Much like everyone else in this website, I am a huge film lover. I am mainly into genre films, most notably those that fall into the sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genre. Why? Don't know I've just always been more driven towards such films. But that doesn't mean that I exclusively watch said type of films. I love all types of films, as a matter of fact I love a good story and a beautifully crafted film. During my free time I usually write film reviews, short stories, illustrate and also work on scripts with my friend.
CARS 2 is dazzling, vibrant and visually pleasing, yet, falls short of the emotionally driven narratives that Pixar is known for. Although often considered the weakest of Pixar's films, I always found the original a welcome addition to the Pixar family and CARS 2 is no different. I found it to be quite an entertaining film, but not in par with the rest of Pixar's masterworks. The problem with the film is not its production value, nor its beautifully rendered animation, but that fact that it had so much to measure up to. In the past decade, with each subsequent film, Pixar kept pushing the bar higher in terms of quality and story for not only animated films in general, but also within their own works. So, it comes to no surprise that the expectations for CARS 2 were high.
The film shifts gears from the original formula and exchanges it for an espionage thriller. Although Lightning McQueen makes appearances throughout the film, the main star of this tale is his loveable, hillbilly sidekick Mater (who's full name to my surprise is actually Tow Mater, a pun on the word tomato. Chuckle.) who stumbles upon a conspiracy to discredit a new source of fuel and is mistaken for an American secret agent by Finn McMissile (voiced fantastically by Michael Caine). Now, to be honest this is probably one of the films major flaws, Mater simply does not serve as an entertaining, nor interesting protagonist. His simple minded nature and buffoonish antics wear thin as the film progresses. Yet, Mater is not without his charms, specifically his unquestionable loyalty and friendship to Lightning McQueen. Despite its flaws (which are few) the film still manages to entertain both the young and old, and the espionage story is the best I've seen in any live action film.
Among my peers, many discredit the CARS films as being anything but imaginative or inspiring, mainly because they found it difficult to immerse themselves into a world of living, sentient vehicles. In contrast, I found the world created by these films to be intriguing and a reminder of a simpler time in my youth. By the end of both films I reverted to my childhood, remembering the old DISNEY animated shorts that present similar worlds and characters or when I would pick up my miniature toy cars as I'd make engine sounds with my mouth. Such is the world of CARS, a nostalgic odyssey of childhood memories revolving around automobiles.
Every environment is beautifully detailed and every character is rendered with elegance and grace. But the story lacks the emotional element that was so prevalent on all of Pixar's previous works. In the end, I felt the film didn't deserve the overwhelming negative reviews it has received, the film is good, if not great. Its only fault is, unfortunately, to be a follow up to TOY STORY 3, which was an emotionally charged rollercoaster ride.
This film starts off in the most peculiar, intriguing way: one of the main protagonist, Juan Miranda, is taking a leak into an ant hill. I find it intriguing in the sense that I'm trying my earnest to understand the symbolism behind such a, for a lack of better words, idiosyncratic opening. Is there any symbolism behind seeing a man flush out his bodily fluids into an ant hill? Probably not. Am I over thinking such a scene? Most likely, I have been known to over analyze films. But, nonetheless, this is how master filmmaker Sergio Leone starts the second chapter of his 'One Upon a Time' trilogy.
The film takes place during the Mexican Revolution, one of the bloodiest chapters of Mexican history, in which Juan Miranda, a simple bandit, is duped by explosives expert, John Mallory, into becoming involved with the revolution. Probably in one of the most hilarious games of cat and mouse captured in screen, Juan relentlessly tries to convince John to help him break into the national bank of Mesa Verde through intimidation. But, as it turns out, it is John who manipulates and tricks Juan into being involved and inadvertently, becoming a folklore hero of the revolution. So begins the adventures of both Johns during the Mexican revolution.
Unlike his previous film, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, I found this film to be far more emotionally resonant and desolate, which is even more prominent in his last film, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. There isn't a moment of certain happiness, every scene of victory is shortly followed by a hovering sense of despair and death. Although graphic violence is a common signature of Leone's films, for the first time the violence isn't as humorous, as it was in his Dollars Trilogy, for in this film the violence has consequences. For example, after the victory at the battle of Mesa Verde Juan is praised as hero, but subsequently, after the battle, the rebels are betrayed by one of their own, resulting in the slaughter of Juan's entire family. Violence begets more violence, violence isn't as tongue-in-cheek, rather it is consequential and emotionally reckoning.
Sergio Leone's films have always been deeply layered, with much emotional, symbolic and narrative depth. DUCK, YOU SUCKER or A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE or ONCE UPON A TIME...THE REVOLUTION, or whatever title you prefer to recognize this film by, is no different. It is an exploration of the nature of war, violence, trust, honor, betrayal and friendship. There are just so many different angles from which this film can be seen from. Is it an entertaining spaghetti western? Yes, definitely, but is also epic in scale and emotionally driven as well. The only negative aspect about the film is that it is Sergio Leone's most overlooked masterpieces.
The word epic does not do enough justice when describing this monumental piece of cinematic work. The first entry in master filmmaker Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time' trilogy is simply a masterpiece of filmmaking. From its large landscapes to its ritualistic gun duels, the film has inspired many other great directors for generations to come. It is not an understatement that without this film there would be no Godfather, Star Wars, Kill Bill and so many other classics of the cinema.
During the waning days of the Old West, a land battle ensues influenced heavily by the advancing railroad, that foreshadows the impending dominance of civilization, order and culture over the dying West. A subplot involves a vengeance fueled mission against the cold-blooded killer Frank (played to chilling perfection by Henry Fonda). The plot is rather simple and self-explanatory, yet, like much of his works, Sergio Leone handles the material with grace and elegance. The story is filled with depth and symbolism and as it expands, it becomes something far more grandeur and, yes, epic than it initially leads on.
