time, some scenes tend to go for too long and Dev Patel’s overacting and emphasis on his character are quite annoying, but the humor is quite solid at times with some hilarious lines from Maggie Smith’s character and she once again steals every scene she is in. The film is at times annoying and very clichéd, but it looks good, it has top-notch performances and it has its funny and charming moments.

My Rating – 3

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Puss Gets the Boot (1940)

Puss Gets the Boot

Tom and Jerry

Puss Gets the Boot Review

The first ever Tom and Jerry short is quite remarkable especially having in mind it is the first and it perfectly introduces you to the characters for the first time. Although it has its flaws mainly the beginning which is very abrupt and just starts with action all of a sudden and the cup throwing sequence definitely goes on for too long, Puss Gets the Boot still has its terrific moments mainly the ending which is memorable and funny and also the scene where Mammy hits Tom with Jerry hysterically laughing is just hilarious and a perfect comedic gem of a moment. It still needs some work, but this is an often hilarious, very well animated and above all fun and charming flick with a bunch of their signature mean-spirited jokes.

My Rating – 4

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Dragonheart (1996)

DragonheartDragonheart Review

Dragonheart is a 1996 fantasy adventure children’s movie directed by Rob Cohen and starring Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis and Sean Connery as the voice of Draco the dragon.

The story is about the knight and dragon that is the last of its kind who join forces in order to stop a villainous king. The plot is very simplistic and seen countless times. It was done infinitely better in 2010’s ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ and it is very influenced by Disney’s ‘The Reluctant Dragon‘ especially in the dragon singing part. Speaking of the Dreamworks animated film, Dragonheart in my opinion would have turned out much better had it been done as an animated movie because in animation fantasy is much better realized and also much more believable. And because it is in live-action, it is often too silly with at times being even ridiculous. However, this is a children’s film which means that silliness can be forgiven and such scenes are perfect for kids.

However silly and typical the plot is, it nevertheless is satisfying mostly because it is engaging, apart from the first third which is very boring. It also has a heart and it has its charming moments. But the ending is what propels the movie due to its beautiful, sad and emotionally satisfying conclusion accompanied by terrific visuals and some wonderful music. The first third of the movie is very boring and fails to introduce you to the characters properly, but the movie quickly gets better and better as it progresses and ending it on a high note.

As for the characters, they are nothing to write home about, but the character development is okay so they are passable. Einon is a typical bad guy, but he presents a genuine threat which is great. Kara seeks revenge on him for he murdered her father which means she is very one-note but nonetheless an interesting and a pretty stupendous female character. Bowen as the protagonist is good, but nothing remarkable and of course Draco is the standout, lending much of both dramatic and comedic scenes to the movie. And their relationship is wonderful and interesting to follow.

The performances are very good, stupendous even for this kind of movie. The highlight is David Thewlis being perfectly believable in the villain role. However, although Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery both did an excellent job, I could never buy either of those casting choices. Quaid somehow does not fit within this period with his looks and his voice, whereas Connery has such a distinguished and easily recognizable voice that it is distracting to hear it coming out of a dragon’s mouth. And although I got used to both of them later on, the casting director is still to blame for making such questionable choices for this movie.

Now technically, Dragonheart is phenomenal and that is its biggest strength. The scenery is wonderful to look at, the directing is solid and the pacing is excellent later on after the slow and uninspired first third. But the standouts are the score and the special effects. The score is very uplifting and at times even beautiful, especially in the finale. It certainly lifted the whole movie. And the effects on the dragon are terrific because it looks amazing for 1996 and it didn’t age as badly as some other films of the time.

Although too boring at the beginning and often silly with some very juvenile sequences, Dragonheart is nevertheless an engaging and even charming movie with a beautiful score, excellent effects and warm ending. It would have been much better in animation and some casting choices here are quite questionable, but it is nevertheless a quite solid entertainment with its fair share of memorable and endearing scenes, great visuals and inherent charm.

My Rating – 3,5

 

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101 Dalmatians (1961)

101 Dalmatians101 Dalmatians (1961) Review

Disney enters this successful decade with One Hundred and One Dalmatians released in 1961 and based on the novel of the same name thus going back to non-fairytale features and being the first film to use the so-called xerography which is the cheap process of animation they would use again in this decade.

