Cars 3 (2017)

Cars 3 Movie Review

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Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 is a 2017 animated film which is the third installment in the Cars franchise and the overall 18th Pixar film. It is a solid and at times admirable, but flawed sequel.

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Don’t fear failure.

Be afraid of not having the chance,

you have the chance!

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Cars 3 Movie Review

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The story is actually very strong this time around and that is one of its biggest strengths and the reason why it is so much better than the previous film which remains Pixar’s absolute worst entry. It is still quite weaker in comparison to the first, very underrated film, but it least it is a step in a good direction.

Lightning cannot adapt to new technology and newer, advanced racers and he starts losing his matches. He doesn’t want to quit racing yet, but eventually he doesn’t have a choice and he thus becomes a trainer and his student takes over the race herself with him in training charge. And of course they win.

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Cars 3 Movie Review

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Now even though Cruz is just a basic Mary Sue and there is no way she could have won her match that easily, this was still a terrific ending that made the whole somewhat weaker journey to get there quite worthwhile. I loved the film’s message. In the real world, sports players get old and cannot continue playing but most continue their legacy through training or managing. That is exactly what happened here and it was very realistic and just perfect for this character.

So I loved how they took a different, more serious instead of sugarcoated approach and it worked fully in the film’s favor. I also really liked the film’s beginning as it was again a very realistic story of dealing with new technologies and new obstacles and how you should constantly strive to reinvent yourself in order to stay in the game. Again a great message and I admired the use of branding and merchandise in this movie which were again so well touched upon.

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Cars 3 Movie Review

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But, and this is a big but, the second act was just such a bore to sit through. The other two are so good that the movie would have been very strong if the second one delivered but it did not unfortunately. It was a typical journey with not a single memorable sequence and it utilized on the more forgettable characters there. It was very slight and forgettable and it ruined the film for me.

Cars 3 makes the fatal mistake of introducing too many new characters and relying too much on them instead of having bigger roles for the older crew. I thought that was a very poor, unfortunate choice for the third installment. Cruz Ramirez is your typical Mary Sue as she became a major racer just like that – basically for a very short time she went from being weak to being awesome. That was some very lazy storytelling and characterization. And I just did not care for her whatsoever as she could be quite annoying.

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Cars 3 Movie Review

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Jackson Storm is also not great as he is your typical bad guy and new competent racer and he is actually quite underutilized in the movie. Sterling is fine and he has his moments, but the rest are just so forgettable. Lightning McQueen is great and his journey in this franchise is actually superbly told and excellent. Here he gets to grow quite a bit and he has to learn how to continue staying relevant in the business. Excellent characterization for him, but the others from the old crew are basically missing here as Sally gets only a couple of scenes as does Mater. The former is boring and the latter is annoying.

The animation is strong here, but far from the studio’s best works. The models are very well animated and detailed in execution, some of the scenery was quite wonderful and the film looks polished and modern. But there is nothing truly remarkable in terms of animation here and the film is just very competent without ever being breathtaking and not to mention artistic.

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Cars 3 Movie Review

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Cars 3 is very weakly directed by a weak director and the pacing is just so mediocre. The film features some very strong dialogue, but the humor is very weak and unfortunately rarely hitting the mark. The action is okay but for a movie about racing, it should have been stronger. The adventure elements were lacking and only as a drama the film succeeds quite a bit. In the end, it is one of Pixar’s weaker films, but still a solid movie that has a lot to offer from time to time.

Cars 3 is undone by its very dull, slight second act and a very unfortunate reliance on new characters instead of the old crew. Most new additions are not that good and Cruz Ramirez is the worst offender being basically a giant Mary Sue. However, the film is actually very clever in its first and third act as it explores branding, merchandising and constant reinventing to stay relevant in the changing industry. The ending is (discounting Cruz being too great of a racer) absolutely terrific as it shows Lightning having to give up racing and start training and continue his legacy that way. I loved that message as it is very much grounded in reality and the film thus avoided sugarcoating. It’s a shame that the rest of the film wasn’t as great.

My Rating – 3.5

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Dial M for Murder (1954)

Dial M for Murder Movie Review

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Dial M for Murder Movie Review

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 crime mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly. It is far from the director’s best, but still such a good, well crafted film.

