Macbeth (2015)

Macbeth

Macbeth Review

Macbeth is a 2015 British drama film directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It is a solid, albeit problematic movie.

Being the adaptation of a famous Shakespeare tragedy, the movie follows it closely and is littered with appropriately old-fashioned and poetic dialogue. I liked that about it as most of the time it wasn’t that difficult to understand and the attention to detail is evident from the accents to the archaic words spoken to the poetic quality to it. What I did not like, however, are the actors’ pronunciations of those sentences and most importantly their whispering. All of them whisper throughout the whole running time which is super annoying and unrealistic as nobody speaks like that.

The character development is also troublesome. Most of the supporting characters are way too forgettable and it only becomes the show between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Although those two are well fleshed out, they are still lacking having in mind the source material and they should have been much better developed and much more complex. The whole film should have been more sophisticated.

The acting is excellent with Marion Cotillard giving a very good performance. And Michael Fassbender is superb as well, but I still found this to be one of his weaker roles which doesn’t mean that it’s bad because he always delivers, but he’s just not as good as in some of his other roles.

The film is poorly paced and is admittedly dull to watch. They should have made this material more accessible to the modern audience. The filmmakers didn’t quite present those most dramatic scenes particularly well and the war elements are also lacking. Macbeth is best when quiet and during the speeches, but the action is not that good unfortunately and those fights are clearly lacking the majesty they deserve. The cinematography is also done for better and for worse. It is such a love/hate approach as the colors are all over the place, but to me it isn’t as artistic as it clearly aspires to be. Some scenes are interesting with the ending being visually intriguing and some scenes in the middle are also well shot, but the first act is way too dark with uninspired scenery. The tone is also problematic as not that much emotion is present, despite in a couple of occasions. The more emotional approach would have made it much better. The score is also solid and the film is overall very well made. But it is well adapted and well directed by Justin Kurzel and as these Shakespeare adaptations go, Macbeth is an admirable film that is quite solid in the end and has its many strengths. But I just wish that it was better handled as it could have been great.

Macbeth is a solid film with its many strengths, but the one that is pretty troublesome in too many areas. It does have some interesting choices, the acting is really good and the film is well made with quite good dialogue, but it is not that well paced, the action is uninspired, the cinematography  is interesting, but at times problematic and the character development should have been better. 

My Rating – 3.5

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Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)

Baahubali: The Beginning

Baahubali: The Beginning Review

Baahubali: The Beginning is an Indian historical fiction film directed by S. S. Rajamouli and starring Prabhas. It is one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time and it truly is such a fun, charming experience.

The story itself is quite fascinating and although it is a typical story seen countless times, it is still infused with trademark Indian qualities which make it fresh and unique. I really found the first act a bit too difficult to comprehend as the actions and the overall storyline wasn’t properly explained. But it got better in the second and third act and the plot became much more engaging and much better realized.

The characters are all solid, but could and definitely should have been better developed. The protagonist is too typical, but I really found Avanthika to be such a great and likable character that is also such a strong female character. And all of the women here are so well realized which was a surprise as they were better developed and certainly more interesting than their male counterparts.

As is the case with Indian films, this one also has a distinct style which is achieved by a lot of singing and very big tonal shifts that happen quite often. And while that can be distracting and it does take its time to get there and for you to get used to it, I still liked it in the end as it provided many new flavors to this story.

First, let’s talk about the war and action aspects of the story. Yes, the end battle is most certainly extended beyond any reasonable running time, but it is still epic and so entertaining. The action sequences are phenomenal in Baahubali as they are not only well choreographed, but also at times inventive and immensely engaging. Every fight sequence is great here with the sword fights being so well executed. And the camera movements are great, letting you see everything properly. That definitely helps the movie a lot.

