All About My Mother (1999)

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All About My Mother Review

All About My Mother is a 1999 Spanish drama film directed by Pedro Almodovar and it is mostly regarded as his best work.

The film is about Manuella, a nurse who after losing her son goes to Barcelona to seek for his father whom she never told they had a son. The story is wild and very fast-paced, but also always intriguing and entertaining. It is also incredibly well structured and edited with never a dull or rushed moment. I find the fact that some parts are clearly influenced by ‘All About Eve‘, as is the title I believe, fascinating and very welcome as it is a classic, incredible film and he manages to properly pay homage to it. If I have one problem, I would say it is the somewhat soapy nature of the story as it sometimes feels like telenovela, especially for its characters that are all connected in some way which screams soap opera. But it never actually becomes like that fully and it is a minor flaw I have in an outstanding film.

The character development is absolutely phenomenal with each and every character having a clear personality, flaws, soul and also charm. Yes, every character is, apart from being extremely well developed, also very likable and sympathetic. Manuella is strong as the protagonist and it is superb that her grief for her son is poignant and never as melodramatic as it could have been. As for Rosa, she is warm and a very good person and you quickly start to care about her and you feel bad afterwards for all the bad things that are happening to her. Huma is very charming and has a screen presence, but the best thing about her is that she is undeniably influenced by Bette Davis‘ Margo Channing and that is a wonderful touch as it is executed perfectly. I found Nina pretty underdeveloped, she is just a drug addict and the most boring character here, but Agrado is simply fantastic as a funny and sympathetic transsexual. Her lines are hilarious and her personality is wonderful. She is definitely the most endearing and warm character in the entire film. As for Lola, her character has the constant mystery factor as she is mentioned throughout the whole film until she finally appears in the final act and that did not disappoint as her sequence with Manuella is incredibly emotional and powerful.

The film is incredibly rich in themes. You have the theme of femininity wonderfully executed and it is explored what it really means to be a woman. The theme of loss and grief is of course present and well executed. And classic cinema and theater is present as well which was a great touch and it connected the bits and pieces of the movie perfectly. And I have to mention the sheer originality and authenticity of the movie because it truly is a one of a kind piece of work which is also very memorable and sticks with you. As for the acting, it is magnificent across the board with each performance being superb and a standout in and of itself. That definitely helped this movie be such a professional and well-crafted cinematic experience as it is.

The great thing about it is that it is never predictable as well because its story is so mature and well thought-out that it is always intriguing. The dialogue is of course superb as is the direction from Almodovar as he is the one who is responsible for the movie’s feel and ideas. And the tone is deft, mostly serious but with its own light touches of fun and humor.

The problems I found in All About My Mother despite its somewhat soapy nature are sometimes too fast-paced approach and theatre sequences. The movie should have been a bit slower, it is definitely a bit too fast for my taste. The theatre sequences are of course good, but they nevertheless become a bit repetitive near the end. But those are some of the minor flaws which do not take much from the film as it is terrific in all other aspects.

With outstanding character development, excellent direction, deft pacing and a thematically rich, original and always entertaining and involving plot, All About My Mother is a fantastic film which has its minor flaws including a bit too fast paced approach and at times a bit soapy nature, but it is otherwise a terrific movie with its fair share of likable and sympathetic characters, excellent tone ranging from serious to funny, wonderful themes superbly explored, authentic story, great influences and it is all around an engaging, smart and incredibly well acted movie and a standout work from the director.

My Rating – 4,5

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Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)

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Fear(s) of the Dark Review

Fear(s) of the Dark is a 2007 French animated anthology horror film directed by several notable comic-book designers.

The movie contains five stories (or four depending on how you look at one of them) connected by the common subject of fear. The first story is about a young man interested in insects who after meeting a promiscuous woman starts to have nightmares and horrific things happening regarding her. This is probably the best segment as it is not only visually stunning, but also very engaging and somewhat creepy. It is also incredibly original in its plot and it has that sinister feel present throughout the whole thing.