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People don’t commit murder on credit

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Dial M for Murder Movie Review

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The story about arranged murder is not all that original by this point for Hitchcock, but what is original is the level of detail that went into this affair. Surely the crime is too elaborate and at times the film was overwhelmed with too many details, but I still liked that as it led to a superbly crafted, meticulous film.

It is one of those mystery films which aren’t mysterious at all as we know who the murderer is from the start, but that is not a bad thing as it provides us with the opportunity to follow him in his shoes and to root for the detective to solve the crime. In that sense, the film is very much a success.

I liked the characters quite a bit and the acting is absolutely terrific. Robert Cummings’s Mark is a typical good-natured boyfriend and is the only boring part of the cast, but John Williams’s inspector is terrific and he played him so well. His various smirks and eye rolls stole the show here.

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Dial M for Murder Movie Review

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But the highlights are Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. She excelled at portraying this vulnerable, distressed young woman who doesn’t know at first how to deal with all those emotions and it surely is one of her finest performances. Ray Milland is terrific as he went against typecasting and portrayed this calculated, cold and very smart and thorough murderer superbly.

Dial M for Murder is not my favorite Hitchcock films as it definitely lacks in terms of intensity and suspense. The thriller elements were entirely left out which was unfortunate. But I still really liked the film both times I’ve seen it and it is a very pleasant, old-fashioned mystery flick.

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Dial M for Murder Movie Review

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The technical aspects are the standout elements here. The acting is great, but Hitchcock’s direction is reliably outstanding and his level to detail is astonishing and I loved the use of the key in its storytelling. This is the kind of small, theatre-like film which revolves entirely in one house and it never felt overly confined as the director made a perfect use of it and the cinematography truly is phenomenal and it lifted the material tremendously. And the dialogue is great as its talkative approach never felt overdone.

Dial M for Murder is lacking in terms of tension and suspense, but this is still a very good, talkative and engaging crime mystery with particularly strong performances from Ray Milland and Grace Kelly who both excelled in their roles. The cinematography and direction are superb as the film makes a great use of its confined setting with a couple of very interesting, brilliantly shot sequences. It isn’t one of Hitchcock’s best, but it is still a pretty good, competent film in its own right.

My Rating – 4

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Solaris (2002)

Solaris Movie Review

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Solaris Movie Review

Solaris is a 2002 science fiction drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney. It is such a competent, stupendous remake.

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I could tell you what’s happening, but I don’t know

if it would really tell you what’s happening

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Solaris Movie Review

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Certainly the original Soviet classic is much better and a science fiction classic in its own right. But this one is surprisingly good, especially when watched on its own. I also really admired that it is very much its own thing and not a straight remake.

I am talking about the storytelling and the approach here which is very different than the one in the previous film. Tarkovsky’s approach was much more artistic, longer, slower and more ambiguous and ambitious, but this one is much simpler which is done for better and for worse.

I disliked that it ran through the first act so quickly, but I still liked that it got to the point and it stayed on that trajectory longer and in a stronger way. That means that as a drama and as a romance it might be even better than the original as it centers on these two people and their relationship and the results are more moving in terms of emotional investment.

George Clooney gave such a good performance and I do not know who Natasha McElhone is but she admittedly did a pretty good job in her charismatic role. The relationship between the two is great as the actors share solid chemistry and the dialogue is particularly strong and playful. The romantic elements were surprisingly strong here. I also have to praise Viola Davis who is excellent here per usual and it was great seeing her so early in her career and she was awesome even then.

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Solaris Movie Review

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Steven Soderbergh directed the movie pretty well though not as greatly as he should have done. The pacing is solid and the film is slow, but rarely boring and it is quite engaging in its romance and dialogue. The characterization and script are pretty good as is the score and special effects. I just wish that the ending was stronger and the science fiction elements too as they were underutilized this time around.

Solaris is a surprisingly strong remake and a good movie in its own right. Certainly it is inferior to the original as the ending and the science fiction elements are not as good, but the performances are strong across the board, the dramatic and romantic elements in the story really worked and the film is simpler in runtime and approach which worked in its favor as it distinguished it from the original quite well.

My Rating – 4

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The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)

The Meyerowitz Stories Movie Review

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The Meyerowitz Stories Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories is a 2017 indie drama film directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman. It is such a good film from a great director.

