Unfriended (2015)

Unfriended

Unfriended Review

Unfriended is a 2015 horror film that can be said to be the first ever cyber horror film which is probably going to be very influential in decades to come. As for its quality, it is a solid film, but more of an interesting experience than an actually good movie.

It follows a Skype conversation between a group of teenagers where suddenly a profile of a dead girl starts to harass them because they wrote mean things about her after she died. This is definitely a high-concept idea, much like what ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ did with the found-footage genre back in 1999. But unlike that overrated film, Unfriended for the most part works. It really does. I like the attention to detail that went into production. They recreated literally the whole conversations on the internet, the sounds, the clicks, the multiple windows and the introduction of Facebook and YouTube beside Skype is really well done. This is one of the rare recent films that actually address the current time and show you how we are obsessed with the internet. I also liked how it deals with cyber bullying, cyber texting and how it shows what one stupid night can do to a teenager. It also shows how despicable they can be at this age, especially online where they feel safer. However, the movie just pinpoints to those problems, never properly exploring them and just touching the surface. But the overall inclusion of those themes, no matter how little they get explored, is stupendous for this genre.

Unfriended was not scary in my opinion. It did not frighten me or anything like that. But what is commendable is its incorporation of psychological horror in its first half. That was great as there are a couple of scenes that are quite unnerving and wonderfully executed, affecting you on a psychological level. I really loved that aspect of this film as horrors these days mostly forget that what you don’t show is more frightening than what you show and jump scares. Unfortunately, the second half ruined it for me and that I totally was expecting. Whereas the first half is smart and realistic, the second half is everything but. It just goes to that stupid paranormal, supernatural and gory territory which I really did not appreciate. The characters also started to cry and yell a lot which was super annoying and the whole supernatural angle is just so frustrating because this movie would have been great if it just stayed in the realistic, more psychological territory. But thankfully the ending was good and quite memorable and satisfying.

The characters and the acting are expectedly subpar. All of the characters are typical annoying and despicable teenagers that barely get any development, but it suits this movie as it realistically portrays them. They should have just gotten some development. As for the acting, it is pretty weak to be honest with the exception of the lead actress. She really did quite a solid job and helped the movie a lot because others are poor actors.

The movie is light on actual scares, but it is nonetheless pretty unnerving at times. The editing is mostly good apart from the abrupt beginning. But overall, it is a tightly edited movie that has just the right amount of running time. I also liked the movie’s realism in earlier parts and it is overall well directed. It is predictable, but it succeeds because it is so authentic and original, possibly even groundbreaking.

Unfriended has a very original premise and execution, possibly even groundbreaking for better and for worse, it touches upon the themes of cyber bulling and how despicable teenagers can be online and the first half is really well done, playing more on real psychological horror with some quite unnerving scenes, but the second half unfortunately and quite expectedly ruins it with predictable and super frustrating supernatural angle, the lack of realism present before and mostly weak acting. It also just touches upon those themes, never properly exploring them and it is light on genuine scares. Overall, Unfriended is more of an interesting experiment than an actually good movie.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

The Secret in Their Eyes

The Secret in Their Eyes Review

The Secret in Their Eyes is a 2009 Argentine crime film that received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is in my opinion not worthy of its Oscar and quite a weak and annoying film.

The story is its biggest problem. There is nothing here that is remotely memorable or at least interesting or engaging. It is a dull and plain tired procedural that revolves around a murder and a rape which is so typical and never distinguishing itself from other films of the same genre. It was to me boring from start to finish. It has its moments, especially some warm and quiet sequences, but it is mostly too familiar and ordinary to be enjoyed.

But what took me out of it the most is definitely its violence. The Secret in Their Eyes is awfully violent and just difficult to watch. For a guy who is not a fan of violent and harsh scenes, this certainly was not for me. And it seemed pointless and too sensational. Also, there are some disgusting sexual scenes and the movie is filled with cursing. The characters literally curse the whole running time which is super annoying.