This is one of the more interesting and even authentic Disney films thanks to the inclusion of a different genre which is adventure with a lot of action as well. The story is excellent, wonderfully thought out and filled with great attention to detail and fine characterization. It starts with what is arguably one of the best Disney openings to date with wonderful animation, excellent humor and charming voice over narration from Pongo. That whole scene leading to the park is beautiful and instantly interests you in the film. Then there is of course the introduction to Cruella de Ville’s character which is done in a memorable manner leading to the dogs communicating with other dogs in the town thus spreading the news of the abduction. This was the sequence that showcased the sense of playfulness and charming humor the most adding the necessary sweet and innocent tone to the film that would lack it for scenes to come. Then there comes the prolonged action sequence where the protagonists must return with all the puppies home. This is done for better and for worse. On the one hand, the action is done in an intriguing way, it is mostly very entertaining and suspenseful making you root for the main characters. And there is some inventiveness to be found in the execution of it as well which is always a nice thing. But on the other hand, all that action becomes quite overwhelming later on ruining the pacing in the process which is the problem that annoyingly bothers so many Disney movies. And they should have added some quiet moments with the necessary character development and even comic relief to balance it a bit. However, this is one bigger problem I found in this otherwise remarkable and very underrated movie. And the finale is wonderful with endearing song and satisfying happy reunion.

The characterization in this film is simply amazing. If there is one thing you could argue, that is the lack of personality in the puppies except of course for Lucky and Rolly who is an endearing comic relief. But they couldn’t have developed all of them due to their enormous number and that is why I didn’t find that flaw overwhelming. But the other characters are magnificent and oh so memorable. Roger is very relatable both in his design and personality which is a refreshing change in pace from their previous male leads, mostly unrealistic dashing princes. Anita is somewhat forgettable, but they are a lovely couple along with Pongo and Perdita. Nanny is very effervescent and a minor character that serves her purpose while also being well developed and charming. The other dog characters all fit the story and help the protagonists whereas Captain and Sergeant Tibbs, a genius duo of cat and dog at work, are very effective and comedic. And then there is of course Cruella De Ville who is absolutely stunning. With simply fantastic animation design, phenomenal voice work, menacing nature, some great lines, authentic personality and crazy behavior, she steals the scene whenever she is in and is, without any doubt, one of the top three best Disney villains ever created. She is a genius creation at work, an extremely memorable character and a powerful addition to Disney’s pantheon of classic villains. As for Horace and Jasper, they are hilarious as the two comedic henchmen who perfectly counteract and serve as her servants. Those two bring the necessary humor to the film which lacks it after the charming beginning.

Speaking of Cruella, she greatly contributes to the evident and very refreshing realism of the picture. Her goal is real and everything in this movie seems realistic without any magic whatsoever. The animals talk, but not with humans and it is a great approach that helps the film appeal to older audiences.

The animation is very good in my opinion. I know that everyone tends to hate on Disney’s 1960s films done with this type of animation because they find it cheap and while it is cheap, I still think it is very warm, stylistic with great art direction and splendid character design. And the color palette and a style similar to paintings is very appealing and differentiates it from their earlier and later efforts.

As for the soundtrack, it has just two songs but both are good. Dalmatian Plantation is sweet, catchy and ends the movie in a satisfying manner, but of course Cruella De Ville is the classic one with excellent lyrics which fit the movie perfectly and the situation thus doing what every song in a musical should do – drive the plot forward or explain the character instead of slowing the whole film down. The latter example applies here. The lyrics again showcase her personality as well as Roger’s and accompanies one great sequence wonderfully. It is a standout song and one of the classic and most memorable Disney songs for good reasons.

In the end, 101 Dalmatians isn’t another ‘Sleeping Beauty‘ and is filled with too much action, but this is a Disney film that is undoubtedly one of the most underappreciated with a plethora of colorful and very strong characters, catchy songs, charming animation and humor, entertaining adventure and inventive action, engaging story and it’s all around an effervescent and fun picture that can delight almost everyone.

Rating – 4,5

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Top Ten Films of 2014

2014 was a year of some stupendous and for once intelligent blockbusters and many terrific dramas, great biopics and fantastic indies. But above all it brought back animation with a style after lackluster last year and rarely have there been so many amazing foreign movies. All those genres and types of movies I will try to represent in my list of the best films of this incredible film year.

 

10. Interstellar

Interstellar Coming in at number ten is this hugely underrated science fiction gem of a film. In a year with many great films within the genre such as ‘Predestination‘ and ‘Snowpiercer‘, Interstellar stands out as the best. Well, the second best, but more of that later. Nolan crafted such an epic, hugely ambitious and visually stunning film that it can be forgiven for its minor flaws which there are many (mainly the ending which was disappointing for so many people). All those flaws prevent it from reaching a higher place on this list, but this is still a phenomenal piece of sci-fi entertainment that unfortunately did not receive the praise it deserved whereas in my opinion it is one of the very best works from the director.

