Back to the Future Part III (1990)

 

Back to the Future Part III

Back to the Future Part III Movie Review

Coming out 1990 and ending the trilogy, Robert Zemeckis released, a second sequel which is not only good but quite on par with the previous one and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

The plot is both the movie’s biggest strength and its biggest weakness. It is weak because it is set in the Old West and that western formula is so overdone and seen countless times that it pretty soon gets tired. Of all the places and all the times in history, they chose 1885 and that to me pinpoints to a lack of imagination and poor choices from the filmmakers. But it is also great for the film mainly because of Doc’s meeting with Clara, a woman who he quickly totally falls in love with. That is great not only because that lends to more emphasis on Doc who has always been this franchise’s finest character, but also because that approach means less action and more character-driven story which is terrific and a nice change of pace from the previous entry which was problematic mainly due to all that unnecessary action.

As for the structure, it is solid but somewhat problematic. The first act is extremely rushed and is the weakest part of the movie overall. The second act is good as well as the last one which is a satisfying conclusion to the whole story. I would have wished a somewhat different ending and the action chase sequence in the end is once again too prolonged, but this ending is in itself a good finale for the series with a lot of fun and heart at its core.

As for the characters, Marty is once again weak here, but thankfully the emphasis is on Doc as I said before and he is excellent. His relationship with Clara, who is also a pretty well developed character and finally a good female character in a somewhat sexist franchise, is ingenious because it explored his character while also opening the debate of time travel difficulties as well. The other characters from 1885 are solid, but do not get enough screen time so there is not enough to talk about there.

Technically, it is once again a strong movie. The editing is not perfect due to a rushed first act and dragged action sequence in the end, but it is nevertheless much better than the editing in Part II which was extremely problematic and one of the biggest problems for that film. The direction here is also strong, but the acting is terrific with expectedly Christopher Lloyd giving the finest performance and being the most memorable actor and character in the picture. The cinematography is quite good and the imagery is at times very beautiful to watch. As for the humor, it is still not as good as the original but much better than in its predecessor. The sound effects are very good as is the score of course. The tone is done well with comedic and science fiction elements coming in as well as the newly introduced romantic one which was very refreshing. The action sequences, although they go for too long in a typical blockbuster style, are nonetheless very well executed and entertaining to watch.

Back to the Future Part III may have a rushed first act as well as some too prolonged action sequences, it is still inferior to the original and the setting is not a bit authentic, but the movie also has a refreshing approach which introduces romance along with comedy and science fiction which means more character-driven drama and less action and that was quite welcome. It is also quite on par with Part II, if not better, which is very commendable and it is a nice conclusion to this fun franchise.

My Rating – 3,5

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Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Clouds of Sils Maria” Presents a Strong, Female

Clouds of Sils Maria Review

Released in 2014, directed by Olivier Assayas and starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in the lead roles, Clouds of Sils Maria is a chamber drama about a famous actress who has to prepare for a future role with the help from her personal assistant.

The plot in this movie is very simple, but the execution is extremely complicated.  It literally consists of countless dialogues, mostly between the two female leads who prepare a play thus shifting from reality to fiction all the time. That approach I found interesting, but the execution I found problematic because it is sometimes too vague and at times just scratching the surface of its sophisticated themes. I wanted less fiction and more reality, and I also wanted more emotional intensity and more character development.

Speaking of characterization, although I wanted more because it demands a lot, it still is very good and for the most time incredible. Maria is wonderful and very sympathetic as this wonderful, vulnerable woman and Valentine is very well developed as well with their relationship of course being the highlight of the picture. However, I have to say that I was not fond of Val because she can be way to annoying and even condescending to her employer.

As for the acting, it is magnificent with each and every performance being absolutely terrific. Kristen Stewart once again, after ‘Still Alice’, shows us that she truly can be a great actress giving quite a respectable performance, stupendous to say the least. However, I cannot understand why critics rave about her being the best when Juliette Binoche is clearly the finest actress here giving not only a fantastic performance but also one of the best of that respectable year which is commendable given how much layered and difficult this role is, but she pulled it off completely, shining from start to finish.