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I should be the one who’s angry at him

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The Meyerowitz Stories Movie Review

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It follows a group of adult siblings who try to live their lives in the shadow of their problematic father. The film is about troubled parenthood and how fathers can impact the lives of their children in a very bad way. The children here are obsessed with what he thinks and because he is so self-centered, he never really provided enough warmth to them.

So the film really is thematically interesting and relatable as a lot of people have either parenthood issues or issues with their parents. This is one of those tightly knit, ensemble, indie dramas that focus on just one family and just a couple of family members and their personal issues and troublesome interactions and I love those kinds of films and this is no different.

The only problem I’ve had with it as that the first act is much less engaging or interesting than the rest of the film. It just did not start well at all and it took me a while to learn about its characters enough to care. I also wished that the film focused more on Maureen and Jean as they were much more interesting and important to the film’s story than Eliza was.

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The Meyerowitz Stories Movie Review

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I liked Eliza quite a bit, but she just was overwhelmingly present here. Maureen is totally underdeveloped and Jean should have used more screen time as her trouble of feeling that she is left out of the family is a powerful and important subject that needed to be addressed more.

Of course the father is so unlikable which is great as there are fathers like him in the world. The film’s standout aspect is the relationship between Matthew and Danny in particular. Their relationship with their father is great, but the brotherly bond and troublesome interactions were the more important things here.

They portrayed the strayed relationship between adult brothers really well and I loved their every scene together, especially in the third act. Their fight was one of the highlights for sure. I also really liked the acting in the film. The film features such a strong cast, but the best are these two. Dustin Hoffman was quite good, but Ben Stiller is stupendous here and of course Adam Sandler gave such a good performance which was unexpected of him. He proved that he is a good actor after all. Both surprised me a lot to be honest.

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The Meyerowitz Stories Movie Review

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The Meyerowitz Stories isn’t one of Noah Baumbach’s best films, but it is one of his better ones. I love his direction and here he did not do anything knew, but he relied on what he does best – a family drama, and made another strong directorial effort. The film is also well paced, mostly very involving to watch and it features superb dialogue and character interactions.

The Meyerowitz Stories sometimes lacks focus and the first act is not as good as the rest of the film is. However, this is another very strong Noah Baumbach indie drama with a particularly strong cast of whom Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller stood out the most by giving stupendous performances. The dialogue is great, the character development and interactions are phenomenal and the film is such a strong, competent family drama which is very involving and also quite emotional.

My Rating – 4

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Black and White in Color (1976)

Black and White in Color Movie Review

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

Black and White in Color is a 1976 Ivorian war film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. It is a solid, but far from great Oscar winner.

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Pretty? She’s black like all the others

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

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It depicts French colonists at war with the Germans in Central Africa during World War I. It is an interesting history lesson as I did not know this story and the film told it to me really well which I liked. The story is interesting and mostly very well told.

However, I thought that it was much better as a war film than as a drama about race relations as it doesn’t deal with racism all that well or in a particularly clever way. Some racist remarks from white people are hilarious, but mostly the film was too on-the-nose and it lacked subtlety.

The characterization also needed some work as I do not remember the characters all that well as most are very underdeveloped and do not play particularly major roles in the story. But the acting is definitely very good with each and every actor giving a solid performance.

Black and White in Color is also very well shot and well directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. I loved its natural scenery and that it followed the traditions of Africans in detail. Rare are movies about Africa and set in that continent and thus this movie should be respected for that fact alone.

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Black and White in Color Movie Review

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But it is somewhat boring in its second act and only the first act and some scenes in the third one are pretty good and the rest is standard, forgettable war drama affair. There are much better war dramas out there and thus this movie falls through the cracks when compared to the classics.

It won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film and I do not think that it deserved that honor, but then again I am glad that the award went to an African film for once and this is a rare movie from the Ivory Coast that is important in film history making it very interesting, though still it remains highly flawed.

Black and White in Color deals with the war elements pretty well, but not so much when it comes to racism as it can be pretty unsubtle in its approach. It is very well shot and directed, but slow in its pace in the middle section. The characters are weak, but the humor is quite strong at times. Overall, it is a solid but flawed Oscar winner.

My Rating – 3.5

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

What We Do in the Shadows is a 2014 New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film directed by Taika Waititi. It is an original, but admittedly not great film.