Speaking of the characters, they are flat. But the two lead characters are solidly developed which was great to see. However, none of the others fail to bring anything to the table. But what is the silver lining in this movie is definitely the acting. The movie is filled with extraordinary performances, really fantastic job done from each and every actor. Of course the highlight is Ricardo Darin. He is absolutely superb in his role and he brings the necessary professionalism to this otherwise mediocre film. He really is a great Argentinean actor which is also evident in 2014’s ‘Wild Tales‘ where he was also outstanding. Soledad Villamil also did a terrific job and she even stole some scenes from Ricardo how good, subtle and natural she is. They both really did an amazing job and they are the sole reason to see this movie in my humble opinion.

The directing is also really good. Juan Jose Campanella did a really good job. And the movie is well filmed and well acted across the board. But the cinematography is nothing to write home about and the script is mediocre. And the tone of the movie is too dark and violent with just a couple of warm sequences that are just not enough unfortunately. And the movie is also awfully edited and paced with the running time being needlessly over two hours. It definitely did not deserve its Oscar and that choice was once again too political.

The Secret in Their Eyes should be seen just for the performances because both Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil did a terrific job in their roles, but otherwise it is an incredibly tired and just downright tedious crime film that does not distinguish itself from other films of the genre at all. It is a dull movie that is too violent and disgusting at times, but mostly mediocre and forgettable.

My Rating – 2

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South Park Season 5 (2001)

 South Park Season 5 (2001)

South Park Season 5 TV Review

Trey Parker and Matt Stone in 2001 created probably one of the best ever seasons of their show. Yes, South Park Season 5 is incredibly good, hilarious and so smart. It is also the first truly classic season thus setting the bar for others to follow.

I will go from episode to episode as that is the best way to review such a show. It Hits the Fan is terrific when social commentary’s concerned, but gets somewhat repetitive later on. But Cartman is hilarious in this one episode and his lines directed to Kyle here are standouts. Cripple Fight is not this season’s highlight, the subplot with the fight is too simplistic, but the scouts subplot is better. Super Best Friends is without a doubt one of the best episodes of the fifth season. It is so inventive and clever with its making fun of all the religious leaders and of course some jokes are absolutely incredible, they made me laugh a lot.

Now we come to what is without any argument one of the best, and possibly even the very best South Park episodes ever and that is of course Scott Tenorman Must Die. This is the first episode where we really learn how evil Cartman is thus changing his personality from just an annoying brat to a plain evil person. That choice was great as it lead to the Cartman we know and love today. But the episode is also great for how it changed the formula and focusing on just one plot, instead of two subplots. That worked and the result is a hilarious, at times dark, extremely memorable and downright phenomenal piece of entertainment.

Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow is like any episode regarding the duo, very detour-like and mostly boring, but it is also better than most episodes with them as it genuinely has its moments and proving again that this is probably the first season where there is not a single bad episode to be had here. Coming next is Cartmanland and it is one of the highlights here. It is absolutely hilarious and another great Cartman-centric episode. This is one of the proofs that South Park can and should more often make episodes that do not try to have social commentary at all but rather just a fun and funny story. Here it worked wonderfully and it is a shame that they did not realize that.

Proper Condom Use is also one of the standouts. It not only deals very smartly with its subject matter of teaching sex to children but it provides one of the best character moments for Mr. Mackey as well. And of course Mr. Garrison is hysterically funny in this installment.

Now, Towelie is possibly the worst episode in this season. It introduces you to the character of Towelie quite well but he was never a good character regardless. It has its great moments with Stan being the best, but this is still very weak.

Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants is a politically-charged episode, but it did not go too far and I like how it explored the theme of many countries hating America. The best parts are the ones with Cartman and bin Laden as they are so incredibly inventive in style and perfectly paying an homage to Bugs Bunny cartoons.