Now, the themes. They are multiple, from passage of time to modern vs. older acting as well as modern entertainment and celebrities. The passage of time is one of the best realized here mostly thanks to the beautiful mountain imagery accompanying some of those sequences, but the main character’s failure to understand modern blockbuster films and her continuing condescending attitude towards them is some powerful stuff beautifully explored and wonderfully fitting into the whole picture with that being one of the biggest reasons why Valentine left her near the end in that very memorable scene. But overall, I expected more because the film has so many of these great themes, but it never fully makes use of them thanks to some vague sequences, too simplistic surface and a failure to delve deeper into most of them.

Technically, it is a stunning movie. The editing could have been better as some scenes tend to drag for too long, but the cinematography is absolutely stunning with fantastic natural imagery that sticks with you. Also the direction is pretty good as is of course the dialogue. The score is also solid and as I said before, the acting is simply splendid.

Clouds of Sils Maria can be too dragged at times as well as too vague and it should have delved deeper into its themes, but those themes are excellent ranging from modern acting versus older to the passage of time, the cinematography is absolutely stunning and the characters are very well developed. But the biggest reason to see this film is the acting with simply splendid performances from Kristen Stewart who is unexpectedly good here and Juliette Binoche who absolutely shines from start to finish in a very demanding role.

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Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure

Force Majeure Review

Force Majeure is a 2014 Swedish drama film directed by Ruben Ostlund which deals with quite difficult subject matter, does it right and is one of the best foreign films of the year.

It is about a family staying in the French Alps for a week where a controlled avalanche happens and the father runs away to save himself instead of helping the children and it later deals with the consequences of such a behavior and the fights between the two. This is such a simple but very unique idea which is not only clever and important but also executed flawlessly. It is riveting almost through the whole running time with its thought-provoking discussions and dialogue. It also has a great concept – the avalanche happens, she gets angry, then tells the story to a couple of friends at dinner and later those friends start questioning themselves as well. That is very interesting and also comedic at times. But it shows how the talk about potential situations can be almost just as difficult as the real one when couples are concerned. And the third act is excellent with him going mad for what he did and their coming to terms with it and making peace in the end. It was wonderful to see a strong, realistically portrayed family that had a huge problem, but managed to overcome that in a grounded way.

The characters are extremely well developed, each having a distinct personality and behavior. Tomas is excellent as the man who did this terrible thing and who has to apologize for it and make everything work out. He had to learn what it means to be a father and a husband and his troubles are portrayed in a great, realistic way. As for Ebba, she is again as realistic as Tomas with a somewhat annoying personality and she is not perfect herself which is evident in how she dealt with the situation. As for Vera and Harry, they are the most adorable children. The sequence when Tomas starts crying endlessly for what he did and the children come to hug him, feeling worried, is absolutely perfect and probably the highlight of the movie as it shows how children are afraid of divorce, how that thing can hurt them badly and how they just want their parents to be happy and to be together. It is a beautiful scene that can bring a smile to your face. As for Mats and Fanni, they are very good as well with being their goofy friends and they bring the comedic element to the table which was great for the tone.

I have a couple of problems with Force Majeure. First, the first act is way too slow and it is almost an unnecessary build-up how prolonged it feels. Also the editing could have been better as well as the pacing. And I have to mention that scene in the bar with all the drunk men yelling and behaving like utter idiots. That is a stupid and totally unnecessary scene which doesn’t belong there. Yes, some of the scenes and choices quite annoyed me, but thankfully those are in minority as the movie overall is outstanding.

I love how Force Majeure explored its complex themes. It is such a clever and relevant movie that everyone should watch. It asks the question whether in such extreme circumstances a man becomes an animal in order to survive, going fully to his instincts. It also subtly tells us that women are much better parents than men almost by default which is very true and it explores the differences between the sexes perfectly. It also shows what it means to be a parent, the responsibilities of fatherhood and everything that goes with it. It depicts modern men realistically as well. And it also tells us that arguments about potential situations can be just as difficult and strong as the real ones. With that, the movie portrayed an extremely realistic behavior and fights in a relationship.