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He was an 18th century dandy, so he can be very fussy

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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This film is a very interesting mix of genres. It is above all a vampire comedy, but with some horror elements and filmed in a mockumentary style. The mockumentary worked to its full advantage as it added a modern, fun touch to it and I really enjoyed it. The horror elements are rare, but solid and as for comedy, the movie can be really funny at times, but not often enough.

The plot with these three centuries old vampires sharing a flat together in today’s world is comedy gold in itself and such an original, creative premise with a particularly authentic approach. But the execution is not as great owing to its uneven quality.

The film takes its time to get there as the first act is not as engaging and it take time to adapt to its offbeat weirdness, at least that was the case with me. The second act is then phenomenal and so energetic, fun and frequently hilarious. That’s certainly the highlight of the film. But then the third act is definitely not as fun and the movie loses its steam there.

What We Do in the Shadows is weirdly paced and for such a short runtime, the filmmakers still did not know how to fulfill that time and thus I agree with some that this was an ingenious idea for a short film and never a feature.

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What We Do in the Shadows Movie Review

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Taika Waititi is excellent here, not so much in the acting role (and no actor is really particularly great here), but as a director, he shines here as this is his vision and his direction and style are phenomenal. The score is actually very good and effective in creating its vampire atmosphere. The same can be said for special effects and sets, both excellent for such a small budget. The film is technically pretty terrific.

What We Do in the Shadows is a highly original, but uneven experiment. Its mix of genres and approaches is very intriguing as it is a mockumentary vampire horror comedy with a pretty good premise. Taika Waititi’s direction and style are great. But only the second act is very strong and quite funny as it takes time to get used to its weirdness in the first act and the film loses its steam in the third act. It would have been much more effective as a short than it is as a feature film.

My Rating – 3.5

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Frozen (2013)

Frozen Movie Review

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Frozen Movie Review

Frozen is a 2013 animated musical film which is Disney’s 53rd animated feature. It is a pretty good, competent, but still very flawed and ultimately somewhat overrated movie.

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He’s crazy.

I’ll distract them while you run

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Frozen Movie Review

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The story follow the fairy tale The Snow Queen but just barely and is basically so different from it that it might be considered to be an original film. I liked the story though it definitely felt rushed and undercooked in some places. It is adventurous, heartwarming and magical just like most real Disney classics are, but it is just never as great as it could have been.

The beginning is overly drawn out but definitely very intriguing and seeing the two girls separated was heartbreaking. I loved the magical elements and the first act is long, but sets up the rest of the movie pretty well. The coronation day was great, Elsa and Anna’s argument is memorable and Hans being portrayed as so good and innocent at first is a big plus.

I will later talk about the ice palace creation sequence when I talk about the song itself and in detail. As for the first scenes with Kristoff, they are all very charming and some of the best here. I loved the scene at the Wandering Oaken’s shop and the scene with the wolves. This is the most adventurous part of the film and it should have lasted longer.

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Frozen Movie Review

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The scene with the two sisters arguing is the second best of the film and actually pretty amazing in its own right. I loved that it involved singing for storytelling and dialogue and the intense build up to the eventual tragedy is superbly done. Marshmallow got a pretty fun scene, but the troll sequence is somewhat of a detour. The capturing of Elsa is excellent and the film needed more action and more usage of her powers such as in that scene.

Hans revealing his villainous side was done wonderfully and the entire third act is pretty good and exciting. The twist with the true love being that of two sisters instead of between a man and a woman is interesting and ultimately quite memorable and groundbreaking in a way. The ending with the ice skating was sweet.

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Frozen Movie Review

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Frozen has many plot holes unfortunately. It is a good, wonderful story, but so undercooked and you can see that it was reworked extensively for many years up to its release. How Elsa got her powers and why only she has them is never answered. And do not get me started on the parents. They were horrible to their children by separating them and I guess that in that day and age, they might be much worse in real life but the film tried to make them sympathetic and it failed and thus their death was not all that felt and of course as obvious and as expected as any Disney parent death. And what Elsa ate in that ice palace and how she intended to survive there remains a mystery to me. And who ruled the kingdom when they were little and parentless. And why doesn’t Kristoff recognize Anna as an adult? The film is sloppy in terms of storytelling.

The characterization is very good on the other hand. Elsa is underdeveloped when compared to Anna, but it works in the context of the story that she is somewhat of a mystery and I liked that Anna is basically a protagonist here. Elsa is mysterious, elegant, powerful and I loved her ice powers and it was convenient and quite ingenious how her problems can relate to basically any minorities/special needs persons.