The second segment is about a Japanese girl who is in hospital receiving treatment for her nightmares in which she is bullied by her classmates and a samurai. This part is also very good mostly thanks to its incredible animation style and very creepy and authentic imagery. The story is not as original as the first one, but it is executed in a great way thanks to that superb imagery, creepy feel and beautiful style.

Unfortunately, it all goes downhill after the first two segments with parts three and four being incredibly tedious and never as interesting. The third segment is about a crocodile beast and a boy being haunted by his friend’s death whereas the fourth is about a paranoid man in a dark house dealing with his fears. Those segments of course once again have terrific animation, but they are sadly not involving and never as creepy or as entertaining as they should have been.

As for the fifth story, I honestly would not call this one a segment as it repeats and presents itself between each and every segment so I would call it the connecting piece. It is about an old man unleashing his vicious dogs on the victims and it is of course repetitive and slight stuff, but is visually appealing and quite dramatic and horrific in style.

The character development here is so-so but is not needed, whereas the dialogue is solid but lasts for too long during the intervals. The acting is quite solid and the film is very well directed and deftly edited and paced.

The imagery in this movie is very creepy, authentic and memorable. It is, along with the animation, the best aspect of the film. And the originality is great and of course the imagination is present during some of the segments. And I have to mention the score as it is very good and always fitting with every theme of the story.

The animation is breathtakingly beautiful here. From hand-drawn, anime to 2D and 3D computer animation, the styles vary from segment to segment due to different directors working on them and they are the highlights because each and every style is superb to behold.  I especially was pleasantly surprised by the anime style of the second segment because it was quite unexpected for a French film, but they incorporated it into the setting also with great character design and music. I wished to see some stop-motion love as well, but that is the only style not included here. However, all of the others are included and that is a fantastic feat.

It is very uneven in terms of quality with the second half being quite weak, not particularly engaging and forgettable, but the first half with the first two segments is terrific with original and authentic stories and very creepy and memorable imagery. However, Fear(s) of the Dark, although very flawed, is mostly memorable for the impressive and beautiful animation with many directors each giving his contribution with his own style ranging from hand-drawn to anime to computer animation. Its second half is weak, but it largely benefits from deft editing, great directing and wonderful animation styles making it a very interesting experience.

My Rating 3,5

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The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

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The Bishop’s Wife Movie Review

The Bishop’s Wife is a 1947 drama fantasy film directed by Henry Koster and starring Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

The story is about an angel played by Cary Grant who comes to help bishop and his wife solve their problems. It is the typical dramatic story with a fantastic aspect and that type of film was very popular in the forties. Now, the plot is solid and always entertaining and charming, but the main problem here is that so many others had already done this type of movie better. But it is still engaging and it really means well and has a lot of heart. It is even thought-provoking with some of its themes of humanity and how most people do not enjoy their lives and live as humans. Having an angel, the movie uses that thankfully to create that argument. And all of the later sequences, especially on ice, are simply beautiful and very endearing and heartwarming.

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The main trouble is there are too many people

who don’t know where they’re going and they want to get there too fast!

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As for the characters, they are pretty well developed with their distinct personalities. The bishop is very well developed as a character who has some troubles and who has lost all of his childhood innocence. He definitely can be compared to the character of George Banks from ‘Mary Poppins’ because both are the serious and disciplined men. As for Julia, she is very likable and charming, but also her behavior many times seems one-note and she could have been better developed. Now, the angel is as developed as that kind of character can get and he is definitely quite stupendous. His relationships with humans, all of the characters in the movie, are all very well realized and he serves his role for all them. If there is one thing I do not like regarding his character, it is that part when he starts to have feelings for Julia even though he is an angel. That I found totally unnecessary and melodramatic. As for the professor, he is an interesting character, but it is the taxi driver Sylvester who is the best supporting character here. He is so inherently likable and endearing that you cannot fail to love him. His innocence and good soul are evident and he definitely helped that sequence on ice being the highlight that it is. Overall, the characterization is pretty solid.