It is very well directed, really well made. It also has terrific cinematography, but the score is amazing as well, using classical music perfectly. There is great mountain imagery as well and the setting overall and the location of this movie is very unique as movies rarely happen on mountains. The tone is perfect, very dramatic, sometimes even unpleasant, but with a bit of comedy from time to time too. And the originality aspect is evident not only in concept, but in execution as well. Also, the acting is superb across the board with Johannes Bah Kuhnke of course being the standout as the troubled protagonist, playing the part wonderfully.

Smart, difficult to watch, but comedic at times, unique in concept and execution, very well acted and above all being incredibly realistic and important, Force Majeure is one of the finest foreign movies of the year for sure. It has some editing problems, some stupid scenes as well as a slow first act, but it is mostly an outstanding film which benefits from a very smart and unique idea executed perfectly with a lot of thought-provoking discussions, great themes of parenthood and its responsibilities, excellent cinematography and score and above all a smart and very grounded approach.

My Rating – 4,5

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When Marnie Was There (2014)

When Marnie Was There

With this being probably and extremely sadly their last film, I am happy to say that When Marnie Was There is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest in a long time and one of their most emotional. It was released in 2014 and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl Anna Sasaki who is extremely shy and unhappy with herself. Her foster parents send her to a small rural town to spend time with her relatives and recover because she is suffering also from asthma. There she meets a young, beautiful girl named Marnie in an old deserted mansion which comes alive when she is near. And you have a mystery when Marnie disappears and whether or not she was real and who she was. This story is absolutely fantastic throughout the whole running time because not only is it intriguing and incredibly involving but also very deep and multi-layered. The first act is a perfect introduction, the final act is a beautiful conclusion which is very emotional but also very grounded and immensely satisfying. And the second act is filled with such a well executed mystery that you cannot fail to get fascinated by it.

But the themes, wow what themes. You have a girl who has asthma and who is very shy, introverted and literally has no friends whatsoever. But the movie ends with her being able to cope with that instead of her gaining friends which is incredibly bold, refreshing and realistic. Only Ghibli could make such an ending and they are masters because of the universal truths they tell and moral lessons they teach in their movies. Anna also has a problem with her mother owing to her realization that they have been paid to parent her the whole time. That is some powerful stuff right there and the movie explores the troubles of parenthood, orphans and adoption in such a sophisticated and mature way that is helpful for children but also very welcome for adults to see.

The characters are all very likable, very grounded and beautifully realized thanks to some terrific character development on display here. Anna is so realistic as a shy person that cannot love herself and I found her character very similar to my personality which is why this movie resonated with me so much. Marnie is excellent as well as a girl who seems perfect on the surface but who has her troubles with living in a large house with servants who treat her poorly. And the reason why characterization is so great is because the supporting, smaller characters all have personalities as well. The Oiwa relatives are very likable and very dear people who treat Anna wonderfully, Sayaka is great as a girl who arrives later in the mansion and who wants to help Anna find out who Marnie is because she loves mysteries, while Hisako is endearing and Toichi is very memorable as the lonely and moody fisherman who in personality resembles the protagonist so much.

The animation is unbelievably breathtaking, Studio Ghibli mastered the craft of hand-drawn animation and it can easily be seen here. This is one of their less artistic and more accessible animated pieces with warm and pleasing colors, wonderful imagery, terrific interior as well as exterior and a style to spare. But the attention to detail is remarkable with sun on the water, clothing as well as facial expressions and great character design. This is definitely one of their most beautiful to look at animated films.

As for the flaws, well, I have just a couple of them that hurt the movie. Mainly some of the sequences can get too emotional with too many emotional outbursts and the movie can get way too convoluted in the second act with troublesome narrative at times and too mysterious story. And I also think the film for this complex and deep story needed much longer running time instead of the usual hour and a half which animated films usually get. That was certainly disappointing how short it is. But overall those are small flaws that do not take much away from this remarkable feature film.

