The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner Review

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 romantic comedy film that is one of the most fondly regarded of the director’s films.

It is about two shop employees who can’t stand each other, but fall in love together through letters not knowing they are corresponding with each other. The story is my biggest complaint here in that it is sweet and really fun, but too familiar and predictable, never quite rising above its formula, like other screwball comedies did in the thirties. But it is very entertaining and charming throughout the whole short running time. I liked the inclusion of different characters besides the two and their working dynamic is what drives the movie in my opinion. It follows a very typical pattern, but it still does it with style and great charm.

The characters are all pretty well developed and really likable. Kralik and Novak are both superb and their romance is quite heartwarming and their bitter quarrels are rather amusing. As for the other characters in the shop, they all drive this movie as much as the two protagonists with of course the highlight being wonderful Hugo Matuschek. He is a typical old man and a typical boss but what sets him apart is his genuine care for his workers and his relationship with them is one of the standouts of this romantic comedy. I liked his story probably the most and he really is a very sympathetic character.

The acting is really good in The Shop Around the Corner. This is a typical role for James Stewarts, the role he gets typecast quite a bit, you could say. But that is for a reason as he is so good in it. Margaret Sullavan is also surprisingly good and I really liked her character and her performance quite a bit. And of course Frank Morgan did a great job in his role and he makes quite a presence.

The directing from Lubitsch is of course superb with his great touch and a rather playful tone once again exhibited here. But the confined space of a shop I thought did not work as well as some other classic films incorporated beautifully, for example ‘12 Angry Men‘. Here, it did not go smoothly with it as fine as I wished. Another complaint and a big problem in my opinion is the humor. It has its fair share of nice scenes that brought a smile to my face. But that is the point, it brought a smile, never genuine laughter. Not only is it not as hilarious as it should have been, but also it did not focus much on the comedy angle and it too much focused on romance and drama in the third act. The tone is definitely not handled well. But the directing and acting are both great and the pacing I found really polished with never a dragged or rushed scene. The dialogue is of course terrific with many beautifully delivered lines and the cast definitely has chemistry and screen presence. I also liked the romance in this movie quite a bit with the sequences between the two in the second half being quite heartwarming and sweet. Comparing it to ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I would say that it is roughly on the same level of quality meaning that it has its flaws, but is very effervescent and romantic as well.

The Shop Around the Corner is never as funny as it should have been and the storyline is definitely predictable, but it is nevertheless a very effervescent film that is wonderfully directed, beautifully acted, very romantic and it has really likable characters.  It has its flaws, but it is overall a very entertaining and sweet film with a lot of charm at display.

My Rating – 4

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Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Far from the Madding Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd Review

Starring wonderful Carey Mulligan from ‘An Education‘, Far from the Madding Crowd is a 2015 British romance drama film based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy. It is mostly a very good film and a pleasant historical diversion.

It is about an independent woman Mrs. Everdene who attracts three very different suitors in Victorian England. Now, the story is my main problem with this film. Granted, I did not read the book so I will only talk about my film experience. The story is way too familiar and quite typical for the time the novel was released. I honestly would have changed the number of suitors from three to two and I would have slightly altered the melodramatic tone which is present in droves. Yes, it is very melodramatic with its fair share of sad twists and turns. And while most of them admittedly work, some do not. Also, the ending is way too familiar and too much of a happy ending. However, because they made me care for the characters and because the dialogue in the finale is so romantic, I honestly cheered for the happy conclusion.

Now, the characters are the highlight. Along with the acting and technical aspects, but more on those two later.  The protagonist of course steals the show because she is so incredibly well written and well realized that you really have the feeling that you’ve just met a real person. She is very reminiscent to Scarlett O’Hara which is a great thing naturally. She is a very strong female character and quite a presence, but she also makes mistakes regarding the marriage which is very realistic. And her stubborn, aristocratic and cold nature and relationship with her inferiors lend to much of the film’s humor. Oak is great and you really root for him and her to get together. Frank Troy is of course despicable, but they rarely vilified him which is great. And Boldwood is excellent and really such a tragic figure that saddens the viewer quite a bit. I liked his character quite a bit, although his resolution was too convenient.

Far from the Madding Crowd benefits from absolutely outstanding performances across the board. Michael Sheen is terrific as is Tom Sturridge. Matthias Schoenaerts is quite a revelation as well. But this is Mulligan’s show and she absolutely shines in the respectable role. She brings so much emotion and realism and attention to detail to her character in a role that is rather difficult but she pulled it off. This and her previous historical picture just prove that she just has that face and ladylike demeanor that suits the genre perfectly which is why they cast her here. The casting director really did a great job because all of the actors really have chemistry as well.

