Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a 2007 fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp. It is a solid, but weaker third installment.

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Dying is the day worth living for

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Movie Review

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Now I found the first and the second movie to be mostly equal and quality and both are very good. But this one is unfortunately not as good and although solid, it is a somewhat disappointing end to this trilogy. Well, it was a trilogy for its time anyway.

There are a lot of things that are wrong with At World’s End so let’s start with the story itself. It is a memorable conclusion to this story and especially the third act is very rewarding emotionally and in terms of the action. However, everything that came before it was very problematic.

The film is filled with way too many subplots and storylines and I agree with the critics that it is way too convoluted for the sake of being convoluted and it is at times even difficult to understand which is not supposed to happen for a fun blockbuster at all. So I loved the third act, but the first and especially the second one were overlong and troublesome.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Movie Review

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Jack is once again very good. The part with the doppelgangers was painfully unfunny, but he is otherwise reliably good and amusing here and again quite funny. Barbossa is also very good and funny how eager he is to return to being a captain. The chairman and other British men were not memorable and I have to say that Davy Jones wasn’t as compelling here as he was before.

But I liked his romance with Tia Dalma, but her Calypso twist is not all that well executed. As for Will and Elizabeth, he died here which was a brave choice and their kiss at the end was well filmed and again she is pleasantly more heroic here. But still I am not a fan of her and she took way too much screen time from Jack.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is well acted. Keira Knightley is still annoying in the role, but less so than before and of course Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp are the highlights with such strong performances.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Movie Review

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The film again has those pitfalls of a regular POC entry such as overlong runtime and too much action and spectacle, but some of that action was a lot of fun to watch and it does serve as a solid conclusion to this trilogy. The special effects are expectedly terrific and the score is very good though I would have liked a bigger use of their iconic score which is surprisingly not as prevalent this time around. All in all, it is a solid film, just not as good as the previous two.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a solid conclusion to the trilogy with a very strong and rewarding third act, some fun action scenes and again terrific special effects, but the film is not as good as the previous two entries owing to its overlong runtime and way too many characters and storylines leading to a needlessly complicated movie.

My Rating – 3.5

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Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

Wreck-It Ralph is a 2012 animated fantasy adventure film which is the 52nd Disney animated feature and one of the best of all time.

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Because if that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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Yes, I absolutely love this film!! This is one of my favorite Disney movies which is definitely in the top 15 Disney films list for me. The greatness of this movie lies in its great replay factor. This is the third time I’ve watched it and it is even better now than it was before and every next time I watch it, I put it a little bit higher on my Disney list.

It is about an arcade game villain who wants to become a good guy and be respected as everyone else. He sets out to get a medal in another game, befriends a young girl and uncovers the conspiracy behind the whole Sugar Rush game. To me this film has that wonderful, traditional friendship and heart at its core, but is set in a modern video game world and thus it achieves a perfect mix of contemporary and old-fashioned.

It is without any doubt one of the most original films of the decade as its plot is absolutely brilliant and so incredibly authentic and inventive. It is an action-packed, but always entertaining and heartwarming film and always so original in almost every way. It features some of the best and most intricate world building that I have ever seen as every little detail is thoroughly thought out here and all of those 80s video game references should prove delightful for their fans.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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The beginning features narration, but is essential here and thus a good choice. I loved everything about that Game Central Station as it was brilliantly conceived and I just loved the rules of this universe. The human players play them and everybody has their own role but if they step outside of their own game, they could die for real and not regenerate. Great rules.

Hero’s Duty is not my favorite scene as it was too dark but still refreshingly so for an otherwise lighter film. The danger there was well conveyed and the first person shooter elements are so well realized. I loved how Ralph and Venellope met and those scenes where he builds a kart and teaches her how to race were wonderful.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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Ralph breaking her kart was such a dark, unexpectedly brutal sequence which was emotionally devastating and one of the movie’s highlights for sure. I loved the mystery here and how Ralph uncovers it, the twist with the villain is actually very interesting and well executed. The final race was fine, but the twist with Venellope being a princess was actually fantastic. The fact that they managed to sneak in their usual princess formula into this different, non-princess film is highly admirable as that development honestly worked. Loved it. And of course the ending is one of my favorites as seeing Ralph watch Venellope from his arcade and the two smile and wave was just so emotionally rewarding and I was incredibly moved by it which is a testament to how strong emotion and characterization here is.