Technically, it is a splendid film. The editing is mostly very good, the pacing is smooth and the direction from Hinomasa Yonebayashi is incredibly good. And I am happy to follow him and how he evolves as a director because his ‘The Secret World of Arrietty‘ was one of their weaker films while When Marnie Was There is a work from a major director how great it looks and he definitely could become one of the greats in the future. Also, the acting is absolutely marvelous with every voice actor giving a terrific performance and doing their job wonderfully. The score is once again beautiful and the dialogue is mature. The film manages to have both brain and heart which is fascinating in and out of itself. And how does this movie stand in the Studio Ghibli canon? I am happy to say that it is their very best in a long time and even better than ‘Kaguya‘ which was absolutely amazing. It will go down in history as one of their classics and I am so proud of them.

With expectedly breathtaking and incredibly pleasing animation, heartwarming conclusion, likable and grounded characters, realistic approach and complex and mysterious story filled with deep themes and ideas, When Marnie Was There is a marvel to behold and although too emotional and too convoluted at times, it is mostly a feast for the eyes and soul, a movie that has both brain and heart and which is not afraid to be brave and show realistic characters and grounded ending tackling some serious and very mature subject matter. I am happy to say that this is one of Studio Ghibli’s finest movies in a long time, but I am sad that it is probably their last. Art cannot survive in this cruel 21. century, a century of profit and stupid entertainment for the masses.This is simply a beautiful film from a wonderful Studio and my heart will be broken if it remains their last.

My Rating – 4.5

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Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep

Shaun the Sheep Movie Review

Coming from Aardman, Shaun the Sheep Movie is their newest 2015 animated comedy and is not only a triumphant return to form but also one of the finest ever for the studio.

I absolutely loved this movie. Everything in it is so enchanting and endearing that it is impossible not to get infatuated by it. First I have to talk about the approach, action and humor. It is so wonderfully old-fashioned in the greatest way possible that I don’t think anyone would fail to fall in love with it. The humor brings to mind the classic silent comedy movies from the twenties which is a beautiful, nice touch. It not only is influenced by it, but it also incorporates it successfully with simply superb slapstick humor from start to finish. There are countless little sequences and moments that got me laugh which means the movie succeeds as a comedy perfectly. I also loved the action and although it can get too frenetic at times, it is executed superbly and is very entertaining.

The plot is very simple, but it suits the material perfectly. The first act introduces you to the characters as it should and the third act, although it got too action-oriented and the villain was typical in the end, it is nevertheless a great conclusion with many heartwarming and simply touching moments from each and every character. And of course the second act is the finest with all the terrific humor and action. I also found the relationship between the farmer and the sheep as the film’s greatest strength and it brings the emotional intensity the most.

As for animation, what is there else to say than that it’s simply amazing. This is one of the best recent instances of how powerful stop-motion animation can truly be. Everything about the technical prowess exhibited here makes me say that this Aardman movie is probably one of the finest animated stop-motion films of all time. The attention to detail is great, the color is excellent, the movements are polished and the character design is simply extraordinary with a lot of strong choices made. All of the animals as well as humans are beautifully brought to life and the hair from both is also spectacular.

There are many great scenes here with the ending being the most endearing and the restaurant sequence probably the most memorable and hilarious. I also like how it incorporated many themes of rural vs. city life, relationship between man and animal as well as animal shelter which was explored the best. The characters are also very likable across the board with Shaun, farmer and dog being the most sympathetic. The relationship between sheep and dog is one of the highlights here as it is so cute and warm.

I have to mention what is probably the biggest strength Shaun the Sheep has which is certainly the fact that the entire picture is done with literally no spoken dialogue whatsoever. There are sound effects and music, but the characters do not speak and that choice benefits this experiment the most as it is fitting not only to its style but also because it then reminisces 1920s silent comedies. It was original and incredibly brave from the filmmakers to do that and it paid off as its execution is flawless.

