Son of Saul (2015)

Son of Saul

Son of Saul Review

Son of Saul is a 2015 Hungarian drama film directed by Laszlo Nemes and starring Geza Rohrig. The film won Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and it is a flawed, but interesting experience.

Saul Auslander is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner whose job is to bury the dead in the year of 1944. He takes a boy for his son and takes it upon himself to salvage a boy’s body and have a proper burial. The plot itself is the main reason why I had problems with this film. It is always inconsistent and too mysterious to the point of a frustration. It works as a whole, but we never get to understand why that task of burying a boy’s body is so important to him. And some scenes were a bit too ambiguous and not in a good way.

However, the reason why the movie still works to a large degree is definitely the impact it leaves on the audience. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole running time as the film possesses such a strong feeling of endless chaos and utter despair. It also transports you to its period so superbly and as if you are actually there and rarely have I felt that in a movie which is why Son of Saul succeeds as a World War II film. It is always so quick in its pace and something always happens and you are the witness of the endless horrors surrounding the main character and he is your guide.

Yes, that cinematography choice truly is interesting. It tells you the story from the perspective of the protagonist by letting you follow him throughout the whole film with the camera emphasis on his face and having his both sides blurred. That was done for better and for worse as it can get frustrating and makes the viewing somewhat difficult, but it is also better as is thus blurs all the nudity and violence which I am never a fan of and for that I was grateful. But overall I liked that approach and no matter how annoying it can sometimes get, it is still an artistic choice that helps a movie a lot and lets you see the emotion on the character’s face more clearly and produces some unforgettable scenes.

The characterization is not that good as you never meet these characters and even the leading character is not particularly well developed. But you still root for him from beginning to end and the character work is expectedly weaker because of the nature of the film.

Some scenes annoyed me here such as the scene with Saul and the girl which is not just ambiguous, but you never know what is going on exactly. Also, the whole movie has that approach with fast pacing and something always happening, but with no true developments occurring, except in the third act. But it still has many memorable scenes such as the ending which is so emotional and very satisfying and also so well realized and the beginning is extremely good and hooks you in instantly. There are definitely many moments here that are priceless and the film produces that uncomfortable feeling in such a good way and it lasts from start to finish which is why this is a successful experiment.

Son of Saul is such a well directed and acted movie with Laszlo Nemes and Geha Rohrig both being incredibly good in their roles. The movie also looks good as it is so well shot. It is realistic and dark as well and transports you the this period so well. It is also quite emotional, especially near the end, and it is a very well edited and paced movie that is never dull or too rushed despite its fast pace which seems natural rather than forced. It is a serious and memorable movie that is flawed in its execution, but is still so authentic and leaves such a strong impression.

Son of Saul can be annoying at times, it is too ambiguous from time to time and the character development and motivations should have been better realized, but it is still such an authentic take on the tired subject matter with such a unique cinematography, emotional approach, many unforgettable scenes and it makes you uncomfortable, leaving such a strong feeling of chaos and despair.

My Rating – 4

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The Milky Waif (1946)

The Milky Waif The Milky Waif Review

The Milky Waif is a 1946 animated short which is the 24th of Tom and Jerry shorts. It is a good entry, but has its problems.

Jerry receives a baby mouse called Nibbles and must feed him milk, but has to steal it from Tom. It is a great concept, but not that well executed. I liked the introduction of the new character and Nibbles truly is a memorable creation. But the two protagonists aren’t as good here which is why the little one steals the show. The moment where he carries Jerry is so hilarious and easily the highlight of this story.

I liked the action here. The ending I was not a big fan of, but it was still funny and the short has many great chase sequences. I particularly liked the many milk stealing scenarios, most of which were very creative and quite funny. The short is as always fun and funny and introduces a character properly, but ends on an unsatisfying note and isn’t that well crafted all around.

The Milky Waif has its problems, but Nibbles is a great new character and it has many inventive and hilarious moments that make it worth a watch.

My Rating – 4.1

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THX 1138 (1971)

THX 1138

THX 1138 Review

THX 1138 is a science fiction film directed by George Lucas and starring Robert Duvall. It is a visually great film with a great premise, but is executed rather poorly.

