Posted on 7/20/12 09:16 PM
With two strong central performances, a great script, and excellent use of artistic presentational tools, Good Night Good Morning is a very authentic, charming independent romance.
This movie didn't call for other-worldly performances, but believable ones, and that is exactly what it got. The two lead actors, played by Seema Rahmani and Manu Narayan, handle their dialogue with ease, never at all feeling forced or ingenuine. And since the majority of their performances are made up of the consistent delivery of dialogue, I can say nothing negative about either of the two lead performances, and considering my expectations, I can say I was actually quite impressed.
And that's what this movie is: two people talking. The conversation flows in a very natural, believable pattern, switching from topic to topic, delving into philosophy, religion, entertainment, and the nature of human relationships. But instead of films like Beyond Sunrise (which they specifically reference during the movie), this conversation is held entirely on the phone. We see the brief moment where they passingly meet in a bar, but the entirety of their relationship takes place over this single phone conversation. The supporting cast is used to sparingly, we often forget they're even in the movie in the first place. As the film progresses, everything else slips into the background; as the conversation becomes more in-depth, the connection between these two characters grows stronger.
Shot largely in black and white (with the exception of a few short flashback and fantasy sequences) and presented in split-screen. Both of these styles suit the tone of the film, making it feel both old-fashioned and technologically modern. I especially felt the use of split-screen was utilized to the film's advantage. This method allows us to see the characters' facial expressions throughout the entirety of their conversation; during every emotional moment and awkward pause, giving us the chance to see the way each character reacts during the moments when the camera normally wouldn't follow them.
I loved almost everything about this movie: The acting, writing, characters, its use of black and white, split-screen, and flashback/fantasy sequences. My only real complaint about this movie is in its lack of originality, which, as I've mentioned before on numerous occasions, still isn't too much of a concern to me. Though most people might find movies like this boring, I found it captivating. In other words, this is my kind of movie.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:13 PM
As enjoyable as the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies may have been, they never quite seemed to meet the full potential of what a Spider-Man movie was capable of. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst very poor casting choices, and Sam Raimi's added goofiness was at times entertaining, but often distracting. Spider-Man, being one of (if not) the most popular superheroes ever, deserves more. The Amazing Spider-Man is the one I've been waiting for.
In recent years the superhero genre has found a new breath of life, embracing a darkness that allows for far more layered plot and character development. This also creates a sense of danger for the characters that was previously not to be seen. While watching this movie, I found myself genuinely concerned for the lives of its characters -- something I've never experienced before in a Marvel movie. The original Spider-Man movies had no such sense of peril. Some of the characters may die, but there was never any weight behind their potentially life-threatening situations. In this movie, they somehow managed to keep me emotionally concerned at all times.
But to me, the main thing that made this movie work so well was the acting/casting. Andrew Garfield was an excellent choice. His personality and sense of humor makes for a very entertaining and likeable lead, capturing what I believe to be the essence of the character with great success. Rhys Ifans makes for an interesting and layered villain (quite reminiscent of Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2), with Emma Stone as the main love interest, and a strong supporting cast, which includes Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Denis Leary. I feel all of these actors suited their roles well, delivering memorable, believable performances.
The story may not be incredibly unique, but in taking its time setting up background for the characters and providing motivation for Spider-Man, I find it hard to argue with the results. Some of the plot-points may seem contrived, but no more than you could expect from a superhero movie -- which is something that you must keep in mind when watching this kind of movie. Regardless, The Amazing Spider-Man is about as good as I feel a superhero movie could be.
It may have been a premature reboot, but many of the mistakes of the original trilogy aren't to be found here. To compare, the only significant detail they didn't improve upon with this movie was the music. But if you find it unfair to purely compare it to the Raimi films, on its own it still stands as one of the most enjoyable superhero movies I've ever seen.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:13 PM
In order for a horror movie to work, some suspense is required. This means giving the audience enough time to comprehend the possibilities of what might happen before throwing "horror" at them. Thankfully, this isn't what this movie does. Unlike many movies that use jump-scare tactics to provide most of their horror, this movie doesn't have many moments that make you jump. In fact, it doesn't have many moments of any substance at all. Apartment 143 has minimal scares, character development, or payoff of any sort.
