Friday, December 30, 2011

We Bought A Zoo

Cameron Crowe's best movie since Almost Famous

My rating: 4 and a half reels out of 5

The movie opens with Benjamin Mee (Matt...Damon) who is an adventure writer. He is full of life, seeks adventure, and has instant charisma. Someone you are easily drawn to and want to know more about. Now a struggling single father trying to raise his two young kids, he seeks a fresh start and revive family spirit by moving his family out to the countryside to renovate and re-build a struggling zoo.

We Bought A Zoo is light and heart-felt drama from Cameron Crowe. It's his first movie that is an adaptation. From the book We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a young family, a broke down zoo, and the 200 animals that change their lives forever. While it's not a movie that's based on Crowe's personal experiences, it's a story centered around family and inspiration. A perfect fit for Cameron Crowe. After going through Aline Brosh Mckenna's script, Crowe infuses his personal touch. Of course, Crowe always adds the best selection of songs and he brings out the depth and reason of his characters especially the main character, Benjamin Mee.

Matt Damon gives the character Benjamin Mee a lot of enthusiasm, optimism, and humor. Like Crowe, he is a perfect fit for the movie. Surrounding him is Scarlett Johansson, who plays the a down-to-earth zookeeper who has dedicated her life to the animals of the zoo. Thomas Haden Church, plays Duncan Mee, the play-it-safe brother of Benjamin Mee. Dylan Mee, played by Colin Ford, is very combative with his father. And Rosie Mee, adorably played by newcomer Maggie Elizabeth Jones. Rosie, like her father; is lively, full of joy, imagination and optimism. It's a little reminiscent of the kid from Jerry Maguire except a hundred times more adorable (and a hundred times less annoying). Cameron Crowe is also reunited with Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous). I honestly forgot he was in the film after seeing his name in the opening credits, he is an underrated actor. The movie also stars Angus Macfadyen (Braveheart), playing Peter MacCreedy, the zoo's enclosure designer. Elle Fanning (Super 8), playing Lily Miska. And John Michael Higgins (Best in Show), playing antagonistic zoo inspector, Walter Ferris. A huge cast but a great cast for an inspiring movie.

You can tell a lot of love went into this film. It comes out through its actors and its story. But it's not all joy, there is some sadness to the film too. The characters go through struggles. The family deals with loss. Ben struggles financially. One character deals with her feelings as she experiences her first crush. The family and zookeepers struggle against the one who impedes their goals of re-opening the zoo. The characters are lovable and you want them to succeed. The humanity of the film is overcoming adversity. We Bought A Zoo is genuine, optimistic, and hopeful. It's a movie that will leave you smiling at the end.

You will probably like this movie if:
1. You like heart-filled comedy dramas.
2. You like Cameron Crowe.

You will probably not like this film if:
1. You find nice people boring.
2. You don't like to be smothered with good hearted feelings.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Young Adult

Better than I though it would be.

My Rating: 3 and a half reels out of 5

Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids. 

Mavis Gary is not the kind of person I encountered in high school. She seems more like the kind of stuck-up high school brat I would see in movies of high school. Her plan to reclaim her ex-boyfriend is a little farfetched. It's not often you see a film about a person who disregards a marriage and family for their own selfish reasons and it's hard to sell such a film to an audience, but the filmmakers make it work. 

Diablo Cody (best known for writing Juno) does a good job in crafting the characters and the world they live in. Just imagine a small town filled with the people who were never going to leave. There is a history and depth to each character that's a little different but still plays on stereotypes of cliques in high school. Director Jason Reitman brings out the best in the actors, but when you already have a great actress like Charlize Theron, it's one less thing to worry about. 

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary. It's the subtleties that really make the character. From her expression to the way she reacts to her environment like simply taking a bottle of glue and sniffing it. Charlize takes an unlikable character and makes the audience sympathize with her. In the trailers, she definitely appears as a hated person and the only thing that would bring a person to watch such a movie is curiosity. 

How is she going to achieve this goal of hers? Is she insane? Is somebody going to tell her to just grow the f*ck up? Curiosity is what brought me in and I left with something a little more than I expected.