How to Eat with Your Butt is honestly a great time for me, although not a favorite by fans. But it is superb for many reasons. First off, both Cartman and Kenny are incredibly funny with some of Cartman’s moments being just hilarious. But I also like the highly amusing ending and the inclusion of Butters in the mix and his crazy parents are once again the standout.

The Entity is not well edited and the two stories do not mash as well as we’d come to expect from this series, but it is regardless of that a very good episode as both stories are superb, one wonderfully exploring the Jewish stereotypes and the other being a great Mr. Garrison vehicle.

Here Comes the Neighborhood is an interesting experiment, on the one hand the inclusion of Token as the main character here did not quite work as he has never been that interesting, but on the other hand, the incorporation of the theme of rich versus poor and the hilarities that ensue are marvelous and they drive the episode as well as making fun of many black celebrities at display here. It is overall a very good episode.

Kenny Dies is naturally incredible. It is groundbreaking in concept as they killed the character for the whole next season here instead of bringing him back instantly. But it is Cartman’s show here and a further proof that this is his season as he shines here the most with his signature brutal humor and just fantastic delivery.

Butters’ Very Own Episode is phenomenal. It is the episode that put greater emphasis on Butters which is of course great. But his parents drive the episode and Stephen is so well established here. You also have the making fun of some celebrities near the end in a very funny, tense sequence and this is one of those rare episodes that perfectly work without the four main characters.

The fifth season of South Park is one of the best without a doubt. It is great for its emphasis on Cartman and he is the character that shines the most here. But Butters was also introduced for the next season, Mr. Garrison has a couple of terrific episodes with his twisted humor and this is the reason that not only does social commentary wonderfully, but it also has some episodes that are just fun without more meaning to them which is great. It has its weaker parts, but this is still the first season with not a single downright bad episode which is quite an accomplishment, it established Cartman’s character for the first time and it is the first ever truly classic season.

Worst Episodes: Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow and Towelie.

Best Episodes: Scott Tenorman Must Die, Cartmanland, Proper Condom Use and Kenny Dies.

My Rating – 4.5

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Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp

Lady and the Tramp Review

Lady and the Tramp is the fifteenth film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and it is their first film about dogs. Even though 101 Dalmatians is the better film, this film is still pretty good and even iconic in its own right.

The animation is still nowhere near the quality of that of ‘Pinocchio’ or ‘Snow White’, but it is one of the best from the fifties thanks to some incredibly beautiful and artistic sequences including a wonderful stylistic opening. It is colorful, but not garish with great outdoors cinematography as well as excellent character design.
The score is very good, but the songs are so-so. What is a Baby is just a plot device and not much of a song, Peace on Earth is solid and The Siamese Cat Song is very annoying. But there are of course He’s a Tramp which is definitely catchy as well as a great plot device and Bella Notte which is arguably a classic Disney song, beautifully sung and very romantic. The soundtrack is solid, but more along the lines of the movies from the same decade, notably ‘Peter Pan‘, and nowhere as close to something like Snow White or later Renaissance films. But there is no emphasis on songs here as well which is evident in their small quantity.
The characters in this movie are mostly well developed, especially the protagonists. Lady is very kind, romantic, caring and of course, as the name suggests, very ladylike and polite which is thanks to her being raised by humans. Tramp is very friendly, cunning and of course mischievous and laid-back, the qualities he earned from life on the street. Jock and Trusty are the sidekicks here and their care for Lady and friendship is very endearing, but their humor can be dated at times. Si and Am are the Siamese cats and they are probably the worst part in this movie thanks to their annoying voice and song and very racist overtones. They are clearly meant to be some sort of villains here because the movie has no real villains and that is perfectly fine because it does not need one, but those two are awful, especially nowadays because every Asian and of course cat owner could (and should) easily get offended by them. As for the human characters, they are unfortunately pretty underdeveloped, but at least the dogs are nicely realized and that is what matters here.

