Rachel H.'s Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

John Carter
John Carter(2012)
½

This was an entertaining movie, through and through, and much better than the critics let on. I also feel it's destined to become underrated as the year progresses (which is typical of movies released in March) mostly due to the age of the source material. Still, the film is solidly made, and it features a good engaging story, solid performances (proving that Taylor Kitsch can carry a sci-fi/action film) and a decent romance to go along with the central story. That being said however, the film's strong suits (fitting, seeing as Andrew Stanton's background is in animation) are the cinematography and the animation. Everything about this film looks fantastic, from the gorgeous panoramic shots of Mars (sadly miniaturized by the 3D, which I'll talk about later) to the creatures, to the cool-as-fuck airships, right down to Carter's stately manor seen at the beginning and the end of the film (if you see the film, you'll know why), and the film has a consistent sense of atmosphere, which is the one thing that rings consistent through Andrew Stanton's films (namely this, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E) no matter how different they may be. The 3D was okay, and they did some interesting depth-of-field stuff with a surprising lack of gimmicks, but sadly, there was an effect of my vision being focused in as opposed to being allowed to take in the beautiful landscapes, which is what I call miniaturizing. Still, John Carter was much better than the one other 2012 film I've seen, and it is one I highly recommend, especially to sci-fi fans.

Mirror Mirror

I noticed from the minute that I heard these two films were coming out that this film was being shunted aside in favour of the "dark, revisionist" Snow White, and called things such as "childish", "silly", and dare I even say, "retarded". To be fair, the trailer really didn't do it any favours, as it featured quite a few of the film's bad jokes, but this reaction shows how people's taste in fairy tales have changed so much that they cannot appreciate a film like Mirror Mirror, which was ultimately WAAAAY better than Snow White and the Huntsman. The comparisons stop there though, since the only thing the two films have in common is the name of their leading ladies.

First and foremost, Mirror Mirror is a beautiful film. Name a visual element, whether it be art direction, costuming, or even the hair design, and it will be lavish and beautifully designed. Apparently this is a common characteristic of all of the director's films, and if this is so, then I really want to explore more. Special attention must be paid to the costuming, because if this is not considered for the Oscars, the Academy clearly does not know what great costuming is. The animated prologue is also brilliantly done. Even if you don't want to watch the film, I recommend you seek this out. The castle grounds are lavishly designed as well, and they truly have to be seen to be believed. If there is any reason to see this movie, than the aforementioned visuals would be it. However, that's not the only thing the film has to offer. It's a fun, refreshingly traditional spin on the classic, well-worn Snow White fairytale that had some surprises and some good jokes to offer, despite the critic's consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. It also does the character of Snow White way better than SWATH (I know, I said the comparisons would stop). Lily Collins made a fantastic Snow White, and she played the action girl way better than Stewart did. In fact, she did a way better job at both the feminine and action-y aspects of Snow White. This just proves that women don't have to act like men to be leaders.

As for the others, I will be the first to say that I was extremely skeptical when the casting of Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen. I could have easily thought of dozens of better actresses for the role, but much to my surprise, Miss Roberts delivered a fantastic performance as the EQ. Her general vanity and pursuit of the Prince (Armie Hammer) contribute to most of the film's humour, and the general tone of her performance suits the nature of the film. This EQ is not meant to be a monster like Charlize Theron's. She exhibits some monstrous qualities, but aside from that she's just generally vain and catty. This works in the film's favour, and Roberts ends up being a hoot. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a Supporting Actress nomination, but she should still get one. Armie Hammer gives a spirited performance as the Prince, and while most of his character's humour is about his looks, he remains a likable character and a good love interest. The dwarves are funny and they manage to differ themselves from the dwarves of old, not just in their names.

Minor silliness and a few really dumb jokes (the queen's beauty regiment being one of them) aside, I quite enjoyed Mirror Mirror, which has earned a place in my top 10 of the year. Any assertions about the film that you have, I would encourage you to cast them aside and give the film a chance, though it is not a film for everyone. I still enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman, but this remains as the superior Snow White film of 2012.

ParaNorman
ParaNorman(2012)
½

I must further congratulate the people at Laika animation, because they have managed to succeed yet again after their masterpiece debut with this little gem of a film. ParaNorman manages to be both a clever spin on the zombie movie formula and a genuinely heartwarming tale of a lonely little boy who has to play the hero because of the very thing the townspeople fear him for. As per usual, the film is stunningly animated and the attention to detail is absolutely grand. Every object, person, and building in this film is beautifully rendered and the film was a great pleasure to look at, especially in 3D, which was used rather cleverly, as opposed to merely having stuff fly out at the screen. Special attention must be paid to the "witch-cloud" effects, AKA the purple sky visible in many of the trailers. All of the actors involved give committed and often quite humourous performances, especially Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jodelle Ferland, who manage to provide the filmâ(TM)s emotional core and nearly managed to bring me to tears. Though Coraline is by far the scarier film, ParaNorman more than compensates in wit, awesome writing, and creepiness, and it is a highlight in my viewings of the year so far. Brave, Frankenweenie, and Wreck-It-Ralph, time to make your moves. It will take a lot to dethrone this.

The Bourne Identity

I had been meaning to explore this series for quite some time, and what time more appropriate than before the release of the newest film? Anyways, Identity is a supreme start to the series, a complex, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining thriller which has easily earned a place amongst my favourite action films. Matt Damon gives a commanding lead performance as Jason Bourne, the amnesiac black-ops agent trying to find out who he is, and he is backed up by solid turns from Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, and Brian Cox. The action scenes are among the best I've ever seen, and the editing and choreography on said scenes are just perfect. One thing I especially liked about the action scenes was the fact that the camera mostly stayed still, as opposed to bouncing around and generally distracting the audience from seeing the action at hand. Personal favourite action scenes would include the embassy escape and the first big car chase, though they were all excellently staged. This also means that the film is visually stunning on all accounts, especially Oliver Wood's cinematography, which takes full advantage of the wonderful locations and which stays mostly still during the action scenes, as I priorly mentioned. However, the film is not all action. The film's story is interesting and its characters are well-developed and the protagonists (Bourne himself and poor, poor Marie) are reasonably likable. A couple of other things that stood out to me as well were the musical score, and the beginning (one of my favourite beginnings in any action movie). My only real complaint was the rather....abrupt establishment of a romantic relationship between Jason and Marie. Her motivation for staying with Bourne was rather unclear, and the attempts at romantic writing between the two were occasionally awkward, which was quite jarring in an otherwise solid screenplay. There was also an alternate ending presented on the DVD that I didn't particularly like, but I suppose that's not really a complaint seeing as the film's theatrical ending was solid. All in all, I recommend this film highly, and I cannot wait to see the other three films, though this is fine as a stand-alone feature.

A Fish Called Wanda

A conservative rating for what my father told me was one of his favourite movies of all time. I found myself laughing quite a lot with this film, and though it sagged at times, it deserves its place on the list of Best Comedies of all time. It has great performances, especially from Kevin Kline, who made the entire movie and ended up winning an Oscar for it. Jaime Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and John Cleese (amongst a few others) also give great ones, but they all pale in comparison to Kline. Also, the ending and the climax leading up to it are the best parts of the film. Honestly, I don't know what to say about it, it's quite difficult to describe. I'll have to give it a second viewing (hopefully many viewings in the future). I'm just going to say that if you want to check out a good comedy, you should watch this movie. Oh, and I'm probably going to move it up half a star, this is just a rating for now.

Good Night, And Good Luck
½

The film is a stylish, well-acted, and well-written entry into Clooney's body of work, and by all accounts, a good movie and one that I did not waste my time with. However, there is a certain hollowness (or dryness, whatever one may call it) to it that I could simply not ignore. Maybe if the film had gone into Murrow more as a character, or stretched out the conflict a little longer, maybe by making the film about fifteen minutes longer, I would have enjoyed it a tad bit more, or the memorability factor would be increased significantly. At times, it was also extremely dry, and though it passed along a good message (namely, that a people should not be governed by fear and that hate-mongering and witch hunts are baaad), the message was delivered extremely heavy-handedly and the opening and closing bits just felt tacked on to enforce some sort of message that Clooney wanted to say about television. The middle of the film was fascinating and engaging, but the beginning and the end just felt unnecessary. But I enjoyed the set designs, I enjoyed the black-and-white cinematography, which makes sense, seeing as the only stock footage of McCarthy that exists is in black and white. Speaking of which, I also enjoyed the usage of stock-footage from McCarthy's actual speeches, which were used as opposed to hiring an actor to play the role. I liked it because it made the film feel somewhat more authentic. Also, what made the film look more authentic is the hiring of fairly average-looking people, instead of Hollywood superstuds. They even managed to make George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr. look fairly plain. But still, despite the film's flaws, I say give this a look, if just for the stylish visuals, the commanding lead performance of David Straithairn as Edward R. Murrow, or your own interest in the subject matter. It's a decent period piece that's well worth the watch.

Richard III
Richard III(1995)
½

I will go on record saying that I am not a fan of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996). However, I do not disdain the "anachronistic adaptation of classic story" genre because it can be done well. Case in point, Richard III, a magnificent Shakespearean adaptation that manages the tricky task of updating the location and maintaining the original dialogue extremely well, not an inch of it feeling out of place. This is mostly because less focus is put on flashy camera angles and more focus is put on maintaining the script's beauty by giving the dialogue to actors that can actually handle it. That being said, the performances in this film are phenomenal. The best by far is Ian McKellen as Richard III himself, giving a commanding and enthralling performance as the crooked King. He is the main character after all, and though I don't sympathize a lick with him (I don't think the viewer is supposed to, really), the audience is seeing this world through his eyes and McKellen makes an engaging guide. I went in with no knowledge of the play, and perhaps that helped, as I found his rise and fall from grace to be rather fascinating, and I can see shades of Macbeth in it, though Richard rises to power entirely on his own, out of pure spite for his family as opposed to having a woman whispering in his ear. But depending on which play was released earlier, I could say that I saw shades of it in Macbeth. McKellen stands out amongst the performers, but he is backed up by strong turns from Annette Bening, Maggie Smith (however brief), Kristin Scott Thomas, Jim Broadbent, and Robert Downey Jr. Bening especially gets her chance to shine in the film's last act, where her character goes through a massive change and massive tragedy. I'm not going to spoil it, but it reaffirms her character traits and made me like the character a lot more, and Broadbent gets his chance to shine after Richard becomes King. Downey Jr, on the other hand, gives a solid performance, but his character is not very well-used, making his presence sort of inconsequential. I realize that this is probably how it is in the play, but it just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. The film boasts a spectacular script, but it is written by the immortal bard, William Shakespeare, so beautiful dialogue kind of goes without saying. But what is easily the film's second strength (besides the actors) is the visuals. The cinematography is consistently gorgeous, especially during the final scenes and during Richard's coronation, the latter earning it's place on my list of favourite movie scenes. Alongside that, the set designs are absolutely splendid and the costuming (especially for Bening and McKellen) is extremely well-done. Romeo and Juliet had style, but not in any league compared to this. I suppose the point of this whole rant is to say that Richard III has sadly fallen by the wayside (despite receiving wild critical acclaim and a few awards) in terms of Shakespearean adaptations, and I give it my highest recommendation as a near-perfect film and my current favourite out of any Shakespeare adaptation.

The Darjeeling Limited
½

An engaging, light-hearted, and funny film from Wes Anderson, which (typical to his films) rises on the strength of its actors and its phenomenal screenplay. Each of the characters is likeable and interesting, and the brotherly dynamic between Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman is played beautifully, each of the actors turning in fine performances. The film is also just as funny as it is heartwarming, a few scenes even being laugh-out-loud hilarious (one including a belt and pepper spray). All of this is presented against the beautiful scenery of India, which makes for some fantastic cinematography and the best art direction I've seen in my experience of Anderson so far, and a kick-ass soundtrack (one of Anderson's stamps on all his movies). If this is considered the weakest of his films, his strongest must be really really strong, because a few unnecessary scenes aside, it truly was a fantastic film.

Lost In Translation

A quietly engaging and beautifully shot mood piece, and an undisputable masterpiece, as well as one of the two best films of 2003. The film is a beautiful display of friendship and mutual loneliness, and this succeeds because of the fantastic chemistry between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, each giving the finest performances of their respective careers. Sofia Coppola provides assured direction and a fantastic screenplay which provides melancholia and subtle humour in droves, and all of this is backed up by fantastic cinematography, music, and art direction. Some complain about "nothing happening" in the film, but those who do so have clearly been conditioned for a "wham bam" ending where Bill and Scarlett kiss in the rain and leave their respective spouses. But that just doesn't happen in real life, and besides, Bob and Charlotte's relationship is too complex to be pigeonholed into the "romantic" category. That's what I like about the film. It's complex, beautiful, and utterly unforgettable. But I love Return of the King too much to say that it was robbed of Best Picture.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

They thought it was unfilmable, but they were wrong. They were so wrong. The most acclaimed graphic novel of all time is perfectly capable of being filmed, and being filmed brilliantly. Watchmen is a thrilling, dark, and wonderfully made film and, though it is certainly not without its flaws, I believe that it belongs up there with Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, and The Avengers in the ranks of the greatest superhero films of all time. A few scenes aside, I loved everything about it. I loved the premise and I loved the non-linear structure it was told in and the narrative tangents that allowed me to learn more about the characters. The film is also extremely well directed, proving Snyder's ambition and skill as a director, which is quite great when he's directing films like this and not like Sucker Punch.

On a similar note, the film is visually flawless in all respects, featuring some of the best special effects, cinematography, art direction, and stylized slow motion that I have seen in any film. Especially in the opening credits sequence, which is probably the instance where I have seen slow motion used to its full potential of awesomeness, alongside being one of the coolest dumpings of exposition/opening sequences of all time. I have a love/hate relationship with excessively stylized films, but it worked for Watchmen, resulting in a good mix of style and substance (due to strong source material no doubt) and the visual perfection that I mentioned.

The actors involved also churn out decent performances, highlights being Matthew Goode, Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Jackie Earle Haley (sorry Malin, you did your best, but your character simply didn't have much of a purpose outside token woman/groupie/love interest. Maybe it was different in the comics, but in the film, that's how it is.) Billy Crudup does a good job too, but I found the aforementioned actors and the characters they played a bit more exciting. Perhaps it's because they are fallible, whereas Dr. Manhattan is not. I found his transformation scene damned awesome though. I especially enjoyed Morgan's Comedian (for being extremely badass despite being an awful person, and for completely owning the film's opening scene), and Wilson's Nite Owl (for being the closest thing to a traditional superhero this film has to offer).

This film seems to have become overlooked, sparing certain circles, and the critics say that it's because non-readers would have trouble with the film's quote-unquote, "complex narrative structure". I had no problem with the film's narrative structure, and I have a feeling that the film is not as recognized as it should be due to the characters not being extremely well-known (except maybe Dr. Manhattan, and that's just because of the fact that he has a giant blue dick). That, and some of the film's more extreme moments are REALLY extreme. I mean, The Dark Knight was a gritty film, but despite the brutality shown onscreen, the film was basically bloodless. Watchmen is certainly not bloodless, and certainly not something you can take your kids to. That didn't stop it from making decent money at the box office and earning critical respect, as well as some geek respect (though fans of the comic are still pretty split on it). I'll just say that I loved this film, but if you don't like Zack Snyder's style of film, you probably won't like this film. I still say give it a look. It has earned its place on my favourite films of 2009 and my favourite comic book films.

P.S. The sex scene was hi-larious

Sleepy Hollow
½

One of Burton's best, by far, and arguably his most overlooked, which is surprising given how much of it I can see in his later films (especially Sweeney Todd and Dark Shadows). The film itself is not out-and-out horror, despite the fact that it is adapted from the horror classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but it is highly reliant on atmosphere to create frights, and it delivers in that respect, creating a very suspenseful and enjoyable film. Not to say the film isn't gory. In fact, it could easily be called Decapitation: The Movie, but all in all, it relies more on suspense to scare and that's probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. The visuals in general are magnificent, as is the Burton norm, especially the cinematography by the legendary Emmanuel Lubezki and the art direction, which managed to score an Oscar. In fact, Sleepy Hollow contains some of the best art direction I have seen in any film, let alone any of Burton's. Another strength of the film is the strong performances from a remarkable ensemble cast, especially Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, and a whole host of wonderful English actors (and Christopher Walken, giving an awesome cameo as the living horseman). Despite the strength of the story (which I hear was expanded for the film, to a greater degree of success than most short stories adapted to film, Shawshank and Benjamin Button aside), the script was not exemplary, and some of the characters were not developed to their full potential but in the long run, this is not a movie about characters. This is truly a visually driven movie and in that respect, it gets the job done. Despite the fact that the film probably won't be remembered in twenty years time outside of being a piece in Burton's body of work, Sleepy Hollow is a stunning, well-acted, well-directed visual accomplishment, not to mention an extremely entertaining film, and one that I can't wait to watch again and again over the years.

Snow White and the Huntsman
½

The film is a little flat in spots, and it feels more like a series of fantastic scenes that didn't quite make a fantastic film, but overall, I can appreciate the greatness of the scenes for what they are. I love fairytale movies, and right from the get-go, I liked the idea behind the story (namely, the edgy version of the classic fairytale), and I thought the dark fairytale element worked fantastically in some parts (especially the prologue showing Ravenna's rise to power when Snow is a little girl) but some aspects of the story were not exercised to their full potential. It is because of that that the film is often left wanting. The film could have been so much better told had it had a better script as well. It wasn't an awful script, but the writing was certainly not the strongest portion of the film.I also was not particularly fond of the sound design, which felt the need to be bombastic and loud at all times, even though it was not necessary. I loved the music though (which was appropriately grand for a film like this), I just wish it would have been a bit less obtrusive.

But enough about the stuff I didn't like, on to the stuff I liked, of which there was quite a lot. First of all, I loved the actors. Every last one of them. I loved Theron's performance, easily the most lauded and with good reason, as she seemed to be having a ton of fun with the role. Sometimes she descends into excessive ham, but it is expected with a role such as this. I loved Hemsworth as the Huntsman. I thought they did some interesting things with his character, and I enjoyed his performance as I have in every other film I have seen him in. The other ones that I thought did quite well, though not on the level of the aforementioned two, were Sam Claflin as William (the closest to Prince Charming we get, though far from a fop and technically not a prince in this one), who does a good enough job despite not getting a lot to do until act three. The other performer I liked was Kristen Stewart as Snow White herself. A lot of people seem to have forgotten because of the Twilight movies that Kristen Stewart is actually a decent actress, and she is decent in this film, though far from the greatest performer in it. Claflin also does a decent job, though he isn't given all that much to do. It is nice to see prince charming kick ass every once in a while though. The second thing I loved about this film, and easily the film's strongest aspect is the visuals.

By God, this film looked gorgeous. Everything about it, the set design, the costuming, the makeup design, and especially the special effects were brilliantly done and visually captivating. I can see the film picking up nominations come awards season for all of these things. My personal favourites of the effects were the designs of the castle and the Sanctuary (especially the creatures within, like the little sprite things and the mushrooms with eyes on them). There was also some good action, though it was overshadowed a bit by the overbearing sound design. Still, though the film was not perfect, it is a worthy addition into the summer blockbusters of the year and a good addition to the revisionist fairytale genre that has become so popular since Alice in Wonderland. If you are a fan of the original fairytale or any of the actors within, I would recommend it to you. If not, I still recommend you give it a chance and see for yourself.

Chronicle
Chronicle(2012)

Yet another I missed in the theatres, Chronicle could be considered the first good movie of 2012 (chronologically speaking, that is, pun definitely intended) and though it has definite flaws, the aforementioned title is not unfounded. Chronicle provides a unique spin on both the found-footage genre and the superhero genre despite arriving in a period chock-full of these. It also uses the found-footage style creatively, giving Andrew a reason to use the camera and having some scenes be filmed by other people, as well as having people acknowledge the camera. The film is spectacularly acted, written, and directed, and it tells the story of Andrew, Mark, and Steve (though mostly Andrew, the owner of the camera), three teenagers who, after discovering some mysterious kryptonite-esque thing while at a party, gain telekinetic powers. It's all fun and games until the powers start to have a negative effect on Andrew, who is already psychologically disturbed to begin with (due to his terminally ill mother and abusive father, as well as a lack of friends).

Andrew is essentially slowly driven to madness over the film's second and third acts, and it is what gives the film interesting human drama as opposed to being just another teens-getting-powers film. The first third is about friends experimenting with their newfound powers, but the last two are about trying to save a friend before it's too late and he goes on a hulk-smash rampage throughout the city. That may sound melodramatic, but it's true. The three leads are played by Dane DeHaan (who is the true star of this film, IMO, though his performance derails into plain old hamminess in the film's last third), Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan, and they all give phenomenal performances, especially DeHaan and Russell (who does a great job of playing the film's ultimate protagonist, the Cain to Andrew's Abel)

The supporting performances (though admittedly few) are also good, like Michael Kelly as Andrew's father. Of course, phenomenal acting is just phenomenal acting without a great script and memorable characters to back it up, which this film has. It isn't the greatest script ever written, but it services the film well and provides great insight into the characters (more Andrew than the other two, but Andrew is important). It also represents how teenagers talk. I know teenagers, and this is how they talk. The film's visual effects are also impeccable, considering the budget that this film was made on. They are utterly seamless, as seamless as the superhero elements incorporated into the story. My personal favourite instances of visual effects are the flying scenes (both of them, which are damned cool to watch) and the film's final third, which involves a giant rampage through Seattle. Cop cars flying every which way, windowpanes being smashed, all flawless. The effects were one of the strongest elements of the movie, but it had much more to rely on than just the effects, which is why I love this film so much.

However, despite my love for the film, there were a couple of things I did not like about it. Namely, the cinematography. I acknowledge that the film used the handheld filming style creatively, and there were some times that the shaky-cam worked. There were some times when the camera was perfectly still (namely, the times when Andrew was making it float). Needless to say, the cinematography was inconsistent. There were some scenes that were downright incomprehensible due to how much the camera was moving. I would have probably liked the film's last third a lot more if I could see it. Part of that could have been due to the lag in my computer, but part of it could be due to the problematic cinematography during that part of the film. The film also had some narrative flaws during the first third, but they are merely minor flaws in an otherwise excellent film. Except for the cinematography, that was quite a big issue.

All in all, I give Chronicle a strong 4/5, and a position in my list of favourite films from this year (#2 in fact), as well as my strong recommendation.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
½

If there is one thing that must be said first in this review, it is that this film is the fucking Godfather compared to its predecessor. That being said, I actually enjoyed this movie, and not just in the dumb-fun action movie kind of way. Sure, it falls into the same holes that all Michael Bay movies fall into, namely a weak script, thin characters, and a runtime that overstays its welcome. The main character's parents are also back (though for a mercifully short amount of screentime) to piss off their son and make me cringe, and I wish so much that they were cut out of the film altogether, or the mother would just keep her mouth shut, but hey, minor flaw in an otherwise solid film. LaBoeuf isn't horrible in this, the British model isn't as bad as the reviews said she was, though she doesn't really have that much character outside love interest. Turturro was also much more tolerable this time around and dare I say, even a bit funny. The other actors, including the likes of John Malkovich, Patrick Dempsey, and the returning character played by Josh Duhamel, and they all provide decent performances, especially Dempsey (who I was oddly impressed by). Nothing phenomenal acting-wise, but nothing terrible. The story isn't too bad either, and it does have sufficiently high stakes to keep me interested. Again, nothing great, but nothing terrible, and it probably has the strongest story of the three films. However, like any Transformers film, the special effects and the cinematography are the film's strongest suits. In fact, the effects and the cinematography are both phenomenal, and the only reason why I would have seen this film in theatres, and they are the main things that make the film worth seeing. In short, Transformers 3 is flawed but fun, and my personal favourite film in the series. A solid action film, and recommended for those who think they would enjoy such a thing. Give it a chance. Even if you didn't like the other films in the series, you might be pleasantly surprised.

About Schmidt

My god, what a fucking phenomenal film. This is my second foray into the works of Alexander Payne and if I can gauge anything from those two films it is that I need to see Election and Sideways as soon as possible. The film tells the fascinating and utterly realistic (which is one of the main things I loved about The Descendants and one of the main things I loved about this) story of Warren Schmidt, a recent retiree who loses his wife (ironically after listing all the things he hates about her) and goes through a three-quarters-through-life crisis, realizing just how empty his life had been. Anyway, the story proper beigins when he takes an RV trip to Denver to try and stop his daughter's wedding, merely because she's marrying a man he doesn't like. But the story isn't really the most important element of the film in this case. In this case, it's the discoveries that Schmidt makes about himself and just how sheltered he'd been, and how his life had simply been going on around him. He has no real friends, so he decides to sponsor a child in Africa, to whom he writes letters (providing the film's voice-ovver narration). This voice-over narration is done in the tragicomedic way of The Descendants (or should I say the other way around) and it definitely works in the film's favour, giving the audience insight into the character of Warren Schmidt, who is one of the finest characters ever written, who is one of the finest characters ever written (bravo Mr. Payne). The script is absolutely brilliant and the characters memorable (which is what I've liked about Payne's films thus far), and I hope it won the Oscar that year becaause it sure as hell deserved it. But like The Descendants, the script would just be a good script were it not for the fantastic leading performance, from Jack Nicholson in this case. Jack Nicholson fully embodies the character of Schmidt and plays it perfectly, oftentimes reminding me of my own grandfather. It is he and the script that carry this film, and everything else exists merely to complement the two. He is backed up by solid supporting performances from Kathy Bates, Dermot Mulroney, and several other people who's anems I cannot remember., as well as solid directional work from Payne. Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Payne is growing to become one of my favourite directors (perhaps he could even top the list someday) and it is because he makes films like About Schmidt, films that warrant at least one viewing in one's lifetime. Phenomenal work.

The Shawshank Redemption

An utterly beautiful and phenomenal film, plain and simple. One of the best and most memorable American films ever made, as well as one of the best films of '94. Based on the story by Stephen King (which I read for a school project and enjoyed extremely), Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker successfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, and his 20+ year stint in Shawshank prison. The real heart of the movie though is Dufresne's friendship with Ellis Redding (Morgan Freeman), a fellow prisoner convicted of murder and his only real friend on the inside, which is one of the most beautiful and well-written friendships ever put on film, helped by the terrific chemistry between Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. One of the greatest strengths of the film is by far its script, which is one of the best scripts ever written and the second best script of 1994 (behind Pulp Fiction obviously). The film also remains extremely faithful to the source material (one of the most faithful adaptations ever made probably) with some of the dialogue being taken directly out of the book, and the exchanges between the characters (Red and Andy, Red and some of the other prisoners, Andy and Warden Norton, etc.) are just pure gold. What do you expect when you have source material written by Stephen King? The film also benefits from voiceover narration by Morgan Freeman, which makes sense, as the entire book is written from Red's perspective. Besides being a writer's film, this film also benefits from the strength of its actors, especially Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (who received an Oscar nomination for the role). Those two performances are utterly extraordinary, and the heart and soul of this wonderful film. Tim Robbins' work has largely gone unsung compared to Morgan Freeman, and that isn't totally fair, because Robbins gives a phenomenal performance, and he's just as good as Freeman, perhaps better. He captures the stoicism and the hopeful nature of Dufresne perfectly, and he is a fully realized version of the character from the book in my eyes. Freeman is phenomenal as always as Red, giving one of the best performances of his career and one of the best male performances of all time (alongside Robbins). The supporting cast is well-rounded as well, with great performances from Mark Rolston (Boggs), Gil Bellowes (Tommy), Bob Gunton (Warden Norton), and Clancy Brown (who delivers a Gunny Hartman-esque performance as Capt. Hadley). The film also features phenomenal art direction, and it was exactly how I imagined Shawshank to look like in the book. It is appropriately menacing and appropriately decrepit, providing a bleak environment which conveys this movie's message of being hopeful in a bleak situation. Anyway, The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite films of all time, as well as one of the best Stephen King adaptations. It is also most definitely essential viewing. So see it.

Chicago
Chicago(2002)

Chicago is simply an awesome movie, and there are barely enough words to describe how awesome it is, but I'm going to try anyway. It is probably one of the best musicals ever made, and it is responsible for bringing back the modern movie musical. Without this, there would be no Phantom, no Sweeney Todd, no Hairspray, so it is at least for those reasons that one should see Chicago. But barring that, it's just a really great movie, and it rightfully dominated Oscar season that year. The film follows the story of Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), a housewife desperate in her quest for fame, which is what ends up putting her on trial for murder. The film offers up satire (with regards to publicity, a celebrity's relationship with the press, celebrity trials, and showbiz in general) cynicism, and spectacle in equal parts, and it actually has some interesting things to say, translated perfectly through a brilliant script by Bill Condon. The film also features some of the most memorable (and occasionally quite reprehensible) characters ever written, from Roxie herself (who remains consistently interesting throughout) to the film's other stars Velma Kelly (a fellow actress and murderess played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Billy Flynn (Roxie's slimy lawyer played by Richard Gere). However, the most endearing and sympathetic character is Roxie's poor put-upon husband Amos, played brilliantly by John C. Reilly in an Oscar nominated performance. Besides the script, the film also features an array of fine performances from Renee Zellweger (who captures the desperate-for-attention nature of Roxie perfectly), Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is utterly enigmatic as the bombshell Velma Kelly, winning an Oscar for her performance), Richard Gere (brilliant as the amoral attorney, but the only one that didn't get Oscar attention for his role), the already mentioned John C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah as Mama Morton (just as good as she was in Hairspray, if not better). However, this is a musical, so it wouldn't be all that much without musical numbers. The songs are wonderfully performed, written, and choreographed (what do you expect when they were originally created by Bob Fosse?) and above all, supremely entertaining. I also love how they were incorporated into the story, and if you watch the movie you will certainly get that. The visuals are also fantastic, winning several Oscars (for editing, costuming, art direction, etc.) and are chock-full of period details, giving an appropriate sense of atmosphere. All in all, Chicago is unlike any film I've ever seen, and it is one that all film buffs should see, even if they aren't particularly fond of musicals.

The Pianist
The Pianist(2002)
½

The Pianist is an extremely effective war movie and an extremely powerful one at that, and it is for those reasons why the film is one of the best of 2002 and one of the best of the decade. That being said, the strongest element of the film is the leading performance of Adrien Brody, who deservingly won an Oscar for his performance. Had Sziplman been played by a different actor (or directed by a different director for that matter), I have a feeling that the film would not have been as powerful as it was. His performance was phenomenal throughout, though he ristarts to pick up (as does the film in general) when he is rescued from the train. Though Brody is the strongest performer, the supporting performances are decent enough, like Thomas Kretschmann as the one Nazi officer kind to Sziplman and the fellow who played Sziplman's brother Henryk. The film also benefits from a rich history of injustice, which is represented brilliantly through both the performances and Polanski's rich attention to detail (fitting in a film this personal). On that note, Polanski's direction is absolutely excellent and worthy of the Oscar as well. In fact, I'm confident that Polanski gives one of the best directing jobs ever with this film. The film is solid on a technical level, with excellent cinematography and excellent production design (especially in the ghetto). One of my favourite shots is when Adrien Brody is walking through the ransacked ghetto. The one flaw (enough to knock 10% off of my score) was the fact that the first third of the film was comparatively weaker compared to the last two thirds. It's still decent buildup, and it shows the relationship between Wladislaw and his family well, as well as the rising cruelty in Poland, but to me, the film becomes more compelling when Brody is rescued from the train. Regardless, I like The Pianist a lot more after sleeping on it, and I give it my highest recommendation. One of the best-directed films ever, and it features one of the greatest male performances of all time, and definitely essential viewing.

Legally Blonde

Some may heap scorn upon this film for being a quote-unquote "fluffy comedy" (which it is) and therefore not a piece of true art, but those who make such claims clearly did not see the movie for what it is. I won't say that it is a perfect film, because it isn't, but for what it is, Legally Blonde is a damned entertaining film and one that I will always enjoy watching. I also like that beneath the sugar and the candy-coating, it has a genuinely good message that, though it has been said before, needs to be said. Namely, that one can do whatever one wants to so long as they put in the appropriate amount of hard work. That, and the whole being yourself and making yourself happy (going to law school as opposed to being a senator's trophy wife) message. However, the film would not be as memorable or funny as it is if it weren't for the fantastic writing and the fantastic central performance of Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods. This is one of the performances where I could see no other actor playing the character. If they had a different actress play the role, or if they had a different screenwriter (but I put particular emphasis on the former), the film would not have been as good. It wouldn't necessarily be bad, but it wouldn't be good either. Witherspoon is an absolute delight as Elle Woods. She is bubbly, she's charismatic, she's sweet, and she plays a genuinely likeable character whom we want to see succeed and be happy. In other words, she is a total delight, and the movie would not be the same without her, as she delivers one of my favourite comedic performances. She is backed up by a series of awesome supporting performances from the likes of Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge, Luke Wilson, and Victor Garber, and a terrific screenplay. Needless to say, this film holds a special place in my heart, and it is a ton of fun to watch, even though it is not a perfect film and it does have some silly moments. It has a good story, memorable characters, great performances, and it's an all around great movie, though I cannot see it appealing to the tastes of everyone.

The Hunger Games
½

Adapting a book into a film is probably one of the hardest and most thankless jobs in Hollywood, because no matter what you do and no matter how faithful you try to make it, there will always be something that pisses the book's fanbase off, especially with a book as popular as The Hunger Games. That being said, there is a lot about The Hunger Games that would be extremely difficult to convert to the screen (such as some of the gorier demises and some of the intricacies of the characters and their interpersonal relationships, as well as some minute details that were quite frankly necessary to cut out). Plus, the filmmakers had the difficulty of turning decidedly r-rated source material into a PG-13 film, so as to play to their target audience.

Before I say anything, I will say that those who haven't read the source novel by Suzanne Collins (who also co-authored the screenplay) as well as the other two books in the series should read them immediately. Together, they make up what is likely the finest young-adult book series ever written. They shouldn't be too hard to find right now, the bookstores are teeming with them. But this isn't a review saying what I like about the books, it's about the film and as adaptations go, The Hunger Games is one of the better ones I have recently seen and it is sure to be a highlight in the films of the year and a highlight in my favourite films of 2012.

The film captures the essence of Suzanne Collins' books perfectly, though there are some things that get lost in translation, some of the intricacies of the book that would be near-impossible to convert perfectly to film. Sadly, the film suffers for it, but I can't deny (nobody can, really) that The Hunger Games is a solidly made film and the first good blockbuster of the year. The film has a great story (naturally, considering the story of the books) and said story is backed up by excellent acting, superb direction from Gary Ross (the director of Pleasantville, one of the most underrated films of all time, doing his first film since Seabiscuit), and magnificent visuals. This is the Hunger Games film I wanted to see, and it lived up to the hype in every way, flaws and all.

For those of you who don't know, The Hunger Games takes place in the futuristic/post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, which consists of the Capitol and twelve outlying districts (each specializing in a certain trade, like masonry, coal mining, technology, etc.). Seventy-five years prior to the events of the film, the districts unsuccessfully rebelled against the Capitol and as punishment, the Hunger Games were created. The Games are essentially an annual televised fight to the death between 24 teenagers (2 from each district, one female, one male) selected from a random lottery, with a lone victor. The victor receives fame, fortune, and food for their district (which would be a blessing for those in the poorer districts, who almost never win) and the other 23 are...well, dead.

The story proper is about Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) a seventeen-year old living in District 12, who has been forced to support her family (by hunting and selling/trading her game in the black market) since her father's death in a mine explosion. The film starts on Reaping Day, and this also happens to be the first year that Katniss's little sister Prim (Willow Shields) has her name entered in the lottery. Naturally, through the cruel nature of a random lottery, Prim's name gets picked and desperate to preserve her sister's safety (seeing as Prim likely would not make it far in the Games), Katniss volunteers in her place.

She and Peeta Mellark, the male tribute (played by Josh Hutcherson) are transported to the Capitol by train and it is there where they go through the established motions of being a tribute. They are trained in survival, monitored by the gamemakers (lead by Wes Bentley and his awesome beard) groomed and dressed up by their own personal stylists, paraded around (in an initial tribute parade, one of the best scenes in the film) and are generally in the public eye all the time. Each tribute also has a mentor, a previous victor from their district (in this case Woody Harrelson), who is meant to help them through the whole pre-game process and arrange for wealthy Capitol folk to sponsor them when they are actually in the arena. Once in the arena, Katniss must fight to survive when the odds are clearly not in her favour.

The buildup to the games is what separates the first book from the other two, in that it shows these kids having to learn to become celebrities, because tributes are the rough equivalent of celebrities in this world (which connects to the reality-television parallels of the book). In this universe, making an impression with the audience could mean the difference between living and dying. This is one of many struggles that Katniss goes through, as she is rather stoic and surly, and stoicism doesn't go well with the audiences, so naturally, they struggle in finding an angle to present her with. The Games play out like a sporting event, which is one of the sad parts of the Games. The people of the Capitol (and the districts) are supposed to treat their children killing eachother like a festivity to be enjoyed annually, and the people of the Capitol have become so naive that they actually do treat it like a sports event, much like some of us would watch basketball or football. Hell, much like most of us would watch reality television.

This element of the book, to me, is played out much better in the film, because you get to see the Games from a more global perspective in the film. The novel is a character study set entirely to the point of view of Katniss, and her point of view is still present in the film, but the film has scenes without her, like the many scenes in the gamemaker's room, the intermittent commentaries from Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones (handled exactly like a sports commentary), and there are also some incidents where you view some of the things from the book from a different perspective (one which I won't spoil). Some may say that the scenes felt a bit tacked on to add running time, but I disagree, especially since it added to the characterization of several characters that don't do that much in the book.

However, despite the strength of the source material, the film's real strength, when you pick it apart, is the series of fine performances from one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. First of all, the film would not be as great as it is without the phenomenal leading performance of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, which is potentially worthy of another Oscar nomination. Lawrence embodies the character perfectly, easily one of the most coveted roles since Lisbeth Salander and Scarlett O'Hara. Knowing the book well, I'm glad they cast older as opposed to younger (I know a lot of younger actresses tried out for the role, like Chloe Moretz and Hailee Steinfeld). Moretz would be too young, and Steinfeld would have been too steely. Lawrence captured just the right amounts of stoicism and vulnerability, and words cannot describe how perfectly she captured the character. She and this franchise will go far.

The book has a large cast of characters, and they are transferred brilliantly to film through a series of great performances. Some may complain about them being underdeveloped, but with a cast this huge, we can't take the time to sit down and talk to each of them or else the film would be four hours long. Anyway, the film features a large cast of A-listers, and they all give fantastic performances. Some of the notable ones include Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as love interests Peeta and Gale. Though Gale doesn't get much screentime, I was thoroughly impressed with Hemsworth's performance and I hope he can prove himself to be more than Thor's brother and more than a pretty face. I was also thoroughly impressed by Hutcherson, who gave, in my opinion, the best performance of his career.

Outside the main three, there are a series of fine supporting performances from the likes of Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks (though she is practically unrecognizable), Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and Wes Bentley in a standout performance as Seneca Crane, the head gamemaker. In fact, Bentley delivered one of my favourite performances in the film, which I talk about in detail in the following paragraphs. They all embody their characters perfectly, though in my first viewing, I felt like Harrelson played Haymitch a bit too drunkly. However, that changed upon my second viewing, so I suppose you could say that his performance grew on me.

The film also has a fantastic young supporting cast (the tributes, namely) of mostly unknown actors. Willow Shields does a decently good job as Prim, though her job is mostly to cry and act scared (reasonably so, she's a child who is picked for the Games her first year). The featured tributes (from District 1, 2, and 11 mostly) all give great performances, the strongest performers probably being Alexander Ludwig as Cato (whom I also talk about in detail) and Amandla Stenberg as Rue, who doesn't get nearly enough screentime but gives a great performance nonetheless (and a powerful added scene near the middle of the film kind of makes up for that). However, each of the named tributes gets their moment in the sun, and they each take advantage of it, namely Isabelle Fuhrman and Dayo Okeniyi, who together make one of the most memorable scenes from the film. The only weaker links are the tributes from District 1 (played by Jack Quaid and Leven Rambin), who seem to exist only to give menacing glares and to die. That may be a spoiler, but given the nature of the games, I can say it without a warning. Needless to say, the cast was filled up with a series of wonderful and spirited performances from performers of all ages, and that is certainly needed in a film like this.

SPOILERS ABOUT TWO CHARACTER DEATHS IN THIS FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH

One of those characters improved upon in the film is Seneca Crane, the head gamemaker (or as some of you may know from the promos, the guy with the ornately awesome beard). He isn't even addressed by name in the book, and not much effort is made to give him any sort of sympathy. In fact, he isn't featured outside of one scene (the scene where Katniss shoots the arrow into the apple) As far as the readers know, he's just as bad as President Snow (Donald Sutherland), devising ways to kill kids for the entertainment of the public. The film makes him a bit more sympathetic by making him more like the other citizens of the Capitol. Namely, more naive with regards to the nature of the outerlying districts and genuinely not understanding the consequences of having two winners. This makes his death seem somehow more powerful, and makes me enjoy the wonderful performance of Wes Bentley all the more. Here's hoping he can pull a Robert Downey Jr. The other character I thought they did better in the film was Cato, a Career tribute from District 2 and arguably the villain of the book, played by Alexander Ludwig.

In the book, Cato doesn't have much character outside of being a complete psychopath/Career Tribue (in both the book and the film, the two go pretty much hand in hand). For the first part of the film, he's pretty much the same, but it's just towards the end of the film, when he is confronted by Katniss, Peeta, and the wolves. He knows he's (*SPOILER*)done for (*SPOILER*) and at the last minute, he turns against the audience and calls them out on the whole concept of the Games. It's here where we learn a bit more about him. He is a career tribute, meaning that he was taught to kill from a very young age, which is likely all he knew how to do, and all anyone ever cared about him doing. His motives were that of a person deprived of attention all his life, possibly abused and/or neglected. It would have been nicer had they spread it out over the course of the film, but hey, you can't have it all, and it is nice that he got some character development, even if it's on the fly. As well, we get a pretty damn great performance out of it.

*SPOILER WARNING OVER*

The film features fantastic visuals as well, with surprisingly minimal special effects outside of the Capitol. The art direction is fantastic on all counts, portraying everything from the bleakness of District 12 to the beauty and menace of the Capitol to the arena itself. A few of my personal favourites in terms of quality of design were the training centre and the District 12 penthouse apartment. Every bit of it looked gorgeous though. Above that, the film features incredible costuming, especially with regards to people from the Capitol, who are all supposed to look ridiculous to the other districts because they dress so outlandishly. A great example of this is Effie. At the reaping, she looks utterly ridiculous, but when she's in the Capitol, she looks just like the rest of them. This also takes into account the hair and makeup design, which were also excellent, and these are the things that I'm sure the film will be getting attention for come Oscar time.

I suppose now would be a better time than ever to talk about one of the most maligned aspects of this film. Namely, the shaky camera. All I have to say is that you people are making it out to be worse than it is. The shaky camera is definitely there, but it's not that bad. In fact, there were some scenes that were helped by the shaky camera. For instance, the reaping was one of them. It added on to an already tense scene and increased the unease that went with what is such a solemn occasion. It also worked at the Cornucopia scene, and it helped the filmmakers hang on to their PG-13 rating, because the blood is still there but it is very obscure. But the way people go on about it you'd think that the cinematographer didn't know how to keep a camera still. The only time it bothered me was when Katniss was in the woods, but that was the only time.

All in all, the film has its flaws, like the fact that I felt some things moved a bit too fast (even for a two-and-a-half hour film). I also wish that they would have spent more time with the buildup to the games. But those are just my personal preferences, and in an otherwise fine film, they don't mean much. Do some things get lost in translation? Absolutely. Is it somewhat hampered by its PG-13 rating? Eh...kind of. Regardless, The Hunger Games is a well-made movie that deserves all the praise it has been getting and that deserves all the money that it has made. It rises on the strength of its source material, but it also features a series of fine performances from a great cast, strong direction from Gary Ross (who is sadly not returning) and stunning visuals. It may not appeal to everyone's tastes, and if you have moral qualms with the premise, it's probably best to avoid it. However, if you don't have a problem with kids killing eachother and want to see the first solidly-made blockbuster of 2012, I give this my solid recommendation.

All I have to say is, if they mess up the sequel (which is my personal favourite of the books), I will be mad.

Sunset Boulevard

Last week, I chanced on this film in my local library and I immediately wanted to rent it, because, up until now, Sunset Boulevard was one of those classic films that I needed to see. I also wanted to see it because I love movies about the movies, and Sunset Boulevard is one of the more popular ones. The film was a critical darling when it first was released, and it has aged extremely well through time, becoming a darling of the AFI and earning its status as a classic and one of the greatest American films ever made. Sunset Boulevard is one of the most fascinating films I have ever had the pleasure of viewing, offering a fantastic study of the fickle nature of celebrity, featuring brilliant performances, beautiful visuals, and one of the greatest scripts ever written, chock-full of cynicism, dark comedy, and insight.

Sunset Blvd. starts, quite famously, at the film's end. It is at this point where I will say that a spoiler warning is not necessary, because the opening twist is pretty common knowledge. Our narrator and main character, a struggling writer named Joe Gillis (William Holden) is found dead in the swimming pool of a decaying mansion on Sunset Boulevard, and the rest of the film is essentially telling us how he got there, through his own narration.

We learn that Gillis is trying to sell a script, while simultaneously fending off repo men, since he is behind on various payments. His car breaks down in front of a large mansion and this is where the story proper truly begins. The mansion belongs to an ageing former silent film star named Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), the film's true star and the main reason why it's so memorable. Upon learning of Gillis' profession, she hires him to work on a script she has been writing for years as her return (as she so clearly states, not a comeback).

With no hope of returning back to his apartment and only a small-town newspaper job to look forward to, Joe stays begrudgingly to work on Desmond's script, thinking that he is manipulating her into giving him money to work on her script, which is established as a melodramatic piece of crap. This works for a while until the film's famous New Years part scene, where Gillis learns he is sorely wrong. I'll quote Gillis in describing that scene and their relationship by saying "older woman who's well to do, younger man who's not doing too well, you do the math".

The aforementioned scene could be considered the film's climax, as it drives the rest of the plot, which gets considerably worse. Not the film's quality, but things get considerably worse for Gillis. There's a small ray of hope in the form of Betty Schafer (Nancy Olson) but that ray of hope is dashed by his relationship with Desmond, as well as the fact that she is engaged to his friend Artie.

The first reason why Sunset Boulevard is so good, and the main reason in my opinion, is the story, which is much denser than would be expected. The story is also highly original, though it rang true to several elements of Swanson's life (minus the character of Gillis). In reality, Swanson was a silent film star who faded into obscurity at the dawn of the talkies only to temporarily return (not come back) to popularity with her role as Desmond, and then sadly, faded into obscurity again, not doing anything major afterwards. However, unlike Desmond, Swanson retired voluntarily. Erich von Stroheim (who plays her butler Max) also directed some of her early films (like Max did for Desmond) though the two were never married and he did not become her butler.

The story was also undeniably influential, inspiring several movies to come, as well as providing rife material for parody. The first of the films that draws heavily from Sunset Boulevard is The Artist. To put it plainly, if George Valentin hadn't seen the light and transitioned into the talkies, he would have ended up just like Norma Desmond, with Peppy perhaps in the position of Gillis. I actually think that Jean Dujardin could play that rather well, but moving on. The other film that I could draw parallels to is Psycho, mostly because of the dynamic between the protagonist and the antagonist. Both protagonists encounter their villains and the places that will spell their doom while on the run, Crane from the law and Gillis from repo men. However, Marion is killed halfway in, whereas Gillis is made to suffer as Desmond's kept man and a veritable prisoner in that mansion. I suppose he brought it on himself in some ways by thinking he was manipulating Desmond, like Crane brought it on herself by stealing the money. However, Gillis still makes a good protagonist and we want to see him escape his chains.

The script is also phenomenal, and it features some of the most ready-made quotes ("Okay Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup" and "I am big, it's the pictures that got small" being the two most notable") and deadpan one-liners (mostly coming from Gillis in a 40's film-noir detective kind of way) ever written. The story is very strong, but I don't see much of the black comedy that everyone else who has reviewed this sees. I will concede that there is some there, but to me, it's a phenomenal drama with a touch of film-noir about it, mostly through the character of Gillis. It is never outright hilarious, but it doesn't try to be. There are some definitely funny lines, a smattering of my favourites being:

"It must have been a very important chimp, perhaps the great-grandson of King Kong"

"

However, the script is not the only good part of the film. The performances are phenomenal (especially from Swanson), each one receiving an Oscar nomination but none of them winning. Firstly, there's William Holden as Gillis, who embodies the cynical writer character perfectly and gives the audience an interesting protagonist to root for, even though he is doomed. Holden is great, but the true star of this film is Gloria Swanson as fading screen beauty Norma Desmond. Swanson is a true marvel in her role, and she is so fantastic that her performance could be considered the greatest female performance of all time. She is perfectly over-the-top without being hammy,

The Descendants
½

When you look at the films of 2011, especially those competing for Oscars come tomorrow, there is nothing quite like The Descendants. The Descendants is a simple film, very straightforward in plot and execution, and it extremely contradicts the general theme of this year's films. However, simplicity is not a bad thing in a movie like this, because the earnestness and sincerity of this film is one of the many things that makes it excellent. That, alongside great acting, writing, and visuals. I can't see this film winning Best Picture, but there are definitely a few awards I can see this winning, and what I can see it winning really speaks to the quality of this film.

The Descendants is about Matt King (George Clooney), a lawyer and father of two who lives and works in Hawaii. At the beginning of the film, his wife gets in a boating accident and ends up in a coma. It turns out their marriage was not in the best shape, as Matt was working all the time, whether at his law practice or dealing with being the trustee to a large tract of land split between him and his many cousins (who are all descendants of Hawaiian royalty, hence the film's title). The issue with the land is that Matt has decided to sell the land to a developer, giving him and his cousins all the money that the trust was worth (the money which he didn't want to use).

The first act of the film is just Matt trying to keep his head above water and trying to take care of his mischevious youngest daughter Scottie (Amara Miller), who he is not particularly close to. Upon receiving news that his wife's coma is permanent and as per her living will, they will be taking her off life support in a few days time, Matt goes to get his eldest daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) from her boarding school to help with Scottie and help him tell all of his wife's friends and family the news, which they do fairly early on in the film, before the main plot kicks off.

To say that Alex is messed up is a bit of an understatement.
We learn that she is in the boarding school due to her drinking and drug problems, and she seems to have a penchant for older guys and fighting with her parents, much to the disapproval of her father. It's pretty safe to say that all the women in Matt's life are pretty screwed up, and it is those characters that make the film so interesting, especially Alex, who is just as interesting a character as her father if not more so, thanks to Shailene Woodley's fantastic performance (which we'll talk about later). It is also through Alex that the main plot for the rest of the film is set up.

In one of the film's key scenes (which comes after another of the film's key scenes), Alex tells her father the news that will drive the rest of the film, which is that her mother was having an affair prior to her boating accident. The rest of the film is spent tracking him down and quite frankly, that's all I want to say, because the beauty in this film is how the events unfold on eachother, like an array of carefully placed dominos. Character traits are revealed, connections are made, and it all plays out brilliantly in the film's magnificent ending, which is certainly emotionally satisfying and speaks to the acting ability of George Clooney, and which I won't spoil for obvious reasons. But what I can say is that the end to this film was one of the best endings of any film this year.