It is set in a dystopian future where humans are controlled by android police officers and the use of drugs that suppress emotion and sexual desire is mandatory as sexual intercourse is prohibited. First of all, this premise is really fantastic and so visionary and such a great take on futuristic science fiction. It is a smart and cautionary viewing of the future. However, that premise is executed in a very weak manner which is so frustrating as it could have been a masterpiece. But, the pacing is so slow and the plot is very weak and problematic and never using its premise to the fullest extent.

The characters are also quite weak. THX 1138 is a solid protagonist for whom you root for. But he is still a flawed and quite weakly developed character. LUH 3417 is more of the same, but she is more likable than the protagonist. But the rest are just so forgettable and not even worth talking about. I get that in this kind of sci-fi film, character development isn’t mandatory, but at least some characterization should be required.

The acting is good. Robert Duvall is really good in his role and Maggie McOmie is also surprisingly good and the relationship between their two characters is the highlight. The directing is also okay, but not that great. And the pacing is too slow and never particularly engaging.

THX 1138 is visually a splendid feature and that is its biggest strength along with its premise. The imagery is so memorable and wonderfully realized and it is realistic and relevant in its approach and vision of the future. It is also serious and dark, but still too boring to be enjoyed more. The originality factor is definitely present as it is one of the more authentic sci-fi flicks of the decade and it is even ahead of its time in some areas. I liked the attention to detail and its world-building, but in recreating this sterile and cold world, the movie unfortunately becomes like that itself with no emotion or warmth anywhere to be found. I wished for more emotional connection and character work. And the movie, although smart, is never as clever as it should have been and its themes are never fully realized and the message is never stated. The emphasis on sex is also typical for its decade and it should have gone more into love and real relationship and emotion than just sex. And I also disliked its tendency to go into blockbuster territory in the final act, but I did enjoy its ending as it is so well realized. This is a solid debut for George Lucas and it is a unique and interesting experience, but it is such a lost potential as it could have been infinitely better due to its fascinating subject matter.

THX 1138 has a fascinating subject matter and premise with some unique visuals, but it is unfortunately executed poorly with weak plot, slow pacing and very weak character development. It is definitely original and interesting, but it is never as smart as it should have been and it is also too boring and way too cold to be enjoyed more.

My Rating – 3.5

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Trap Happy (1946)

Trap HappyTrap Happy Review

Trap Happy is a 1946 animated short that is the 25th Tom and Jerry short. It is a superb entry that is definitely one of the better shorts.

Tom calls in the mouse exterminator who turns out to be Butch and the two cats try to catch and kill the mouse with devastating results. I adored this flick. It is definitely one of the most violent entries in the series and it is done in a good manner as it is always entertaining and simply hilarious. I liked all of the characters here and Butch and Tom in particular are fantastic in this one.

The only problem I’ve had with it is that it is too fast-paced and starts abruptly. And it also could have used its premise even more. But it is still mostly superb and one of the best shorts from this period as it is so exhilarating and always funny. The humor in Trap Happy is awesome and it has both action and humor done right. The highlights are the scene in which Butch replaces the word mouse in mouse exterminator with the word  cat which is so hilarious and also Tom’s yelps and that ending are terrific.

Trap Happy is one of the best Tom and Jerry shorts of its time with many unforgettable scenes, superb action and fantastic humor.

My Rating – 4.3

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Ip Man (2008)

Ip Man

Ip Man Review

Ip Man is a 2008 Chinese biographical martial arts film directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen. The movie succeeds as both a rousing historical drama and as an action flick.

It follows the life of the titular grandmaster and martial artist and focuses specifically on the Sino-Japanese War and its aftermath. As I said above, the movie succeeds in both genres. Let’s first talk about the historical one. The first half is action and the second is historical. That second half, although vastly different from the previous one, is so wonderfully executed with a lot of emotional heft. I adored its ending and I loved both the conflict at the end and its conclusion and overall explanation of what happened afterwards. It is a typical stuff seen countless times, but I liked this triumphant ending here as it is emotionally satisfying and so uplifting.

But of course the highlight is the kung fu action. I loved the action sequences in Ip Man as they are so beautifully realized. The choreography is amazing, the abundance of style is evident and the execution is almost flawless. I liked that the camera angles are so good here, letting you see all of the action perfectly. All of the styles are well explained and it is vastly entertaining and so riveting to watch. The highlights are the fight between Ip Man and the Japanese general Miura and the fight between the protagonist and Kam Shan-chu. The former is so dramatic and powerful while the latter one is so exhilarating and even comedic in tone. Yes, the humor here is present from time to time and I really enjoyed it as some moments can be quite funny.

