Andrew S.'s Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Stoker
Stoker (2013)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

After a muddled and crazily edited first 10 minutes, stoke settles in and delivers a satisfyingly entertaining thriller, although it could have been way better. While I always love when films transcend genres, this is a film that actually would have benefited from following the line of a specific genre. Director Chan-wook Park gives the film a horror feel at times, and more of a thriller/mystery feel at others, and as a result, the film inconsistent and uneasy. Nonetheless, it is still effective, even if forgettable.

Stoker revolves around India (Mia Wasikowska) a reserved high schooler who's just lost her father to an apparently mysterious death. Nicole Kidman plays her detached mother, and Matthew Goode plays her Uncle Charlie, whose existence she learns about for the first time when he shows up at his brother's funeral. India is suspicious of Charlie, but his charm leaves Evelyn (Kidman) looking the other. The plot pretty much just plays out with few surprises, but plot isn't really what matters with this kind of movie. Rather, here all that matters is the performances and the atmosphere, which, as I said above, is sort of all over the place, both good and bad.

Wasikowska's performance works depending on what kind of movie were watching at the given time. Her character is written so stone cold that there's little insight into her head to be found. But, when simply used as a pawn in a tale to disturb, Wasikowska plays it just right. Kidman plays it pretty straight as the disillusioned Evelyn, although her character takes a big turn that isn't quite developed enough to feel real. Goode gives the standout performance. Even though it's clear he's up to no good the moment we meet him, his charm practically work on us as well, at least enough to become invested in the mystery behind him.

Behind the camera, Chan-wook Park makes a lot of interesting decision, some that work some that don't. Particularly, the editing is really ambitious. Many unrelated scenes are cut together I assume to show what's going through India's mind. Sometimes the technique is affective, while others times it's just a mess. There's also a lot of inconsistency with the characters. Like I said, the characters work much better as pawns in a horror tale, and when Park treats them as such, the movie works. But when asked to understand them, it doesn't.

Now, this review may seem rather harsh for a movie I gave 3 out of 4 stars, so I'll leave with the positives. Park gives the film a very eerie, haunting mood that only a handful of directors can do. There's also plenty of provoking moments; there's one particular shot featuring a pencil sharpener that practically had me squealing in the theater. And lastly, if you look at it as a horror movie, it stacks up pretty well against most things being turned out today, both in scares and aesthetics. So while I wouldn't tell you to rush out and see it in the theater, it's definitely worth a rental.

Oz the Great and Powerful
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Oz: The Great and Powerful has two main problems. First, in an attempt to offer an awe-inspiring journey through spectacular fantasy world, we're consequently fed an overkill amount of blatantly obvious CG effects that offer anything but a visually transcending experience. Secondly, the main characters are treated with almost zero respect, as development is kept to the minimal and the dialog given to them is just awful. The result is somewhat forgettable and somewhat disappointing waste of good material.

Presented as a prequel to the well-known series of children's novels and blatantly acknowledging the audiences familiarity with the 1939 classic, Oz doesn't offer much of a creative back-story to The Wizard Of Oz as much as it just uses the Oz name to get people into the theater to see a run-of-the-mill story. The idea is to give a back-story to renowned wizard, and explain how he came to the land of Oz. James Franco's character is Oscar, a financially and existentially struggling carnival magician looking to do more with his life. Luckily for him, destiny comes at literally the right moment via a tornado that takes him the magical Land of Oz, where upon his arrival he is believed to be the great wizard prophesized to free the citizens of Oz from the wrench of the wicked witch and what not. Oscar has to choose between keeping his newfound power, telling the truth, inspiring the citizens and yada yada yada and - spoiler alert - that's about as deep as it goes.

Along with the lazy plotline comes an equally lazy set of characters. And the performances of Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis don't bring much to the table either. Williams and Weisz have it easiest, as they're characters are so thinly written that they're pretty much allowed to sleep walk through their roles and get away with it. Likewise, Oscar is a pretty paint by the numbers character, but Franco could have at least brought some charisma to the role.