You'll probably like this movie if:
1. You like Charlize Theron movies.
2. You like Jason Reitman movies.

You'll probably not like this movie if:
1. High school was a time you like to forget.
2. You can't watch a movie about a unlikeable character. 

The Darkest Hour

I felt dumber after watching this.

My rating: 1 and a half reel out of 5

In Moscow, five survivors of an alien attack seek to find refuge. The unfortunate thing about some of the survivors is that they are a little on the dumb side. There is a scene where a couple of the characters open the trunk of an unlocked police car with a crowbar. I'm not familiar with Russian culture, but I'm pretty sure they would have a trunk release switch somewhere in the car. But the characters obviously reflect the intelligence of this plot-hole filled unintentionally hilarious movie. 

The Darkest Hour is another sad attempt of alien invaders coming to earth and wreaking havoc. The aliens are near invisible. If you watch closely enough you can see a flicker of light or the surge of electricity as they pass by unpowered instruments. See it quick enough and you just might survive being turned instantly into dust. If you're one of the main actors, you'll luckily survive a little longer in the aliens' grasp as they decide to drag you a little bit before they do you in. There are other limitations to the aliens but some of these points are forgotten in order to create more action and speed the story along. 

There are some good things about this film. Cinematography was nice, they made the film look good. They used the science behind Faraday Cages correctly. Special effects are pretty good. Um...the film is short. But among cheesy dialogue, plot holes, and "WTF" moments, these values hardly salvage this movie. 

You'll probably like this movie if:
1. You like B-movies. 
2. Your expectations are really low. 
3. You've never seen a movie in your life!
4. You want a good laugh.

You will probably not like this movie if:
1. You want a certain level of intelligence in a movie. 


A short review because I saw it a month and half ago and it's a little hard to remember. That should something about the film itself.

My rating: 3 reels out of 5. 

King Hyperion has declared war on humanity and marches across Greece to find a secret weapon that could unleash the Titans and destroy humanity. A mortal man named Theseus, secretly chosen by Zeus, must lead his people against him. 

From what I remember lots of cool action with bits of super slow-motion mixed in and that's about it.

Oh, and I believe there was some female nudity.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

J Edgar

It's not often I say this, but this movie was boring.

My rating: 2 and a half reels out of 5

J Edgar is a biographical drama about the life of John Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI for nearly 50 years. A man who was both feared and admired but held secrets that would ruin his image, career, and his life. 

The secrets that J Edgar had seem a little tame by today's standards. Secrets about powerful U.S. figures? Those are big secrets but J Edgar as a cross dresser? Meh. Was J Edgar secretly gay? Meh. The movie's main focus was J Edgar rather the FBI itself which seemed to me would've been the most interesting aspect of history to see. The filmmakers seemed like they were torn in different directions on how to portray J Edgar and did not fully invest themselves on ideas, such as J Edgar's rumored cross dressing behavior or his sexuality. 

The movie spans from when J Edgar first became director to his death. That is a lot of time to cover and there is a lot of skipping around. Some side stories are only touched upon and you are left to fill in the blanks with your imagination. And that is just too much information to leave for the viewer to decide. In particular, the relationships around J Edgar such as his right hand man, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and his secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts). 

Leo does a great job in portraying J Edgar, but it seems like everyone is subdued around J Edgar, like everyone was told to act scared around J Edgar. Armie Hammer, the actor who played those pesky twins in The Social Network, stands out among the other actors. But my favorite bit of acting actually comes from Jeffrey Donovan (the spy in the show Burn Notice), who portrays Robert Kennedy. A small role, but fun to see his portrayal of RFK. And as J Edgar, Clyde Tolson, and Helen Gandy get older, they get drowned in make-up that becomes a little too distracting. 

As much as I can enjoy dramatic movies, this one could not sustain my interest. I found my mind wandering and was starving for action. When the action does come, it's very little. By the end, it was hard to sympathize with the character of J Edgar the filmmakers portrayed to us and I was glad to get out of the theatre.

You'll probably like this movie if:
1. You like biographical dramas. 
2. You like Leonardo Dicaprio.