The film has three fundamental conflicts, the wife in a coma and her affair, Matt struggling to bond with his daughters, and of course, the issues with the land. Of course, there's also the issue of breaking the news to Scottie, where they had kept her oblivious yet hopeful before due to her young age and already bad behaviour. All of the issues are equally interesting and coexist very well, and though we have seen the family-bonding-in-light-of-absentee-parent storyline before, the story is brought up by the fantastic writing and acting. The characters are all interesting and finely shaded, all flawed yet very human people dealing with difficult circumstances as a family, albeit a very dysfunctional one that, by the end, is hopefully on the way to being a bit more functional.

These characters speak to the brilliance of the screenplay of Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash. They imbue each character with some likability and some flaw, and there isn't a single flat character. Even Sid, who starts out as a total ass, ends with some likability as we get to know him better. However, a good script isn't just about good characters, it's about writing a good story and writing good dialogue, and the film does both of those things extremely well. However, I don't get why everyone says this film is funny because aside from a few scenes, it was a very serious film and I would definitely call it a drama as opposed to a dramedy. Needless to say, the film had one of the best scripts of the year and it definitely deserved to win the Oscar it just won.

However, the script is only one element of the film's greatness. It would just be a brilliant script without a movie if it weren't for the film's brilliant acting. The first performance to gain acclaim was that of George Clooney, and rightfully so, because Clooney's performance was terrific. Though Dujardin deserved the award 100%, Clooney was a worthy runner-up and he deserved the nom nonetheless. He embodied the character of Matt King fully and perfectly, portraying the quiet stoicism and emotional complexity of his character extremely well.

The role works because the normal self-deprecating charm that Clooney oozes is turned off, making this performance extremely outside the type of character he normally plays. Matt King is not a charming guy, he's not supposed to be, but he's still a likable enough guy and we do sympathize with him as the film progresses. I have not seen enough of Clooney's work to deem this the best performance of his career, but I can say that this is definitely the best thing I have seen him in and this is certainly a performance for the ages in terms of Clooney's career.

However, the true star of the film (in my opinion) is Shailene Woodley as Alexandra. She was absolutely phenomenal, and considering that her character's return is the catalyst for the rest of the events in the film, I'd say that the film would not have been as good if it did not have her in it. I can see why she was considered to have been snubbed for an Oscar, but I am extremely happy that Melissa McCarthy was nominated because she gave a truly awesome performance. However, if there were a sixth slot for Supporting Actress, Woodley would certainly be in it. I feel similar to her snub as I did with Andrew Garfield's the year before, except I was much more pissed about his. Needless to say, she was brilliant, one of the best performances by a young actress of the last ten years.

A few more standouts in the cast are Amara Miller as Scottie, who does a good enough job alongside Clooney and Woodley, though there were times where I found her character too annoying to bear. The same can easily be said for Nick Krause's performance as Sid, though I warmed to him eventually. Namely, after his key scene with Clooney. But the two I was most impressed and surprised with out of the supporting cast were Matthew Lillard as Brian Speer and Judy Greer as Julie (to reveal her last name would be to spoil). They didn't get much screentime, but I was thoroughly impressed by each of their spotlight scenes, especially since I only knew Judy Greer from her roles on Two and a Half Men and I only knew Matthew Lillard from Scream and the live-action Scooby-Doo films. Needless to say, they were both phenomenal in their respective scenes.

The last thing I want to talk about with this film is the cinematography. The film was filmed on location in Hawaii, and it shows, because even the most simplistic shots are absolutely gorgeous. So gorgeous that they could be used in a Hawaii tourism commercial. It's not just the landscape shots either, there is not one single shot in this film that is ugly, even during some of the film's uglier moments. The film was nominated for editing and it definitely deserves it, as the film was very well put together. The only way I can really describe how excellent the cinematography was is to say that the scenes in the movie are exactly as good-looking as the scenes in the trailer (which is rare, because trailers often lie and mislead nowadays).

All in all, The Descendants is my fourth favourite film of 2011, and it has made me want to explore Alexander Payne's work, because he is a director I have not seen much of. In fact, this is the only of Alexander Payne's films I have seen. This film is not without flaw, but it is extremely well-acted, well-written (well worth the Oscar) and well-filmed and it is an overall worthwhile viewing experience. I wouldn't call it essential viewing just yet, but it has the potential to become a classic and a bright spot in George Clooney's body of work. Plus, it will hopefully get Shailene Woodley more good roles outside of playing a pregnant teenager on television. So in short, if you haven't seen this film already, I suggest you do, as it is one of the best of the year.

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)

What movies do you think of when you think of gangster films? Chances are, Goodfellas is one of them. If it isn't, clearly you haven't seen enough gangster films, or at least any good ones, because out of all the gangster films I've seen (which is admittedly not that many), Goodfellas is one of the best. It is a masterpiece, plain and simple, and it is now in my top 10 favourite films of all time. Often considered Scorsese's magnum opus, it's not that hard to see why. It is well-filmed, well-acted, well-told, and well-written on all terms and it features some of the most interesting characters ever put to film. It is also considered one of the greatest Oscar snubs and though I have not seen Dances With Wolves, it's not that hard to guess why.

Goodfellas is about what is essentially the life and times of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), also known as the utterer of the iconic line "as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster". Hill supplies most of the narration, though occasionally it switches to his girlfriend-cum-fiance-cum-wife. The film begins with Hill as a teenager, making friends with Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and doing odd jobs for the neighbourhood gangsters. It is also in his youth when Hill meets Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci in an unforgettable role), the other two main characters. However, this only makes up the first twenty or so minutes of the film. The rest of it is focused on Hill as an adult, and it essentially tells the story of about twenty years of Hill's life.

By this time, Hill is high up in the ranks of the Lucchese crime family and he can enjoy the perks of gangster life, which was one of the main reasons why he had wanted to be a gangster in the first place. Not exactly for the crime, but for the money and the luxury. During this time, he meets and marries a Jewish woman named Karen (Lorraine Bracco), with whom he has two daughters, he commits several heists alongside Conway and DeVito, including the Air France heist (which establishes Hill as a high-standing New York gangster) and the Lufthansa Heist, which drives the film's last act. Not in a sense of actually performing the heist, but it drives Hill's actions in the film's last act, and it is the reason why a lot of blood is shed in the film.

The film also charts Hill's downfall, all culminating in the single take (or at least, what appears to be a single take) known as the worst day of Henry's life, which happens to be one of the greatest scenes ever put to film. In fact, a lot of scenes from Goodfellas could be considered some of the greatest scenes ever put to film. The film is also quite violent, as are many of Scorsese's films, but the violence on display here is put to very good use, giving the film a certain amount of visceral power and shock value. The violence has kind of lost its power over time, as all violence has (mainly due to the type of society we live in) but that doesn't stop the film from being good, especially considering it has several of the best gangster deaths in movie history (mostly at the hands of Pesci, but ones I won't spoil just in case some of you haven't seen it yet).

The film covers a great deal of time, but what is most interesting about it (besides the downfall of Hill) is the interaction between the characters, and the close-knit almost family of the gangsters. This family dynamic is most evident in the wedding scene, where the narration skips to Karen and she's talking about meeting all of Henry's colleagues and their sons and nephews, all of whom are named Peter or Paul and their wives, all of whom are named Marie. It is also prevalent in another scene with Karen's narration, where she is with all the gossiping mob wives (all of whom seem to be stereotypically Jewish). This family dynamic can switch on a dime though, because you could be chummy with a guy one day and the next day he might want to kill you. It's this mentality that makes Goodfellas so interesting and it is what gives the ending the punch it has, making it one of my favourite endings in all of film.

The story is just one facet of the brilliant script by Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi. Together, they have also managed to write some of the most interesting and memorable characters ever written. Henry Hill is our protagonist and narrator, and we see the film's progression through his eyes. I'm not sure if we're supposed to sympathize with him, but if we're supposed to, I found it kind of difficult, especially at the film's ending (which I won't spoil). Still, the part of the movie from when he was a kid humanize what could have easily become a complete monster, and he is still an enjoyable character to watch, thanks, in no small part, to Ray Liotta's fantastic performance. Our other two male main characters are Jimmy (Robert De Niro) a coolly violent gangster, and Tommy (Joe Pesci), who is the exact opposite. De Niro is relegated to a supporting role this time around, but I'm sure Scorsese would have gotten him to play Hill if there were no Liotta, but he fits well in his role here, and his character takes on a sort of colleague/mentor role with regards to Hill. However, De Niro's character grows more threatening in the last act (whereas before he had merely been a thug), giving De Niro a chance to shine and prove his status as one of the greatest actors of our time.

However, the performance that received the most acclaim (rightfully so) and the performance that made the film most memorable was that of Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito. DeVito is a total loose cannon, willing to kill a man who just looks at him funny and especially willing to kill a man who pokes fun at his past as a shoe-shine boy. In fact, when he is (SPOILERS)"taken out"(END OF SPOILERS), some of his ruthlessness and hot-bloodedness transfers into the rather level-headed Jimmy. This was the role that got Joe Pesci an Oscar, where he gave one of the most notoriously short and modest acceptance speeches in Oscar history (which really speaks to his character because Goodfellas was his major film role and apparently, Pesci is quite a nice guy in real life). It was also the role that got him typecast for life, playing a relatively similar role in 1995's Casino. Typecasting aside, Pesci's performance is extraordinary, the greatest one in the film in fact, and he is definitely part of why the film is so memorable.

The film is also very good-looking too, and I'm not just talking about Ray Liotta (hehe). With the three films I have seen of his, I can say this for sure. Scorsese definitely knows how to open and close a film in all aspects. The opening and closing of Goodfellas are both extraordinarily memorable, and definitely some of the best in all of film. The cinematography is amazing as well, whether it be some of the more basic stuff or whether it's when the film gets a bit more stylized. The film also has a damn awesome soundtrack, as per any Scorsese film (so I hear). The editing is also amazing, and the film is just very high-quality in general.

The film is so high quality that even though I just watched it a week ago, it has already earned a place in my top 10 (possibly even top 5) favourite films of all time, and it is currently my favourite of the three Scorsese films I have seen. Goodfellas is simply a perfect film, no questions asked, and certainly one of the best films of the nineties. It is extremely well-written, extremely well-acted, and extremely well-filmed. This is a film that anyone and everyone should see, and any fans of Scorsese should see it now if they haven't seen it already (but I highly doubt that because Goodfellas is one of his definitive works). I, for one, can't wait to see it again and I can't wait for my love for the film to grow.

Hugo
Hugo(2011)

When you think of Martin Scorsese, what kind of films do you think of? I think of films like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and The Departed, some of the more popular entries in his body of work. Who'd have thought that the director of such crime classics could direct a 3D G-rated family film and do it so goddamned well. Hugo is a truly unique film and as Scorsese's love letter to silent cinema, it may be the film that he would connect with most as a filmmaker (of course, I don't know, I can't see into the man's mind). Hugo reaffirms Scorsese's status as one of the greatest directors of all time and the film itself is one of the best films of 2011, if not one of the best films of all time. There is nothing really wrong with it, plain and simple, and there's nothing that I can see anyone (especially a film buff) disliking. It looks great in all aspects, it's extremely well acted, the story is told brilliantly, and it is a worthy film in what I call the Nostalgia Trilogy of 2011 (the other films being Midnight in Paris and The Artist, two fellow Best Picture nominees). Also important, it was nominated for a fuck-ton of Oscars, many that it has the possibility of winning, and it is my second choice for Best Picture behind The Artist.

Hugo takes place in 1931 in a Parisian train station, where our main character (Asa Butterfield), an orphan named Hugo Cabret, has lived and worked since his father (Jude Law) passed away. The story proper begins when Hugo tries to steal a toy mouse from the grumpy old man that owns the toy shop in the train station (played by Ben Kingsley). He makes Hugo empty his pockets and comes across a notebook filled with drawings of some sort of robot. The old man takes the notebook, claiming that it belongs to him, and is adamant in his threats to burn it. Hugo cannot have that happen (for reasons that we will find out) and he desperately begs the man for the notebook to minimal avail. He even goes so far as to go to the man's house and beg.

Why, do you ask, is Hugo so desperate to get the notebook back? Well, the notebook belonged to his father, as well as the automaton that the drawings depict. Hugo and his father were trying to fix the automaton, but all that was missing is a key in the shape of a heart. That key is around the neck of the old man's goddaughter, named Isabelle, (Chloe Moretz), who is our secondary protagonist. Hugo and Isabelle try to activate the automaton, and the actions of the automaton drive the second half of the film, where Hugo and Isabelle find out more about her godfather (hereafter referred to as Papa Georges) and his past. That's all I want to say. I don't want to spoil anything because quite frankly, there's a ton of stuff to spoil about this movie and you should honestly see it for yourself instead.

This film is based on a reasonably popular novel by Brian Selznick entitled The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I was semi-aware of the book's existence before an adaptation was announced, but I had never read it and when I had seen it, I dismissed it as another young-adult fiction book. However, I considered this a good thing while watching the film, as it allowed me to view the film objectively and look at it as a movie rather than just an adaptation. Seeing the film doesn't exactly make me want to read the book, but I will say that the film tells its story very well. It is a relatively simple story, but it has not been done before and it is refreshing to see an assurance to the fact that movies somewhat aimed at children don't have to have labyrinthian plots filled with pop-culture references to be good. The story may be told from Hugo's perspective and he may be the main character, but the film is really a loving tribute to the life and work of one of the geniuses of early filmmaking.

SPOILERS BE PRESENT IN THIS PARAGRAPH

That filmmaker is none other than Georges Melies, one of the pioneers of early film and one of the masters of old-timey special effects. The film states that Melies was in his heyday before WWI and made over 100 films during that time, enjoying phenomenal success. However, once the war was over, nobody was interested in his films and he retired in shame, destroying all of his sets and all the copies of his films. People also thought he died in the War, so there was no question as to where he was or what he was doing. As far as I know, this story is pretty accurate. However, more negatives were found of his work (being found in the film through a film buff and huge fan of Melies played by Michael Stuhlbarg) and Melies gained a whole new fanbase. Seeing this film has made me want to check out some more of his work. It is this tribute to Melies' life and work that makes Hugo truly special, as there has not been a film about the director and I'm guessing that Hugo is the closest we are ever going to get.

END OF SPOILERS

You can tell that Scorsese has great respect for the filmmaker I mentioned in the spoilered paragraph, so much that Hugo can be considered as a whole film of Martin Scorsese fanboying for the directors and the films of yore. This love for old cinema is more prevalent in the second half of the film. The first half is merely about a lonely boy trying to fix a machine in the hopes that it contains a message left to him by his father. The movies are not mentioned that often, but the film sort of transitions over in the second half. May I say, I loved it. I loved the idea presented that films had the power to make dreams come true, which is what, in my opinion, films are all about. This is best shown in the scene where Hugo and Isabelle sneak into a movie theatre because Papa Georges won't let Isabelle go to the movies. This could be considered the film's turning point and it demonstrates what the film is trying to say very well. It is likely the most important scene in the film, and it is basically where the plot switches. It works because Isabelle had never seen a movie before and when Hugo takes her to the movies, she goes through the experience that I think everyone should go through at least once in their life. That is, the joy of watching an old movie. I felt that with The Artist, and I definitely felt it for Hugo.

The film is considered Scorsese's "love letter to silent cinema", and it is through that idea Hugo is truly special. I loved the clever ways this idea was executed, I loved the flashbacks towards the end, I loved the use of footage from some of the popular films of the time, I just loved it. However, the other main thing that makes this story special is it's innocence. These days, people don't like innocent. They like cold, hard, and cynical, and Hugo delivers an innocence that is unfamiliar in children's films nowadays. Hugo is a genuinely likeable and interesting boy, as is his companion Isabelle, and there is not a single unlikable character. Even the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), the film's antagonist were it to have one, is a reasonably sympathetic character with the help of a few humanizing character traits. This shows the genius of John Logan's screenplay and it is probably the reason why Hugo nabbed an adapted screenplay nomination, because the dialogue is admittedly not spectacular. But I think I've talked about the story and characters enough, so let's talk about the rest of the film.

First of all, the film looks fantastic on all counts. It looks so fantastic that I consider it the film's greatest strength. Everything about this film is visually perfect, and it could very well be one of the prettiest movies I have ever seen. First of all, the scenery is fantastic, so much so that I am absolutely certain that this film will win Best Art Direction come February 26th, as there is not a single film in that category that was more visually brilliant than Hugo. It all looks fantastic, especially the train station and the clocks. I would say that they are not fake enough to be CGI but not quite real enough to be sets. Regardless, they look fantastic. The costume design is also excellent, though I don't see much chance of it winning, and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. I don't think it will win for either, but the sets look fantastic. Since I asked for a few adjectives to describe the visuals, I will say they are mesmerizing, enchanting, sumptuous, and vibrant. I think I've said enough though, so I'm going to move on.

The film also boasts a phenomenal cast, all of whom give good performances. Asa Butterfield is pretty good as Hugo, not to mention utterly adorable. Anytime he cried, it was incredibly distressing and any time he was happy, I was happy. I think the crying thing has to do with the fact that he has eyes so big and so blue that he could easily be mistaken for the kid brother of Elijah Wood. Chloe Moretz gave a decent performance as well, working well alongside Butterfield and capturing the bookworminess of her character very well. Her accent also seemed to be channeling Hermione (a three-way accent, seeing as she is an American actress playing a French character with an English accent). Ben Kingsley is also excellent as Papa Georges, and he displays the character well, holding up the biopic sections of the film. Even as comedy relief goes, Sacha Baron Cohen gives a fantastic performance (probably one of his best) as the Station Inspector, who, though a villain, is just as human as Hugo and the other characters. The rest of the cast includes the likse of Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy) as Mama Jeanne, Michael Stuhlbarg as Rene Tabard (a movie buff and kind of a surrogate for the audience, at least the audience of movie buffs), Christopher Lee as a kindly librarian, and Jude Law as Hugo's father (who does extremely well considering how little he is in the movie). Needless to say, it should have received a SAG nomination for the ensemble cast because though the acting was not the strongest element of the film, there was no bad performance amongst the A-list cast.

Hugo is a brilliant film, and it is apparently one of the best of Scorsese's oeuvre. It is definitely one of my favourite films of 2011 and one of my top 30 favourite movies of all time. Hugo could easily be described as an experience, and it is an experience that all film buffs should go through, especially those who are knowledgable with regards to silent movies, because there are a ton of references that even I, one who hasn't seen that many silent films. Hugo is a masterpiece, through and through, it has brilliant and exhilarating visuals (which I could imagine would look amazing in 3D, judging by the opinions I have heard on this site), a great cast, and a great story. I don't know how many Oscars it will win, and I don't know how it would work for kids, but I know that it deserved every single nomination it got and if I were to have children, I would definitely show them the film. So in short, see it. See it before the Oscars if you can, as it was the film with the most nominations.

Midnight in Paris
½

My Oscar countdown continues on, this time with Midnight in Paris, which also happens to be my first film of Woody Allen's. This film is a particularly interesting entry into Allen's long body of work, as it is a surprising success after a series of misfires. What I mean is, depending on the person you ask, Allen hasn't made a good film since either 2005's Match Point or 2008's Vicky Christina Barcelona. I have not seen either of those films, so I am looking at the film objectively, and for what it is, it's a pretty damn good film. It was also a surprising commercial success for Allen, in fact, his highest grossing film to date (surpassing Hannah and Her Sisters). But enough about how it rejuvenated Allen's career, let's talk about the film itself. Midnight in Paris is in no way a perfect film, but it is a solid one, and it has its moments of inspired genius as one of the best films of the year. It has its weaknesses, but rises on the strength of its original concept and its array of brilliant supporting performances. For Allen fans I'm sure it will satisfy, but for a newbie like me, it served as a great introduction to a director I hope to explore further in the year to come.

Midnight in Paris is about Gil (Owen Wilson) an American writer who is vacationing in Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Inez and her parents are thoroughly shallow and unlikeable characters (who I will talk about later), and they all think Gil has a screw loose for the following reasons. Inez dreams of living in the Malibu suburbs and bores easily in Paris, whereas Gil dreams of living in Paris and giving up his Hollywood script-writing career (for which he calls himself a hack) to write actual literature and become one of the literary greats, such as Hemingway or Fitzgerald. From the moment we meet him, we learn that Gil longs to live in a different world, namely, 1920's Paris. Any other film would likely paint Inez sympathetically, but Allen does not do that. His script paints her as a shallow unlikable spoiled bitch, so much that we sympathize with Gil where we would not otherwise.

The story proper kicks in when Gil goes out for an evening walk and gets into a strange car that leads him to a strange place. This strange place happens to be the very place he's dreamed about, 1920's Paris. It is there where he meets such legendary figures as the Fitzgeralds, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Luis Bunuel, and Salvador Dali, and he gains inspiration to finish his book. He goes back night after night and distances himself day after day, much to the chagrin of Inez and her parents, who are as jerky as she is. He also meets a woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Picasso's mistress and muse, who he finds himself instantly attracted to. Gil and Adriana are very similar characters, in that they are both unsatisfied by the present and wish to live in a rose-coloured view of the past. Whereas Gil would rather live in the 20's, Adriana would rather be a costume designer in 1890's Paris.

The message of this film is not exactly subtle, but it is one that needs to be stated. Everyone has felt, at least once, that they were born in the wrong time and that they may have been happier in another decade. Wilson states the film's message in a speech near the end of the film in a speech that I'm sure will become somewhat memorable (especially the bit about novocaine at the dentist).

The lesson that Gil needed to learn was that although past may be home to artistic legends, there was no penicillin (until 1928), no modern medicine, to prevent the many diseases of the time, and life would pretty much suck for anyone who is not a white man (which Gil is). Not to mention, France would be torn apart again in about twenty years with a little thing called the Second World War. Also, the twenties were only one decade. I'm not sure how badly the Depression affected France, but the twenties were fleeting and unless Gil was living in a stable time loop that went back to 1920 on New Year's Eve '29, history would march on, with or without him. However, accepting the present for what it is doesn't mean one has to live in misery, like Gil certainly would with Inez, and the ending definitely enforces that (though I won't spoil).

One of the film's greatest strengths is the series of segments that take place in the past, where Gil meets all the creative greats of the time. The present-day segments aren't really that interesting until Gil's visits to the past start to affect the present and change him as a character. Inez and her parents are not very interesting characters, but that is kind of their point, to provide foils for Gil while insulting him at every turn and just being jerks. They are the film's antagonists, were the film to have clear antagonists, and it is them that make Gil a sympathetic character. Adriana is also a foil for Gil in the results of their characters, which I shall not spoil. The film also introduces the idea that nobody is satisfied with their present and everyone is drawn into the allure of another time. It is these things that show the true genius of Allen's script, and the reason why it will certainly be walking home with Best Original Screenplay come Oscar time.

Speaking of original, another one of this film's strengths is its concept. Although time-travel has been done before, and jumping into another world has also been done before (in Allen's own Purple Rose of Cairo in fact), Midnight in Paris manages to maintain some sense of originality simply because it hasn't been done this way before. Simply put, there has not been a movie where a writer travels back in time through a magic car and meets the artistic and creative legends of the time. It is not a remake, sequel, or reboot, and it shows that there is still some original thought in Hollywood nowadays. This film is truly one of a kind and a film that deserves to be rememebered as one in the filmography of an (allegedly) classic director that needed a really good movie.

The other element of this film that will no doubt turn this film into a classic is the performances. Owen Wilson does a decent job as Gil, providing a sympathetic and interesting lead in a role that I'm sure Allen himself would have played if he were not...say, forty years too old for the part. Wilson plays the nebbish writer type, but Allen mercifully downplays the neuroticness in favour of nostalgia and constantly being annoyed by the shallow people he is surrounded by. Instead of being an insufferable starving artist like he very well could have been in the hands of a different writer, Gil is a reasonably entertaining character and a likable protagonist, though this is exacerbated by the horrible people he has surrounded himself with in the present day. I am not a huge fan of Owen Wilson, but I can't deny that he gave a good performance that was worthy of the Golden Globe nomination that he got. The other present day characters are Inez and her parents, who are played with supreme jerkiness by Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, and Mimi Kennedy. I may hate their characters with a burning passion (because Allen wrote it so I would), but I can't knock their performances, which are pretty good. The only other present-day character worth noting is Paul (played by Michael Sheen), a pseudo-intellectual friend of Inez's, whom she is enamored with but Gil (rightfully) can't stand. He gives a good enough performance, one of the many in this film.

However, the acting that really makes the movie is that from the supporting characters. They are the main reasons why the past segments are more interesting, more witty, and generally more awesome. Some of the more famous members of the supporting cast are Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Tom Hiddleston and Allison Pill (of Thor and Scott Pilgrim fame) as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll (of Law and Order LA) as Ernest Hemingway, and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali. Those are the recognizable past characters and the ones that are seen most often, but there is a whole slew of unknowns playing various denizens of Paris. All that I mentioned did great jobs, but the two standouts are definitely Corey Stoll's Hemingway and Adrien Brody's Dali. Stoll was worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination in my opinion, as he captured the commonly perceived image of Hemingway perfectly while being downright hilarious...in an abrasive kind of way. He could have easily been nominated in Max von Sydow's place because though he was in the film very little, he totally knocked it out of the park and gave one of the film's most memorable performances. The other extremely memorable performance is Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali. He was in the film even less than Stoll and he is easily the most memorable character to come out of this film. I won't spoil his awesomeness, all I will say is..."rhinoceros". The one original character in the past universe is Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, and while weaker than the rest of the actors, she definitely did okay. Needless to say, the film was packed with solid performances throughout.

The film also has brilliant visuals, having also scored a nomination for Art Direction alongside Director, Original Screenplay, and Picture. The film opens with an array of shots of gorgeous Parisian scenery (similarly to how Manhattan opens so I hear, except Manhattan is with New York) and it is an utterly perfect beginning to the film, signifying the warmth and joy that this film has to offer. The cinematography is utterly gorgeous, providing some great shots of Paris both past and present, and the sets are impeccably designed. I don't see it taking home the Oscar (which will probably go to either Hugo or The Artist), but it is as visually sumptuous as it is intellectually satisfying. It could have easily scored a nomination for cinematography, but art direction is good enough.

All in all, Midnight in Paris is a terrific movie, and I have praised it to death for a reason. Though it does have flaws (albeit very minor ones), it was one of the best films of 2011 and one of my new favourite films of all time, which I look forward to watching again. It features dazzling Parisian scenery, an original concept accompanied by a brilliant script, and a series of fine performances with Owen Wilson giving the single greatest performance of his career. Those who are fans of Allen will love it I'm sure, but it served as a good introductory film for me and I'm sure it will do the same for other Allen newbies. Regardless, I give this film my strongest recommendation, especially around Oscar time. I can't wait to watch more Allen films in the future, and this one has certainly convinced me to do so.


P.S. Personally, I don't long for a past. I'd rather be an older version (by older, I mean early-mid twenties) of myself in the present day. That way, I would have a bit more freedom and I would have the means to travel (namely, to go to England and see Les Mis on the West End).

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

The Oscars certainly feel nostalgic this year, don't they? I mean with films like Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and The Artist all heavy hitters (the first and last more so than the middle) for the Oscars, it seems pretty obvious. This is why The Artist truly feels one of a kind, although its story is nothing really new. It feels one of a kind because it came out this year, yet seeing it on the big screen made me feel like I was back in the twenties, back when silent films were the huge thing in Hollywood and before the dawn of the talkie. In the wrong hands, The Artist could have felt gimmicky, like they were making a silent movie just for the gimmick as opposed to a genuine throwback. However, it is in the hands of Michel Hazanavicius that this film is a true gem and a must-see for all film buffs. It has everything that a silent film should have. It has the comedy, it has the seriousness, and most importantly, it has a sense of joy and nostalgia even in its most melancholy moments. As of now, it is my personal pick for Best Picture and Best Actor, and I can bet that the filmmakers will be taking home many more awards come Oscar night. Out of all of its ten nominations, there is only one that I feel the film doesn't deserve, but we'll get to that later, onto the review.

The Artist centres around a silent film actor named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). Valentin is the reigning star of the silent movie world and adored by both the studio and the public. One day, through a meet-cute where she drops her autograph book and accidentally bumps into him while getting it, Valentin meets a young woman named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who is amongst the screaming fangirls and initially acts towards him like any young woman who has a crush on a movie star. She shows up to the studio where Valentin works to audition as an extra for one of their films, and through more circumstance, she and Valentin end up working on a picture together and he helps her get her start in the movies, which quickly escalates into superstardom.

What I have described may seem like a plot for an old-fashioned screwball romantic comedy, but there is much more to this film than that. Like Singin' in the Rain dealt with the transition to talkies in musical format, The Artist deals with a similar topic, except it deals with it very differently. In Singin' in the Rain, Don Lockwood adapted very easily to talkies. In The Artist, George does not adapt so easily. In fact, it is his unwillingness to adapt that results in Peppy's star rising (although it rose with his guidance) and his star fading. This rising star/fading star conflict is what drives the movie and what makes us feel sympathy for our protagonist. As Peppy's life gets better, George's life gets phenomenally worse and for him it's just one humiliation after another, so much that the only companion he has left (besides Peppy, whom it takes him a little while to warm up to after an incident that I'd rather not spoil) is his utterly adorable dog.

Although it is through his stubbornness and insistence that sound is merely a fad that made those things happen, I can't help but feel sorry for him. There could be several reasons why he was so resistant towards the dawn of sound. It could be simply that he is afraid of change, or it could be insecurity about (maybe) not being able to speak English very well. If the last was true, it is a perfectly realistic insecurity and it gives the character a bit more humanity. However, Dujardin himself is such a phenomenally attractive man that he could pull it off. Seeing as Dujardin is French and French is his native language, this is one of the great examples of the actor's nationality influencing the character for the better. However, it's not like he was hiding a high shrill voice or a thick Brooklyn accent like Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain. Quite the opposite in fact, his voice is not unpleasant at all and being in the talkies would not damage his ability to play a romantic lead.

I don't want to spoil any more of the plot for you, but I will say that it borrows many plot and character elements from Singin' in the Rain, not enough to call it copying but enough for me to consider the two films companion pieces. First of all, George Valentin reminded me a lot of Don Lockwood, the king of silent films who has to deal with the transition to talkies. They are both noted for their talent, they are both pretty damn good dancers, both adored by the public, and both incredibly charming. Plus, Dujardin looks like he could be Gene Kelly's french son (or, judging by their ages, grandson). But whereas Lockwood adapts to the talkies, Valentin instead goes through what I presume to be any actor's worst fear (namely, becoming a forgotten has-been and losing the fame and admiration they once had). Peppy Miller also reminded me a lot of Kathy Selden, even in a direct scene where she is one in a group of showgirls that even wore costumes reminiscent to Debbie Reynolds' in that particular scene (those who have seen Singin' in the Rain know what I'm talking about). Plus, there's the whole showgirl becomes actress and rises up through the ranks of Hollywood that their characters have in common, though Selden rises up in a different way. They even make the film actress played by Missi Pyle look like Lina Lamont at the beginning, though she is not an antagonist and has no bearing on the plot at all. The last act of the film also resembles Singin' in the Rain in a way that I'm not going to spoil. However, this borrowing does not make me like the film any less. In fact, it makes me love it more because Singin' in the Rain happens to be my favourite film of all time.

The story is not particularly original, and yet the film maintains some sense of uniqueness and originality in that it is the first silent film to come out in wide-ish circulation since Mel Brooks' Silent Movie in 1976, and it will likely be the first silent film to win Best Picture since the twenties. It also has an element of uniqueness in its nostalgia, how it's a throwback to the classic films of the twenties, and how films like this normally wouldn't be made in this day and age. This, however, brings me to the one Oscar nomination that I felt The Artist did not deserve. That nomination was for Original Screenplay. Seeing as this film was completely silent, title cards were used to express dialogue. However, they weren't used very often and although they did get some good deadpan one-liners in, the rest were rather unremarkable. Not bad, just unremarkable. The Academy could have easily given Diablo Cody a second nomination in The Artist's place, or any other original screenplay in general. I don't think it'll win though, and though I feel The Artist is undeserving for that one Oscar, the rest of the nine awards it was nominated for were wholly deserved.

First of all, the performances were phenomenal, so much that this film has my personal choice for Best Actor. I am sincerely hoping that Dujardin will win the Oscar come Oscar time and I have a feeling he will, as he has received a tad bit more praise than Clooney (who is the other popular choice for Best Actor) and though Clooney is a bigger name in the States, Dujardin's performance is generally looked upon to be the better one. Of course, I haven't seen The Descendants, so I can't be a fair judge, but I still hope that Dujardin wins the award because he truly deserves it. He embodied all of the emotions of his character, all the flaws, all the likability, and all the charm. Seriously, there is so much that he can convey with just a smile, which is so irresistable in itself that it can melt hearts, my own included. He's also a throwback in and of himself, which is one of the many things that makes this film unique. He's the old-fashioned leading man. He's the Errol Flynn, he's the Douglas Fairbanks, he's the Gene Kelly. Plus, another reason why he will likely take the award over Clooney is that he had to convey the thoughts, feelings, and interactions of his character without words, entirely through his actions and his facial expressions, whereas Clooney had the advantage of being able to speak. In that, Dujardin's performance is the most substantial (both in the happy and sad moments of the film) male performance I have seen this year and one of the greatest things about this film, thus making him my personal pick for Best Actor.


However, his performance was not the only good performance in the film. Berenice Bejo also received an Oscar nomination for her performance in the film and though she doesn't have much chance of winning, she gave a great performance nonetheless. She had the flair, the pizzaz, and for lack of a better word, the pep (funny, because her character's name is Peppy) necessary for this performance, and she makes an excellent foil to George with her star rising and his star falling. She's a fundamentally good person, and though her rise to the top could have made her conceited and ungrateful, she does not forget Valentin and how he gave her her start, and she sticks by him the entire course of the movie when she could have abandoned him (not in a romantic sense, but in a friendly sense). She and Dujardin worked extremely well together and they were backed up by decent supporting performances, such as John Goodman as the cigar-chomping studio exec and James Cromwell as Clifton, Valentin's driver. Another humourous albeit brief turn is the one by Missi Pyle as Valentin's Lamont-ish costar. Needless to say, a slew of solid and delightful performances all around, one that will be taking home the Oscar.

But the slew of great performances is just one of the fantastic things about this movie. It also got nominated for a ton of Oscars below the line (by which I mean below the line of the screenplay awards in the technical section) and it deserved them, being an overall visually pleasing film. The film's cinematography is excellent, making good use of each shot and embracing the old-fashioned by filming in 4:3 as opposed to the standard widescreen, and the film on a whole is presented beautifully. I don't see it taking home the award (which will likely go to Janusz Kaminski for War Horse judging by the photographs I have seen), but the film was definitely well-shot. It has a chance at winning for editing, and there is a definite chance that it could win for art direction because the sets were superb, from Valentin's colossal mansion to Miller's mansion to the shops in the city. For now, it is still my favourite for Art Direction. The one award I am absolutely certain it will win is Best Original Score (Kim Novak controversy aside), because with no dialogue, this film is entirely dependent on the music because if there was no music, there would just be dead awkward silence. The music is simply delightful, probably the best score I have heard all year and though the film used little sound, the uses of sound were extremely clever. I won't spoil them for you, but they are extremely clever. Overall, The Artist is a visual delight as well as a delight in many other fashions.

In short, The Artist is truly a phenomenal film and a gem, considering it came out in today's society. It is a must-see for all film buffs and though it may decrease in popularity when the Oscars are over, it will be remembered amongst the film buffs as a classic. The Artist is an utterly perfect film and has the honour of being my favourite film of 2011 and my personal pick for Best Picture and Best Actor amongst other things. It is a sheer delight through and through, featuring beautiful visuals and black-and-white cinematography, excellent performances through and through, and a refreshingly old-fashioned (though not entirely original) story. I recommend a viewing before Oscar time, especially if you want to formulate a good Oscar ballot and I recommend seeing it just for the experience, as there is nothing in this for a movie fan to dislike.

Plus, the dog is adorable. Seriously, that dog (or dogs) should get an award.

The Iron Lady

I suppose it can be said that any politician who has ever held office can be considered divisive. No matter how likable they are, there will always be a camp that loves them and a camp that hates them. One of the most divisive and controversial politicians of all time is Margaret Thatcher, England's first (and to this date, only) female Prime minister. Making a movie about her would be tricky because the real Margaret Thatcher is still very much alive. However, they pulled the film off really well, and although the film has its problems, I genuinely don't understand why it only has a 55% score on this very website. I personally thought it was very good, and although it was hampered by an uneven narrative (which wasn't even due to the flashback structure), the film is chock-full of fine performances and generally one that is worth watching, especially before Oscar time.

The Iron Lady explores three periods of Margaret Thatcher's life, all told intertwiningly, which may throw some people off with the rather unsubtle transitions. However, if one pays attention, it gets easier to follow. The framing device is the time period when Thatcher is no longer prime minister and is instead a senile old lady (which is fact, as Thatcher currently suffers from either Alzheimers or dementia) being cared for by her daughter Carol (Olivia Coleman) and a team of helpers. It is during these moments where we see just how far gone Thatcher has become, as she is hallucinating images of her dead husband (Jim Broadbent) and is reluctant to get rid of his things, despite Carol's urgings.

Over the course of the film, we explore Thatcher's memories and the rise and eventual fall of her political career. We see bits of Margaret's teenage life (where she is played by Alexandra Roach), growing up as a grocer's daughter, listening to her father's political speeches and trying to make her way into parliament, which is frought with difficulty even when she does get elected into parliament, what with her being a "lady member" of an otherwise male parliament. This is also how she meets her husband (played by Harry Lloyd and later Jim Broadbent). Various flashbacks show Thatcher during her political career, including her stint in parliament, her run for prime minister, and everything that happens while she is prime minister. Some examples of the things that happen are the Trade Union Strikes, some nasty stuff with the IRA (which is why it is likely best not to mention Thatcher's name around some Irish), and the invasion of the Falkland Islands, which seems to be one of the main plot devices of the film's last act.

The film plays like a checklist of important events in Thatcher's life and career, and it bounces back and forth to the framing device of her as a senile old lady. It is in this story structure that the movie finds its main flaws. The film is not sure what it wants to say about Thatcher herself, and for those who don't know much about the real Margaret Thatcher, this does the film a bit of a disservice. I would have liked to see the film explore one of the three factions of Thatcher's life presented in the film. Instead, the film kind of wanders around aimlessly, touching on several important events as opposed to giving a definitive picture of our leading character. A possible theory to this story structure is that we are looking into the mind and memories of Thatcher, and that mind and those memories are none too reliable. Either way, the story is what drags an otherwise excellent movie down, and it is what prevented the critical reception from being better and the film being eligible for more awards.

However, for all narrative problems, the script is okay, getting in some moments of sly humour like all British political dramas seem to. In fact, there is a very King's Speech-esque moment in the film where Thatcher's campaign managers are trying to teach her how to speak because, quite frankly, her voice is too high and commands no authority. The three incarnations of Thatcher are decently developed, but none of them get enough time on screen to provide a definitive picture of Thatcher as a leader. The topic of a woman in a man's game has been done to death, but that element of the story is mercifully downplayed. What the story really gets right is the portrayal of the nature of Thatcher's dementia (or whatever mentally degenerative disease she has), which is brilliantly portrayed through both the script and Streep's performance (which I will talk about later). A particularly notable scene where the audience notices her mind starting to go is when she humiliates her deputy (played by Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Repo! The Genetic Opera fame) at a cabinet meeting and rants aggressively at her cabinet. Thatcher's hallucinations of her late husband are handled very well, which gives the ending a bit more power. I won't spoil anything, so let's move on. Overall, despite my complaints about the story, it was a lesser part of the film and there was more than enough good stuff to balance out the narrative issues.

The first good thing to come out of this movie was obviously Meryl Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher. Her performance is the most acclaimed part of the movie for good reason, even scoring Streep her seventeenth Oscar nomination. In fact, it might just get Streep her third Oscar. I'm not placing any bets on the Best Actress race simply because it's so close. It'll be either her of Viola, that's for sure. Streep is typically excellent in her role, mastering the two facets of adult Thatcher, as well as Thatcher's physical appearance and weird accent. Will it get her the Oscar? Who knows, but she definitely deserves all of the praise that she's been getting. She once again proves that she may be the greatest actress working today and this is another great performance to add to her resume. Plus, she may have a leg up on the Oscar because she's playing a real person, unlike Davis. Again, it's a very tight race.

However, Streep wasn't the only one who gave a great performance. The supporting cast in this film is wonderful, although they all pale in comparison to Streep. The first is Jim Broadbent as the ghost of Denis Thatcher, and I thought that he gave the second best performance, worthy of award attention in its own right, and he could have easily gone in Von Sydow's place for an Oscar nom. Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd also give good performances as young Margaret and Denis Thatcher for what little they are in the movie. In fact, I would have liked the film to spend a little more time on them. In fact, I would have generally liked to see more of Thatcher's past. The rest of the supporting cast did okay as well, turning in average, relatively unremarkable performances. The last I would like to talk about is Olivia Coleman, who played Thatcher's daughter Carol. While her performance certainly wasn't great, she did capture the frustration of a daughter dealing with her senile mother very well. Needless to say, the most memorable performance to come out of this movie will be Streep's, especially if it wins the Oscar, but she is backed up by a solid supporting cast.

The film is solid on a visual level, providing some decent British scenery, nice shots of parliament, and splendid art direction. The costume design was also good. In fact, it was likely worthy of an Oscar nomination. Some of the clothing they put Streep in was simply amazing. My personal favourite is the blue silk dress that young Thatcher wears to the meeting where she meets young Denis. I also liked some of the hats that she wore, but moving on. The only other nomination that the film received besides for Streep's performance was for the makeup, and I can definitely say that the makeup deserved to be nominated, because it is nigh impossible for Meryl Streep to look old under her own power. I don't think it will win the award, but it was worthy of a nomination nonetheless.

In short, though The Iron Lady is extremely flawed, it is standardly entertaining historical drama fare and for those who enjoy that sort of thing, I would highly recommend this film. For those that don't, you probably won't like it much, but if you want to see it for Streep's performance to see if she could take home the Oscar, go right ahead, don't let me stop you. Though Streep is definitely the best thing in the film, there are several other great things about The Iron Lady, making it an overall solid film. The film merely suffers from doesn't-know-what-it-wants-to-say-itis, not providing a definitive picture of the person it is about and leaving the viewer a bit confused as to whether the filmmakers love her or hate her. It also suffers from an uneven narrative and things that could have been expanded upon to make the movie better. But that won't stop me from recommending the film because for all its flaws, I did really like it.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Out of the three Marvel movies to come out in 2011, Captain America is often considered a lesser film compared to Thor and X-Men First Class, which got better reviews and generally better reception from audiences. This is entirely understandable, as Captain America was the last superhero film to come out in the summer and by the time it came out, many were experiencing superhero fatigue and simply didn't want to see another Avengers buildup movie. I, however, was hyped up for this ever since I heard it was being made, and it moved to the top of my to-view list when a release date was set for The Avengers. For what it's worth, Captain America is a supremely entertaining and atmospheric period piece, capturing WWII very well. It also has excellent visuals, an array of fine performances, and some great action scenes (although they are kind of rushed in the second half).

The film starts out with a team of researchers in the Arctic coming across a huge aircraft (which will come into play later in the movie) and a shield frozen in a block of ice. After the foreshadowing, the story proper begins as we are introduced to our main character. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a patriotic young man who wants to enlist in the army but is constantly turned down due to his skinniness and poor health. However, he is able to make it in with the help of a kindly doctor named Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci). Erskine has a slightly alterior motive in that he wants Rogers to be the recipient for his super-soldier serum. Rogers is not faring well in the physical training, so it takes a lot of convincing for Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) to allow the program to go ahead with Rogers instead of any other soldiers.

After the procedure, Rogers is much larger, taller, and much stronger, capable of fighting in battle and doing what he always wanted to do. However, he is mostly used as a propaganda figure, doing stage shows in order to get people to buy more victory bonds. I like this part of the movie because it satirizes wartime propaganda with a montage of USO shows, as well as the silliness of the original costume design of Captain America. Steve is dissatisfied with this life and longs to actually be in battle, to do what he wanted to do when he signed on. He gets this chance when he is called to face the film's villain, Johann Schmidt (AKA Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving). Schmidt was chief of Hitler's science division, and the super soldier serum was tested on him as well. Unfortunately, the serum only amplifies the ugliness of those who are not pure of heart, so while Rogers gets transformed into the epitome of human perfection, Schmidt gets...... well, I don't want to say for fear of spoilers. Oh, and he had an imperfect version of the procedure, so that makes his condition worse.

Schmidt is looking for a tesseract that is believed to have come from the gods. Possession of said tesseract would fulfill Schmidt's own plan of world domination. This is a relatively unoriginal motivation for a villain to have, and in any other movie, I would dismiss it as rote and silly. However, this film is a throwback to pulp-adventures and serials of the 1940's, so to have a villain with the objective of world domination is not at all out of place. The climax of the film is Rogers attempting to stop the launching of WMD's that Schmidt plans to use to destroy the major American cities. A relatively simple climax, but an exciting one nonetheless. Schmidt is an interesting villain, and despite the war effort against the Nazis being a huge part of the movie, you definitely get the message that Schmidt is a much larger threat. He is an interesting villain, despite being the typical rogue agent gone mad with power, and he is played awesomely (as per usual) by Hugo Weaving. Like I said, his characterization may have bothered me if he was in any other movie, but here, Red Skull is a great villain, one of the best non-Batman villains adapted to film.

As for our hero, Steve Rogers is a very well-developed character and he is played brilliantly by Chris Evans. I enjoyed him in here much more than I did in the Fantastic Four movie and that says a lot because he was the only thing I liked in the Fantastic Four movie. Steve Rogers is a nice guy, and all he wants to do is serve his country, but his physical condition prevents him from doing so. It's nice to see that he remains his normal self after his transformation, showing that getting taller and more muscular doesn't have to make a person a jerk. The thing that makes Steve Rogers relatable is the exact same thing that makes Peter Parker relatable. It is that Steve Rogers is a huge dork. He's awkward, he's bullied, he's not good with girls, but he's a nice guy and we root for him. People like an underdog story, and this is an extremely well-played underdog story. In fact, since Captain America was published before Spiderman, it could be the first major underdog superhero and perhaps a prototype for some elements of Spiderman. Like I said, Evans' performance is pitch-perfect, one of my favourites in a superhero film. I would be blind if I didn't mention his fantastic body, and how much respect I have for the work he did to obtain it. In reality, all of those chorus girls in the victory-bond show montage would not be able to keep their hands off of him. Hell, nobody would be able to keep their hands off of him.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Haley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, and Sebastian Stan, who play Agent Carter, Col. Phillips, Howard Stark and Bucky respectively. Atwell gives a good tough performance as both a military woman and a love interest for Rogers. Although in reality, a woman likely would not have been in that high standing in the military. She was a decently developed character instead of just being a damsel in distress (like Mary Jane Watson in the Spiderman movies) and she is played by a pretty good actress. Tommy Lee Jones is awesome and cynical as always, and I find that he gives his best performances when he plays authority figures (like in The Fugitive or Men in Black). He definitely has the voice and deadpan delivery for it. That was what made his turn as Agent K so great and that is what makes his performance in this great. Dominic Cooper was amazing as Howard Stark (who draws parallels from his fairly obvious namesake Howard Hughes), and his performance is obviously meant to be very similar to Robert Downey Jr's in Iron Man, seeing as they are father and son. He is enjoyable, snarky, and fun, and it seems like a love triangle is going to be set up between him, Captain America, and Agent Carter. I won't tell you how that plays out, but I will say that Cooper's performance was probably my second favourite besides that of the Cap himself. As for Stan, I appreciated the change of the character of Bucky from kid sidekick of Captain America to loyal friend and fellow soldier. Stan's performance was pretty good for how little he is in the movie, and I was definitely surprised by the quality of his performance considering that he is most well known for Gossip Girl.

The film is also solid visually, and the excellent art direction gives the film a real atmosphere to it. The sets are excellent and the visual effects (for how little they are used) are excellent. 2011 was the year the blockbuster went retro, with Super 8, X-Men First Class, and especially Captain America. I love films about this time period and this one is no exception. Each set is highly evocative of the time period and although it takes extreme license with history, you feel sucked into the time period. Most of the film's effects were done through practical means and not through CG (sparing for the shrinking down of Evans, which was obviously CGI). I could actually see this picking up a nod for art direction, although not for visual effects, because it is more dependent on the set details rather than flashy special effects. I love films that suck you into their time period and make you feel like you are there, and Captain America is certainly one of those films.

Now I know I have heaped undying praise on this film without giving it a perfect score. I should definitely explain why. The main problem with this film comes with the pacing. Like The Matrix, the first two thirds of this film are set up brilliantly. However, in the last act, they seem to forget that this is supposed to be a summer blockbuster and they cram all the action into one act, making the action scenes confused and repetitive. Some are good, but I could not keep up with most because they were too poorly paced and too close together. This would only be a minor problem if it weren't for the fact that the first two thirds are set up so well. After such fine buildup to a mediocre payoff, I couldn't help but be disappointed. However, the buildup is still great, and the second half doesn't make the movie unwatchable, it just makes it flawed. There is one action scene worth paying attention to in the second half, but after that it's just a flurry of action where it is acceptable to just turn your brain off because the action scenes are still well-choreographed and fun to watch, just not well paced.

Flaws in the second half aside, Captain America: The First Avenger is one of my favourite films of last year. The film has impeccable visuals with lots of atmospheric retro touches, as well as excellent costume design. I definitely give credit to anyone who can make a better costume for Captain America while satirizing the one from the comics at the same time. The direction from Joe Johnston is solid, and the film offers a different interpretation of Steve Rogers/Captain America, making him a sweet and sympathetic protagonist, as well as one with an absolutely fantastic body (sorry, I had to point that out again). I can see those who wouldn't like it and that is entirely cool, I don't laud it as a masterpiece or anything. However, the film is entirely worth watching and essential to watch if you want to bone up on your knowledge before The Avengers, because this film has a ton of sly references to the other buildup films, from the obligatory Nick Fury appearance down to the fact that Howard Stark speaks at an expo very similar to the one Tony speaks at, except obviously retro. In fact, just the presence of Howard Stark Fans of WWII movies might like it, and fans of the superhero will definitely like it because after numerous crappy adaptations, Captain America has finally gotten the movie he deserves. One of the best of 2011 and it has one of the best first halves I have seen in any movie.

Zombieland
Zombieland(2009)
½

You know how I said Shaun of the Dead is my favourite zombie movie of all time? Well, here's the film that falls into the second spot. Zombieland is an absolutely excellent movie, a movie that has often been compared to an American Shaun of the Dead. I don't think that's entirely true. While they do have some similarities, Zombieland is a very different movie. Shaun of the Dead is about a man trying to improve his relationships in the face of a zombie apocalypse, but Zombieland is about a loner who finds a family in a ragtag team of survivors. Zombieland offers up tons of good humour as well as excellent gore effects and some pretty good acting in an overall awesome package.

In the world of Zombieland (which is name-dropped a couple of times), zombies have outnumbered humans thanks to a mutated version of mad cow disease and the world has gone to absolute shit. Our main character and narrator, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has managed to survive all this time despite his extensive phobias by having a list of rules that pop up over the course of the movie.Some of the rules include the double tap, bewaring of bathrooms, checking the backseat for zombies, and the simple act of wearing a seatbelt. He also manages to survive because he has been a loner all his life and has no close family or friends. He is on his way to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents (who are paranoid shut-ins like himself) are alive. Which is a perfect time to explain why his name is the same as his hometown. There are no names in Zombieland, your name is either where you're from or where you're going. Which also explains to first-time viewers why the other three main characters are named Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock.