Next up is the romance. I loved it! Yes, I found that aspect to be the best here which was really unexpected for me. It is simply magical and the whole movie is like that, but the romance at the center of the story is so well done that you wish that there was more of it. The highlight for me was the moment where he exposes her feminine side in a scene that is undoubtedly the best and most memorable one in the entire film. That sequence is accompanied by a song that isn’t annoying for once, it is visually astounding, even poetic and above all very erotic, but wonderfully so as it isn’t overly sexual, but sensual and energetic and done just right.

But the musical elements unfortunately did not work for me as I found the music annoying and not accompanying the scenery or the time period properly as it was too modern and too fast. But the songs are just very annoying and not one of them is particularly memorable or distinguishing itself from the rest of the pack. The musical aspect was the weakest one here.

Baahubali: The Beginning is technically astonishing. The visual effects are just amazing and the kind of effects that I adore. It always looks bright and colorful and it’s always polished and looks great. The scenery is mesmerizing with many breathtaking shots that just never seized to amaze me. The waterfalls, the caves, the nature, the clothes and everything here is so bright and detailed and just beautiful to look at. The score is also really good and the tone is in the end quite solid for an Indian film. The dialogue could have been better, but the direction is great and the pacing is excellent with the appropriate amount of running time as the movie is truly epic in scope and possesses terrific world-building. It is emotional at times, but not as much as I expected it to be. But the imagination is evident and I just loved this world. The humor is also there and although the movie can be at times too silly with its ridiculous action scenarios, it was still incredibly entertaining and just so effervescent from start to finish. And it is also memorable and authentic and so epic that I am excited for the conclusion a lot.

Baahubali: The Beginning has weaker musical elements, the characterization could have been better and is at times too silly, but it has absolutely amazing mix of superbly executed and entertaining action and wonderful romance with a couple of truly poetic scenes. It is also unforgettable, authentic, so imaginative and filled with terrific special effects, mesmerizing imagery, beautiful score and it is just so engaging and so charming from beginning to end.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Baahubali: The Beginning

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In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea Review

In the Heart of the Sea is a 2015 adventure biopic directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland and Brendan Gleeson. It is a film that received mixed reviews, but is quite solid in my opinion.

Writer Herman Melville comes to visit innkeeper Thomas Nickerson in search of inspiration for his novel which is eventually going to be Moby Dick. The man tells him the story of how he survived the sinking of the whaling ship Essex after it was struck by a whale and how the crew had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. I have always found the stories of how the writers get their inspiration for the novel fascinating and it was like that here as well and those scenes I really did enjoy a lot. And the overall story is very entertaining and always dramatic and involving with a nice sense of adventure.

But the problem is that the story is told in a wrong way. It uses this storytelling device of the story being told rather poorly as the man who tells the story is not the emphasis of said story. Maybe they feared that the child actor wouldn’t deliver and thus shifted the emphasis to another character, but that choice is awkward having in mind how talented Tom Holland really is. That certainly was weak. But the characters are not better either.

Owen Chase is your typical good guy that is made too heroic and flawless and you never really learn a lot about him nor do you learn about anyone here which is a major problem. Captain George Pollard is also a typical creation, but at least the relationship between the two is interesting and has its moments. Thomas Nickerson is boring as a young boy and underused, but is solid as an old man and he tells the story in a typical, albeit professional way. And the rest of the characters are all nothing to write home about.

The acting is quite good with every actor giving a good performance. Chris Hemsworth is very good and proves how he can be used quite effectively in dramatic roles and especially in historical films. Brendan Gleeson is also solid and Tom Holland is good, but underused. And Benjamin Walker could have better as his role was quite big. But the acting is overall quite good.

In the Heart of the Sea is visually such an appealing film. Yes, it is obvious they you are watching the scenes created with CGI, but at least those effects are very good and serve their purpose. Yes, it is too dark at times, but there were also many light scenes as well and the effects overall are very good and the film always looks good with the sea scenes in particular being the highlights with the ports and whales wonderfully realized.