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Frozen Movie Review

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But Anna is actually the better character. I love Anna honestly. She is your wonderful Disney Princess but different than most as she had to learn what true love is and how you cannot fall in love in the first day of meeting the prince. The deconstruction of Disney’s true love concept is modern and although too on-the-nose, it still worked and was clever. The film is sometimes overly feminist in an aggressive way, but it is still very nice that we got a Disney movie that centers on sisterhood.

Anna’s spunky behavior is great and she has some wonderful, funny lines in the film. Her journey and character progression is excellent and her interactions with everybody, especially Elsa and Kristoff are superb. The relationship between the two sisters is problematic yet very sweet just like in real life which is why it resonated with so many women out there.

Kristoff is very likable and it was interesting that talking to animals was portrayed as somewhat crazy here. Honestly, the movie felt so anti-Disney at times for better and for worse. But Sven is endearing and Kristoff is a great Disney love interest and he and Anna share a fantastic relationship.

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Frozen Movie Review

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Olaf is honestly pretty annoying at times, but also quite funny in a couple of scene with some hilarious lines. He is your typical overly modern and aggressively funny Disney sidekick, but I didn’t hate him surprisingly enough and I ended up mostly liking him. Duke of Weselton is annoying and basically just a decoy so we wouldn’t suspect Hans who is honestly very good as a villain. I really enjoyed the villain twist here. It was overdone in the next movies such as ‘Big Hero 6’ and ‘Zootopia’, but here it fully worked and I loved it. But I still think that men in this film are either villainous or crazy which remains a problem.

Frozen has very good, though not amazing animation. Some of the backgrounds and interiors were not as detailed as you would expect from Disney and the character design is mostly typical. But the CGI is excellent and the ice palace creation is the biggest feat of animation wizardry accomplished here. The ice looks amazing and the film was one of a few animated films that was ripe for computer animation as the ice needs the CGI and every icy scene was beautiful here.

Frozen is a musical and a very problematic one. Basically the structure of the film is all wrong. It makes the fatal mistake of putting most of the songs in the first act and the rest of the film is mostly devoid of songs. That made it seem very uneven. And I still do think that only one song here is great.

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Frozen Movie Review

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Frozen Heart is your typical opening work/local people Disney number that serves its purpose, but is forgettable. Do You Want to Build a Snowman? is actually quite sweet and the most childlike song here. It is a great plot point, but overly short.

Love Is an Open Door is so mediocre. I do not like it at all and it has a pretty weak, annoying chorus and it sounds way too modern. Definitely it serves its purpose in terms of storytelling, but as the actual piece of music it is rather weak.

Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People is extremely short and unnecessary. Fixer Upper is so annoying and possibly the worst scene in the film. The song itself is quite weak and uninspired. The same can be said for In Summer which is basically a detour as we already know that Olaf wants warm hugs and yearns for summer and we did not need a whole number for it, especially such a weak one.

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Frozen Movie Review

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For the First Time in Forever is the second best song in the film and I really like it. It isn’t the catchiest song, but it does accompany a great early scene, it has very good and at times even funny lyrics and a pretty fine chorus. I loved the grand ending to it. Also, the reprise is beautiful and, as I said before, it is the second greatest scene in the film.

And of course Let It Go is the greatest song in the entire film and one of the best Disney songs of all time. Words cannot describe how great this number is, but let me try. First off, the lyrics are absolutely amazing and it is probably the deepest Disney song ever, the one with which everyone can relate to. The singing by Idina Menzel is amazing and it is the kind of grand Broadway number that was mostly absent from Disney in recent decades.

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Frozen Movie Review

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The chorus is amazing and the finale is absolutely spectacular! It serves as a powerful vehicle for Elsa; it is the moment where the film just stops and your breath is simply taken as the overall sequence is spectacular in terms of characterization, music and storytelling. That beautiful gown was created here, the classic song was created here and one of the best Disney scenes too. History was certainly made here.

Frozen features excellent voice acting. Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff are very good, but Idina Menzel and especially Kristen Bell shine here. The film is well directed, but weakly paced. The dialogue is solid, but overly modern at times with too much new jargon in it. The film doesn’t pay much attention to its time period as it does to its setting. Overall, the film remains a phenomenon, but a highly flawed one. A wonderful experience, but when you look at it through the critic’s lens, you can see its many flaws easily. It surely is one of the worst Disney revival entries as it cannot compare at all with ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and ‘Tangled’.