But the strongest aspect in the film is definitely its technical prowess. This movie looks absolutely incredible and is so pleasing to the eye. The cinematography is great, but the scenery is just marvelous to behold with some great rural imagery that is really pleasant to watch with its lush colors. The costume design is awards-worthy how good it is and it is filled with detail. The score is also good as is Thomas Vinterberg’s direction which is surprisingly professional. The tone is also handled properly and although it goes too much into melodrama later on, it is earlier very smooth, going from comedic to dramatic to romantic nicely. The movie definitely has a heart and it is incredibly romantic at times, which is mostly done due to incredible dialogue. And although predictable, it is still very engaging to watch. The pacing is unfortunately the biggest problem the movie never overcomes. It is evident that this is such a long novel and the running time is unfortunately too short  for this kind of story, resulting in many rushed scenes and a rather contrived ending.

Far from the Madding Crowd may have a predictable storyline, too melodramatic tone at times and the running time is way too short resulting in many rushed scenes and a rather contrived ending, but this is still a very good film that benefits mostly from excellent character development, terrific performances across the board with Carey Mulligan giving an awards-worthy performance, great dialogue, superb romance and incredible rural scenery and exquisite costume design.

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X2 (2003)

X2

X2 Review

 One of the better, but not one of the best, in the franchise is 2003’s X2. It is the second entry in the X-Men superhero franchise, it’s directed by Bryan Singer and starts Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen.

I say that it is not one of the best in the franchise and that is mostly due to the story. It is never as complex or as smart or as interesting as X-Men:  First Class. First of all, the clever dialogue is mostly missing here in favor of the action which is unfortunate. Also, some of the plot elements do not quite mesh together and the movie is filled with too much characters and subplots thus never properly exploring every aspect. The first act or so is really good as is the ending. The finale is so powerful with a positive character’s sacrifice. It is dark and really dangerous and filled with consequences which was much needed. And it wrapped up beautifully in my opinion as all of the characters got their proper ending. But the middle of the film is unfortunately filled with too much action and some unnecessarily dragged sequences.

The characters are mostly superb as always in this well written franchise. The emphasis on both Professor X and Magneto is a big plus and their scenes, especially together, are excellent. Now, Jean Grey and Storm I never particularly cared for, but at least Jean had a powerful scene in the ending and her story is quite good whereas Storm is mostly flat. Mystique is quite good, but I still prefer the one played by Jennifer Lawrence in the future installments. Cyclops is annoying, but the rivalry between him and Wolverine is again funny. And speaking of Wolverine, he is great and he’s definitely got the best action sequences this time around. Nightcrawler is quite interesting and of course that scene with him in the opening scene is extremely memorable and well executed, but I still felt that he was fairly underused. Iceman is really good and his relationship with parents and that confession scene definitely has a parallel in the real world. Rogue is also good, but a lost potential as she is underused and Pyro is intriguing and his turn to the dark side is well handled. But the problem here is that all of the characters are good, but thanks to the film’s overcrowded nature, most rarely get a moment to shine.

Now, the acting is phenomenal. Of course Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are terrific and Hugh Jackman steals the show. But all of the other actors and actresses did a really good job with their performances. The action I overall liked. There are some really entertaining action pieces, most notably the opening with Nightcrawler and the fight between Lady Deathstrike and Wolverine is really well done. But there are some sequences that are not as well realized and the action tends to overwhelm at times. The movie is well filmed and directed. The visual effects are absolutely spectacular for the time with greatly used make-up as well. The photography I was not a big fan of as it was often too dark. The movie is smart for its real-life incorporated themes with politics and minority groups, but it is never as good as in the later installments. And the character moments and emotional scenes are definitely there, but far through and between. The biggest problem in X2 is pacing, it is all over the place. It is at times rushed, at times dragged, but always poorly done. And of course, it’s so incredibly overblown clocking in at over two hours which was highly unnecessary.

X2 has some really big problems including at times overwhelming action, it is overcrowded with characters, pacing is awful and running time is overblown and it mostly lacks the clever dialogue and character work which is why it is so inferior to X-Men: First Class, but this is still one of the better installments in the franchise due to well written characters, nicely executed and entertaining action sequences, powerful ending, excellent effects and some quite memorable scenes.

My Rating – 4

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Paper Towns (2015)

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Review

Being probably the movie that surprised me the most with its quality, Paper Towns is a 2015 teen comedy drama film which is also a mystery. It is based on the John Green book of the same name and it stars Nat Wolff in the lead role.