The story here is, like most dog pictures, animated or not, pretty straightforward and simple, but it serves its purpose and is a joy to watch. There is sometimes a lack of goal and the pacing can be slow and drags at some parts, but the protagonists more than make up for it. They are incredible, both their relationship and their evident chemistry. Their romantic sequences are the highlight of the film. There is the spaghetti scene which is incredibly romantic and simply charming with a wonderful animation and propelled by an outstanding song. It is inarguably the most famous scene in the whole film and one of the most iconic romantic moments in film history. But the scene where Tramp shows her the town and the opposing theme of life with humans versus life in the wild is greatly explored here and is such a great look at those very different types of lifestyles. It is a standout scene with charming animation that works both as a plot device and as a character study. Lady’s interaction with the humans is also very well done. From the moment she arrives, the first night where she does not want to sleep alone up till the changes in her life when the baby arrives, all those things are realistic and done in a great manner. And her intention to save the baby from the rat is very endearing and heartwarming as well as her naming of her owners. The ending is also sweet, there are great scenes with Jock and Trusty as well and He’s a Tramp part is very amusing, but also pretty risqué for a children’s film. The zoo sequence is not exactly a detour, but is dragged way too much and it has animals that are all dated stereotypes in their representation.

Lady and the Tramp has its many flaws including problematic pacing, some annoying characters, so-so soundtrack and humor and it is not exactly Old Yeller, but it is also pretty high on the list of classic dog films thanks to good character development, charming story, some iconic romantic moments and an overall effervescent tone making it quite a good little flick that is a joy to watch, especially for dog owners.

My Rating – 4

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Review

This is a film that is propelled with great technical achievements. The animation is absolutely mesmerizing and almost groundbreaking with its use of different styles of animation. The score is also really beautiful and it just lifts the whole short. However, the story I never found particularly interesting and it was too abstract in my opinion. It was also rarely easy to understand and its use of silent prose could have been better put to use. But it is still a moving story, no matter how executed it is. It is thematically rich and rather poignant, while being inspirational in the end. And I really liked the animation of books which is revolutionary in my book as it is really breathtaking to behold and the character design is really well done. It is an exquisitely animated film that has a flawed, but a moving plot nevertheless.

My Rating – 3.7

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Antz (1998)

Antz

Antz Review

Being one of the two ant-based films released in 1998, Antz is a an animated comedy adventure film that is the first ever feature from Dreamworks Animation and in my opinion one of their better ones.

It is about Z, a pessimistic and neurotic worker who is unsatisfied with his already predestined life path in the colony. The plot is probably the movie’s strongest asset as it is so incredibly sophisticated and mature. I like how it deals with different themes, especially totalitarian society, the regal affairs as well as of course individuality. Those are all very well explored due to excellent dialogue and some really polished writing. That is the reason why this film is not for children at all and they would find it boring. But that is okay as the movie is intended for adult audiences which is evident in its approach and it really paid off as it’s just as smart and mature for adults to appreciate it. I like the monologues in this movie which is why the beginning is so good. And the ending is also really well done and humorous. The film is driven by its plot and it is unfortunate that other aspects of Antz are not as good as the story.

The characters are to me not a standout and here is why. For a movie that is about individualism, it sure does have some flat and uninspired characters. Yes, Z is absolutely terrific as the neurotic and irritated protagonist. His monologues drive the movie and he is really well written and quite atypical for a main character. Princess Bala is also good, but nothing too remarkable. And the rest of the characters are all typical and never as good as the protagonist. General Mandible is a cliched villain and other characters are just there or are goofy sidekicks. Really, the characters should have been better in my opinion.

But the acting is a standout here. This movie is underrated when voice acting is concerned because it should be mentioned every time famous actors in animation are mentioned. Antz is literally studded with A-list actors. Stallone and Hackman both did a good job. Sharon Stone is really good in her role and really fitting because she has such a beautiful and regal voice quite suiting the character of a princess. But this is Woody Allen‘s show and he is absolutely amazing. He did such a great job here that I am astounded how he did not get more work in the animation afterwards. His voice is perfect for it, although you can recognize who it is a bit too easily. But he is superb bringing a lot of his signature self-deprecating humor to the point of wondering whether this is his movie.