But it's Kunis who has the most to worry about. She plays Theodora, who becomes the iconic green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West after being hurt by Oscar and manipulated by her evil sister (Weisz). Theodora is treated with sympathy at first, but is disregarded later on, which makes for a puzzling and awkward experience. Kunis plays the pre and post transformation Theodora with such a strong contrast that it makes things even more confusing.

Visually there's nothing much more to say. While certainly not laughable, the effects aren't cutting edge either. Nothing is shown off in this film that we didn't know the industry was already producing. If there is a bright side to it - not just the visual side of the movie, but the whole movie itself - it's the CG characters of Finley the Monkey, and the Joey King voiced China Girl. While not revolutionary, they are both believable characters that give some life to movie suffering from lifeless visuals and performances.

The best part of the movie (besides the wonderful opening credits sequence) comes from the finale. Here it finally seems there was at least some imagination put into it. Still, everything before hand is so lifeless and uninspired that it was hard to leave the theater pleased.

The Good Doctor
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

In The Good Doctor, Orlando Bloom plays a young doctor fresh out of medical school. And let's just say he's got some issues.

The Doctor, Martin Blake, becomes allured by one his patients, high school student Diane, who has a kidney infection. Although her infection is nothing to sneeze at, Dr. Blake assures her everything is under control and quickly sends her home nice and healthy. Still enamoured by her however, he devises a plan to return her to his care.

The plot is certainly intriguing, but it takes more than just plot to make a thriller work. Bloom has the responsibility to flesh out an interesting character who despite making bad decisions, can connect with the viewer. Unfortunately, he fails to bring much to the character.

It also doesn't help that the character has little development to begin with. He hints at a desire for lots of respect, which is interesting, but that Idea is never established. I think this story would work better in a TV series than a 90 minute movie. With a back-story developed, Dr. Blake's reasoning would be clearer, and it would make for a more compelling character. In this film, he just seems like a bonehead doing stupid thing after stupid thing.

Even despite a weak lead performance, early on it has it's share of thrilling moments. But eventually, with nowhere to go, it succumbs to the clichéd route, which kills any chance it had of being interesting.

Frankenweenie
Frankenweenie (2012)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Frankenweenie is the type of Tim Burton movie I want to see more of. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of his entire body of work and, despite a couple misses here and there, believe he totally deserves the large following he has. Still, for the last decade a Tim Burton movie has meant nothing more than lots of flashy visuals and oversized heads, far from the Tim Burton movies of the 90's that are personal stories that entertain and move like nothing else out there can. And while he's capable of bringing flavor to outside projects - Sweeny Todd is a masterpiece - he's so much more valuable playing the dual role of storyteller and visual extraordinaire. That's why I loved Frankenweenie so much.

A remake of a short film Burton did for Disney in the 80's, Frankenweenie is a parady/homage to James Whale's Frankenstein about a child genius named Victor Frankenstein. Victor likes to spend his time making movies and creating inventions with his dog Sparky at his side at all times. However, Victor's dad, while having no issue with Victor's creative endeavors, would like to see his son step out and try something knew. This is a played-out kids movie motif, but Frankenweenie doesn't drag it along and actually uses it well. In this case, it actually helps flesh out the character, one that's safe to assume is partially based on Burton as a child.

Anyways, during Victor's first baseball game, Sparky goes after a hit ball and tragically gets hit by a car. Victor is stricken with grief and wants nothing more in the world than to bring Sparky back. Luckily for him, he learns in a science lecture that deceased animals reflexes can still be activated with electricity, giving him an idea that could bring back Sparky. In Frankenstein fashion, Victor hoists Sparky's corpse up into the thunder-filled storm, where strikes of lightening revive Sparky. The moment has been parodied so many times that I wasn't expecting it to be any different this time. This one though, is done in love for the original sequence, not going for the easy parodies but instead playing out naturally, feeling authentic to this particular movie.