The character development isn’t as great as I hoped it would be, but it is still pretty good. Ip Man is naturally the highlight and he is at first a one-note character, but he quickly showed his human side. I loved his family struggles as it shows how he, though such a powerful martial artist, is still a flawed human being. And I loved the dialogue between him and his wife about his inability to find a job. The wife is really good and their relationship is really sweet and touching, but also quite realistic. I loved that in the film. Miura is really good and Kam Shan-chu is so funny and memorable as this redneck brute.

Ip Man is visually a strong picture, but not as mesmerizing as I expected it to be. The scenery is too forgettable and the photography is overly dark, but it is still well shot, some sequences are quite beautiful and the camera angles are terrific during action. Wilson Yip did a fine job in the director’s chair and the acting is superb throughout with Donnie Yen in particular giving a respectable performance.

But there are some problems here and that is mainly the structure of the film. It does succeed in both of its genres, but it does so at the expense of the tone and pacing. The pacing is all over the place and the tonal shift in the middle is so jarring as it literally changes from action to drama out of the blue and with no subtlety whatsoever. Also, the film is predictable and no matter how satisfying to watch, it is still a familiar farce. And I expected more character work and even more emotion than I’ve got from the end product.

Ip Man has a jarring tonal shift, inconsistent structure and pacing and it could have been even better overall, but it is still quite a good film with fantastic action sequences that are so thrilling to watch and impeccably crafted, solid character development, good acting and it is a satisfying flick both as a historical biopic and as martial arts action.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Ip Man

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Let’s You and Him Fight (1934)

Let's You and Him FightLet’s You and Him Fight Review

Let’s You and Him Fight is a 1934 Popeye the Sailor animated short film that is one of the weaker shorts, but the one that still has its moments.

Popeye must fight Bluto in the boxing arena and he keeps losing until Olive gives him spinach. Now, the reason why this was a disappointing short is because the whole first half is so boring and uneventful. It also lacks the energy and humor there and is just pretty mediocre which is why I was disappointed with it immensely.

However, that all changes in its second half which is why it is in the end a solid flick. The reason to see this is definitely Olive who is so funny and this just might be the best use of this character yet. The moment in the ring where she gets exhausted after cheering a lot is just hilarious and she is always funny and amusing. Popeye is also pretty good here and the action near the end gets better and the score of course helps it a lot. I just wished that the first half was as good as the second.

Let’s You and Him Fight is boring and mediocre at first, but gets better later on with some good action and absolutely fantastic Olive who is so funny here.

My Rating – 3.6

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Blazing Saddles (1974)

Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles Review

Blazing Saddles is a 1974 western comedy film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. It is a celebrated 1970s comedy, but the one that is only okay to me.

It follows a newly appointed black sheriff in an all-white town. Now, the story itself is lacking. It is interesting and timely in its premise and I like how it makes fun of many western tropes, but it isn’t particularly engaging and is never that entertaining. The first half I really did like and it was pretty funny and enjoyable at times, but the second half was pretty mediocre in my opinion. It starts and ends well, but the whole middle and especially the second half is very uninteresting and forgettable.

The characters are okay. Some are flat, but some are quite solid. I liked the protagonist and I liked the Waco Kid a lot. The relationship between the two is so good and is the highlight of the film. But others aren’t that well established and fail to become engraved in memory.

The acting is very good. Cleavon Little did a stupendous job in the main role and Harvey Korman is also good. And of course Gene Wilder is excellent as he was at the height of his powers in the early and mid seventies.

I liked the ending with its score a lot. And yes, Blazing Saddles is phenomenally scored. I also liked the first act as it is so playful and funny. But the rest of the picture is unfortunately not as funny and it doesn’t particularly succeed as a comedy. The western elements are much better realized. And the musical elements really made me bored as I did not find them neither enjoyable nor necessary for this particular movie.