Yes, the character development is superb across the board as is the voice acting. Ralph is one of the best Disney protagonists in my opinion as he is that great. He is relatable, very well developed and likable without being too heroic. John C. Reilly was perfectly cast for this role and he did a phenomenal job.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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Venellope von Schweets is even better! She is again not too likable and a realistic modern kid, but so well developed and I admired how the two shared the same dreams and goals and that strengthened their relationship. She is such a moving character with a terrific backstory and their friendship is the heart and soul of the entire film and its driving force. Sarah Silverman’s husky voice bothered me at first, but then I grew to like it and she really did an outstanding job in the role.

Fix-It Felix Jr. could have easily been an insufferable, one-note character owing to his inherent heroism but I loved that Ralph was the protagonist and he was in the back and he definitely became better and better as the movie progressed. His relationship with Sergeant Calhoun is so silly, but it honestly works. She is a very memorable, strong female character and they are the exact opposite of each other but that is maybe why their relationship felt so entertaining and strong. And I loved her backstory. This movie is a textbook example of how to properly do character backstories.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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All of the other characters are not all that memorable though they did serve their purpose really well such as all of those bratty girls, henchmen and of course the various famous video game characters were so well incorporated with the highlights being Q*bert who is so cute and tragic and Zangief who is absolutely hilarious.

As for King Candy, I honestly wasn’t thrilled with him. I have to be honest. He is the weakest aspect in the film and he really held it down quite a bit. Now I loved his backstory which was once again very strong and the twist that he is Turbo is great, but the problem with him is that he is obviously meant to portray a feminine gay guy stereotype and this is the 2010s and this type of villain is no more excusable.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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The animation is fantastic in Wreck-It Ralph, absolutely gorgeous. It is undoubtedly the finest computer animated film so far from Disney because the character design is very strong as all characters look very authentic and the way they movie and look is very much like a video game character fittingly. But the film is so polished, it looks fittingly modern and high-tech and I adored how colorful it is, especially Sugar Rush. The film looks beautiful and is a rare movie that gives CG animation a good name. Plus those video game scenes were fittingly very retro and realistic.

Wreck-It Ralph isn’t perfect. The villain is weaker, the action is at times slightly overwhelming and the humor could be immature (some of the banter between Venellope and Ralph was too childish). But most of the other humor is actually very strong and the action is mostly fantastic and a lot of fun to watch. The film is briskly paced, but never rushed and it is an absolute blast to watch. It is unfortunately over too soon and you want more so I am glad that we are getting a sequel as this world is just so rich with endless possibilities.

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Wreck-It Ralph Movie Review

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The film has no songs but it doesn’t need them as it isn’t suited for a musical. That one song from Rihanna is here (Shut Up and Drive) and I wasn’t a fan of it nor was I the fan of the other songs with the only exception being Celebration which was well incorporated. The score itself is terrific and pleasantly retro which I loved, especially in those earlier scenes. It is a memorable film with strong dialogue, amazing world building and very high emotional engagement as some scenes moved me so much. Needless to say, it is, along with ‘Tangled’, the best modern Disney film.

The characters in Wreck-It Ralph are amazing despite a weaker villain. Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Calhoun are such a fun couple and of course Venellope and Ralph are the heart and soul of this film. The animation is so beautiful and so phenomenal that it gives computer animation a good name for once. The emotion is overwhelming and some scenes moved me tremendously. And above all else, it is fueled by one of the most original and intricately plotted stories in recent memory filled with excellent character backstories and simply extraordinary world building. It has its small flaws, but it is mostly a brilliant film which is, along with ‘Tangled’, the best modern Disney film and one of the best of all time as well. A future classic that only gets better with each subsequent viewing.