It is about Quentin, a young man who spent his childhood being infatuated with his mysterious neighbor Margo. At the beginning of the film, she comes to his house for help. He accompanies her on her quest to humiliate the friends and boyfriend who betrayed her. After that event, she disappears. With a help from his loyal friends, he sets out on a road trip journey in order to find her following her clues. The story is simply fascinating and one of the most well-written and sophisticated teen movies probably of all time. It is so clearly and evidently split into three parts, the three-act structure has rarely been so noticeable. That is a problem a bit as it seems disjointed and the jarring shift of tone probably doesn’t help much as well. However, although it may seem to some that Paper Towns is three different movies, to me it did not end that way. I thought it connected quite well, despite how different the three acts are.

The first act is the most entertaining and the characters are wonderfully introduced. I love all the actions they did and it is so fun to watch. The second act is the most adventurous with a strong dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. The mystery aspect is very well realized and quite believable whereas the road trip does not seem cliched at all, despite being a genre convention. This is the part where the supporting characters and the humor shine the most. As for the third act, it is without a doubt the finest. Pure, hard-hitting, emotional drama takes place in front of the mystery and comedy here. And it is incredibly good!

I like the resolution and the whole last part as it is so unconventional and the opposite of cliche that it really was refreshing to see. And so brave and clever. But what takes it to the next level is its absolutely amazing sophistication, clever themes and above all, some incredibly powerful, truthful and observant quotes. This is not only relevant, but important and so realistic. It hit me personally as I connected to Margo’s character in her thinking so much. The speech in which she says that she wants to lead her own destiny instead of following conventions like marriage and job is so inspiring and downright real that it hit me on multiple levels and stayed in my thoughts afterwards.

The characters are phenomenal across the board as is the acting. Quentin is the most grounded character but his resolution is so realistic and important as well. His behavior may seem annoying to some, but he is a realistic teenager and I liked that a lot. Margo is absolutely amazing and the highlight here despite the protagonist’s more development and evident screen time. But that is the point. Her character is so well-written and just plain fascinating that such a short screen time did not hurt her at all. She is also an incredibly strong female character and refreshingly atypical. Lacey is so charming and likable. And her line where she states that she is more than just a pretty face is some powerful stuff as well.  Now, Ben is evidently and even too overtly a goofy sidekick, but what is important is that he serves his purpose which means that he is funny, at times even hilarious, definitely bringing a lot of pathos and comic relief to the picture. Angela is okay for the time she got, but Marcus I did not like at all. He was too annoying and too nerdy in my opinion.

The acting is fantastic as I said. Nat Wolff is so surprisingly good and gives a grounded and respectable performance. Cara Delevingne is terrific of course, bringing a lot of charm and charisma to the table. And all the actors who portrayed Quentin’s friends did a really good job in their roles. The directing is also very good as is the pacing. The movie is incredibly smart, but also emotional and at times even heartbreaking. It made me smile and almost cry even. I also liked the score, but the tone is as I said too jarring and definitely was felt which is not a good thing. Humor is terrific with at times hilarious sequences. However, I think Paper Towns would have been better with more serious and less comedic approach and that small flaw as well as the jarring tonal shift is what makes this movie miss the highest rating in my book. But not by a long margin and that is astonishing that it ended being so unexpectedly good. It is not predictable whatsoever and the dialogue is incredibly clever. And comparing it to ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘, I would say that it is a much better film, though the aforementioned film is quite good. But this is a whole new level of quality exhibited.

With fantastic and all likable characters, terrific humor with some hilarious sequences, amazing themes, excellent incorporation of comedy and drama as well as mystery and adventure, fantastic acting across the board and an incredibly sophisticated and refreshingly unpredictable storyline, Paper Towns is so incredibly good that it totally surprised me with its quality. It has a jarring shift in tone and it should have been less comedic, but this is a movie that is so relevant and poignant with a couple of truly amazing quotes which are truthful, observant and so hard-hitting. It is a movie that has both brain and soul and it is one of the best teen films I have ever seen and a future classic without a doubt.

My Rating – 4,5

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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Night of The Hunter

The Night of The Hunter Review

The Night of The Hunter is a 1955 thriller horror film directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish. In a strong year as is 1955, it is one of the best films and that is saying a lot.