Now, the animation. It is the weakest aspect and the one thing that greatly diminishes the impact of the whole picture. This is the reason why CGI will never be as classic or as timeless as hand-drawn technique. Antz is dated. There is no other way to see it. It has dated animation. There are some exterior scenes that are mostly well done, but this is for the most part an animation that time was not kind to whatsoever. That is mostly evident in its too dark and blurry photography which is super annoying and of course the character design. Now granted, I really do appreciate they bravery and their original take on the insects and how they wanted them to be authentic and realistic, but in the end, it just did not work unfortunately. The ants look too CGI, too computerized and frankly too weird and off-putting to watch. They are realistic and grounded in approach and design, but it just isn’t pleasing to the eye and I notably hate the decision to go with the actors’ real faces for some characters. That was just way too weird and all the more annoying.

Another thing that this movie lacks is the energy in its execution making it too listless. But, it has excellent production design and very solid score. It has good directing and terrific voice cast. I also adore the attention to detail that went into this production leading to realistically portrayed ant activities and environments. The dialogue is top-notch, always clever and sophisticated, especially the monologues which are just so funny and amusing. Speaking of funny, Antz has a phenomenal humor. It really does. Not only Woody Allen, but others bring also some humor to the table. But mostly he is responsible for so many funny and greatly observant lines. The film is predictable and the ending is so typical, but because it is authentic and clever in its plot, it can be forgiven. And I like its editing as it is a tightly edited little film. It is also very original in its story and authentic in its serious approach. It is sophisticated, but the emotions are not there or at least there should have been more of it. The tone is well handled and the tonal shift from comedic to dramatic is well conveyed.

Comparing it to other films of the company, it is one of the better films without a doubt. Not as good as ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘, but still near the top of the list. As for Pixar’s ‘A Bug’s Life‘, Antz is in my opinion a superior film as it is way more sophisticated and realistic, but for entertainment purposes, you should go with Pixar’s film.

Antz has not so good or well developed characters which is ridiculous having in mind the film’s subject matter of individualism and the animation is incredibly annoying and dated, the kind of animation time was not kind to at all, but this is still one of the better DreamWorks animated films mostly thanks to its serious approach for adults with sophisticated dialogue and especially monologues, absolutely terrific voice cast with Woody Allen being especially good and very smart and thematically rich plot.

My Rating – 4

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The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner Review

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 romantic comedy film that is one of the most fondly regarded of the director’s films.

It is about two shop employees who can’t stand each other, but fall in love together through letters not knowing they are corresponding with each other. The story is my biggest complaint here in that it is sweet and really fun, but too familiar and predictable, never quite rising above its formula, like other screwball comedies did in the thirties. But it is very entertaining and charming throughout the whole short running time. I liked the inclusion of different characters besides the two and their working dynamic is what drives the movie in my opinion. It follows a very typical pattern, but it still does it with style and great charm.

The characters are all pretty well developed and really likable. Kralik and Novak are both superb and their romance is quite heartwarming and their bitter quarrels are rather amusing. As for the other characters in the shop, they all drive this movie as much as the two protagonists with of course the highlight being wonderful Hugo Matuschek. He is a typical old man and a typical boss but what sets him apart is his genuine care for his workers and his relationship with them is one of the standouts of this romantic comedy. I liked his story probably the most and he really is a very sympathetic character.

The acting is really good in The Shop Around the Corner. This is a typical role for James Stewarts, the role he gets typecast quite a bit, you could say. But that is for a reason as he is so good in it. Margaret Sullavan is also surprisingly good and I really liked her character and her performance quite a bit. And of course Frank Morgan did a great job in his role and he makes quite a presence.