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Frozen Movie Review

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Frozen is a good, but highly problematic movie. The animation is not as detailed, but it is frequently gorgeous. The story is very intriguing and memorable, but full of obvious plot holes. The dialogue is overly modern and, although refreshing, sometimes the film was aggressively feminist (all men in the movie are either crazy or villainous) and deconstructive. The characterization is admittedly excellent with Hans being a very good villain (the twist was great), Kristoff is very likable and of course Anna and Elsa are wonderful characters and their sisterhood is beautiful to witness which is the reason why the film touched so many people. The songs are actually rather weak as only For the First Time in Forever is quite good and of course Let It Go is an amazing, simply fantastic song accompanied by a spectacular, iconic sequence. The film is frequently very adventurous, charming or even funny, but mostly rushed in pacing and problematic in structure owing to it having been extensively reworked on for many years. In the end, Frozen reaches greatness in a couple of truly special scenes, but for the most part it is a very uneven, troublesome film which ranks among the weakest Disney Revival films.

My Rating – 4

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Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away Movie Review

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Spirited Away Movie Review

Spirited Away is a 2001 anime fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the best Studio Ghibli film and one of the best films ever made.

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Once you do something, you never forget.

Even if you can’t remember

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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I have seen Spirited Away at least three times by now and upon this fourth viewing I again confirmed its greatness. Rare are films that get better and better upon each subsequent viewing and this is one of those films. It has an amazing replay factor. I have always watched it in a dubbed version as that is how I first saw it so I cannot comment upon the Japanese sub acting, but the dub is actually one of the better anime dubs.

Let’s first talk about the story and the highlight scenes. This film is obviously influenced by ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and it is a much darker, much better crafted version of it. It managed to eclipse that story due to a sheer epicness of it. It feature an amazing use of Japanese mythology and spirits and every creature here looks great and is highly memorable.

The beginning is excellent and very eerie in its atmosphere. Highly mysterious and otherworldly. All of Chihiro’s first sequences in this world are great and a wonderful build-up for the rest of the story. As for the stink spirit scenes, they are slightly extended, but still very memorable and the character is fascinating. So the film sometimes feels like a series of vignettes, but those vignettes are all fascinating and the editing is great so it still ended up being tight and well structured.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Then the story gets much more intriguing with the introduction of Yubaba’s sister. The second act and mostly the latter half of it features a terrific use of build-up to the action and it rises the tension and stakes superbly.

Of course my favorite act is the third one as it is the culmination of everything we had learned previously about this world. That train is just breathtaking, those travelling scenes are transcendent in quality and the imagery is unforgettable.

Then we have the greatest scene from this film which is of course the goodbye scene between Zeniba and Chihiro and then the marvelous dragon flight which includes a great realization and an excellent, fascinating answer to the mystery of how she and Haku met. The final test was great and of course everything about that ending rings awesome. Beautifully filmed and immensely resonant in terms of emotion. The film reward you for taking this long trip with such a moving, deep final scene.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the film’s characters. Chihiro is a one of a kind protagonist and quite possibly the studio’s best creation. She is spoiled, clumsy and childish at first, but upon taking this amazing, fantastical journey, she becomes much more independent, stronger and more responsible and brave. It is an archetypal hero’s journey, but the one done infinitely better than most as it takes its necessary time to develop and thus feels all the more special.

Haku is also excellent despite appearing in not so many scenes. His mystery backstory is intriguing and very well resolved and his dragon form is striking and his job is very well utilized. The relationship between him and Chihiro is never overly emotional and just right.

Yubaba is such a hilarious character. At first menacing and all-powerful, but later deconstructed to a mean old lady. I loved her interactions with each of the characters. Her giant baby is so funny and her story with Zeniba is realistic and a lot of fun. Her sister is the polar opposite of her and a good witch. Loved her and her heartwarming relationship with Chihiro.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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No-Face is fascinating. He is a famous Japanese spirit, but he can be interpreted as being the metaphor for loneliness which many of us deal with and people are struggling much more these days and thus he is very relatable and endearing. I loved his many forms and how his backstory remained a mystery. I also loved that he stayed with Zeniba in the end as both need some company. Certainly the film resolved each of the characters’ stories successfully.