Before going any further, let it first be known that I am a fan of found-footage horror movies. Actually, found-footage movies of any genre. I think when used correctly, the gimmick can be used to aid the plot in introducing characters, giving documentary-like insight on their actions, and helps add realism to the story. When being told through a handheld camera, for whatever reason the action seems more plausible to me, as if it could be me holding that camera. That being said, I think the makers of this movie did not properly utilize this filmmaking method, and the result is dry, sluggish, and unoriginal. If you've seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies, you've seen this -- only those movies are actually good.
The set-up is generic. A small group of researchers are introduced by the man with the camera, who despite being the cameraman, seems to have no clue how to hold a camera still -- a cliche that has always bothered me about supposed "filmmakers" in these type of movies. They go to a family's home where 'supernatural events' (look, I can create movie titles, too!) are taking place, set up cameras, and - you guessed it - things start to get out of hand. There is genuinely nothing original about this story. The plot is so hopelessly generic, it's as if it was written by a computer program that compiles, recycles, and reuses previous screenplays and adds its own title pages.
The acting is sub-par, which can only be expected of a movie that focuses so little on its characters. I'm not entirely sure the characters are even supposed to make any connection to the viewers at all, as their presence seems to serve little more purpose than as a means to segue the story from one plot point to the next. While most found-footage movies utilize this method as a way to aid character development, this movie instead bypasses this notion, and moves straight on through to the story, eliminating any chance for the horror to successfully have any effect on the viewer. You can't feel any sense of urgency or fear for characters you're completely unfamiliar with. That's just not how it works.
To go into greater detail why the horror in this movie doesn't work, most of this is due to the camerawork. The cinematography is too aggressive. When something shocking or horrifying is supposed to be happening, if you can't see it because they're continuously waving the camera around at dangerously high speeds and shaking it back and forth, we eventually lose interest and stop trying to be scared completely. Horror requires some participation from the viewers. The filmmakers need to incentivize the audience, or it simply won't work. Watching Apartment 143, I felt no need to even attempt to be scared. Granted, there was one moment I found genuinely creepy, but that didn't even happen until the last 5 seconds of the movie. And that was a cheap scare, to say the least, that quite possibly only stood out to me due to the lack of effectiveness of the horror that preceded it. And it was shot with a camera being held in place, only slightly moved by a mechanical motor. See where I'm getting at?
All things considered, this isn't a "bad" movie, per se, it's just a deeply flawed one. And the flaws stem from almost every single aspect of the movie. I would say "watch it for yourself", but I can't really recommend it. As I previously mentioned, if you've seen the Paranormal Activity movies, you've seen this same basic plot played out already, and more effectively. And if you didn't like that series, I would definitely not recommend this, as it is basically just a cheap, less effective knock-off. But it did have one thing going for it -- it wasn't very long. Whoop-de-doo.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:13 PM
When I first saw trailers for this movie, I thought it looked like it would be nothing more than a chaotic, cluttered, mess of CGI explosions... First impressions aren't always right.
Superhero movies are a tired genre. Nearly every one follows the same story structure; brief and uninspired back story, discovery of superpowers or abilities, unnecessary romantic entanglement, convenient introduction of a villain at the same time as the creation of the hero, etc. Look up just about any superhero movie (especially from the Marvel cannon) and that is what you'll get. But where other superhero movies spend most of their time with these generic set-ups, The Avengers both doesn't want, or have the need of these rules. All of these characters have been introduced in their own films, so what we have here is the culmination of a series of generally lackluster movies, including Captain America: The First Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man 1 & 2, and the result is better than I could have possibly hoped for.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, who also co-wrote The Cabin In The Woods (another of this year's best films so far), Whedon manages to blend humor into the action to great effect. This is probably the funniest conventional superhero movie I've ever seen. Despite the incredible action sequences and top-of-the-line special effects, to me it was the comedic elements that won me over. Instead of taking itself too seriously all the time, this movie knew when it could be funny and when it needed to be serious without making radical tonal shifts.