Columbus runs into Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), easily the most awesome character in the movie, and they agree to accompany eachother east. Tallahassee is armed to the teeth and he has two things on his mind: killing zombies and getting his hands on a Twinkie. While stopping at a grocery store to achieve goal #2, they are introduced to two mistrusting sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The sisters are on their way to Pacific Playland and after a series of scams, Columbus and Tallahassee join them.There's another reason why Columbus decides to go with them, but to say so would be to reveal spoilers, and I don't want to do that. The rest of the film is a road trip story, where the four get to know eachother on the way to Pacific Playland. Tallahassee and Little Rock bond over guns, Wichita and Columbus experience growing sexual tension, we learn the true motivation of Tallahassee's zombie-killing ways, and of course, some zombie ass is going to get kicked.

This is a departure from most zombie movies (even apocalyptic movies in general) because the zombies are not any sort of political or social metaphor, like in many other zombie movies. No, in this zombie movie, the zombies are just a means to show off awesome gore effects and something to have fun killing. It is also a movie about a loner finding his place in life and finding a family as he never had one of his own (just like Shaun of the Dead was about fixing a broken relationship in the face of danger). The film is not at all devoid of character development. Columbus learns that some rules are made to be broken, especially when the safety of people he cares about is on the line. Tallahassee learns to come to grips with what I can't tell you, and the two sisters learn to trust people besides eachother. They also grow as a sort of family.

Zombieland serves up loads of good humour alongside the zombie-killing scenes and some excellent dramatic moments. Some of the funniest parts of the film come from anecdotes, like how Wichita and Little Rock conned before Zombieland, how Columbus let his hot neighbour into his dorm room after being bitten by a homeless guy (AKA his first zombie encounter), and how Sister Cynthia Knickerbocker won Zombie Kill of the Week. There is also a cameo from Bill Murray once the group hits California and of course, being Bill Murray, hilarity ensues. It's also kind of funny to see the normally badass and tough Tallahassee go fanboy over Bill Murray. There are a whole bunch of other comedic gold nuggets in the film and it's sure to have you laughing throughout. There are a few memorable quotes in an awesomely tongue-in-cheek script, and the relationships between the characters also bring for some funny moments (especially the comparisons of Wichita and Columbus' 1997's, and the moments between Tallahassee and Little Rock).

For all the laughs, there is a heart behind all of the blood and guts. It's a movie about togetherness, about a young man who spent so long being alone that it took a zombie apocalypse for him to find a family. It's also a movie about survival, and the isolation that comes with survival. In order for this to work, the four lead actors have to have chemistry with eachother. Fortunately, the four lead actors have great chemistry (as well as great individual performances) and thus, the audience believes they can survive together as a family. The first performance of which to speak is Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus. It still surprises me that in all his future movies, he can be billed as "Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg". Granted, he was great in this and he was fantastic in The Social Network, but it seems shocking that a year after this was made, he came close to winning an Oscar, mostly because he seemed to be the next Michael Cera-esque typecast awkward guy. Good for him for getting out of that, at least for now. Here, he makes a sympathetic lead and a great narrator. This proves once again that Eisenberg is a fantastic actor, and I will like him more than I will ever like Michael Cera. He is one of Hollywood's great young talents and I hope he will continue to get great roles in the future, although his latest role in 30 Minutes or Less proved to be a return to his typecasting.

The other three actors rounding out the leads are Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. Harrelson is positively badass as Tallahassee, one of his most enjoyable performances by far. He nails the roles of the zombie-killing badass (with multiple chainsaws and a snakeskin jacket to boot), the jerk with a heart of gold, and the funny guy perfectly, making for an extremely memorable performance (probably the most memorable of the four leads, outside the Bill Murray cameo). Emma Stone is pretty good as Wichita. She conveys the mistrusting nature of her character perfectly, and she and Eisenberg have reasonable chemistry together. Her shining moment came during the flashback where she was conning a hapless gas station clerk. Lastly, Abigail Breslin proves once again why she is one of the best child actresses of our time, turning in a wonderful performance as Little Rock. Her interactions with Woody Harrelson are just hilarious.

All in all, Zombieland is an excellent movie and a modern classic, and it is definitely one of the best films of 2009. Zombieland features brilliant gore effects (although the squeamish will want to avoid this movie for just that reason), great acting, a great story with a very entertaining and tongue-in-cheek script, and some great zombie ass-kicking scenes. I highly recommend Zombieland to any and all fans of the genre (whether just zombies, horror-comedy, or horror in general) and besides the squeamish, Zombieland should do something for just about everyone. I bought this film today and I'm glad I did because this film definitely warrants multiple viewings. In short, see it. You won't be disappointed.

Juno
Juno(2007)
½

When I think of great films of the 2000's, there is one comedy that definitely comes to mind for me. That comedy is Juno, one of the best movies of its year and one of my all-time favourite movies. Nominated for four Oscars (winning Best Original Screenplay for a reason), Juno is a sharp and witty look into the life of a pregnant teenager and the couple whose lives she gets a bit too involved in. Besides the wonderful script, there is a cornucopia of brilliant performances, including the Oscar-nominated turn by Ellen Page as Juno herself. It also reigns as one of the most quotable movies of all time as well as one of the best dramedies. Dramedies are a tricky breed of movies, as too much of one element can make the other feel out of place, but Juno blends the two genres perfectly, making for a brilliant and memorable film.

Juno starts.....with a chair. Actually, it starts with Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a funny and smart-mouthed teenage girl who finds out that she's pregnant by her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). The only people who know at this point are her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) and the hilarious convenience store clerk played by one-scene wonder Rainn Wilson. After considering abortion and rebuffing the choice, Juno has to fess up to her dad (JK Simmons) and stepmom (Allison Janney), as well as Bleeker. Thankfully Juno and Leah found a nice couple in the Pennysaver who will adopt the baby.

That couple is Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), a typical cookie-cutter suburban couple. The film follows Juno over the course of her pregnancy, exploring her relationship with Bleeker as well as her interactions with the couple. The film's interpersonal conflicts begin when Juno and Mark begin to bond over horror movies and rock music and she begins to spend too much time with the Lorings'. It doesn't take a genius to spot that Mark is unhappy and repressed in his marriage. It also doesn't take a genius to know that he is not ready to father anything. However, it is Vanessa that insists upon having a baby and Mark appears to have no choice in the matter.

This would almost make Mark sympathetic except for the fact that he is a petulant manchild with a hinted-at yet never explicitly stated attraction towards Juno. Creepy. Regardless of whether he's into Juno (or if she's into him for that matter), it is made clear that he would rather go back to living as a teenager and would rather pursue his rock-star dreams as opposed to grow up. This dynamic between Mark and Juno is played brilliantly by Page and Bateman. Of course, this is one of two perspectives to take on the character, and that's what makes the film more interesting. You can see him as a petulant manchild who's a thorn in the side of his mature, realistic wife or a henpecked represed husband who happens to be married to a total tight-ass. The viewer's interpretation of him depends on their opinion of Vanessa. That is why I find him the most fascinating character in the movie, although not the most memorable, and that's why I have so much respect for Jason Bateman's performance in this movie, which is my favourite of his to date. Just a brilliant character written by a brilliant writer, helped by an excellent performance which I honestly think Jason Bateman deserved an Oscar nomination for.

The script by Diablo Cody is simply brilliant not only in plot but in dialogue, perhaps one of the funniest scripts put to film. The script is sharp and witty, and rather than blather on about how great it is, I will share a few choice lines from the film:

"That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet."

Mac (Simmons): "No, I know I mean who's the father, Juno?"
Juno: "Umm... It's Paulie Bleeker."
Mac: [in amusement] "Paulie Bleeker?"
Juno: "What?"
Mac: "I didn't think he had it in him!"
Leah: "I know, right?"

Juno: Can't we just like kick this old school? You know, like I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way, like Moses and the reeds?
Mark: Technically, that would be kicking it Old Testament.

That's only a taste of the dialogue in this movie, there are dozens of ingenious lines. The film won Best Original Screenplay, the only Oscar it won, and it was entirely deserved (despite its worthy co-nominees). Despite the hilarious nature of the film, the dramatic elements are excellent as well. In essence, Juno is a story not about pro-life-ism or any spectrum of the whole pregnancy debate, but about growing up. It is about Juno growing up over the course of the film, as she starts out as a typical immature teenage girl, but becomes more mature over the nine months. It's also about Mark's unwillingness to grow up, and while Juno is successful in her coming-of-age story, his story is yet to be told and if it was ever told, I don't think it would end well.

Ellen Page plays the role of Juno, and she gives a phenomenal performance, both comedic and dramatic. She is a very talented actress, and Juno is probably her most iconic role and likely always will be, as it earned Page her first (and hopefully not her last) Oscar nomination. She has decent chemistry with Michael Cera, who also gives his best performance here. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am generally not a huge fan of Michael Cera. I don't think he's a bad actor, I just think he's a one-trick pony, and he hasn't done anything to convince me otherwise. Here, his one trick works best, as he plays Juno's best friend and the father of her baby. He's decently funny and although he doesn't stretch far in terms of acting, it strangely works.

The secondary cast is amazing as well. First, there are two awesome performances from typical awesome secondary character-actors JK Simmons (Jameson from the Spiderman movies, who has made a career out of being awesome) and Allison Janney. He plays the supportive father and she plays the far from evil stepmother, and both are hilarious as well as heartwarming. Olivia Thirlby is great as Leah (who seems to be the ditzy cheerleader, but is still a loyal friend to Juno), Bateman is great as Mark (as I priorly said) and Jennifer Garner is excellent as Vanessa as well. All in all, this has a fine ensemble cast with a slew of amazing performance.

When it comes down to storytelling, Juno is a coming-of-age story, and a damned good one at that. It is one of my favourite movies of all time, definitely in my top 20, and I give it my strongest recommendation for anyone who hasn't seen it, as well as anyone who has. I wouldn't say it is without flaw, but I would say that it is a dramedy masterpiece and one of the greatest teen films since the Hughes days of the 80's. It's nice to see smart teenagers, not the vapid teenagers (teenage girls especially) that are so present in films nowadays. There are brilliant performances, a fantastic Oscar-winning script, great characters, and I forgot to mention, a pretty good soundtrack. In short, Juno is not a must-see, but it is damn great and I give it my highest recommendation possible and if teenagers watch more films like this, we may have smarter teenagers.

I Love You, Man

Judging by his offscreen reputation, Paul Rudd could easily win the title of nicest, most relaxed man in Hollywood. Second place for that title could likely go to Jason Segel. So, why not put them in a movie together? Well, they did, and it worked out brilliantly. I Love You, Man is an excellent comedy with a quasi-original story that rises on the great chemistry of its leads (Rudd and Segel, as well as Rudd and Rashida Jones) as well as the strength of its script, which is oftentimes hilarious. Compared to the flashier comedy that came out that year, a little comedy called The Hangover, I Love You Man is much more realistic and much sweeter although still raunchy, making for a slightly better comedy.

I Love You, Man starts out with our main character, a real estate agent named Peter (Paul Rudd) proposing to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones). All his life, Peter has been a girlfriend guy, and it takes Zooey agreeing to marry him for Peter to realize that he has no close male friends. This will prove a problem as Peter needs a best man. However, if one were to liken this film to real life, this would not be a problem. Women can have men of honour, one would think it would work the same way for men. Peter enlists the help of his gay brother (Andy Samberg) in finding guys to go on platonic "man-dates" (casual lunches or after-work drinks) with so he can find a best man.

After a montage of disasters (including a really hilarious guy from Reno 911 that actually turns out to be gay), Peter finds a viable choice in Sydney (Jason Segel), whom he meets at his open house. The open house is a subplot that appears throughout the movie, as Peter needs the money from the Ferrigno estate (yes, that Ferrigno, Lou Ferrigno in a hilarious bit part) to pay for the wedding. Sydney is a pretty cool guy, and it is with his help that Peter learns to loosen up and over the course of the film, Sydney helps him become more confident in himself. You see, Peter starts out as a very wound-up character, mostly because he has no male friends.

It is my belief that everyone, both men and women, needs friends of their own gender. No matter how well you get along with your guy friends if you are a woman or your lady friends if you're a man, there will always be limitations on what you can talk about. With friends of the same gender, you can completely let loose, like Peter and Sydney do in Sydney's man-cave. Peter and Sydney bond over Rush concerts, screaming like gorillas, and talking about sex. He inspires Peter to take more risks, and in turn, Peter helps Sydney overcome some of his flaws. Although Peter thinks that Sydney ruined his life at a point in the film, it turns out that Sydney has improved his life. This is what friends are supposed to do for eachother, make eachother better people while appreciating the eccentricities of the other person.

The story, when one thinks about it, is somewhat original, although it plays out much like a romantic comedy. The exact story of a man who realizes he has no male friends who tries to remedy that by going on several platonic dates has not really been told in any other movie. Despite the idea being somewhat original, it runs exactly like a rom-com meaning it is extremely predictable and you know the ending from a mile away. That is one of my few problems with this movie, mostly because one of the things I hate most about the rom-coms that this parodies is their utter predictability. Another problem I can see coming out of the movie is the fact that since all of the characters are extremely reasonable, there is next to no conflict. I actually think it works in the film's favour because it feels like how real people act as opposed to characters in a movie. Peter, Zooey, and Sydney feel like real people, not caricatures, and that to me gives this film a refreshing touch not often present in movies.

Predictability aside, this film rises on the strength of its actors as well as the oftentimes hilarious script. This film is incredibly well-written, providing for some great laughs as well as good characters. The script, however, brings us to another flaw and another thing that prevented me from ranking this film higher. Some of the raunchy humour feels out of place due to the nature of the film. Some of it works, but a lot of it doesn't and it sometime shifts the film into extremely awkward territory. There are some crudely hilarious moments that kind of appeal to my childish side, like Paul Rudd projectile-vomiting all over Jon Favreau. However, most of the humour works, some prime examples being Lou Ferrigno putting Jason Segel into a sleeper hold and Paul Rudd slappin' da bass, as well as the fact that . It's not the most hilarious movie ever made, and the humour is sometimes awkward, but it is mostly consistent and that's pretty much all I ask in a comedy nowadays. As long as it consistently makes me laugh, I will generally be pleased with it.

The actors, especially the three leads, all do excellent jobs. I have a feeling that if different actors were cast in the roles of Peter and Sydney, the movie would have lessened in quality because the film is dependent on the chemistry between Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. Thankfully, the two actors work brilliantly off of eachother and have great chemistry, each of them turning in excellent performances as Peter and Sydney respectively. I am a huge fan of Paul Rudd and after The Muppets, I am growing to be a huge fan of Jason Segel as well, and it is great to see two of my favourite comedic actors of all time in a movie together. Rashida Jones was excellent as Zooey, Peter's fiancee. She and Rudd have excellent chemistry together as well and they make for a relatively realistic couple in that they have a relationship based on mutual love and respect, unlike the romantic comedies that this film satirizes. The supporting cast is brilliant as well, like Andy Samberg as Peter's brother, JK Simmons as Peter's father, Thomas Lennon as the one of Peter's man-dates that turns out to be gay, and especially Jaime Pressly (AKA Joy Turner on My Name is Earl) and Jon Favreau as Denise and Barry, Zooey's friend and her complete ass-hat of a husband. His mere presence in the movie makes it no question why Peter wants to hang around with women. If you were forced to hang out with Barry and his friends, who wouldn't want to hang out with women? All in all, a strong cast that elevates the film to the quality that it is.

All in all, I Love You Man is a sweet movie that kind of flew under the radar because The Hangover came out that year, despite the fact that this film came out before The Hangover. It has an excellent cast and an excellent script, which are what gives the film any semblance of memorability. It is not a classic, and not a masterpiece, but it made me laugh consistently and I enjoyed the main characters, which is enough to want to watch this movie again and enough to recommend it. I Love You Man is a genuinely funny and genuinely touching look at friendship filled to the brim with great comedic performances, and it is definitely worth a DVD rental sometime in the future.

Shaun of the Dead

With this review, I have decided to start a new style of review. Though I will still be doing long reviews, I am going to be doing this as a mini-review. Anyway, I absolutely adore Shaun of the Dead, arguably the greatest horror-comedy since Scream and my current favourite zombie movie. It is a wildly entertaining masterpiece of a film that has awesome zombies and kick-ass action, but it also has memorable and fleshed-out (no pun intended) characters played by great actors to back it up. This is my second taste of the Pegg/Wright/Frost combo, and it is a winning combo for sure, making me want to see Hot Fuzz all the more.

Shaun of the Dead is often described as a "rom-zom-com", that is, a romantic comedy that happens to take place during a zombie apocalypse. The film is centred around the titular Shaun (Simon Pegg), a deadbeat who lives with his equally deadbeat friend Ed (Nick Frost). After plans for a date with his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) go south due to his incompetence, he is dumped, which merely adds to the shitty things in his life. He has a crappy job, a crappy relationship with his stepdad, and he's treated crappily by pretty much everyone he meets. Shaun was entirely asking for it, as he happens to be an incompetent dolt at the start of the movie. The only person that seems to be nice to him is Ed, who's still a total douchebag and inadvertently keeps screwing things up.

Things have only started though, because Shaun and Ed are attacked by a girl in their garden who they think is drunk, but turns out to be dangerous and only stops her attack when Shaun hits her in the head with a cricket bat. Shaun also walks through his normal morning routine too hungover and oblivous to realize he is in a zombie apocalypse. Ed and Shaun first deny that anything is going on ("Don't use the Z word"), but after hearing the news, they wise up to the fact that something is wrong and make their plan. They are to go and get Shaun's mother (who has told him that his stepfather was bitten and feeling a little 'under the weather'), take care of Philip (the stepdad) and then go to Liz's apartment and make sure she is okay.

The rest of the film is a survival story, where Shaun, Liz, Ed, Liz's annoying roommates David and Dianne, and Shaun's mother and stepfather. The entire second half is them at the Winchester (Ed and Shaun's favourite pub which Liz grew tired of after being taken their night after night) fighting the encroaching zombies. This half of the film gets more serious, whereas the first half was more comedic in satirizing zombie films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Shit starts going down and that's pretty much all I can tell you without my words being rife with spoilers, so the plot summation will stop here. Being honest, the film is not so much about story so much as characters, and these are characters we grow to like over the course of the movie.

The first of these characters is Shaun, played by Simon Pegg. He starts out as an incompetent fool but grows to become more competent as the movie goes on, eventually turning into the only competent person in the survival team. I shouldn't say that, Liz is extremely competent as well, but it is Shaun that is the most sympathetic and likeable character. He goes through so much that we can't help but feel sorry for him, especially near the end, when the film looks bleakest. He feels his failure to fortify the pub is just another one of the failures in his life, and this is one failure too many, as Shaun faces the ultimate despair. This leads to a truly excellent performance from Simon Pegg both during the comedic and dramatic parts of the film. I had only seen him in a few comedic roles before this and I never knew how brilliant an actor he was until now. By far his best performance.

The rest of the cast rounds out brilliantly. First, there is Nick Frost as Shaun's deadbeat roommate Ed. He seems to always play second fiddle to Pegg and one day he should definitely play first fiddle, because he is an extremmely talented comic actor as well. Pegg may give the best performance, but Frost certainly comes close, making Ed just as memorable and sympathetic as Shaun, despite the fact that Ed keeps screwing things up. Kate Ashfield is good as Liz, the only other sane character in the film, and she and Pegg (as well as Pegg and Frost as always) work very well off of eachother. The rest of the cast includes Penelope Wilton as Barbara (Shaun's mother), Bill Nighy as Philip, Lucy Davis as Dianne (one of Liz's roommates) and Dylan Moran as David (her other roommate). Dylan Moran deserves special attention because he plays David as such an asshole that (SPOILERS) when he gets ripped apart limb from limb and disemboweled through the same window he broke when there was a back door to get into the pub (END OF SPOILERS) I actually cheered because I was wishing for his eventual fate. Moran played him very well though, especially during the mexican standoff scene with the rifle and several broken beer bottles.

The script, written by Wright and Pegg, is absolutely brilliant in both the fields of comedy and drama, and especially in the field of character writing (as I had priorly mentioned). It is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Some of the particularly hilarious scenes include Ed and Shaun throwing records at the zombies while bickering on which ones to keep and which to throw, Shaun and the gang running into near-exact doppelgangers of themselves (except with a woman as the leader), and Shaun and Liz beating up zombies with pool cues while Queen plays in the background. There are a lot of funny lines as well, and the film is as entertaining as it is well-written and occasionally horrifying.

All in all, Shaun of the Dead is a total masterpiece in the fields of both horror and comedy, as well as in the field of character writing. The characters are memorable, the zombies are cool, the gore effects are amazing, the actors are brilliant, and the movie is just straight-up awesome in general. I highly recommend it to fans of zombie films, as well as fans of the Pegg, Frost, and Wright combo. This now reigns as my favourite zombie film as well as my second favourite horror movie (Scream just barely inching it out) and is definitely in my top 20 favourite films of all time. I thought I would like this, but I didn't think I'd like it this much, and I just can't run out of excellent things to say about it. So in short, see it. Plain and simple.

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

Anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely adore musicals, both those of stage and screen. They are the only type of songs that I listen to and really like (with a few rare exceptions of popular music), and they dominate 95% of my MP3 player. One of my favourite musicals is The Phantom of the Opera, one of the most popular and iconic musicals of all time. When I heard it was celebrating its 25th anniversary on the West End, I was overjoyed, and my joy only increased with news of the cast. Since I have no means to travel to London to see it live, I waited several months for it to pop up online, and may I say, I was amazed. I finished watching this feeling how I felt after watching the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables and even though this is not a movie, I'd put it high on my list of the best of 2011. This was a perfect show, absolutely nothing wrong with it, plain and simple. I will say that this is going to be a different type of review, because a lot of it will be me fangirling and it is a review for a production, not a film. It will also be pretty much a play-by-play of the story discussing things such as the songs along the way, so a spoiler warning is in effect.

The story of The Phantom of the Opera (hereafter known as Phantom) is an iconic one, about a disfigured man living under a Paris opera house who happens to be madly in love with a young opera star. That summation is merely the cliff-note version, there is much more detail in the story itself. It starts out at an auction at the dilapidated Opera Populaire. An old man later identified as the Vicomte de Chagny purchases a music box that looks like a monkey (both he and the music box will come into play later). Upon the auctioning of the chandelier does the opera house transform back into its former glory as we flash back about twenty or thirty years in the past.

The Opera Populaire is in its heyday, and we see a rehearsal for the company's current opera. This is where we meet some of the secondary characters such as Carlotta (Kira Duffy), Piangi (Wynne Evans), Madame Giry (Liz Robertson), and Giry's daughter Meg (Daisy Maywood). Carlotta is the company's ageing leading soprano and has been for nineteen seasons prior to the events of the play. When one looks at Carlotta, one sees the women commonly associated with opera. You know, the large woman in the valkyrie helmet with a voice that shatters glass. Carlotta is also a class-A diva, and though she is generally adored by audiences, there seems to be a mysterious presence in the theatre that dislikes her, causing accidents any time she is on stage.

We are then introduced to the two new managers of the opera house, Andre and Firmin (Barry James and Gareth Snook). After a set piece nearly falls on Carlotta, she flies into a rage and runs out of the theatre, saying that she resigns. Since there is no understudy, the two managers worry that they will have to refund a full house. Luckily, a young chorus girl named Christine Daae (the phenomenal Sierra Boggess) rises to the occasion. Christine is our female lead and one of three of the main characters. She is a young soprano who has been receiving lessons from an invisible tutor since her father died. Christine performs in Carlotta's place and knocks it out of the park, receiving praise for her performance and she is marked as an up-and-coming opera star.

It is back in her dressing room where her tutor (whom she has dubbed the "Angel of Music", who she thinks her father has sent down from heaven to guide her) praises her from the shadows and she is reunited with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul (also known as the old man from the opening). When Raoul departs after inviting Christine to dinner, she is entranced by her tutor (hereafter known as the Phantom) into the secret passage behind her mirror. This brings up something creepy having to do with the Phantom/Christine relationship. We don't know if Christine knows about the passage, but one would assume she doesn't. Which brings to mind the question of what he used that passage for before Christine goes through the mirror. One can assume that he's watched her undress at least once.

What follows is Christine being taken into the Phantom's lair via the musical's titular song, which contains one of the most memorable and well-known tunes of all time. The song is followed by the second most well-known song, which happens to be one of the sexiest songs ever sung. This song is entitled "Music of the Night", where the Phantom seduces Christine into a trance and later sleep. These two songs make excellent companion pieces, as they are both about seduction and they both explain the relationship between Christine and the Phantom. They are both simmering with sex appeal and in the hands of the right actor, they can be downright extraordinary (like in the hands of Ramin Karimloo, the actor in this production and my personal favourite of the men that I have heard sing the part of Phantom).

Christine does return from the Phantom's lair, and the managers receive a series of notes from the Phantom regarding their next show. The Phantom demands money from the managers, and demands that box 5 in the theatre be kept empty for his own personal use. The original owner of the opera house was happy to comply, but these managers are resistant, setting up their status as the main idiots of the play. Chaos ensues when Raoul storms in with a note of his own, saying "Do not fear for Miss Daae, the angel of music has her under his wing. Make no attempt to see her again". Naturally, Raoul is furious and things only get worse when Carlotta storms in with a note of her own, threatening a great misfortune should she attempt to sing in Christine's place. The last note received states the Phantom's plan for the next show. Namely, that Christine will sing the lead role with Carlotta being relegated to the silent role of the pageboy.

SPOILERS PRESENT IN THESE PARAGRAPHS

They decide to ignore the Phantom's demands, but this proves to be fatal as a stagehand (who was previously making fun of him) is hanged and dropped onstage. Absolutely terrified, Christine retreats to the roof, being followed by Raoul. The song that follows is one of my favourite songs from the musical, entitled "All I Ask of You". This is Raoul's song to Christine, a declaration of love much like "Music of the Night", except whereas Music of the Night is supposed to be sultry and seductive, All I Ask of You is supposed to be sweet and comforting and it works on that level, making for an effective song. However, the Phantom overhears this and sings one of the most heartbreaking and yet epic things ever, declaring that they will curse the day they did not obey him.

After the intermission, we see that the Phantom has not bothered the opera house for several months, and there is a masked ball going on to celebrate that fact. We also learn that Raoul and Christine have become engaged in secret. There is plenty of fun going on at the party (including one of the play's most elaborate numbers, at least in terms of costuming), but the Phantom has to go and spoil it with his grand entrance explaining why he has been gone. The Phantom has been biding his time and has written an opera, in which Christine will play the lead. Instead of being idiotic and ignoring his demands, they decide to perform the opera but use it to trap the Phantom. Christine does not want any part in this plot but she is forced into it against their will.

The performance of Don Juan Triumphant (the Phantom's opera) sets the stage (pun most definitely intended) for the play's lengthy climax. After making a passionate plea to Christine and giving her the ring that I noticed he was wearing earlier in the play, she unmasks him for the entire theatre to see. I'll get to the stage makeup later, but let's wrap up the plot. It all goes down in one final scene which is where, I admit it, I tear up. The ending is utterly heartbreaking, and the fact that the ending of this particular production is so heartbreaking really speaks to the talents of the three main actors.

In the ending, the Phantom presents Christine with an ultimatum. Either she marries the Phantom and thus saves Raoul's life (the Phantom has him hung by the neck, not enough to kill him but just enough to easily do so if Christine refuses), or refuses him and he kills Raoul, leaving her entirely alone in the world. This can be seen as the ultimate act of desperation and despair on the part of the Phantom, and the fact that he doesn't get the girl at the end (like Quasimodo in Hunchback) has elevated him to the status of a god amongst the fangirls.

The Phantom is easily the most well-liked character from the musical, and it is not that hard to see why. He may be insane, but he is insane out of love for Christine because she is the only human connection he has forged, and that connection isn't even real. His simple motivations are that he wants to be normal and that he wants to be loved, and those are motivations that most people can relate to. He thinks he can get that with Christine, and when she begins to grow frightened of him and seeks comfort in the arms of Raoul, the feelings of betrayal and hurt that we see are very real. His attempts to win her love grow more and more desperate, culminating in his ultimatum in the final lair. All he wanted was to be loved like I said, and when Christine shows him one smidgeon of compassion, he is kind of willing to let her go, although it absolutely breaks his (and the audience's) heart. This is a classic stalker story, a genuinely well-meaning and loving stalker, but still a stalker, and that's why given the choice, I would choose Raoul (who gets an unfair amount of hatred from the fanbase because the Phantom gets so much love), although I adore them both.

Raoul may get unfairly branded "safe", and like I said, he gets a disproportionate amount of hatred from the Phantom's fangirls, but he is clearly the better choice. He will not try to kill Christine if she refuses him, he does not stalk her, and most importantly, he seems to be mentally stable, making for better husband material than the Phantom. We see the admirable lengths he will go to to protect Christine, and his proclamation of love for Christine may not be sultry and seductive like the Phantom, but it doesn't need to be. It is tender and sweet, which is what the relationship between him and Christine is supposed to be. It is the core love triangle that makes the play so interesting, and it is one of the few love triangles where you could see her end up with either, although whichever one you hope she will end up with is up to you.

Christine is the last of the main characters, the Archie in the Betty/Veronica love triangle. She is an interesting and sympathetic, albeit naive, heroine and although I prefer The Phantom and Raoul, there is no denying that she is the centre of the story. Her relationship with the Phantom is interesting. First she likens him to an angel, sent from heaven by her deceased father, but her opinion of him certainly worsens over the course of the film as he turns more....for lack of a better word....stalker-y. Despite this, she still loves him and pities him, as is evidenced by the kiss at the end, which motivates the Phantom enough to let her go and be happy with Raoul, despite it driving him into further despair . Which reminds me, the look on Raoul's face as he watches his fiancee passionately kiss another man rivals that of the Phantom's at the end of the first act. What makes her so interesting is her inability to resist the Phantom, the best and worst thing that ever happened to her, and her naivete (her fatal flaw, if you will).

Be warned, this next couple of the paragraphs will pretty much be solely dedicated to my fangirling, because I will be talking about the actors. First on the list is an actor by the name of Ramin Karimloo, who played the Phantom. He has played the character several times before. He was the youngest man to do so in fact. I also happen to have a massive teenage fangirl crush on him. I first saw him as Enjolras in the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables, and I have to say that he is equally sexy in both parts, although he is allowed to be his gorgeous self in Les Mis whereas he is supposed to be physically ugly in Phantom. He still exudes the sex appeal that is crucial to the character though, and he is my favourite incarnation of the Phantom to date. Now that I've finished talking about his looks, I
suppose I should talk about the fact that he is an extremely talented actor as well. One of the reasons why he is my favourite Phantom is the sheer power of his performance. One of the reasons I teared up at the ending was because his performance was so heartbreaking.Before I talk about his singing, I'd like to talk about the stage makeup for the character. As opposed to the mild acne condition that Gerard Butler had in the movie, the Phantom has a genuine disfigurement as shown by the creative stage makeup, which includes partially exposed cranium, a partially caved in left cheek, and a giant swollen lower lip. But with the mask (and even without), the handsome side of his face still shines through. Ramin is also a phenomenal singer no matter what he is in, and he has one of those voices that can be high and soothing and yet low and passionate. Both styles of singing work extremely well for both sides of the Phantom. Both voices are extremely pleasurable to listen to and even if you don't end up watching this, I still recommend looking him up. I was extremely excited when I found out the role he was playing after this was Jean Valjean, because after hearing him in so many different roles, it is evident that he can do anything. However, he will likely be remembered for being one of the best Phantoms, especially considering that this is the last time he will ever play the role.

Moving on to the second man in this play that I have a massive teenage fangirl crush on. The actor who plays Raoul is an actor by the name of Hadley Fraser, and his talent equals that of Ramin. He has a more traditionally operatic voice as opposed to Ramin, and his voice suits the character brilliantly. He is also a tremendous actor, and he embodied the character of Raoul (all I have described in the prior paragraphs) amazingly. One thing that I noticed about his performance was that whenever he yelled in character, I could see shades of his equally brilliant performance as Inspector Javert (which he is currently playing opposite Ramin's Jean Valjean) shine through. I could not pick which voice I like better, because they both have entirely different voices. Ramin is a tenor and Hadley is a bass, and those two voices are like different flavours of ice cream. They are certainly different, but they are both equally likeable and equally pleasurable to listen to. I suggest looking him up as well, especially for his rendition of "All I Ask of You", as well as "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide" from Les Mis.

The last actress that I would like to talk about is Sierra Boggess as Christine. The only role I had known her from prior to this was her turn as Ariel in The Little Mermaid on Broadway. She was great as Ariel, but she is phenomenal as Christine. There is a fully functional video on youtube of her singing "Think of Me" (Christine's first song) and I suggest you look it up, because her rendition is the best I have ever heard. She is a phenomenal soprano, and has a very sweet voice while also quite operatic (not unlike Hadley, as I priorly mentioned). Special props are reserved for her acting during "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" (a song she sings at her father's grave) and "Music of the Night" (where she captures the hypnotized Christine perfectly). She is also great in the finale, and when she adds insult to injury to the Phantom by giving the ring back, you can tell that she is absolutely heartbroken in doing so. She is probably my favourite female actress on the West End at the moment, and she knocks it out of the park as Christine, making for a trio of fine performances.

Overall, The Phantom of the Opera is a brilliant musical and my favourite love story of all time, and the 25th anniversary production is absolutely brilliant. It features fine acting (including those I did not mention) especially from the three leads, and it also features the brilliant songs that have become so iconic over the years for a reason (my favourite being Music of the Night followed by All I Ask of You). I hope that Phantom sees another 25 glorious years on the stage, and I hope that I will be able to travel to London to see the 50th anniversary (if they don't celebrate an anniversary before that). Those who are fans of musicals will definitely like this, and even for those who are uninterested, I do recommend checking out the soundtrack. Overall, I love this production, and it is one that I want to own on DVD when it comes to Canada in March. Below are several links to what I suggested you look up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJMpy1C9Cnc&list=PL84E10852B772E28D&index=17&feature=plpp_video (Sierra Boggess-Think of Me)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDafaMOz3U4&list=PL84E10852B772E28D&index=6&feature=plpp_video (Hadley Fraser-Stars, from Les Mis)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tbkCgZQwzw&feature=related
(Ramin Karimloo singing the most passionate version of Music of the Night that I have ever heard)

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction(1994)

The 90's brought us many great films, and 1994 was arguably the crowning year of that decade. It brought us The Lion King, Shawshank Redemption, Ed Wood, Forrest Gump, and most importantly, it brought us Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction is inarguably Quentin Tarantino's most popular and well-liked film and judging by what I've read, it is arguably his best. I haven't seen any other Tarantino movies besides this, so I can't say if it is his best, but what I can say is that Pulp Fiction is pretty damn good. But Pulp Fiction is also a damned tricky movie to review because everything great that could possibly be said about it has likely already been said, so this review will likely be a re-iteration of what pretty much all of you know. However, I can still say that Pulp Fiction is well-acted, extremely well-written, well-directed and just plain awesome through and through.

I'd put a spoiler warning here but chances are, most of you have seen this, so a spoiler warning would be futile. Just in case there are some of you who haven't, SPOILER WARNING

Pulp Fiction has the task of telling three stories, as well as a prologue/epilogue, all intertwined and sharing several characters in common, over the course of one really fucked up day in LA. The first involves two hitmen named Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) who visit the residence of several unassuming men who have some business dealings with a man named Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). It turns out they have stolen a briefcase containing something very valuable. This briefcase pops up several times during the movie, and its contents are a popular talking point amongst fans of the film. Some say it contains the stash of diamonds from Reservoir Dogs, some say it merely contains gold, Tarantino says that it's "whatever the audience wants it to be", but many (myself included) say that the briefcase contains Marcellus Wallace's soul. This scene also contains several of the most memorable quotes ever put on film, like Ezekiel 25:17 and several conversations about sexy foot massages (pointing out Tarantino's very obvious and self-admitted foot fetish)
and how a Quarter Pounder is called a Royale with Cheese in Amsterdam.

Vincent has been told by his boss, the same Marcellus who owns the mysterious briefcase, to entertain Mrs. Wallace for the evening, since Marsellus has some money tied up in a boxing match (as is shown by the prologue to that scene where Marcellus is talking to Bruce Willis' character about throwing the fight. Willis' character will be expanded upon in the second story, but we'll get to that later. Vince goes to the house of his drug dealer Lance (Eric Stoltz) to buy some heroin, and then he arrives It is here where we are introduced to the character of Mia, Marcellus' wife played iconically by Uma Thurman. She and Vincent go out for dinner at a 50's throwback restaurant called Jackrabbit Slim's and talk about various things from the TV pilot that Mia was in (where it was clear that Tarantino and Thurman had started thinking up their idea for The Bride, who would come seven years later) to $5 milkshakes to the fact that Marcellus threw someone out a window for allegedly giving Mia a foot massage. After Mia and Vincent win the twist contest, they go back to her house and while Vincent is in the bathroom, Mia finds the heroin in Vincent's coat pocket and mistaking it for coke, she snorts it and starts to OD.

Knowing that his ass is grass if Marcellus finds out that Mia overdosed or worse, if she died in his care, Vincent takes her to the home of Lance and Jody, where he and Lance argue about who is going to give Mia the adrenaline shot. Before Mia and Vincent part ways, they agree not to tell Marcellus about the whole incident, because Mia would be in as much trouble as Vincent. This puts an end to the first story and transitions us into the second story, entitled "The Gold Watch". The story starts out with a flashback, where a military man played by a scene-stealing Christopher Walken goes to give a gold watch to the son of his fallen military buddy. Even those who haven't seen the movie have probably heard the line "I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years", and this scene is where that infamous line came from and this is where Christopher Walken steals the show until it is brought back into the present.

We learn that the little boy grew up into Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), who we first saw accepting money from Marcellus in the empty cocktail lounge in exchange for him throwing the fight. It is now that we learn that the exact opposite. Not only did Butch win the fight, he killed his opponent. Knowing that his ass is grass if he is caught by Marcellus, Butch goes back to the motel where he and his girlfriend Fabienne are staying and he makes plans to leave the next morning. These plans seem to go off without a hitch until Butch finds out that Fabienne forgot to pack his father's watch. Butch goes back to his apartment to get the watch and runs into Vincent. I won't tell you what happens, but Butch then runs across Marcellus and circumstances lead them both into what I can only describe as a hilbilly S&M dungeon. After the infamous gay rape scene (I won't say more for those who haven't seen the movie), Marcellus and Butch declare themselves even on the whole fight thing, so long as Butch leaves town.

The third story takes us back to Vincent and Jules. After the whole shooting and bible-passage scene, Jules and Vincent are shot at by another guy hiding in the bathroom. Jules sees the fact that they are not dead as a sign of divine intervention, and makes the decision to retire from the hitman business. They drive off with one of the surviving associates and a gun accident results in said associate being shot in the face. Having just shot a man in a car in broad daylight, Jules and Vincent are in serious shit. They go to the house of one of Jules' friends, a guy named Jimmy (Quentin Tarantino himself) , but there is a problem. Jimmy's wife is about to come home from the graveyard shift at the hospital and Jimmy is anxious she should not encounter the scene.

To prevent Bonnie from finding the dead body and the gangsters, Jules contacts Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) to help clean up the scene. Harvey Keitel, like Christopher Walken in the story before him, proceeds to totally steal the show while instructing Jules, Jimmy, and Vincent how to clean up the scene. They clean up the car, dispose of their bloody suits, and after getting rid of the car, they decide to go for breakfast, which brings back the subject of Jules' retirement. Inside the same restaurant are the two criminals/lovers from the prologue (played by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer, whose characters are known as Pumpkin and Honeybunny) who were talking about how robberies are more difficult to commit in gas stations and convenience stores because they are all family businesses and those families are always too prepared, and how robbing a restaurant would be much easier because they are not expecting to be robbed. Pumpkin and Honeybunny rob the restaurant, but Jules kind of intervenes in the chronological climax of the film. As opposed to just killing them like he would have before his epiphany, he talks down the robbers and as his first act of redemption allows them to take the money and leave.

Before Quentin Tarantino got into directing, he got into writing, and it definitely shows here. Tarantino has managed to establish himself as a good director, but he is a writer first and foremost, and with Pulp Fiction, he has created one of the best scripts of all time. Why I found the story somewhat difficult to describe was that most of the movie is made up of conversations. To any standard viewer, that would sound boring as shit, but with Tarantino it is different. Pulp Fiction is oftentimes hilarious and a masterpiece of dark comedy (amongst many other things). The film has also produced some of the most memorable scenes ever put onto film. But as opposed to repeating myself saying how great the script is, I'll say how iconic the lines have become by listing a few you all should know (abridged of course, most of these lines come with full monologues).

"I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years"
"Does he look like a bitch? DOES. HE. LOOK. LIKE. A. BITCH"
"What, never been to that country before, do they speak English in what?"
"Say what again, I dare you, I double dog dare you motherfucker"
"And you will know my name as the lord, when I lay my vengeance upon thee"

All of you, even those of you who haven't seen the movie, have heard of those lines some way or another, unless you have been living under a rock. This is definitely due to the spread of the internet, which has helped make the film one of the most quoted movies of all time. This film won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars (the only Oscar it won, which has pissed off countless a film buff) and the award was definitely deserved, as like I said, I consider this one of the best scripts of all time. One of the things I like about it is that, though the events that happen over the course of the film are far from ordinary, the conversations all centre around the mundane. There are conversations about Europe, how a Quarter Pounter is called a Royale with Cheese in Europe, sexy foot massages, how people have become too prepared for robberies, awkward silences, and how pigs are filthy animals (which is why Jules doesn't eat pork). So much of the film focuses on the mundane, which makes it unique in a way that film has yet to duplicate, at least to my knowledge and which Tarantino hasn't seemed to duplicate yet (or so I have read and so you guys say, as I haven't seen any of his other movies yet).

Besides having one of the best scripts of all time, Pulp Fiction also manages to produce some of the finest and most memorable performances as well. First, there are the Oscar-nominated performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and John Travolta. This film skyrocketed the three of them into the A-list, cementing Jackson's status as a superstar and an expert at playing badasses as well as his working relationship with Quentin Tarantino. It also cemented Thurman's working relationship with Tarantino, as well as her status as his muse, and it gave John Travolta's career a boom twenty years after Grease and Saturday Night Fever. All three give great performances, Travolta and Jackson arguably the best. In essence, Jules and Vincent are the main characters, and they are the characters that have the deepest characterization.

That is where a tiny bit of flaw can be spotted in Pulp Fiction. The characters, while certainly memorable, are not particularly deep outside Jules and Vincent, and are mostly used as a device to tell story and have conversations. Not that it's at all a bad thing, but it shows that Quentin Tarantino, not unlike Christopher Nolan, is more of a story and dialogue man as opposed to a character man. However, Jules and Vincent are excellently characterized. We see over the course of the movie that Vincent is generally incompetent without Jules, mostly because he is a drug addict and spends so much time on the crapper that every time he comes back from the bathroom, shit goes down (not that way, but if you see the movie you'll understand). That reminds me, those who have yet to see the movie should keep an eye out for bathrooms, because every time a character comes back from the bathroom, an important event in the movie happens. We also sees that Jules is a more efficient hitman before his epiphany because he lives a generally clean life unlike Vincent, who is close to being a doddering incompetent load without Jules.

The rest of the performances are excellent, some fine examples being Ving Rhames as Marcellus, who is chillingly badass, even after the hilbilly S&M dungeon scene, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer as Pumpkin and Honeybunny the robbers, and Christopher Walken/Harvey Keitel in their one scene each. Tarantino himself doesn't do that bad a job either, although it is kind of weird hearing the n-word come out of the mouth of a dweeby white guy. I didn't really talk about Thurman as Mia Wallace (who looks much prettier and definitely more striking as a brunette in my opinion), and I'd say that she definitely deserved her Oscar nomination, but despite her dominating the promotional materials of the film, she's actually in it very little outside the one story about her and Vincent. She gives a great performance though, worthy of the fine ensemble cast this film has.

Sprawling, lengthy, and very wordy (just like this review), Pulp Fiction is definitely a cinematic landmark and one of the most influential films of the 1990's. It was definitely snubbed at the Oscars (although not snubbed entirely, it did win the Palme D'Or, much to the surprise of many). It is a film that warrants multiple viewings and I am very glad that I own it so I can watch it many times. This is on the list of movies that any respectable film buff has to see to be considered a film buff, and by seeing this film, I am one step closer to being a true film buff. Anybody who hasn't seen this needs to put it at the top of their priority lists and see it as soon as possible. I don't even think I can sum it all up in just one viewing, so I'll definitely have to watch it again. I just can't run out of good things to say about this movie, but I'm going to close now by saying that I only have to see Shawshank Redemption to complete my viewing of the true essence of 1994.

The Princess Bride
½

Over the years, The Princess Bride has gained the unfair title of "chick flick", mainly due to the film's title. Despite this unfortunate characterization, it has also gained a large cult following and remains to this day one of the most popular and beloved fantasy films of all time. One should not be fooled by the film's title, because The Princess Bride has things to please both genders, and it is a universal movie that deserves to be loved by all. The film is, at its very essence, a fairytale, and it is a delightful fairytale. The film has action, it has sort of believable romance, it has extremely memorable characters, and most important of all, it has a good sense of humour which makes the trite story seem fresh and new.

PLOT ELEMENTS, BUT NO SPOILERS

Despite the fact that the film is a fairytale, it starts off in modern times with a sick boy (Fred Savage) having a story read to him by his grandfather. The boy is initially resistant to hear the story but he grows to enjoy it over the course of the film, as is made evident when we see him every once in a while clearly invested in the story. The story is about Buttercup (Robin Wright), a young woman raised on a farm who grows to fall in love with a farmhand named Wesley (Cary Elwes) who she had priorly mistreated. Every time she would demand something of him, he would only respond with "as you wish", the origin of one of the most popular lines from that movie. Wesley and Buttercup declare their love for one another, but Wesley does not have the money for marriage, so he goes off to find his fortune, planning to return.

Wesley's departure leaves Buttercup heartbroken, and this heartbreak is only exacerbated at news of Wesley's death at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts. We then fast forward to five years later where Buttercup has agreed to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), a seemingly harmless but foppish royal. Sometime before the wedding, she is kidnapped on her daily horse ride by three traveling bandits: Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), the boss, Fezzik (Andre the Giant), the brawn, and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), arguably the most popular and well-known character to come out of the movie. Montoya is a Spanish fencing expert with a desire to kill the six-fingered man who killed his father and gave him the twin scars on his cheeks when he was just a boy. Outside the Buttercup/Wesley romance, it is Montoya that gives the film it's heart, and the character gives us one of the most memorable lines of all time. Even those who haven't seen this movie have heard the line "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die".

The bandits take Buttercup to the Cliffs of Insanity, where they intend to kill her. However, hot on their trail is a masked man simply known as the Man in Black, as well as Humperdinck and a group of soldiers. The masked man fights Montoya and knocks out Fezzik to get to where Vizzini is holding Buttercup. After he tricks Vizzini into giving up Buttercup, he reveals to her that he is the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup responds by pushing him down a gorge and after he says "as you wish" in Wesley's characteristic fashion, she realizes that he is Wesley and throws herself down the gorge (which is weird, it wasn't particularly deep, she just could have walked down).

Wesley is taken away by Humperdinck and his sadistic vizier Count Rugen, who happens to have six fingers on his right hand. In the meantime, Buttercup prepares for her wedding to Humperdinck. It is revealed that Humperdinck is not as harmless as he seems, as he plans to murder Buttercup on their wedding night, framing the rival country of Guilder and thus being able to start a war, which is his true motive throughout the movie. We've seen the plot element of a woman being forced to marry a man she doesn't love, but this film does it a bit differently. Humperdinck is damned well aware that Buttercup doesn't love him, and he puts on a facade telling her that he will search for Westley (whom he had Count Rugen imprison and torture after the Cliffs of Insanity scene). He also tells Buttercup that she is free to go if Wesley is found, and even though the audience knows it is a blatant lie, it seems plenty sincere at the time.

The climax of the film takes place at the rushed wedding of Humperdinck and Buttercup, when Wesley, Fezzik, and Montoya storm the castle after a visit to Miracle Max (Billy Crystal, accompanied by Carol Kane as Valerie). What follows are some of the film's most memorable scenes, which I can't tell you for the sake of spoilers, but those who have seen the movie know what I'm talking about. This film has one of the most entertaining climaxes I have seen in any movie, and definitely one of my favourites. The pre-climax contains one of my favourite scenes with the scene-stealing Billy Crystal and Carol Kane, which contains some of the funniest lines.

The story, when one really thinks about it, really isn't that original, playing on very familiar tropes such as the damsel in distress, the climax being to stop a wedding, and the bland heroine forced to marry a man she doesn't love, as well as the classic revenge tale. These tropes were established in the adventure stories of old and they are still kind of used in movies today. Granted, I haven't read the book, so I have no idea how faithfully the film sticks to it, but The Princess Bride works the story well, and what saves it from being tired is its script. This film has an excellent script, and one of the greatest things about this film is that it has a sense of humour. It has dozens of memorable lines and some outright hilarious ones, most being spoken by either Andre the Giant, Cary Elwes, or Billy Crystal. Don't get me wrong, the others get some very funny lines as well, but it is mostly those three that get the humourous lines. Just to prove my point, I shall list a few.

"Your friend is mostly dead. There's a difference between mostly dead and all dead"

"Have fun storming the castle"

"You seem a decent fellow, I'd hate to kill you."
"You seem a decent fellow, I'd hate to die"

"Mawiage. Mawiage is what bwings us hewe today"


This film definitely has one of the best scripts which definitely makes up for a, well not necessarily weak, but familiar story. The comedy blends excellently with the action, which is reminiscent of the swashbuckler films of old. In fact, I was reading an interview with Robin Wright during some sort of reunion article with the cast of the film, and she likened Cary Elwes to a blond Zorro. Her description is not far off, as Elwes in his Man in Black costume (paper thin disguise as it is) is pretty much a dead ringer for Zorro (the older incarnation as well as the later Banderas incarnation, the only one I am familiar with). There is a lot of swordplay in the film as well, often accompanied with witty one-liners, which is all well-executed. One has basic expectations of an adventure film, one of which is that they keep things exciting, and this film definitely exceeds all expectations set by the genre, making for a fun and intelligent movie.

The film also rises on the strength of its excellent cast. The first I would like to talk about is Robin Wright as Buttercup in her first major film role. She is probably the least interesting character in the movie, but I suppose that's kind of what the scriptwriter and the author of the book meant to do. After Wesley leaves, Buttercup becomes pretty much an empty shell and remains so until her beloved returns. Even afterwards, she remains pretty useless during the battle scenes, but it is all intentional, as Buttercup is supposed to be a damsel in distress. This does not make her bad from a feminist standpoint, because she gets some really good insults at Humperdinck, pointing out his feelings of inadequacy towards Westley. Wright gives a pretty good performance. She's not my favourite actress on Earth (having not particularly liked her in Forrest Gump either) but she is perfectly serviceable here. She and Elwes also have excellent chemistry, making the romance in the film likeable and not annoying like many movie romances are nowadays. We genuinely want to see Wesley and Buttercup get together by the end, and that definitely speaks to the quality of the film.