Speaking of sound effects, they are awesome, bringing a lot of humor in the process. But the soundtrack is what propels it to an almost instant classic status level. The theme is so memorable and catchy and all of the score from beginning to end is beautiful and fits the movie perfectly. The editing is also top-notch as is the directing and tone. Everything here is memorable, very authentic and off-beat, clever and simply hilarious throughout the whole running time.

Speaking of flaws, there aren’t much but as I said the action can get pretty overwhelming and frustrating at times. I really wanted some more warm character moments and calm sequences instead. Also the villain is very typical in his behavior and execution whereas the chase sequence with him near the end ruined the third act for me because it went on for so long. However, those are minor flaws in an otherwise outstanding film. Comparing it to other Aardman films, it is one of their very best and definitely their best since Wallace and Gromit, that’s for sure. I have a hunch it will go down in history as one of the finest stop-motion films of all time. It truly is special.

Having spectacular animation with superb character design and great detail, beautiful score, likable characters, strong action and simply hilarious, incredibly good humor reminiscent of 1920s silent films, Shaun the Sheep Movie may have too much frenetic action which is especially present near the end, but it is not only clever and funny, but also extremely charming and endearing, brave and off-beat and it is one of the very best Aardman movies and certainly their best since “Wallace and Gromit”.

My Rating – 4.5

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It Follows (2015)

It Follows

It Follows

it Follows Review

It Follows is a 2015 horror film directed by David Robert Mitchell and it is one of a few horror movies in recent years that has received critical acclaim and rightfully so.

It Follows follows a girl who is chased by a supernatural being after a sexual encounter she had. She then learns that she can pass it to someone else as the occurrences of these creatures appear when sleeping with a person who already has it. Afterwards she goes with her friends from place to place into hiding and preparing to destroy it. The plot is fairly simple, but it is executed perfectly with quite stellar script. What I find fascinating is its powerful theme which is too obvious and that is the STD aspect to it. The fear and panic caused by it is a great touch and a reason why this plot works so well as a parallel to those serious deceases.

What is also great is the fact that the movie is very smart and rather original not only in its execution but also in character interactions and behavior. It Follows has an authentic premise never quite seen before and it uses that to its fullest advantage. The detail is great with the creatures and their properties. Although I found the zombie appearance of the beings extremely annoying and very typical along with their slow movements which was also seen countless times before, their design nevertheless changes throughout the movie, from male to female, from older to younger, and that was interesting as is the fact that only she can see them but her friends can’t, but still help her and they are with her from start to finish, trusting her. I found that really wonderful and refreshing. The characters thankfully never make stupid mistakes and ridiculous decisions and they stick together which was fascinating to me and a pleasant surprise. The movie still has some empty scenes with just staring and coming closer, but it is mostly devoid of that. But the thing that surprised me the most has to be the fact that almost the entire movie happens at daylight. The whole of it! That was really brave and fresh from the filmmakers and I hope others would take note from them for their movies because this is certainly the way to go.

The characterization is solid as is the acting. The main character is rather well developed and although her friends are not, they are still with her throughout the whole movie showing a strong friendship which was great to see. The performances are solid across the board. Not one of them was cringe-worthy and Maika Monroe as the protagonist is especially good portraying the fear and madness in a great way.

As for the scares themselves, there are only a couple of true scares, but nothing too frightening which definitely hurts the movie. It should have been more terrifying. But it compensates for it with beautifully created atmosphere of utter despair and sickness which can definitely be felt in the air. The cinematography is also quite good, but it was frustrating to me with sometimes too frequent moving camera shots and wide angles. The direction is excellent and quite stupendous as is the editing. It really is a tightly edited little film with never a spare or dull moment.

Engrossing from start to finish, authentic in its plot and smart in is execution with not only realistic character interactions and behavior but also with most of the time spent on daylight which is really refreshing, It Follows has some annoying stares and empty scenes as well as typical creature design and behavior and it is never truly frightening, but it has a stellar script, a wonderfully created atmosphere filled with utter despair and madness, evident theme, solid acting and it is above all a smart in its authentic horror film which is really rare and it should be seen by horror and non-horror fans alike.