This movie succeeds on so many levels. Along with perfectly blending action, suspense, comedy, and drama, Whedon also manages to give every central character adequate screen time, all the while understanding that several of these characters have definite limitations in how functional they could conceivably be -- let's be serious here, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America are in no way going to be as useful at the world as Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk. And thanks, yet again, to Whedon's excellent writing, plot convenience rarely enters into the script. This is the case especially with Hawkeye, who for the entire duration of the movie I was fearing the script would find some convenient use for his incredible marksmanship, e.g., a far-off, pin-sized target which needed to be hit with great precision during a brief window of time. Instead of leaving the movie thinking "well, wasn't THAT convenient", you might leave the movie saying "that was AWESOME!".
Another major difference that set this movie apart was the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk. Not having seen The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton, I cannot attest to his performance, but I can say that found Ruffalo to be a vast improvement over Eric Bana from the 2003 Ang Lee incarnation. Of course Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark dominates the cast, reminding us once again why the Iron Man movies are the best of the prequel series. Stark's brash confidence and sense of humor allows for excellent chemistry with the entire cast, serving as the cornerstone of the movie. Tom Hiddleston's performance is also a standout, yet again turning in a great villainous performance as Loki.
With the possible exception of The Dark Knight, I would be inclined to say this is the best superhero movie I've ever seen. But where Nolan went with a dark, moody tone with his film, Whedon went with a brighter, more exciting approach, making The Avengers less brooding, but more entertaining. It may stand as being one of the best movies of the year come December, there's no way of knowing that at this point. But one thing is for sure -- it's the most entertaining so far.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:12 PM
Interesting visuals, compellingly catatonic performances, and a dark, brooding musical score blend together brilliantly to make Beyond The Black Rainbow one of the most intriguing and hypnotic movies of the year.
Much of this film features lengthy, meandering sequences filled with striking imagery and brooding electronic music. Was there any deep meaning to these scenes and the strange visuals found within? At the risk of sounding completely incompetent, honestly, I have no idea. Perhaps these scenes take place solely in the mind of the characters -- who, for various reasons, find themselves escaping into a reality far more terrifying than their own. Or maybe the director just thought they looked cool and needed a way to fill out the movie's running time. Regardless, this is a compelling movie to look at, in the very least.
There are very few actors in this movie, but the few that are there make the most of the material they're given. In a way, the acting matches the visuals. Every actor delivers their lines in a hesitant, somber tone, giving lingering glances with vacant expression, seemingly devoid of any emotion; in a different movie these actors would be far less effective, but their performances work perfectly here. No, the acting is not great, but everyone involved perform their roles in a way that effectively complements and suits the movie around them. In a way, that's what makes this movie work so well -- nothing feels out of place.
The musical score largely consists of a deep, electronic humming, giving the entire movie a haunting atmosphere which I found deeply unsettling. On the surface, this could hardly be viewed as a straight-up horror movie, but the deeply unsettling nature of this film makes it far more effective than most horror movies I've seen. What it lacks in story and character development, it more than makes up for in atmospheric tension. The music is a key component of this and, as a result, I found myself uneasy throughout the entire film.
This is not a movie for everyone. With the acting, visuals, and music all working to create a single, fluid design, it should come as no surprise that most people will either love, or hate this movie. I can easily see 95% of viewers being turned off by the slow, haunting tone of the film, with the other 5% truly admiring its artistic quality. And, as is the case with most "love it or hate it" movies, I find myself riding somewhere near the middle, both admiring its strengths and resenting its flaws. Though I was never bored at any point during the movie, I felt at times it was moving far too slow for its own good, so it struck me as odd that the film would end on such an abrupt note. Much like this review.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:12 PM
This is the least like Pixar that I have ever seen one of their movies. A massive improvement over last year's Cars 2 (which was something of an abomination that I found impossible to sit all the way through), Brave still doesn't quite stand up to the rest of their catalog -- with the additional notable exception of A Bug's Life. Fans of Disney, especially, should be pleased, as both in tone and content this movie seems far more like their work than Pixar. I don't believe this to be a particularly bad thing, but I feel it's worth noting.