To plot revolves around a reverend who is a serial killer. He charms the widow of an executed man who hid his money but only told the kids where. The reverend is then after the children to find the money. It is a well written story and although a bit too simplistic, it is still executed perfectly. The beginning is fantastic as it instantly made me interested in the story and the ending is extremely satisfying and so heartwarming. And the rest of the picture is very good as well with exciting chase/horror sequences and excellent introduction of a new family for the kids later on. If I have one problem with the story, it is that it’s a bit too simplistic as I said before, but also somewhat dragged in the first act and somewhat sensational and too much dressed with blockbuster clothing later on. That is what is the most interesting thing about  it is so advanced for its time incorporating action and chase that would be a standard decades later. It is very groundbreaking, admittedly for better and for worse.

I like the characters, I found them all really well developed and well written. Reverend Harry Powell can be a bit too vilified, but he is still a big presence with his unpredictable nature and very dangerous behavior. The kids are really good, John’s devotion to his late father is so endearing to watch and his nervous breakdown is the end is so heartbreaking. As for Pearl, I found it frustrating that she wasn’t as loyal as her brother was, but she is way too young so it is understandable. And I liked Willa for that little screen time she got. She is a typical female character for the time, but still a realistic character and a deeply tragic figure. Uncle Birdie is a likable supporting character and although Rachel’s children are never given anything to do, Ruby is still a very well written character with realistic and touching problems. And although at first that story came out of nowhere, it still blended into the film more smoothly as it went on.

Speaking of Rachel, she is without a doubt my favorite character here. So good. She is a likable, grounded character, but a good-natured old woman above all who helps where she can. And I like her behavior and personality with telling the stories to the kids and also being somewhat tough with them, but still gentle in the end. She was brought to life beautifully by wonderful Lillian Gish. She completely took me by surprise when I figured out it was her as she was still beautiful as such an old age. But she surprised me with giving such a powerhouse performance in a sound film. I did not expect that at all and was pleasantly surprised. She is the standout here, so powerful and this is her best performance in my opinion after ‘Way Down East‘. And all of the other performances are very good with of course Robert Mitchum doing a great job in his role. He was at times a bit theatrical for my taste, but this is such a role so it was needed and his deep voice and his dangerous look in the eyes perfectly suited this role. He is such a presence, stealing every scene he is in.

The Night of the Hunter shines the most at the technical level. Oh my God, what a stunningly beautiful film this is! This is probably the best, or at least one of the best, cinematography ever in a film, so polished and remarkable. The natural photography with night scenery and animal and river imagery is beautiful to behold. The sequences on the river are almost poetic how good they are filmed. And those lift this film to the highest levels. But Charles Laughton is a revelation here for such a good actor to also show that he can be a good director in his debut film is unprecedented. It is a shame that he never directed another film as he is so professional and visionary here. I like his approach with artistic imagery and silent scenes definitely paying an homage to older silent movies which I found really interesting and perfectly executed. The score is also good, I like the inclusion of gospel music and I like how the tone of the film is so polished, ranging from dramatic, horrific to warm. It is also a tightly-edited little film and although the first half is inferior to the second, this is still a very well paced film with just the right amount of running time. It is also groundbreaking in its approach and dark tone and it is very authentic both technically and in terms of storytelling. And the movie is not only smart, but also incredibly heartwarming and touching.

With simply outstanding cinematography that is one of the best in film history, beautiful scenery, groundbreaking approach with dark tone and story, excellent tone ranging from thrilling and dangerous to heartwarming and touching, terrific characters, absolutely amazing directorial work from Charles Laughton and powerhouse performances from excellent Robert Mitchum and wonderful Lillian Gish who absolutely shines in one of her later roles, The Night of the Hunter has some too over-the-top scenes, too simplistic story and the first half is inferior to the second, but it is also a beautiful homage to silent movies, a visual masterpiece and one of the finest thrillers of the time as well as one of the best directorial debuts and one of the best-looking films of all time.

My Rating – 4,5

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Antman (2015)

Antman

Antman is a 2015 superhero film directed by Peyton Reed and starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas. It is the twelfth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in my opinion one of their best.

The story is not the highlight here. I like how they explain everything in the beginning, they introduce you to the world and its characters in a great way. And I especially loved the slow pace in the first half of the movie and its emotional investment. The movie definitely has a heart. The troubled relationship between Hank and Hope and their father-daughter bonding is so well done and very moving. I also like the relationship between the protagonist Scott and Hank as well as Hope. Yes, all of the relationships in Antman work and they drive the movie. I also like how it incorporates the father-daughter aspect in the protagonist’s relationship with his daughter as well. This is definitely the warmest movie for Marvel yet.