My Rating – 4.5

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Dersu Uzala (1975)

Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

Dersu Uzala is a 1975 Soviet-Japanese adventure biopic directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is a long, but pretty good film.

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How can man live in a box?

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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This is a co-production between Russia and Japan and I liked seeing these two great countries join forces and create this epic. Akira Kurosawa is a great director and he directed this film so well. His direction and the titular Asian character bring the Asian flavor to the film which revolves in Russian Far East with Russian actors. I really liked that mix.

The friendship that develops between a Russian man and this native is heartwarming and very strong. Their explorations of the harsh region are so great and it was very interesting seeing the various different conditions from fog to snow. This is very much a film about nature and the power of it and of course I admire movies that promote that.

The two main characters are very good and I really loved their friendship. The actors also gave such strong performances. But other characters are quite forgettable. The film deals with Dersu’s aging very well and in terms of the themes, it is a familiar, but well realized film.

Dersu Uzala looks absolutely magnificent. It sounds great thanks to excellent score and superb sound design, but the various natural landscapes are beautiful to witness and the film relies heavily on its very harsh and alienated atmosphere and setting to great effect. It is an old tale of man versus nature but well crafted nonetheless.

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Dersu Uzala Movie Review

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The problem with Dersu Uzala is naturally its running time which is just way too long. Two hours would have been enough and I would cut those thirty minutes from it. Sometimes the film was slow and uninvolving and although it is a slow-burn, it still would have hugely benefited from stronger pacing and a shorter runtime. It got the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and I don’t mind its win as it is actually one of the better winners from the seventies.

Dersu Uzala is certainly overlong and it is quite a familiar tale, but well told with a strong friendship between its main characters, excellent direction and great atmosphere thanks to superb sound and wonderful cinematography. It is slow, but moving and it utilizes its interesting setting so well.

My Rating – 4

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a 2006 fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp. It is a very good, strong sequel.

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There will come a time when you have a chance to do the right thing.

I love those moments. I like to wave at them as they pass by

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie Review

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Critics pinpoint the plot as very weak here, but I disagree. Certainly it takes the backseat to the action and spectacle, but it is still a solid story which further broadens this world and mythology. I liked its adventurous side, but to me the fantasy elements were the strongest this time around as the titular chest was a superb plot device and those odd-looking animalistic humans are very interesting both visually and tonally as they bring some darkness to this franchise.

Let’s talk about the characters. Jack Sparrow is even more fun and funny in this installment and Johnny Depp once again excels in this role. Some of his facial expressions were priceless. Will continues to be very boring, but at least the inclusion of Bootstrap Bill as his father led to some moving family drama.

Elizabeth was honestly much better this time around as she is much more proactive here and she is even in on some of the action. Keira Knightley is still unlikable in the role, but the character is getting better. James Norrington is quite solid and I liked that he got away with the chest eventually which was an interesting turn of events.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie Review

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Tia Dalma is your typical voodoo priestess and nothing new honestly but Davy Jones is absolutely terrific and such a great addition to the cast. I did not see Bill Nighy anywhere owing to seamless special effects work and the character is fun but also serves as a rather compelling villain.

Dead Man’s Chest definitely is filled with too much action and it is more robust than its predecessor, but still I prefer this movie as it is thus more fun and funnier. That action is silly, but also very well executed and consistently entertaining and humorous. The part with the cannibals was boring and overlong honestly, but I liked everything after that. It sets up the sequel so well while being a solid middle entry in the trilogy in its own right.

The highlights were all of the scenes with Davy Jones along with the ending and of course the island sequence was the standout as it was the most entertaining with that fighting on the wheel and chase for the chest being the most memorable. Everything in those scenes is overblown (too much action, humor and too many characters), but it works as it is pleasantly humorous in approach, charming and it doesn’t take itself seriously which was refreshing.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie Review

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The film features reliably excellent score and terrific sound effects, deservedly Oscar nominated. The film actually won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects because it was a weaker year for effects, but still it deserved to win as those creatures are blended seamlessly with the real actors and locations. What it lacks in dialogue and story and also emotion, the film more than compensates with effects, action and humor and I have to admit that I prefer it over the original.