The visuals are, of course, incredible. From the realistic landscapes to the finely-detailed individual hairs on the heroine's head, this movie has wonderful animation. In this way, Brave feels very much like Pixar's work, meeting every standard they have set in terms of pure visual excellence. Even if you find certain aspects of the movie flawed or useless (more details on that coming soon), you should at least be able to appreciate the brilliant work the animators put into producing a beautiful looking movie.
The voice-work is quite good, Macdonald and Connolly being particular standouts. Using actual Scottish voice actors for several of the lead roles was an excellent choice, one that could have ended poorly had they instead hired actors with ingenuine accents. To me, it's decisions like this that set Disney/Pixar movies above the rest; few animated movies anymore feature their level of attention to detail. My one complaint in this vein would be their sporadic use of more contemporary music during montage sequences that felt very out of place, but this is easily forgiven.
Now, onto my major complaint with this movie: the second act. The first 30-40 minutes are a brilliant set-up to a potentially great story. The characters are interesting and the scenery is breathtaking, but the path they choose to take with the story during the following 15-20 minutes is quite lackluster. It does pick back up after a while, but during this brief segment I found myself in awe of the uninspired direction the film had taken. To avoid spoiling any of the events that take place, let me simply make this observation: Animals aren't inherently funny. This particular segment of the movie, in my humble opinion, only goes to prove that.
In conclusion, this movie isn't phenomenal, but it's still quite good. There are a few annoyances along the way, but the movie's (generally) good sense of humor, gorgeous scenery, and strong voice-work make it quite enjoyable. And I imagine younger audiences might find the many instances of animal humor at least mildly amusing, so keeping in mind the intended audience of the movie, I'm willing to cut it some slack.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:11 PM
One of the best horror/action/sci-fi/comedy/dramas you'll ever see, The Cabin In The Woods is incredibly entertaining, inventive, and totally one-of-a-kind.
Very much a movie that caters to my reviewing style of not revealing any major plot points of the movie I'm writing about, this is still not the kind of movie that could easily be spoiled for you, regardless of what you may know about it beforehand. Though the twists near the end may come as a surprise to someone who has not already had the plot revealed to them (as I would find it hard for them not to be surprised -- at least to some extent), it would be hard to put it all into context without having seen the build-up. This is very much a movie that must be seen to be believed. A cliche phrase, I admit, but still applicable.
For a movie so entrenched in the horror genre, The Cabin In The Woods is very difficult to classify as horror itself. It plays with various cliches, and even gives its own unique reasoning behind the existence of these tendencies as opposed to simply pointing out their existence, but never seems to be presented as horror movie on its own terms. You couldn't even consider it a parody, for despite providing laughs at the expense of horror stereotypes, it's hard not to take the subject entirely seriously. This movie may very well change the way you look at generic horror/slasher films of the past -- for you see, characters in these movies don't truly have control of their actions. It goes much deeper than that.
Most of my complaints surrounding this movie revolve around moments that happen near the very end. Though I feel after the significant change of pace that occurs near the beginning of the third act, the way it all eventually concluded was perfectly satisfactory. But I couldn't help but to feel the movie, as a whole, seemed to forget its place and struggled to find an adequate way to end the story. It was as if the movie was continuously trying to one-up itself. Regardless, as I look back on it, I can't see it wrapping up the story in a more satisfactory way, and considering how impossible it would have been to predict the outcome, my minor complaints should hold very little weight. In other words, no matter how you may feel about the ending, at least it wasn't predictable.