The pacing here is good and the movie rarely is abrupt or slow. It is solidly directed by Ron Howard and is well filmed. The score is also stupendous and the movie delivers in sound design. It is also quite emotional at times, but because the characterization is nowhere to be found, those heartwarming scenes don’t hit as much as they should. The movie is also pretty typical when you think about it and mostly very predictable. The dialogue also should have been stronger, but it has its moments, mainly the conversation between Polland and Chase about the relationship between man and nature which is one of the highlights without a doubt. But it should have been smarter, more emotional and more dramatic and it would have been much better as a result.

In the Heart of the Sea does have weaker characters, typical and predictable story and the lack of sophistication, but it is still an underrated film that has its strengths mainly the entertaining storyline with some heartwarming moments, excellent visual effects and a solid sense of adventure. It is a flawed, but still very involving film that is worth a watch.

My Rating – 3.5

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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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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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Russian Ark (2002)

Russian Ark

Russian Ark Review

Russian Ark is a 2002 Russian historical drama film directed by Alexander Sokurov. It is one of the most famous Russian films and to me it is such an overrated movie.

It is set in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and, through the narrator and his meetings with the people from different eras, it follows three centuries of Russian history and also art. I was so incredibly disappointed with this film, it is indescribably overrated and just so disappointing mainly because it has such a unique premise and a lot of unfortunately misguided and awfully put to use potential. The stories are almost non-existent as is the entire plot of this movie which has a serious lack of identity. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, it isn’t a documentary, but it most certainly isn’t a drama either. The historical part is also mediocre as it was so confusing with its shifting through different time periods that are also not arranged properly of course. All of that I found really annoying.

But what was the most frustrating in Russian Ark is definitely its cinematography! God, do I hate this kind of camera approach. The choice to have just one, uninterrupted take is a bad one because it is awfully executed, very forced and even seems amateurish from time to time. I really found that the most annoying aspect.

The characters are also so forgettable and the narrator is frankly annoying. The acting is solid, but also nothing too remarkable either. And the direction is solid at times, but weak at other times. It is so misguided and so awfully approached as well.

However, Russian Ark has its strengths. The finale is so beautiful and I adored it as it was so satisfying. Also some of the sequences were memorable and the technical aspects apart from the cinematography are all really good. I loved its imagery and of course its costume design which is excellent. I also really liked its score and the overall look of some scenes, no matter how static and badly photographed they were. It surely looks good and a great effort is put into making the sets look real and it paid off as that is the sole reason to see this movie in my honest opinion.

The dialogue is also solid and it has its moments, but it unfortunately never makes use of its premise and it never explains anything either historically or artistically speaking which is why it is such a poor art and history lesson when it could have easily been a great one. The film was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film which was a weird choice and a snub, but to me is good as it is far from a good, let alone great movie. Such a vast disappointment.

Russian Ark is such a huge disappointment and such an overrated movie. It has a great premise, the finale is moving and the film looks good with great imagery and excellent sets and costume design, but the cinematography is just so awfully executed and really annoying and the film is confusing and fails as both a history and an art lesson, while also never knowing what movie it wants to be.

My Rating – 2.5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Russian Ark

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A River Runs Through It (1992)

A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It Review

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 historical drama film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt in one of his earlier roles. It is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name and it won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

It follows the growing up and life of two sons of a Presbyterian minister during World War I and afterwards through the Depression Era. The story is my main problem with this film. It is simply put boring. Excruciatingly slow-paced and dull. But that is not the major problem, the bigger problem is that nothing ever really happens here and that is really troublesome. It is one of those films that just follows a group of family members through the vast periods of time, never stopping to develop those characters or have any major plot point whatsoever. It is as boring as life itself. And the film should not be like life at all. It is one of the most tedious films I’ve watched recently, a film so dull that it can put you to sleep.