All of those characters wouldn’t work without the performances driving them and we have those performances here. Everyone always talks about Loretta Young and yes she is great, but David Niven is quite underrated here because he is so good in his role. His character is most developed and he gives a very good performance that the character needed. And of course, there is Cary Grant. It takes some time to get used to him in this atypical role for him, but you quickly see that he is simply great. Grant usually plays the complete opposite roles from this one and for him to give such an outstanding performance here and disappear in the role never making you question him and believing  that he is an angel, that just proves that he is a marvelous actor and one of the very best to ever grace the silver screen.

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The Bishop's Wife Movie Review…………………………………………………………

The dialogue is great as are the sound effects of course, but the technical stuff should have been better and when I say that, I mean mostly the direction and editing. The directing here is nothing spectacular and you can see that the director is not one of the greats of the time. And editing is very problematic mainly due to the first half of the film having many unnecessary boring sequences that definitely drag the whole movie.

The Bishop’s Wife has quite typical plot that had been done better many times during the decade, the editing is so-so due to a lot of dragged parts and the direction should have been better, but the film succeeds mostly thanks to its evident charm and childlike innocence as well as very likable and charming characters and of course superb performances all around with Grant being terrific in this unusual role for him. It is lacking in terms of technical aspects and storytelling, but it has good characterization and excellent acting leading to an enjoyable and endearing movie.

My Rating – 3,5

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Rain Man (1988)

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Rain Man Review

Rain Man is a 1988 drama film directed by Barry Levinson and starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. It is one of the finest Best Picture winners of the eighties.

The story follows a man who, after his father dies, discovers that he has a brother who is autistic and travels with him to ask the money his brother got instead of him from the court, but he eventually learns more about his brother and begins to care about him. It is a fascinating story and the approach here is excellent. It is simplistic and very straight-forward, but it suits the story perfectly and the movie flows beautifully thanks to superb direction from Levinson. There is a couple of minor flaws I have with the film. Its running time is a bit too bloated for this kind of story. The beginning and some parts of the final act should have been reduced a bit. Also, the protagonist’s change in personality is a bit too expected and fantastical and although the whole movie is incredibly realistic, that part somehow does not fit and is typical of Hollywood films. But the filmmakers themselves acknowledged this with the remark about that given in the end. Also, the movie is evidently sugar-coated in a typical American manner.

The character development in this movie is absolutely amazing and done beautifully. Both of them are excellent and fully fleshed out characters. The protagonist is a typical brat thinking only of himself, but changes through the movie and starts to develop feelings for his brother and the relationship between the two is some powerful and emotional stuff. And the portrayal of an autistic man here is wonderful, realistic and caring. He is portrayed as a real, flawed, but warm person and it is such a joy to watch both of them interacting with each other and that is the highlight of the film for sure. The other characters are okay, nothing special, but they are not the focus here and they serve their roles.

The acting is marvelous. Both performances are truly spectacular. Tom Cruise gave here probably his best performance do date. He is not that great an actor in my opinion, but he was really good and quite stupendous here definitely helping the movie. But Dusting Hoffman is extraordinary. His performance is professional with great attention to detail and he gave the character heart and soul and of course realism. He portrayed a very difficult character flawlessly and he gave a performance that is definitely one of the finest in film history. He is a great acting legend and this is his best performance in a career of so many terrific ones.

The tone here is very smooth. It shifts from dramatic to comedic at ease and is done beautifully. The realism of the film is evident and thanks to that realistic and grounded approach, this film is much better than ‘Forrest Gump’ which is incredibly unrealistic and silly. The direction is stellar and surprisingly good holding all of the pieces together, but the editing and pacing are deftly done which is a real feat leading to what is one of the better constructed and polished films of the decade with never a boring moment. The running time should have been reduced a bit, but it is otherwise a very well organized film.

But what drives this movie are those performances, that apparent realism and a huge heart at its core. There are many emotional and wonderfully warm sequences that are not cheesy, but rather endearing and bringing smile to your face. And that ending is heartbreakingly emotional and almost made me cry how beautiful it is.