9. The Imitation Game

Imitation GameThis is probably the movie I was least expecting to end up on this list because from the trailers it looked like they were going to omit a lot from Alan Turing‘s personal life and I am not a big fan of Bennedict Cumberbatch. However, I was quickly reassured when I saw his terrific performance and the movie’s emphasis on both intense war drama and the scientist’s troublesome personal life. But what was really refreshing is its change in approach. Usually, biopics are boring and you rarely get fully invested in them. This was a different story due to interesting use of fantastic humor and evident fast pace. 2014 was an excellent year for biographical films with ‘Life Itself’ and ‘The Theory of Everything‘ coming close being on this list, but The Imitation Game ends up as the finest mostly because it is so entertaining and because it finally portrayed on the big screen the story of such an important man with a lot of care and honesty.

8. Gone Girl

Gone GirlThere is rarely a year when a film from one of my favorite directors does not make it on the list and this is no such year. Yes, Gone Girl is a masterpiece when thrillers are concerned. David Fincher did a wonderful job with this source material evidently paying homage to Hitchcock in the process. It is a beautiful film to look at, but above all incredibly intense and thrilling which is everything you would expect from the genre. But what takes  it to the next level is a sophisticated approach with a lot of smart themes and of course one of the finest female villains ever in a movie.  Gone Girl was such a stunning surprise and it is in my opinion one of the best modern thrillers after the magnificent ‘Seven’ and a work which once again cements Fincher as one of the best directors working today and one of my personal favorites.

7. Whiplash

WhiplashWhiplash is one of a kind movie. A rare indie that made such a huge splash that even the casual movie fans have at least watched it. And there are a number of reasons for that. It is incredibly smart, making you think with its thought-provoking ideas and subject matter. It is also one of the best acted films of the year for sure with J. K. Simmons giving such a powerhouse performance, creating such a memorable character that is one for the ages. It manages to be smart but also incredibly fast paced and immensely entertaining and tense. Whiplash is one of the finest Best Picture Nominees for the year and probably the most fun as well as important picture you would find on this list.

6. Wild Tales

Wild TalesNow we come to the most exhilarating and authentic movie here which is the Argentine anthology Wild Tales. This was a movie that took me by surprise entirely, rarely have I experienced such joy and utter disbelief at display here. It is a fun flick, but crazy. Crazy and, as stated in the title, wild. It is a collection of stories that are all relatable but also unbelievable in nature. But what makes it brilliant is its incredible black humor with many hilarious sequences and jaw-dropping situations making you laugh and sit at the edge of your seat through most of the running time. 2014 is probably one of the most fantastic years ever for foreign films with such gems as the Swedish unpleasant family drama ‘Force Majeure‘ and Turkish hard-hitting ‘Winter Sleep‘, but Wild Tales makes it on the list for being in tone the complete opposite of those movies and the one which sticks with you long after you’ve seen it.

 

5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightI am not the biggest fan of horror so imagine my surprise that one managed to get on this list and this high as well. But that is bound to happen for almost anyone who watches it as it is so incredibly good. Yes, this is more of a visual treat instead of anything else and the story is naturally highly simplistic, but it is visually stunning with absolutely breathtaking cinematography and some really memorable imagery. But what makes it so good is of course its horrific atmosphere and a couple of genuinely creepy moments. It makes great use of its setting, black-and-white photography and chilling feel. And it is one of the most authentic takes on a tired genre and one of the finest vampire flicks ever made, that’s for sure. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the best in a year of incredibly strong foreign movies which really says a lot and any horror enthusiast should check it out and will be in for a surprise.

4. Nightcrawler

NightcrawlerNightcrawler is a kind of a movie that seems like it’s from another decade. Everything about it screams seventies, from the desperate mood to a dark premise and execution. This is probably the most important movie to watch from the year as it is so relevant and realistic in its portrayal of media in the 21st century. I would go so far to say it is an urgent viewing as it is so powerful. It also has a refreshing and quite perfect ending, it has a main character that is one of the most evil in a long time and has many tense scenes. ‘Gone Girl’ also has a powerful message, great subject matter and an incredible lead, but Nightcrawler manages to trump that movie in my book which was certainly no easy task. Both are amazing social dramas and tense thrillers that need to be watched.

3. How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon 2As the only animated movie on this list, Dragon 2 is a perfect example of what American animation needs to strive for – more mature tone, bigger consequences and fantastic world building. Yes, the film is brutal in some scenes and I was on the verge of crying at times. The character development is absolutely terrific, the animation is beautiful and the story is very deep and multilayered. This was a much better year for animation after awful 2013 and most importantly Dreamworks Animation finally shows us what they are capable of after a string of so-so entries. This is not only one of the best animated franchises but also one of the finest movie trilogies of all time. But that still remains to be fully seen with the third entry which I hope is going to be as amazing as the first two.