Dead Man’s Chest again has overlong runtime, excessive action and too much overblown spectacle, but I honestly prefer this installment over the previous one because it is much more entertaining and much funnier with Jack again being so amusing. The fantasy elements are very good, the film sets up its sequel so well and it has many memorable, fun scenes fueled by seamless special effects and beautiful locations.

My Rating – 4

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a 2003 fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp. It’s a very good start for the series.

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This is the day you will always remember

as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow!

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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The story is very simplistic this time around as it follows Jack Sparrow and Will Turner as they rescue Elizabeth Swann from the cursed crew of the titular ship. It is very interesting to witness this first movie as it proved to be so different from the rest of the franchise. I am talking about its story and its approach which is pretty restrained this time around meaning that it is less silly but also less fun. It is better crafted but also not as funny or as entertaining as the future entries would be. I definitely see why the critics prefer this one then.

Let’s talk about the characters and actors. I was amazed to have found out that Johnny Depp was actually nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for this role. They rarely nominate blockbuster performances but he deserved it as here he for the first time created such an iconic character and it’s his most iconic role for sure. Jack Sparrow is a lot of fun, very amusing and frequently even hilarious with his many signature lines (“Savvy?”) as well as facial expressions. And his mannerisms and overall appearance are very well thought out.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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Will Turner was never a particularly interesting character and is actually rather boring. Orlando Bloom doesn’t help the matter either as he gave a fine performance, but is forgettable in the role. As for Elizabeth Swann, she’s a solid female character, but I thoroughly disliked Keira Knightley here. She is a good actress, there is no doubt about it. But her talent is frequently undone by her constant voguing which is highly annoying and she is very unlikable, at times even insufferable, most especially with her pushing her lips out all the time.

Captain Barbossa is such a fun character and the most entertaining persona here after Sparrow. And all of the other characters are perfectly fine, but not all that memorable and for such a long movie, more characters were definitely needed.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is a very long movie. Clocking in at 140 minutes, it definitely felt too long, especially for such a less populated with characters and less story heavy installment. But it was mostly such a fun experience that I didn’t mind it all that much.

Of the scenes, the ending is my favorite. The entire third act is excellent, but when Jack gets on that ship, you can just sense his love for the sea and for piracy and it was a wonderful character movement. The beginning was somewhat slow and some of the middle parts dragged, but I liked the island sequence and of course the fights were excellent with the skeletons and the fantasy mythology being so well utilized.

The humor was good, but not as prevalent as in some previous entries. The dialogue is very good and the film has a phenomenal attention to detail in recreating the 18th century as the way they talk, the costumes and the setting is so well conveyed. And the score is iconic and the visuals are terrific.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Movie Review

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This franchise I would describe as a live-action cartoon meaning that it is a fantasy adventure with a strong use of humor and is also made by Disney. This first installment isn’t as fun as this is only the introduction, but it is more serious and better made than others and thus it succeeds as a pretty good first entry.

The humor is good but not prevalent, the visuals and action are terrific and the entertainment factor is strong in The Curse of the Black Pearl which succeeds as a very strong, though overlong start of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise even if it is low-key in approach and thus less fun but also less silly than the other entries. And this is the movie that gave us that legendary score and introduced us to Jack Sparrow for the first time and Johnny Depp should be commended for creating such an iconic character.

My Rating – 4

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The Princess and the Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

The Princess and the Frog is a 2009 animated musical film directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. It is Disney’s 49th animated feature and one of their most pleasant outings.

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Like I told y’all, kissing a princess breaks the spell.

Once you became my wife, that made you…

A princess. You just kissed yourself a princess.

And… I’m about to do it again

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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This is it. This is the movie that signaled the arrival of the Disney Revival era. From here on, the films were much better in quality and major improvements over Disney Second Dark Age flicks. The Princess and the Frog ushered in this new era which is interesting as it contains both the modern and the old-fashioned elements to it and that mix did not hold it back, but it actually strengthened the movie and made it incredibly appealing.