With amazing character development, deft direction and pacing, a wonderful and important story and superb lead performances with Dustin Hoffman giving his best as well as one of the finest performances in film history, Rain Man is a miracle to behold and although it should have been a bit shorter and it is at times not as realistic, it is mostly filled with realism and a lot of heart at its core with many truly emotional and endearing sequences. It is a beautifully made movie which is a total delight to watch and which is one of the best and most deserving Best Picture winners of the eighties.

My Rating – 4,5

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        Interior & Exterior Stills from Rain Man

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The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

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The Catcher in the Rye Essay

The Catcher in the Rye was written by J. D. Salinger and it is one of the most famous novels about teenagers and one of the best and often acclaimed American books of all time. After reading it, I totally agree with its status. It really is a masterpiece.
First, the characters. There is a plethora of interesting characters here: from his school roommates to his girlfriends to his young sister. Jane is only referred to so we don’t know much about her, but Stradlater and Ackley are the stereotypical teens and both of them are wonderfully described and their interaction with the protagonist is amusing. Sally is also somewhat annoying and quite typical, not that that’s a flaw, while Mr. Antolini has an interesting plot point with Holden. But his little sister Phoebe is wonderfully realized as a character and the passages between the two are fascinating and really warm. They are such a great duo because she seems like the only person who gets him and is very funny in being so serious and advanced for her age.
And then, there is of course the protagonist Holden Caulfield who is along with Scarlett O’Hara one of the most fascinating and extremely well developed characters in literature history. He is a cliché in some regards, but quite authentic in other ways. He became a symbol for countless people and it is easy to see why. His speech and grammar may seem childish, but he sees things in people and life others do not and that is always fascinating to read. He is also very vulnerable, sometimes like an adult, but mostly childish and innocent in his behavior. The part with the prostitute is quite revealing of his character and for what he stands for. I really connected with him on multiple levels and although I am definitely more shy in my life unlike him, we still do have a lot in common which is why I enjoyed this book so much. His use of repeated phrases and sometimes stupid remarks is also very funny and endearing. But the whole Catcher in the Rye speech that he gives is the highlight and that describes perfectly what he believes in which is the most wonderful thing there is. He is so riveting a character which is a testament to how incredibly good character development is in this novel and certainly one of the finest.
The writing style is very colloquial and told in first person from the protagonist’s perspective. It takes some time to get used to it, but it is totally fitting for the story and message. As I sad earlier, the use of repeated phrases, especially “Phony” and “That killed me”, is excellent and adds a certain authentic and comedic element to the material. And I think it has just the right amount of pages for this kind of story which is very complex when you think about it, but deceptively simple at first glance. It has a wide variety of important and relevant themes which really make you think. The title analogy is magnificent and not only serves as a perfect title for the novel, but also as the biggest theme here that encompasses everything else beautifully. Loneliness and sexuality are wonderfully explored, but what makes it stand out is to me the exploration of phoniness. It perfectly captures what I always thought about it. Everyone is pretending and in his words, you need to do that in order to survive. That is some very powerful and observant stuff. The thoughts about adulthood and childhood are clever as well. It perfectly describes how adults are different from children and how we lose that innocent charm and playful spontaneity when we grow up which is really sad and strikes you. It certainly hit me because I always felt like that myself. Children are special and it is a shame how we eventually lose all the wonder, excitement and most importantly innocence once we reach adulthood and become phony, serious or pessimistic. It is a great theme that is wonderfully explored to the full extent and really makes you think.
The Catcher in the Rye is also incredibly groundbreaking and even unbelievably so at times. There were literally a couple of times that I had to remind myself that the novel is from the fifties. That’s how progressive and extremely realistic it is, especially when talking about the presentation of sexuality, human behavior, homosexuality as well as the colloquial language of the time and of course the present swearing. And that is certainly a good thing and grounds the book in realism because this is a teenager, adolescent to be exact, and that is the way this group talks.
As for the flaws, there are a couple of minor problems I have with the book. First, it takes its time to get there with not enough real story and relevant, dramatic moments early on. Also, the writing is difficult to get used to at first, mostly thanks to the colloquialism and frequent use of repeated phrases. And the story seems slight at first with many repeated plot points and observations. But once he gets out of school, it starts to become a serious and thought-provoking material. And the tone is really good, it goes from usually depressing because of his grumpy attitude to some heartwarming and inspiring moments in a most natural manner.
It is also worth noting that although it is written in first person and sort of like a diary (it is definitely a predecessor to Adrian Mole and it definitely paved the way for that series), the novel definitely has a strong and present story, plot progression and points along with the clear structure with beginning and evident ending. However, I can’t see a film being adapted from this material because it beautifully works as a book, but the charm would be lost without some sort of narration and spoken observations.
Speaking of ending, the last act to be exact, it is the major reason why I love this novel. Everything from his coming home to the museum to the park wandering to the final choice seems like natural progression and it is satisfying on so many levels. I especially liked his relationship with his endearing sister as well as his affinity to the museum and the way he reacted to the curse graffiti in that museum. But the park part is stunning thanks to his inner dilemmas and troubling state. And it all finishes with that simply beautiful and wonderfully human quote which just might be the best line I’ve read/heard in a while – “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”. That is some powerful stuff right there and a perfect conclusion to an almost perfect piece of art. And it really is art. Art that should be remembered and cherished for centuries.