I am constantly talking about how the first half is so good for a good reason because the second half is much weaker. The action sequences are nothing to write home about and they needed inventiveness due to the film’s nature. I also disliked the villain and the conflict. And the action and humor are overwhelming and not that good later on. But I like how it wrapped up with such a nice ending. This is a story that is so familiar in its science and heist, but it is still good because it incorporates human drama and emotion into it which I found really refreshing.

Now, the characters. They are mostly really well realized. Especially the aforementioned trio, they all are very good, even excellent. I like Scott Lang as the protagonist here, he is not as funny as he should have been, but that is also not a bad thing as it lead to some character development and drama for him. He is more grounded than other Marvel heroes while also not being boring like Captain America is. He is the perfect middle ground and I really appreciated that. Hank Pym is terrific as a troubled old man and a genius scientist. He also has an emotional development and a genuinely tragic and perfectly explored backstory. Hope van Dyne is also wonderful and a very strong female character. Her story, her relationship with father as well as the main character are all extremely well done. I think she is my favorite female character in the MCU as I am not that big a fan of Black Widow.

Yellowjacket is of course a bad villain, like all Marvel villains usually are. He definitely posed more threat than many of them did, but he is still an overly theatrical and cartoony villain with a typical behavior and goal. He is one of the main problems of this movie. And I have to be honest and say that I was not a fan of Luis, I know that I am in the minority here, but to me he was mostly annoying, not all the time, but still for the most part. His humor gets so repetitive near the end and his constant smile made me irritated. I really disliked all of Lang’s friends, they are the typical sidekicks, too over-the-top and rarely genuinely funny.

Speaking of the humor, that is where Antman fails the most. I really expected more from it, but I did not get it. Yes, the central character has a charisma and he does have some nice lines, but even he is not that funny and some of his jokes fall flat. And as I said before, his friends and especially Luis are all really annoying instead of hilarious. They really missed the mark when comedy is concerned.

The acting on the other hand is superb across the board. Paul Rudd did a stupendous job and he really is likable in his role. Evangeline Lilly also did a great job and Michael Douglas surprised me as he was really sympathetic here whereas he mostly isn’t. I am usually not a fan of his, but here I really liked both him and his character. Corey Stroll is too over-the-top as is his character and Bobby Cannavale plays an overly typical role for him. But Michael Pena is quite good and although his character is not, he did a good job with what he got.

Now, technically this movie is not particularly good and I am mostly referring to the action and special effects, as I found the direction and especially pacing really good. But the action is so mediocre and rarely making you excited. It definitely felt subpar when compared to the rest of the picture which is a shame as it had the potential to be both inventive and riveting. The visual effects are quite weak in my opinion and that is mostly due to those ants which I found awful. They are so plastic, mediocre and so polished that they do not look realistic at all. They used way too much CGI. But bad CGI, because it doesn’t look at all like the real ants which is a huge problem as the movie is surrounded by them. That is one of the biggest problems Antman never overcame and I am getting sick and tired of this conventional, shiny and artificial look of the blockbusters these days. It really sucked the enjoyment out of it for me.

But whereas the ants are simply bad, the costumes are mostly good as are the interiors. But there is one scene that surprised me and that is naturally the sequence in the subatomic world as it is so beautiful to behold visually and such an imaginative scene, though it made no sense whatsoever in the storytelling department and the 3D should have been better utilized. The score is okay, but nothing too remarkable. And the movie is not a bit original in its script, but because it incorporated some family drama and humor, it got away with it. The dialogue is also mostly solid.

The movie does not have a brain at all as it is too silly at times, but it does have heart which I once again found refreshing. But what takes it to the next level is how those emotional scenes are incorporated and executed. They did it in a natural way that doesn’t seem forced as it did in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. And comparing it to that movie, it is much better, there is no doubt about it. In fact, I would say that Antman is one of the very best Marvel movies, the best after ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and Iron Man‘. However, when the universe is concerned, I strongly disliked the incorporation of the Avengers and other Marvel stories. It just felt really forced and it just did not belong there. And Falcon was really stupid and again a proof that he is a weak character. They should have made this movie free of the MCU references and it would have been much better that way.

Antman is a surprisingly good movie thanks to its very good character development with really likable characters and excellent relationships between them, it is refreshingly emotionally and warm, but naturally so unlike the forced emotion in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron‘ and overall I found the performances great and the story charming and fun. The humor is unfortunately hit-or-miss, the villain is bad, the action is very disappointing and the effects are mostly mediocre with the ants being just awful and too CGI, but Antman is still a very heartwarming and likable film that is easily one of the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, probably the best after ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ and ‘Iron Man.