The directing from Lubitsch is of course superb with his great touch and a rather playful tone once again exhibited here. But the confined space of a shop I thought did not work as well as some other classic films incorporated beautifully, for example ‘12 Angry Men‘. Here, it did not go smoothly with it as fine as I wished. Another complaint and a big problem in my opinion is the humor. It has its fair share of nice scenes that brought a smile to my face. But that is the point, it brought a smile, never genuine laughter. Not only is it not as hilarious as it should have been, but also it did not focus much on the comedy angle and it too much focused on romance and drama in the third act. The tone is definitely not handled well. But the directing and acting are both great and the pacing I found really polished with never a dragged or rushed scene. The dialogue is of course terrific with many beautifully delivered lines and the cast definitely has chemistry and screen presence. I also liked the romance in this movie quite a bit with the sequences between the two in the second half being quite heartwarming and sweet. Comparing it to ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I would say that it is roughly on the same level of quality meaning that it has its flaws, but is very effervescent and romantic as well.

The Shop Around the Corner is never as funny as it should have been and the storyline is definitely predictable, but it is nevertheless a very effervescent film that is wonderfully directed, beautifully acted, very romantic and it has really likable characters.  It has its flaws, but it is overall a very entertaining and sweet film with a lot of charm at display.

My Rating – 4

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Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd Review

Starring wonderful Carey Mulligan from ‘An Education‘, Far from the Madding Crowd is a 2015 British romance drama film based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy. It is mostly a very good film and a pleasant historical diversion.

It is about an independent woman Mrs. Everdene who attracts three very different suitors in Victorian England. Now, the story is my main problem with this film. Granted, I did not read the book so I will only talk about my film experience. The story is way too familiar and quite typical for the time the novel was released. I honestly would have changed the number of suitors from three to two and I would have slightly altered the melodramatic tone which is present in droves. Yes, it is very melodramatic with its fair share of sad twists and turns. And while most of them admittedly work, some do not. Also, the ending is way too familiar and too much of a happy ending. However, because they made me care for the characters and because the dialogue in the finale is so romantic, I honestly cheered for the happy conclusion.

Now, the characters are the highlight. Along with the acting and technical aspects, but more on those two later.  The protagonist of course steals the show because she is so incredibly well written and well realized that you really have the feeling that you’ve just met a real person. She is very reminiscent to Scarlett O’Hara which is a great thing naturally. She is a very strong female character and quite a presence, but she also makes mistakes regarding the marriage which is very realistic. And her stubborn, aristocratic and cold nature and relationship with her inferiors lend to much of the film’s humor. Oak is great and you really root for him and her to get together. Frank Troy is of course despicable, but they rarely vilified him which is great. And Boldwood is excellent and really such a tragic figure that saddens the viewer quite a bit. I liked his character quite a bit, although his resolution was too convenient.

Far from the Madding Crowd benefits from absolutely outstanding performances across the board. Michael Sheen is terrific as is Tom Sturridge. Matthias Schoenaerts is quite a revelation as well. But this is Mulligan’s show and she absolutely shines in the respectable role. She brings so much emotion and realism and attention to detail to her character in a role that is rather difficult but she pulled it off. This and her previous historical picture just prove that she just has that face and ladylike demeanor that suits the genre perfectly which is why they cast her here. The casting director really did a great job because all of the actors really have chemistry as well.

But the strongest aspect in the film is definitely its technical prowess. This movie looks absolutely incredible and is so pleasing to the eye. The cinematography is great, but the scenery is just marvelous to behold with some great rural imagery that is really pleasant to watch with its lush colors. The costume design is awards-worthy how good it is and it is filled with detail. The score is also good as is Thomas Vinterberg’s direction which is surprisingly professional. The tone is also handled properly and although it goes too much into melodrama later on, it is earlier very smooth, going from comedic to dramatic to romantic nicely. The movie definitely has a heart and it is incredibly romantic at times, which is mostly done due to incredible dialogue. And although predictable, it is still very engaging to watch. The pacing is unfortunately the biggest problem the movie never overcomes. It is evident that this is such a long novel and the running time is unfortunately too short  for this kind of story, resulting in many rushed scenes and a rather contrived ending.