In the end, The Catcher in the Rye is a masterpiece, a work of art with timeless appeal and endless relevance. It is one of the most poetic, thought-provoking, inspiring, realistic, smart, warm and just beautiful books I’ve read and one of the finest novels of all time.

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Selma (2014)

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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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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 2015 superhero film directed by Joss Whedon, it is a sequel to ‘The Avengers’ and it is the eleventh feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The story concerns their quest to defeat Ultron, the robotic artificial intelligence created accidentally by Tony Stark. The story is problematic, as is most of the things in this movie. It is fairly simple, but also filled with too many characters so it all feels rushed and jumbled. It also reminisces the first ‘Avengers a bit too much with their inspirational speeches and cheesy one liners.

The characters are very well developed for better and for worse. It is of course wonderful to have all these characters fleshed out, but because there are too many of them, their development sometimes feels very forced and interrupts the flow of the movie. Iron Man is good here, he still has his humor and I would say that he was way funnier here than in the first film. Also, his relationship with science and Bruce Banner is nicely realized. As for Thor and Captain America, both of these had their moments and jokes, but they are still those stoic, super heroic, God-like creatures that need a lot of development and that do not feel human as the rest of the team. Black Widow is properly developed, but she is too aggressive and pushy at times, whereas the Hulk still feels too much out of the comic-book because this character is very hard to pull off in a live-action environment and I think that he still needs work. Their relationship is very interesting to say the least, but, as everything in this movie, is incredibly rushed. However, their talk about children and family as well as the ending are pretty good.

Hawkeye got his time finally with this film and his moments with his family are all emotional and properly realized, but he still feels like he doesn’t belong on the team and that’s why his joke at the end about his uselessness was spot-on and one of the best and most clever humorous moments here. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are the new characters introduced and they are both pretty good. Their accent was interesting and their sibling relationship was sweet. His finale was brave and her struggle with her new responsibilities and a shift to the good side are all very well done and she is quite a good character and a welcome addition to the team.

As for Ultron, he is troublesome. Yes, he is the best Marvel villain to date, but that doesn’t mean much because their villains are awful. He is at times funny, is well developed and he is a presence, but he does not prove to be a threat at all in the end and his origin story was extremely rushed and contrived. On the other hand, Vision is simply great. His behavior, inception as well as personality are all excellent whereas his dialogue in the end with Ultron is superb and pinpoints some of the movie’s themes of humanity and technology thus proving that this is not that dumb a blockbuster. The acting is also quite competent, each and every performance is quite good, but not that great. But that is okay for such a film and even stupendous given how great and professional this cast is.

The action is problematic, it is at times exhilarating and fun, but it is mostly filled with awful camera shots and angles thus reducing the impact overall. The cinematography is very weak here. And the effects are good, but nothing to write home about.