The rest of the cast, however, is extraordinary, and it is them (as well as the screenwriter) that the film truly belongs to. Cary Elwes is excellent as Westley (not to mention absolutely smouldering), especially as his Man in Black persona, where he gets many of the funny quips this movie is known for. I never paid much attention to Elwes in the past, and he doesn't seem to do much now outside of the Saw movies, but he is a genuinely good actor and gives truly a performance for the ages here. The three bandits are played by Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, and Mandy Patinkin. Wallace Shawn is an awesome comic relief actor in general, and it is because of this movie that the word "inconcievable" will be forever associated with his name. He gives an excellent performance from the short amount of time he was in the movie, and his character actually has an air of menace about him as well as humour. Andre the Giant is great as well, and this film can remain a time capsule of his life, seeing as he died five years after this was made. Any death is tragic and this one was no exception, but at least we have this film to remember. He got many of the great lines and his sheer brute strength was often the source for many jokes, especially since Cary Elwes beats him in battle.

The last of the bandits is Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin. Montoya is easily the most well-known character from the movie, mostly because of the line I mentioned earlier, but also because he is a genuinely interesting and sympathetic character. What made Patinkin's performance more convincing was that he drew from his own father's death, talking to Christopher Guest like he was the cancer that killed his real father. Now if that can't convince and make a character sympathetic, I don't know what will. Despite his other work (including Jason Gideon on Criminal Minds), Patinkin will probably be best known for this movie for the rest of his career. Sarandon and Guest give brilliant performances as the film's villains, and of course, there is the amazing Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Max and Valerie, getting a good number of the humorous lines and playing extremely well off of eachother. They round off an excellent ensemble cast full of memorable performances.

All in all, one need not be fooled by the title of The Princess Bride, because the story has a sort of universality that transcends gender and age. I remember having seen this film before tonight, but now that I've seen it in full, I can say that it is one of my favourite movies, as well as one of the best and most intelligent fantasy/adventure movies of all time, reworking tired tropes to its advantage. Filled to the brim with great comedy, excellent adventure, lush scenery, likeable romance, and of course, extremely memorable characters, The Princess Bride is an instant classic and one of the cornerstone films of the 1980's (similar to E.T.). The film is also the best film of Rob Reiner by far, and just an awesome movie altogether. Those who haven't seen it should definitely see it as soon as possible, as it is essential viewing. In fact, I'm glad I own this movie now, so I can watch it countless times because quite frankly, the film deserves it.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
½

I have not seen any other Mission Impossible films before this one, but when I had heard news of a fourth film, I merely wrote it off as another unnecessary sequel that Hollywood was playing it safe on. But when I saw the awesome trailer, I wanted to see the movie, completely disregarding the fact that I haven't seen any of the other films in the series. So I guess you could say that I dove headfirst into this film almost completely blind Well, I suppose that's not entirely true, as the film had excellent word of mouth during its initial release, saying it was the best of the series. Now obviously I can't say if it is, because I haven't any other films to judge it on, but on its own, I'd say that Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is one of the best films of the year. I have only a few basic expectations of action films, one of which is that they entertain me and another is that they have some brains behind them. MI4 definitely fulfills those expectations and then some, providing some fun spy thrills and exhilarating action. I did not see it in IMAX due to the fact that there is only one IMAX theatre in my town, so there was no Dark Knight Rises prologue, but regardless, this is a movie entirely worth watching for what it is, not just what comes before.

This film starts in Budapest, where an unknown agent is shot at by several people and then eventually killed by a female assassin. We then cut to a Russian prison, where several prisoners manage to break out of their cells and attack the guards. It turns out this prison contains Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the prisoners were let out by Benji (Simon Pegg), a lab tech from the other films (so I hear) who was promoted to field agent between films who will serve as comic relief. The mission is successful and it is after the mission where we meet Agent Carter (Paula Patton) one of the agents that we will be seeing throughout the course of the film.

Agent Carter was involved with the mission at the beginning and her demon to battle over the course of the film is that she feels responsible for the death of the agent in the beginning. The mission that failed was an attempt to get nuclear launch codes, which is the main mission for the rest of the movie. To do so, Hunt and his team have to infiltrate the archive room of the Kremlin. I suppose I should specify about the launch codes. Hunt and his team have to get the launch codes to take them out of the hands of a nuclear extremist known as "Cobalt" (Michael Nyqvist) who feels that the weak must die for the strong to survive and that nuclear war is the next necessary stage in human evolution.

I won't tell you how, but this mission ends in the exploding of the Kremlin. The explosion of the Kremlin is basically Russian 9-11, and the team ends up being blamed for it. After escaping from Russian agents at a hospital, Hunt is rescued by IMF's secretary and his chief analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who will play a big part later. The secretary invokes the titular ghost protocol after the Russians consider the attack an unprovoked act of war. Ironic, considering the secretary was there to deliver some sort of official act of frienship. This means that the entire IMF is disavowed and Hunt, as well as Benji, Brandt and Agent Carter are on their own. The attack will be pinned on them and they will be allowed to "escape" government custody to solve their case and defeat "Cobalt". So, it is up to Hunt, Carter, Dunn, and Brandt to get the launch codes out of "Cobalt"'s hands and prevent total nuclear war.

That's all that I'm going to tell you about the story because quite frankly, that's all that needs to be said. The film sets up a simple objective and drags that objective across the globe, creating one hell of an exciting film with some absolutely gorgeous scenery that I'll talk about later. Part of the excellence of this film is due to the immensely talented director, Brad Bird. Mission Impossible has run the gamete of directors over the course of the series, Brian DePalma, John Woo, and J.J. Abrams directing before Bird. Abrams is still producing this film and it has his signature touch, especially in the way of special effects. I adore Abrams' style and it definitely comes through in this film, as well as the kinetic style of action that Bird uses in The Incredibles, an equally thrilling film with some awesome set pieces.

I was unsure how a director that has worked entirely in the field of animation (having directed animated masterpieces such as The Incredibles and Ratatouille) could handle a live-action movie, but after seeing this film, I was thorougly impressed. I can't wait to see how Andrew Stanton will do with John Carter come March. Not unlike The Incredibles, Mission Impossible has some dazzling action scenes that take place all over the world, from Dubai to Mumbai. Having international set pieces means the audience has some truly amazing scenery to feast their eyes on. The sets are so well put together that I would not be surprised if the film picked up an Oscar nomination for art direction (as well as editing, sound mixing, and maybe score).

Out of the three main locations where the action takes place, my favourite is Dubai, where the team has to divert a meeting from Cobalt's right-hand man and the lady assassin from the beginning of the film. Perhaps the most notorious scene in Dubai was that of Tom Cruise hanging off of the world's tallest building (which I'd like to visit someday as it looks really damn awesome). This image has graced the trailers and promotional materials, and if you see the movie for any other reason than to see the Dark Knight Rises prologue, see it for that scene. But fair warning, those who are frightened of heights may get slightly nervous by proxy seeing Cruise hanging off of that tower. I have a heights thing sometimes and although I did not see the film in IMAX, my palms got sweaty all the same. It's still pretty awesome though, and I can't imagine how awesome and suspenseful it would be in IMAX. There is also a sandstorm chase scene in Dubai (inspiration for the poster design), and a parking garage chase in Mumbai, amongst other things that I don't want to tell you because you should see the movie for yourself.

There are also some very interesting gadgets, like Jeremy Renner's magnet suit and Tom Cruise's adhesive gloves which he uses to scale Burj Khalifa amongst other things (you'll know after seeing the movie) being a spy movie and all, and although some of the tech could not possibly exist in real life, you don't exactly expect realism coming out of a spy movie like Mission Impossible, do you? That reminds me, MI4 is probably the best spy movie that has come out since Casino Royale, or at least the most entertaining. It feels like a spy movie through and through, and although it may not be Bond or Bourne, it doesn't need to be. What it is is thoroughly entertaining, and a lot of the mission scenes provide the film's humour. One particular example is when Pegg and Cruise are infiltrating the Kremlin. There is no dialogue, and yet the scene is hilarious just with their facial expressions and nonverbal cues. Pegg, the rest of the cast too for that matter, manage to get some funny one-liners in there, but the majority of the film's humour is situational, through malfunctioning equipment and the like. It's nice that a spy movie can have a sense of humour, proving that not all of them have to be deadly serious.

Usually when a film focuses on action set pieces, it can get repetitive and occasionally too fast-paced. Mission Impossible (just like Tintin before it) doesn't seem to have that problem. There is enough time put in each location and the two-and-a-quarter hour runtime is enough time to flesh out all the sub-missions. Things move fast, but not too fast, enough to keep the audience entertained but not keeping the audience confused.

The action may be the best part of the movie by far, but unlike a lot of action movies, there are solid characters and decent performances to back it up. Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, and while I am still not a fan of Cruise as an actor, I will briefly concede and say that he is a viable action star. He gives a decent performance as Hunt, and the fact that he does most of his stunts is simply amazing. The rest of the team consists of Paula Patton as Agent Carter, who gave an excellent performance besides being just blatant fanservice (although she does wear a rather sexy green dress in Mumbai). It seemed that they were setting her up as a new love interest for Hunt but I'm still not sure what will come of that. Simon Pegg made awesome and funny comic relief as he always does no matter what genre of film he is in, and the last of the main performers is Jeremy Renner as Brandt. The trailers kind of made it look like Renner was going to take the reins from Cruise (much like Hollywood wants him to do with the Bourne movies). I don't think he will, but he gives an amazing performance (probably my favourite of the bunch) as the mysterious Brandt. It won't get him his third Oscar nomination, but it as action movie performances go, Renner was really good. All I can say is I can't wait to see him in The Avengers next summer.

Mission Impossible is definitely the best straight-up action movie this year and probably the best spy movie since Casino Royale. The action is exhilarating, suspenseful and well edited, the stuntwork is crazy, and it has some of the best set pieces that I have seen in any movie, let alone an action movie. Don't believe me, go to the theatre and watch this movie yourself. This movie makes me want to travel, especially to see that hotel in Dubai, and it makes me want to see the rest of the Mission Impossible movies. If you've seen the other Mission Impossibles and liked them, then chances are you've made plans to see this or you've seen this already. Chances are you'll like it too. For those who go into it completely blind like I did, it'll be up to you as to whether or not to see it, but for those who do, you'll end up watching one of the best films of the year, IMAX or no IMAX.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
½

I can't believe that it has taken me this long to see this film, judging by its reputation and the fact that it was Steven Spielberg's most financially successful film for eleven years until Jurassic Park came along. It also remains one of his most beloved films even to this day and after seeing the film, it's not that hard to guess why. E.T. is one of the cornerstone movies of the 1980's, like Jurassic Park was for the 90's, and although it has many of the similar logic flaws that Jurassic Park had, it is still an inherently likeable movie and a thoroughly entertaining one at that. It is also a genuinely moving story, although flawed, and it has some extreme awe-inducing moments alongside awesome special effects and one of John Williams' best scores. I will admit that the ending had me crying like a baby, crying tears of happiness.

The story of E.T. is a rather simple one. It is about a little boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) who lives in California with his mother, older brother Michael (Robert McNaughton) and younger sister Gertie (a very young Drew Barrymore). Elliot is made fun of by Michael and his friends, and one day, when he is kicked out to wait for the pizza they ordered, he spots a strange light accompanied with several strange noises coming out of the garage. In one of the film's most iconic scenes, he throws a baseball to the strange thing in the garage and the thing tosses it back. Elliot tells his family but they don't believe him, so he leaves out a trail of Reese's Pieces for whatever the mysterious creature is to find.

This little creature turns out to be E.T., the titular extraterrestrial of the film. E.T. came to Earth with a bunch of other aliens to collect plant samples and after being chased by government agents, E.T. is stranded. Elliot takes the poor little alien in and tries to hide it from his mother to comedic effect. He does show the alien to Michael and Gertie, and together, they decide to protect it. This improves the characters of Michael and Gertie, turning Michael into more of a protector and less of a tormentor. It also turns Gertie from an annoying and sarcastic little sister into a downright adorable kid who grows to love the alien.

Elliot fakes sick from school one day to play with E.T, and over the course of the film, he and Elliot develop a psychic bond. While Elliot is at school, E.T. explores around the house and takes a couple of sips of beer, which causes Elliot to appear drunk at school. This is in my opinion the most stupid scene in an otherwise brilliant movie and it is the one thing that prevented me from giving the film a perfect score. The scene involves drunken Elliot freeing all of the frogs that were going to be dissected and general chaos, and it is monumentally idiotic. First of all, I didn't know they did dissections with live frogs in high schools, let alone grade schools. I mean, cutting open dead frogs is freaky enough for some let alone live ones. I could go on and on forever about how awful that scene is, but we'll talk about some more good stuff the movie has to offer.

After seeing a show on television, E.T. is inspired to make a telephone-like object out of a Speak-and-Spell toy to phone home and have his ship come back to get him. What follows through until the end of the movie is a string of iconic scenes. These scenes would include the Halloween scene where the kids dress E.T. up as a ghost to sneak him out of the house, the government agents catching up with E.T. and blocking off Elliot's house, and of course, the two separate scenes with the flying bicycles, one in the film's climax when Elliot, Michael, and his friends are trying to get E.T. to safety. The iconic image of Elliot and E.T. flying on the bicycle remains the logo of Spielberg's production company, and the image has graced most of the film's promotional material. It is still a striking moment watching this now, so much that I can't imagine what it would have been like seeing the film for the first time thirty years ago.

The story of E.T. is a simple one, and it doesn't need to be complex due to the nature of the film. It is a story that audiences have heard several times, the story of a boy and his pet (in this case, a boy and his alien). E.T. might be the crowning version of that story arc. The relationship between Elliot and E.T. is adorable as well as touching considering the character of Elliot, how he is a lonely little boy affected by the separation of his parents and how E.T. is his only friend. The character of Elliot (as well as that of Michael) represents a part of Spielberg himself, who was inspired to create E.T. out of an imaginary friend he created for himself during his parents' divorce. As kid actors go, Henry Thomas did a decent job, especially considering that E.T. was his first movie role.

The other kids are decently acted as well, and considering that it was this film that made Drew Barrymore famous, she did a great job as Elliot's little sister Gertie. She was also utterly adorable, which is sad considering the fact that she may have started drinking soon after this film. However, that's more Jade Barrymore's fault than Drew's. Regardless of Barrymore's stage mother and personal demons, she gave an excellent performance as Gertie. Robert McNaughton played the part of Michael brilliantly. I personally find Michael the most interesting human character in the film, as he transforms into the stock big brother who picks on his little brother into the protector of his younger siblings and the guardian of E.T, even enlisting his friends to help get E.T. to safety. The character is also influenced by Spielberg himself, like how he made fun of his younger sisters but later became their protector after their dad left. McNaughton didn't go on to do much after this film, which is a shame, because he was pretty good. Dee Wallace did an okay job as the kids' mother, but her character wasn't that deep outside mentions of the separation from her husband. She wasn't bad, but the kids were much better.

Now, we'll move on to the star of the show, the extra-terrestrial himself, E.T. This little alien has to be one of the ugliest and yet most adorable creatures I have ever seen, and the design of E.T. is one of the most interesting character designs that I have seen in any alien movie. I saw the 2002 edition with the refurbished effects and the CG walkie-talkies, but I have seen pictures of the original E.T. and both instances of special effects are amazing. I know E.T. was quite revolutionary for being made in the 1980's, and it even won the Oscar for special effects the year it came out. In fact, it was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture, winning four, but those it lost were often lost to Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (who would go on to work with Spielberg 11 years later in Jurassic Park). The rest of the visuals are rather basic, but there is some really cool cinematography, especially the shots in the forest. The script is pretty good as well, featuring some iconic and adorable lines. Some of the best scenes were with minimal dialogue though, like the ending (which I will talk about) and the scene with Elliot and E.T. traveling to the forest on a flying bike. Just goes to say that there are some events in movies where nothing needs to be said, and that sometimes, silence truly is golden.


SPOILERS BE PRESENT IN THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH

The last thing I'd like to mention is the ending, which is so happy and yet so sad that it had me bawling like a baby. You grow to care for Elliot and E.T. and seeing them depart is utterly heartbreaking, like seeing two friends that will never meet again say goodbye. The sad part of the ending was that Elliot was losing his only friend, but the good part is that E.T. can finally go home and he with his family. When E.T. points to Elliot and says he will always be in his heart, it pushed me over the edge and it was then where I started to cry. This is from someone who doesn't often cry at movies, so the fact that I did means something.

END OF SPOILERS

Spielberg has always been known as a grand sentimentalist, and E.T. is probably the grand example. Cynics be damned, I love this movie now that I've seen it in full, and it is a movie that I hope to see many times. E.T. is an instant classic and a cornerstone of many a childhood. It has one of John Williams' best scores, it has some awesome special effects, and it serves as both an entertaining sci-fi film and a touching story of both a boy and his alien and a little alien trying to get back home. It is definitely a must-see and it can definitely warm the hearts of many cynics. In short, all that haven't seen E.T. should see it as soon as possible, as it is definitely worth at least one viewing in one's lifetime. I definitely want to see more of Spielberg's works, hopefully with Jaws tomorrow. Even if I don't, I have to say that this has been a damn great Christmas vacation thus far.

The Adventures of Tintin

From the moment I heard that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were planning a trilogy of Tintin movies I was absolutely overjoyed. I wanted to see this in the theatre and I wanted to see it in 3D, because next to Sherlock Holmes, this was my single most anticipated movie of the wintertime. What do I think about it now having seen it? I freakin' loved it. This was an awesome movie through and through. It was clever, it was entertaining, it was extremely well-animated, and it was quite funny as well (being written by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). It's also one hell of a consolation prize considering that Spielberg's last directorial venture, the fourth Indiana Jones film, totally sucked ass. Since I have read several Tintin comics (my dad being a huge fan), the viewing experience was all the more rewarding and I am so glad that the filmmakers took this seriously. I also hope that this film (and any sequels it may spawn) will introduce the Tintin comics to a wider audience because they really are quite good.

From the minute I saw the opening credits for this movie (which were obviously drawn from another great Spielberg film, Catch Me If You Can) I knew it was going to be awesome. There were several references to other Tintin adventures that my dad pointed out to me, and there are other references in the form of newspaper clippings in Tintin's apartment which fans of the comics will certainly find fun. The story proper starts in a crowded city square in what I assume is Belgium where Tintin buys a model of a really cool-lookingship called the Unicorn. Several people try to buy it off of him and one random American guy tells him he is about to walk into a whole mess of danger.

That statement turns out to be true after Snowy (Tintin's dog) accidentally damages the ship and Tintin comes home to find it stolen. The same American man shows up at his door and says that his life is in danger. He and Tintin are promptly shot at and we don't see the American for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile, two detectives by the name of Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are on the trail of a pickpocket who ends up stealing Tintin's wallet. This is important because Tintin finds a hidden scroll in the model boat containing a seemingly cryptic poem. Thompson and Thomson serve as comic relief throughout the film (not that the film is deadly dramatic in nature, but those two are the most obvious comic relief).

After reading up on the boat, which was seized by pirates on its first voyage and was purported to have been carrying secret cargo. This secret had only been handed down to the descendants of the captain, Francis Haddock, and it is said that it will take a true Haddock to find the secret of the Unicorn, which is a title drop for one of the three comics that has been amalgamated into the film's story. The other two are Crab With The Golden Claws, where most of the stuff on the ship (as well as Tintin's first meetings with Thompson/Thomson and Haddock) and Red Rackham's Treasure, which is everything that happens during the second half of the film, combined with Secret of the Unicorn. Tintin goes to the dilapidated family manor of Haddock and discovers that there is more than one model ship after being confronted by one of the seemingly unassuming men who tried to buy the ship off of him (a man named Sakharine, played by Daniel Craig). Tintin is later kidnapped by Sakharine and held prisoner on his ship, the SS Kharaboudjan.

It is on this ship that Tintin meets the second lead character and last descendant of the Haddocks, Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). Haddock is the last descendant who can figure out the secret of the Unicorn, but it's too bad that Haddock is kept in a state of permanent drunkenness by Sakharine, who turned all his crew against him. Haddock cannot remember a single thing about the Unicorn that his grandfather told him on his deathbed. Haddock and Tintin eventually escape the ship, which is headed to the location of the third scroll, which will lead to the sunken treasure that went down with the Unicorn. I won't give away any more, but what follows is an international chase to find the scrolls with several large action set pieces taking place along the way.

These action set pieces are handled extremely well and make for some of the best chase scenes that I have seen not just this year, but in any movie (whether animated or live-action). Spielberg does some cool things with scene transitions, like zooming into something like a puddle of water or the lens of someone's glasses and then transitioning into another scene, and gets some epic tracking shots in that seem near-impossible for a live-action movie let alone an animated one. What results is some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. The chase scenes are excellently staged and a ton of fun to watch, and even though some scenes were a bit too up close and personal (if you see the movie you know what I'm talking about), that made for some excellent usage of 3D (which i will get to later) and overall, it wasn't a huge problem. The panoramic shooting style of the film also enables the audience to see the immaculate amount of detail put into the backgrounds.

This film is definitely one of the few films since, say, December 2009, that is worth the money to see in 3D. Unlike most 3D movies that just ignore the potential of the medium entirely or just use it to fling a few things at the audience, Spielberg and WETA Digital actually use the medium to the film's advantage, creating some interesting depth of field and giving the audience a more personal look at the chase scenes. There is stuff that pops out at the audience but it's not in the obvious way that I like to call the ping-pong effect. When things pop out at the audience, it is more panoramic and less obvious. For example, when Snowy attacks the cat that sneaks into Tintin's apartment and knocks over the boat, the scroll falls out and rolls under Tintin's desk. It pops out at the audience, but it seems very natural. Needless to say, the extra few bucks is definitely worth it, as this film has some of the best 3D I've seen in any movie, proving Spielberg as another director that can handle the medium and that animation will always be a better format to present 3D.

Speaking of the film on a visual scale, the animation is absolutely superb, both in the character design and the magnificent backgrounds. I swear, if Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis were not doing motion capture and just played their characters themselves and the same backgrounds were used, I would swear they were real. Everything from the water to the individual grains of sand to the individual strands of hair is brilliantly animated and the meticulous work put into the animation is simply commendable. The film is another triumph for WETA digital, and it is definitely the best-looking motion capture film made up to this point. Motion capture has definitely had a bad reputation, mostly due to Robert Zemeckis and his current obsession with it. Mocap can be used brilliantly for background animation, but when it comes to human animation, mocap characters can end up looking extremely creepy. Spielberg and WETA Digital together manage to avert this, because although the characters all have freakishly giant heads, they don't look very creepy. There is still lots of work to be done in the field of motion-capture animation, but if the remainder of the industry learns from WETA, there will be a lot more good mocap films in the future.

The acting is also pretty good. I was happy at the news that Jamie Bell was going to be Tintin, and he fit into the role beautifully. He also had great chemistry with the reigning king of motion-capture characters, Andy Serkis, who gives a hilarious performance as Captain Haddock. His performance also marked surprising dramatic depth and he made Haddock the interesting character that he is in the comics. I would love to see these two have mo re adventures in sequels, and I would love to see some of the characters introduced in the later books in future films. Thompson and Thomson were pretty funny, as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost always are, and Daniel Craig did a great job as the villain (which I find funny because Daniel Craig was also in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which also came out last weekend). Serkis and Bell were my favourites, and their partnership is definitely the core of the movie, but the film is peppered with affable performances throughout.

The difference between a good tentpole movie and a bad tentpole movie is that a good tentpole movie leaves audiences wanting sequels, and a bad tentpole movie leaves audiences dreading the sequels and getting pissed off when they happen because the original sucked. Overall, Tintin is a great tentpole movie and a brilliant movie altogether, and one of my favourite of Spielberg's works, if not my favourite. Fans of the comics will definitely enjoy this, although saying it would be pointless because fans of the comic books will likely have already seen this or will be seeing it soon. Fans of Indiana Jones will also like this movie and it can serve as a great consolation prize for those who didn't like the fourth Indiana Jones movie. I just saw this film not four hours ago and I already want to see it again, which really speaks to its quality. All in all, see Tintin if you want to watch one of the best movies of not only this year, but likely of the last three years. I'm almost certain that this will get a nomination for Best Animated Feature come Oscar time, and if it does, I think it has a lock.

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids(2011)
½

From late December all the way until Oscar time is the time that I use to catch up on all of the films I haven't seen in 2011 so I can make informed ballot choices come Oscar time. I have decided to start this time of year with Bridesmaids, one of the best movies of the year and certainly the best comedy. The simple fact of the matter is that Bridesmaids is hilarious, often painfully so. It is also incredibly dirty, but unlike most dirty comedies, it actually has a solid story, characters, and dare I say, heart to support the dirty jokes. The film is a comedy through and through, but it also serves as an interesting character study with some dramatic themes about friendship and hitting rock-bottom.

Some have called it "The Hangover" for women, but I honestly disagree and I think saying that does both films a disservice. They are not at all similar plot-wise, and to be honest, Bridesmaids is way funnier. The only similarity is that The Hangover features an almost entirely male cast with few female characters and Bridesmaids has an almost entirely female cast with few male characters. Other than that, these two movies couldn't be more different. They have different messages, they have different storylines, and they have different executions. They are both good on their own merits and deserve to be viewed as entirely separate movies and not distaff counterparts in any way. Besides, I know women who like The Hangover, and I'm sure there are men who like Bridesmaids. But enough about that, I'm not writing an essay about separating Bridesmaids from The Hangover, I'm writing a review about Bridesmaids, so I should continue with that.

Bridesmaids starts out with a sex scene between our lead Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Ted (played by Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm in a hilariously douchey uncredited role). Annie and Ted are having an apparently one-sided casual fling and since Ted is a total ass, Annie feels like shit whenever she leaves his place. In fact, Annie is a mess in general. She ran a bakery that went under in the recession and the failure of her businesswas so crippling that she gave up baking entirely. She is in a meaningless rleationship with a man who doesn't like her, she sucks at her job at a jewelry store, and her roommates (a brother-sister pair played by Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson) belittle her at every turn. The one person she can really depend on in her life is Lillian (Maya Rudolph), her childhood best friend.

Lillian announces that she is engaged, and she wants Annie to be the maid of honour at the wedding. Annie is overjoyed at the news and it is at Lillian's engagement party that we meet the rest of the bridesmaids. First of all, there's Lillian's cynical cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) who spends most of the movie being a hilarious foil to Lillian's newlywed friend Becca (Ellie Kemper, AKA Erin from The Office), who happens to be extremely adorable. There's also Lillian's future sister-in-law Megan (played by a scene-stealing and award-worthy Melissa McCarthy). The last of the bridal party is Lillian's other best friend Helen (Rose Byrne).

Annie automatically feels threatened by Helen and how she seems to want to take over Annie's position not only as maid of honour but as Lillian's best friend. This tug-of-war is the core of the movie, and it exposes the true vulnerabilities of both Annie and Helen. There are several set pieces that the movie goes through to get to the wedding, like the dress fitting combined with a bout of food poisoning, which physically pained me it was so hilarious and a bachelorette party trip to Vegas that gets interrupted by Annie's hilarious antics. These set pieces are hilarious and all thanks to the natural comic timing of Kristen Wiig, as well as the rest of the cast and the hilarious script by Wiig and Annie Mumolo. However, there are serious repercussions to Annie ruining everything comically.

SOME SPOILERS MAY BE PRESENT

You know how I said earlier that Annie is a mess? Well, over the course of the movie, she screws up her life even more over the course of the film. Her comic antics get her into deep shit with Lillian, who lets Helen take over the maid of honour duties. Her roommates also kick her out of her apartment, forcing her to move back in with her mother (Jill Clayburgh in her last film role). She also runs away from the potential of a good relationship with a nice Irish cop (Chris O'Dowd) who pulls her over earlier in the movie because she's so used to bad ones. Last of all, she still refuses to bake. This pent-up rage all comes out at Lillian's bridal shower after Helen upstages her once again with a trip to Paris and Annie goes berserk, resulting in her leaving in shame. Annie refuses to do anything about this, just sitting at home and wallowing in her own self-pity. This kind of stops when Megan visits her house and smacks her in the face both literally and figuratively, telling her to get over it and "fight for her crappy life" as opposed to wallowing in it.

Annie seems to take Megan's advice to heart, trying to fix things with Officer Rhodes (the Irish cop I was talking about earlier) by baking him a cake and getting her taillights fixed (a joke from earlier in the movie that is brought up several times). However, he doesn't seem to accept these gestures and remains mad at Annie (which he has every right to be in my opinion). Later, Helen shows up teary-eyed at Annie's door saying that Lillian is missing. What follows is a deconstruction of Helen's character, where she tearfully apologizes to Annie and explains how lonely she is, being trapped in a loveless marriage, hated by her stepchildren, and how she plans parties because she is so insecure that she feels this is the only way she can keep female friends. The counterpoint between her and Annie really provides an in-depth look into the female psyche and how I am entirely mystified by my own gender.

END OF SPOILERS.

The film is utterly hilarious, oftentimes painfully hilarious, and that is due to the excellent script by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig. This film has already been nominated for several scriptwriting honours and I hope that it gets even more, and it could possibly get screenwriting honours come Oscar time, one of the only honours comedies can generally get at the Oscars and even then, dramedies have a better chance (such as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, both Oscar winners). Then again, Bridesmaids definitely has dramatic elements so it could have a fighting chance.


The jokes are gut-bustingly hilarious, but there is actually a story and characters to back them up, unlike many comedies that came out this summer (coughBadTeachercough). I suppose people think Bridesmaids is so revolutionary because it proves that raunchiness knows no genre, allowing women to swear and talk dirty whereas in other raunchy comedies, they are usually the beleaguered wives that henpeck their husbands and roll their eyes at the antics of said husbands. In here, women are allowed to be funny, and it is not fair to call this a chick flick because it does not fit the basic definition of a chick flick, instead being leaps and bounds over in quality. It is not base, it is not pandering, it is not at all poorly-written, and most importantly, it does not treat women, or men for that matter, like idiots.

I've spent so much time talking about what this film isn't that I suppose it's time to talk about what this film is. It is peppered with excellent performances, everyone in the female-driven ensemble cast holding their own. First of all, there are two excellent performances from SNL alums Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. The two have believable chemistry as childhood friends and work well off of eachother brilliantly. The third leading lady is Rose Byrne as Helen, who appears to be the typical rom-com villainess but turns out to be much more similar to Annie. The moments I mentioned in the spoiler warning definitely speak to Byrne's acting ability, and it is a bit of a surprise as she is kind of under the radar and I had not been impressed with her in the stuff I had seen her in prior to this. Melissa McCarthy (of Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly fame) also stars as Megan, and she steals every scene she is in, having most of the funny lines and dirty talk. One of her funniest lines comes from when they are planning Lillian's bachelorette party and she suggests a female fight club theme. McCarthy has already gotten award attention for her performance and she deserves all of it, being very wise and sincere as well as funny. Rounding out the female ensemble cast are Wendi McLendon Covey and Ellie Kemper as Rita and Becca, who serve as foils to eachother as the cynic and the idealistic young newlywed. They both give fantastic performances and definitely hold their own against everyone else. There are also some funny minor turns from Jill Clayburgh and Rebel Wilson that round out the cast nicely.

The comedy is driven by women, but that doesn't mean that there are no male characters. There are two main men in the movie, two men who couldn't be more different. The first is Ted, Annie's casual sex partner who happens to be a total dick. Ted is played in a hilarious uncredited role by Jon Hamm, who shows off his comedic talent that those who have seen his role on 30 Rock (or pretty much anything outside Mad Men) already know he has. Ted is a slimeball through and through, but Annie always seems to go back to him. Truth be told, people end up in these situations most often because they allow themselves to get there, and many bad things that have happened to Annie have been by her own hand. It is Ted that prevents Annie from entering into a happy relationship with the other male main, Officer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd). Officer Rhodes is a nice guy, a nice guy who can't seem to catch a break until the third act and in the second act of the movie, he is easily the most sympathetic character. Both men give excellent performances and they take advantage of their spots as the only two major male characters in the movie. There are minor male characters as well, like Annie's roommate Gil, Lillian's father and Lillian's finace. The only thing that I might have liked more is if they fleshed out Lillian's fiance a bit more, but hey, it's a minor problem in an otherwise brilliant comedy.

Movies marketed towards women have gained a bad rap and for good reason. However, Bridesmaids does a service to the genre, and if this is a so-called "chick flick", then it means that chick flicks don't have to suck. It is an excellent movie through and through, and I highly recommend it. The film is well-written, well-acted, and extremely hilarious. I know I was about seven months late to the game, but I'm glad I finally saw this and that I bought it, as this film warrants multiple viewings. In short, Bridesmaids will likely become a comedy classic in the next, say, ten years, mostly because it kind of broke new ground by being an entirely female-driven comedy. Critics might compare every future women-based comedy (both in movies and on TV) to Bridesmaids, but for those who just want to be entertained, Bridesmaids will serve just as well. But for those who want to see one of the funniest comedies of the year, I'd say give Bridesmaids a shot.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park is certainly an interesting movie. I have heard many great things about it from many different people, but I have also heard awful things about it from the person I ended up watching it with. But you may wonder, what do I think of the movie myself? Well, I think that Jurassic Park is an undeniable technical achievement and a landmark in CGI, and at times, it has some genuinely scary moments. However, it has definite scriptural flaws, especially having to do with the characters, and some problems with logic that somewhat hinder the story. However, in terms of pure spectacle and entertainment, Jurassic Park is certainly one of the best of its kind.

Jurassic Park is about Dr. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who has created an amusement park populated with real dinosaurs cloned from DNA preserved in mosquitos. The safety of the park is being questioned by the investors after a worker is attacked by one of the dinosaurs. They send their lawyer to the park, and three scientists are invited (a mathematician, a paleontologist, and a paleobotanist). These three are Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Satler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, easily my favourite actor in the movie). Joining them on the island are Hammond's grandchildren (who appear to have no parents of which to speak) Lex and Tim.

The scientists are skeptical of the idea of dinosaur cloning, but the group sets off on a guided tour of the park. This tour takes a weird turn when Satler sees a sick triceratops and goes out to take care of it (which doesn't make sense, she's a paleobotanist, not a doctor). In the meantime, it turns out that one of the computer programmers (Newman himself, Wayne Knight) is in the employ of one of the company's rivals, and is trying to steal dinosaur embryos. During the theft, the security systems are shut down, which includes the electric fences, allowing the dinosaurs to run rampant through the park. These dinosaurs don't know what century they are in, and they know to defend themselves against predators, which these humans appear as. I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.

The system shutdown also means that the group is stranded in their tour cars, leading to one of the iconic scenes involving the two kids and a T-Rex. I'll take this time to talk about the kid actors and how they are one of the most notorious parts of the movie. A lot of people don't like the kid actors in this movie because they think the kid actors are annoying. In the beginning, I agreed with them because before the dinos, they were annoying as all hell. However, when they are in the car during the T-Rex scene, I sympathize with them because if I were in that situation, I would be terrified too. In fact, I probably would have hyperventilated severely, as that is what I tend to do when I'm nervous. The actors themselves are not quite as awful as many kid actors nowadays, but I do see the annoying aspects of them.

The rest of the movie entails the doctors running away from the dinosaurs and trying to reboot the park's security system to get the dinosaurs back in their place. They also discover that the dinosaurs are breeding on their own, reinforcing (through some genetobabble) what Dr. Malcolm says earlier in the movie with regards to controlled breeding, "life will find a way". The whole ethical question of cloning is one of the main aspects of the book (so says the person I watched the movie with), and it is kind of dumbed down to appeal to broader audiences. I will have to read the book someday, as I also hear it is more detailed in the scientific stuff as well as the character relationships. However, it is kind of unfair to compare a book to a movie, so we'll just look at the movie by itself.

First of all, let's talk about what is easily the best and most talked-about part of the movie. The special effects in this movie are absolutely amazing, and they were absolutely state-of-the-art at the time this movie was released. This was the first time that realistic dinosaurs had been portrayed on film, which is why this film is considered a landmark in CGI work as well as just special effects in general. This is funny because anyone who watches the TV show Terra Nova (executive-produced by Steven Spielberg) knows that the show draws a lot of parallels from Jurassic Park, including the animation for the dinosaurs. However, the dinosaur animation actually looks much crappier on the show than it does in Jurassic Park. One would think that with the technological innovations that have happened between 1993 and 2011, the dinosaur animation would look better now right? You'd be mistaken. Quality in other media notwithstanding, the effects, as well as the set design and scenery, look amazing, making for a visually splendid movie. The soundtrack is also amazing, with some of the best themes that John Williams has ever composed outside Star Wars. It is extremely obvious what emotions they are supposed to encite (the first theme being used during epic moments, like when Neill and Dern see the dinos for the first time, and the second being used for tender moments) but that doesn't stop them from being any less epic and any less brilliantly composed.

The film also has some extremely viscerally thrilling and oftentimes terrifying moments. This brings me back to the iconic scene where we first see the T-Rex. I'm sure if I saw that in theatres, it would have utterly terrified me. Seeing it on a small screen definitely lessened that, but I can't deny the effect that it must have had on some audiences, likely really young kids that wanted to see the cool dinosaurs. However, kids like being scared more than we give them credit for, because it keeps them interested in the story. I would have no problem showing Jurassic Park to my kids (were I to have any) if they were older and really wanted to watch it, because even though there is some scary stuff, it adds to the overall quality of the film. The way Hollywood is going nowadays, I can see Jurassic Park getting a 3D rerelease, which I'm sure would upset some people, but I would be interested to see it on the big screen, mostly because it came out three years before I was born, but also to capture the thrill on a large screen.

However, there are definite flaws in logic that might seem like nitpicking, but they just really bugged me throughout. The first big one is the mind-boggling lack of security on the park. I mean, there is some mention of nondisclosure forms and one security system that keeps watch of the entire park, but on a top-secret project such as this, you'd think Hammond would arrange for it to be a bit more safe. If security in the park were realistic, anyone entering or exiting would likely be searched, there would be multiple backup systems and ways of manually operating everything on that island. There would also be better door locks and more than just electric fences to contain the dinosaurs. But if everything in the park was more logically designed, we wouldn't have a story. Secondly, if Lex and Tim (Hammond's grandkids) had responsible parents (or any parents at all for that matter), they would not be going to the island by themselves. If Hammond's son or daughter is a responsible parent, he will be in deep shit for putting their children (and his grandchildren) in danger. However, they are not mentioned, so they might not have any parents and Hammond could be their guardian.

Story problems and gaping flaws in logic aside, there are also some problems with characters. Sam Neill and Laura Dern give agreeable performances, but their characters are both kind of bland. My personal favourite of the performances was by far Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Malcolm. Goldblum is one of my favourite actors by far, and he is charismatic enough to cover the awkward moments with Neill and Dern, as well as the forced cutesy moments with Neill and the kids. Richard Attenborough is excellently nutty as Hammond, and you can somewhat feel for him when all he has worked for comes crashing down around him. There are other small roles in the movie, like B.D. Wong playing a geneticist and a pre-Pulp Fiction Samuel L. Jackson as the park's chief engineer, and not to mention Wayne Knight as the computer programmer who's fault it is that the dinosaurs escape. They are all decent in their performances, and Knight is deliciously villainous, making it all the more hilarious the way he is (SPOILER) dispatched (END OF SPOILER). Needless to say, decent performances all around.

For all the flaws I have pointed out, I do like Jurassic Park, and I would definitely watch it again. It is one of the definitive 90's movies and definitely for a reason. It is a landmark in special effects and it still holds up to this day as an utter classic. It isn't perfect, in fact it's far from perfect, but I do suggest those who haven't seen it to give it a look-see. I know I scored it rather low, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good movie, and that doesn't mean that it isn't worth watching. I also watched the sequels today as well (which I have no intention of reviewing) and while they certainly aren't awful, they are nowhere near as good as this, which is probably in my top 5 favourite Spielberg movies. So in short, see Jurassic Park. Flaws notwithstanding, you likely won't be disappointed.

A Christmas Story

NOTE: This is a rather short review mostly because I don't have too much to say about it. A Christmas Story is a rather simple movie and it doesn't need much loquacity to describe it

A Christmas Story: so often this movie is regarded as a Christmas classic. I remember watching it as a child but I hadn't watched it in years, and now that I have seen it entirely, I can say that I love it. So I figured I might as well review it to celebrate the fact that I am done school for two weeks. A Christmas Story is a truly excellent movie that has earned its status as a classic. It is not only a great Christmas movie, it is a great movie in general, presenting audiences of many generations with a look at youth and nostalgia. Plus, it has loads of memorable moments that have been parodied to death, so even those who haven't seen the movie will definitely be familiar with some scenes (like the infamous "you'll shoot your eye out" and the tongue on the pole scene).

The plot of A Christmas Story is rather episodic in nature. It is about Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), a little boy living in Indiana in the late 40's/early 50's with his kind mother (Melinda Dillon), his profane father (Darren McGavin), and his little brother Randy, who hasn't eaten voluntarily in three years. Ralphie has one simple wish for Christmas: he wants a BB gun, but everybody says that he'll shoot his eye out. The film follows Ralphie in the days before Christmas with his dreams of getting the rifle, as well as dealing with some bullies, lead by the villainous Scutt Farkas, and watching his parents argue over a sexy lamp (one of the most famous plot elements from the movie).

There are also several vignettes, besides those bullies and the lamp, such as the bloodhounds that seem to take a sadistic pleasure in bugging Mr Parker, the fact that Ralphie's Aunt Clara seems to think he is a four-year-old girl, and Ralphie letting slip the "f dash-dash-dash word" while helping his father change a tire. We also go through the motions of Christmas such as picking a tree, making the turkey, and the whole sitting on Santa's lap thing (which I was never really into as a kid, and which Ralphie deals with some rather mean elves). The movie is about the mundane, but it manages to make the mundane magical. What makes this possible is the fact that the film is told in flashback, with voiceover narration from an older Ralphie (Jean Shepherd, who wrote the book upon which this is based). It is this narration that adds to the overall quality of the movie by giving the film the warm nostalgic tone that makes it so great.

Ralphie is a kid that we can all relate to in some way, and the kid that we will all look back on as adults. He's also a pretty funny kid too, and he gets some great one-liners in the movie's generally awesome script. But Ralphie isn't the only funny one, his parents get in some pretty hilarious moments, especially his father. The film is chock-full of memorable moments and scenes like the scene where Ralphie's friend sticks his tongue to a flagpole, and one of the most quotable lines of all time, the infamous "you'll shoot your eye out". The film is generally well-acted, with Shepard carrying most of the weight as Ralphie's voiceover. The actors playing the parents are awesome, and Peter Billingsley is pretty good for a kid actor. The film is also solid visually, with great sets that only add to the nostalgic tone that this film is trying to create.

In short, A Christmas Story is an excellent movie and a classic in every possible meaning of the word. Everyone should see it as soon as they can, especially because it is fit for an annual viewing around this time of year. It is solidly acted and well-written, and it has that warm nostalgic tone that we need in a cynical world like the one we live in. I feel that this is one of my weaker reviews, but I think it works with the style of the movie. A Christmas Story is simple, it doesn't need 10 paragraphs stuffed with big words to describe it. I grant this film must-see status, and I hope to make it an annual viewing tradition (that is, if I can ever find my DVD copy of it). Honestly, you don't have to listen to me, watch the movie for yourself and you'll find that it is much better than I have described it.

Lastly, I'd like to wish all the people who may read this a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a happy New Year.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Anthony Minghella's follow-up project after The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley seems to have slipped under the radar compared with that film. It's certainly not perfect, having issues with a weaker second half and a weird yet oddly heartbreaking ending, as well as being a bit too long, but it is a well-acted, well-written, and well-filmed movie that is definitely worth a view and probably should have gotten a bit more attention. Matt Damon gives a great leading performance, one of my favourites of his actually, and he is accompanied by one of my favourite ensemble casts, making for an entertaining and fairly unsettling movie that is well worth watching.

Have you ever wanted to be somebody else? Chances are, you probably have at some point in your life. Well, so does Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), a young man who works as a washroom attendant and sometimes piano player to make a living in 1950's New York. He borrows a Princeton jacket for a concert and is approached by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn), who thinks that Tom actually went to Princeton and thus knows his son, Dickie (Jude Law). Greenleaf pays Tom a hefty sum to go to Italy to try and convince Dickie to come home. Dickie has been living off of his trust in Italy for years with his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), shirking his responsibilities in the family business for a life of no responsibility and just being a spoiled rich brat.

Tom goes to Italy and is welcomed by Dickie and Marge, who have no idea why he is there until he tells them. Dickie is still accommodating to Tom and we get the slight sense that Tom may feel something more than just friendship for Dickie (although it is pretty much certainly one-sided). It is these homoerotic undertones that make the film's first half very interesting, when we see Tom become a very unsettling character by leeching off of Dickie and see his sexual attraction towards someone who doesn't love him back. In fact, there is a rather creepy scene where Dickie walks in to his room to see Tom trying on his clothes, although it's mostly made creepy by the music. The undertones are made clear when Tom and Dickie share a bath (Dickie thinks that they are doing this like brothers do as children, Tom thinks otherwise). This can also serve as a reason why they really upped the sex appeal and charisma of Jude Law's character. Not that I'm saying Jude Law isn't already sexy, but it is amplified 100% in this movie. Don't believe me, watch the movie.

SPOILER WARNING

It is at this point in the film where we see that Tom not only is in love with Dickie, he wants to be Dickie. He notices that Dickie is beginning to tire of his constant presence and dependency, and an unfortunate altercation on a boat ends with Tom striking Dickie with an oar, eventually killing him. After being mistaken for Dickie by a hotel concierge, Tom gets the bright idea to assume Dickie's identity. However, he looks nothing like Jude Law and Dickie has people that would miss him and question his absence, so we know that Tom's disguise cannot last forever. Marge begins to suspect of Tom's behaviour, as does Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Freddie is a character briefly featured in the first half, who treats Tom with obvious contempt (possibly because Miles wants Dickie for himself). Miles confronts Tom at "Dickie"'s Rome apartment and knowing Miles would expose Dickie's murder, Tom kills him too.


END OF SPOILERS

I don't want to reveal anything more, but there are two characters that I did not talk about in the synopsis that serve a purpose in the story. The first is Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), Marge's friend who becomes Tom's new lover by the end of the film. The second is Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), the daughter of a textile mogul who meets Tom at a luggage pickup in Italy. She does not know him as Tom Ripley because he introduces himself as Dickie. The last incident of the movie involves Smith-Kingsley and Logue, but I don't want to give away the ending for you as it is one of the most confusing and fascinating endings of all time. However, both of the characters are interesting in their own right and they are well-acted by Davenport and Blanchett (although they are not the best performers in the movie).

Matt Damon embodies the character of Tom Ripley perfectly, turning in one of his best and most underrated performances. A lot of people who saw this movie find Tom to be sympathetic, and I don't think he is. I think he is a deeply disturbed man with some identity and self-esteem issues who idolizes Dickie both sexually and as a person (not that Dickie is a model human being either, but we'll talk about him later). He also idolizes the glamour surrounding Dickie, and he says in the movie that "I'd rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody". This is how Tom sees himself, and he'd rather be Dickie, who is a real somebody, than his little insignificant self. Mr. Damon's performance was excellent, at times being slightly disturbing, and definitely worthy of a Best Actor nomination, which he did not get (granted, he still would have lost to Kevin Spacey, but a nomination would have been nice nonetheless).

The second performance that I really loved was that of Jude Law as Dickie, who got an Academy Award nomination for his work (losing to Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules). I find Dickie a tad bit more interesting just in terms of the glamour surrounding him and how Ripley comes to idolize him. Dickie is a free spirit, who leaves New York to be out from his father's thumb, free to spend his trust and dick around (pun definitely intended) however he likes, being ruled by nothing but his daily whims. That's why nobody would really be surprised if Dickie disappeared, because Dickie is flighty and it would totally be within his nature to disappear. There is a magic and like I said, glamour, surrounding this lifestyle, which is what attracts Tom to Dickie in the first place (that and the fact that he is absolutely smouldering). Roger Ebert's review said that Law makes his character almost deserving of his fate, but I don't really think that's true. Dickie definitely exhibited some sociopathic tendencies, but what I said in this paragraph aside, Dickie was basically a spoiled brat who lashed out at the wrong person. Jude Law's performance was absolutely brilliant, and was the most acclaimed performance in the movie for a good reason. He embodies the sexiness, charm, and nuance of Dickie perfectly, making for another grey-shaded character (one of many in this movie).

Gwyneth Paltrow gives a very good performance in this movie (that's saying something, considering that I am hardly her #1 fan), as does Philip Seymour Hoffman and they are just two of many great supporting characters that complement (but don't overshadow) Damon and Law. The film got an Oscar nomination for art direction (losing to Sleepy Hollow) and it was definitely deserved, as the Italian scenery is very well-utilized (getting some decent cinematography out of the settings as well). The movie is well-filmed on all levels, but a definite issue that I have with the movie is that it is about twenty minutes too long. Some may also dislike the ending, as it is one of the most interesting and depressing endings of any of the movies that I have seen.

Flaws aside, The Talented Mr Ripley is one of the more underrated films of the 90's, and one definitely worth watching. It is extremely well-acted on all counts (especially from Matt Damon and Jude Law), has some finely shaded characters, and solid production design (as well as an awesomely creepy soundtrack, which definitely adds to the unsettling nature of the film). I would give this film a very strong recommendation, especially for those of Minghella's critically acclaimed The English Patient (which I haven't seen, but would like to see). In short, it's not perfect, but it is an interesting and oddly thought-provoking movie that is well worth a watch.

Singin' in the Rain

I have been told time and time again that I would absolutely adore this movie once I saw it, and low and behold, I certainly did. Singin' in the Rain is arguably the best movie-musical ever made and arguably the best movie made about the moviemaking business itself. This is as much a satire and fun parody of the early MGM musicals and the early days of film as it is a showcase for the awesomeness of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, and it remains as one of the most entertaining movies ever made. I had so much fun watching this, and I am horrified that it took me so long to do so. I know that the songs are not original to the movie, but it doesn't stop them from being iconic, and it doesn't stop this film from being one of the best films of all time and one of my personal favourites. Boy, I really lucked out these last two times, I've seen new favourites that instill a sense of infectious happiness in me, and one that I'm probably still going to be humming the tunes for next week.

Singin' in the Rain is about Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), one half of the silent film duo by the name of Lockwood and Lamont. The other half of the duo is Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who will serve as the film's de facto antagonist. Lina thinks that she and Don are actually in love, whereas Don knows that it is purely a publicity relationship, and he actually can't stand Lina (as made evident by one of the funniest scenes in the movie, which I will talk about later). Lockwood has worked hard to get where he is (much like Gene Kelly himself) and a news reporter asks him to tell them his story from the beginning. Lockwood proceeds to tell the audience about his rise to fame alongside his best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), dancing in pool halls for nickels (although he glosses over that particular elemnt of the story), rising to become a singer, dancer, and stuntman, and then becoming one of the biggest (if not the biggest) actor of the silent era.

Don and Cosmo leave the premiere and Don gets ambushed by screaming fangirls (much like screaming fangirls would have chased Elvis or Frank Sinatra at that time). In order to escape and get to the after-party, he climbs on top of a bus and jumps into the car of one Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a self-professed "serious actress" who denounces silent film stars as not real actors. Lockwood makes it to the after-party, and who does he discover as the girl in the giant cake? Why it's Kathy, who is actually a showgirl to make ends meet. At that same party, the president of the studio (R.F. Simpson, played by Millard Mitchell) shows a demonstration of a new thing called a "talking picture", which Warner Brothers had recently released (a certain movie called The Jazz Singer, which I'm sure many of you have heard of). The studio is being pressured to make a talkie, but they have one problem: Lina has a thick and high-pitched Brooklyn accent which completely contradicts her silent film image as a graceful and demure leading lady.