Far from the Madding Crowd may have a predictable storyline, too melodramatic tone at times and the running time is way too short resulting in many rushed scenes and a rather contrived ending, but this is still a very good film that benefits mostly from excellent character development, terrific performances across the board with Carey Mulligan giving an awards-worthy performance, great dialogue, superb romance and incredible rural scenery and exquisite costume design.

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X2 (2003)

X2

X2 Review

 One of the better, but not one of the best, in the franchise is 2003’s X2. It is the second entry in the X-Men superhero franchise, it’s directed by Bryan Singer and starts Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen.

I say that it is not one of the best in the franchise and that is mostly due to the story. It is never as complex or as smart or as interesting as X-Men:  First Class. First of all, the clever dialogue is mostly missing here in favor of the action which is unfortunate. Also, some of the plot elements do not quite mesh together and the movie is filled with too much characters and subplots thus never properly exploring every aspect. The first act or so is really good as is the ending. The finale is so powerful with a positive character’s sacrifice. It is dark and really dangerous and filled with consequences which was much needed. And it wrapped up beautifully in my opinion as all of the characters got their proper ending. But the middle of the film is unfortunately filled with too much action and some unnecessarily dragged sequences.

The characters are mostly superb as always in this well written franchise. The emphasis on both Professor X and Magneto is a big plus and their scenes, especially together, are excellent. Now, Jean Grey and Storm I never particularly cared for, but at least Jean had a powerful scene in the ending and her story is quite good whereas Storm is mostly flat. Mystique is quite good, but I still prefer the one played by Jennifer Lawrence in the future installments. Cyclops is annoying, but the rivalry between him and Wolverine is again funny. And speaking of Wolverine, he is great and he’s definitely got the best action sequences this time around. Nightcrawler is quite interesting and of course that scene with him in the opening scene is extremely memorable and well executed, but I still felt that he was fairly underused. Iceman is really good and his relationship with parents and that confession scene definitely has a parallel in the real world. Rogue is also good, but a lost potential as she is underused and Pyro is intriguing and his turn to the dark side is well handled. But the problem here is that all of the characters are good, but thanks to the film’s overcrowded nature, most rarely get a moment to shine.

Now, the acting is phenomenal. Of course Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are terrific and Hugh Jackman steals the show. But all of the other actors and actresses did a really good job with their performances. The action I overall liked. There are some really entertaining action pieces, most notably the opening with Nightcrawler and the fight between Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine is really well done. But there are some sequences that are not as well realized and the action tends to overwhelm at times. The movie is well filmed and directed. The visual effects are absolutely spectacular for the time with greatly used make-up as well. The photography I was not a big fan of as it was often too dark. The movie is smart for its real-life incorporated themes with politics and minority groups, but it is never as good as in the later installments. And the character moments and emotional scenes are definitely there, but far through and between. The biggest problem in X2 is pacing, it is all over the place. It is at times rushed, at times dragged, but always poorly done. And of course, it’s so incredibly overblown clocking in at over two hours which was highly unnecessary.

X2 has some really big problems including at times overwhelming action, it is overcrowded with characters, pacing is awful and running time is overblown and it mostly lacks the clever dialogue and character work which is why it is so inferior to X-Men: First Class, but this is still one of the better installments in the franchise due to well written characters, nicely executed and entertaining action sequences, powerful ending, excellent effects and some quite memorable scenes.

My Rating – 4

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Paper Towns (2015)

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Review

Being probably the movie that surprised me the most with its quality, Paper Towns is a 2015 teen comedy drama film which is also a mystery. It is based on the John Green book of the same name and it stars Nat Wolff in the lead role.