The direction from Joss Whedon is bad and incredibly weak as is the editing of course. The movie literally consists of one big endless action sequence and then the prolonged dialogues that try to flesh out the characters and they achieve that but those scenes are also very forced at times with some of the lines clearly intended to cause emotion from the audience. The character development and emotional plot points and revelations for the characters are definitely forced and the movie is badly edited and directed. But it is not easy to direct such a long list of characters and that is why Joss Whedon failed at this.

The humor is surprisingly good with a couple of truly funny moments and it is definitely funnier than its predecessor, but it is also filled with too much humor and many lines here are incredibly cheesy and simply ridiculous and cartoony owing to problematic screenplay and dialogue. But what is worth is that the characters have and show personality and most importantly a lot of chemistry and they work as a team thus bringing some heart and characterization to the film.

With entertaining story, great cast, solid character development and evident chemistry between the team, Avengers: Age of Ultron is perfectly solid as blockbusters go with fine humor and excellent characters, but it still is incredibly flawed due to problematic action sequences with bad camera movement, rushed story and very mediocre direction and editing with a bunch of forced sequences. But as superhero films go, it is solid and it is slightly better than its predecessor.

My Rating – 3,5

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Review

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a 2014 Iranian horror film directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and it is a critically acclaimed film and I would even say that it is the best vampire horror film of all time.

The story is simple. It follows a vampire girl who stalks and kills people, but who is also very lonely and sad. And it is set in the fictional Bad City and it perfectly captures the mood of death, despair and loneliness. The story may be too simplistic, but is perfectly executed and is engaging from start to finish.
As for the characters, they are all pretty well developed. And acted. The acting in this movie is superb. The vampire girl and Arash as main characters are wonderful, they have their personalities and their troubles and the relationship they develop is very intriguing and interesting to watch. And the rest of the characters are good and serve their purpose.
You cannot talk about this film without mentioning its technical aspects which are all splendid to behold. The sound design is the first thing here. It is absolutely stunning, perfectly capturing the intensity and making you feel uncomfortable and scared with its background fabric noise. And the soundtrack is absolutely terrific and authentic with its intriguing mix of American old and new music with Iranian songs. But the cinematography is amazing to witness. This is one of the most beautifully shot films I have seen in a while. And it is one of the major reasons why the movie is destined to become a classic it deserves to be. Each and every shot is excellently considered and executed leading to a lot of very iconic and memorable shots and angles.
And the black-and-white cinematography is perfect for this film and it is definitely fitting to the mood and is incredibly satisfying. It created some breathtaking imagery here. I always wondered why other directors don’t use black-and-white cinematography for their horror films when it is absolutely perfect for the medium. It helps raise the tension and provoke fear and I hope people will take this as an example and a lesson how to make it work. This is one of the best and most beautifully executed black-and-white films recently.
The tone is great in the movie. It is mostly scary and tense, but it sometimes takes its time to present some comic as well as emotional moments and those are great. As for the editing, it is probably my only bigger problem here. While this film is decidedly slower paced and I don’t mind that because it works for this kind of film and it is never, ever boring, the beginning should have been reduced a bit in order to have some character development put in there whereas the ending to me is somehow unsatisfying and disappointing. But those are minor flaws that don’t take away much from this spectacular movie.
As for the scares, this is the most frightening film since ‘The Conjuring’. Because everything is perfectly executed and the sound is amazing and incredibly effective, you really get scared at times thanks to excellent jump scares as well as wonderfully done stalker sequences that are eerie and indescribably tense. They are Hitchcockian in style meaning that you wait for them thanks to strong build-up, but when they arrive, they’re superbly achieved making you scare and appreciate the movie even more.
The film is also very original and authentic. Never have there been a film like this. It is incredibly authentic. And also very realistic, memorable and never predictable. It is artistic thanks to its cinematography and scenery to the point that I would call it art because it truly is that. And the picture has a quality in that it has both brain and heart to it. It is both grounded in its approach and very touching at times which is perfect and very rare for the genre.