In the wake of the new talkie being released, Don and Lina are both sent to diction coaches and while he excels, she does not and all seems hopeless, as the director can't even get her to talk into the microphone. The film is screened for advance audiences, and it is a disaster, the serious costume drama instead turning out as an unintentional comedy (audiences acting like what I imagine audiences would act like at a screening of The Room). Thinking he will be ruined when the film premieres six weeks later, Lockwood returns to his home dejected with Kathy and Cosmo. Kathy gets the idea to re-tool the movie by making it a musical, and Don and Cosmo quickly get behind that. However, there's still one problem, Lina can't act, can't sing, and can't dance (in Cosmo's words, a triple threat).

I won't give away too much more, but the climax of the film is at the premier of the film, and they do make fun of the fact that a lot of musical actresses had their singing voices dubbed over by other singers. This is an awesome movie through and through, and it has an interesting take on old Hollywood and the dawn of the talkie. After doing a bit of research, I found out that some of the characters are loosely based on old hollywood actors, and Lina Lamont is based on Norma Talmadge, a silent film actress who's career was ruined over the dawn of the talkie. For those who have seen the movie before, they will know that during the awful premiere of the first talkie, Don's character (in the movie-within-a-movie) repeatedly says "I love you", which sends the audiences into laughter. That is based on the talkie debut of John Gilbert, another silent star who bombed in the dawn of the talkie.

The best thing about this film besides the story is by far the music, as well as the dancing. As is fairly common knowledge, Gene Kelly was an extreme perfectionist, and he worked Debbie Reynolds to the point where her feet bled (because she had to mimic his every move in high-heeled shoes, and she was an untrained dancer). In fact, several decades after, Gene Kelly was so surprised that Debbie Reynolds had agreed to even speak to him after all those years because of how he had treated her. Needless to say, his perfectionism certainly paid off, because the dancing in this movie was absolutely amazing, especially from him and Donald O'Connor. I have so much respect for this movie, especially the "Fit as a Fiddle" "Moses Supposes" and of course, the classic "Singin' in the Rain" dances, the intricacy of the dance and the hours of hard work that went into this film certainly paid off, because I was amazed at every dance move.

The songs are amazing, and although most of them (sparing for Moses Supposes) had been performed prior to the movie, it is here where they have become most iconic. I had seen a lot of the songs out of context before, and I enjoyed them then, but seeing them in context makes them even more entertaining and extremely memorable. Besides the titular song, which is inarguably one of the most recognizable songs of all time, there is "Make 'Em Laugh", a showcase for the utter comedic talent of Donald O'Connor. Those two are probably my favourites, but there are tons of other great ones. There is "Moses Supposes", "All I Do Is Dream of You", and the fifteen-minute broadway melody/ballet dance sequence near the end of the film, which I'd like to talk about specifically.

This scene takes place in the last third, and it serves as kind of a tangent. Don is telling RF about the last scene left to film in the musical, which leads us into the Broadway Melody. It tells a basic story about a young dancer who goes to Broadway hoping to make it big as a star, but it tells the story with very little dialogue (in fact, outside the intro, only the words "gotta dance" are sang). Much like Lockwood himself, he works his way up to stardom and gets noticed in a club by a flapper woman (played by Cyd Charisse and her extremely long legs). However, she departs from the club with her (mafioso?) boyfriend. He sees her again at a big party, which appears to be in celebration of him, but she leaves again, leaving the character heartbroken. This goes on in a brief sorrowful epilogue until Donald O'Connor comes on as another young dancer hoping to make it big on broadway, and the fun and dancing resumes. I love this scene, it's a big lipped alligator moment (those who are familiar with the people at thatguywiththeglasses.com know what that means) in the best possible way. It has nothing to do with the plot, but that really doesn't matter because it's a chance just to sit back and enjoy the dancing. The only thing wrong with it was that I thought it was only a little bit too long. Otherwise, it is an excellent scene, brilliantly choreographed and wonderfully entertaining.


Moving on from that, another great thing about Singin' in the Rain is the acting. I said in the first paragraph of this review that this film is as much a showcase for the pure unadulterated awesomeness of Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, and I will stand by that as long as I live. Gene Kelly is one of the most well-known names in Hollywood, and this movie (alongside the much-acclaimed American in Paris) was a big part of that. The man exudes so much class and we can tell that he has worked hard to get where he is, perhaps giving reason to his alleged tyranny on set. He gives a fantastic performance in terms of acting, singing, and especially dancing. Every time that man smiles, you can feel thousands of hearts melting, he's just that magical. However, the movie would simply be great if it were not for Donald O'Connor. The man is a master of slapstick and provides some of the most hilarious moments in the play. He and Kelly work extremely well together (despite the fact that behind the scenes, O'Connor was the vessel for much of Kelly's anger at Debbie Reynolds).

The two of them carry the movie, but the film also has great performances from the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, and Millard Mitchell. Debbie Reynolds plays Kathy Selden, the main female protagonist and love interest of Don Lockwood. She's pretty good as an actress, and also a pretty good singer (although she was dubbed in some cases, in fact, Jean Hagen dubbed over her speaking voice in the last bit of the movie). Her dancing was also pretty good too, although I know how that came about now. Jean Hagen was straight up awesome as Lina Lamont, the film's villain. In fact, she got an Oscar nomination for her work, but lost to Gloria Graham for The Bad and The Beautiful. Her performance was one of the two Oscar nominations that this film got, and it was a well-deserved nomination. I also loved her voice, which was kind of like Fran Drescher before Fran Drescher, although Drescher's accent is a bit more severe. Although I wonder what happens to her character after the movie....

All in all, Singin' in the Rain is probably my favourite of the movie-musicals, and possibly the most popular and well-liked of all the musical movies, especially those that were produced by MGM. It satirizes them all the same, providing for an extremely funny and entertaining film. It is pretty much a perfect movie, with one one small problem in the Broadway Melody that I talked about, but otherwise I can't run out of good things to say about it. I don't care if musicals are not your thing, you need to see this movie, and those who like musicals who haven't seen it will love it. It is a brilliantly made movie and one of the best movies to ever come out of (or be about) Hollywood. This is the one thing I agree with the AFI about, as they placed this at #5 on their best movies list. It's well-acted, well-directed, well-sung, well-choreographed, and a whole lot of fun. And to close out, I will show you one of my favourite bits of dialogue in the movie.

Don Lockwood: [while filming a silent love scene] Why, you rattlesnake! You got that poor kid fired.

Lina Lamont: That's not all I'm gonna do if I ever get my hands on her.

Don Lockwood: I never heard of anything so low. Why did you do it?

Lina Lamont: Because you liked her. I could tell.

Don Lockwood: So that's it. Believe me, I don't like her half as much as I hate you, you reptile.

Lina Lamont: Sticks and stones may break my bones...

Don Lockwood: I'd like to break every bone in your body.

Lina Lamont: You and who else, you big lummox?

The Muppets
The Muppets(2011)

Nobody seemed to be very interested in the Muppets after their last movie (1999's Muppets in Space) was released. That's why Jason Segel had to fight tooth and nail to get his dream project up and running, and once he did, you could be damned sure he would do it right. Well, he did, and what resulted was the single best movie I have seen this year. Just thinking about this movie I have a giant ear-to-ear grin, and I just saw it and already I want to see it again. This is pretty much a flawless movie, in fact, it is flawless. That's right, I could not find a single thing wrong with this movie. It is unapologetically saccharine and sweet, and it had me weepy-eyed with joy while also busting my guts with laughter. It's also ably acted by both humans and Muppets, and it's just plain awesome.

The film centres around Walter, a puppet who lives in Smalltown, USA, with his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams). Walter and Gary are huge Muppets fans, and on a trip to the Muppet Studio, Walter overhears a plan by oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the theatre and drill for oil. In order to prevent this from happening, the Muppets have to get back together and hold a telethon to raise 10 million dollars, buying back the theatre and effectively bringing the gang back together. Walter, Gary, and Mary go to the house of Kermit, who now lives entirely off the grid in his mansion, longing for the good old days.

With the help of Kermit and his assistant/butler 80's Robot, they track down Fozzie (who now works with a Muppet cover band in Reno), Gonzo (now the CEO of a plumbing empire), and the rest of the Muppets via montage. The only one who seems to have trouble coming around is Miss Piggy, who now works as a plus-size editor for Vogue Paris and doesn't want to rejoin the troupe because she and Kermit called it quits over his lack of commitment. However, the gang gets back together and starts to work on their comeback special, while a cynical TV executive (Rashida Jones) says she won't air the show unless they get a celebrity host. So they kidnap Jack Black and the show goes on, serving as the climax of the film.

There are several attempts at sabotaging the show by Richman, who will not only get the Muppet Theatre if they don't raise enough money, but he will get the Muppet name as well (as that is included the contract). I won't give away anything more, but one of the many things I like about this movie is that it has a relatively simple plot. Kids movies don't need labyrinthian plots to be good, and this is refreshingly straightforward. It's also not filled with pop culture references and crass humour like so many kids movies. There are a lot of fourth wall jokes though, and pretty much all of them are hilarious. In fact, pretty much the entire movie is hilarious, even when it's being tear-jerking.

I was happy to see all the Muppets back together performing their show, and if this film was used as a way to relaunch The Muppet Show, I would be extremely happy. In fact, the film takes advantage of the fact that there hasn't been a Muppet movie in over ten years and that a good chunk of the world has outwardly forgot them, using it for jokes and heart-wrenching moments at the same time. This film also inspired a wave of nostalgia to wash over me although I never really watched The Muppets as a kid (either the show or the movies), and I'm sure it will do that for longtime fans of the Muppets as well. Around the middle of the movie, Chris Cooper's character tells Kermit that he and his gang are relics, and they are relics, in the best possible way. They're soft and sweet in a cynical and hard world, and that's exactly what we need in times like this. This is what children's entertainment should be like, and this film should be held up as an example of how great kids movies are made.

However, the people that The Muppets is most likely to please are the longtime fans, those who saw the movies and/or the show growing up and wish to revel in a blast from the past. Longtime Muppet fans with children can also take them to this movie and introduce them to characters that every child should know because like I have said so many times, a lot of children's movies have pop culture references (this one has a few, but not too many) and crass humour and The Muppets does not resort to that. Instead, it delivers on the old charm and pure joy that the Muppets have delivered for so many people. Just because the movie is a blast from the past doesn't mean that it hasn't updated itself to become relevant again. There are a ton of celebrity cameos by everyone from Neil Patrick Harris to Sarah Silverman to Whoopi Goldberg (but my favourites being an uncredited role by Jack Black and a hilarious cameo from Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory fame) and they reference some modern songs, but not to a degree of overkill.


Besides the cameos and the Muppets themselves, there are three main human performances that I'd like to talk about (four if you include a new muppet, which I will). First of all, there is Jason Segel as Gary. Jason Segel was the main driving force behind the movie and it was because of him that the movie even got made. He is now one of my favourite people in the world because of that, and he gives a decent performance as Gary. He doesn't overshadow the Muppets because he's not supposed to, but we do care about his character and we want to see him, his girlfriend and his brother be happy. Speaking of which, I loved the character of Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan and the guy who gets the Muppets back together. I'm not sure who voiced him, but they were great, and if they brought back the Muppet show, I would be very happy to see Walter in it. Amy Adams gives a great performance as Mary (which kind of reminded me of her performance in Enchanted), but most of the things that can be said about her can also be said about Jason Segel. However, I really liked her costumes in this movie and how they were almost reminiscent of the old 50's schoolteacher, only Amy Adams makes them work because she happens to be very attractive. Chris Cooper plays the villain, and every time he insulted Kermit and the gang I wanted to punch that bastard in the face, simply because I love the Muppets so much and it's just impossible to be mean to Kermit the Frog. It's like being mean to a really cute puppy, it just can't happen.

One thing I didn't know about this movie going into it was that it was a musical. I had heard that there were songs, but I didn't know that it was going to be a straight-up musical. The songs were written by Bret McKenzie (of Flight of the Conchords) and I must say he did an excellent job, especially with the film's main theme, entitled "Life's a Happy Song". If either version of the song (at the beginning or the end) does not get an Oscar, or even get nominated for one, I will be extremely unhappy. My other favourite song is "Man or Muppet", and they do play some of the classics too, like "Rainbow Connection" and "Mahna Mahna". The score was also excellent and I definitely smell Oscar for it (as well as the songs and maybe even the script).

This is just a fantastic movie, and I can't run out of great things to say about it. I offer one of my highest recommendations possible as my single favourite movie this year. This film had me weepy-eyed from the beginning and especially weepy-eyed at the end, and this is coming from someone who doesn't cry at movies. The three people who gave this negative reviews are clearly made out of stone, because even the most cold-hearted and cynical of people could very well give into the power of the Muppets. The film is extremely well-made, and it will please longtime fans of the Muppets most of all, and seeing as how a good many of them are of child-having age, this is a movie that can be shown to kids who aren't familiar with the Muppets. All the characters are back, and better than ever in a nostalgic romp that is reminiscient of a simpler time. All that's left for me to say is that Jason Segel is a very good man and he will be forever associated with The Muppets as one of the men (and the driving force behind the many men) that brought them back.

The Birds
The Birds(1963)

When you come to think of it, The Birds is actually one of the most influential films ever made. All "act of nature" or "attack of the killer whatever" movies, even those about zombie apocalypses owe something to The Birds. This is also the second Alfred Hitchcock movie I have seen (the first being Psycho) and it is one that I picked up in a collection recently (which also includes Rear Window, North By Northwest, and Vertigo, all of which I will be seeing soon). The Birds isn't quite as good as Psycho, but it is still pretty much a perfect movie in my eyes, because I couldn't really find anything wrong with it. The film is exciting, suspenseful, well-acted, well-directed, and at times, it is genuinely frightening.

However, if one were to look at the first forty-five or so minutes of The Birds by itself, it would not seem like a horror movie at all. In fact, it seems like a romantic comedy until Hitchcock pulls a complete genre switch. The film is about Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy San Francisco socialite who meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a bird shop during a typical romantic comedy meet-cute situation when he is looking for lovebirds to give to his younger sister for her birthday. It is here that we learn that Brenner already knows who Daniels is (which is not a bird shop employee like she was pretending to be to talk to him) and that she is a notable practical joker, which he doesn't much care for.

Following the meet-cute/loathe at first sight, Melanie decides to buy the lovebirds for Mitch and goes to deliver them to his apartment, but discovers he is not there, rather he is at Bodega Bay (where the majority of the film takes place) staying with his mother and sister (which his neighbour says he does every weekend). She decides to drive up and give the birds to his sister by hand. While experiencing her first hours in Bodega Bay, she meets Annie Heyworth (Suzanne Pleshette), a suspicious schoolteacher, and after she is invited to dinner by Mitch, she meets his little sister Cathy and extremely distant mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy).

However, it's when she's boating back to the mainland that the audience sees there's something up. A seagull ducks down at Melanie and scratches her on the head, apparently deliberately. Melanie decides to stay the night and rents a room in Annie's house. Annie explains that she used to date Mitch, and that the reason that they are no longer together is Mitch's mother. It seems we have another Norma Bates on our hands, but Annie explains that she's not afraid of losing her son, but she is afraid of being abandoned (after losing her husband several years prior) and she sees any woman that Mitch takes interest in as a threat. It is made clear that the mutual attraction between Melanie and Mitch is growing as well, which may cause problems, but there are bigger issues to deal with.

The birds attack again, this time at Cathy's birthday party, and they wound several children. After they take refuge in the house and think that they are safe, birds come sweeping into the house and attack all that are inside it. We don't know why they are doing this but it has managed to strike fear into the hearts of all the residents. Lydia asks Melanie to get Cathy from school the next day and what follows is a prime example of a perfectly staged suspense scene. Annie tells Melanie to wait outside while she finishes her lesson, and while she is sitting on a bench and lighting up a cigarette, crows slowly begin to descend on the play equipment. Melanie seems entirely oblivious to this until she turns around and sees hundreds of crows have descended, ready to attack. Daniels and Heyworth get the children to run away and they swarm, attacking the children.

I don't want to spoil too much more, but I will discuss another one of my favourite scenes. Melanie is calling her father at a bar, telling him about the bird attacks, and the news sparks up a debate between her, the bartender, an ornithologist, and a drunk who seems to think it's the end of the world. Then, another attack starts to happen, the one that frightened me the most until the climax. Two birds swoop down and attack a man who was pumping gas, and the gas leaks under another car. The owner of that car lights a cigar and pandemonium ensues. It is a genuinely suspenseful scene and one of the finest scares ever put on film. That being said, those who are fans of the wham-in-your-face type of scares will not like this movie because even though there is one of those near the end (which I will not spoil), most of the horror comes from build-up.

This movie definitely takes its sweet time getting to the outright horror, and Hitchcock knows that it's the little things that get people freaked out, and that build-up is a key element of suspense. The viewer can't just be pushed into the swimming pool, they have to stick their toes in first, test the waters. This element of the film reminds me of Black Swan. It's the little things in Black Swan that start to make things freaky (like the scratches on Nina's back and the moment when she pulls a large piece of skin off her finger), and Aronofsky uses these small things to freak the audience out before he throws them into the craziness of the second half of the movie. Hitchcock used the same method 47 years before, gradually freaking out the audiences with the little things (such as the seagull that attacks Melanie and the dead bird at Annie's door) before the film is flung into full apocalypse mode.

With this clever buildup, Hitchcock has managed to transform birds into some of the most frightening villains ever put on film. I wouldn't be surprised if this movie turned people off of birds, like Jaws has turned people off of the ocean and Psycho has turned people off showers. It didn't have that effect on me, but I can't deny that the birds in this movie are extremely creepy. These birds can smash through windows, peck through doors, blind people, obviously kill people, and worst of all, they don't care who they attack. They also seem invulnerable, like little Birdinators. The last image we see of them is pretty powerful, them covering the house almost in its entirety. Talk about creepy. I was unsure of whether this would hold up, but like the other Hitchcock movie I have seen, it holds up extremely well and I'm sure with repeat viewings, it will still get a reaction out of me, and the object of a horror film is to scare people is it not?

The film is well-acted on all ends, the only one I could possibly complain about is Veronica Cartwright, the actress who plays Cathy, but she gets better as the second half progresses and she's only a kid, so I don't want to be too hard on her. Plus, I like Tippi Hedren in this movie much more than I like Janet Leigh in Psycho. I feel sorry for the poor thing as well, because she suffered what was basically a psychotic episode while filming the movie entirely at the hands of Hitchcock. She and Rod Taylor work well off eachother, and the belligerent sexual tension between the two of them is fun to watch, especially in the first half of the movie before things start to get scary. The last performer I would like to talk about is Jessica Tandy as Lydia, Mitch's mother. She gave an excellent performance as the distant, and yet emotionally vulnerable mother who is still grieving over the loss of her husband, and of course, she does a great job of acting terrified when the birds come along.

The production design of the film is also solid, and the cinematography is excellent as per Hitchcock standard. As I explore more and more of his films, I will probably get to know his style better, and the next one that I would really like to see is North By Northwest, which I will probably watch tomorrow with my dad. Needless to say, The Birds does not reach the level of greatness that is Psycho, but it is a horror classic nonetheless and probably my favourite horror movie besides Scream. I strongly recommend it to everyone, including Hitchcock buffs (although most Hitchcock buffs have probably seen this already) and especially people who need familiarizing with this amazing director's oeuvre (this is a great starting point for those who want to explore Hitchcock's work as well). It's well-acted, well-filmed, suspenseful, and occasionally genuinely terrifying. So all I can say is that Platinum Dunes better not touch this or I'm going to be pissed.

Psycho
Psycho(1960)

I absolutely love this movie, and what better way to pay homage to horror than to review a movie that I love which could very well be called the birth of modern horror? I think a more appropriate genre title for Psycho would be a psychological thriller, but there are some definite horror elements in it. Psycho was also an extremely influential film in that it introduced several new elements to film that would be copied dozens of times, such as the twist ending (every film that has a twist ending nowadays owes it to this film) and several other revolutionary technical aspects of filmmaking that would be expected from a filmmaking great like Alfred Hitchcock (who I definitely need to explore more). Psycho is most remembered for its shower scene but it has so much more than that. It is well-acted, well-made, well-filmed, and a generally awesome movie that I love more the second time around. Fair warning, the big twist is going to be revealed but I'm fairly certain you all know what it is, so I'm only posting this just to be sure.

After the credits, we see Marion (Janet Leigh) with her boyfriend Sam (John Gavin). Sam and Marion want to get married but cannot afford it, as Sam's money is tied up in paying off his father's debts and paying alimony to his ex-wife. Marion then goes to her secretarial job and is given $40,000 to bank for her boss. Thinking on Sam's remarks, she does not bank this money and instead skips town with it in tow. What then follows is the first extremely suspenseful moment in the movie and one of the best scenes ever put on film. Marion falls asleep in her car and she is awoken by a cop, who proceeds to chase her until she trades out her car for a new one. After she loses her tail, Marion continues to drive but is stopped by the rain, and pulls into the Bates Motel.

The Bates Motel is an isolated place, and it's rarely visited by guests. It is also towered over by a large mansion-like house. Marion meets the motel's quiet owner and caretaker, a nice young man by the name of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman invites her for dinner in the parlor and it is here where we see the first sign that there is something wrong with Norman. He tells Marion about his mother, who he seems to have an abnormal attachment to, and when she suggests he put her "someplace" (meaning an institution) he, albeit calmly, loses his temper. These sudden mood swings are a part of what makes Norman such a great character, but I'll talk about that later, we have more plot to discuss. Norman also has a thing for stuffing birds, and we see him arguing with his mother about bringing Marion to the house, but for now, he seems like a sweet, albeit eccentric fellow who has mommy issues. That will change.

What follows is the movie's most famous scene, the shower scene, which I consider to be in two parts. Pretty much everyone knows what goes down in the first part, Marion is murdered in the shower by "mother", but in the second part, Norman (acting as the dutiful son) cleans up the mess. The first part is brilliantly staged as so many people have said before, but I find the aftermath more powerful. Not a word of dialogue is spoken, but we see what is going through Norman's mind as he cleans up his mother's mess. We see him performing the role of the dutiful son and see him genuinely terrified by what had been done. It really speaks to the quality of Anthony Perkins' performance and how he can convey so much with just his facial expressions. I suppose I should talk about the shower scene though. I understand Hitchcock's approach to the scene, as there is a certain sense of paranoia involved in setting the scene in a shower. When one is in the shower, it automatically suggests vulnerability. You are alone, naked, and sealed off only by a curtain. I never found it scary, but I understand how it traumatized so many people (including Janet Leigh, who never took another shower for the rest of her life). Needless to say, the scene is iconic, but the second half of it should be recognized as classic as well and a tribute to the wonderful performance of Anthony Perkins.

The second half of the film takes a completely different turn, as it is mostly about Marion's sister Lila (Vera Miles) and Sam investigating Marion's disappearance. They do this with the help of private investigator Aborghast, who goes to the Bates motel and talks to Norman, who it appears is on to him. Aborghast leaves the motel, but feels dissatisfied, so he comes back to talk to Norman's mother. He is never seen again, and Lila and Sam go to the motel to investigate. Lila goes to talk to Mrs Bates and finds her in the fruit cellar. However....Lila instead finds a corpse with no eyes in a dress and a cheap wig. Her scream alerts Bates, who then shows up in the same dress and cheap wig, and is wrestled to the ground by Sam.

There is an expository speech at the end, given by the psychologist, which explains exactly what is wrong with Norman. He explains that Norman had murdered his mother and her lover out of a sense of jealousy, and overtaken by guilt, he allowed "mother" to take over part of his brain and convinced himself that she was alive by dressing and acting like her. Why he killed Marion and two other women was because "mother" came out whenever Norman was attracted to a woman, and her jealousy ended up getting them killed. The last major scene I would like to discuss is the last we see of Norman, sitting in the jail cell, "mother" having completely taken over his personality. The ending of that scene is extremely disturbing, as there is an image of Norman's face superimposed on his mother's skull. I don't mind the slasher smile, but the skull just pushed the scare over the top.

The first performance I would like to talk about is Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, the role that he would be known for until the tragic end of his life. His Bates is amazingly complex, and his character always keeps the audience guessing. We never know whether Bates is an innocent pawn or an evil plotter, a poor soul under the thumb of his wicked mother or a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. My best guess is a combination of several of these things. I have a feeling that if Norman Bates had a different mother, he would live to be a normal guy and lead a normal life. However, he lived basically his entire life (at least after his father's death) under the thumb of his abusive mother, and thus, he went crazy. That's what makes Norman have some semblance of sympathy and what makes me feel kind of sorry for him. It's also what makes the final scene kind of sad as well as scary. Perkins gets so much done with the performance not only with his words, but with his face and his body language. Every nervous tic and every stuttered word is played pitch-perfect and this is, in my opinion, the grand Oscar snub.

Janet Leigh, however, was nominated for an Oscar for her performance and while it certainly wasn't awful, it was nowhere near as good as Perkins. She properly conveys all of the emotions necessary of a woman on the run, nothing more, nothing less. I find it funny that Janet Leigh was something of a 'scream queen' in this movie, and she gave birth to an even more famous scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis (who was two when this movie came out). John Gavin is a good Sam, embodying the role of the noble hero, and doing it very well. We only really see him in the second half (he appears at the beginning of the movie and isn't seen again until after the shower scene), but when we do see him, we like him and want to see him win. Psycho is one of those movies where there is no real clear-cut hero or villain (except Mrs Bates, who is definitely a villain), but if there is the closest thing to a traditional hero in this movie, he would be it. The last performance I would like to talk about is Vera Miles as Marion's sister, and many things that can be said about Leigh's performance can also be said about Miles'. Another weird coincidence that I picked up the second time watching this is that Anthony Perkins and John Gavin look very similar, almost like they could be blood relatives, as do Janet Leigh and Vera Miles. Kind of funny seeing as the connection between Perkins and Leigh is important in the first half, and the connection between Gavin and Miles is important in the second half, a parallel of sorts.

The film also introduced a whole bunch of new filmmaking concepts that have been copied numerous times (as well as introducing a concept later used in Scream by having a big star being killed off in the first half of the movie). The black-and-white cinematography is amazing and each scene is staged to perfection (some important ones being discussed in this review). The last thing I would like to talk about before wrapping this up is the score. I love the score of Psycho, and throughout history, it has become one of the most iconic movie scores of all time. Even people who haven't seen the movie know the violin-based score and the tune (especially the tune from the shower scene) is pretty much instantly recognizable upon hearing. All in all, this is an extremely revolutionary movie and one of the best movies of all time (placing around #4 on my all-time favourites list). It is extremely well-acted, extremely well-filmed, and extremely well-written, and just awesome in general. I loved it the first time, but I love it even more now and I hope to watch it again several times (and hopefully to own it someday). This is the very definition of must-see, anyone who hasn't seen it needs to see it immediately and anyone who has needs to see it again.

Interview with the Vampire

Well, October is well underway and I haven't reviewed a single horror film all month, as I have been too busy reviewing Disney. However, I came across the book upon which this is based, and I enjoyed it so much that I had to check out the cinematic adaptation. Despite my saying that I enjoyed the book, there were some things that held it back, as Anne Rice is notorious for writing flowery romantic stuff and the flowery romantic stuff sometimes made it a hard read, and I have some issues with the main character that I will discuss in this review. However, it is entirely worth a read and I recommend the book for anyone who comes across it. But we aren't here to talk about the book, we're here to talk about the movie. Interview With The Vampire is an entertaining movie and one of my personal favourite vampire movies. However, I haven't seen many vampire movies so that title is rather insignificant. It doesn't quite live up to the book (but books are different from movies, so it is unfair to compare them), but this movie has an excellent story, excellent characters, and above all, excellent visuals (which actually won the Oscar back when this movie came out). Like the critics consensus said, it lacks some of the book's subtler shadings and suffers from some clumsy casting, but it benefits from atmospheric direction and a surfeit of gothic thrills.

Interview With The Vampire starts in New Orleans in the 1980's, where a young man named Malloy (Christian Slater) prepares to interview a man named Louis (Brad Pitt) who claims to be a vampire. It turns out that Louis is telling the truth, and he agrees to tell Malloy his life story. It begins in the 1700's in New Orleans, where we learn that Louis was a wealthy plantation owner that lost his wife in childbirth, which robbed him of his will to live. It is at this point in his life where he encounters Lestat (Tom Cruise). Lestat is a vampire, and he turns Louis and makes him into his companion. Louis and Lestat tolerate one another throughout the years but Lestat grows frustrated with Louis' reluctancy to feed on anything but rats.

One day, when Louis is walking alone, he comes across a young girl crying for her mother, who has died from the plague. This little girl plays a big part in the story, as she is taken to safety by Louis and Lestat and made into a vampire. Problem is, Claudia (the little girl, played by Kirsten Dunst) is five years old, and being a vampire, she cannot grow older. Louis and Lestat parent Claudia, Lestat being more of the father and Louis being more of the mother (at least in those times, Lestat being tougher and Louis being more nurturing). When Claudia finds out that she cannot grow up, and when she tries to cut her hair and it mysteriously grows back, she gets really pissed and a plan enters her head.

SPOILER WARNING

Claudia gets a plan to kill Lestat, and this plan is successful, at least temporarily. She kills two boys and tricks Lestat into drinking their blood with full knowledge that drinking the blood of the dead will seriously weaken a vampire. She then slits his throat and throws him in the swamp. However, Louis and Claudia see a ghostly, scarred Lestat that is very much alive, albeit just barely (what with his skeleton-like visage and such). When he attacks, Louis and Claudia run away and catch the ship to Europe, where they had been planning to travel to, to see if there were any more vampires. This brings us to the part of the film set in Paris, where another vampire named Armand (Antonio Banderas) comes into the picture.

END OF SPOILERS

Armand is the leader of a troop of vampires who live at the Theatre des Vampires, where there are shows mosy every night (one which included stripping a female victim fully nude before killing her). Armand and his coven know about...what I mentioned in the spoiler warning... and Armand says that Claudia is in danger and she and Louis should part. It could be interpreted that Armand just wants Louis for himself, or he knows that his vampire coven is unpredictable and he knows that the one crime of the vampire (punishable by death) is to kill their own kind. Claudia thinks that Louis is going to leave her for Armand, so she plays the same trick that Lestat played on Louis by getting a woman for Louis to turn who would take care of her.

However, they are kidnapped by Armand's coven. Louis is sealed in a coffin and Claudia and Madeleine (the woman) are trapped in a storage closet with an open roof. I promised not to give away any more spoilers, so we'll leave it at that because I can't really say anything more without giving away the ending. However, you all know by the beginning that Louis survives the whole affair. Needless to say, Interview With The Vampire has a great story at its heart, and it's based off excellent source material. It is a very detailed book, so naturally it couldn't all be transferred to screen. The movie is what I would call a distilled adaptation, as the writers just cherry-picked what was important to the story and put it in the script. Things move fast in this movie, much faster than in the book, and while it sometimes doesn't work in the film's favour, it can't be helped.

One of the most notorious things about this movie is the casting, because the two main stars of this movie were the big Hollywood heartthrobs at the time, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, who were chosen for pretty much their marketability, as it appears to the naked eye. They both look utterly ridiculous as vampires, Cruise as Lestat more than Pitt as Louis, but I was actually surprised as performance-wise, they were both pretty good. However, the huge surprise for me was Tom Cruise, and this is from someone who is hardly his #1 fan. Tom Cruise gave a great performance as Lestat, and even though I could imagine many other actors in the great role (actors such as Jeremy Irons and Rutger Hauer were considered for the role, and Stuart Townsend played the role in Queen of the Damned), I was thoroughly entertained by his performance and found it to be the second-best in the movie.

Brad Pitt was slightly less ridiculous looking in his role as Louis, but my enjoyment of his performance was hampered by the fact that I don't much care for the character. Louis and his whining got a bit tiring after a while (although he is much whinier in the book), and his whole self-pity due to the fact that he has to kill to live starts to get old fast. Don't get me wrong, Brad Pitt was good as Louis, I just don't care for the character so I liked his performance less than that of Cruise and Dunst. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the performance of Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, who got a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. This was her big debut as a child actress and it was a damn good one. The character of Claudia is, for the most part, an adult in the body of a child, and Dunst embodies that, being very articulate for her age and being able to hold her own against Pitt and Cruise. Needless to say, her performance was probably the best in the movie, and that's something to say for a child actor.

The rest of the performers include Antonio Banderas as an entirely believable Armand (albeit also slightly ridiculous looking), Stephen Rea as a villainous vampire named Santiago, who is a large part in the climax of the film, and Christian Slater as the Interviewer (a last-minute replacement for River Phoenix). They all give pretty good performances, nothing Oscar-worthy but nothing terrible. Out of the three performances mentioned, I would say Banderas was the best. The only problem that I really see is that Banderas wasn't in the movie enough, as Armand was in the book much more. Slater wasn't bad, and Rea wasn't bad either, but Banderas was the best.

The acclaimed elements of the film, however, lie in the visuals. This film got Oscar nominations for art direction and costume design, and rightfully so, because both elements of the film are spectacular. The use of visual effects is also well-done except for one aspect. In my opinion, they messed up the vampire teeth, and it was part of what made Cruise and Pitt look ridiculous. They looked okay on Dunst, but still weird. Another thing, fair warning to those who are squeamish. If you are squeamish around blood, then some parts of this movie will be awkward for you, because there are a lot of gory deaths, some more than others. However, for those comfortable around gore, this should be an entertaining watch.

Don't get discouraged by the unfortunate glut of vampire movies coming out, Interview With The Vampire is a worthwhile watch, especially around this time of year. It may be flawed, but the film has a lot of things going for it. It has splendid performances, spectacular visuals, and despite lacking some of the subtlety that the book had to offer, an excellent story. I also recommend giving the book a read, but like I said, this movie is a distilled adaptation, so you don't need to read the book before watching the movie to understand it as the basic plot elements are still there. It may not be straight-up horror so much as romantic vampire fiction, but it's better than Twilight. It's much better than Twilight. You have to give it that. So in short, I recommend Interview With The Vampire, especially to doubters of vampire movies.

Beauty and the Beast
½

Beauty and the Beast is yet another historically significant film for Disney, being the first animated feature film to get a Best Picture nomination (something really special, seeing as the Best Animated Feature category did not exist and all animated films could get nominated for were music), and it was essentially what cemented the Disney Renaissance, perfecting what had been established by The Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid had established the Disney formula of belligerent sexual tension, consistently great musical numbers (in the age of Menken, which still exists to this day), and memorable characters. Plus, there's just a sweetness to this movie that is near impossible to resist. Watching Beauty and the Beast for the first time in so many years also brought back a wave of nostalgia for me, as my school did this musical in my grade nine year. I would be lying if I said I didn't adore this movie, but I do have a few problems with it. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives in this timeless classic, and we'll talk about them now. Like I have said in my reviews of the other Disney movies, most everyone has heard this story one way or another so a spoiler warning would be pointless.

Beauty and the Beast starts with a stained-glass prologue about a vain and cruel young prince, who encounters an old woman who offers him a rose in exchange for shelter from the cold. He scoffs at her and she reveals herself to be a beautiful enchantress. The prince tries to apologize, now that he's aware that she's hot, but the witch instead turns him into a hideous beast and says that he will stay that way if he does not learn to love and be loved in return by his twenty-first birthday. The enchanted rose serves as a timer of sorts, as when the last petal falls, it will signify that he will be a beast forever. The witch also places a curse on all inhabitants of the castle, turning them into house objects like a candelabra or a clock. The beast lives in exile, horrified by his appearance, and has fallen into a deep depression.

This brings us to one of the best introductory musical numbers in all of Disney-dom, where we meet an intelligent young woman named Belle. We learn that she is looked upon as 'weird' by the townspeople, because even though she's good-looking, she's smart and she likes to read (seen as unusual because she's female and the town seems to abhor reading, which leads to a question I have that I will mention later). She is also being chased after by the brutish town hero Gaston, who wants to claim her for his wife. Belle lives with her father Maurice, an eccentric adventure who heads off for an inventing fair and gets lost in the woods, which is where the two stories intertwine.

We are introduced then to Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip, the main sentient houseware characters and easily the most fun in the movie. They delight at having a guest in the castle, but the Beast is not so happy about it, and he imprisons Maurice in the tower. After rejecting Gaston's proposal, Belle realizes something's up after her father's horse comes back without her father and she rides to the castle. In an encounter with the Beast, she agrees to take her father's place and stay in the castle forever. The housewares are delighted to have a guest in the castle, and when Belle comes down to get some food (priorly refusing to eat dinner with the Beast), they lavish her with a full extravagant meal (and one of the most recognizable songs of the last twenty years).

The game-changer in the relationship between Belle and the Beast happens when Belle wanders into the west wing of the castle (the one place the Beast told her not to go), and discovers the enchanted rose. The beast frightens her into running away and she promptly gets chased by wolves. The Beast chases off the wolves, and Belle finally stands up to the Beast about his temper issues. What follows is the gradual softening of the beast, and the realization that there may be "something there that wasn't there before" (to quote a song from the movie). This leads to an interesting parallel between the Beast and Gaston (we'll talk about that later though). The romantic climax of the movie is the ballroom scene (the signature scene of the movie, and one of the best staged scenes in the company's entire animated oeuvre). After the ballroom scene, Belle uses the magic mirror to see her father, and she finds out that he is sick. The beast willingly lets her go, and he sinks into a deep depression knowing that he will remain a beast forever and not have his one true love.

Meanwhile, Gaston has been formulating a plan, simply because he won't take no for an answer. He plans to get Belle's father thrown in the nuthouse for his yammering about the beast, and only offers to clear it up if Belle marries him. When Belle corroberates her father's stories, Gaston denounces her as crazy and when shown the grim image of the Beast, Gaston gathers the townspeople, who seem to hang on his every word, to lay siege to the castle and kill the Beast. The objects successfully fight off the villagers, but the Beast is far too depressed to fight Gaston. However, when he sees that Belle has come back, and she tells him to fight, the Beast gains enough strength to fight Gaston, but does not kill him. However, this gives Gaston an opportunity to stab the beast before falling to his demise.

The Beast is on the brink of death and Belle finally admits her love for him (whereas he had admitted it after she left). The Beast is resurrected by the Power of Love, and he is also turned back into his normal human self. Cue the objects turning into their human selves and Belle and the Prince living happily ever after. I enjoy the love story in this movie, and this is coming from someone who doesn't really like romance-based movies (spare for a few). Some think that this has a bad message, in that a guy may start out an asshole but it's your love that changes him, and if he doesn't change, then you're not working hard enough. I disagree, because the Beast only starts to come around when Belle stands up to him and Belle only starts coming around when the Beast calms his temper and doesn't act like an asshole to her.

The calming of the Beast leads to an interesting parallel between him and Gaston. The Beast starts out angry and violent, whereas Gaston starts out as a jerk. However, as the Beast grows nicer and more loving, Gaston grows more and more crazy, culminating in the fight between him and the Beast where he plummets to his death. This is what I think makes Gaston one of the more interesting Disney villains, the fact that he's not inherently evil, and he doesn't have supernatural powers or legions of minions. He has one minion, a beaten-down little schmoe named LeFou, but he just starts out as a jackass who is used to getting what he wants, and he goes crazy when he can't get it. Therefore, in my opinion, Gaston is one of the best Disney villains.

Moving on to the romantic leads, we have Belle and the Beast (another Disney Prince without a name). Belle is a decent enough character, and one of the better characters Disney had produced in that time. She was intelligent, but looked upon as an outcast because she loved reading and she didn't think her father was crazy. The one thing that really annoys me about her character though is her typical "I Want" Disney Princess motivation. By that, I mean Belle expresses that she wants something, but that want is annoyingly vague and never really accomplished. Her song just says that she wants "more", but the perameters of more are never defined. It's not really a big deal, the vagueness of Belle's desires just kind of bugs me.

Next, we have The Beast, easily the most nuanced character in the movie. We see three shades of him: the angry and violent side that was the result of his grotesque appearance and his priorly 'beastly' personality before that whole incident with the witch, the kinder and softer beast that is the result of Belle standing up to him, and the depressed beast that lies at the bottom of angry beast and becomes more visible when Belle leaves. All three shades are portrayed excellently and the Beast is one of the most well-rounded characters that Disney has ever produced. The last characters that I want to talk about are the Objects, easily the most fun characters. The interplay between Lumiere and Cogsworth is fantastic, and they themselves are excellent and hilarious characters on their own. Never mind that only Lumiere has a French accent, they're all just awesome characters. I have one question about Mrs Potts though. Why would she let anyone drink out of Chip. I mean, he is a teacup, but he's still her kid. But all in all, this film has some of the most memorable characters of all time, and some of my personal favourites as well.

The film also has some of the best songs that Disney has ever written, and some of the most recognizable songs of the last two decades. There's nary anyone who hasn't heard the song "Be Our Guest" and even the titular "Beauty and the Beast" (especially considering that one has been redone so many times by so many different pop artists that it's impossible not to come across in some form). Both of those songs are impeccably staged, and easily the most lavishly staged out of all the songs, but they aren't my favourites of the bunch. My favourite is the opening number, titled "Belle". I like how it is staged, I like the multi-layered approach to the song, I just love everything about it. The mob song is my second favourite of the bunch, also an excellently staged affair. Needless to say, the songs are fantastic and deserve to be listened to and remembered for years to come.

Another thing this movie has going in its favour is the lush animation. This has some of the best scenery in any Disney movie, and it shows in the lush castles, beautiful landscapes, and excellent character design. You can tell that Disney was starting to experiment with CGI with this movie, especially in the ballroom scene (with an obvious CG chandelier) but it's mostly hand-drawn, and the details of the castle are just amazing. I know I have lavished undying praise on this movie without giving it a perfect score, so I figure I should explain myself. There are several holes in the story that don't entirely detract, but are certainly noticeable. First of all, the terms of the curse affecting all living things in the castle must have applied to every flea, rat, and dust mite on the premises due to all the talking housewares. I guess this because no way would a spoiled brat like the Prince let all of those people live in his castle. Secondly, why would a town that abhors reading have a reasonably successful bookstore. Belle's patronage can't be enough, I mean, where would she get the money to pay for the books, she doesn't have a job. Those plot holes really aren't that big, but they are noticeable and detract from the movie a little.

All in all, there is one word to describe Beauty and the Beast, and that word is timeless. This is an absolutely timeless movie, and it should be shown to all future generations. Anybody who has not seen this movie should see it now and anyone who hasn't in a long while should see it again. Minor flaws aside, this is an excellent movie and deserves its place as the cementer of the Disney Renaissance and one of the best Disney films of all time. I didn't remember loving this movie as much as I do, as it had been years since I had last viewed it. Lush visuals, excellent characters (including a complex villain), a compelling romance, and an all-around sweetness that doesn't take away from the film like it could. Other than what I have said, there really isn't much more to say, so I guess we'll end the review on this awkward ending.

P.S. I'm really enjoying this Disney marathon, kind of contradicting to the horror theme that this month has. To keep the balance between old and new age Disney, I have to watch one more film in the renaissance before I can watch any more of the old ones.

Sleeping Beauty
½

Out of the three films featuring Disney Princesses that came out in the Old Age of Disney, I think Sleeping Beauty is the best one, or at least my personal choice out of the three. Compared to Snow White and Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty has a better-developed story, the romance between the prince and the princess is better developed, and the film also has arguably the most terrifying villainess in not just animation, but in all of film. The strength does not lie with the hero or heroine, but it's not as bad as in Snow White and Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty is still not the best work that Disney has to offer, but it is a great piece of animation nonetheless and it is much more timeless than its predecessors.

This is another movie based on a classic Grimm's fairytale, so chances are everyone has heard of the story of Sleeping Beauty in one way or another and we needn't talk about it as if we don't know what it's about. The film starts out with hoards of peasants flocking to the castle to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a princess. The townsfolk come bearing gifts for the Royal Family and there is joy to be had by all. Three fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather) come to visit the child as well, and bestow upon her three gifts. The gifts of beauty and song are bestowed upon her when the party is interrupted by an evil witch by the name of Maleficent, who is pissed that she didn't get invited to the party, and treats the snub like an act of war.

Instead of bestowing a gift upon the princess, she bestows a curse. The curse states that Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die on her sixteenth birthday. But the third gift still hasn't been given. Merriweather lightens the curse by having her fall into a deep sleep instead of die when she pricks her finger. As a precaution, the king has all the spinning wheels rounded up and burned. The fairies also have a plan to raise Aurora in the woods as their own without magic so Maleficent cannot track them. They would return Aurora to the kingdom once the sun set on her sixteenth birthday and they could be sure that the curse could not be fulfilled.

The sixteen years pass by and we see that Aurora has blossomed into a lovely young woman living in exile with the fairies under the name Briar Rose. Preparations for Aurora's birthday are underway, and the fairies try to bake her a cake and make her a dress without magic, to comedic failure. To get her out of the house, they send Aurora to pick berries. This is where she meets the fully grown Prince Phillip, the prince whom she is unawaredly betrothed to. Neither knows that they are arranged to be married and they hit it off right away, dancing in the woods together before Aurora runs away when he asks her name. She tells the fairies, and they tell her that she cannot see him (because they do not know that he is Phillip).

Maleficent had retreated into her headquarters in the dark mountain, and her wild boars of evil (at least that's what they look like) had been searching for Aurora for years. However, they had been searching for an infant all that time, not a girl of sixteen as Aurora had become. Frustrated, Maleficent sends out her crow to find Aurora, and the crow is ultimately successful, as Maleficent is waiting for Aurora at the castle when she is brought back to meet her parents. Despite the best efforts of the fairies, Aurora does prick her finger on the spinning wheel and she falls into a deep sleep. This event turns Phillip into a more important character as he is brought in by the fairies to perform the necessary heroics, because the deep sleep can be undone by true love's kiss. The whole of the castle has been put to sleep as well so Aurora's parents won't find out that the curse has been fulfilled, and Phillip falls into the trap of Maleficent.

Once Phillip is kidnapped, Maleficent's plan is revealed, and this is what truly cements her status as a wicked villainess. Maleficent does not plan to kill Phillip, she just plans to keep him until he's old, then let him go and rescue Aurora who has stayed young and pretty over the many years. Turning Phillip into a dirty old man, if that's not evil then I clearly do not know what is. The fairies do free Phillip and he performs the necessary heroics priorly mentioned, including battling Maleficent, who has transformed herself into a vicious fire-breathing dragon in one of the most epic scenes ever put to animation. He does get to the castle and performs the necessary kissing, and he and Aurora live happily ever after.

Aurora's characterization is not nearly as weak as Snow White, but that doesn't mean that she is a fully realized character. She's basically only in the movie to stand there and look pretty without anything to do. But she and Phillip (we'll get to him later) are basically chess pieces for the fairies and Maleficent to move around to their liking. The fathers of Aurora and Phillip serve as comic relief of sorts, and they are effective and amusing in their roles, but that's all that can really be said about them. The fairies are interesting side characters, and they are the more active protagonists. They have more bearing on the plot then the prince or the princess, and it's their idea to hide Aurora from Maleficent in the woods. One of the things I like about the fairies is their interplay with one another, especially Flora and Merriweather bickering about whether the dress should be pink or blue. These are some of the most fun characters Disney has created, and certainly the chessmasters of the whole affair.

Moving on to the hero, Prince Phillip was a boon for Disney Princes. He may look exactly the same as the other two princes before him, but he is progressive in the simple fact that he has a name. The romance between him and Aurora is built up better as well, and them falling in love the moment they meet is partially averted in the fact that they were arranged to be married, so they would end up together whether or not they liked eachother. Phillip is also more active in the story than the other two princes. The one in Snow White shows up at the beginning and the end to perform whatever romantics necessary, and the prince in Cinderella is so uninvolved that he doesn't even go to find the person who fit the shoe. Phillip, on the other hand, is much more of a hero than the heroine, and we genuinely want to see him win. He's also a decent singer, but I only like Bill Shirley's singing voice when it's coming out of Jeremy Brett's mouth (in My Fair Lady).

Now that we're done talking about the good characters, let us get to the villainess, easily the most remembered thing about the movie. Maleficent is a truly excellent villain, and probably the most terrifying villainess of all time. She is a combination of the two most popular types of villains nowadays, being cold and calculating but also packing one hell of a whallop, especially when she transforms into a dragon in the climax. She treats a harmless snub like an act of war, and carries it out just as such. I mentioned her plans with Phillip, and those are truly evil, but brutally murdering an innocent teenaged girl just for being snubbed an invite to a baby shower is also incredibly evil. Her character design is impeccable, with the black/purple/green colour scheme and her long flowing robes. Some may say that she is the best of all the Disney villains. I disagree with that statement, although I will be so bold as to say that she is the greatest villainess ever put to celluloid (no matter animation or live-action).

The artwork is also fantastic. In fact, the artwork in this is some of the best that Disney has ever created in any of their movies, especially their old ones. I loved the surrealistic touches and the animated set pieces in this one, as well as the character design. The consistent dream-like atmosphere works in the film's favour, and the colour scheme is splendid and decadent. The orchestration is also fabulous, but much like Snow White, the songs in Sleeping Beauty are very bland and forgettable. The songs got better in the Renaissance, it seems the music people at Disney were more focused on orchestration than songwriting. The main song "Once Upon A Dream" is forgettable and the rest are so few that they don't leave an impression at all.

All in all, Sleeping Beauty is a classic, and it has aged much better than its princessy predecessors. There are other older Disney movies that are better (like 101 Dalmatians and Peter Pan) but this goes down as a worthy entry into the Disney Animated canon. The film has fine animation, great orchestration, fun side characters, and an unforgettable villainess. I would recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it. I've been watching too many girly movies though, so I need a less feminine Disney movie to continue my marathon. I think I'll go to my favourite hand-drawn animated movie of all time, which you will find out sometime soon. Out of all the Old World Disney movies, Sleeping Beauty is my third favourite, next to Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians. The whole of the film is on youtube, so I would encourage anyone who hasn't seen it (whether not at all or in a while) to give it another look.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

When reviewing a film like Snow White, one can't help but factor in historical significance, because on all counts, this is an important movie. I disagree with the AFI in calling it the best animated movie of all time, because it is certainly not. I don't think one can call it the best because it is the first. They haven't worked the kinks out yet, and while it is a fantastic movie, it is flawed, and I shall point out those flaws in this review. Still, I like this movie much more than I like Cinderella, and it is perhaps the pinnacle of old-world Disney. It doesn't hold the status of timeless classic like other Disney works because it hasn't exactly aged well, but when put in historical context, Snow White has many things in its favour. It has excellent artwork, fun side characters, a memorable villain, and excellent orchestration.

Most everyone has heard this story in some way or another, so we needn't talk about the movie as if we don't know what it is. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is a Disney-fied version of the classic Grimm's fairy tale. The titular character is a beautiful young princess who is envied by her stepmother, the Evil Queen, for her beauty. The Queen is told by her magic mirror that Snow White has usurped her as the fairest in the land and as revenge, the Queen sends her huntsman out into the woods to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in a box that she had custom-made for the occasion. The huntsman cannot do it, so he tells Snow White to run off into the woods and never come back and he fools the Queen with the heart of a pig.