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesIt is weird for me to put this high a blockbuster movie as I am definitely not a fan. But I had to as this is such a breathtaking movie. It is a textbook example of what these giant movies ought to have – excellent characters, wonderfully imagined world, stellar script, inherent emotion, but still retaining the big action sequences and spectacle for the masses. Caesar remains one of the best protagonists in a decade with superb story arc and thrilling rivalry with his ape nemesis Koba. It manages to show both sides and the relationship between apes and humans is so complex and deep. It is a dark and difficult viewing but that’s what makes it special as it perfectly sets the tone for the finale with desperation and upending doom felt in the air. And the ending is so powerful that I was on the edge of my seat. This is along with ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘ one of my favorite franchises and it remains to be seen which one will be better with the third entries as both are so similarly awesome now.

1. Boyhood

BoyhoodAnd number one goes to Boyhood – a movie most love to hate, but I love to adore. Everyone talks about the originality of filming a movie for 12 years, but that is the least interesting aspect about it in my opinion. What makes is so meaningful is the dialogue which is, as expected from Linklater, thought-provoking and incredibly smart. There are literally many lines that got me thinking which speaks for the movie’s intellect. And there are a bunch of quotes that should be in any best movie quotes list in the future. It reminds me of ‘Good Will Hunting‘, another example of a deep and above all clever movie with a bunch of beautiful and meaningful lines and although it is not as good as that film, it still comes close which is an amazing feat for sure. It was also special for me because it captured my time with some nostalgic references that brought a smile to my face. And I have to mention Patricia Arquette‘s performance. She gave one of the best female performances of the year and her emotional scene near the end is the movie’s highlight. It is deep, smart and very observant stuff that brought tears to my eyes how truthful and heartbreaking it is. Boyhood is a miracle of a movie and a future classic in decades to come. In an incredibly strong movie year of 2014, it finishes off first by a mile which is an amazing achievement, but very much deserved.

Honorable mentions:

Force Majeure – Amazing Swedish movie with a highly unpleasant tone, but very original idea and a thought-provoking premise.

When Marnie Was There – A true return to form for Studio Ghibli with a touching but quite dark story, beautiful animation and mature tone.

Wild – A tour de force performance from Reese Witherspoon and a highly engaging and restrained script rise this movie above other road trip flicks.

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Paper Moon (1973)

Paper Moon Movie Review

Paper Moon Movie Review

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Ryan O’Neal and wonderful Tatum, Paper Moon is a 1973 comedy drama film and one of the finest ever films set in the amiable decade of the 1930s.

It tells the story of con man Moses who meets Addie at her mother’s funeral and has to take her to her aunt’s home. Along the way they steal together and form a beautiful bond. This story is typical for screwball comedies of the period it depicts. It is rather simplistic, but executed perfectly with a sense of excitement and charm all the way. The beginning perfectly introduces you to the characters and the finale is one of the most touching and endlessly satisfying conclusions. It perfectly wrapped it up with a lot of style, superb final line and great camera work. If I have a flaw here, it is that the plot is sometimes too action oriented and it somehow loses its steam in the second half after the fantastic first one. But it quickly rebounds with terrific ending.

The characters are wonderfully developed thanks to some excellent character development at work here. Moses is excellent as this deceiving, but lovable man and his constant bickering and irritating nature lends to much of the movie’s humor. As for Addie, she is of course the star here with some excellent quotes and a superb performance from Tatum. She is such a realistically portrayed child with a lot of charisma, charm and perfect comic timing. And the relationship between the two is warm, but grounded with never a cheesy moment. But I have to give a shout out to Trixie as she is the standout supporting player here. What a terrific character! She is very refreshing for her redneck and stupid attributes and those provide many humorous moments in the film. Especially her laughing scenes and her accent, all of which ridiculous and super funny.

All those characters are amazingly depicted as the actors all did a fantastic job. Madeline Kahn brought the hilarious character of Trixie perfectly to life with an extraordinary performance. But this is Tatum O’Neal‘s show and she steals every scene she is in. She gave such a nuanced, grounded and professional performance that it is such a miracle that a 10 year old child can be such an amazing actress. It is a shame she never repeated that and kind of disappeared after this role. She got her naturally deserved Oscar for the role and this is definitely one of the finest child performances ever in film history. However, Ryan O’Neal gave a so-so performance and her daughter certainly stole his thunder which is insane. He sometimes was great, especially in the irritated mode where he was believable, but he was not as believable in the angry mood as well as the serious one. He gave an annoyingly polarizing performance and he is the biggest problem the movie never overcomes because I never bought his face in this period as well which was problematic as he is the protagonist.