All in all, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has amazing cinematography, stunning sound design, good characters and setting, but above all it is authentic, scary, effective and perfectly executed and directed. It is the very best horror film of the year and one of the finest horror films of all time and the finest vampire flick ever made. A masterpiece, a future classic and simply put art.

My Rating – 4,5

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Big Fish (2003)

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Big Fish Movie Review

Big Fish is a fantasy drama film directed by Tim Burton and released in 2003. It is one of his most underrated and most emotional works.

The story is simple – a dying man reminisces and tells his stories to his son who does not believe them and he is frustrated with him. It jumps from his introduction to a story or some dialogue in reality to a fantasy story he tells and that is a structure in this film. Here lie the two flaws this film has. It is uneven in narrative and it is not as polished or as tightly edited as the structure demanded. And the beginning is rather lackluster because it takes quite a time for you to realize that those stories aren’t real or to know the characters. The movie definitely takes its time to get there, but when it does, it is a blast to watch. It is such a fascinating structure and rarely seen blend of two genres that do not do that often – drama and fantasy. And Tim Burton is such a great director that he managed to blend the genres mostly perfectly. It is a story that just fits his whimsical style and it is evident in its execution.
The film starts to become really good at the point when the giant arrives and when they part ways. The forest sequence is wonderful, filled with exquisite imagery and beautiful imagination. But the hidden town of Spectre is one of the highlights with moving story and creative imagination. It is also quite original and authentic. The circus parts are good and the Korean scenes are not particularly memorable. But his relationship with his future wife is romantic and endearing to watch.
Then there is the third act which lifts the whole movie to new, never before imagined levels. The part with Jenny, a woman who was once in love with him, but he didn’t want to cheat Sandra is moving. And it superbly connects the story with the Spectre town part. The conclusion is remarkable and heartbreaking but beautiful beyond words. It is such an emotional father-son relationship and that is great having in mind that those kinds of stories are rarely told in movies which is a shame. But here it is stunning and heartwarming. It is beautiful not just for the relationship but because it shows how fantasy can play a huge part in a person’s life and how some people choose to remember and even live in their mind the stories they imagined because those are so much better than reality. It is a huge testament to fantasy and imagination superbly realized and should be seen for ages to come. This ending literally moved me to tears and although I watch many movies, that rarely happens to me. But it is such a perfect combination of sad and heartwarming emotion with inspirational message that it can crush you to tears. And the funeral sequence which shows how those stories were after all true but with minor changes in character appearances and adding of course the magic elements is remarkable and again a testament to excellent attention to detail exhibited in this picture.
The characters are superbly developed and all of them very likable and endearing. And the acting is all around great. Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor play the older and younger version of the protagonist Edward Bloom and both of them really are terrific giving two superb performances. Jessica Lange did a wonderful job as his wife Sandra in the present and those scenes with the two them, especially the one in the bathtub, are warm and touching. Karl the giant I found somewhat forgettable as a character, but Jenny, played by always excellent Helena Bonham Carter, is beautifully developed and you really care about her. And Danny DeVito as a circus ringmaster is of course a satisfying addition to a story and a perfect fit for the part. All in all, the cast is terrific in this movie with all of the actors giving wonderful performances.
It is technically a splendid film with exquisite art direction, production design and special effects. The tone is also excellent, but the score is nothing to write home about. And the direction is of course fantastic, confirming again how great Burton once was.

Although it takes its time to get there and it is uneven at times, Big Fish is a phenomenal film with beautiful and important message, indescribably stunning ending, likable characters, wonderfully imagined stories and excellent performances. It is to me one of Burton’s very best films, a film so touching and moving that it is such a shame it’s so underrated when compared to his other films.

My Rating – 4,5

 

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Hugo (2011)

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Hugo Review

Hugo is a 2011 film directed by Martin Scorsese and it is about Georges Melies. It is one of the finest films of that respectable year.