This is not a performance-driven movie by any means, but all involved do the most they can with their roles, successfully absorbing stereotype and providing good entertainment. If the characters at times feel like cardboard cut-outs, don't be surprised. They were intended to be that way. This being the case, no single performance stands out above the rest, but rather all work together as a whole to enhance the effectiveness of the story: much like the individual aspects of the plot.
When it comes to pure entertainment value, this is one of the most fun movies I've seen all year. With a wickedly dark sense of humor, plenty of gore, action, human drama, and a little bit of sci-fi thrown in, there are few demographics this movie doesn't hit. It's not particularly scary, though there are a few moments that will make you jump, making it difficult to consider a horror movie, but isn't focused enough on being any other genre for me to consider it action, comedy, sci-fi, or even drama.
So now, on to the most difficult part of the review; to collect my thoughts and give it a rating. Just as this movie is impossible to attach a single genre to, I also find it impossible to give a rating. But to summarize my opinions, I was completely entertained throughout the entire running time, I appreciated its intentions, and was very impressed in its execution. Minor complaints aside, this is one of, if not the most, entertaining movies I've seen all year, and one I can definitely see myself revisiting at some point in the near-future. Highly recommended.
ORIGINAL RATING: N/A
Posted on 7/20/12 09:11 PM
Entertaining, relatable, and miraculously plausible, Chronicle is one of the best superhero movies I've ever seen and up to this point, the best movie of the year.
Found footage films have become generic and superheroes have grown stale, so seeing a movie that combines both of these tired sub-genres into something totally fresh and original is a very welcome surprise. Seeing as how limited both found footage and superheroes are, the combination of the two was a work of genius. Despite not having the most original plot or character development, I still found it compelling and massively entertaining. As far as original superhero movies go, this has to be one of the best I've ever seen.
Unlike most found footage films, Chronicle makes no pretense about the authenticity of its events, characters, and surrounding mythos. It doesn't try to convince the audience into believing that this is a true story -- though I'm sure there are some people who would be dumb enough to believe it. No, instead of using this style as a means of presenting the subject in a factual manner, the filmmakers use it to delve into the personal life of the emotionally and psychologically damaged Andrew. Filming his everyday life as a way of separating himself from the world around him, instead of coming across as gimmicky, the found footage style works as a way to give the viewer direct access into his private life.
Andrew is a deeply disturbed character, and though the movie year has only just begun, I can easily see him ranking amongst the most complex and interesting characters of the year by the time it draws to an end. Of the three leading actors, there isn't a weak performance to be found. In fact, the entire cast is quite impressive. Featuring largely unknown actors, this is one of the more convincing acting ensembles I've seen in some time. Each and every actor is perfectly suited to their roles, and even though Dean DeHaan (who plays Andrew) is a definite standout among the cast, none of these actors seem at all out of place and all of which deliver strong, believable performances.
I enjoyed the fresh take on superheroes just learning to control their powers. Instead of instantly becoming masters of their new-found abilities over the course of a 45-second long montage, we see their skills slowly develop as they practice, and the characters also developing and changing along the way. Though it does fit the superhero formula of set-up, revelation, development, and climax, it takes its time and gives us a chance to see the realistic side of what might happen if a group of teenagers discovered they had superpowers. Mostly using these powers for their own personal entertainment and parlor tricks, the thought of being actual superheroes and fighting crime never even crosses their minds.
We've all seen the way superhero movies play out, but never quite like this. From its presentation, characters, and completely unique perspective, the fact that this movie doesn't have an incredibly original plot and story arch is much less detrimental than it could have been. As is always my belief, as long as the story is told well, it doesn't have to be completely original.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:10 PM
Once again proving that in Tim Burton's world, style greatly outweighs substance in order of importance, Dark Shadows is an over-crowded, uneven, stylistic wreck of a movie with few redeeming factors.