Boiler Man is very sweet and caring and I just loved everything about his working steampunk environment and those employees of his are so incredibly cute and feisty. Chihiro’s parents serve their purpose and to me Lin is wonderful as this on surface calculated, yet ultimately very caring and good friend to Chihiro. Every character here is great and every spirit and creature is memorable even if they are not too present.

Spirited Away features absolutely breathtaking animation. What is there yet to say that hasn’t already been said? This film utilizes on the power and pure imagination and art of hand-drawn animation superbly and rare are animated films with better animation than this one. Only Walt Disney’s earliest films can compare honestly.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The film is colorful in just the right amount, it is both dark and light in equal amount both in terms of animation and atmosphere and it has absolutely terrific character designs with each spirit being fascinating, different and unique. The humans also look great. The various sets are amazing, each one of its locations is beautifully explored and mesmerizing and the action is so well executed.

It has some of the best world building that I have ever witnessed. I felt as if I really went into this spirit world and I felt as if I also learned something and became more adult just like Chihiro. The movie gives the child in all of us the opportunity to dream again and because it is so dark and serious at times while being funny and lightweight at other times, it manages to be perfect for both children and adults. A perfect mix of everything that the best of animation can offer.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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In terms of the humor, it succeeds. It is rarely used, but quite enjoyable and endearing when it happens. I loved the cutesy factor here, but I also admired the inherent darkness of this world as well as it reach themes which span from growing up to greed (best exhibited in those bathhouses) to environmentalism (refreshingly subdued here for Ghibli) to Japanese folklore. The film truly is very smart and consistently deep and transcendent.

The action is never overwhelming and is excellent and sparingly used. The runtime of two hours is perfect for this film and it never feels long despite for animation long runtime. That is because this world and this story are so rich that they needed more time. And the pacing is excellent.

The tone is diverse and the score is phenomenal! I loved this score and in my opinion the dragon flight scene is the best scene in the movie not in small amount thank to that gorgeous, moving and highly transcendent score which is honestly magical in its quality.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The attention to detail is magnificent, the dialogue is terrific and the film is unforgettable in its every aspect. Hayao Miyazaki directed Spirited Away marvelously and it clearly is a work of art and magnum opus from this famous director who was clearly making a masterpiece here. It thankfully got its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and it is critically acclaimed for all the obvious reasons I stated above. It is the best that both Studio Ghibli and anime have to offer and one of the best overall film of all time.

With breathtaking, absolutely wondrous animation, stellar direction, meticulous world-building with an overwhelming attention to detail, terrific character development and extremely powerful score which is honestly one of the best in film history, Spirited Away is an undisputed masterpiece and one of the rare films that can easily be called art. The story is well crafted with great influences, a diverse tone which ranges from cute and endearing to dark and atmospheric, high emotional resonance and a great character journey for the protagonist. The film manages to be magical, sometimes serious, at times funny, but always engaging and simply fascinating. The entire, wonderful new world is created here with an impeccable attention to detail which is a reason why it has such a lasting appeal and endless replay factor. Consequently, it is a pure masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the best films ever produced.

My Rating – 5

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Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

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Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

Beatriz at Dinner is a 2017 indie drama film directed by Miguel Arteta and starring Salma Hayek and John Lithgow. It is one of the best indies of the year.

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All tears flow from the same source

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Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

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I love movies that are self-contained in time and place and that are simplistic, but deep in themes. Beatriz at Dinner is that movie. We follow a Mexican woman who winds up at a dinner organized by her boss. There she gets into an argument with a cold businessman and is just so different from each person there.

I thoroughly empathized with her and she is such a relatable person to me and a wonderful soul. Certainly I am not as great of a person a she is, but I also have trouble accepting the death of animals which most do easily. I am also a highly emotional person and I do think that most people in this world are cold, selfish and just bad human beings and thus her troubles felt all the more real for me.

The movie showcases brutally how a great, emotional person cannot really live in this world and cannot cope with so much pain and sadness surrounding them. And in that manner it is one of the most brutally dark and unfortunately realistic films that I have ever seen. For some it may be too pessimistic, especially that dark ending, but to me this is real as I feel like her too and the ending was deep to me and very satisfactory.