My Rating – 4

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The Rules of the Game (1939)

 The Rules of the Game is the famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir. It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its comple

The Rules of the Game Review

The Rules of the Game is a famous, classic French film directed by masterful Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion) . It is commonly regarded as one of the best French as well as overall films of all time and while I can see that in some ways, particularly in its complex theme, I still found it disappointing on multiple levels.

The biggest problem I have with the film is character development which is so-so. That is mostly due to its large, too big ensemble cast composed of way too many characters thus giving little room for genuine characterization. It gets better afterwards, particularly near the end, but it is still one of the major flaws that definitely hurts the film.

The plot is good, it is difficult to follow early on, but it again gets better as it progresses with an excellent last act which lifts the whole movie to higher levels. It shows the complex themes wonderfully and it concludes the story perfectly with a very satisfying and very well crafted ending. The theme is the one of moral callousness of the upper class just before the war. It is an important theme and it is easy to see why audiences unfortunately had trouble with it when it was originally released. And although it is not apparent and well executed earlier, the second half sees its realization in a great way and it is undoubtedly the finest aspect of the movie. And the whole finale is powerful because it shows how jealousy and confusion can have deadly consequences for the persons involved.

The film is a comedy of manners while also being a drama and there lies a problem. While it has some funny moments, there definitely should have been more of them as well as dramatic moments in the first half. The second half saves the film because it is dramatic, but the first half remains troubling indeed. And the pacing is problematic with the whole hunting scenes regularly interrupting the story flow, but those sequences nevertheless show how some can kill with ease and with no apparent reason which is an unmistakable allegory of the war that was impending upon the film’s release.

My biggest problem here is, after the characterization, the constant gossip and yelling of the characters and the never-ending noise they produce. It shows their attitude towards one another and how things can escalate, but it is just too much. Thankfully the third act saved the movie with its quieter approach and with better character development as well. The soundtrack is nowhere to be found, but that is okay given the yelling and music playing thus perfectly fitting the story and situation. But the direction is splendid and of course the cinematography is stunning, very advanced for its time and it definitely brings the polished, more sophisticated look to an already complex film.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it is very memorable, especially the hunting sequences and the ending. All those scenes stay in your memory which is great. The acting is also excellent, all of the cast gave respectable performances. The tone is also wonderfully handled, shifting from genre to genre with ease. And the approach is very grounded lending itself to evident realism. It is also evidently smart with a wonderful message and theme with superb dialogue all around.

All in all, The Rules of the Game has wonderful themes, terrific direction, amazing cinematography, great tone and acting, memorable scenes and a great allegory with a fantastic third act, but it suffers from so-so character development, constant noise and a failure to capture its complex themes to the full extent, thus making it a solid, but very disappointing movie.

My Rating – 3,5

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Home (2015)

Home

 Home Review

Home is a 2015 animated comedy film and a sole release of the year from Dreamworks Animation.

The story is about Oh, an alien from the race Boov who invade Earth. He joins with Tip, who managed to evade capture from the aliens, in order to find her mother. He is also on the run from the other Boov as he made a mistake and sent the planet coordinates to the enemy alien race. Yes, that it the story of this movie. And although it sounds absolutely horrendous, it isn’t like that, at least for the most part. And it can be forgiven because it is a comedy and comedies are supposed to be wild and unrealistic. The beginning is very good, instantly making you interested and the buddy comedy aspect to it is great and the two have a lot of chemistry and their adventure is quite interesting. However, the second half kinda ruins it for me with all that overwhelming action that is rather uninteresting and the conflict is rather forced as the movie should have ended at an hour mark. But it kept going and going with a very cliched plot that wasn’t that cliched before. But it concluded very nicely with one interesting twist and energetic and warm ending.

The characters in this movie are mostly stupendously good. Of course Oh is the highlight and he is very likable and at times extremely funny, although not as funny as the movie thinks he is. He is well depicted, well acted and the relationship between him and Tip is what drives this movie. Speaking of Tip, she is good, a strong female character and a realistic one, but still somewhat forgettable. Unfortunately, the minor characters are very weak in Home. Yes, the mother is okay for such a little screen time she got, but Captain Smek is just mildly funny and the rest of the creatures are not that memorable to be honest.

But the acting is superb. I have to say that I am not a fan of Jim Parsons, but here he is excellent and his style and voice perfectly suits Oh and lends much to the movie’s humor. He is definitely the highlight. Also, Rihanna is surprisingly good here which I did not expect at all. Yes, her performance is inconsistent and she is too old for the part, but she still did a rather good job here. And the rest of the characters are all well acted as well.