You probably won't like this movie if:
1. You like a fluid storyline. 
2. You are bored by talking movies. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pulp Fiction in Chronological Order

Take an unconventional movie and put it in chronological order and what do you get? A movie that is still as enjoyable.

Post-modernism takes a back seat. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prometheus trailer

Can't believe it will be nearly 30 years since the last time Ridley Scott made a science fiction film. 

Remind you of another trailer?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer

Return to Middle-Earth!!

It's only a year it next December yet? 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Action, that's a little hard to believe is possible at times.

My rating: 3 and a half reels out of 5

Initial things I heard about this film: "it's intense," "I didn't realize a person could survive that long without breathing" and "better than the first two, tonight I jump on a couch and go crazy with scientology." The film met my expectations. Just like the other films the plot is just a little hard to follow and there seems to be some plot holes as well but when you have this much action and intensity, it doesn't matter.

Ethan Hunt is back, but this time him all of IMF has been disavowed after they've been implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin and him and his team have to go rogue in order to clear their names.

Ghost Protocol is the kind of film that you can leave the theatre for a minute or have your mind drift off and come back to the film and feel like you haven't missed anything. It will take a second to catch up, but that's ok. The soul of this movie is the action and there is plenty of it. The kind of action that keeps your attention, where it's possible the hero could potentially die. He is evenly matched with his nemesis and it takes every ounce of will to beat them. And just like the other movies, the action is nearly impossible to really happen in real life, which is another draw to the action this franchise provides.

The film is also the debut of Brad Bird's live action film. He is better know for movies like The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Iron Giant. Whether animated or live action, Brad Bird definitely knows how to craft a movie together, especially an action movie.

Ghost Protocol is definitely a worthy action movie, but just like the previous films, it's a little hard to garner a second viewing for me. I don't own any of the mission impossible movies, but if I came across it on TV, I would stop and watch it.

You'll probably enjoy this film if:
1. You like the previous Mission Impossible films.
2. You like action movies.

You probably won't like the film if:
1. You didn't like the previous Mission Impossible films.
2. You like a little bit of believability in your action.

The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

"When Gotham is in ashes, then you have my permission to die."

I know, I know, I usually try to avoid trailers, but this movie's promotional campaign is on overdrive and I don't know if I can avoid it. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 - The Cinescape

Another filmography video that's edited very well. Nothing sums of the year's movies like a 6 and half minute video.

It amazes me how two different editors can basically take the same footage and create two different compelling pieces that reach a set of emotions and keep you wanting more. 

Filmography 2011

Last year, genrocks amazed with a filmography video (Filmography 2010) that showed us the beauty of cinema whether the movie was well received or not. And now they're back with an even sleeker edit. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

G.I. Joe: Retaliation Trailer

Honestly, looks like it could be a fun movie. 

If anything, it has Dwayne Johnson.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol similarities...anyone?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

An unsettling drama, that may or may not be messing with your mind.

My rating: 3 and a half reels out of 5 

From the beginning of the movie, there is an uneasiness about this movie that only increases as the movie starts to wear on. The uneasiness will turn into frustration, and eventually an unsettling and disturbing feeling. It's certainly a well done film to evoke such emotions in a viewer, but it's hardly a film that would garner a second viewing. 

The story centers around Martha who runs away from an abusive cult and tries to reclaim a normal life while living with her sister and brother-in-law. Haunted by painful memories, Martha's increasing paranoia and erratic behavior alarms and frustrates them.

Martha is played by Elizabeth Olsen, the lesser known younger sister of the Olsen twins. But after her performance, she'll hopefully get a little more recognition. She reminds me of a young Vera Farmiga. The leader of the cult is played by John Hawkes, who seems to be able to charm Martha and sucks her in. He nicknames her Marcy May because that's what she looks like to him. John Hawkes has become the new creepy guy to cast in movies. A role I hope he starts to shy away from because he can be disturbing and haunt your dreams. 