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Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

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The only problem Beatriz at Dinner has is that it is just way too heavy-handed at times and overly simplistic and black-and-white in the portrayal of Beatriz and especially Doug. Beatriz at least has her dark urge near the end, but Doug is overly villainous which was a problem.

But I still really liked these characters. I liked all of the others as they had minor roles, but they did make an impact and were all very realistic. Its cringe comedy elements fully worked and the awkward dinner felt painful but necessary to sit through. This is how people talk and especially rich people. I found the movie’s willingness to attack businessmen, small talk and Americans highly refreshing. Loved it.

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Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

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The actors and actresses all did a great job, but of course the highlights are John Lithgow and Salma Hayek. He proved how great of an actor he is and how brutally underrated too. He is an indie darling and here he portrayed one of his darkest characters. His subtle facial expressions, especially of smugness and disbelief, were amazingly grounded in reality and just phenomenal.

But Salma Hayek is even better. Here she gave one of the year’s very best female performances in such an amazing, career defining role. Her facial expressions also drive her performance as anger, shyness and especially pain are very much felt in her every scene. Amazing work that should be honored.

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Beatriz at Dinner Movie Review

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Beatriz at Dinner is the definition of a phenomenal indie drama. The themes are rich, the film is deep how smart and especially emotional it is. Sometimes the pain is overwhelming and the ending is definitely heartfelt. The dialogue is mostly fantastic and only the film’s sometimes bombastic instead of subtle approach felt subpar. And of course I loved the score and especially editing as the film is deftly, brilliantly edited and structured into a coherent, tight whole. It is a seventy minute long movie and it did not need any more minutes. It is perfect this way and it is a shame that most filmmakers do not realize this.

Beatriz at Dinner is an amazing indie drama. Sometimes the themes are heavy-handed, but for the most part the dialogue is clever, the film is deep in themes and especially in emotion as it is heartfelt and overwhelming to witness. John Lithgow is absolutely phenomenal as he always is and Salma Hayek gave one of the year’s finest performances in a tour de force performance. This movie is tightly edited, darkly humorous, brutally realistic and very relatable to me personally leading to one of the best films of 2017.

My Rating – 4.5

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a 2011 fantasy swashbuckler film directed by Rob Marshall and starring Johnny Depp. It is a pretty disappointing entry.

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You know the feeling you get when standing in a high place,

the sudden urge to jump…

I Don’t have it

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

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This is by far the weakest entry in the series so far. It is much weaker than the original trilogy as it has many unfortunate choices in the production and story. Now I liked that it was shorter in its runtime and thus much better paced than the previous films, but the story is weaker this time around and not particularly exciting.

I liked that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are disposed of here as they have always been dull to me, but I have to say that Penelope Cruz is a very poor substitute. She has never been a great actress and especially in American films such as this one she is quite weak. Her performance is mediocre and the character herself is not as well defined and is quite annoying.

Captain Barbossa is also pretty repetitive here and not as great as in previous entries. As for Blackbeard, Ian McShane did a good job in a fun role, but the character was underutilized. Gibbs is great and I loved that beginning as the court scene was hilarious and seeing the fun, strong friendship between Jack and Gibbs is awesome. Jack saves the film as he is still entertaining and memorable in the role. Also, that mermaid and her boyfriend are so boring and both should have been cut off from this film.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Movie Review

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So On Stranger Tides has a solid ending, a great beginning and some action scenes are particularly entertaining and well executed, although again overwhelmingly present. The story is okay, but nothing remarkable and the humor and characterization should have been stronger.

I also found the film surprisingly lacking in terms of fantasy elements which was odd and it made the movie less exciting. I loved the various locations used here, all gorgeous to look at. The film sounds and looks great, but I wouldn’t say that the enormous budget of over 300 million was needed here. That is insane. So in the end, the film is infinitely inferior to the first and second one and even the third messy movie is much more interesting than this entry.

On Stranger Tides is such a disappointing entry in the series and so much weaker than the original trilogy. I loved its locations, score and some scenes were quite fun. Jack is also reliably good and memorable. But unfortunately the other characters are boring and the addition of Penelope Cruz hurt the film tremendously. She was never a great actress and here she gave a mediocre performance in a very annoying role. It is a shorter film, but owing to its odd lack of fantasy elements, it is mostly not as exciting as the previous entries.

My Rating – 3

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