The imagery is really solid with many pleasant sequences. It is a well shot, acted and directed movie that is visually great and has its moments. The dialogue is also okay, but could have been better. The tone is uneven and the pacing is problematic as it was pretty boring at certain times. It does have its heart, but only in a handful of scenes. And its satiric elements are rare and should have been more present. They could have done a lot more with the premise which is why it is a lost potential and an overrated movie in my book. It is a passable diversion, but nothing more than that and the whole flick never has a lasting appeal.

Blazing Saddles is well shot and acted with a couple of really funny and enjoyable scenes, but it is mostly pretty boring and uneven with boring musical sequences, inferior second half, weaker humor later on and it is overall a lost potential as it never executes its premise particularly well. It is an okay picture, but a forgettable and overrated one.

My Rating – 3

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Blazing Saddles

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How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

How To Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon Review

How to Train Your Dragon is a 2010 animated fantasy film from DreamWorks Animation and it is their best film do date and arguably one of the best animated films ever made.

It follows a Viking teenager who is a clumsy outcast. He accidentally captures a dragon and establishes a bond with him. But that development puts him against his father and the whole village as they deem dragons their enemies. This may sound like a familiar story, but it is anything but as it’s executed perfectly. It is so professional, so mature and so well crafted while simultaneously being sweet and simplistic and thus achieving a perfect balance. I loved the plot here. The first act wonderfully introduces you to this world and its characters, the second act is a pure character-driven drama and the third act is an action spectacle, but done in such an entertaining, emotionally powerful and epic manner. The ending alone just might be one of the best finales in an animated film. It is that good! It is a happy ending, but something is unfortunate there and that was such a bold choice on the part of the filmmakers and that ending makes this movie so mature and an instant classic, among other things.

The character development is really good. Hiccup is undoubtedly one of the very best animated protagonists in recent years and maybe of all time. He is such a different character with his flamboyant and clumsy behavior and weak physique and that is so refreshing. But he is also so complex and so wonderfully developed and grounded in reality. His conflict with his father is so phenomenal to follow and so dramatic, while the relationship between him and the dragon is simply fantastic and the heart of the movie. Toothless is such a great character as well and the mannerisms he displays along with the evident care towards Hiccup are so heartwarming. But he is still realistically portrayed and dangerous with his animal qualities intact which I appreciated a lot. I liked how the film emphasized the importance and beauty of human-animal bonding with many spectacular moments.

Stoick the Vast is the most realistic character of the bunch as he fits the time period perfectly. The father-son relationship is so wonderful to witness here and I liked how his character is so brave and tough, but is still caring. That is so truthful for men and especially those during those times. As for the supporting characters, they aren’t some of the best ever written, but are still solidly depicted and given their lack of screen time, they still manage to become memorable which is a great achievement. Gobber is fantastic and so inherently likable in his relationship with Hiccup and Stoick. And he is definitely the funniest character in the entire movie. Astrid I also really liked. She was annoying and one-note at first, but proved herself to be more than that later on and the love relationship between the two is sweet and wonderfully understated. And the other kids are all pretty good and sometimes quite funny.

The voice cast did a splendid job here. Jay Baruchel surprised me with a very good performance, but Gerard Butler is also phenomenal and Craig Ferguson and America Ferrera both did a splendid job. Everyone did great here.

How to Train Your Dragon has superb animation. It isn’t top-notch due to some natural inconsistencies, but it is mostly terrific with the aerial sequences being so spectacular and the character design being awesome. The characters aren’t too pretty and they are all very grounded with Hiccup being so realistic as well as Stoick being wonderfully animated. But the design of the dragons is really something. They for once look different and refreshing with fat and thick looks replacing the usual lean physique. Toothless in particular looks amazing and is both instantly recognizable and instantly adorable.

The movie is visually stunning. It is so well animated and shot with the flying sequences being just mesmerizing. Those are my favorite scenes after the ending as they are so emotionally moving, epic in scope and just overall satisfying and beautiful to watch. They are accompanied by the amazing score which is without any doubt the best in any DreamWorks movie. It is so epic, so dramatic and unforgettable with at times being perfectly moving and uplifting. This is the kind of flawless music that helps a movie a lot and makes it a classic. And I liked how they went with the fittingly old-fashioned Viking music to accompany its setting.

It is a deftly edited and paced movie with not a single rushed or wasted scene. It all flows magnificently and is always intriguing to follow. I adored the silent scenes between the boy and the dragon as those are so wonderfully subtle, classic in style and so mature and just timeless. And the moment when they bond and he touches Toothless for the first time is the moment that should go down into history how unforgettable and impeccable it is.