My Rating – 4

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Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Back to the Future Part II

Back to the Future Part II Movie Review

Coming out four years after the original, Robert Zemeckis directed Back to the Future Part II in 1989, successfully making a franchise in the process. And he made quite a solid film, if vastly inferior compared to the first one.

First, the plot. It is both the movie’s strongest as well as its weakest point. It is strong because it benefits from absolutely terrific world-building and in terms of that and the sheer epic scope, it certainly trumps its predecessor. But it is weak because it is way too convoluted and of course too action-oriented. The plot is simple from the beginning, but it quickly gets too complicated, highly unlikely to happen and very hard to follow. And it also gets tired near the end and even boring. Yes, all of that action can put you to sleep for it has action after action with no still moments whatsoever which is really troublesome and annoying. And the ending is very cheesy with the Old West along with of course being a not so successful call for a sequel as the first Back to the Future was and did it wonderfully. This ending is everything but, it is very idiotic and I wished for it to end soon how poor it was.

But the first act is what drives this film with a wonderfully depicted year of 2015. Yes, it is foolish and too fictional of course, but it is pure fun and it fits into this franchise and world perfectly. The world it creates is extraordinary here, brimming with detail and life. And the whole film, not just the first act, is a lot of pure-hearted and spirited fun. I love all the details from the future, from the games to the billboards to the hoverboards to the flying cars. It is all executed perfectly due to fantastic world-building, terrific imagination, an eye for detail and naturally magnificent visual effects. The effects are not only stunning but also incredibly advanced which made the movie age like fine wine unlike so many other 1980s films to which time was not kind to at all.

The acting is top-notch. Everyone gave a respectable performance although I found Thomas F. Wilson’s performance too theatrical and goofy and even stupid at times and quite mediocre. And his character of Biff is very poorly realized and idiotic. As for the other characters, Doc is once again excellent and I would even go so far as to say that he is better here than before owing to more screen time and better characterization. But Marty suffered a bit here not only because Michael J. Fox is clearly older, but also because the character itself is pretty weakly developed here and boring to say the least.

Technically, the movie looks splendid. The effects are superb, the direction is solid and the imagery and cinematography are both very good. However, the pacing is bad because it goes for too long, it somehow feels repetitive and, as I said earlier, it can become boring due to endless action sequences.

With a terrific first act, amazing world-building, a lot of detail and heart, great imagination and solid performances, Back to the Future Part II also has way too much action which can get pretty annoying at times, too convoluted story, too frenetic tone and a bloated running time. It is way inferior to the original, but as a sequel, it is quite solid after all and offering a lot of spirited and light-hearted fun.

My Rating – 3,5

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Paddington (2014)

Paddington

Paddington Review

Paddington is a 2014 British family film directed by Paul King and, although the trailers weren’t promising, it proved to be quite a good film and even magnificent in its own right.

The first thing I noticed about this film is how old-fashioned and traditional it is. It reminded me of all those feel-good family films of the nineties that I grew up with. And the story is, although quite predictable and familiar in that fashion, nevertheless extremely entertaining and engaging from start to finish.

The technical aspects in this movie are absolutely terrific and they definitely help elevate the film to the next level. The direction is surprisingly good, but the art direction and production design is simply astonishing. The Muppets meets Wes Anderson – that’s what this film has been called by some. I honestly think that might be true, but it has to be more of the former, because I absolutely hate Wes Anderson’s films , they are just not for me, so that connection definitely seemed odd to me. But the evident attention to detail that went into this production is amazing to behold and all those wonderful details help the film feel like such a well crafted and rarely well thought-out children’s film.

The next big thing that is certainly a huge plus for this movie is its humor. Wow, never would I expect something like this. The humor is so charming, endearing and filled with so many goofy moments and great lines that can really make you laugh. What of course makes it so good is the fact that this movie can be enjoyed by people of all ages and that is due to the inclusion of various kinds of humor that range from goofy slapstick to British dry humor to pop-culture references. Add to that some excellent messages and wonderful characters and you’ve got a beautiful distraction for the whole family.