Now, the humor. It is beautiful with a lot of hilarious and wonderfully charming moments that bring a smile to your face and at times even true laughter. And it is perfectly in line with the period’s comedies and I only wish there was more of it in the movie as it kind of went down dramatic road as it progressed. What also makes it believable and charming is its terrific sense of what 1930s and those films should look and especially feel like which can be attributed to the amazing directorial work from Peter Bogdanovich. He did a phenomenal job, perfectly tying everything together in a smooth pace. Paper Moon benefits from a great attention to detail which wonderfully brought this charming period to life.

It also has that imminent sense of wonder and excitement along with the charming essence of it. But the cinematography is absolutely stunning with a phenomenal camera work and many shots that are absolutely breathtaking. The stark black-and-white scenery is startling and especially the ending is beautifully shot. It lifts the movie to a whole new level.  The tone is deftly handled and the shift from comedy to drama feels natural. The choice of songs is also fantastic, again adding to that 1930s feel. And the dialogue is great with a lot of highly memorable lines.

With superb lines, beautiful cinematography, lovable characters, deft tone and script, incredibly touching finale and a fantastic acting from Tatum O’Neal who provides one of the finest child performances ever, Paper Moon is an utter delight from start to finish and although it’s at times too action oriented and Ryan’s performance is polarizing, it hugely benefits from Bogdanovich’s stellar direction, a great attention to detail, bringing to life 1930s beautifully, breathtaking imagery and a charming story with very endearing characters. It is undoubtedly one of the best films set in this period.

Rating – 4,5

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While We’re Young (2015)

While We're Young

While We’re Young

While We’re Young  Review

Directed by Noah Baumbach and starring talented Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller, While We’re Young is a 2015 comedy drama film about a couple in their 40s coping with their age and meeting a young couple in their 20s as well as exploring art and documentary filmmaking.

The plot is fairly simple, but it benefits from its variety of relevant themes which are wonderfully explored. It explores perfectly what is art and the meaning of art in the 21st century and whether or not it is lost especially regarding documentaries. It also perfectly captures the feeling of depression and difficulties of coping with age which are present in forties. But it probably explores the best the difference and generational gap between young and old which is much larger in today’s age. All those themes are very well dealt with thanks to excellent script in most parts. And all of the third act is absolutely superb with thought-provoking discussions and arguments leading to the beautiful and optimistic resolution for the lead characters.

However, there are some things here that really bugged me out. That was mostly the too modern approach with way too many unnecessary drug fueled sequences as well as some stupid and clearly not fitting to the story cheating with kissing parts. Those scenes just ruined the movie for me. The other thing that is really troublesome is Baumbach’s directing which really annoyed me as it was great for the most part, but weak in other parts. He just wasn’t sure where to go at times, those aforementioned sequences  he should have kept far from here and he just never connected all the bits and pieces in a smooth manner as some other more experienced director would.

The characters are very well developed. Cornelia is great and she somehow provides most of the humor in the film and Jamie and Darby are mostly well realized and used. But this is Josh’s movie as he is the finest character here with the most important story arc and beautifully depicted personality and behavior which is so realistic and poignant. As for the acting, all of the actors did a splendid job, that’s for sure. Especially the leads. However, speaking of leads, I unfortunately never bought Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller playing these roles. They are wonderful and extremely talented actors with a lot of charm as well, but they aged too well and they look too young to play these parts. They should have gone with some older looking actors.

The humor here is at times really pleasant and definitely making you smile if not laugh. But it is never hilarious and while that is a flaw, the movie is very dramatic meaning that the drama part itself is phenomenally achieved. As for editing, it is so-so as those annoying sequences tend to go for too long and the beginning is somehow dragged and boring. The dialogue is excellent as is the movie’s message. And as said before, the movie hugely benefits from those superb themes and subject matter along with terrific characters and acting. I just wished the direction were better and it would have been a great film.

While We’re Young has superbly developed and realistic characters, terrific performances and the movie hugely benefits from the incorporation of some excellent themes and thought-provoking and relevant subject matter. The directing could have better, some scenes are very annoying and highly unnecessary and I never bought Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in these roles – they are extremely talented, but they do not fit the parts as they look too young. But the movie is very smart and relevant bringing a lot of issues regarding this age in a realistic manner and although it is a very flawed movie, it should be watched by indie fans nevertheless.

 

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