Snow White herself is a kind, caring, but extremely simple girl, and she means no harm by being prettier than the Queen, so her being marked for death because of her beauty alone makes the Queen all the more villainous. She hides in the woods like the huntsman says and with the help of her animal friends, she comes across the house of seven little "children" who appear to have no mother because their house is a mess. Snow White breaks and enters into the house and decides to clean it up. We then see who the house belongs to: seven mining dwarves who all have names that describe their personalities (all except Doc). There's Bashful, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, and Doc, and they are easily the most entertaining characters in the film.

The Dwarves find Snow White and they allow her to stay because she offers to cook and clean for them, essentially what a mother would do in that time. But meanwhile, the Queen has figured out the huntsman's ruse and she decides that if you want to get the job done, you have to do it yourself. She formulates a potion to turn herself into an old peddler and creates a poisoned apple with which she will kill Snow White. The effects of the poisoned apple can be reversed with true love's kiss, so the Queen plans to bury Snow White deep in the ground so that will never happen. Her plan is put into action when the dwarves go to work, and being the idiot that she is (and someone that clearly was not taught stranger danger), Snow White lets the Queen into the house and is coerced into taking a bite of the poisoned apple and thus, appears dead.

Snow White is kept in a glass coffin that the dwarves fashioned for her, and eventually, her prince does come and they ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Perhaps I should explain. There is a prince in this movie (who doesn't have a name, so I will henceforth call him Joe). Joe appears at the beginning of this movie, and he makes his way into the castle to see the fair maiden with the "lovely" singing voice (which I will talk about later). He is in the movie so little that you could basically do the movie without him, and he has no personality, so he is basically indistinguishable from the princes in Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (although the latter had a bit more personality than the former). He's a decent looker and a decent singer, but that seems to be the only thing that matters. Joe just shows up at the beginning and the end to perform his princely duties, and he leaves so little of an impression that he could be written out of the movie entirely.

There is another flaw in character with this movie, and that is the titular character, Snow White. When put in historical context, her characterization makes perfect sense, as this was how women acted back in the 1930's. However, her characterization is the main reason why this film didn't age well. Snow White is a blithering idiot and if not for the prince swooping in to rescue, her idiocy would have gotten her killed. Any sensible person would call foul if a creepy old lady offered them an abnormally large, abnormally red apple, but Snow White lets her in, possibly because she sees the old woman as helpless. She is also supposed to be lovely and a great singer, but she is really only average-looking and I find her voice (both speaking and singing) shrill and unpleasant.

The dwarves are the most entertaining characters in the movie by far, and they make for some fun slapstick (not unlike the mice in Cinderella). My favourite dwarves are Dopey and Grumpy, but the rest are fun as well. They seem to fold like houses of cards when Snow White enters their lives, and only Grumpy seems to resist, but he cracks eventually. What I don't understand is why Doc is named Doc as opposed to Stuttery, because stuttering is his defining personality trait. They also sing the only memorable song from the movie, and one of my favourite Disney songs ever. But we aren't talking about the songs yet, we're still talking about the characters. The other memorable character this movie produces is the Evil Queen. She may not have a name, but she is one of the most memorable villains that Disney has produced, as well as one of the most vain characters ever put on film. Her simple motivation is to kill a young girl because she's prettier and she will stop at nothing to do it, including making herself temporarily ugly. There are better villains in the canon now, but she is fantastic nonetheless as the first one (the one that started it all if you will).

The other thing that this movie has going for it is its excellent artwork. For the 1930's, and the first animated film ever made, this film features some excellently lavish animation and great colourization. The design of the human and animal characters is excellent as well, and the film on a whole is splendid and lavish. There really isn't too much more to say about that without repeating myself though, so we'll move on. The songs in this movie, apart from Hi Ho!, are very bland and forgettable. There's the bland love song, the bland "I Want" song, and a few other forgettable tunes. But I don't place too much of the blame on the filmmakers, because this was their first movie and they were working out the kinks. Needless to say, the songs got better, as did the animation, but for the first animated movie ever made, they were both decent.

It isn't the strongest work in the Disney animated canon, and it hasn't aged particularly well, but Snow White is an animated classic, and possibly the most historically important (alongside The Little Mermaid which kicked off the Disney Renaissance). The animation is excellent, and despite a weak heroine and bland hero, it has entertaining side characters and a menacing villain. It has flaws, but the film has a sort of inherent likability that is near-impossible to resist. Even naysayers of this movie have to acknowledge that without this movie, there wouldn't be the string of Disney classics that we know today. The AFI was foolish in naming this the greatest animated film of all time, because the first of a new medium like animation has not had the kinks worked out of it yet. There are a ton of better animated movies that came out after this one that deserve the top spot, but Snow White definitely deserves to be on the list, just not at the top. I would recommend that those who haven't seen it do so immediately, as the whole of the film is available on youtube (since it's so old it's practically in the public domain). This review marks my return to Disney, so expect more reviews of their movies soon.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

The western was once a staple of cinema back in the 50's and 60's, what with classics like High Noon and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It disappeared for the longest time, but it is beginning to show a resurgence, starting with Unforgiven and culminating in the remake of True Grit. But in the middle lies the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which is an excellent film and one of the best of its year, as well as one of the best remakes of all time (and so I hear, a remake that is better than the original). It has a complex and engaging story accompanied with impeccable acting and abundant atmosphere. This is the kind of western that makes me want to see more westerns, and one that you don't necessarily need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING

One of two main characters in this movie is Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a poor rancher who has his horses stolen by the gang of the other main character (who will be mentioned later) in the beginning of the movie and is later enlisted to help deliver the criminal to the train station where he would take the titular 3:10 train to Yuma, where he would be hanged. Evans is a one-legged veteran of the Civil War, and he struggles to support his wife (Gretchen Mol) and his two sons (the elder being played by Logan Lerman and the younger being played by an unidentified child actor). His elder son William is an adventurous boy who dreams of being a cowboy and demands to come along with his father, and his younger son has tuberculosis, which is what ties the family to the failing ranch.

The other main character is Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), the criminal being transported to Yuma. Wade is the leader of a gang of criminals, and the gang (lead in Wade's absence by Charlie, played by Ben Foster) spends most of the movie tracking down Wade, leading to a violent confrontation at the train station. The rest of the movie is chronicling the journey of Evans and Wade (as well as the rest of the group taking him to Yuma which includes the likes of Peter Fonda and Kevin Durand). It also shows the interaction between Wade and Evans, which is fascinating in itself. Some emphasis is put on the strained relationship between Evans and his oldest son William, the latter noticing that the former is struggling to support the family. William also sees a sort of glamour in the renegade life of Wade and humanizes him despite Wade's attempts to convince William that he is an inhuman outlaw.

The interaction between Wade and Evans is the core of the movie, because when you look at it, the story is quite basic, and it's the characters that make it good. This is helped by the magnetic chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe and their excellent individual performances as Evans and Wade respectively. The character of Ben Wade is fantastic alone, and as opposed to being the cliched western bad guy, he is an interesting character. He doesn't really have any sympathetic qualities to him, but the writers don't try and make him sympathetic. After all, the writers of The Dark Knight did not try to make the Joker sympathetic, and he is arguably the greatest movie villain of all time. I'm not comparing Ben Wade to the Joker, but he has definitely earned his spot on the list of best villains of all time, due to the fantastic writing accompanied with the fantastic performance of Russell Crowe.


The other main characters, namely Evans and his son, are both fantastically written as well. They aren't quite as good as Russell Crowe, but Bale and Lerman give fantastic performances. Logan Lerman's performance serves as the linchpin of the movie in my opinion, the cherry on top of the wonderful ice cream sundae that is this movie. He is a credible actor, not just the teenybopper star that Percy Jackson has set him up to be. I am excited to see what projects he does in the future, and depending on the success of Percy Jackson (which to me looks like a second-rate Harry Potter but you never know), he could turn into one of Hollywood's next big thing. The chemistry between him and Bale is great, as they make a believable father-son duo, and the antagonistic chemistry between Bale and Crowe is electric as well. This trio of fantastic performances is easily the best thing of the movie, and I could even go so far as to say that Bale and Crowe deserved Oscar attention that they sadly did not get.

The film also has a fine supporting cast, which is lead by Ben Foster as the film's secondary antagonist. Foster is a fine character actor, and it shows through. I had only seen him as Angel in X-Men 3 prior to this, and he is certainly no angel in this one (sorry, I just had to do that) as he is much more violent than Wade. Wade could be violent, but he was more cold and calculating, whereas Charlie was the hair-trigger tempered second-in-command with undying loyalty to Wade. Evans' wife Alice was played by Gretchen Mol, and she gave a good performance as well, but she was only in the beginning of the movie, before they depart on the movie's mission. The actor who plays Evans' younger son is unknown to me, as he was not listed on the movie's wikipedia page, but he wasn't bad, at least by the lax standards of child actors. Peter Fonda is in this movie as well, and Luke Wilson comes in around the middle. They are both good, and that pretty much wraps up the film's good supporting cast. The film on a whole is peppered with fine performance, but none of them can live up to the excellent performance of Crowe.

There is also praise to be had for this movie's visuals as well. The film has the atmosphere of an old-style western despite being made only four years ago, and that definitely works in the film's favour. I loved the design of this movie, everything from the old barns to the city to the ornate (at least by 19th century standards) hotel room where they hide Wade so his gang won't find him. This film could have gotten praise for its art direction but it sadly didn't. In fact, that's a common theme for this movie. This film only got two Oscar nominations, one for Original Score (which it won and deserved) and Sound Mixing (which it lost to The Bourne Ultimatum). It deserved so much more than that though. Crowe and Bale deserved acting nominations (who would be up for which award is debatable) and the art direction definitely deserved a nomination. Not getting enough attention is what has partially placed this film into underrated territory.

So, I bet you're wondering why I gave the film an 80 and not a perfect score when I have been giving the film endless praise. Well, there are a few small problems I have with this movie. The first problem is its rather odd pacing. Some of it is a bit too fast, so fast that I had to rewind it to see what had happened. The rest of the film moved at fairly normal speed, so these moments stuck out even more and they kind of annoyed me. The beginning was also kind of abrupt. We are rushed into the action of Dan seeing his barn on fire, and we aren't even introduced to the characters yet, so it has little impact. However, these are very tiny flaws, and they do not majorly detract from the awesomeness that is this movie.

All in all, 3:10 to Yuma is an underrated remake, and one of the best westerns I have seen (but that's not saying much because I haven't seen too many westerns, something I would like to fix). It didn't get nearly as much attention as it should have, so it is with that I recommend 3:10 to Yuma to most everyone. Even those who don't really like westerns could find something to like about this movie, especially if you are a fan of Russell Crowe or Christian Bale. I took a chance on this movie, because I didn't know too much about it and I wasn't sure whether or not I'd like it. However, I ended up adoring it, and if you take a chance on it, you might too. I might also end up seeing the original someday, but in the meantime, I need to see a ton more westerns to be a better judge of them. Yuma has pretty much everything. It may not be perfect, but it has great acting, great visuals, and a great story, and it is well worth the watch.

Mystery Men
Mystery Men(1999)

I absolutely adore this movie. I adore this movie almost as much as I adore Zoolander, my other favourite Ben Stiller comedy. I know it's silly, but the concept of a renegade gang of superheroes with no powers is silly. By extension, the concept of Batman is silly. I love Batman, and I love the fact that Burton and Nolan took their Batman movies seriously, but a guy who dresses up like a bad and fights crime is inherently a silly concept. However, we aren't talking about Batman, we're talking about Mystery Men. There are many things I adore about this movie. I love the acting, I love Geoffrey Rush as the villain, I love the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously until things do get serious at the end, and I love the disco-themed villain sidekicks.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING

Mystery Men is about a crime-fighting team that starts out as a trio. Roy, Eddie, and Jeff (Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, and Hank Azaria) are a well-meaning crime fighting trio, but they aren't exactly great at their jobs and they are overshadowed frequently by the city's top superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). Captain Amazing has basically rid the city of crime and it's put him out of a job. He gets the not-so-bright idea of getting a notorious villain by the name of Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) out of the city's insane asylum so he'll have someone to fight then. It's too bad that Casanova Frankenstein is much smarter than him and Amazing ends up tied to a machine that Casanova will use to kill him and wreak havoc upon the city.

The movie isn't about Captain Amazing though, it's about the Mystery Men (although they are never addressed as this at any time during the movie). The trio decides to expand and they recruit four new members. As well as the original three (who have the alter egos Mr Furious, The Shoveler, and The Blue Rajah, who's powers I will get into later), there is the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) who can only be invisible when nobody is looking at him, there's The Spleen, who's powers ignite with one pull of the finger, The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) who has a superpowered bowling ball with the skull of her dead father in it, and the Sphinx (Wes Studi), a walking metaphor-spewer who can cut guns in half with his mind. Mr Furious' power comes from his boundless rage (which mostly fails throughout the movie, causing Roy to have a crisis), the Shoveler has...well...a shovel, and the Blue Rajah is, in his own words, "a limey fork flinger" (although Azaria only speaks in an English accent as the Rajah, he talks in his actual voice when Jeff is talking to his mother). His costume also doesn't have a speck of blue on it.

With Captain Amazing out of the picture, Casanova intends to use one of his machines to wreak havoc upon the city, and it's up to the gang to stop them. The climax takes place in Casanova's mansion during a dinner party with all of his associate gangs. My favourite of all of these is the Disco Boys, Casanova's personal gang, lead by Tony P. (Eddie Izzard in a deliciously hammy performance) and Tony C (who doesn't really talk much). There's also a lady gang (not unlike the Fembots in the first Austin Powers movie), a rapping gang (featuring Cee Lo Green), a frat boy gang (with a covert cameo from Michael Bay), and a gang of businessmen. The gang defeats them in all sorts of hilarious ways and we also see Roy's true furious side come out when Casanova threatens his girlfriend (Claire Forlani, who plays a waitress that he attempts to flirt with throughout). Besides Roy getting a girlfriend, other details of the personal lives of the original trio, like Eddie's wife being worried about his crime-fighting, and the fact that Jeff lives with his mother and has to steal her forks for missions.

Now that we've got the story out of the way, I shall talk about how much I love this premise. Never before has a genre been killed so spectacularly as the spoof, what with the Seltzerberg works such as Date Movie, Epic Movie, or Scary Movie (and its many sequels). However, Mystery Men remains as one of the greatest spoofs ever made. It's not as good as the spoofs I have seen in the Mel Brooks collection, but Mystery Men is a damn fine one, affectionately poking at the superhero genre, and essentially doing what Kick-Ass did twelve years before, only Kick-Ass was considerably more violent and this one is more geared towards comedy than action. They make fun of the fact that the only thing that distinguished Captain Amazing from his secret identity, billionaire Lance Hunt is that Lance Hunt wears glasses (a clever reference to Superman).

The script is very well-written, but instead of yammering on and on about how great it is, I will present you with some of the best lines from it and let you see for yourself:

"What about.....Death Man"
"Death Man is dead"

"I... am the Waffler. With my griddle of justice, I BASH the enemy in the head, or I burn them like so! I also have some truth syrup, which is low in fat." (Dane Cook in a great cameo)

"It must have been hard for you Tony, all these years. All the people saying that disco is dead."
"Disco is NOT dead. Disco is LIFE!!"

(when trying to make Roy angry)
"Your penmanship is atrocious"
"You dress in the manner of a male prostitute"

Sound funny? That's only the tip of the iceberg. This is an incredibly hilarious movie and there are a lot of sight gags to go along with the great lines. The characters are fun, and I like that none of them have traditional powers. Well, technically speaking none of them have any powers, but the powers they give themselves are unique, like having the skull of your dead father in a superpowered bowling ball, or flinging forks. The dialogue would only be decent, however, if it weren't for the performances of its excellent cast. Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, and William H. Macy are the original trio, and they all give affable and fun performances. The rest of the gang is great as well, my favourite out of the new additions being Janeane Garofalo followed by Paul Reubens (the man may be a perv, but he is funny). Greg Kinnear plays Captain Amazing as a total jackass, and that's what he's best as playing, so I guess he did well. My favourite performances out of all of them would have to be Geoffrey Rush as Casanova Frankenstein (hamming it up with the best of them) and Eddie Izzard as Tony (an equally excellent performance). I'd say that the film is watchable for them alone.

The action scenes are very cool, especially the one at the beginning and the awesome climax. Aside from that, there really isn't too much more to say, as I have said everything that I love about this movie. It may not be perfect, but Mystery Men is an extremely funny and extremely entertaining movie and it is definitely worth watching. I give it an extremely high recommendation for fans of superhero movies, silly comedies, and fans of any of the film's formidable actors. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone, especially those who probably wouldn't think much of it upon first glance. It has a great story, great jokes, and great performances from its excellent cast, making Mystery Men one of my favourite comedies of all time, and it's tied with Zoolander for my favourite comedy featuring Ben Stiller. I even find this to be a bit underrated, because most won't think much of this movie and just dismiss it as a stupid comedy, whereas it is so much more than that.

Cars 2
Cars 2(2011)
½

I happened to come across this film while in a hotel, so we shall be taking a brief foray into Pixar before we return to classic Disney. After watching Cars 2 and seeing the critical response for it, I have only one question: what did critics hate so much about this? If I were to pick a theory, I would say that since Pixar has set the standard so high upon itself, any mild low comes as a crushing one and the movie is hated for it. One could compare it to a merciless verbal lashing of an A+ student for bringing home a B on a test. Another possible reason is that when mining for material from their previous works to make sequels out of, Cars wasn't exactly an obvious choice, or a first choice for the audiences of Pixar. Many people (myself included) would love to see a sequel to The Incredibles instead. My final theory is that if this film was made by a different animation company, or made in live action as the long-awaited third Bond movie with Daniel Craig, it would be better received. But enough with my theories, on with the review.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING

Unlike the first film's fish-out-of-water premise, Cars 2 takes place on a much grander scale, when Lightning McQueen is invited to compete in the World Grand Prix, which would consist of three races in Tokyo, Italy, and England. McQueen accepts and takes his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) along for the ride. Prior to seeing Mater and McQueen, the audience sees a spy car named Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) listen in on a nefarious plot that is slowly revealed throughout the course of the movie. When Mater and McQueen are at a party in Tokyo, Mater embarrasses himself and there is the misunderstanding between friends that leads them to separate temporarily.

During a chance encounter in the bathroom, Mater ends up with the tracking device of an American spy (Bruce Campbell) who is captured by the film's villains, a German car (Thomas Kretschmann) and two mooks, a Gremlin (Joe Mantegna) and a Pacer (Peter Jacobson). This leads Mater to be mistaken for an American spy and tracked down by McMissile and another spy named Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), who Mater mistakes for a car asking him out on a date. Mater is targeted by the villains and we learn about their nefarious plot.

Before I reveal that plot I may have to do some explaining. You see, Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), the creator of the Grand Prix and a reformed oil tycoon has created an alternative fuel called Alinoll and it is the required fuel for all racers in the Prix. The villains have created a camera that is an electromagnetic pulse creator, and when mixed with the fuel, the electromagnetic pulse causes cars to explode. The resulting mayhem would discredit Axlerod and make alternative fuel look bad, increasing the car world's dependency on common gasoline. The mooks are cars commonly known as "lemons", like Gremlins and Pacers, and it's up to Mater, Holly, and McMissile to stop them before McQueen's last race in England, where they intend to use the camera to kill him.

This is Pixar's first spin at a spy movie, and I priorly said that this easily could have been adapted into the next Bond movie and it would have probably gotten good reviews. I must say that they did the Bond thing better in The Incredibles, but this movie has a decent storyline. I don't know how this could have been considered "rusty" because it is surprisingly smart for a movie about sentient cars (as well as boats and planes in this one). The premise for the first one was rather basic, but this one is more complex, and on a grander scale than its predecessor (obviously taking place in several countries). The dialogue was okay, but some of the jokes were kind of kiddish, this film probably being the one that adult Pixar fans without children would be least likely to go to. There are also some parodies of modern human things in the car world and I liked that, like the separate bathrooms and everything in Tokyo being anime-fied. I also liked the fact that they had sentient boats and planes as well as the cars.

There are two real things that this film has going for it. The first thing is the quality of the animation. The visuals of this movie are fantastic. One of the strengths of the first Cars was the amazing scenery, and this is doubled in Cars 2, showing gorgeous animated scenery of three different countries. My favourite scenery was in the ultramodern Tokyo, but the animation of England and Italy (as well as small parts of France) was gorgeous as well. The France animation wasn't Ratatouille good, but it was still great. Obviously, I saw this in my hotel room, so there was no 3D, but I can actually imagine this kind of working, although there were a few gimmicky moments obviously created for the 3D presentation. Needless to say, this film has great animation, and it's definitely up to the Pixar quality.

The other strength the film has going for it is its all-star voice cast, easily the most star-studded Pixar has gotten (I mean, this is almost Dreamworks star-studded). Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy reprise their roles from the first one, but the latter is featured much more often. I didn't mind it, but this is what ruined the movie for some. I am generally annoyed by his type of aggressively lowbrow humour but anything that can make his voice tolerable (not exactly pleasant, but tolerable) is a plus in my book. Plus, Mater isn't a bad character, he's decently good-natured (albeit slightly annoying) and we genuinely want to see him win. Wilson, on the other hand, is featured much less and is pretty much only there for the racing scenes and the climax. Both are decent in their roles, nothing great but nothing terrible.

The rest of the voice cast is fantastic, especially Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer as the main spy cars. There is an awesomely badass cameo from Bruce Campbell as an American spy car, but there was no doubt of the Bruce Campbell cameo being awesome. Why? Because what the formidably-chinned man does best is being awesome. Thomas Kretschmann did a good job as the German car, and Eddie Izzard was great as Miles Axlerod as well. I could list the rest of the voice actors but it would take too long and they all were pretty good for what they were supposed to do. The film did right in taking full advantage of its awesome voice cast and the only slight weak link is Larry the Cable Guy, but were you really expecting top-notch from him?

I really don't see what was so bad about Cars 2, but I do understand the reasons for why people would dislike it, in reference to my theories at the beginning of this review. However, for those with an open mind, Cars 2 is a wholely enjoyable watching experience. It has gorgeous scenery, a solid story, a great voice cast, and it was a generally fun movie. There are some things I like more in this film than the first one, and some things I like better in the first one. However, for being in the same series, they are two entirely different films in terms of style and tone, and honestly shouldn't be compared because they have a few common characters. I don't know if the film was successful enough to warrant a Cars 3, but I could see one happening. Could it work? Only time will tell.....

P.S. comment if you think Pixar should make a sequel to The Incredibles if they continue on with sequels after Monsters University.

The Lion King

Regrettably, I did not see this in 3D. However, I understand that this is going for another week, so I might still have a chance. Regarding the 3D rerelease (and the rumoured 3D rerelease of Beauty and the Beast), I am entirely cool with it, and I would love to see sort of a Disney Classics rerelease collection in whatever dimension, especially a rerelease of Aladdin. Whatever dimension or whatever size screen I watch it on doesn't matter though, because The Lion King is a perfect movie and an animated classic. There is not a single thing wrong with it in my opinion, and even though it is not my personal favourite of the Disney Renaissance (my personal favourite being the film that came out two years prior to this one, which I hope to re-review soon), I think it represents the Disney Animation Studios at their highest point of glory.

Before I get into the meat of the story, I would like to talk about the introduction. The introduction to this movie is one of the best introductions in any movie, not just in the world of animation. In the first five minutes, there is not a word of dialogue, but it is emotionally powerful and visually sweeping. The moment where the baboon holds up newborn Simba and all the animals bow to him is one of the most iconic images in all of Disney lore, as well as one of the most iconic images of all time. If you haven't seen the movie, shame on you. But seriously, if you haven't seen the movie, there might be some spoilers, but I'm sure most of you have, so moving on.

The baby being revealed is Simba, the son of Mufasa, and Simba is essentially being handed the kingdom (after Mufasa's death of course, but handed the kingdom nonetheless). The first part of the film shows Simba as a cub, and he is introduced as a cocky arrogant little boy, who thinks being brave involves searching for trouble. He deliberately disobeys his father, going into the elephant graveyard where he meets the hyenas (who will come into play later) at the behest of the film's villain, Simba's uncle Scar. Mufasa steps in just in time, which gives Scar a brilliant idea to gain the power he so desires, any slight possibility being taken from him when Simba was born.

You see, even though Mufasa says that everything the light touches is their kingdom, and that Simba will have the kingdom one day, there is always a saboteur. The saboteur in this case is Scar, who covets the kingdom and figures the only way that he can be king is if he kills Simba and Mufasa. This brings me to one of the things that The Lion King has done differently than the other Disney Renaissance pictures is that it actually had the balls to kill off a main character and have him stay dead. Even if you haven't seen The Lion King, you probably know about the big death at the hands of a storm of wildebeests. I knew when it was coming, but I didn't remember how I reacted to it, because I haven't seen this film since I was a kid. I didn't shed a single tear, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and when it actually happened, it was an emotionally wrenching moment.

Another thing that this film did differently from its predecessors was that it had the villain be successful (albeit temporarily). Scar killed Mufasa and he successfully convinced Simba to exile himself by placing the guilt on his young nephew. He also gets to inherit the throne, but we'll talk about Scar's character later, let's get back to the story. Simba exiles himself and he encounters everyone's favourite prairie dog/warthog duo. That's right, I'm talking about Timon and Pumba, two of the most awesome comic relief characters that Disney has ever created. Over the course of the song "Hakuna Matata", we see Simba age from a small cub to a fully grown lion, and a dead ringer for his daddy.

Nala stops by and so leads to the romantic climax of the film. It would appear I have forgotten to mention the romantic interest prior to now, so I will elaborate a bit further. Nala and Simba are childhood friends who are betrothed to marry. They meet in their adult years and this leads to the aforementioned romantic climax. There is not a word of dialogue spoken, aside from "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" being sang in the background. A tiff between lovers regarding why Simba will not return to Pride Rock results in yet another extremely powerful moment between Simba and the spirit of his father, as well as the baboon that held him up at the beginning.

The film's climax shows the desolate wasteland that Pride Rock has become under Scar's rule, which was previously only contained to the elephant graveyard. He has given the hyenas rule of the land, resulting in famine and thirst amongst the people. However, Scar is entirely oblivious to this. Simba finally goes to confront his uncle and confront his past, letting go of the guilt that has plagued him about his father's murder when Scar casually confesses to the whole act. Scar is dethroned and Simba takes his own rightful place on the throne, the film ending with the reveal of Simba's own cub. This brings us to the thematic importance of the song "Circle of Life". The film starts and ends with the reveal of a child, and it ends with Simba becoming king, and the similar design between adult Simba and Mufasa makes the song all the more relevant.

The character of Scar is one of the most sinister villains in all of Disney-dom, and he is voiced brilliantly by Jeremy Irons in full slime-mode. What is interesting about Scar is that he is incredibly menacing when he is exercising his plan to obtain power, yet he is so stunningly inept once he gets it. This is one of my favourite Disney villains, if not my favourite. I could not picture any other actor voicing Scar but Jeremy Irons. He never really scared me as a child, nor did the hyenas, but I can see how they could scare the shit out of some kids. The hyenas make perfect stooges for Scar, and one of my favourite parts of the film was during the song "Be Prepared" when the hyenas are marching like the Third Reich. Needless to say, a great villain voiced to perfection by a great actor.

The story, so I've been told, is basically Hamlet with talking animals. I have not read Hamlet, and I don't really know the story, so I can't say that it was Hamlet, but it is definitely a great story. It is creative, it's funny, and at times, it is emotionally wrenching. In fact, few animated films get as emotionally wrenching as The Lion King. There is comedy, mostly with the hyenas and the Timon/Pumba duo. Out of the two comic relief groups, I enjoyed the latter more, mostly because of the excellent voicework and writing of Nathan Lane as Timon. The dialogue is interesting and well-written, and it gets done what it needs to get done, although the songs are much better than the dialogue for reasons that I shall explain later.

The characters are interesting and memorable. I've already talked about the villain and the comic relief, so let's talk about the hero. Simba is the plucky hero, and he is a very interesting character and an all-around good protagonist. We want to see him defeat Scar and assume his rightful place as king of the Pridelands. We also see what guilt he felt due to the fact that Scar made him think that his father, whom he idolised, died by Simba's carelessness. He's voiced decently by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick. Nothing great, but nothing terrible in terms of voice performances. Nala is a decent character as well, a strong female character that's not just the love interest. She was decently voiced as well.

Let's get on to the last character I want to discuss, and that character is Mufasa. Mufasa has the second best voice actor of the whole movie, as he is voiced by James Earl Jones (who apparently likes playing iconic fathers). He is firsted only by Jeremy Irons in my opinion, but he is still extremely awesome. Mufasa is a great character and an excellent father figure. He's absolutely badass but caring towards his young son, and it was Scar tricking him into thinking that Simba was in danger that was his eventual downfall. I respect what they did with Mufasa and I think Simba's conversation with his spirit is one of the most powerful moments ever put onto film.

Moving on, this time to the visuals. I think this is better than Mulan, but I tend to lump them in the same category, because they are Disney's two best movies of the Disney Renaissance in terms of sweeping visuals. The Lion King has the best animation out of all the Renaissance films in my opinion, and that's saying a lot, because the animation quality of Disney films in the Renaissance was fantastic. The hand-drawn landscapes of Africa are absolutely gorgeous, and the animation of the animals are absolutely brilliant. The magnificent quality of the animation allows for a lot of the priorly mentioned powerful moments I had mentioned. The herd of wildebeests is charging across the desert, the burning of Pride Rock, and the contrast between the warm colour scheme of the Pridelands and the desolate wasteland that the Pridelands become are all animated gorgeously, as is the rest of the film.

The movie also contains some of the most memorable songs of the last twenty years, and I have one simple explanation as to why. Four words (or five, if you could hyphenated words as two): co-written by Elton John. Elton John was at the height of his popularity in the 1990's, and he cowrote such famous songs like "Circle of Life", "Hakuna Matata", and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" with Tim Rice. My personal favourite of the songs is "Be Prepared", which is Scar's villain song and one of my favourite Disney villain songs next to Hellfire from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Can You Feel the Love Tonight won the Oscar for Best Original song. Hanz Zimmer's score is absolutely excellent, and it suited the majestic nature of the film perfectly. Needless to say, this has one of the greatest musical scores of all time and some of the best songs of the Classic Disney Canon.

Cynics may say that the rerelease of The Lion King is Disney exploiting nostalgia to make money, but they could promptly be shut up by the simple fact that it's The Lion King. I would have loved to see this in theatres as it came out before I was born, but seeing it again after all of these years was excellent, no matter the size of the screen or the number of dimensions. If you haven't seen this movie, you have truly missed out on something great and I encourage you to see this as soon as possible. Although this is not my favourite Disney, this film represents the animation company at its prime of excellence and it remains their most successful film to date. This is a perfect movie, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and everybody should see it. Male, female, young, old, it doesn't matter. I think I'll explore Disney a bit longer, this film has made me want to. If there's a 3D rerelease of any other Disney Renaissance classics, I will be glad to see them in theatres, 3D gimmick aside.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan(1953)
½

There are two sections of the Disney Classic Collection. The first section is the really old ones, that pretty much ended with 101 Dalmatians in the 1960's, and the new classics, AKA the Disney Renaissance, from The Little Mermaid to Tarzan, and this includes the dawn of Pixar. There have been some good ones in between the two Classic phases, but out of all the films Disney has done, Peter Pan often tends to get lost in the shuffle. Not that it's completely ignored, it produced some memorable characters and it was able to introduce children to the classic J.M. Barrie story, but compared to 2nd age Disney movies like The Lion King and 1st age movies like Snow White, Peter Pan is somewhere in the middle. If you have seen at least one adaptation of this story (and believe me, there's tons of them), then there may be some spoilers, but I'm not too worried.

The tale of Peter Pan is as old as the ages, so we don't need to talk about this movie as if we don't know what it is. However, for those who haven't seen this in a while or haven't heard of this story (which I highly doubt) we will have a basic recap of the plot. Peter Pan is about three English children who are visited by a boy named..well..Peter Pan, who is looking for his shadow. It is revealed that Peter stops by the nursery window often to hear Wendy tell stories about him to her brothers (John and Michael). Wendy wakes up and she sees Peter looking for his shadow, and her, for lack of a better word, advances on Peter send Tinkerbell into a fit of jealousy.

John and Michael wake up and Peter takes Wendy and the boys to Never Never Land. What is Never Never Land, you say? It's a magical island where you never grow up. It has mermaids, Natives, the Lost Boys, and of course, a band of pirates, lead by the villainous Captain Hook. Captain Hook is one of the rare examples of a villain that is visibly terrified of the hero, as Peter Pan cut off Hook's hand and fed it to a hungry crocodile, which is now jonesing for the rest of him. Hook's motivation is plain and simple: he wants to get Peter and punish him for what he did. Too bad Hook's too clumsy and too terrified of the crocodile that's now stalking him to do this properly.

The Natives are upset because Tiger Lily, the chief's daughter has been kidnapped by Hook. Peter goes to rescue Tiger Lily and is made co-chief of the tribe. Hook and the Pirates also kidnap Tinkerbell, who had been banished by Peter for trying to kill Wendy, and they force her to show them where Peter and the Lost Boys have been hiding out. This leads to the final fight between Peter and Hook, which ends with a hungry crocodile getting what he wants. The story is a timeless classic of course, and even though the original J.M. Barrie tale gets diluted and disney-fied, it is still very well-told. I'm sure everybody has heard of this story in some way or another, and if you haven't, you are definitely missing out.

The dialogue is okay, but it is not the most important part of the movie. The message of the story is that Neverland is a nice place to visit, but it's good to go home and no matter how hard you try, you do have to grow up eventually. Something else that can be taken from this movie, especially out of the character of Wendy, is that Wendy is like a crazed schoolgirl who has a crush on Peter Pan, who is entirely disinterested because, never wanting to grow up, he probably thinks girls still have cooties. She gets jealous over Tiger Lily, like Tinkerbell gets jealous over her. I suppose the interactions between Wendy, Tink, and Peter could speak for what jealousy does to people. It lets you try and bump off Wendy by convincing the lost boys that she is a bird to be shot at, and it makes you lead pirates to Peter's secret hideout.

The characters are extremely memorable, Tinkerbell growing even more famous through the recently-minted Disney Fairies product line, to go alongside the Disney Princess stuff. Peter Pan is an iconic character and one of Disney's most memorable, and so is Tinkerbell for that matter. Wendy, John, and Michael are pretty one-note, Peter, Tink, and Hook being the most fun characters in this movie. Wendy is even a bit of a killjoy, but I'm guessing that's the point of her character, she's the mature one, but she's probably the least fun. If I were to guess what these kids would do in their later lives, I would guess that Wendy would marry and pop out a few kids (since she was already so motherly with the lost boys), John would become a high ranking officer in the army (judging in how he lead the lost boys in the tracking of the Natives) and Michael....well, I just don't know about Michael.

The villain, Captain Hook, is one of the few funny Disney villains, and he is definitely one of the funniest villains, just in the awesome slapstick he gets to do with the crocodile. This movie has a lot of awesome slapstick, and that almost makes up for the extremely forgettable songs (which are the only thing preventing me from giving this film a perfect score). Like I said earlier in the review, Captain Hook is one of the rare villains that is visibly terrified of the hero and his motivations would be quite menacing if he weren't such a coward. Smee is a funny sidekick, and the rest of the pirates are quite amusing. The only other characters I have issues with are the Natives, who are more than a little bit racist.

Like most Disney movies, this film has songs. However, the songs in the stage show are much better, and the songs in this movie are not nearly as good. The song during the flying scene is okay, but the rest of the songs are extremely forgettable and one is even downright racist (What Makes the Red Man Red). Not to mention, they are incredibly few and far between. Maybe that's why Peter Pan gets lost in the shuffle so often, because its songs aren't quite as memorable as the songs in, say, The Lion King or Aladdin. That was pretty much the only major problem I had with this movie and the only thing preventing me from calling this a perfect movie.

Re-watching Toy Story put me in a nostalgic mood and it made me want to watch Disney classics, and Peter Pan was definitely a good way to continue that, being a classic from my childhood. Nostalgic value played a huge part in this review, because I remember loving this movie as a child. All in all, Peter Pan is another Disney classic which is occasionally overlooked. It tells a classic story extremely well, the quality of the animation is fantastic, the voice acting is pretty good, the characters are memorable, the villain is fun, the only thing bad about it was the songs. If you haven't seen this movie then you are missing out on an animation classic, so see it soon.

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)

Most of what I hear about this movie amongst my friends on this website is general negative sentiment about this stealing the Oscar from Shawshank Redemption/Pulp Fiction, take your pick. I have not seen Shawshank Redemption or Pulp Fiction, so I cannot be a fair judge with regards to whether or not Forrest Gump "stole" the Oscar, but I can be a fair judge to the movie itself, and I must say that I liked Forrest Gump a lot. It may be sentimental, and I can see how that would be off-putting to some, and it was indeed off-putting to me at times as well. However, Forrest Gump has great performances, great special effects (minus the CGI feather at the beginning and the end), and a great story.

PLOT DETAILS SHOWN

The entire film takes place in flashback, as Forrest (Tom Hanks) is telling his story to various people at the bus stop. It essentially starts from the beginning, when Forrest was a little boy living in Alabama with his mother (Sally Field). This part of the movie chronicles Forrest's young life in school and it takes us to his first encounter with Jenny Curran (Hannah Hill, later Robyn Wright) the film's female lead. Forrest and Jenny become best friends and Forrest finds out (although he misassumes what is actually happening) that Jenny's father abuses her, and Jenny eventually goes to live with her grandmother. There's also some stuff with the visitors that stayed at their house, including one young man with a guitar that Forrest taught to do a certain pelvic thrust who ended up making it big.

The next part of the film is Forrest in late high school and college, where he becomes a football star. He becomes one after running onto a football field to escape some bullies. That's one of the instances in this movie which coined the popular term "run Forrest run". He's a football star, and after he graduates from college, he is approached by a general and enlists in the Army. There, he meets his other friend Bubba (Mykelti Williams) and Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise in an Oscar-nominated role) and in the film's crowning moment of glory, Ferris saves Lieutenant Dan's life as well as the lives of several soldiers when they are in Vietnam, but he is unable to save Bubba's.

In response to a promise he made to Bubba, Forrest starts the Bubba-Gump shrimp company, where he becomes a shrimp boat captain with Lieutenant Dan as his first mate. There's one other thing with Lieutenant Dan. Forrest may have saved Lieutenant Dan's life, but it was at the expense of his legs and one of the major special-effects marvels of this movie that was rewarded was being able to digitally erase Gary Sinise's legs from the knees down. When a hurricane hits while Dan and Forrest are on their boat, it would appear that Lieutenant Dan makes his peace with his condition and his raving depression. Next time we see Dan, he is engaged to be married and walking on new titanium legs.

After his adventures in shrimping, Forrest moves back to Greenbow Alabama, where his life intersects with Jenny's once again. You see, while Forrest was off in Vietnam and becoming a shrimp boat captain, Jenny was being a hippie, dating many abusive men, doing a ton of drugs, and experimenting in generally self-destructive behaviours. After she pops in and out of his life once again, Forrest just feels the need one day to start running. He starts running and he just doesn't stop. He runs for three years, gains a national following and reputation and then he finally returns to Greenbow, where he meets up with Jenny (that's what he was waiting for the bus for).

SPOILER ALERT

Forrest and Jenny stick together this time and they eventually marry. Even though Jenny has sorted herself out and became a nurse, we learn that she is sick with some unknown virus (it was the eighties though, what do you think it was?) and she eventually dies an untimely death. The last scene we see in the movie is Forrest seeing his son (played by a very young Haley Joel Osment) go on the school bus. The message of the movie is kind of problematic, because it is that things will just fall into your lap no matter how hard you work to pursue them. However, there is a good message in that you shouldn't let being disabled (either physically or mentally) prevent you from living a full life. and that is certainly a message to be followed.

SPOILERS OVER

For a movie that covers as much ground as this movie has to, it covers said ground extremely well. The movie goes through a lot of events in American history, from the rock-and-roll age of the fifties to the Vietnam war to the Black Panthers to the Hippie Movement. The film spans about forty years and shows Forrest's life through those years. The music also has a big part of that, the soundtrack being composed of hits from those individual eras. The writing is decent, with a few memorable quotes from it, like "Run Forrest Run", "My mama says life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get" and "My name's Forrest, Forrest Gump". The rest of the dialogue is decently written and occasionally quite sweet, and it won Best Adapted Screenplay that year (I haven't seen any of the other nominees so I can't say whether or not it deserved it). I haven't read the book, but the story is well-thought out alongside the script itself.

If there is one Oscar that deserved to be won from Forrest Gump, it is Tom Hanks' award for Best Actor (which he had won the year before). Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of all time and he gives an absolutely amazing performance as the titular character of this movie. The title of the movie is Forrest Gump, so naturally, the performance of Tom Hanks (or any of the other choices they had for Forrest) would make or break the movie. Thankfully, Tom Hanks is a great actor so his performance made the movie. His performance as Forrest is one of the best I have seen in any movie and this might be Hanks' most famous role, outside Cast Away, Toy Story, and maybe Saving Private Ryan. Regardless, he has been immortalized in the character and this performance will be remembered for years to come.

The film also has a good supporting cast, with Gary Sinise taking the award for second-best performance as Lieutentant Dan, which got him an Oscar nomination. Having only seen Sinise on CSI: New York prior to this, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance, which is one of considerable depth and grace. Robyn Wright plays Jenny and she starts out okay, but Wright's performance improved as Jenny's problems got worse. A terrible thing to say, but it is okay. Sally Field was great as Mrs. Gump, but the only performance I had an issue with was Mykelti Williams as Bubba. He wasn't bad, but he was kind of annoying and he was the weakest performer. Needless to say, the film had strong actors and used them well (for the most part).

The special effects were very good, incorporating Tom Hanks into the archival footage and magically erasing Gary Sinise's legs, and the cinematography is good as well. All in all, Forrest Gump may not be a perfect movie, and it has its moments of oversentimentality and a problematic message, but it is generally a good movie. I would encourage anybody who has not yet seen this movie to see it. Forrest Gump is probably one of the best movies of the last twenty years. Maybe after watching Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption, my opinion will change, but for now, Forrest Gump is a modern classic and a movie everybody should see.

The Maltese Falcon

One of the classic film-noirs of its era and one of the greatest films of its genre, I think it is safe to say that The Maltese Falcon is one of my new favourite movies of all time. I came across this film at the library (alongside Chinatown, which I might watch tomorrow) and I figured I might as well rent it as it has been spoken of so highly and I can see why it is considered a classic because it is great. It has a great story, great writing, a great supporting cast, and of course, an iconic performance from Humphrey Bogart (this being my first movie with Bogart).

SOME SPOILERS

The Maltese Falcon is about Sam Spade (Bogart) a private detective who is approached by a woman who calls herself Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) who claims her sister has run off with a dangerous man and he won't give her back. He gets his partner, Miles Archer (Jermone Cowan) to tail this guy to see how dangerous he is and Miles ends up getting shot, as well as the guy he is tailing. Spade is initially blamed for these murders, but he later finds out that the woman was lying. Her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy and she met the man who she claimed to Spade took her sister (although no such sister existed) in the Orient and they became partners. She says that he probably killed Archer, but she has no idea what killed him.

The majority of the film is spent tracking Spade's investigation into the murders of Archer and Thursby (the second victim) as well as an investigation into the whereabouts of a jewel-encrusted bird sculpture enameled black to protect it. That bird is the titular maltese falcon and it is apparently worth a lot of money, so the people in the movie would definitely kill for it. Spade interacts with various people looking for the Falcon, including Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) and O'Shaughnessy on a number of occasions.

I won't give away much more about the story, because you should really watch the movie and see it for yourself. That is kind of a shitty summary, because the plot is very intricate and kind of hard to describe. The plot and style of this movie has been used in countless parodies and other movies afterwards, and the parodies I have seen are generally pretty good. This film set the standard for future film-noirs, which is a genre I would like to explore more (hopefully starting with Chinatown tomorrow). The script is incredibly well-written and filled with awesome film-noir lingo. The character of Sam Spade is one of my favourite characters in any movie and his character is incredibly funny in a sort of deadpan way, and he is the traditional film-noir leading man.

The film is a drama, but it is occasionally quite funny, mostly due to Spade being quite deadpan when he wants to be. Humphrey Bogart plays the role to perfection. I can't say that it's his best role, because I haven't seen any other Bogart movies, but I can't deny that he was fantastic. He gives one of my favourite performances in any movie and it was worthy of awards attention. Mary Astor was pretty good as the mysterious untrustable (or is she?) femme fatale, and there is an air of mystery about her character for the entire film, as we are kept guessing from the beginning all the way to the revelation at the end. Lee Patrick plays Spade's assistant and she does a very good job as well.

The rest of the supporting cast, like Jerome Cowan as Miles, Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, and Sydney Greenstreet as "The Fat Man", the mastermind that leads to the big reveal at the end. I loved the characters in this movie and they have set up the archetypes for future film noir characters. Almost every film noir, in fact pretty much every film noir, made after this film owes something to this film (just like any film with a twist ending owing to Psycho). Bogart is the hardened P.I., Mary Astor is the Femme Fatale, Sydney Greenstreet is the mastermind, and Jerome Cowan is the hardened P.I.'s partner. Needless to say, the cast of this film is fantastic and the performances were just amazing all around.

When I put in the DVD, my dad said he hoped it wouldn't be colourised, because he says it is much better in black and white. I wholeheartedly agree with him on this one, because the black and white cinematography in this film is some of the best I have ever seen (next to Psycho). The art direction is superb and the maltese falcon itself is beautiful, even in black and white. This is probably one of my weaker reviews because I cannot honestly come up with words to describe the brilliance of this film. All I can say is that I give this my strongest recommendation possible, and it is the very definition of a must-see. One of the most influential films of all time, The Maltese Falcon is simply a perfect movie. There is absolutely nothing wrong with, and I will always stand by that. It has fine performances, great writing, an intricate story, and memorable characters. So in short, just see it. Nothing more to say than that.

Death on the Nile

I have read the book of Death on the Nile and I can safely say that it is one of the best mystery novels of all time, and one of the greatest books I have ever read. I have not yet seen Murder on the Orient Express, which is supposed to be the best Agatha Christie film adaptation with Peter Ustinov, but it must be amazing if this didn't quite live up to it. There was another adaptation made in the television series with David Suchet as Poirot and drawing comparisons to it is inevitable, so expect a few to pop up in this review. There are some things I like better in this one and some things I like better in the Suchet version, so I don't really have one I like more. There are some definite problems (including one crippling casting problem that we'll discuss later), but on a whole, Death on the Nile is an extremely entertaining murder mystery with a star-studded cast. If you haven't read the book, there may be some spoilers, but no endings. I never give away endings.

Death on the Nile follows the adventures of Hercule Poirot in Egypt, where he is on a pleasure cruise where a murder takes place. The murder is of Linnet Doyle (Lois Chiles) a wealthy socialite. Linnet recently married and the man that she married was Simon Doyle (Simon McCorkindale), the fiancee of her friend Jackie (Mia Farrow). Naturally, Jackie takes on the role of scorned lover, and her act of revenge is following Simon and Linnet around on their honeymoon, which partially takes place on the cruise. They seem to outrun Jackie, but she pops up on the cruise and after a drunken confrontation between her and Simon, she shoots him in the leg and Linnet is found shot in her sleep.

Earlier that day, when the group on the cruise is exploring some Egyptian pillars, someone attempts to push a stone onto Linnet, obviously in an attempt to kill her. This starts Poirot worrying, and when Linnet is shot, he is not surprised. While conducting the investigation with his old pal Colonel Race (David Niven), he learns that everybody on that ship had a motive for killing Mrs. Doyle, and Jackie, with the most obvious motive, is completely exonerated because she was in hysterics after shooting Simon and Miss Bowers (a nurse played by Maggie Smith) stayed with her all night at Simon's request. Miss Bowers had a motive because Linnet's father caused her father financial ruin thus making her work for Miss van Schuyler (Bette Davis). Miss van Schuyler had a motive because she wanted Linnet's pearls.

Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansbury) was being libeled by Linnet for her portrayal in one of Salome's books (erotic books, so you can see why Linnet would resent that) and her daughter Rosalie (Olivia Hussey) had motive in protecting her mother. A young socialist named Ferguson (Jon Finch) has reason because he's a socialist and resented her money and power. Pennington (George Kennedy) her american lawyer and trustee had reason because he had made some bad business deals in her name and was trying (and eventually failing) to cover them up before she married and gained control of her money. Simon mentions in passing that he never reads legal documents and this gives Pennington even more motive to want Linnet dead so Simon would inherit her money. Dr. Bessner (Jack Warren doing a piss-poor German accent) had motive to kill her because she was making defamatory remarks about his clinic and suing her would mean financial ruin. Lastly, Louise (Jane Birkin) had reason because Linnet was refusing to give her a dowry to marry her fiance.

I won't give away the ending, but it is a genuine twist, like most of Agatha Christie's mysteries. The content of the book is fairly well-transferred here, with some major differences. The book characters of Tim Allerton and Cornelia Robson are amalgamated into Jon Finch and Olivia Hussey's characters, as they get together at the end. Jon Finch's character of Ferguson also brings us to a notable character difference. In the book, Ferguson is a jerky Communist who harasses the young Cornelia about being pushed around by her cousin (Miss van Schuyler) and lectured by Dr. Bessner and is later revealed to be a lord who refuses to use a title because of his Communist ideals. In this, he is occasionally jerky, but considerably nicer than Ferguson in the book.

A few small differences aside, the content of the book is portrayed well on screen and the script of the film is excellently written, like the other Poirot adaptations, and the excellent characters are played extremely well by the star-studded cast. However, there is one crippling flaw in the movie and that was the horrid miscasting of Mia Farrow as Jackie. Don't get me wrong, I think she's a decent enough actress outside this, she is just not very good in this character. They just went about the character of Jackie all wrong. She is relatively sympathetic in the book and when she is played by Emma Griffiths in the David Suchet version, but this version is entirely unsympathetic. They leave out the fact that she is poor, and we hardly see her interact with Simon before he ditches her for Linnet. The book also made a point of saying that Jackie only made herself known to them in public, and never intruded on their privacy. In this, that's all she does, and her entries are way too overblown. This is the main problem I have with this movie, and if Olivia Hussey or even Lois Chiles had played Jackie, the movie would be much better.

Linnet is played decently by Lois Chiles, and Simon is played extremely well by Simon McCorkindale. Another thing that should be mentioned is that there is a lot of 70's overacting, culminating mostly in Angela Lansbury as Salome Otterbourne, who is not very good at hiding her intoxication. Frances de la Tour (AKA Madam Maxime in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) was much more of a covert souse and thus she was more subtle in her performance. The 70's overacting isn't a major hindrance to the movie, but you can't watch the movie denying that it isn't there. Ustinov is a great Poirot and even though David Suchet is and will always be the best Poirot IMO, Ustinov was very good in this. The rest of the cast is pretty good, with special emphasis put on Bette Davis and Maggie Smith as dueling spinsters Miss van Schuyler and Miss Bowers. The characters are interesting as well, and not just one-note like they could have been.

The film won an Oscar for costuming and it shows, as the costume design for this film is extraordinary. We can see that every single piece of clothing in this film was designed with extraordinary care and effort, and I especially love Olivia Hussey and Angela Lansbury's clothes. The art direction is one of the aspects of the film that is lacking, mostly because it looks like the film was set in the seventies, the decade which it was made in. The art direction in the Suchet version is much better. Another thing that is better is Emily Blunt as Linnet in the Suchet version, as she is a considerably better actress than Lois Chiles (who's only claim to fame is being the only actress to be a Bond girl twice) and her Linnet is much more like Linnet from the book.