Now, the animation to me is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is amazing with a great colorful approach, absolutely terrific design of the aliens and especially vehicles and it is overall very smooth, but it is also at times rather generic, especially with the nature and plants that look very dated, almost from a video game from the start of the millennium. And that alien design, although very creative and funny, is still too simplistic and childish.

The humor is mostly good here with some incredibly funny lines and body language. But there are just a couple of really funny scenes and the rest is just not that funny.  The score is also weak as is the direction. The use of modern pop music is very annoying and repetitive. The pacing is somewhat good and the tone shifts well from comedic to dramatic. I also like the emotional investment in Home with some really touching scenes, but it also often feels forced. The imagination and originality is from time to time evident, but it is mostly a typical comedy film from Dreamworks which is rarely a good thing. And the dialogue is so-so with at times too annoying and repetitive use of Boov’s incorrect English. Comparing it to other company’s films, I would say it is much better than ‘Penguins of Madagascar which was mostly a failure and it is much better than the ‘Madagascar‘ franchise, but it is still a typical comedy from them which can get annoying. But still I would call it underrated, at least a bit, as it certainly isn’t bad as critics say it is. I would say it is quite solid, if nothing more than that.

Home has very good main characters, energetic approach, it is at times quite funny, the voice cast is excellent and the story is very entertaining with its fair share of interesting and touching moments, but the animation is not that great, the humor is not always good, the supporting characters are forgettable, the plot is too silly, the music is annoying and the action is not interesting. But in the end, I would call it an underrated flick as it is definitely not bad in my opinion. It is a perfectly solid animated comedy.

My Rating -3

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The Aristocats (1970)

The Aristocats Movie Review

The Aristocats Movie Review

Released in 1970 and directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, The Aristocats is the 20th Disney animated film that successfully killed the Golden Age of Disney Animation and unfortunately started the Dark Age.

The story is what is the biggest problem I have with this film. It is never as fun or as clever or as well crafted as other Disney movies that came before it. Well, it is involving and it has that effervescent nature to it, but once again, it never rises above its so-so script. I like the beginning as it perfectly introduces you to both feline as well as human characters and it creates the conflict wonderfully. However, from then on, it just becomes a too prolonged adventure and although ‘101 Dalmatians’ has a similar structure, the action and adventure elements in that classic are infinitely better realized.

I like the ending, it is very sweet and satisfying, but it is seen countless times as well, being especially reminiscent to the finale of ‘Lady and the Tramp‘. What is probably the biggest problem storywise is the endless incorporation of detours, mostly comedic in tone. You have not one, but two scenes with Edgar being chased by dogs and you have the geese as well as the incredibly prolonged musical sequence with the cat gang. It is never good for a story to have that many detours as it just pinpoints to how thin the script was in the first place. But on the bright side, most movies could never get away with that much side plot points, but The Aristocats at times does, which is thanks to great characters and mostly good and charming humor.

Speaking of the characters, they are the highlights of this flick. They really are. You have Thomas O’Malley who steals every scene he is in with his terrific charisma, style and humor. He definitely brought a lot of humor and energy to the table. And he is wonderfully voiced by Phil Harris who of course voiced Baloo in ‘The Jungle Book‘ and those two are quite similar in some respects, although Baloo is much better of course and Thomas can often get too cocky for my taste. The other cats are good, but fail in comparison to Thomas. Duchess is a typical rich cat, but she is still very well portrayed and a strong female character and mother figure. The kittens are amusing and their relationship between each other and especially their respect for Thomas is very well done. And the cat gang is pretty interesting and quite unique, certainly being the musical standout here.

Now, the human characters. Madame Adelaide is very good for the little screen time she got and her scene where she learns her cats are gone is really sad. Georges is her lawyer and an old friend. He is one of the standouts of the supporting characters as he is so funny and delightful. And the relationship between the two is so good to watch. But now we come to Edgar. No matter how wonderfully developed most of the characters are, this one isn’t and he ruined the movie for sure. He is so lazily written and imagined that it was frustrating for me to follow him. His every action is so indescribably stupid that it really was unfortunate to witness. He got beaten twice by the dogs and although that was supposed to be a comedy, it was downright ridiculous to have the same scenario repeated again. He is definitely one of the worst villains ever in the Disney canon. Speaking of those two dogs, they are great comic reliefs and, although somewhat repetitive and even annoying early on, they get better as the movie progresses and they ended the movie on a high note with their signature joke. And the geese are excellent, they made me laugh a couple of times which is why I would call their characters well done comic reliefs.