Probably one of the best attributes of the film is the shifting tone in Leone's directional style. Unlike his far more popular 'Dollars Trilogy', ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST isn't as tongue in cheek or quirky, but it is far more somber, gritty and deadly serious. Its characters aren't as colorful, although they still maintain his signature moral ambiguity, and also they begin to evolve with the events of the film. The film tends to deconstruct the iconic, mythical images of both men and women in relation to the Old West. Jill represents the stereotypical damsel in distress, who is nothing more than the object of men's lust and desires. But, by the end of the film she evolves into a strong, independent business woman who foresees the construction of oncoming railroad. Frank, Harmonica and Cheyenne represent the mythic Western savage male, who freely subjugate themselves to their impulses; whether it be lust, greed, love or vengeance. Morton, the railroad tycoon, is the symbolism of the everyday man who, out of his nature, is vulnerable, handicapped against the savagery of the Wild West.
There is so much more that I can say about this film, but I must regress. I'll just stop while I'm ahead. In closing the film serves to metaphorically symbolize not only society's conquest of the Wild West, the death of the mythic hero, of the iconic image of Man ('An ancient race', to quote the character Harmonica), but also of the Western genre on film. I'm not saying that there are have been no more great westerns, because there are been (Unforgiven, The Proposition, Tombstone and 3:10 to Yuma to name a few) and, hopefully, there still will be more. There just hasn't been another made in such an epic scale, which, still, the word does the film no justice.
Now I'll be honest about one thing and that is that I'm not biggest fan of romantic comedies. In my own personal opinion, the genre is dead, plagued by cheesy, ludicrous scenarios, uninspiring characters and formulaic plots. I'll admit that once I was forced by my younger sister to sit and watch this film my expectations for it were relatively low. Once its full running time came to an end, I was surprisingly entertained.
The story is quite simple and charming. After her first sex-ed class, young, ten year old Maya becomes inquisitive about how her father Will Hayes, played charismatically by Ryan Reynolds, met her mother. Through long flash backs, and occasional flashes to the present, Will reluctantly divulges the tale of how he met Maya's mother. Now the big surprise, at least to me, is that in the beginning of the film, Will is in the midst of a divorce. Now trying to recount the blooming romance with your ex-wife can't be easy, which is perfectly illustrated by Reynolds performance. In every scene that takes place in the present he portrays the emotional weight of a broken heart and lost love.
Altering certain details and names of his love interest, Will tells the story to Maya in the form of a romantic mystery. The narrative is well constructed, it leaves the viewer guessing who Will ends up with and in consequence, is Maya's mother. Like I stated earlier most romantic comedies have fallen to clichés and atrocious dialogue, yet the script is solid, every line delivered perfectly by its cast. The film breaks away from formula by presenting the complexities of romance and true love, rather than going through the motions of previously set formulas. It succeeds in presenting romance in a realistic matter, demonstrating that it is not as simple as boy meets girl, boy loves girl and, then, boy marries girl.
I wish there was more I could say about this charming film, but I feel that there isn't much more I can say. Not that there isn't much more I can say, but because I don't want to spoil any details. The script is clever and crisp, the film gives a refreshing new life to the romantic comedy genre. It is filled with tender moments, especially when Will confesses the happy ending to his daughter, and it demonstrate that Ryan Reynolds is more than a capable actor who can break free from his comedic roles.
Now here is an interesting fact: X-MEN (2000) is often given credit for starting the superhero film renaissance. This is somewhat true, yet it is more often misleading. For those who have taken the time to see the movie BLADE, truth be told, this is the film that deserves such credit. BLADE is a superhero film about a relatively, at the time that is, unknown superhero. It is one the first films to take a fantastical character with a fantastical mythology and tried, successfully, to portray it in a realistic matter. That said, BLADE is one awesome film.
The narrative is quite simple: the character of Blade (which is perfectly portrayed by Wesley Snipes) is born a half-vampire, half human hybrid who is not only trying to rid the world of bloodsuckers, but to subjugate the tendencies of his darker half. Needless to say, Blade is a complex character who is desperately trying to come in terms with his diverse heritages. If there is one thing about Marvel superheroes is that they are often quite relatable. For example, Blade is the product of two hugely distinct cultures. One of which prays on the other. Caught up in between two different worlds, none of which can truly accept him because of his nature, Blade makes up for a very haunted character with much inner turmoil.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the film, aside from Blade, is the vampire lore that the filmmakers have created. In this universe, not only do vampires manipulate the inner workings of human society from the shadows, but there is also inner conflict within the vampire culture. There are the pureblooded vampires, which are born vampires, and then there are the "adulterated" vampires, who were humans turned vampire. The formerly human vampires, are often treated as second class citizens and looked down upon by the purebloods. This eventually creates tension and hatred between these varying class of vampires. The character of Deacon Frost is often used to represent said tension. Such tensions between purebloods, humans turned vampire and hybrids serves as an allegory for culture clash.
Action sequences in the film are brilliantly choreographed and intense. From the opening sequence, the bloodbath slaughter, to the final showdown between Blade and Frost (probably one of the greatest sword fights I've seen in film), the action is nonstop and testosterone fueled. Characters are beautifully fleshed out, the acting is superb (especially Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson) and the writing is actually better than is expected from this type of film. BLADE as a whole is better than it should have been.
After the failure of the later sequels of both the SUPERMAN and BATMAN films the superhero film genre was more than just dead. It was dead and buried. Then along came BLADE and revitalized it with kinetic energy while also paving the wave for other future successful superhero films.