So the modern is the princess herself who is the only Disney princess who works as she has a dream to open her own restaurant. That was great and important. Of course you have African Americans for the first time ever prominently in a Disney movie as the prince, princess and villain are all black. But you also have a very strong relationship at the center of the movie, the setting of New Orleans, the 1920s era and those are all unique things present just in this movie. And the greatest thing about it is that these things are just presented to us and the movie never gets preachy with them which was excellent.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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As for the traditional aspects to it, there are a lot of those as well honestly. So firstly, the technical aspects from the animation to the action to the humor are all very much done in that wonderful classic Disney style of yesteryear. The film looks and sounds like a Disney classic and the fact that we got it this late in the game, 2009, was just awesome. And the most important thing is that this is a princess movie and a musical. Disney went back to their roots here and created a wondrous film in the process.

So yes, The Princess and the Frog is historically very important on multiple fronts, but let’s talk about the story itself. I honestly found the first act a bit rushed for my taste and the movie has way too many characters in it. It is a testament to how strong the character development here is that most of them are memorable and great, but still I could have done with less characters. Those are some of the problems of the movie and why it is not great, but still very good.

The movie has a lot of the elements from other Disney films such as ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Cinderella‘ and especially ‘Snow White’ in its mix of dangerous and lightweight. It doesn’t do that shift as greatly as that classic does, but still I loved how innocent and carefree the movie felt and still it gave us one major death and a funeral which was great. The film has a very good plot overall, very detailed and filled with a lot of plot points which I really liked and it honestly flies by how engaging and lovable it is. And that prolonged ending is beautiful with its two weddings.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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Tiana is truly a phenomenal Disney princess, probably one of my favorites after seeing the movie for the second time and so incredibly underrated. I loved her dream of owning a restaurant, but I liked how she had to learn how to live her life and be fun as well. She is very sweet and charming, so beautiful and just a wonderful princess overall.

Prince Naveen is an excellent Disney prince as well. He is spoiled and rich, but gets better and learns the benefits of work in the end. The clashes of their personalities and how each had to complement each other was a really clever choice that paid off tremendously as their relationship was truly terrific and so well established. They are a wonderful couple.

The movie has some charming sidekicks in it. Louis the alligator plays a trumpet and is just such a fun, lovable dude. I really liked him and he was sweet and caring. But of course Ray the firefly is probably the standout supporting character as he is the most heartwarming creature here. His death was tragic, but also simply beautiful and the entire Evangeline the star subplot was honestly poetic in quality. Some really moving stuff to be had here.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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Mama Odie is a hilarious take on a Fairy Godmother persona. This old woman is blind and lives in a boat on a cottage with her pet snake. How fun is that?! Lawrence is the forgettable henchman, but Dr. Facilier is solid. His design, his song and his voodoo shtick are all great and unique. However, he was too silly, he rarely posed real threat and was disposed of pretty quickly by Tiana. He had the potential for greatness, but was ultimately a missed opportunity.

And the final character I want to talk about is Charlotte. She is a stereotypical Southern girl in search of a wealthy husband and she surprised me. At first I thought she was going to be just that stereotype, but turned out to not only be funny, but also a great, truly admirable friend to her Tia and the lack of any malice toward Tiana’s eventual marriage to Naveen just made me love her all the more. So the film has too many characters (those henchmen were forgettable and that entire frog hunting sequence was a fun detour, but detour nonetheless), but those that work are great and surprisingly well developed.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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The Princess and the Frog has gorgeous animation. This is the penultimate Disney hand-drawn feature which makes me so sad as here they showed how powerful that animation is. The mix of CGI in it with the lights mostly added that modern polish to it, but the animation overall is so wonderfully traditional with some beautiful painterly backgrounds and a truly accomplished character design. I loved how this film looked and although the frogs themselves were too simplistic, Ray, Facilier and the humans all looked fantastic and the attention to detail is overwhelming here. They recreated this decade and town so vividly and I loved the swamp setting as well.