Speaking of the characters, the character development here is dealt with surprisingly well. The protagonist is simply endearing, the whole Brown family is interesting and the villain is somewhat funny. But the relationship between Paddington and the father is what drives the film and makes it so human with all the nuances in his character. The acting is also pretty good, not fantastic, but fine nevertheless and serves the purpose.

The pacing and editing are also quite good, but the action is overwhelming and while I know that today’s audiences like that, I dislike too much action and this is the same problem I’ve had with the Toy Story trilogy in that the story, characters and everything is so good, but there is not nearly enough quiet, character-driven or emotional moments to compensate for all that overwhelming action. But that, along with familiar storyline, is the only big flaw I found in this film. Everything else is unexpectedly phenomenal and charming.

All in all, Paddington is a proof that a family film can still be done if it is made with proper care, right amount of humor with all of its kinds, effervescent characters and charming tone and details. It is one of the biggest surprises of 2014 and one of the year’s best films for children.

My Reting – 4

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Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland Review

A year after Cinderella and second of Disney’s high-quality animated features released in the fifties is Alice in Wonderland. Released in 1951, it was not a critical darling and that hasn’t particularly changed over the years, but in my opinion, it is one of the studio’s very best films.

Because of its episodic nature, I am going to review from first plot element to the last one (as I did with package films) instead of the usual per characters, music and other aspects.

It starts with Alice bored from listening the book her sister is reading to her, she sees the White Rabbit and follows her to the rabbit hole. This beginning is perfectly edited, it is not too long nor too short, and it introduces us to the character of Alice wonderfully. Next, the journey through the hole is remarkable in terms of its animation and visual style. The next couple of sequences with size-altering food are very faithful to the source material and well-done. Tweedledee and Tweedledum sequence could have easily been a detour, but thanks to their tale of The Walrus and the Carpenter, it becomes more than a detour – it is one of the darkest and most heartbreaking scenes ever to come from Disney because of the poor oysters. It gave me nightmare as a child and it is not easy to watch even now. Needless to say, it is one of the most underrated moments from the studio.

The sequence with Bill the Lizard and the flowers are both interesting, but after those scenes comes Caterpillar in what is one of the highlights of the film. It is, as always, visually stunning and hallucinatory. And the character of Caterpillar is the first truly great and memorable character that really gives Alice a headache, but also moves the plot forward with his mushroom advice. The next scene introduces us with the next great character – The Cheshire Cat. He is definitely the best part of the movie and by far the best character. He has a bunch of memorable lines, interesting animation design, great voice work and is quite funny.

The part with Mad Hatter is one of the best and most memorable parts in the movie thanks to superb the Unbirthday Song which is the finest song in the film, excellent character of Mad Hatter and terrific dialogue exchange which was wonderfully taken from the book. The next part where Alice gets lost in the woods is the added scene not present in the book and it was a superb move because it slows the pace which was much needed and gives some character development for the protagonist.

The final part of the film is of course The Queen of Hearts. She is also underrated and, while not one of the best, she is one of the better villains and her catchphrase “Off with her head!” is easily recognizable. The problem with this part is that the trial is a bit extended, but the strength is the villain and the ending where it all collapses and Alice wakes up – it is again done with visual splendor and fast pace.

The animation, while not quite refined like ‘Snow White’s and ‘Pinochio’s, is nevertheless very interesting and original. It achieves the whimsical and hallucinatory feel which perfectly accompanies what goes on the screen and is a perfect way to film this particular book. It is, along with ‘Fantasia’, the weirdest animation for Disney and it may be the reason why it flopped when first released. But it is a joy to watch and as world building goes, it is one of the very best from the studio – it transports you to the world wonderfully with great animation and attention to detail and is a big reason why this film works so well.