However, the movie does turn out to be solid in the end and that is mostly due to the ending and the technical aspects. I will wrote more on those aspects later, but now let’s talk about the ending. It is amazing, just breathtaking to behold. It has a wonderful theme of fishing and how it impacted their life. And I absolutely love the lines from the ending, especially the one where the protagonist states that miracles and art do not happen generally in life, there are some moments of it, but those do not last longer. That was really moving and poetic. And the way it was shot and narrated made all the more impactful. This conclusion is simply marvelous and it is a reason to see this movie along with its technical prowess. However, although it is worth the wait for that beautiful conclusion, it takes its sweet time to get there and is only twenty minutes or so in length whereas the 100 minutes of boredom preceded it .

The characters are very weak, the protagonists are okay at best, but the rest are not developed at all and even the two should have been much better developed having in mind their large screen time. The acting is on the other hand rather good and both Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt did a solid job in their performances.

But this is a visually magnificent piece of work. The cinematography is simply stunning and it rightfully claimed its Oscar. It is filled with so many memorable images of nature and water, the scenery is just breathtaking. The costumes are also really good and the score is underrated here as it is as good as the photography. It is really moving and just beautiful, especially in its last sequences. The dialogue is solid as well. The pacing is naturally the worst with awfully slow pace and uneventful nature. But Robert Redford did quite a good job as a director here, proving once again that he is better as a director than as an actor. He really has a knack for majestic filmmaking here.

A River Runs Through It is incredibly boring with sluggish pace and unfortunate uneventful nature, the story lacks any conflict whatsoever and the characters are as thin as tissue paper, but it is nonetheless worth seeing for its incredibly heartwarming and just beautiful ending filled with fine lines and themes and its technical prowess with professional direction, breathtaking scenery, excellent cinematography and a very moving and powerful score.

My Rating – 3

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Braveheart (1995)

Braveheart

Braveheart Movie Review

Braveheart is a 1995 historical war film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. It is about William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scotts to battle against Edward I of England. The film received an Academy Award for Best Picture and it also won 4 more Oscars.

First, I will admit that I am usually not a big fan of historical and especially war films. I find the battles and action sequences of those very boring and usually too extended. However, in Braveheart, although still very much extended, the action is unexpectedly entertaining to watch and follow. The story is also very well handled along with all of its historical intricacies. And it has very nice dialogue and the sequences with just planning, conversations and of course the speeches are the highlights this time around. As for the running time, it is long, but I wouldn’t call it overlong as the movie is filled with so many plot points and battles that it needed such a long running time. And that is great as usually movies clocking in at three hours are too prolonged and slow, but this is not such a film thankfully. But still I found the battles too prolonged and many times it seemed that the movie was coming to a close when in fact it wasn’t. That was also very weird.

The characters are solidly developed, but nothing too remarkable. William Wallace is okay, but is somewhat bland as these heroic protagonists usually are. Of the characters, King Edward is definitely the standout as he was very well depicted and wonderfully portrayed by Patrick McGoohan. As for Gibson at the center, he gave a serviceable performance, but he wasn’t particularly great nor memorable and that is problematic having in mind his huge role here.

However, on the other hand, his directing here is really good and I don’t mind his Oscar win at all because he made this movie epic with great scope and some powerful imagery. The movie does look very polished and professional. The cinematography is gorgeous and very satisfying at times, most evidently in the battle sequences where you get the right camera angles to follow the action properly. The action is really wonderfully done here and although too prolonged, it is very engaging and entertaining to watch. The score is one of the highlights as well as it is so powerful and just moving. It lifted the movie through many extraordinary scenes and it gave it a perfect medieval feel as the music is so beautiful and fittingly very medieval in nature.

I also liked the romance here as it is never cheesy and although understated, it was nonetheless done right. And the movie is emotionally investing with some rather warm and also heartbreaking moments. And of course the ending is superb and very memorable. I just wish that it had better acting and better developed characters. But it is mostly well edited which is quite an accomplishment for this long a film. The humor is the weakest point here. It is sometimes funny, but it is mostly too juvenile and just doesn’t belong here in my opinion. And the movie isn’t particularly smart as well as it does have some unbelievable and unrealistic scenes. And it is predictable, but it is worth following nonetheless as the approach is so professional and transcending all the weaknesses in an admirable way.