Finally, let’s talk about the soundtrack. It is in my opinion one of the finest Disney soundtracks of all time. It doesn’t have the best Disney songs, but it has a lot of very good songs and thus is becomes a terrific soundtrack. And I loved that it is a jazz score and we’ve never really had jazz songs in a Disney flick at this capacity before. That made it unique.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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Down in New Orleans is a fun tune, the kind of tune that introduces you to the movie’s setting and time period and it does that really well. I was not a fan of it before, but now I like it much more as it is catchy, fitting in style to the film and overall successful, if too short. When We’re Human is the weakest of the bunch as it is very forgettable and to me unnecessary even.

Ma Belle Evangeline isn’t something I would sing, but it works well in the context of Ray’s character. Friends on the Other Side is awesome! It is in fact one of the finest Disney villain songs ever as the imagery is superb here, it reminded me so wonderfully of Ursula’s scene and song in ‘The Little Mermaid’ and it is the finest moment for Doctor Facilier for sure. It has such a catchy, terrific finale.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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Gonna Take You There is the most entertaining song here for sure! It is a fun scene and the tune is endlessly catchy and you just can’t help but sing along with it. Dig a Little Deeper is a great moment for Mama Odie, again the descriptions and the message/motifs are so well incorporated into its lyrics and the song is not only so catchy and fun but also accompanied by gorgeous imagery.

And of course my favorite has to be Almost There. This jazz number is the perfect kind of “I wish” princess song but with the added twist of the wish being a job and not a prince. The entire scene is so well animated and I loved its different, simplistic style incorporated there, it has a great use of the mother’s character and the lyrics are great. It explains Tiana’s character superbly and is just all around incredibly well sung, immensely catchy and one of the most memorable parts of the movie.

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The Princess and the Frog Movie Review

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So it isn’t all that well paced, but the score is great, the film is fun and innocent but also dark at times and it has some great imagery, details and animation style. The voice acting is also top-notch across the board and the humor is quite solid. I really enjoyed this film despite some of its problems. It was a great start of a new era for the company and it truly is one of the most underrated Disney films recently.

With a terrific mix of traditional and modern in its storytelling and presentation, gorgeous hand-drawn animation, a plethora of lovable, charming characters and one of Disney’s greatest soundtracks with wonderful songs like Almost There, Friends on the Other Side, Gonna Take You There and Dig a Little Deeper, The Princess and the Frog has its pacing issues and a weaker villain, but it is the movie that signaled the arrival of Disney Revival period with an abundance of style, a standout princess and many beautiful scenes.

My Rating – 4

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Porco Rosso (1992)

Porco Rosso Movie Review

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

Porco Rosso is a 1992 animated adventure comedy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is one of the weaker Studio Ghibli offerings that still has a lot to offer.

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I’d rather be a big than a fascist

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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The subject of aviation is naturally very dear to Miyazaki, but somehow he never really knew how to utilize all that strong love for it. ‘The Wind Rises’ was problematic and Porco Rosso is no exception. It is a film that is just solid and I’d come to expect much more than solid from this director.

So the film is about an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace who was transformed into an anthropomorphic pig. The film is interesting for being the only Miyazaki film that is very realistic and could have happened in real life, everything except the curse part of course. Its Italian location is interesting and unique for the studio and I love the 30s decade so this was pleasant for me naturally.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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But I have to agree with the director himself who stated that he made an adult movie for children. And that is exactly the major problem of Porco Rosso in a nutshell. It is realistic, it has politics and history in it and yet somehow the movie is not serious as it tries to be fun and funny. It is fun and funny at times, but this tonal inconsistency just felt off for me and ultimately the movie did not work as much as it could have had he decided on just one consistent tone.

I found its first act somewhat abrupt as it starts in a rushed way and it did not introduce me to its characters and its world properly. The third act of the film is where it is at its silliest and most childish and although amusing, it felt too silly in contrast to everything that came before it. The second act is easily the best one as it features some strong characterization, humor and wonderful drama.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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Porco himself is very memorable and I really liked his character as he is a departure from the usual heroes from the director, or should I say heroines. His story is excellent and I loved the hint at the end that his face may be restored to human. Fio is such a wonderful, subtly feminist character and she is a lot of fun and has some great energy. The relationship between these two is the heart and soul of the film.