It is about Quentin, a young man who spent his childhood being infatuated with his mysterious neighbor Margo. At the beginning of the film, she comes to his house for help. He accompanies her on her quest to humiliate the friends and boyfriend who betrayed her. After that event, she disappears. With a help from his loyal friends, he sets out on a road trip journey in order to find her following her clues. The story is simply fascinating and one of the most well-written and sophisticated teen movies probably of all time. It is so clearly and evidently split into three parts, the three-act structure has rarely been so noticeable. That is a problem a bit as it seems disjointed and the jarring shift of tone probably doesn’t help much as well. However, although it may seem to some that Paper Towns is three different movies, to me it did not end that way. I thought it connected quite well, despite how different the three acts are.

The first act is the most entertaining and the characters are wonderfully introduced. I love all the actions they did and it is so fun to watch. The second act is the most adventurous with a strong dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. The mystery aspect is very well realized and quite believable whereas the road trip does not seem cliched at all, despite being a genre convention. This is the part where the supporting characters and the humor shine the most. As for the third act, it is without a doubt the finest. Pure, hard-hitting, emotional drama takes place in front of the mystery and comedy here. And it is incredibly good!

I like the resolution and the whole last part as it is so unconventional and the opposite of cliche that it really was refreshing to see. And so brave and clever. But what takes it to the next level is its absolutely amazing sophistication, clever themes and above all, some incredibly powerful, truthful and observant quotes. This is not only relevant, but important and so realistic. It hit me personally as I connected to Margo’s character in her thinking so much. The speech in which she says that she wants to lead her own destiny instead of following conventions like marriage and job is so inspiring and downright real that it hit me on multiple levels and stayed in my thoughts afterwards.

The characters are phenomenal across the board as is the acting. Quentin is the most grounded character but his resolution is so realistic and important as well. His behavior may seem annoying to some, but he is a realistic teenager and I liked that a lot. Margo is absolutely amazing and the highlight here despite the protagonist’s more development and evident screen time. But that is the point. Her character is so well-written and just plain fascinating that such a short screen time did not hurt her at all. She is also an incredibly strong female character and refreshingly atypical. Lacey is so charming and likable. And her line where she states that she is more than just a pretty face is some powerful stuff as well.  Now, Ben is evidently and even too overtly a goofy sidekick, but what is important is that he serves his purpose which means that he is funny, at times even hilarious, definitely bringing a lot of pathos and comic relief to the picture. Angela is okay for the time she got, but Marcus I did not like at all. He was too annoying and too nerdy in my opinion.

The acting is fantastic as I said. Nat Wolff is so surprisingly good and gives a grounded and respectable performance. Cara Delevingne is terrific of course, bringing a lot of charm and charisma to the table. And all the actors who portrayed Quentin’s friends did a really good job in their roles. The directing is also very good as is the pacing. The movie is incredibly smart, but also emotional and at times even heartbreaking. It made me smile and almost cry even. I also liked the score, but the tone is as I said too jarring and definitely was felt which is not a good thing. Humor is terrific with at times hilarious sequences. However, I think Paper Towns would have been better with more serious and less comedic approach and that small flaw as well as the jarring tonal shift is what makes this movie miss the highest rating in my book. But not by a long margin and that is astonishing that it ended being so unexpectedly good. It is not predictable whatsoever and the dialogue is incredibly clever. And comparing it to ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘, I would say that it is a much better film, though the aforementioned film is quite good. But this is a whole new level of quality exhibited.

With fantastic and all likable characters, terrific humor with some hilarious sequences, amazing themes, excellent incorporation of comedy and drama as well as mystery and adventure, fantastic acting across the board and an incredibly sophisticated and refreshingly unpredictable storyline, Paper Towns is so incredibly good that it totally surprised me with its quality. It has a jarring shift in tone and it should have been less comedic, but this is a movie that is so relevant and poignant with a couple of truly amazing quotes which are truthful, observant and so hard-hitting. It is a movie that has both brain and soul and it is one of the best teen films I have ever seen and a future classic without a doubt.

My Rating – 4,5

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