As for its Oscars, it did deserve Sound Editing, Makeup and Cinematography and Directing I would also say is much deserved. As for Best Picture, ‘Apollo 13′ is definitely a better choice and it should have won, but regardless of that, it is definitely the second best of the slate that year.

It does have some unrealistic scenes, the characters are not well developed and the humor is juvenile, but Braveheart transcends those weaknesses thanks to a really engaging, never boring story despite its long running time, excellent direction, terrific cinematography, nicely executed action sequences and very powerful score.

My Rating – 4

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The Prince of Egypt (1998)

 

The Prince of Egypt

The Prince of Egypt Review

As the second film for DreamWorks Animation that is also one of their most underrated, The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 animated history film that follows the life of Moses. It is without a doubt one of the best films from the company in my opinion.

This is a technically brilliant film. Just marvelous. The animation has rarely been better from DreamWorks and it is a shame they rarely did hand-drawn as they were so good at it here. This is the kind of hand-drawn animation that is modern, but also very stylized and artistic. The design of the characters is so spectacular because it perfectly fits within this world and Egyptian folklore and mythology. I love how they animated the characters so realistically, they made them look real and depicted them as they were in those days, not pretty like Disney princesses or anything, but very grounded. That was an awesome approach. But the animation of the pictures, temples and towns is also so incredibly detailed and smooth. The color palette is so good here and I absolutely adored the use of CGI as well in that famous water-splitting sequence. It is done so well and so advanced for its time. If I have one minor problem, it is that the body language and movements are sometimes too theatrical, but overall the animation is splendid and one of the key elements to pinpoint when talking about how great this movie is.

But the direction is fine as well and the imagery is so incredibly fascinating. The voice cast, although consisting of too many celebrities, is amazing. They all gave respectable performances in their roles with Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes of course being the highlights. The tone is well handled, it is mature and very dramatic and I love how this movie is aimed more at adults, just like ‘Antz’ is. It is a shame that DreamWorks did not continue that practice later on. The movie is very serious with the action scenes being well executed. I also like the dialogue here as it is quite sophisticated and the approach is very smart and not one-sided, especially with the characters, but more on that later.

However, there is one aspect that is easily the best, even better than animation and it lifts the whole movie to greater heights. That is of course the soundtrack. It is so incredibly good. Not only the songs, but the score is very dramatic, powerful and above all memorable. It is also very in tune with its themes and historical period which I always appreciate a lot. But those songs are so good. Yes, there aren’t many particularly remarkable songs here, but the ones that are good are very memorable. Although the last song is the only real show-stopper here, Deliver Us is also good among others as it perfectly opens the movie and is so powerful. But I have to talk about When You Believe. It is a phenomenal song not just for its fantastic scene accompanying it, but also for its terrific lyrics and great vocals. I also like how catchy it is, but also very majestic as well. It is a perfect song for this movie and it is undoubtedly one of the best songs not from the Disney canon and a very much deserved Oscar winner.

It is a technically polished film, but there is just one issue I have nonetheless. That is the pacing. The Prince of Egypt too often feels rushed and even contrived at some points. That is due to its too short running time that is regular for animated features, but this story needed more time. Speaking of the story, some may complain that it has been done and seen a million times, but I appreciate the execution here for making it seem relevant again and somehow even fresh. I love how dramatic it is and always very involving. The dialogue helps it a lot, but overall how they told this famous story is great. The musical numbers come at just the right times and the action is never overwhelming which is awesome. But the movie opens marvelously and it of course closes in a spectacular fashion.

Now, the characters. The character development in The Prince of Egypt is remarkable, even outstanding in some respects. I thought Moses was very well done and although he changed too much at the half point, that was mainly due to that rushed pacing I talked about. But overall he was good. His brother on the other hand is a standout and one of the strongest points in the entire picture. What they did with Rameses is superb not only in how they made a bigger emphasis on the sibling relationship but how they never vilified him. As I said before, the character approach here is very sophisticated. It is never one-sided and never stupid. He is never a villain but rather a man who had a lot to risk and lose in order to protect his family, he was just a casualty and even a tragic figure. All of that would not work if they didn’t do their relationship right. But thankfully they did it wonderfully and the sequences between the two are the highlights, so heartbreaking. The other characters are unfortunately forgettable which is a shame but they rarely had the time and it is great that the main characters are terrific.