Sparky's return from the dead eventually leads to a series of events that bring fear to the whole town. The second half lets Burton pay homage to not only monster movies of the 30's like Frankenstein, but also another iconic monster. Just like the creation sequence, there is so much love and respect put into it that they don't play like lame parodies, but actual thrilling entertainment. Burton pays homage to classic films by reviving their spirit into his film.

Visually, Frankenweenie is much more subtle than I expected. Instead of the vibrant, gothic tone seen in Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, It uses a very simple, black and white landscape and a very basic design for characters. I'm glad this approach was taken, as even though explosive visuals are interesting, they also can make the viewing experience distracting and uncomfortable. The simple animation here makes it easy to just enjoy the tale. Ultimately, I just appreciated the energy and personality brought to the project, something the rest of the year's animated film lacked.

Zero Dark Thirty
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Since development was announced in 2011, the production of Zero Dark Thirty has been a magnet for controversy. The final product is no different, and is sure to continue to stir up debate all through its theatrical run. The current debate mainly focuses on the question of weather or not the film accurately portrays the impact harsh interrogation techniques had the finding of Osama Bin Laden, along with the question of weather or not the film is accurate in general.

Obviously, there is no way for any outsider to learn exactly how the classified ten-year hunt for Bin Laden went down and make a completely factual movie about it. The only thing writer Mark Boal can do is get as much information from first hand accounts as possible and condense that info into an understandable narrative (along with giving the story the necessary dramatic tweaks) that director Kathryn Bigelow can breath life into. As I see it, that's the case here.

ZDT is compelling and riveting all the way through, as both a drama and a thriller. The narrative is a sturdy piece of work that keeps the audience at hand. Even when scenes filled with jargon come up it manages to reel you right back in and catch you up to speed. At times it's a perfect edge of your seat thriller, especially in the final moments, which is the most thrilling sequence of the year.

Although over hundreds of people helped put together the pieces, Boal's script mainly focuses on Jessica Chastain's character Maya, an alias for a woman sources agree was instrumental in finding Bin Laden. Focusing on one character not only makes the procedural nature of the story easy to absorb, but also more dramatic. We're given more than just a procedural drama here, but a character study as well. Chastain's performance is so subtle that early on I was puzzled as to what all the hype of her performance was all about. But as the movie goes on and we see how the hunt consumes her character to the point where the only thing that matters to her is to see Bin Laden dead.

Jason Clarke is the other most memorable performance in the movie. He plays Dan, Maya's fellow agent who headlines most of the interrogation scenes. Dan serves as one of the primary counterparts to Maya. Kyle Chandler plays an Embassy Station Chief, a character that gives insight to the political motivations of the search. Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, Jennifer Ehle, and James Gandolfini are the other familiar faces that show up and although their performances are much less interesting they do help keep the movie running smoothly.

I would have liked to see from the narrative would be a few scenes here and there to show what some of the other leads, theories, etc., were. Since we know where this movie's going to end, we also know that Maya is absolutely right. It would have been interesting to see what others in the intelligence community were thinking, and it would have made the decision to raid the compound all the more compelling.
You can have a debate on the political aspects of the film, but you can't blame the film itself for making any statements. I wouldn't argue it's not political movie, but it's definitely not a partisan movie. It has no motivations other than telling a compelling story.

Chastain has little screen time during the last half hour as it is mostly devoted to the navy seals that actually carried out the assassination, but the bits she gets at the end are when she's at her best. As I see it, Maya really about reveals what the movie is during the final minutes. All we know about Maya's past is that she was recruited at a young age. We don't know why she joined the CIA. Out of passion for her country? Just cause she's good at it? Maya has given so much of herself to finding Bin Laden that she's lost whatever passion she had for her job. The jobs become almost too much for even the most brilliant people, such as Maya. Jason Clarke's Dan goes through something similar earlier on. She doesn't quite have a grasp of what her morals are or what her ethics are. To me, Zero Dark Thirty isn't supposed to be a history lesson, a politically minded film, or even necessary great entertainment (although it is great entertainment). It's a character study that asks the question of what it means to serve your country.