The story is fascinating. From Hugo’s life in the clocks, a mysterious Automaton and of course the superb real life story of groundbreaking filmmaker Georges Melies. What I found fascinating about this movie is the inherent fairy tale charm it possesses along with the mysterious spirit to it. And the film is a wonderful and very intriguing mix of a fairy tale, real life personal drama, 1920s slapstick comedy, ‘Modern Times’ and ‘Oliver Twist‘. It is influenced by those films and it somehow mixes it all into a satisfying whole.

But of course the highlight is Georges’ story and it is simply astonishing not only because it evokes what personal troubles this wonderful man had in his life, but also because this story can apply to almost each and every one of us. It is filled with a wonderful theme of transience that is so powerful and deeply unfortunate. Everything has its time and time is not kind when it passes by. But it achieves somehow a happy ending in the end which is not unrealistic but great because it shows his troubles of overcoming and dealing with his past and accepting his place in film history which is great and he will definitely hold that place for eternity. It is all very emotional, touching and simply stunning to look at.

And that all wouldn’t mean much if the approach wasn’t appropriate, but it is excellent. The movie is filled with silent film references that it should prove enthralling and enchanting for anyone interested in the subject matter. It was marvelous for me because I am interested in the silent era and I find that era fascinating and ripe for these kinds of stories. And they recreated wonderfully the sets and how they made the films and of course the major emphasis on ‘A Trip to the Moon‘ is a great touch. It approaches the story from all aspects, from his personal life and troubles with the past to his filming in the past to his relationship with Hugo and the emphasis on what his films mean is great and how his films were incredibly creative and advanced for its time.

The characters are very endearing and likable. Hugo is solid as the lead, but of course Georges is wonderfully developed and complex. Inspector Gustave adds a certain comic charm to the film, whereas Isabelle is simply wonderful as a girl that yearns for adventure. Her inherent charm, childlike innocence and adventurous spirit is evident and she brings a lot of heart to the film.

The acting is one of the bigger problems I have with the film. Chloe Grace Moretz is wonderful as always and Ben Kingsley is great, but Asa Butterfield could have done a better job as well as the other actors including Sasha Baron Cohen who struggles at times. It is solid, but should have been superb for this film.

The other big problem I have is of course the running time. This story does not need 2 hours, it should have been 90 minutes long. That does not mean that the story is weak, it is marvelous, but its scope needs no more than 90 minutes and this is the frequent problem Hollywood has. They always have to make two-hour long movies when a lot of the stories do not need more than an hour and a half. And that problem is evident in this film especially in slower beginning and some dragged moments later on, especially with the inspector and other comic characters. They are great and reminiscent of 1920s comedies, but they took too much running time which was very unnecessary. And I could have done with less action sequences, but those problems do not take much away from this beautiful film. They only prevent it from reaching a classic status which is a real shame.

The technical aspects are simply fantastic. The visual effects are wonderful, but the imagery is stunning and the cinematography is splendid. I usually don’t like darker films and this is dark in imagery but it has such a strong art direction reminiscent of Tim Burton that I fell in love with it regardless. The score is also solid and only the editing, as I mentioned earlier, is troubling. It is a visually stunning film that adds a wonderful charm and fairy tale feel to it. And the tone is very well done and the sound is of course marvelous. The movie definitely deserved all of the technical categories it got at the Academy Awards.

This film was nominated for Best Picture but lost to ‘The Artist’ and those two received the most awards that evening, both got five. And this was probably the last time I agreed with the Academy because this was the year where they honored truly two of the best films of the year and the films that honor film itself. Both films are an homage and a beautiful ode to silent film and the wonders of its filmmaking that it was great to have both of these films awarded. 2011 is a pretty weak year. However, it has those two splendid films that should always be remembered as well as the films and era they are about.

In the end, Hugo has problematic editing and pacing, the running time should have definitely been shorter and the acting is not the greatest, but this is a movie that is an homage to silent era done wonderfully with very likable characters, fairy tale charm as well as mysterious side to it, it’s a marvelous visual feast and a terrific personal drama with a relevant theme. It is charming, simply beautiful and it can bring both tears and smile to your face how moving it is. Hugo is a minor classic and one of the finest films of 2011.

My Rating – 4,5

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