Dark Shadows is based on a soap opera of the same name, which ran during the late sixties and into the early seventies. Being a soap opera, this show ran every week day for roughly 5 years. If you do the math, you'll see that this is far too much material to fit into a single 2-hour-long movie. So why did they attempt it? Instead of taking small bits of the story and formulating a plot more "inspired" than "based" on the show, they essentially tried fitting 1,000+ episodes worth of plot and character development into one movie. And this is more than apparent as you watch the movie; they introduce dozens of subplots that either go, or come out of, nowhere. What was the point in this, exactly? Frankly, I have no idea.
One of the most glaring flaws of this movie lies in its inability to maintain a consistent tone. I truly don't understand what this movie was trying to be. At times filled with soapy melodrama and melancholy despair, but by the end of the scene may have already transformed into a series of desperately unfunny fish-out-of-water jokes. And that's how the movie goes. The drama is not effective, and most of the jokes are either horribly out of place, or simply not funny. Which returns us to the same issue again; this movie is incredibly uneven. The dramatic and comedic elements of the movie are drastically different, causing the movie to clash with itself and resulting in the entire movie being an enormous mess. It was impossible for me not to ask myself at the end of each scene, "is this supposed to be funny, or should I be taking it seriously?".
Now, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you when I say the best thing about this movie is Johnny Depp's performance as Barnabas Collins. Despite his clownish make-up and misplaced eloquence (which almost always results in some form of disastrously over-used joke, not half as funny as intended to be), Depp's vibrant, commanding presence more often than not makes his scenes the most interesting in the film. The remainder of the cast lacks this energy; many of which appearing as though they may be sleepwalking throughout most of their scenes. The more I think about it, perhaps Depp's performance only looked good by comparison, for he truly had no competition in the acting department.
Giving credit where credit is due, the visuals in this movie are quite good. But is that enough? One strong performance and striking imagery is not enough to redeem this movie. and even with all the sub-plots and story-lines overlapping throughout, I still found myself overwhelmingly bored. Emotionally detached, comically inept, and filled with inconsequential plot points that never seem to stop emerging, there is very little I can truly praise about this movie. Fans of Burton may be satisfied, but I was not.
Posted on 7/20/12 09:08 PM
Yet another in a long line of "found footage" horror films, The Devil Inside simply doesn't provide enough scares or atmosphere to pass as an effective horror movie.
I'm unsure exactly how I feel about this movie. Plot-wise, there is nothing original or particularly weak about this film. It tells a story, and despite a few flaws, I find this particular element perfectly acceptable. I must applaud its lack of reliance on simple jump-scares to provide thrills, but its inability to fill this void with any other horror devices make it slow and without any real payoff. Perhaps the intention was to leave the audience feeling more unsettled than startled, but the subject of exorcisms has been portrayed far more effectively in the past, and the result is much less disturbing here than we have already seen many times before.
As with most movies in this faux-documentary sub-genre, the camerawork is intentionally dizzying and often out of focus. But unlike other films shot in this style (e.g., The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Cloverfield) this movie has no excuse for being this poorly filmed. Instead of being supposedly shot by regular people with cameras who happen to be documenting the events as they transpire (as was the case in the aforementioned movies) they try to convince us that the cameraman is, in fact, a professional documentary filmmaker -- one who amazingly doesn't understand how to properly focus, zoom, or hold a camera steady.
In all honesty, nothing about this movie is aided by this presentation technique. Their insistence that these events actually took place is a joke, and its lack of scares of any kind or atmospheric tension is not enhanced at all by implementing this gimmick, and instead makes you wonder why it was shot as a "found footage" film at all. The end result is dizzying and not at all true to the nature of any professional documentary I've ever seen. This movie would have been equally (if not more) effective as a traditional film.
In conclusion, I don't feel this is nearly as bad as many people make it out to be. No, it's not particularly effective in its thrills and the camerawork is headache-inducing, but the story is semi-interesting and the running time is relatively short and doesn't drag on for too long. It may feel like a retread of other superior films, but if it's a crime to be unoriginal, all new movies would be considered guilty.