And he clearly is haunting Martha. The match cut editing and juxtaposition of scenes moves the viewer effortlessly through past and present or in another case, Martha's conscious and memories. This movie came out about a year late, the mind bending movies were last year such as Inception, Shutter Island, and Black Swan. You can make a good debate about whether it was all in Martha's head or not. But considering the dark nature of the film and unsettling feeling you feel afterwards, it's hard to convince someone to go watch this film so that you can make an argument with them. 

You'll probably like this film if:
1. You like independent cinema.
2. You like mind-bending movies. 

You'll probably not like this movie if:
1. You typically like happy movies. 
2. You don't like to feel disturbed by a movie. 

"Oh Martha...why you so crazy?"

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Descendants

A father tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident and falls into a coma.

My rating: 4 and a half reels out of 5

The Descendants begins with the over explanatory voiceover of Matt King, who explains that life on Hawaii is no different from anywhere. Families are just as dysfunctional and tears are shed just like anywhere else. Unlike everyone else, not everyone inherits land when their ancestors marry into royalty and has the option from making millions from selling said land. Besides that, Matt King is like everyone else. He has two out of control daughters and is suffering from a loveless marriage, but all things change when his wife falls into a coma after a boating accident. And once the voiceover work stops, the story is finally unfolding naturally in front of us. 

George Clooney always manages to bring the best out of his characters in his movies, even though he always looks the same. He is truly an old school type actor, something like Cary Grant. One of the actresses that stands out in this movie though is Shailene Woodley who plays the daughter, Alexandra King. As a troubled daughter, she is sent away to set herself straight. When she is brought back home, she takes on a parenting type role as her father, Matt King, still has a lot to learn. She brings a sort of ferocity to the role, but with a little bit of vulnerability. She loves her father even though he has been distant from the family. 

The Descendants doesn't explore anything new. This is not the first movie about a father trying to reconnect with his children, but it does explore reconnection in a different way through confronting the man that his wife was having an affair with. Alexander Payne always does a good job in mixing humor with drama. There seems to be a certain style to all his characters in his movies. They're like the kind of people you would get really annoyed with after a while, but you're still able to sympathize and laugh with them. 

The Descendants starts out a little rough, but eventually turns into a dramedy that Alexander Payne fans are used to.

You'll like this film if:
1. You're an Alexander Payne fan.
2. You're a George Clooney fan.

You probably won't like this film if:
1. You don't like character based movies. 
2. The trailers make the movie look boring. 


Absolute perfection

My rating: 5 reels out of 5

From the opening moments, you are instantly transported to 1930s Paris. We open up to a cityscape of Paris and then the camera brings us in closer to a train station. Our attention focuses to a young man peeping through a number on a clock in the wall. He is our protagonist, he is Hugo Cabret. Hugo is an orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a train station who gets caught up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. 

Hugo is an absolute perfect movie. There was some deep thought put into every aspect of this film. The music and costume design easily reflect the time. Cinematography is stunning. The art direction is intricate, especially within the walls of the train station. Screenwriting is superb. Editing is flawless and all the cast members are the perfect fit in their roles. Martin Scorsese does a fantastic job in bringing out the best in the actors, from the extras to the major roles. 

My particular favorite roles in the film were played by ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, and Sacha Baron Cohen. ChloĆ«, best known for her roles in 500 Days of Summer and Kick Ass, brings a lot of charm and a jovial performance as Isabelle. She is going to be a force to recon with in the future and does a British accent pretty well. Ben Kingsley shows the pain and suffering in a depressed toy shop owner. And Sacha Baron Cohen intelligently acts as a station inspector; a role that could've been easily too comedically goofy, but Sacha gives the right amount of humor and humanity to the role. 

From beginning to end, I was just in awe of this film. The story is fresh and brings a mystery that is not easily solved. The movie is just a great blend of humor, drama, and mystery. The film is even more enjoyable for film buffs as a little bit of film history was incorporated in. Hugo is one of those rare films that just flat out amazes you.

You'll probably like this film if:
1. You like Scorsese films.
2. You are a film buff.

You probably won't enjoy this film if:
1. You're expecting more of a kids film.
2. It just doesn't seem like it's your kind of film.