Donald Curtis is somewhat typical as an antagonist and again that fight at the end was silly, but Madame Gina is memorable as a love interest and I really enjoyed the love story in this movie and I even found this triangle to be pretty solid.

Porco Rosso is so well animated. It isn’t quite on par with the previous Ghibli films as it isn’t as artistic and the backgrounds are sometimes lacking, but the designs of the characters are so good, especially that of the protagonist, and the film is pleasing in color and quite endearing. The flight scenes are so well executed and I loved the attention to detail that went into the animation of airplanes. It is evident from this movie how much Hayao loves aviation.

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Porco Rosso Movie Review

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The score is also stupendous. It isn’t as memorable as say the score from ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ or ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, but it is very fitting to the story and feel of the movie, not to mention the locations, and I loved how fun and retro it felt.

The movie is well paced and edited in spite of that somewhat rushed first act. It otherwise flows really well and the direction is as strong as usual. I also thought that the dialogue is quite solid and I loved the conversations between Fio and Porco and his origin story is so well told. So the movie is not one of Ghibli’s strongest and it is more in line with ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. Still, it is endearing and charming enough that I can’t criticize it too much.

Porco Rosso is a problematic movie. The animation is as wonderful as usual for the studio, the characters are memorable, I loved the relationship between Fio and Porco, the locations of the film are different and interesting and the film is so well scored and charming and endearing for the most part. However, I have to agree with Miyazaki himself that this is an adult film for children and it thus felt odd both conceptually and tonally. It struggled with its tone too much, the first act is somewhat rushed and the third act is silly leading to one of Ghibli’s more humble offerings.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Lost City of Z (2017)

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

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The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z is a 2017 biographical adventure film starring Charlie Hunnam and directed by James Gray. It is a pretty good, but never great movie.

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To dream to seek the unknown.

To look for what is beautiful is its own reward.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,

or what’s a heaven for?

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The Lost City of Z Movie Review

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It follows British explorer Percy Fawcett who goes to Bolivia to find the list city in the Amazon. I just love stuff like this and surely this is a classic, old-fashioned adventure flick that they haven’t made in quite a while. Sure, it sometimes tried too hard to be that classic 30s picture and it never came close, but the effort is still much appreciated.

It was somewhat slow, but deliberately so and I didn’t mind. I was immersed in the first half, but the second half lost me a bit with its WWI typical plotting. But the ending is still quite good. I wonder what happened to him in 1925 and it is weird that they had never found his body. This truly is a very interesting story and the fact that it really happened only further strengthens the appeal of the film.

Percy Fawcett was a very interesting, complex individual and I liked that he was portrayed as such here. The characterization, especially of his, is really stellar here. His wife has some great moments and I liked the exploration of that day’s sexism and of course his son is very good and so well played by always great Tom Holland.

But Charlie Hunnam’s performance isn’t the greatest. He is okay in the role, but a better actor would have done a better job. He needed more appeal, charisma and bravado for sure. I also found James Gray’s direction to be overly standard and not all that great for this material.

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The Lost City of Z Movie Review

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But The Lost City of Z is so well made technically and seeing that it was filmed in locations outside was amazing, especially for this CGI-heavy era. It definitely led to a lot of authenticity to the picture. I loved those forests and I loved the film’s atmosphere and mystery. It is a very good film, but its obvious flaws prevent it from reaching much greater heights.

The Lost City of Z is so well shot with beautiful scenery, its real life story is so intriguing and the film succeeds as a biopic and as adventure thanks to strong characterization and a very good, classic approach to it, but the second half isn’t as immersive as the first one is thanks to some overly standard scenes and the direction and acting should have been better. It is a good film, but never as great as it could have been.

My Rating – 4

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The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

The Outlaw and His Wife is a 1918 Swedish drama film directed by Victor Sjostrom. It is one of the best films from the 1910s I’ve seen so far.