The soundtrack of the film is a curious one in that it has both the shortest and longest songs meaning that the songs are one of the shortest in the Disney canon, but there are however fifteen of them which definitely has to be the largest number of songs ever for Disney. Because there are so many songs, many are too short and not particularly memorable to mention. But there are also a couple of truly superb songs, the best are The Unbirthday Song and Painting the Roses Red, both are very good, catchy and whimsical, but also unfortunately very underrated. In a World of My Own is forgettable, but Alice in Wonderland and I’m Late are solid, All in the Golden Afternoon is somehow different in its melody from the other songs and it is enjoyable while A-E-I-O-U is a visual treat.

The story is adapted in a wonderful way. Some boring characters from the book such as The Duchess are removed and the scene in the woods is added which is a great plot point to add to slow things down. For all these reasons and because it visually is a wonder and because it is very faithful, it is undoubtedly the best adaptation ever of this particular book.

There are many small problems in this film. The character development is not particularly good and not all characters are memorable, but it is somehow understandable because there are so many of them. There are also too many songs, many of which are forgettable, and the pacing is problematic – it is too fast-paced and frenetic at times.

In the end, it may have some pacing problems and there are too many songs, but Alice in Wonderland also has many memorable characters, excellent quotes, great world-building and it is a visual treat from start to finish, the best adaptation of the novel so far and one of the very best and most underrated Disney films ever.

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Breaking Away (1979)

Breaking Away Movie Review

Breaking Away Movie Review

Breaking Away is a 1979 coming-of-age film that is regarded as a classic within its genre, but to me it is a perfect textbook example of everything wrong you can do in this particular genre.

First, the story. It follows four teenagers and specifically the protagonist’s obsession with Italian, his relationship with his parents and of course his cycling competition in the end. All of these are delivered in such a cliched and entirely predictable fashion that it really starts to bother you. The script is so weak and barely ever moving away from the formula that I honestly cannot understand how it ever got away with it. But it somehow did, leaving critics rave how amazing it is when it frustratingly isn’t. But the ending is so typical that it is sickening. The whole sports drama in the end is so cliched and endlessly boring that they should have cut that whole bad part that definitely ruined the film.

Secondly and most importantly, the characters. They are, simply put, annoying and very unlikable. I have to be honest. They are developed, at least half of them, but are not sympathetic at all. Moocher and Cyril are barely developed and Mike is a typical Dennis Quaid character meaning that he is cocky and annoying. Then of course is the protagonist Dave Stoller who is the biggest reason why I found the film to be weak, he ruined the movie without a doubt. His behavior and voice are off-putting, but his obsession with Italian and constant speaking in the respectable language takes the cake as the most annoying thing in the entire picture. And his type of relationship with a girlfriend for the time Katherine is so cliched and has been used countless times. And the filmmakers never gave me a reason why the rest of the guys would hang out with him as they are obviously so different from him in both personality and interests. He is the biggest, major problem here and he is the weakest link. He is so annoying and even obnoxious at times.

So why do I give this film a passing mark if I hated the characters and story so much and they are the two most important aspects in each and every movie? Well, for two reasons. First, there are the technical aspects which are all excellent. The direction is good and the acting is phenomenal across the board. Every performance is great which is a big thing having in mind most of the actors were practically unknown at the time. The score is of course great, using the classical music at appropriate times thus achieving excellent editing as well. Technically, this movie is splendid and it is such a shame that this weak story got such a fantastic and professional treatment.

The second saving grace here is the father Ray, so wonderfully portrayed here by superb Paul Dooley. He brings the necessary humor to the film with his very amusing lines and comedic behavior. His relationship with his son is beautiful and is incredibly realistic and rarely portrayed so grounded as in this movie. The dialogue sequences between the two are wonderful and they are certainly the highlights here. They are filled with heart and excellent lines and beautiful emotion. They certainly lift the whole thing and it is a shame there wasn’t more of it.

In conclusion, Breaking Away has a superb father-son relationship, some warm humor and it is very well-made, but the script is so cliched and the characters are so annoying that they ruin the whole film which becomes unfortunately very disappointing and even overrated.

My Rating – 3

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