I would definitely encourage any fan of Christie to watch Death on the Nile, as well as read the book. Although purportedly not as good as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is a fine mystery based on one of Agatha Christie's greatest books. Flaws aside, it has a star-studded cast, a great story, a great script, and some great Oscar-winning costume design. It is a very underrated movie and it should definitely be watched by more people, like a lot of Poirot's adventures. I would like to watch Murder on the Orient Express as soon as possible. So in short, see this movie, if you are a fan of casts of British Elite and murder mysteries.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)

NOTE: There are many versions of Blade Runner, and the one that I acquired and am reviewing is the final cut.

Wow, two 100% movies in one day! I have been meaning to watch this movie for weeks and I never got around to it, and now that I've seen it, I couldn't be more happy that I did. Although this is not a film I think I can completely understand in one viewing alone, I have seen enough to know that I really like this movie. It's a slow burner, and that may not appeal to everyone, but for those patient enough to watch it, they will definitely enjoy it. Critics were torn over this one and it was a box-office failure, but since then it has developed a large cult following and has commonly been placed on lists of the best movies of all time. It is recognized as one of the best of its genre, and I do agree. Like District 9, the other movie I watched today, this is a sci-fi classic, as well as being a film-noir classic.

SOME SPOILERS

Blade Runner takes place in the year 2019, where scientific advancements have enabled genetic engineers to create replicants, which are near-lifelike robots with superhuman strength and physical agility. Because of this, the replicants are used for menial labour on the other colonized planets, and after a bloody mutiny, replicants were made illegal to have on Earth and finding one on Earth was punishable by Death. In order to maintain a replicant-free Earth, the government has a special unit of policemen called Blade Runners, who track down the replicants and execute them. Except that this is not called execution, it is called retirement.

This is where our main character comes in. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is an ex-blade runner who is called back to tackle the case of some renegade replicants, who the higher-ups want him to "retire". These replicants are Pris (Daryl Hannah) a basic "pleasure model", Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) a replicant working as an exotic dancer with her own replicant snake, and their leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) the main antagonist of the film and one of the best sympathetic villains of all time. You see, replicants are designed to have a four-year lifespan and all that Batty wants for himself and his kind is a longer lifespan. His goal is simple, but impossible in the world that they live in, and he is desperate to achieve the goal even if that means killing Eldon Tyrell, his "father".

The film tracks Batty and the replicants trying to get to Tyrell to get him to add more years to their lives, and it tracks Deckard attempting to retire the replicants. This all culminates in the final confrontation between Deckard and a dying Batty. I won't give away the ending, but it is very beautiful, at least the one in the final cut is. There is also a romantic subplot of sorts that actually fits, unlike a good deal of romantic subplots in movies. It is between Deckard and a mysterious woman named Rachael (Sean Young), who is revealed to be a "special project". She is a replicant of sorts, but with no set lifespan, and she is implanted with the memories of Tyrell's niece and thus believes she is human. However, when she finds out otherwise, she leaves Tyrell, like a rebellous teenager running away from home. She crosses paths with Deckard on a few occasions and he is told to retire her but ends up falling in love with her.

A common discussion amongst the fans of this movie is whether or not Deckard is a replicant himself. I will have to say no. He stopped being a blade runner for a long time because he disagreed with the treatment of the replicants, whom he saw as people. With Rachael, he tries to convince her that there is no difference between a replicant and a human, or at least that he sees no difference. Besides, his eyes do not glow in the dark like Rachael and Batty, and he is fairly capable of showing human emotion, which replicants cannot do (but show possibility of doing). Besides, Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford both said that Deckard was human, so that seals it. Rick Deckard is indeed human and he is not a replicant.

There is an interrogation machine used in the beginning of the film called the Voight-Kampff test, which is used to determine humans from replicants. It asks a series of questions for the subject to empathetically respond if they are human, and thus, it determines the difference between humans and replicants. Deckard says in the movie that it takes around six or seven questions to determine the identity of the subject, but it took over one hundred questions to determine whether or not Rachael was a replicant, because she truly believed she was human with the memories given to her. That's all that can be said about the test though, so we'll move on to the characters.

Blade Runner has produced some of the most memorable characters in any type of movie, and the splendidly written characters are matched by the great actors. The main character is Rick Deckard, and he is an amazing anti-hero and just an amazing character all around. Most of what can be said for the development from the character, I have already said in my paragraph regarding whether or not he is a replicant, so I will try to avoid repeating myself and move on to the other characters. Roy Batty is one of the greatest villains of all time and certainly one of the most sympathetic, as all he wants for himself and his kind is a longer life. This was Rutger Hauer's best movie so I hear, and it's too bad that the best he can do nowadays is Hobo With A Shotgun.

As you all know by now, I am sort of obsessed/in love with Harrison Ford, and I thought he was Oscar-worthy as Rick Deckard. However, I know why he wasn't nominated, because Blade Runner got lukewarm critical reception upon the time of its release. I still think Indiana Jones is Harrison's all time greatest role, but Rick Deckard comes in a close second. Not only is Harrison Ford extremely attractive, he truly is one of the greatest actors of all time and deserves to be revered as such, despite having a less than exemplary record in the 2000's (which isn't at all his fault). The final confrontation between him and Hauer is one of my favourite scenes in any movie, and Hauer proves to be a match for Ford (which truly speaks to his talent).

Rachael is played by Sean Young, and this is probably her best movie too. Anybody can guess that you can't judge Ace Ventura and Blade Runner on the same scale, but this is still her best work and the best work she will ever do (especially considering that she doesn't really have a career anymore). The two female replicants named Pris and Zhora are played by Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy, and they both gave pretty good performances as well, Hannah being better merely because she was in the movie more. The last notable actor in this is Edward James Olmos, who was okay but fairly forgettable, the most forgettable out of all the performances. Needless to say, this film has a fine cast of actors who gave great performances.

The visual aspects of the film are truly magnificent, and this film contains one of the best musical scores of all time. The art direction and visual effects were nominated at the Oscars, and they lost to Gandhi and E.T. respectively. The art direction is absolutely brilliant and it is accompanied with great cinematography and lighting. The copy I bought was digitally remastered and I can tell, as it looked vivid, beautiful, but surprisingly bleak, like the nature of the film. The visual effects, what little are used, are very good and both Oscar-nominated categories deserved their nominations and since I haven't seen Gandhi and I've only seen bits and pieces of E.T., I think they deserved to win.

All in all, Blade Runner is one of the best movies of all time and one of my new personal favourites. It has a complex original story that can't and shouldn't be replicated (if you'll excuse the pun), it has great characters (including one of the most iconic heroes and one of the most iconic villains), it has great visuals, and it's all around a great movie. Unlike a lot of science fiction movies these days, Blade Runner is a quiet, contemplative movie, and it is not focused on explosions. It is a different type of sci-fi than say, Star Wars, but both of those movies deserve to be revered for the masterpieces that they are. If you haven't seen Blade Runner, I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible, as it is a must-see as much as something can be a must-see.

District 9
District 9(2009)

There haven't been many sci-fi classics in the last little while, but that chain was broken in 2009, which was a fine year for sci-fi. We had Avatar (which I still haven't seen), JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and we had District 9, whic is one of the best films of that year and one of the greatest sci-fi films of all tiime. It has an intelligent allegorical story, it has some good performances from both the human and alien characters, it has extraordinary special effects and makeup effects (which I don't really talk about that often in reviews), and it has emotional resonance. It almost feels like a news feature on the aliens, especially in the beginning, which is shot in the "mockumentary" style. Even though that style of filmmaking has been done before (like in Christopher Guest's movies and even some TV shows like Modern Family and The Office), it is given a new twist in this movie.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING

District 9 takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, where out of nowhere, an alien ship arrives. It shows no signs of movement, so the military cut their way in and discovered alien life. Over the course of twenty years, the aliens lived segregated from humans in the titular District 9. They live in squalor and filth, and are under persecution from the humans living in Johannesburg, who cruelly nicknamed them "prawns". They are especially persecuted by the MNU, which has a mission to serve the aliens with eviction notices to relocate them away from the humans. The evictions naturally don't go well, and there are many alien casualties.

The leader of this mission is Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) an MNU employee who is sprayed by a mysterious fluid while searching the shack of one of the aliens. He immediately dismisses this as nothing and continues on with his job, confiscating the tube which the liquid was in. Later on, he starts getting sick, and it is revealed that the thing under his arm sling (he wounded his arm in a fight between the aliens) is no longer a human hand, but a giant alien claw, not unlike the "prawns". It turns out Wikus was infected with alien DNA and he is slowly becoming one of them. Because of this, he is brought to a medical experimentation facility. They test his ability to fire the alien weapons (which can only be used by the aliens because of biological engineering) and he narrowly escapes being vivisected.

After these events, Wikus becomes a fugitive from the MNU and the entirety of Johannesburg, and he hides out in the only place nobody would dare look for him. He hides out in District 9, where he meets the alien that developed the fluid, an alien named Christopher and his son. Christopher says he can help Wikus if they can get the fluid back from the MNU. The entire climax of the movie is focused on fighting the military that was infiltrating District 9 to get Wikus for busting into MNU. The climax is exciting and thrilling, and this is one of the rare movies (like Inception the year after) that is thrilling as well as being intellectually and emotionally satisfying as well. That is everything that goes into a sci-fi classic in my eyes, and District 9 has it.

One of the best elements of the film and what makes it so good is the allegory. It is fairly obvious that this film substitutes racism for species-ism, and it does that extremely well. The humans are incredibly callous towards the aliens, cruelly nicknaming and even killing them for no apparent reason other than they fact that they are different. They keep the aliens in squalor and intend to move them to even more squalor (Wikus says it's like a concentration camp) just because the humans in Johannesburg don't like them being there (even though they are already extremely segregated). This treatment could be connected to the treatment of any number of races, but the segregation especially connects with the ghettoes and eventually, concentration camps in WWII. I know, I can find WWII allegories in nearly anything. It's kind of spooky. I guess when you have a vested interest in something, you can find semblances of it in things that appear to be unrelated.

District 9 has a lot of things going for it and one of those things, although lesser than some of the other elements of the movie, is its decent cast. There's only one actor of relative name in this movie, and even at the time he still wasn't that well known. The actor's name is Sharlto Copley, and he did a fantastic job as the main character, something he could have gotten an Oscar nomination for. The rest of the actors are not big-name ones, but they all do a decent enough job for the characters they are supposed to play. The alien that is most featured is named Christopher, and he could go down as one of the greatest CGI characters (and that is a great honour considering he is not played by Andy Serkis). For someone who doesn't speak any discernable language and for someone who can only be understood through subtitles, he gets across a lot emotionally.

The film is more talk-y than most recent films involving aliens, but that's not to say that the film is not a thrilling one. The second half of the film is very thrilling and the climax is extremely entertaining. The special effects were great but not overblown, not unlike JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and they were seamlessly integrated into the human world of the movie. The design of the aliens is some of my favourite alien design in any movie and the design of the hovering mothership (which the aliens are unable to get to) is splendid. The art direction is wonderful as well, especially the design of District 9 itself. I don't normally talk about makeup effects in my reviews, unless I feel that they are absolutely extraordinary and worth remarking on, and I feel that way for this movie, as the makeup effects showing Wikus' transformation are amazing.

The script was Oscar-nominated and rightfully so, because it is great. District 9 was nominated for a few other Oscars as well, like Visual Effects (which it lost to Avatar), Adapted Screenplay (which it lost to Precious), Editing (which it lost to The Hurt Locker) and Best Picture (also lost to The Hurt Locker). Admittedly I haven't seen a lot of the 2009 Best Picture nominees, but out of the live action ones, this one is my personal favourite. This is pretty much a perfect movie, and there is nothing wrong with it in my eyes. District 9 has the potential to become a new sci-fi classic and I hope it does because it is a truly great film. It has everything going for it. It has great performances, a heart-wrenching story, great special effects, a thrilling climax, and a great allegory. If you haven't seen this movie, then I would strongly encourage you to do so ASAP, as it has transcended into must-see territory, whether or not sci-fi is your thing. Because it's not just sci-fi, it's great drama as well. So see it, and you won't be disappointed.

Our Idiot Brother

For one of the Sundance darlings and one of the first of said festival's collection of films to get a distribution deal, I had high hopes for Our Idiot Brother. Did it live up to my expectations? I would definitely say so. It is patchy in parts, but Our Idiot Brother is better than most comedies that come out these days and it is one of my personal favourite films of this year so far. It is a decently honest look at the family unit and the relationship between the four adult siblings in question. It also has fine performances, including a wonderful central performance from Paul Rudd, and some very funny and very touching moments dealing with the lives of these four people. It's not a big extravagant gross-out comedy, it's simple and it's meant to be simple, and the film is all the better for it.

SOME SPOILERS

Ned (Paul Rudd) is an eternally upbeat organic farmer who gets sent to jail after being coerced into selling pot to a cop. He gets out early for good behaviour and goes back to the farm he lives at only to discover that his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) kicked him out and refuses to give up his dog. Now homeless and with nowhere else to go, Ned naturally turns to his family, which would be his mother (Shirley Knight) and three sisters (played by Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks and Zooey Deschanel). All of his sisters are busy with their own lives and look down on him for his attitude toward life and his lack of common sense (manchildishness if you will), but it turns out they have a few lessons to learn from Ned as they take turns housing him.

The first of the sisters, and presumably the oldest, is Liz (Mortimer). Liz is the only of the sisters who is married an she is one of those overprotective helicopter parents as she and her husband (Steve Coogan) are looking to get their son into a prestigious school. Liz is also too busy focusing on being the perfect mom to notice that her marriage is crumbling before her very eyes, and it all comes to a head when Ned goes to get car keys from Coogan to prevent the car from being towed and he catches Coogan with one of the ballerinas he is filming for his documentary. He also takes care of his nephew and after going against Liz's rules, he is kicked out. Afterwards, he tells his other sisters who tell Liz about her husband's infidelities. and instead of blaming her husband for cheating, she blames Ned.

The second of the sisters is Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) who takes Ned in reluctantly after Liz kicks him out. She seems to be the one that looks down on her brother the most, and she is certainly the most mean to him. Miranda is a journalist for Vanity Fair, and she gets her first big article, which is an interview with a British socialite who was involved in some scandalous things. She is unsuccessful in her article, but the socialite is instantly won over by Ned and while having a private conversation with him, she reveals some nasty things that Miranda eventually uses in her article. Ned did not want Miranda to write the article because it was in a private conversation and he didn't want to betray the lady's trust, but instead of blaming herself for using her brother to get an article, she blames Ned.

The third sister is Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) a promiscuous bisexual hipster who is terrified of commitment and isn't afraid to show it, even to her girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones). She cheats on Cindy with one of her male friends and ends up "in trouble" and she tells Ned. Ned accidentally lets it slip to Cindy and it seems that Natalie's relationship is in the crapper. But instead of blaming herself for cheating, she blames Ned. Do you notice a pattern here? Ned is the family scapegoat, and it is fairly easy to guess that Ned is the youngest of the four siblings. He doesn't have to be the youngest to be the family scapegoat though, as he is the only male in a family of females, but him being the youngest might explain his special attention from his mother. Either that, or it's the fact that he's her only son.

The character of Ned is certainly a memorable one. He's not an idiot, or an extreme screw-up, like what Ned could have been in a big-budget gross-out comedy and if he had been played by a different actor. He's just unflinchingly honest and trusting, and thus he is marked as an idiot by his sisters, when it turns out that they are the idiotic ones for blaming him for their problems only because he brings them out into the open. Ned is also a genuinely nice guy and someone who's views are worthy of admiration or dare I say, even respect. Paul Rudd's performance would be the performance that would make or break the movie, and thankfully, he makes it. I do like Paul Rudd, as he plays genuinely likeable characters and this might just be my favourite performance of his, one that probably won't get Oscar attention but might get Golden Globe attention. Rudd anchors the movie very well and creates a memorable character out of what could easily have become a large ham.

The sisters are played by Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Banks, and Zooey Deschanel, and they all give solid performances, although Rudd is the best. Out of the three performances, I would have to say that Emily Mortimer probably gave the best one, followed by Deschanel followed by Banks. Nothing against Elizabeth Banks, but her character was simply the least sympathetic of the bunch and was the meanest to Ned when he really didn't deserve it. Zooey Deschanel is awesome in pretty much everything she's in, and this is no exception. I could see them getting Golden Globe attention as well alongside Rudd, but with Mortimer and Deschanel singled out.

The rest of the supporting cast was great too. Kathryn Hahn was good as Ned's passive-aggressive hippie girlfriend, and Shirley Knight did a good job playing Ned's mother. The best performance that was not from Ned or the sisters was Steve Coogan though as Liz's slimy husband. From the minute we see Coogan on screen we know his character is a sleaze and we want to see Emily Mortimer get away from that. There's also some actor playing Billy, the guy Janet dumps Ned for, and whoever he was, he gave a great performance. So, alongside Rudd, Mortimer, Banks, and Deschanel, the supporting performances were great in a very well-acted movie.

The writing is pretty good too, and even though it does have swearing and nudity, it has considerably less swearing and nudity than most comedies nowadays. It's not exactly consistent, but I enjoyed myself throughout and if your standards of comedy haven't fell so low to expect a gross-out comedy, you will enjoy yourself too. This should get writing honours come awards season time, whether it be at the Oscars or any other awards shows. It's not one of the greatest scripts of all time, but it is one of the best this year and it is right to be in one of the best movies of the year.

The visual aspects of the film are good enough for what they are supposed to be, but those aspects are relatively unimportant in this movie. All in all, I would recommend Our Idiot Brother, especially since it is in wide release at the moment and would be generally accessible. It has fine acting and fine writing, and an extremely memorable turn from Paul Rudd. This was a nice ending to summer 2011 and a welcome break from blockbusters (even though they are done now, the last one being Apes) and it even has the potential to become a cult classic, if not the entire movie than just Ned. Paul Rudd fans will love this movie, as well as fans of Mortimer, Banks, and Deschanel, and most casual viewers will enjoy it too, because like the critics consensus says, Our Idiot Brother is just too sweet to resist.

Doubt
Doubt(2008)

If The Dark Knight couldn't get a Best Picture nomination instead of the reader, than why not at least Doubt? I have read the play on which this film is based but you don't have to in order to enjoy this movie, as they are pretty much the same thing as the man who wrote the play also directed the movie and kept it damn faithful. Anyone who has been reading my blogs of my favourite movies of all time knows that Doubt is on that list, for many reasons that will be said in this review. It may strike some as dry or even boring, but for those who are willing and interested in the quiet subtle nature of the film, Doubt will prove a very interesting and rewarding character study.

SOME SPOILERS

Doubt is about a Catholic School in New York which is run with an iron fist by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). The nuns in the parish live a relatively boring simple life like all nuns do, and the main nun on showcase that is not Sister Aloysius is Sister James (Amy Adams) the eighth-grade teacher. Circumstances arise and Aloysius makes certain accusations towards a popular priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that he is molesting Donald Miller, the school's only black student. Did I mention that this takes place in the sixties? Sister Aloysius has no proof of her allegations, which were perfectly explained by Father Flynn, and she ropes Sister James into her scheme.

That is the main plot point of the movie, but where that is normally a weakness, in this film, it is a strength. It's not a particularly story-driven movie, more character driven, and it leaves a lot open for discussion. We see Aloysius talk with Donald's mother (Viola Davis) where she explains his situation. Aloysius is presented with plentiful evidence to the contrary but she still keeps on believing that Father Flynn is guilty. One of the many things I love about this movie is that it leaves the film open-ended so it is up to the viewer to decide whether Father Flynn is guilty or not, and the result of this is one of the best endings in any movie.

As for my personal take on the ending, I do not think Father Flynn did it. I think he is a genuinely nice man and he was merely looking out for Donald because the other boys were picking on him for obvious reasons, considering that it's the sixties and all. The film spawns two schools of thought. Either you think that Father Flynn did it and Sister Aloysius is right, or you think that Father Flynn did not do it and you think that Sister Aloysius is wrong, and is an extremely cold-hearted woman who is out to destroy kindness and attack the humanity of Father Flynn and Sister James. I think the latter, and although Sister Aloysius probably has her reasons for behaving how she behaves and running her school like a prison, one may think that she is just cold-hearted and spiteful, and willing to make horrible allegations against a man simply because she doesn't like him.

A comparison can be made with this film and The Queen. It takes two ideals, a traditional ideal and a progressive ideal, the former coming from Sister Aloysius and the latter coming from Sister James and Father Flynn. Aloysius insists upon running the school like a jail, and insists upon keeping a chilled aloofness between herself and the students (who are all uniformly terrified of her) as well as the parents. The ideal Sister James and Father Flynn share is that of kindness, and showing the students that their teachers do have humanity. Early on in the film, Sister Aloysius gives Sister James some tips on how to teach like her, which involve making the students terrified of her as well, which she desperately does not want to do.

Father Flynn and Sister James have a conversation where he tells her that there are people (AKA Sister Aloysius) that will try to go after her humanity, to tell her that the light in her heart is a weakness, and to not believe it. Even though she is forced in by Sister Aloysius, it is made clear that she does not support her belief that Father Flynn is guilty and shares the same beliefs as him. She loves her class, and does not believe that her students should hate her. There are also two sermons presented in the movie that each bear significance to the plot. The first one is about doubt (how appropriate giving the title of the film) and the second one is about gossip, with the familiar analogy of slashing the pillow and scattering the feathers on the roof, then being unable to gather them together.

The story is interesting and well-told, and obviously an extremely faithful adaptation of the play (being directed by the same person that wrote the play). The film was up for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars and since I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, I have no idea whether or not it should have won over this. However, this is a brilliant screenplay and even a little bit tongue-in-cheek at times, despite being a straight drama and played as such 95% of the time. The interplay between the characters is magnificent and the characters are some of my favourites in any movie. If you ever have the chance to read the play, I would encourage you to do so, and see the movie, just due to the sheer brilliance of the writing alone.

Sister Aloysius is an extremely interesting character, even if she's not particularly sympathetic. We see that she has some unknown reasons that have lead her to be the person she is today, a cold-hearted woman who is willing to slander a priest who only seems to be showing kindness to a boy that is not shown to him by others simply because she doesn't like him. She doesn't like that he takes three sugars in his tea, she doesn't like that he doesn't have her chilled aloofness towards the students, she doesn't like the fact that he suggests a secular song for the school's Christmas pageant, and she especially doesn't like that he is her superior and technically speaking she can't talk to him like she does in the film. She is played flawlessly by Meryl Streep in her greatest performance yet, and Kate Winslet must have been damned extraordinary to beat her for the Oscar.

I also have a good feeling that if Heath Ledger had not played The Joker that year, or he had tragically died a year earlier, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor would have gone to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for his brilliant portrayal of Father Flynn. Those thinking that he is innocent see that he is truly a nice guy. He cares about the people he is preaching to, he cares about the kids at the school, and he cares about Donald Miller when it is clear that nobody else does. He explained the circumstances which lead the Sisters to suspect wrongdoings in his relationship between him and Donald Miller. Hoffman portrays him with sympathy and anger at the same time. He is sympathetic for those who believe him and obviously angry at Sister Aloysius for her slander.

The two Academy-Award nominated supporting actress performances are from Amy Adams and Viola Davis, and out of the two of them, it should have been Davis who won, not Penelope Cruz. For the short time she was on screen, Davis seizes control of the scene and becomes one of the few people who was capable of out-acting Meryl Streep. She plays Donald's mother, who explains his situation to Sister Aloysius, how Donald's father beats him and how he was in Catholic school because she thought he would get killed in public school, how no matter whatever happens, it's only until June, then he will be in high school, and how she will stand by her son and anyone who is kind to her son, including Father Flynn. Viola Davis should have won the Oscar that year because her performance was extraordinary for being on screen so little.

The last performance I would like to talk about is that of Amy Adams as Sister James. She gave a great performance and embodied the character of a sweet nun who honestly doesn't understand why Sister Aloysius is doing what she's doing and sympathizes with Father Flynn. She also doesn't want to be like Sister Aloysius, she loves her class and wants her class to like her. We see her trying out Aloysius's technique and it does not work very well, as it is entirely uncharacteristic of a character played by Amy Adams. That being said, Amy Adams embodies her normal type of role in this, as the most tough she has gotten is in The Fighter as Charlene. Sister James is innocent, but not particularly naive, as she doesn't just follow her superior blindly and dares to question why Aloysius is doing what she is doing. Needless to say, the four Academy-Award nominated performances in this film all deserved their nominations and a few even deserved the win.

The visual end of the film is very well done, using a gray-ish atmosphere to depict the Bronx in the sixties and using cinematography to its every advantage. The production design is also very well done, like the art direction and costume design. All in all, Doubt is a movie I highly recommend and although it is flawed, it is one of my favourite films of all time. With spectacular acting, a great story, a great script, and an open-ended ending that leaves much open for discussion, Doubt is an entirely worthwhile movie that I beg you all to give a chance if you haven't already. Some may find it dry, but I personally find it fascinating and all-in-all worth watching.

Inception
Inception(2010)

Out of all of my reviews, this is the one I have probably rewritten the most, because every time I see this film, I find something new to say about it. Inception is my personal favourite film of last year and one of the best films made in the last ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years. This has everything I love in a movie. It has a brilliant original concept, a cast of strong performers playing memorable characters, extraordinary special effects, and it is one of the rare films that is intellectually stimulating and extremely exciting as well. Christopher Nolan is one of the best filmmakers in Hollywood nowadays and this is an excellent follow-up to The Dark Knight, which is probably his masterpiece. Just in case you haven't seen this movie, there may be some spoilers, but I'm sure most of you have seen this so moving on.

Inception is about Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a highly skilled extractor who can go into your dreams and extract secrets. He is approached by a man named Saito (Ken Watanabe) who wants him to perform a very different task, one that is near impossible to perform. This task is called inception, where they plant an idea in someone's head, as opposed to stealing it. Saito wants Cobb and his team to go into the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to get him to split up his dying father's empire. If Cobb and his team are successful, then Saito will make a call that will enable Cobb to go back home and see his children. You see, Cobb has not been allowed back home due to extenuating circumstances with his wife's death (Marion Cotillard). Namely, the American police think he killed her.

The primary mission takes up the last hour and a half or so of the film, but we see a lot of preparation beforehand. The team consists of Cobb, Saito, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the researcher, Ariadne (Ellen Page) the architect, Eames (Tom Hardy) the forger, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao) the chemist. They all go under on a long flight with Fischer to LA and find more than they bargained for. It turns out that an extractor has trained Fischer's subconscious to defend itself against any attackers. The film has a four-part climax, taking place in four levels of the dream world, and each level gets more and more exciting as the dream world gets more and more unstable.

There is also some stuff in between with Ariadne finding out more stuff about Cobb and his subconscious, namely his complicated relationship with his late wife. Earlier on in the film, he tells Ariadne to never construct out of her memories, lest limbo become reality. This is what happened to Mal (his wife), as the two of them ended up trapped in limbo for fifty years. When they finally got out, she insisted that the real world was a dream, and she was convinced that suicide was the only way out. Thus came the events that have put Cobb in the place he is today, trapped out of the US and unable to see his children, doing one last job so he can get home.

In order to convince Fischer to split up his father's empire, the team gets Fischer to explore his relationship with his father and in order to successfully complete the mission without Cobb's projection of Mal getting in the way and sabotaging the whole deal, he must come to grips with his loss and face her in limbo. The team must also finish before the truck Yousuf is driving in level one of the dream hits the river, before Arthur brilliantly improvises a kick in the second level of the dream (which the infamous gravity fight is part of), and before the charges set in the third level go off. Nolan does a good job of giving the three levels of the dream, as well as limbo, their own feel. The first level is an urban city, the second level is an ultra-chic hotel, the third level looks like a remote mountain setting in a first-person shooter videogame, and limbo is a city-type setting as well.

The film has a brilliant story, which is not a sequel, remake, prequel, or reboot. This is an original story at a time when they are pretty much impossible to come by. Inception is also a rarity in that it came out in the summertime last year and made a ton of money thus qualifying it for blockbuster status, but it is one of the few blockbusters with intellectual and artistic merit as well as entertainment value. The film was nominated for best original screenplay at the Oscars and if Original Screenplay was for story and story alone, he would have won. However, screenplays involve characters and that seems to be the only place Nolan is lacking in terms of filmmaking. Outside Cobb, the rest of the people on the team are interesting and enjoyable but pretty one-note in terms of development.

My personal favourites of the team members are Arthur and Eames, mostly because they are the most fun characters in my opinion. Cobb is a very interesting character as well, and we see that even though he is highly skilled and knowledgeable, he is not skilled at wrestling with his demons and even though his motivation is fairly simple, we feel for him and we want to see him get home and be with his children. Ariadne is relatively interesting as well, as sort of a curious onlooker who sees all that Cobb is going through and wants him to face his problems. I'm glad that they didn't make her a love interest for anybody (although the fans seem to like her scene with Arthur) and they made her capable, catching on to the dream process quickly.

The film has a strong cast of Nolan regulars and future Nolan regulars (by that I mean some Inception people are in TDKR in 2012) and they all give fine performances. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a splendid performance as Cobb. If any major acting awards would come out of Inception, they would be for him. He really plays the character well and he proves his status as one of the best male actors in Hollywood now. Ellen Page plays Ariadne in what is probably her best role since Juno. Juno is definitely a better role, but Page is good in this as well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in this as well, and he plays the character of Arthur very well in one of his best performances (currently tied with 500 Days of Summer).

The rest of the team consists of Tom Hardy as Eames, Dileep Rao as Yusuf, and Ken Watanabe as Saito, and the three of them give great performances as well, my personal favourite being Hardy. The other exceptional performance that could have gotten award attention is Marion Cotillard as Mal, Cobb's late wife and the villain of the movie. She is one of the more developed characters as well, and even though I don't particularly sympathize with her, her motivations and reasoning are laid out clearly. I suppose that's enough about the performances, let's move on to the special effects, easily the most acclaimed aspect of Inception.

I love the special effects in this movie, as they are some of the best I have ever seen. I am also glad that Nolan didn't just use CGI to create, he only used it to enhance. Plus, they folded a city, and that's pretty damn spectacular. The anti-gravity fight scene is one of the best scenes I have seen in any movie and this has some of the best effects. The art direction is also splendid and even the costume design is pretty good (I just say that for Arthur's suits). But the special effects are a huge part of what makes this movie great and they are helped by great action scenes. Those who are confused upon first viewing may just want to sit back and enjoy the ride through some fine action sequences, but those seeking something more intellectual will find that in the story.

As for the many people that were confused by the story, I will say that I was slightly confused when I first saw this in theatres, but that was mostly because I was in awe from all the awesome SFX and action. I caught on rather quickly with my second viewing and I was explaining it to my parents by the time of my third viewing. One more thing, I cannot believe that the decidedly mediocre score of The Social Network beat out this film's awesome score. That's pretty much all that can be said about Inception, so let's wrap this up. It may be difficult to decipher upon first viewing, but Inception is a brilliantly made film from a brilliant director, and my personal favourite film from last year. If you haven't seen this already then I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible. The special effects are brilliant, the story is intricate albeit having relatively simple characters, and it is filled to the brim with fine performances. I can't wait to see The Dark Knight Rises, and afterwards, to see what Nolan will bring us next.

Cowboys & Aliens
½

Well folks, I have finally seen one of the most anticipated films of 2011, Cowboys and Aliens. May I say, it was one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences I have had this summer. It may not be very deep, but it is incredibly entertaining and definitely worth-watching. I was unsure of this before seeing it, as it looked like one of those movies that could easily sink or swim. I was also unsure of whether it would be a western with sci-fi elements or a sci-fi with western elements. I would say they found a pretty even balance of both genres, but the majority of the plot elements are from western movie tropes, and the aliens are merely added on for purposes of action and development for the main character. This was so highly anticipated because it is James Bond and Indiana Jones in a movie directed by the director of Iron Man. With the immense talent in front of and behind the camera, a lot was riding on this movie and at least for me, it lived up to the hype. It didn't exceed it, but it met my standards going in.

SOME SPOILERS

The film starts with a man (Daniel Craig) waking up in the desert. This man does not remember who he is, how he got there, how he got the wound on his stomach, or why he has a mysterious metal bracelet on his wrist. He arrives in the town of Absolution, where he learns he has a bounty on his head. We also learn that his name is Jake Lonergan and he is wanted for many things, including arson, robbery, and the alleged murder of a prostitute. He deals with the bratty son of a war hero/cattle rancher named Woodrow Dolarhyde, and said son (played by Paul Dano) gets arrested.

Dolarhyde goes riding into town and is about to bargain for his son's release when the townspeople notice a strange light in the sky. This light turns out to be a parade of mysterious 'flying machines' that are roping up people and carrying them to some mysterious place. Mysterious tracks are left behind and Dolarhyde gathers a group of men (as well as a boy, a dog, and a mysterious woman played by Olivia Wilde) to follow the tracks and figure out just what the hell is going on, so Dolarhyde can get his son back and Doc (Sam Rockwell), the owner of the local bar, can get his wife back, as well as the countless other citizens of Absolution that were taken.

Over the course of the film, we also find out more about Lonergan's past. I'm not going to give anything more away, but the plot unfolds quite well and it has a few surprises up its sleeve. The final battle with the aliens is well though out and the film wraps up quite well. The typical western formula is used in here as well, with the sci-fi elements being the secondary element. By typical western formula, I mean that a mysterious man with a past rides into a town and meets trouble while he is there. He may meet a mysterious woman, or he may become the new sheriff. Then the conflict happens and he usually joins forces with the townspeople to resolve the conflict.

The dialogue is admittedly unspectacular, but it isn't a very dialogue-centred movie so the dialogue isn't supposed to be spectacular. The characters are interesting, and they do have character development. The dialogue is no reason to scorn the movie though, because it is all in all a very well-crafted film. All the western characters in the formula are there, like the mysterious stranger (Daniel Craig), the woman with a past (Olivia Wilde), and the gruff sheriff (Harrison Ford, even though his character was not a sheriff), and even the bar patron (Sam Rockwell).

The characters could be considered stock, but I liked them and I wanted to see them win, and I wanted to see Harrison Ford get his son back. So, the writing may not have been top-notch, but it was decent for the type of movie it was for. In terms of story, I liked that it was a western with sci-fi elements, and it could have worked as a straight western without aliens. This film got unnecessarily judged on the dialogue and story in my opinion, because it was an original-ish story and the dialogue was okay for what it was. This should at least be appreciated for the fact that it has an original story (through mashing up two genres) when they are nearly impossible to come by nowadays.

One of the film's strengths is the fact that it has an excellent cast, with the likes of Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and Sam Rockwell. Daniel Craig's character is a sort of version of the Man With No Name from Sergio Leone's dollars trilogy. Daniel Craig personifies the character very well, and even though the first ten minutes are mostly dialogue-free, we can see what is going on in his character's mind and he has the perfect icy glare that is signature to the western hero. His performance was very good, and this film was his and Harrison Ford's, although Olivia Wilde is no slouch. He holds up his end of the film very well and makes a great leading man. I haven't seen either of his Bond films in full, but I really want to and I hope I will soon, as he is a terrific actor in that as well. In fact, his character is a character I could see 30 year old Harrison Ford playing.

Speaking of which, I adored Harrison Ford in this movie, but I just adore Harrison in general. This is probably his best performance in the last, say, ten years, or at least the only one where he appears to be trying. He may not be young and handsome anymore, but there is still something about him in my opinion that is extremely sexy. His character is incredibly badass and gruff, but he is a nice guy as well and we see that he can be quite caring when he wants to be. His character's intro is extremely awesome, as we see him almost drawing and halving a cattlehand for blowing up cattle (which was actually caused by the alien ship). He was my personal favourite actor in the movie and my favourite performance of his of the 2000's.

Olivia Wilde is an actress who is overused, and yet underused at the same time. If you watch her as Dr. Hadley on House, you see that she is a fine actress as well as being extremely attractive. However, she is put in movies largely for her sex appeal. Her performance in this was pretty good, and there is a twist with her character in the third act that is very unexpected. This is probably my favourite movie role of hers thus far, or at least the role with the best-written character. Sam Rockwell plays the bar owner Doc, who's wife is taken by the aliens, and he seems to be some sort of comic relief. Well, Rockwell can play funny characters as well as dramatic ones, and he once again proves that he is one of the most talented and yet underappreciated actors in Hollywood.

The rest of the cast includes Paul Dano as Percy Dolarhyde, who is pretty much a useless brat, and the movie could have been done without him. Noah Ringer of Last Airbender fame is in here, and he was considerably less irritating than I thought he was going to be. The film took full advantage of its strong cast, making for an array of fine performances. The action scenes were fun, and the special effects were very well done. I was impressed with the design of the aliens, and the rest of the visual elements of the film were very well done. I have seen pictures of the aliens from the Alien series, and I could not help but find similarities in the design.

All in all, Cowboys and Aliens, though flawed, is a fine summer film and one of the best times you will have at the movies this year (at least thus far). It takes full advantage of its strong cast, it has a decent story with decent writing, and most important of all, it's a hell of a lot of fun. This is one of my favourites of the year and it lived up to my expectations. I definitely recommend it to western and sci-fi fans, as well as fans of either Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford (who will probably see this anyway regardless of whether or not I liked it). Otherwise, feel free to decide on your own whether or not to see it.

The Matrix Revolutions
½

I knew they couldn't all be amazing, but I do love the Matrix series and this one is no exception. I have heard absolutely dreadful things about this movie, but after viewing it, I must say that it's not that bad. It is the worst in the series by far, but I am going to have to disagree with the critics on this one and say that I liked this one. The critics seem to say that this is just an action-fest with no character development. Well, the series has had character development. It's called The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. This one is much more action-centred and less intellectual than the other films, but it is very cool and entertaining nonetheless.

SOME SPOILERS

Since this and Matrix Reloaded were filmed back-to-back, Revolutions picks up immediately where its predecessor left off. Neo finds himself in a train station, which is a state of limbo between the Matrix and the real world. He can only leave on the train by orders of the Merovidian (the french program from the second film). A visit to the oracle is in order, and she tells Morpheus and Trinity to find the Merovidian and the "train man" and convince them to let Neo go. Morpheus and Trinity, as well as the Oracle's protector go to find them and eventually go to rescue Neo. Another visit to the Oracle is in order for Neo, and he gets his marching orders once again.

Meanwhile, there is less than 24 hours until the machines attack Zion and the entire city is gearing up for the big battle. The soldiers have these enormous robot battle thingies and the remainder of the film is focused on an enormous action set piece, not unlike the Battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows part II. Neo realizes what he has to do and he and Trinity take a ship to the machine city. Once again, it comes down to Neo to do what's right and finally end the war. He goes to the source and offers Smith's destruction in exchange for a truce. Smith has now copied himself onto every person in the Matrix and is threatening to destroy both of the worlds.

Neo and Smith have an epic final battle in the Matrix and everything finally comes to a head. I won't give anything more away, but I realize the ending is the main problem most people have with this movie. It didn't bother me personally, but I can see where it may have bothered some. The plot is a bit more clear-cut this time around and a bit less confusing, although everything that comes out of the mouth of the Oracle is as cryptic as ever. The script is okay, but again, it is not the most important part of the movie. Everything has been exposited, so the dialogue doesn't serve that much of a purpose other than to communicate between characters and go through plot points. The characters are still entertaining and memorable, and the romance between Trinity and Neo is still just as good.

The Wachowskis have cited many things as inspiration for their idea for the film, but the main inspiration I can see, at least in the characters, is Star Wars. The films are about good conquering evil and a battle to end oppression. As for characters, Neo is similar to Luke Skywalker, Trinity is similar to Princess Leia (although she doesn't end up with Morpheus and she and Neo are not twins), and Morpheus is kind of like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo combined. Obviously Smith isn't Neo's father, because a computer program cannot father a human child, but he has some similarities to Darth Vader and the Emperor. Even Niobi (Jada Pinkett Smith) is kind of like the Lando Calrissian of the Matrix (Lando in Return of the Jedi, not Empire Strikes Back). Not to mention a lot of the action takes place on a ship. Needless to say, The Matrix is still an extremely original idea and all, but there are some definite similarities between the two sci-fi franchises.

The performances are solid, the best being Weaving. He is featured much more in this film than he is in Matrix Reloaded, and the true sinister nature of his character is revealed, whilst previously only being hinted at in the previous films. Oh, he was plenty sinister in those, but in this, he is at his most sinister. Hugo Weaving is truly a spectacular performer and Smith is his greatest role. Keanu is pretty good as Neo. I don't think he is a bad actor, in fact, I think he can be a very good actor when he wants to be, but he has gathered an unspectacular reputation. He still looks great in that coat (forgive me, I'm a little fixated with the coat) as well. I know Will Smith was almost Neo, and quite frankly, I don't think it would have worked. The type of sci-fi character I can see Will Smith realistically playing is the type like Agent J in Men in Black, who he played perfectly. I just don't think he could pull off stoic, and Keanu can pull off stoic, which is good for the character, but not good for others. Keanu truly made the role iconic and he'll probably never be able to walk anywhere in his life without hearing 'Neo' at least once.

Carrie-Anne Moss is pretty good, but her best performance was in Matrix Reloaded, and Trinity is still an active and very entertaining character. Most of what I said about the character in my review of Matrix Reloaded can be said here too, so I will avoid repeating myself and move on. Laurence Fishburne is good as Morpheus as usual, and Jada Pinkett Smith carries over a decent performance from Matrix Reloaded as Captain Niobi. The one performance I have neglected to talk about is Gloria Foster as the Oracle, looking like a female Morgan Freeman in this one. She gives a fantastic performance in all three films, and even though I do not understand absolutely everything she says, she says it with conviction.

The better part of the movie is focused on the final battle against the machines, and it is a very entertaining battle, thus making for a very entertaining film. It is the most action-centred of all the films, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage to the film. My favourite battle is the epic final battle between Neo and Smith in the rain, with all the rest of the Smiths watching. That was a truly epic moment, and one of my favourite parts of the entire series. There weren't that many person-on-person fights, and we only got to see Neo's god-powers in the final fight with Smith. Needless to say, the action was as good as the action in the first two, being tightly edited and choreographed just the same.

This brings me to the special effects. It's not the fault of the first film that the special effects in the later films are better. It is just a fact that in 2003, special effects had gotten better due to advancing technology. That being said, the special effects in this film are extraordinary and the filmmakers took every possible opportunity to show them off. That seemed to be what made critics angry, but to me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with style over substance as long as the style is well-done, and in this film it is. There is still substance, but Revolutions is not quite as intellectual as its predecessors. Like its predecessors before it, every single visual aspect of this film is well-done, from the special effects to the costume design.

All in all, The Matrix Revolutions is another worthy sequel in one of my personal favourite film series. The critics don't exactly make a convincing argument in my opinion, as there was character development in the first and second films and the amazing special effects are far from a problem. The performances are pretty good, the special effects and action are amazing, the story is okay, and the film was all in all a very enjoyable watching experience. Those who want to get initiated into the series should obviously start at the first one, but when you get to this, you will see the full awesomeness of this great series.

The Matrix Reloaded

I realize that there is some bad sentiment about the Matrix sequels, and I hope that my following explanation will maybe shed some light as to why they feel unnecessary. The Matrix was already a planned trilogy at the time of its conception, but in case it was not popular enough to warrant a trilogy, the first Matrix was designed to be self-containing. That's probably why Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions felt unnecessary, because the first one was designed so it could be a film on its own. I give Matrix Reloaded an 80%, but it is honestly more of a high seventy. There is a lot of stuff I like in this movie, even love, but the film is not without its problems and like most sequels, it just doesn't measure up to the original.

SOME SPOILERS

The Matrix Reloaded takes place six months after the events of the first film, and we see the Nebuchadnezzar travelling to Zion, the last outpost of free humans. Once they arrive, they are greeted with adulation from the citizens and trouble from the city's general, who is angry with Morpheus for arranging to leave a ship behind in case the Oracle attempts to contact them. The Oracle contacts and Neo has to go and see her, so he can know what he has to do next. Neo gets his marching orders to find the keymaker so he can access the machine mainframe and stop the machines that would attack Zion. If he does not, Zion will certainly fall and the machines will win.

He, Morpheus, and Trinity go to find the keymaker, who is being held hostage by a very violent program, who's name I cannot recall because it is unpronounceable and French. He refuses to lead them to the keymaker, but his wife does. He soon finds out of this and his minions attack Neo, to no avail, because although Neo is still "just a human", he is superhuman in his martial arts abilities amongst other things, so he's pretty much a god despite being mortal. The team must embark on a mission to find the door that will lead to the source, and only the One can open the door. So it is up to Neo yet again to defeat the bad guy and prevent Zion from falling.

Neo has also been having nightmares about a door made of light and in the door, he sees Trinity getting shot by an Agent. Since he and Trinity are in a romantic relationship, that is obviously not a good thing. There's also some issues with Agent Smith, who, since his fate in the first film, is no longer an Agent of the Matrix, and he has figured out how to copy himself. He is going after Neo once again, because of a sort of connection that exists between him and Neo. He tries to copy his programming onto Neo and he fails, and the many Smiths try to stop Neo from reaching the door that will lead him to the Source, but this as well fails.

Like in my review of the first film, summarizing the story is the most difficult thing to do for this review, because there are tons of confusing elements to the story. I hope my summarizing was at least adequate. The story was creative and intelligent, like the first film, and the script was decently written but not the most important part of the film. The characters are developed and extremely memorable, and the romance between Trinity and Neo does not feel forced like it could have been. That is due to the fairly well-written characters and the actual chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. There's a rather weird scene about half an hour in, where we watch Neo and Trinity having sex intercut with people dancing on Zion. Perhaps that was supposed to mean something, or perhaps it was the Wachowski brothers giving a shout-out to the male nerds who watch The Matrix, but to me, it felt weird and kind of out of place.

Another thing I liked was that in other movies, badass action-movie girls tend to soften up when they enter into a romantic relationship with the hero or any other male character. Trinity, however, does not. She is just as badass as ever and even though we see that she loves Neo, it doesn't make her any softer. Her human personality outside the Matrix is tough, but kind, but in the Matrix, she is a 100% kick-ass female character, and could very well be my favourite female character in any sci-fi series (right up there with Princess Leia). Carrie-Anne Moss gives a better performance, I think, than her performance in the first film, probably because her character is developed more.

The rest of the performance range from pretty good to fantastic, the best being Moss though. Yes, Hugo Weaving is still amazing as Agent Smith, but he is featured less, and Moss is featured much more, so she takes the cake this time around. Keanu is better this time around as well, as Neo is a more assured character, not just Alice getting used to Wonderland. Laurence Fishburne is pretty much the same as Morpheus, neither better nor worse than his performance in the first film. The guy who played the program holding the keymaker was pretty good, but the worst performance was probably Monica Bellucci as Persephone, the program's wife.

There are a lot of theoretical aspects to this film, as well as the first one, and that is one of many elements that makes this film so good. I don't really understand it, and I doubt I could in a single viewing, but like the first one, it is smart without being dull and action-packed without being stupid. If there is anything that I can say Matrix Reloaded does better than its predecessor, it is the pacing. This film is much better paced and the action scenes are spread out much more evenly rather than crammed into the third act. I love The Matrix, but the pacing was the major problem I had with it. The first two acts were pretty much all talk and it seems that by the time the third act came around, the filmmakers realized that they had few action scenes and crammed them all in. Granted, the action scenes were awesome and the film is the type of film that needs a lot of exposition for viewers to not be entirely lost, but this pacing is kind of problematic nonetheless and Matrix Reloaded is spread out much better.

Speaking of action scenes, the action in this film is splendidly done and fantastically edited. A film series like The Matrix needs tight editing, and the first film even won an Oscar for it. The choreography is amazing and Neo's super-human abilities are shown very well. My two favourite fights are Neo's fight with the Smiths and Trinity's motorcycle fight. I suppose this coincides with the special effects, which were also incredibly amazing. I would say that these are better than the special effects in the first one, but that's only because of the time. Technology had progressed in the years between 1999 and 2003, therefore the special effects in this were more advanced. I thought the other visual aspects of the film, like the set design and the costume design were very well done, and damn did Keanu look great in that coat.

The movie was not without its problems though. Some of the scenes went on a bit too long, and then there's the porn-ish scene I mentioned earlier. No matter how much care and effort was put into this film, it just didn't measure up to the original and wasn't nearly as intellectually satisfying. I am interested to see how Matrix Revolutions will wrap up the series, since I have heard decidedly mixed things about it. The Matrix Reloaded isn't quite as good as its predecessor, but it is a fine sequel nonetheless, and a very entertaining one as well. It has great special effects, an array of fine performances, a decent story, and finely choreographed and edited action scenes. Plus, it has an amazing score, like the first film. If you are a fan of the Matrix and haven't seen this, I would encourage you do so. It may feel unnecessary, but what I said at the beginning of my review has made the film feel perfectly necessary to me. This is definitely one of the best sequels ever made and one of the great sci-fi sequels, and it is most definitely worth a look. Expect a review of Revolutions sometime tomorrow and a review of the Animatrix sometime soon!

The Matrix
The Matrix(1999)
½

Very rarely have I been blown away by movies. Not that I'm jaded, per se, but it takes some pretty special stuff to make me just stare at the screen in awe. The Matrix has that special stuff, and even though the story may be confusing from time to time, it is an amazing movie and one of the last great films of the nineties (if we talk in terms of release date, technically the last great film of the nineties is Toy Story 2, because it came out later in the year than The Matrix). The Matrix is one of three films (the other two I hope to review soon) and it is widely considered to be the best of the three. I have a feeling that's true, as time has shown that the original in a series is the best one (with a few exceptions). However, I will have to see for myself to be a fair judge.

POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING

What if the reality we live in was merely a sham? What if it was a disguise so humans would not know their true purpose? Well, a software programmer/hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) AKA Neo is about to have all of that thrust upon him when he encounters a mysterious woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who seems to know all about him. She tells him that the Matrix is looking for him and that he is in danger. It turns out he actually is in danger and when Agents, lead by the sinister Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) attack him at his office, he is taken into their custody. Trinity saves his ass yet again and she takes him to see Morpheus, a man who is considered a terrorist in some eyes and a man who seems to have a vested interest in Neo.

Morpheus has some rather shocking news for Neo. He reveals that the world that he (Neo) lives in is merely a lie. It is a cover that blinds him from the real world, where he is a slave to the machines. He offers Neo the chance to take the blue pill and wake up safe in bed believing whatever he wants to believe, or take the red pill and wake up in the real world. He takes the red pill and wakes up in a strange place, covered in strange liquid with strange wires in his body. He is rescued and brought to Morpheus' ship, the Nebuchadnezzar. There, he is offered more exposition and told that after the 21st century, the machines waged war with the humans and the sky was clouded.

The machines were dependent on solar power, and with no sun, the machines had no means of powering themselves. That is, until they discovered they could harness energy from humans and started to put humans in jars filled with some sort of strange liquid so they could harness their energy, reducing humans to little more than batteries. Morpheus brought Neo to the real world because he believes that Neo is the chosen one, the one that will destroy the Matrix, free the humans, and win the war against the machines. After several training sessions with Morpheus, Neo gets to go into some sort of computer program to see the Oracle, who will tell him everything he needs to know.

Neo visits the Oracle and she tells him what is going to be the primary plot point for the remainder of the movie. I won't reveal it, but it prompts Neo to go into some sort of crisis. Fast forward to the climax, and it is revealed that Morpheus has been kidnapped by Agent Smith and his henchmen and we learn what Agent Smith's motivation is and what he wants from Morpheus. It turns out that Morpheus has access codes to the mainframe computer of Zion, the last free human city and Agent Smith wants those codes so Zion can be destroyed and he doesn't have to stay in The Matrix anymore. I won't give away any more of the plot though because you should see the movie and see how it ends.