I liked how unpredictable it is and how the movie took its chances with sometimes violent and sad outcome. The tone is wonderfully handled with the action scenes being so well realized, the drama being so well crafted and the fantasy elements are all riveting with the qualities of the dragons all very well explored. But it has a great humor as well with a couple of truly funny moments and lines and it did made me laugh a couple of times, but did not get in the way of the story. It is smart and mature, but also wonderfully childlike and simplistic on surface. It explores the theme of animal-human bonding so well and also the prejudices and hatred of the unknown. It has a great message well put to use. But above all that, it is endlessly heartwarming and so emotional with its heart being in the right place.

It has simply fantastic world-building and a great attention to detail with the clothes, hair and dragons all beautifully animated and the characteristics of different dragons are well explored. And I love the fact that we get to meet all these different dragon breeds. That makes the movie look large-scale and epic. It is not only the company’s best movie to date, but also one of the best animated films period. It is that good and it will be a classic when enough time has passed, but is already a masterpiece. And it also can lead to one of the best franchises ever.

How to Train Your Dragon is an almost flawless film. The animation is mesmerizing, the characters are so well developed, the world-building is superb, the emotion is evident, the editing is deft and it has many memorable scenes with the flying sequences being so moving and the ending being bold and simply fantastic. It is a simplistic and sweet story that is executed in a sophisticated manner with great message and themes, it succeeds on every level imaginable and it is undoubtedly DreamWorks Animation’s best film to date and to me one of the finest animated films of all time. This is a timeless masterpiece that has both brain and heart and is a movie that may also lead to one of the best franchises ever made.

My Rating – 5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from How To Train Your Dragon

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Sock-a-Bye, Baby (1934)

Sock-a-Bye, Baby ReviewSock-a-Bye, Baby Review

Sock-a-Bye, Baby is a 1934 Popeye the Sailor animated short film that is one of the best of its time.

It follows Popeye trying to get rid of all the noise in order to keep the baby asleep. That concept is genius and such a great change of pace as Popeye is the only character present here along with the baby. And he is superb, so fantastic and as always really funny. I liked the action here with the travelling fist scene being the funniest and the most inventive and I wish that all scenes were that inventive. But they were overall really good and Popeye is so interesting to follow here and he remains just such a fantastic creation.

What bothered me here is especially the baby smoking sequence as that was so awful to witness. And the short did not use its premise to the fullest extent, but it was overall worth a watch for its phenomenal humor and some really creative and not to mention hilarious moments. But its overall story is a breath of fresh air and thus the flick is one of the best earlier Popeye shorts.

Sock-a-Bye, Baby is one of the best of the early Popeye shorts due to its superb and refreshing premise, some excellent gags and phenomenal humor.

My Rating – 4.4

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A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown ChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas Review

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 animated television special and the first in the Peanuts series.

Charlie Brown finds himself depresses upon Christmas and Lucy suggests that he direct a school Christmas play, but he is still mocked by the children. The plot itself is very good and all of its parts do work. I really liked its beginning, the session with Lucy is so much fun, the play is excellent and funny as well and the use of Christmas theme is wonderfully explored with nice themes and a great message. The only problem I’ve had with it is the ending which is sweet, but not particularly satisfying in my opinion.

It is solidly animated and superbly voice acted. It is great to watch during the holiday as it does have a great Christmas spirit and is naturally a smart 25-minute entertainment. Charlie Brown is fantastic here and especially in the beginning he is so likable and funny. Linus also has his moments and Snoopy, although pretty funny, disappointed me a little as he did not receive that much attention unfortunately. Sally is great as is Schroeder and Pig-Pen. But Lucy is expectedly the highlight here with such a fantastic personality and many hilarious lines. The humor here is wonderful and it made me laugh a couple of times as the dialogue is genius. The pacing is slow, but that wasn’t the problem for me. The static feel of the episode was a much bigger problem, but the special still managed to overcome it with a strong holiday feel, a great plot and superb soundtrack.

A Charlie Brown Christmas does have some problems, but it is mostly terrific due to expectedly excellent character development, great score, fantastic humor and a fitting holiday feel to it.

My Rating – 4.5

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