Comparing the film to ‘The Ten Commandments‘, I would say that it is inferior because that is a classic movie and way more powerful in scope and execution than this is. However, this is the second best retelling of this story and it is even better than the original in some aspects, especially the character approach and music. But I am so frustrated that this movie never received much recognition because it is one of the best Dreamworks animated films in my opinion and one of their most mature yet. They really started strong with this and ‘Antz‘ and they rarely made better movies.

The Prince of Egypt has absolutely fantastic animation that is so stylized and realistic, the beginning is so powerful and the ending is just spectacular, the dialogue is superb and the soundtrack is terrific with When You Believe being one of the best ever non-Disney songs. It is very rushed and should have been longer plus the supporting characters are forgettable, but the main two are so well developed with Rameses being the standout as he was portrayed in a grounded approach and never vilified. It is not only one of the most mature films from Dreamworks Animation, but also one of their best and most shamefully underrated.

My Rating – 4.5

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Selma (2014)

selma

Selma Review

Selma is a 2014 biographical drama film directed by Ava Duvernay and starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.

The story is of course familiar, but I like the approach chosen here in that it chronicles just his political rise in power and Selma demonstrations instead of his origin and personal life. However, that doesn’t mean that the character is made a God because he thankfully is not and that is evident in his relationship with his wife and some of the things he says making him human and quite relatable which is an awesome feat. It is mostly a well told story and of course the one which is incredibly important and relevant even today making it somehow a homework for everyone to see it.
The character development in this film is polarizing. Some are wonderfully developed and some are bland which is a shame. The leads are great. King is, as mentioned before, relatable and human. He is very likable, steals the show and is a fascinating character and real-life figure. What I find incredible and refreshing is what they did with president Johnson. He is portrayed in such a realistic way, as are all politicians dialogue here, and he is at times likable at times not, which is very grounded. He was thankfully not a great figure, but is portrayed as a flawed person of his time that nevertheless comes around eventually. But other characters are unfortunately very forgettable and poorly developed which is quite a problem having in mind that this is a historical film with real-life people that demand good characterization.
The acting is expectedly superb all around, each and every performance is simply excellent. David Oyelowo demands his presence and steals every scene he is in and he is definitely the highlight here giving a powerhouse performance disappearing in the role. Tom Wilkinson is wonderful as the president, whereas Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife is surprisingly good and professional which definitely helped the film.
The direction is very good and Ava definitely emerged here as a fine director, but some of her choices are not that good and weaken the film in the process. Those are for example all the slow-motion sequences which take away from the movie’s otherwise grounded approach. The cinematography is excellent, but editing and pacing are very good as well which is a great thing. The dialogue is very good which was quite needed, but the tone is troublesome. It goes from realistic to somewhat unserious and comedic in a second, while also being very repetitive. The movie is engaging and very interesting to watch, but it is very repetitive in structure and plot development. Also the film never distinguishes itself from other movies of its type and sometimes seems very standard and typical. But the biggest problem after slow-motion and some standard sequences is definitely the movie’s approach which is never as riveting as it should have been and it lacks the energy that it should have had.

Selma has fine direction, a couple of wonderfully developed characters, involving and important story and a powerhouse performance from David Oyelowo, but it is also a flawed movie thanks to some not well developed characters, a couple of annoying choices with slow-motion and at times very standard approach. The approach here is the biggest problem and it is very polarizing – it is at times very grounded and wonderfully realistic, but at times also very typical, never quite distinguishing itself from other movies of this type and the film unfortunately lacks the energy and inherent power that it should have had.

My Rating – 4

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