The animation is nothing to write home about and this is where the studio started doing lazy animation. It is lacking in attention to detail which was present in droves before and it is never particularly artistic nor particularly memorable. Yes, the character design is solid and the colors are pleasing, but this is still a kind of animated work that fails to get stuck in your head, never providing a single iconic image or shot.

I think that, along with the characters, the soundtrack helped The Aristocats a lot. It is never as good as in their earlier classics, but it is still one of the very best when the Dark Age is concerned. Scales and Arpeggios is short and too childish, but Thomas O’Malley Cat is absolutely superb as it is charmingly childlike and wonderfully catchy and sweet. It also beautifully introduces you to this character and is sung very well by Phil Harris. I also like the title song played in the beginning and I would even call it an underrated song as it is so effervescent and it is a great touch to have such a French song open the movie that revolves in Paris. That is what Disney did best before – connecting the music with the story and locations, and I wish they would go back to it as they keep forgetting it for more than a decade now. But there is naturally only one song most remember from this flick – Ev’rybody Wants To Be a Cat. And that’s for all the good reasons as it is incredibly catchy, superbly realized and accompanied with terrific dance and action on screen and it is quite authentic as it is one of the rare jazz songs for Disney, thus breaking the formula a bit which was very refreshing.

The directing is okay, but it is weird to know that Wolfgang Reitherman did ‘The Jungle Book‘ before it as it is so much better than this. The voice cast is on the other hand one of the highlights at it is so well done. The tone is too comedic in my opinion, but that humor is thankfully quite good and even stupendous. And the emotional investment is not that present unfortunately.

The Aristocats has excellent characters that are mostly really likable and well developed, the music is also a standout as it is catchy and even authentic and the humor is very good and even stupendous as it has its fair share of funny moments, but the animation is nothing too remarkable, the villain is awful and the story is quite weak and too episodic in nature with too many detours. This is such a step down from Disney after a string of classics in the sixties and this is the movie that started their Dark Age, but it is still a solid piece of entertainment that is rather charming in nature and quite amusing.

My Rating – 3,5

 

 

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Movie Review

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Review

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 adventure film that is the second in the Indiana Jones franchise, once again starring Harrison Ford and directed by Spielberg. It is again a boring experience, but it is better than ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

Indiana Jones is asked by village people in India to seek a mystical stone and he later is met by a cult practicing human sacrifice. This is still an awfully weak story, but it is still better than its predecessor as it has its moments and is genuinely more interesting. But also what makes it a less excruciating experience than before is definitely its much darker approach with at times even very dangerous consequences, or close to dangerous at least. I like the incorporation of darker themes with the cult and it is the highlight of the film.

However, it is still filled with an endless amount of action. The action sequences once again are nonsensical, childish and unrealistic tending to go for an awful amount of running time making you question for whom this is supposed to be. I would say children as it is not only frenetic to the point of being absurd, but it is also at times incredibly silly. Though it has some charming moments, it is mostly devoid of it, instead relying on cheap action, campiness and cheesiness. I hate how cheesy this franchise is. I really hate that.

The characters are here even worse than in the original. If that was possible. The protagonist is even more aggressive, cocky and unlikable this time around and that kid is awfully annoying. But it is the woman who is the worst thing about this film. This is inexcusable. She is overloud, annoying and tends to panic for most of the movie. She is awful and there is no other way to say this, but the movie is incredibly sexist. And I hate, despise actually, how it got away with it because of the status of the franchise. It cannot get away because it is not that old and it just goes into complete stereotypical and offensive territory with its portrayal of women. It is awful, unwatchable and done in very poor taste. It should not be forgiven.

The acting is okay, but nothing to write home about. The pacing is of course awful with too tedious action that goes forever. The direction is quite solid and of course the movie again looks great with excellent cinematography and some terrific scenery. It is very well filmed and shot which is the highlight of this whole franchise. The score is repetitive and way too similar to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. But overall, comparing it to that movie, as I said before, it is better because it is darker and more engaging, but it has weaker characters on the other hand. It is predictable, it lacks any heart or realism whatsoever and the tone is problematic, shifting from dark to silly abruptly.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is better than its predecessor because the story is more bearable, it is more engaging to watch and it is thankfully much darker, but it still has endless nonsensical action, it is awfully cheesy and the tone is not dealt with properly as it goes from dark to silly abruptly. But the characters are awful, even more so this time around. The protagonist is even more cocky and unlikable and the movie is indescribably sexist in its portrayal of women and I hate how they got away with it because of the status of the franchise whereas in reality what they did here is unforgivable.

My Rating – 3

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