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Their only law was their love

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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It follows an outlaw and his wife who joins him in the escape from authorities. They go from Sweden to Iceland where they live constantly on the run and in the wild. This is in my opinion a precursor to ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, but done better and it also has a touch of ‘Z for Zachariah’ in it. But it came first so it is very original and of course hugely influential for its emphasis on the scenery of wilderness.

Eyvind of the Hills is one very memorable protagonist so well played by Victor Sjostrom. He not only directed this movie beautifully, but also gave a strong performance and that dual presence is felt strongly and he is the biggest reason why the film is so great. Edith Erastoff is also pretty good as Halla and they are great together. Such a wonderful romance develops between the two and the final scene is heartwarming.

The Outlaw and His Wife is a simply gorgeous film that features one of the best technical aspects of any silent film. I am not just talking about the direction, but also about editing which is deft and tight and the film moves quite smoothly. The first half wasn’t as great as the second one was and it did not introduce me to its characters all that well, but the second half fixed that and was a terrific viewing experience.

The cinematography is just stunning. Yes, it is one of the first films to use nature extensively in its narrative, but it is also a character here in and of itself and is very important in the shaping of its main characters.

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The Outlaw and His Wife Movie Review

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But it is just so beautiful to look at. I loved the mountains and this one was majestic and dangerous. That spring was one of the highlights for me, but I loved every scene where we see the mountain imagery and of course the ending with its harsh winter cold is the perfect finale for this story.

I liked its story, I liked how it ended and I admired that it did not involve as much melodrama as was usual for the period. It truly is a remarkable film, refreshing for its time, even artistic and groundbreaking in narrative and in scenery. It’s one of the biggest classics of the first decade for features.

The Outlaw and His Wife is one of the best films of the 1910s thanks to Victor Sjostrom’s great dual role as a director and actor, a strong story and characterization, many memorable and striking scenes and of course fantastic cinematography with gorgeous mountain imagery.

My Rating – 4.5

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Okja (2017)

Okja Movie Review

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Okja Movie Review

Okja is a 2017 action-adventure film directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is a major disappointment.

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She is making us full in love with a creature

that we are already looking forward to eating

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Okja Movie Review

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Yes, this is one of the most disappointing films of the year for sure as it just left me unsatisfied and my expectations were way too high for it. I absolutely loved its premise and the film had great potential, but it squandered it all on a very uneven film that suffers from lost identity.

Yes, the fact that Okja is a South Korean-American co-production really speaks a lot as it tries to include both of the country’s sensibilities leading to a giant mess. Tonally speaking, this movie is all over the place and it was definitely too silly for me and the humor is mostly annoying.

I loved the first act and the ending had its moments, but the entire middle part ruined it for me as it focused on all the wrong elements such as the food industry and those very annoying cartoony characters.

Mija is fine and the only good character in Okja. Lucy Mirando is too cartoony, but admittedly Tilda Swinton did a good job in the role per usual. Others are all forgettable with the exception of Jake Gyllenhaal who is memorable but in a bad way. I am sorry to say this but this is the first time that I honestly really disliked Jake in a film as his performance is ridiculous as is his character.

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Okja Movie Review

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Bong Joon-ho’s direction is also problematic as he wanted to include too many things here but failed miserably. I honestly found its message admirable, but its delivery had the subtlety of an earthquake. Honestly, any kid’s flick would be like this and maybe even better. That is how on-the-nose Okja is.

I loved the imagery, especially in the first act. Korean’s forests are simply beautiful and I really admired those landscapes as well as the pig’s design and effects, very well done. The film is definitely a visual feast for the eyes and it’s a shame that it was wasted on such a problematic script.

Okja is one of the most disappointing films of the year as it let me down significantly. Its premise had potential, the film is visually magnificent and it does have a good beginning and ending, but the entire middle part is frustratingly uneven, the film’s characters are ridiculously cartoony, the tone is just all over the place and the message is delivered in the most unsubtle manner possible. Such a frustrating movie.

My Rating – 3

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