Honestly, summarizing the plot was the hardest thing to do in this review because it is not always easy to follow. Despite the oftentimes confusing nature of the film, I can respect that it has an original idea, and that's something to respect because original ideas are harder and harder to come by. I loved the story, and the script was decently written. It had a few kind of corny one-liners, but they are too few and far between to make the movie corny. The Matrix has the herculean task of being an action movie and being smart without being dull and being exciting without being stupid. The pacing to me felt a bit off, as the first half of the movie is pretty much just talking and the second half is more action-packed, with the famous slo-mo and bullet-time effects.

However, the pacing is merely a small flaw in an otherwise excellently crafted film. The most acclaimed aspect of the film is probably the special effects, which were considered revolutionary for 1999, and the introduction of slo-mo and the bullet dodging effects. The special effects in The Matrix have been imitated countless times and the only time I have seen them imitated successfully (outside this film obviously) is in Inception. However, we aren't talking about Inception, so let's continue talking about the effects in this film. I loved the style of this movie, not just in the effects, but in the other visual aspects of the film, like the set design and even the costume design. The film has a whole tech-y feel that goes with the theme of the movie and I thought that it was very well-made and well-filmed, with great cinematography as well.

However, visuals don't make the movie, we need characters accompanied by passable performances from the actors playing them. Neo is played by Keanu Reeves, and his performance is certainly the achilles heel of the film. He was passable, and he doesn't make the movie bad, but Keanu was by far the weakest actor and he doesn't hold a candle to Carrie-Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne, and especially Hugo Weaving. One more thing about Keanu: in the first half of the movie, he uses his one main strength as an actor, and that is looking genuinely confused about the situation at hand. That works for the first half of the movie, and that is why Keanu's performance was much better in the first half of the film.

Carrie-Anne Moss played the character of Trinity quite well, and while her character could have been little more than a love interest, she thankfully isn't, and is a great example of an active female character. She and Neo do have a bit of sexual tension, but she saves his ass on a number of occasions and she's an all around kick-ass character. Laurence Fishburne is great as Morpheus, kind of the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the film. He delivers exposition and kick-ass action with a certain level of badass that makes Morpheus one of the most memorable and badass characters in the history of movies. The best performance, however, is that of Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith.

Agent Smith is one of the best villains in cinema history and certainly one of the most sinister. He has a singular motivation and he will stop at nothing to achieve it, he calls human beings the "cancer" of the world and you can be sure he means it, he can't be reasoned with because he's not human and doesn't have an emotional side, and all he wants to do is hurt Neo. If that's not sinister than I clearly don't know what is. Hugo Weaving's performance was amazing and probably his best role yet. I cannot imagine any other actor playing this character, and that really speaks to a good performance. I can't help but compare him to the Terminator, what with his general indestructability and strength, and with Anton from No Country For Old Men for similar reasons. We know his motivation, but that certainly doesn't make him any less sinister and any less of a brilliant villain.

All in all, The Matrix is an amazing film, a masterpiece of the sci-fi action genre if you will. It popularized several widely imitated concepts existing in film today, thus making it a revolutionary film as well. I can't wait to see how the sequels will fare in this amazing series. This is a truly amazing film, featuring an original concept, well-written characters, exciting action scenes, decent performances and of course, revolutionary special effects. Anybody who has not seen this amazing film has to see it as soon as possible. I can't speak for the sequels, but at least do yourself a favour and see this one, as you won't regret it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Invasion and revolution are themes that seem ever-present in the films of 2011 thus far. Well, it makes sense, the two concepts can be used in all sorts of movies and they make for compelling premises more often than not. Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes use of the latter premise very well in what is all-and-all a very well-executed movie. I suppose I should make something clear though before I start this review. I have not seen any of the 1960's Planet of the Apes films and I have only seen around the first 45 minutes of Tim Burton's 2001 reboot, which was okay at best and nothing more. Going into this seeing none of the other entries in the series in full proved to be good because it let me see this film for what it truly was, and that was something special. Be warned, if you are unaware of the premise of the original Planet of the Apes, then there will be spoilers abound but I'm pretty sure most of you are, so moving on.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes begins in a lab, where a scientist named Will Rodman (James Franco) is presenting a drug that enables the brain to generate its own cells and repair those that need repairing. This could very well present a cure for Alzheimers, amongst other brain diseases, and perhaps Will's motivation for creating this drug is that his father (John Lithgow) has the disease. He is presenting the drug to get approved for human trials after successful testing on a chimp nicknamed Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes goes berserk and the drug is not approved, and greedy industrialist Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders for the chimps to be put down.

It turns out Bright Eyes left behind a son, and Will takes the baby ape home so he will not get euthanized. His father names the baby Caesar and Will notices that the drugs were passed on from mother to son and since Caesar's brain is healthy and there is no damaged cells to repair, the drug increased his cognitive ability and intelligence. Will raises Caesar like a human child, and since the drug was successful on him, Will tries the drug on his father. Daddy seems to be better than ever, so Will, his new girlfriend Carolyn (Freida Pinto) Caesar's veterinarian, and his father create a good home for Caesar and this works for many years. Things start to downfall when a German shepherd barks violently and loudly at Caesar and seems to scare him, and when Will takes Caesar to the company where he works and tells him that his mother died.

Things really start to get bad when Will's father (who's Alzheimers outran the cure) gets into a stranger's car and is violently reprimanded by said stranger. Caesar attacks the man, and under court order he is sent to an ape sanctuary run by the father-son duo of Brian Cox and Tom Felton. There, Caesar is mistreated, especially by Felton, and it is there where he just snaps. Caesar gets the idea to lead a grand escape with the other apes and escape the cruel hands of their jailers. After staging their escape, and the escape of all other apes in San Francisco, they head for the Golden Gate bridge, where the climax of the film takes place. I won't spoil anymore, but this is a prequel through and through, and I'm sure for some it would be interesting to see how this whole ape-dominated world began. For me, it was incredibly interesting, despite having not seen any other films in the series.

The whole film plays out like a prophecy waiting to be fulfilled, and I enjoyed every minute of it. In one particular scene with Will and Caesar at the ape sanctuary, I thought of a line from Romeo and Juliet. That was "deny thy father and refuse thy name" but mostly the deny thy father part. Caesar did not deny his father over the course of the film, but I am anxious to see Will's fate in possible sequels. If it were a prophecy, it would also talk about a single act of kindness coupled with an act of arrogance will lead to destruction, and it does. We see that Will is a nice guy, and saving Caesar was a noble thing to do. However, we see the arrogance in thinking that you can raise an ape like a human child and arrogance in thinking that a cure for Alzheimers can be that simple and would not come with consequences.

The tagline of the film is "Evolution becomes Revolution" and that pretty much sums up the film. It shows that the next logical steps in evolution, like smart apes and cures for priorly uncured diseases can have consequences, and playing God sometimes means dooming the human race, like Will does with his act of kindness and arrogance. It also shows that cruelty doesn't pay off, as Felton gets every bit of comeuppance he deserves when the apes break free. The dialogue is fairly well-written, and the story is laced with questions and ideas that can be explored in later films. Caesar only speaks three words, and none of the other apes speak, but some of the best parts of the film are their interactions with eachother, just silent. I have always liked when during a film's climax that involves action, the score quiets down so we can focus on the visceral impact of what's going on, and that definitely happens in the climax of this film.

The performances from the human characters are certainly not bad, but they pale in comparison to the performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar (his second outing as an ape and now tying with Gollum for his best character). Will is played by James Franco, and he is certainly not bad, whilst nothing spectacularly. Freida Pinto is pretty much useless, serving as little more than a love interest and a mother figure of sorts for Caesar. John Lithgow probably gives the best of the human performances as Will's alzheimers-stricken father, but even he was nothing spectacular. The main antagonists are played well by Brian Cox (AKA pre-Hopkins Hannibal Lector and Agent Stryker in X-Men 2) and Tom Felton, the latter probably being better than the former. Needless to say, the human performances are not bad but nothing special because the human characters are not important. This is a movie about the apes, and thus, the main ape character gives the best performance.

I don't know where to begin with describing Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar. Well, I suppose I will start by saying that with this performance, the man has crowned himself king of the CGI characters. Every CGI character in future films should be played by him until he dies or retires. He captures every emotion that Caesar is supposed to feel and even though he only speaks four words over the course of the film, his performance is the most emotionally resonant and he proves that characters don't have to speak for you to relate to them. When Caesar is in the ape sanctuary, being abused by Tom Felton, we see something in his eyes, something that shows us he has snapped, he is not the same Caesar we saw earlier in the film. We see his interaction with the other apes, and we see that he is clearly intellectually superior to his fellow primates and while they act like animals (which they are) he acts like an intelligent human. Needless to say, if the Academy recognized actors who played CGI characters, Andy Serkis could score a 100% deserved Oscar nom out of this (yes Irukandji, I agree with you).

One of the most acclaimed aspects of this movie is the special effects, and they are rightfully acclaimed because the effects, especially for the apes, are extremely well-done. The special effects are done by the same people who did the effects for Avatar, and if Avatar's effects are all what they are cracked up to be, this company could be the best effects company in Hollywood. The original Planet of the Apes films had actors in monkey suits and makeup, and so did Tim Burton's reboot, but this has CGI apes, and motion-capture for Caesar. The CGI apes actually look like real apes, and they probably used CGI to keep the animal rights people happy and because wrangling so many apes would be difficult. The other visual aspects of the film, like the sets are well done. I can see this scoring a couple of tech nods come Oscar time and if it weren't for Harry Potter, walking home a happy winner.

I really liked the score for this movie as well, as it was exciting during the exciting parts of the film, sad during the sad parts, and subdued when it needed to be subdued. All in all, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a solid entry into the summer season and one of the best films of 2011 thus far. It also served as a great introduction to this series for me and it should for any newcomer. The fantastic special effects, idea-laced story that isn't afraid to pose questions and challenge the viewer, and of course, a mesmerizing leading performance from Andy Serkis, are all factors in what makes this movie great, and even though it can't help but feel like merely a small part of something larger, it makes me want to see what's next.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

I thoroughly enjoyed Legend of the Guardians and I must say that this is one of my personal favourite animated films of all time. This was unfairly judged by critics in my opinion because a few rough spots in the story aside, there are no crippling flaws and it deserves at least a fresh score. The animation is amazing, the story is surprisingly complex and the film on a whole is rather underrated, being dismissed often as just an animated film with owls. It's much more than that though and it deserves to be watched and enjoyed.

The directorial work of Zack Snyder is decidedly uneven and this film is one of two works of his that I have seen. I enjoyed this one much more than Sucker Punch and this film shows that Snyder has a knack for animated filmmaking and he should do it more often, whether or not it is with sequels to this or with other projects. I am not familiar with the book series that this is based on, so I don't know how this would have fared for the fans of the books, but for a casual viewer, Legend of the Guardians was a very entertaining and worthwhile viewing experience.

SOME SPOILERS

Legend of the Guardians is about Soren and Kludd, two young owlets who live a safe life with their parents and their sister. Their father tells them stories of heroic owls who call themselves the Guardians. Said guardians battled an evil race of owls, lead by the villainous Metalbeak, who now wears a metal mask to hide his battle scars. One day, when they are practicing their flying, they are kidnapped by two mysterious owls who take them to the headquarters of the "pure ones". The pure ones are the followers of Metalbeak, and the followers kidnap young owlets to brainwash them into slavery.

So, the Hitler youth, eh? There are a lot of Nazi allegories in this movie, but we'll get to those later. Soren and a young owl named Gilfi are the only ones who seem to resist the power of the brainwash and with the help of one of the pure ones (who hated what he did, but did it to ensure the safety of his family), Soren and Gilfi are taught to fly and escape the headquarters to seek out the Guardians.

The journey is long, but they do get to the tree of the guardians, where they live and train, and are indeed very real. Along the way, they add more people to their journey. First of all, there is Mrs P, Soren's nursemaid who happens to be a snake, then there are some more owls, ones that call themselves Digger and Twilight, who serve as comic relief of sorts. The character of Digger can get kind of annoying at times, but for the most part, he is entertaining. Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the pure ones, Kludd has been brainwashed to become a soldier and fight against the guardians for the strength and preservation of their race. Sound familiar, a certain fascist movement that existed in the 30's and 40's and still exists in some circles to this day?

Kludd takes his sister and attempts to moonblink (brainwash) her, but she is rescued in time by the Guardians and de-brainwashed. She tells Soren that Kludd gave her to the one that took her, proving one of the guardians (I won't name names) unloyal and prompting an epic final battle between the Guardians and the Pure Ones and a battle between brothers. The battle is fought and the war is won, at least temporarily. The ending leaves room for sequels. If the movie was successful enough (I'm not particularly sure) to warrant sequels, I would gladly go to the theatre to view them, good or bad. I don't see what was so bad about the plot for critics, because even though it could have been much more than what it was, it was still damn terrific and surprisingly complex for being an animated film about owls.

Those who have been reading my reviews for a long time know that I have written a review of a film called Swing Kids, about swing music in Nazi Germany, and there are some definite parallels to that movie as well as Nazi-ism in general. The pure ones are like the Nazis, as they believe in the strength of their kind above all else and after brainwashing, they would kill their own families for Metalbeak. That is what makes the character of Kludd so tragic, because he was brainwashed by being told he belonged and told that he was a great soldier, and he turned against his own brother for the pure ones. When Soren says "come with us, we can go home" and Kludd says "I am home", it send genuine chills down my spine it was so terrifyingly cold.

The relationship between Soren and Kludd as the film progresses is reminiscent of the two main characters in Swing Kids in a way. For those unfamiliar with Swing Kids, it is about two teenagers forced into the Hitler Youth after stealing a radio (which had already been stolen by the Nazis from a Jewish business-owner) and whilst Robert Leonard (AKA Dr. Wilson from House) resists, Christian Bale is much more willing and turns against his best friend because the Hitler Youth gives him somewhere to belong, something he never had before. I think of Soren as Robert Leonard and Kludd as Christian Bale, because Soren resists the "greater plan" of the Pure Ones and Kludd is much more willing and malleable. Some would say that the Nazis (the real people, not the owls in the movie) had power over the phenomenally weak-minded, and that is very right, but the Nazis came into power for other reasons (mostly having to do with the fact that Germany was in a horrible depression after WWI). However, this is a review, not a history essay, so we will move on.

The main characters are fun and sympathetic at the same time, while the villains are genuinely terrifying at times, just in their coldness. Metalbeak is an obvious Hitler allegory, with the charisma and the ability to bend and brainwash his followers to the fact that what they are doing is wrong. However, he himself is almost brainwashed in a way. The most terrifying villain in my opinion is Nyra, the wife of Metalbeak, and the Eva Braun of the film, except much more badass than the real Eva Braun. She is the one that is primarily responsible for the brainwashing of Kludd, and she is also responsible for the training of the soldiers. She is essentially the woman behind the man, and whilst Metalbeak is really just a thug, Nyra is truly evil.

The good characters are entertaining, and Soren is a good hero that we get invested in and we genuinely want him to succeed. The comedy relief characters are fun. Some may say that the movie has too many characters, and to that I say they are partially right. I enjoyed the characters though, and the very important characters are fleshed out enough to make them interesting to watch. The voice acting, whilst nothing special, is not bad and it does what it needs to do. I think the best vocal performance was definitely Helen Mirren as Nyra, as her voice suited the nature of the character perfectly. Another thing I liked about the film was that unlike many animated films today, this film wasn't stuffed to the brim with A-list actors, mainly b-actors, whether in movies or tv. The voice actors are definitely famous for live-action roles, and they are good in these roles. Not great, per se, but they embody what needs to be embodied for their characters.

Where the movie certainly excels though is its animation. The animation for this film is absolutely breathtaking and I have the distinct impression that this would have been amazing to see in theatres, whether in 2D or 3D. The owls are rendered beautifully, and the animals are so realistic that you almost want to reach out and touch them, because they look so realistic you think you would feel something even if it's just animation. The scenery is also gorgeous, and the movie on a whole is very well-crafted. What I said earlier in my review about Zack Snyder having a knack for animation is absolutely true, and he could even convert entirely to animation and be a much more successful and even acclaimed director for it. His direction is solid, and this is a much better film than Sucker Punch (which I still enjoyed...kinda) because Zack Snyder is not writing it. He is a very visual director and he shows his great talented in the visual medium by creating a lush feel for both the scenery and the animals, right down to the feather.

All in all, Legend of the Guardians is one of the most underrated films of last year and one of my personal favourite animated films of all time. I would strongly recommend it to animation lovers, as well as those who appreciate a good story with dark tones. I think children would enjoy this, even though they would not understand it, and most adults would enjoy it too. Those specifically interested in Nazi allegories would like this film because it is chock-full of them. This was unfairly criticized and it deserves enough positive reviews to warrant a fresh, if not certified fresh score on RT. Don't let the mixed reviews deter you from giving this a go, because a few rough spots aside, this is an amazing movie that deserves to be watched and loved.

Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert

I know this is technically not a movie, being instead a televised stage musical. However, despite whatever medium it is shown in, Les Miserables is a brilliant and legendary stage musical based on one of the longest books ever written, a book of the same title by Victor Hugo. The musical features brilliant songs, quite a few of them being engrained into popular culture (which we will discuss later) brilliant vocal performances, and a rich, intellectually stimulating story that I would love to read someday. It may be very long, and it's not exactly the most upbeat of musicals, but Les Miserables is a very worthwhile experience and one I enjoyed watching (although seeing it live would have been wonderful).

SPOILER WARNING

The prologue of the musical begins in a prison, where we find Jean Valjean (Alfie Boe) a prisoner who was sentenced to nineteen years in prison (five for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her family and fourteen for numerous escape attempts). He is told by Javert (Norm Lewis) a policeman that his time is up and he is to be paroled. Valjean finds himself out on the street and getting paid lower wages because people think he is a thief. He decides to abandon the identity of Jean Valjean and we see him become the wealthy mayor of a town and the owner of a factory. A brawl breaks out at the factory because a female worker finds out the secret of another worker by the name of Fantine (Lea Salonga). Fantine's secret was that she was sending money to who will be revealed later as the Thenardiers for the care of her daughter Cosette.

The factory foreman, who's advances were rejected by Fantine, promptly boots her out the door and she sinks into the deeper unmerciful hole that has been dug for her. She sings the now-famous song "I Dreamed A Dream" about her broken dreams and her abandonement by Cosette's mysterious father. She laments about how God appears to be unmerciful and she sinks into the very thing that she was accused of. After Fantine deals appropriately with an abusive client, she is arrested by Javert, but ordered free by Valjean, who realizes his part in her undoing. Valjean takes Fantine to a hospital, where she dies of an unknown disease and he promises to take care of her child.

Fantine's child, a little girl named Cosette, is being raised by the Thenardiers, and treated as a slave. Valjean arrives to take her away to live with him, and with some financial incentive (which is pretty much all that matters to them) they relinquish their slave. Years pass and Cosette grows up to be quite attractive and healthy, even pampered under Valjean's care. She falls in love with a young man named Marius (Nick Jonas) and this leads us to the plot of the rest of the musical. Marius is part of a group of student revolutionaries lead by Enjolras (played by Ramin Karimloo, who we will be talking about later) who plan to fight for the poor in France, who are not represented in government. Actually, they were represented by one general, but the general falls ill and soon perishes, leaving them with no representation.

The battle is planned and I don't mean to spoil too much more, but there are many casualties once the battle begins and a good many of them are main characters. There is one death I would like to talk about though and that is the death of Javert. Javert is a very interesting character, and his cat-and-mouse chase with Valjean is one of the most interesting parts of the play. Javert devotes decades of his life into chasing this guy and he appears at first an unrelenting merciless man of the law. He does show moments of mercy though. He lets Valjean stay with Fantine at the hospital, he lets Valjean get Cosette, and after Valjean spares his life when he could have easily killed him, Javert decides to remove the problem by removing himself from the problem and commits suicide, becoming one of the many casualties of this movie.

There are two main tragic figures in this play and those two figures are Fantine and Eponine. Eponine is the quintessential unrequited lover, as she is in love with Marius but he is in love with Cosette and only sees her as a friend. She is probably the most caring and intelligent character in the play, and she is a tragic figure because she is a much more deserving character than Cosette, but she does not get the guy and she meets her end protecting Marius and despite her wishes, she helps Marius and Cosette get together. This is what made Eponine one of the most popular, if not the most popular character in the play and also what makes Cosette such an unpopular character because Cosette stole the boy from a much more deserving character, which is Eponine. Samantha Barks plays her to perfection and her singing voice is absolutely gorgeous, shades of her British accent coming through.

Fantine is the other tragic figure in the play. She really meant no harm by anything she did, but just because she had a daughter and could not support her without the daughter's father, she was fired from her job and forced into prostitution. The Thenardier's greed forces Fantine to spend the little money she has on what she thinks are things for her daughter but is really for them. She has to sell her locket and her hair to feed their greed. She is arrested for dealing with an abusive client and she ends up dying. Fantine is played by Lea Salonga, who some may recognize as both the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Mulan in...well, Mulan. She plays the part brilliantly, both vocally and emotionally and she has grown vocally from her roles as Disney Princesses. Fantine is truly one of the greatest literary and theatrical characters, as are pretty much all the characters in the play.

Jean Valjean is pretty much the main character of the play, as a good deal of the story revolves around him. Valjean is living proof that criminals can be rehabilitated, and even though his crimes were for a good cause (stealing a loaf of bread for his starving nephew), the crimes followed him for the rest of his life. Alfie Boe is an absolutely brilliant performer, and he was actually a part of an opera company. That really shows through in his voice, which is one of the best I have ever heard, switching from a beautiful falsetto to a sweeping baritone. His performances of "Who Am I" and "Bring Him Home" are two of the most beautiful vocal performances I have heard. Jean Valjean was absolutely played to perfection both vocally and emotionally.

Marius is played by Nick Jonas, the youngest of the brothers and judging by this, the one with the most potential. He was weak in some parts but he improved vastly in the second act. I would just Jonas' performance as someone out to prove something, prove that he can stand beside the powerhouse voices of Alfie Boe, Norm Lewis, and Ramin Karimloo. He is upstaged frequently, but I will give credit where credit is due. Jonas' vocals need some work, but hey, he was pretty good for a pop singer doing classical singing. Plus, he has been in plays before so it's not like he is entirely inexperienced. He doesn't really have that much facial expression, but his singing voice is okay, again, for a pop singer doing classical singing.

Cosette is played by Katie Hall, who is definitely not a bad singer, but I am slightly biased because I don't really like her character much. She's also reasonably attractive, but my eyes kept drawing to her enormous overbite, which is too enormous for her to be really pretty and not chipmunk-like. Norm Lewis also gave a great performance as Javert and he, like pretty much everyone else in this version of the play, is a fantastic singer. If the casting of Paul Bettany in the movie adaptation is true, then I have faith in him but he has some enormous shoes to fill. Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier are played by Matt Lucas (who some may know from Little Britain or as Tweedledum/dee in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) and Jenny Galloway and they inhabit their scoundrel characters perfectly, being the true villains of this picture and the villains who get off scot-free.

The performance I would really like to talk about though is that of Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras, leader of the student revolutionaries. Some hardcore musical fans may know Karimloo from his role as one of the Phantoms of the Opera and I have seen a few clips of him singing as the phantom and I loved it. He is an absolutely amazing singer and an incredibly attractive man to boot, those two reasons making his my favourite performance of this incarnation of the play. He has an enormous voice and to hear him sing live would be one of the reasons I would have loved to see this play in person. He upstages Nick Jonas at every turn and he has damn good reason to because his vocal ability far surpasses Jonas (despite that not being Nick Jonas' fault). In the first link at the bottom of this review, when he sings "one more day before the storm", that is my favourite part of the song and one of my favourite parts of the musical.

I have spent so much time talking about the characters that I am going to try to squeeze all I could say about the musical numbers into one paragraph. The film features some absolutely stunning musical numbers, some of which have engrained themselves in pop culture and have been performed by a number of famous performers. The three most well-known are probably "I Dreamed a Dream" sung by Fantine, "On My Own" sung by Eponine, and "Castle on a Cloud" sung by young Cosette. Those aren't my favourites, but I can't deny that at least the first two are amazing. My favourite song of the musical is "One Day More", the song sung by all the principle characters at the end of act I. It is the song before the big battle and each of the main characters are sharing their feelings on various events conspiring in the plot. Even if you do not watch the play (of which there are links to on the internet) I would encourage you to check out the soundtrack because it is amazing.

All in all, Les Miserables is a beautiful musical and this incarnation is fantastic. Featuring a strong cast, great musical numbers, and a brilliant story with great characters and development. It is long, and it can be very depressing, but this is an entirely worthwhile experience and one of my favourite musicals of all time. I will send in this review a link to where I watched the play, as well as two songs, and I sincerely hope that you give this a try, whatever prejudices one may have against musicals or whatnot. So in short, I give this my strongest recommendations as one of my all-time favourite musicals. And to think, I was reluctant to watch this initially because of the depressing nature. I hope the movie adaptation will work and that it will be a straight-up musical. Hiring Hugh Jackman certainly points toward that. I was simply blown away and if you are a fan of musicals, you will to.

One Day More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpGA_VRc1Ro

The entire play: http://www.moviesdatacenter.com/Movies/Les-Miserables-25th-Anniversary-2011.html

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the song that made me gain respect for the vocal ability of Nick Jonas:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYToP5ZfydE&feature=grec_index

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

You know how I said in my review of Return of the King that it was the only movie I ever watched where I felt 100% was not enough? Well, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II has just proven that statement wrong, because I feel 100% is not enough to describe the brilliance of this film. This is the best one of the series and the only thing that was bad about it (besides a few very tiny details) was that it had to end. This was my most anticipated film of the year and it lived up to my expectations in every possible way. It wraps things up in a lovely way and pays homage to the films before it whilst still differing vastly from said films.

SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK OR SEEN THE MOVIE

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II picks up almost exactly where part I left off after we see Hogwarts shrouded in Dementors and Snape, the new Headmaster, looking down on a bunch of children marching in lines like, depending on one's perspective, Nazis or the people pushed down and beaten by the Nazis. My opinion is the latter. The film then cuts to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the cottage from the end of part I which is revealed as Bill and Fleur's house. They talk to Griphook, a goblin, about getting them into Gringotts, the wizard bank. You see, in part I, Bellatrix Lestrange questioned Hermione about the Sword of Gryffindor which she believed was supposed to be in her vault at the bank. What Griphook knows though is that the sword is a fake. Harry has reason to believe as well that one of the Horcruxes that he has to destroy is in the vault.

In order to acquire said Horcrux, the gang has to pull off the impossible: break into Gringotts. They attempt to do so with the help of Griphook and an imperiused goblin. However, after they get into the vault, Griphook says that he would help them in but they would have to find their own way out. This would find them at the mercy of a fire breathing dragon, which they eventually use as an escape vehicle. The rest of the movie is spent at Hogwarts engaging in the epic final battle. Honestly, epic is an understatement, but we shall move on. But first, before the battle can begin, Harry figures out that there is a Horcrux at the castle and when they find it, they are one step closer to destroying Voldemort and ending all of this.

The battle at Hogwarts ensues and takes up the greater part of the movie. A lot of things happen during this particular sequence. Ron and Hermione finally confess their feelings for one another (about f**king time) and make out in the chamber of secrets after destroying a horcrux. This is the point where real shit is going down. Characters are dying, revelations are being made, and Harry realizes what he has to do. Voldemort and Harry have a confrontation in the Forbidden Forest and it appears that Voldemort has finally done the deed and killed Harry. However, we see Harry in some sort of limbo disguised as the train station with platform 9 and 3/4. He talks to Dumbledore, who tells him what I had been guessing since Chamber of Secrets.

He tells him that when Voldemort killed Harry's parents and failed to kill Harry, he had left a piece of his soul in Harry. In short, that was why Harry could talk to snakes and why he could see inside Voldemort's mind, and by 'killing' Harry, Voldemort screwed up and destroyed the one horcrux he never intended to make. This and the decapitation of Voldemort's snake in a moment of pure brilliance from Neville Longbottom makes Voldemort a mortal man and Harry does what was ten years in the making: he kills Voldemort. The film ends on a very sweet note, revealing that Harry and Ginny end up married as do Ron and Hermione and Harry sees his own sons onto the Hogwarts Express. I actually think it should leave room for more books. I hear J.K. Rowling may write more and I am very pleased to hear that.

I was absolutely amazed by this film and calling it epic would be a massive understatement. The Battle of Hogwarts was absolutely amazing and it takes up the majority of the movie. Every single moment of this movie was pure gold and yes, it obviously had much more action than the first. I loved Deathly Hallows part I and I hope to watch them both back to back some day, but this one is loads better and it is in my opinion, the best one of the series. The script was beautifully written by Steve Kloves once again and the musical score is the best yet for these films. It was suitably grand when it needed to be and suitably subdued when it needed to be. There were some moments of sheer beauty and I liked when the music quieted down at some points so I could focus on the sheer visceral impact of the destruction that was going on.

I have a feeling that now would be a good time to discuss the wartime allegories that exist in Deathly Hallows, both the book and the movies. There are some definite parallels to World War II in the story and one could pretty much call all of the events up until the events of Deathly Hallows pt I Voldemort's rise to power, which parallels with the rise to power of one Adolph Hitler. One could also call the Death Eaters the Gestapo or simply just fellow Nazis, and one could call the muggle-borns the Jews or general people who were persecuted by the Nazis. Even if you ignore the parallels, you can't deny that Voldemort and his Death Eaters are a fascist movement that make it their business to eradicate all those who aren't on their level.

What makes this film truly great though was its cast. The main three give great performances and Radcliffe gives his best performance yet of the movies. There are two specific actors/characters I would like to talk about and neither of them are any of the three leads. The first one I would like to talk about is Neville Longbottom, played to perfection by Matthew Lewis. We all talk about how Harry, Ron, and Hermione have grown up over the course of the series, but we all seem to forget about Neville. Neville has grown up over the course of the series from a little chump of a boy to a brave, noble and valiant young man and I could not be happier to see him have his moment in the sun. Every moment he was on screen was a moment of greatness and he is a great character. Matthew Lewis' performance was fantastic, probably his best of all the movies, or at least the movie where he was given the most to do.

The other character I would like to talk about is Snape. Severus Snape is easily the most complex character in the movie and we see it the most in this movie. Harry gets a glimpse into Snape's memories and what we see in there is absolutely beautiful. We see young Snape and young Lily (back when she was Lily Evans) meeting for the first time, we see them getting sorted into different houses at Hogwarts, we see Dumbledore and Snape talking about how Lily has to be protected because he thinks the prophecy is about Lily's son. He is proved right, and we see Snape in Godric's Hollow after James and Lily are murdered. Dumbledore said they would be protected, so Snape could have easily told Dumbledore to go screw himself and went to Voldemort. But he knew Lily would not have wanted that and even though he harbored intense resentment towards her husband, he did not harm Harry, despite his outward behaviour, because of the fact that he was the last living trace of her. In his last moments, we see where Snape's true loyalties lie and it is a truly beautiful series of moments that could possibly land Alan Rickman an Oscar nomination.

The rest of the performances are absolutely brilliant as well, giving minor characters like Mrs Weasley and Professor McGonagall time to shine. Mrs. Weasley said the line, and I was really glad she did, as that wasn't the sort of thing you can leave out. All the good and bad characters were played extremely well by their actors and Jason Isaacs continues an underrated performance from part I as a broken man who was ruined by jail. Ralph Fiennes continues a wonderful string of performances as Voldemort and we see him grow weaker, more desperate, and more dangerous. It seems to take a physical toll on him as well, as his head is getting veinier, his mouth is getting crueler, and his body is getting weaker. Bellatrix Lestrange was also played to perfection and I thought during a certain scene that Helena Bonham Carter did a fantastic job pretending to be Hermione.

The film has the best special effects of all the bunch and we see pretty much the entire castle in the battle. The amazing special effects did not make the movie suffer from CGI overload. This one uses the most CGI out of all the films but that is not at all a negative. The sets were beautifully designed and I could see this film getting a ton of tech nominations if not more than that (Alan Rickman, fingers crossed) come Oscar time. The art direction was brilliant and the sets were extremely well-designed. What I am about to say next not only applies to this film, but to the entire series. The costume design is absolutely amazing and props to whoever designed the clothing.

The one issue that I had with this film was the fact that Fred Weasley did not get the dignity of an onscreen death. Tonks and Lupin didn't either, but they didn't in the book, so that wasn't a problem. That, aside from other minute details, was the only problem and it isn't a big enough problem to ruin an amazing total picture. All in all, I could babble on forever about how amazing this film is, but that would only be belabouring these points and I would probably pass 2500 characters. I literally cannot run out of great things to say about this movie, and as a loyal fan of the series this was all I wanted and more from an ending to a beloved series. In short, if you haven't seen this and are a fan of the series, then get down to your local theatre as soon as possible. If you haven't gotten into it yet, then I strongly advise you to get on it now. This is most definitely my favourite film of the year thus far and one of my favourites of all time.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
½

Why this has the second lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes of all the Harry Potter films, I have no idea. I mean, come on, was all the audience expecting immense action and chases that don't happen until the last half of the book? You need buildup to make a coherent story because if you don't, the movie will be just action and Deathly Hallows part II would be a total mess. For example, if Return of the King had just been a movie by itself, and not had Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers before it, then it still would have been amazing, but nobody would know what was going on and it wouldn't make much sense. Same can be said for this. I am glad that they split this into two parts because unlike the three books before it, Deathly Hallows is one book that you cannot take any liberties with because everything is important and taking out one thing could screw it up entirely. Besides the obvious financial reasons, they probably also split it into two parts to pacify the fans and keep it going a little longer. Plus, ten years is a nice round number as opposed to nine.

SOME SPOILERS

Deathly Hallows part I begins with Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister for Magic, making a speech to the press about how the ministry remains strong. Later in the movie, we find out that certain statement has been proved wrong by Voldemort and his death eaters, who are first seen in Malfoy Manor mercilessly killing the Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts and then feeding her to Nagini, Voldemort's snake. The story then shifts to our three protagonists. We see bits of the Dursleys leaving (a scene in the book which I wish they had gone into a bit more detail with), Hermione removing her parents' memories and removing herself from family photos, and we see Ron standing contemplatingly outside his house.

The Order soon regroups in the now-empty house of the Dursleys to transport Harry to Ron's house, which has been given intense magical protection. In order to quell suspicion from the Death Eaters, it has been leaked that they are leaving on a later date, but the Death Eaters find out they had been fooled and attack the group. However, certain order members have been given Polyjuice potion so the attackers do not know which Harry is the real one. I always loved that part of the book and it was very well-transferred to the screen. They regroup at the Weasleys' where a wedding is in order for Bill (Domhnall Gleeson, son of Brendan, the actor who played Mad-Eye) Ron's eldest brother and Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy) from the fourth movie.

Death Eaters ambush the wedding and Harry and co. are suddenly on the streets of London alone. Thus begins the journey of part I and part II. That journey entails the gang finding all the horcruxes and destroying them, thus destroying Voldemort and making him mortal. This journey takes a huge toll on the three and they start fighting amongst themselves, Ron even abandoning the group temporarily. Only one horcrux is destroyed over the course of the film, but the journey to get it is exciting and it creates a genuine feeling of fear.

We also see how the wizarding world is being run now that Voldemort is more or less in charge. The wizarding world is now a truly scary place and it is not safe for anyone, let alone Harry, the Chosen One. We see as well that the Ministry is not the place that Harry saw in his fifth year anymore. When the puppet Minister says to the masses that they have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide, a serious chill went up my spine. This film also marks the return of Umbridge, in all her monstrous cruelty, but instead of taking it out on the students of Hogwarts, she takes it out on muggle-borns by starting the Muggle-Born Registration Commission to terrorize the muggle-born population by confiscating their wands and accusing them of stealing their magical abilities.

END OF SPOILERS

The character development is fantastic as always, and we see the relationships of the main three being stretched almost to the breaking point, as they have taken on a mission far greater than themselves and have a lot riding on that mission. This mission lets us see some more of the negative aspects of Harry's personality, those being that he can have quite the temper and is prone to martyring himself when it isn't really necessary. One of the best parts of the book and the movie is Ron's breakdown, which gives Rupert Grint a real chance to show us his tremendous acting talent and we truly believe what he is saying. He's right too, Harry did not know how it felt for Ron to listen to the radio and hope that none of his siblings or his parents end up disappeared or dead. We can also see that he is hurting because Harry and Hermione have gotten closer over their journey and he automatically thinks the worst. I truly feel for him and I actually think Rupert Grint was the most surprising actor in the movie. I mean, he was good in the other ones but this one features his best performance.

Daniel Radcliffe gives a great performance as Harry as well, and Emma Watson shows her true acting talent as well. The british acting legends like Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes give fantastic performances as per usual and this one gives Helena Bonham Carter a bit more to do. Jason Isaacs is also back in this one, as in the sixth book there was a hushed Azkaban breakout. He gives, I think, the most underrated performance of the movie. In this movie, Lucius is vastly different from Isaacs' personification in the earlier movies. In this, he is a broken man from being in prison and he is rather jumpy and quiet for the rest of his appearances in the movie, not unlike his son in the film's predecessor.

We don't see any of the Hogwarts-based actors from the earlier movies, mostly because Hogwarts is saved for part II. That is what makes this film so different from its predecessors, you never see Hogwarts. There is a brief scene on the Hogwarts Express where there are Death Eaters searching for Harry. The main three are almost like refugees, because their homes (both Hogwarts and their actual homes) are no longer safe. The most urbane place in the movie is the Ministry, and it is beautifully designed, being shrouded in purple this time instead of blue. The rest of the movie is spent either at the Burrow, Grimmauld Place, or various forests. The art direction was Oscar nominated and rightfully so, because even though it didn't stand a chance of winning against Alice in Wonderland, it was amazing nonetheless, as were the visual effects.

All in all, Deathly Hallows Part I is an amazingly crafted penultimate film for an amazing series and it gets much more hate than it deserves for the lack of action and abundant atmosphere, which I feel works in the film's favour. Without this, part II would probably end up messy and confusing, and I as a fan am glad that it isn't over yet. Yes, the last one came out, but the legacy Harry Potter leaves behind will long outlive the DVD release of the last film. Well, I am finished my Potter marathon and I will get on with the rest of my normal reviews soon. I hope to see part II next week and I will send a review of that as soon as possible. At this point in the series, it is for the fans and new converts should start at the beginning or they will be entirely lost. This actually almost came close to being my favourite in the series, but that title still goes to Goblet of Fire. In short, this is an amazing film that deserves to have a higher score on RT.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
½

It is quite a surprise that out of all of the Harry Potter films, both light-hearted and dark, this one is probably the funniest. There is a lot of dark stuff, but this has a lot of good humour and it is one of the best films in the series. Half-Blood Prince does take a lot of liberties with the source material, like Order of the Phoenix. However, the amount of liberties it takes does not really matter, because being really faithful as the books got longer would be really hard. Like I once said in my review of The King's Speech, people are fickle about movies based on true stories, as well as movies based on books. The earlier Potter films got ragged on for being predictable, yet the later ones get ragged on for cutting stuff out. Taking liberties with the source material isn't always a bad thing though, it allows for the direction and writing to be freer.

SOME SPOILERS

Half-Blood Prince finds Harry in his sixth year at Hogwarts, in a world much different from that of the fifth movie. Instead of the paranoid world that is denying Voldemort's return, the whole wizarding world knows that and Harry is no longer being persecuted because everyone now knows he was right. He goes off to Hogwarts once again, but not before being cockblocked by Dumbledore. Dumbledore takes him to a muggle house to meet a former professor by the name of Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to try and get him to resume his former position as Potions Master, now that Snape has taken up post as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

There is less time spent showing classes this year and more time spent showing either Harry with Dumbledore or Harry and Ron dealing with the horrors of the opposite sex once again. This time, instead of a ball like in the fourth film, it's just regular day-to-day dating, and after Ron starts dating Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), Hermione starts behaving to him as he behaved to her at the Yule Ball two years prior. Namely, with blind jealousy and the silent treatment because they are both too proud or too stupid to admit they both have feelings for one another. The film also addresses the feelings between Harry and Ginny, as she is given much more to do in this movie.

Harry also notices that there is something up with Malfoy. Lucius Malfoy was jailed after the events at the end of the fifth movie, and Harry thinks that Malfoy may have become a Death Eater and taken his father's place. Well, it turns out that it is true and the Dark Lord has assigned Malfoy a special mission. That mission is to kill Dumbledore. After two failed attempts, Dumbledore is finally cornered in his office and though Malfoy fails, Snape does the deed. You see, earlier in the movie, Mrs. Malfoy (Helen McCrory) meets with Snape and they make an unbreakable vow. The unbreakable vow would entail that Snape would look after Malfoy and protect him from harm to the best of his abilities. It also entailed the fact that if Draco was not able to perform the task, that Snape would do it himself.

Any hardcore fan of the series or someone with extensive knowledge of the world of Harry Potter would be well aware that Dumbledore would have died regardless of whether or not Snape killed him. The ring he was wearing, the ring Harry spun around and it showed flashes of Voldemort, that ring would have killed him. Regardless of fact, it is a genuinely sad moment and even a little bit horrifying. Daniel R., I agree that it was a bit anti-climactic compared to the book but it was sad nonetheless. We also get information that briefly explains the premise of Deathly Hallows, but I won't give away any more as I have given away enough.

END OF SPOILERS

The character development is fantastic as always, and some rather underused characters are given a moment to shine. For instance, I have noticed in the series that Ginny is a really underused character. She is always there, but she has served little purpose outside the second movie. In this, she is given much more to do and the romance between her and Harry is more prevalent and his feelings for her are quite spontaneous. That's a little weird, but moving on. Snape is also given much more to do, and it leads up until the end of his story arc in Deathly Hallows where we see where his true loyalties lie. Snape is a terribly complicated character and one of the best characters in both cinema and literature.

The film also shows us the true nature of Malfoy. He has been nothing much but an annoyance and a minor villain in the series. However, when he is given a mission to do, we see that he is not a villain, but merely a bully and a coward. We do see his struggle though, even if it doesn't exactly make him a sympathetic character. He briefly mentions the fact that Voldemort will kill him if he didn't perform the task, but that is mentioned only briefly and we only see the severity through the eyes of his mother. This film is also Michael Gambon's time to shine as Dumbledore, and is easily the most Richard Harris-like he has gotten in his portion of the series. However, I have enjoyed Gambon more. The scene with him and Harry in the cave is one of the most beautiful scenes ever put on film in my opinion and there was a genuine feeling of danger and terror as well as grandeur when the Inferi show up.

The performances are amazing as always, and they are improving more and more by the year. I think the one that stands out in this is Rupert Grint as Ron, who has settled into his role as loyal friend and comedic relief. He is given a lot to do in this one and when you compare this to the fourth film, Hermione behaves quite hypocritically and starts treating him like he treated her. Bonnie Wright is great in this as well, and Alan Rickman gives a wonderful complex performance as Snape. Michael Gambon truly shines in his last moments playing Dumbledore. Notable additions would be Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn, who was pretty good and Helen McCrory, who was only on screen briefly but showed tremendous power as a mother who feared for her son.

If there is anything that one can definitely consider better than Order of the Phoenix, it is the production designed. The fifth film was impeccably designed and the ministry was beautifully done, but Half-Blood Prince is a bit of an improvement on the visual front. There is also one thing I have noticed in the last two films. The colour schemes have been vastly different. Everything seemed to be shrouded in blue in Order of the Phoenix, but in Half-Blood Prince, the colour scheme is more sepia-toned, browner than the other films. I like this, and it seems to work well within the context of the film. There were some things I didn't really like, and one particular thing I neither liked nor disliked that wasn't in the book. That was the certain unfortunate housefire that I will not give away. Needless to say, the movie was impeccably designed and beautifully shot, receiving an Academy Award nomination for cinematography.

All in all, Half-Blood Prince is one of the best entries yet into this amazing series that I have had the pleasure of exploring this past week. If you haven't familiarized yourself with the franchise, whether in books or in movies, I would encourage you to do so as you will hopefully find it is indeed worth it. The film features great humour, emotionally satisfying scenes (including but not limited to deaths), fantastic acting from everyone involved, and a great sense of magic and wonder even as the series gets progressively darker. I cannot wait to rewatch Deathly Hallows pt I and watch part II as soon as possible, just to see the cappers on this amazing and worthwhile franchise.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
½

Some say this is the weakest of the films. In fact, that seems to be the common consensus amongst people on Rotten Tomatoes. I beg to differ though. In fact, until my re-viewing of Goblet of Fire, this was my favourite one. I can see why some may not like it, seeing as it doesn't really stand on its own as a movie and it deals with more of the mundane aspects of the wizarding world. I like it for exactly the latter reason. It deals with the aftermath of Goblet of Fire (my personal favourite of the movies) in a more realistic fashion. Some may find it odd that I describe a movie about wizards as realistic, but I hold true my statement.

SOME SPOILERS

Order of the Phoenix deals with the aftermath of Goblet of Fire and it shows the adverse effects of Cedric Diggory's death on Harry. Harry is dealing with another summer at the Dursleys, but they are somewhat downplayed. When Harry gets in a fight with Dudley, a storm starts up and the have to run away from it. The storm was starting because of two Dementors (which one may remember from the third film) in the area, who promptly attack Harry and Dudley. Harry conjures his signature Patronus and finds himself in hot water with the Ministry for doing so. After he is locked in his room by the Dursleys, he is rescued by the Advance Guard.

The Advance Guard features the return of a former professor, namely Professor Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Ministry wizard Kingsley Shacklebolt and the new arrival, a Metamorphmagus named Tonks (Natalia Tena). Harry is escorted by broom to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, which he learns is the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization that is fighting Voldemort. Harry also learns from Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) that the Daily Prophet and by extension, the Ministry is smearing him and Dumbledore for believing that Voldemort has returned, which all those who have seen the fourth film know is very much true. He goes with Mr. Weasley to the Ministry for his hearing and with Dumbledore on his side, he finds himself cleared of all charges and allowed back to Hogwarts.

However, Harry discovers that things at Hogwarts are about to change. They are changing due to Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, taking up the post of Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher. This is most likely because the Minister for Magic thinks Dumbledore is after his job and he would rather have one of his own on the inside. Umbridge takes over the entire school and turns it into her own oppressive hell, eventually taking over Dumbledore's position as headmaster. In order to counteract this, Harry and co. form Dumbledore's Army, so they can teach proper defensive magic and be trained in combat for when Voldemort decides to come out of hiding.

Some of the Dumbledore's Army stuff is the best stuff in the movie, and their attempts to evade Umbridge are ingenious, especially the one at the hands of Fred and George. However, they are eventually caught and punished at the cruel hands of Umbridge. You see, earlier in the movie, Harry gets detention and detention with Umbridge means that you write lines with one of her quills that makes you write in your own blood. The theme of a recurring dream is present once again in this movie, except instead of a graveyard, Harry is dreaming of a mysterious hallway. Also earlier in the movie, Harry is told by Sirius that the Order thinks that Voldemort is after something that he didn't have last time. There also appears to be a mental connection between Harry and Voldemort, and Dumbledore gets Snape to teach Harry Occlumency, to guard his mind and protect himself from Voldemort.

This something is what leads Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, and the new addition of Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) to the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry. That something that Voldemort was after was a prophecy, a prophecy that said these exact words. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches. The Dark Lord shall mark him as his equal though he will have power the Dark Lord knows not. For neither can live while the other survives". The final scenes in the Ministry are truly epic and genuinely suspenseful.

END OF SPOILERS

That last sentence is the recurring theme for the rest of the series, and the true reality of Harry's situation with Voldemort is revealed. In order for Wizardkind to still exist, one of them has to end up killing the other. The ending of this movie was a bit anti-climactic and I did wish that some parts of the story were a bit more detailed. However, that is only a minor problem in a great movie. I also hated Cho Chang in this movie, as in Goblet of Fire, as she just goes from Cedric's bland groupie to Harry's bland groupie. It would have been more interesting if Cho was acting a bit more resentful towards Harry because he made it out alive and Cedric did not. That would have made her a more interesting character but no, she's just a groupie, like Lavender Brown in the sixth film.

The script is decently well-written, although the presence of Steve Kloves is direly missed. Once again, the character development is fantastic, and the underlying theme of overcoming the darkness within becomes more prevalent then ever, all culminating in the final film, which came out today. There are also themes of paranoia, denial, and oppression that are specific to this movie. This film has an epic final battle between Voldemort and Harry, but I think Voldemort is the lesser of two evils in this movie.

The greater being Dolores Umbridge, who is a monster through and through. The villain of Umbridge affects me more because I actually had a teacher like her. Thankfully, I do not anymore, but she was awful nonetheless. Not just awful, she was a monster. At least Voldemort wasn't so petty, and at least Voldemort didn't pretend to have the moral high ground. She makes students write in their own blood, she denies the students their Defensive Magic education, she recruits students to catch other students doing what she should have been teaching them, and she sics the minister on Dumbledore.

There are some funny moments in the movie too, like Fred and George's final middle finger to Umbridge, and all the stuff I mentioned previously with Umbridge and Filch trying to catch Dumbledore's Army in the act. Once again, a bigger cast of characters is introduced and fleshed out while still leaving room for the old ones. The performances are fantastic, especially from the three leads. The regulars give good performances, and the three notable additions are all female this time. Firstly, there is Imelda Staunton, who plays Umbridge to monstrous, bitchy perfection. Then, there is Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood, and in my opinion, they could not have found a better person to play her, as Lynch embodied everything I imagined Luna was from the books. Last, but certainly not least, there is Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange and she is brilliant in her role, being one of the best character actresses in Hollywood.

This one also gives the Phelps twins a time to shine as Fred and George, but that's all that can be said so we will move on. Don't get me wrong, there are some things I don't like about this movie. Order of the Phoenix is the longest book, and sometimes I thought they took one too many liberties with the book in the movie. I would have liked to see some things in more detail. I also didn't like the somewhat romance between Harry and Cho. In fact, I think that for the characters Robert Pattinson played, Cho was Bella Swan before Bella Swan came along. I hated the kissing scene, but those things are just minor problems in an overall fantastic total package.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not the weakest of the Harry Potter films in my opinion. Like I said, this used to be my favourite one. It features all the things that I normally like in a Harry Potter movie. Those being good production design, good acting, an interesting story, a great ending, a strong antagonist (well, strong antagonists) and character development. Some may not like it because it has more politics than the previous ones but I like it for that reason. It is more grounded in reality than the fantastical Goblet of Fire, which is still my favourite. I would recommend that if you haven't seen this and are a fan of the rest of the series, give it a chance, and don't let your preconceptions get the better of you.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

After a re-watch and some careful consideration, I have changed my mind on my favourite Potter film. I really love Goblet of Fire and I think that it is the best of the series, although I haven't seen Deathly Hallows part II yet and that has gotten wild critical acclaim. This was the true turning point for the series, and this film pointed the series in the direction that it is in now. The kids are getting older, the performances are maturing, the special effects are getting better, and of course, there is the big reveal later in the movie that we will talk about later. I still love the one that was previously my favourite, but I love this one a tiny bit better.

SOME SPOILERS

Goblet of Fire already starts out different from the first three films in that it doesn't start with Harry at the Dursleys. It starts in a graveyard where an old muggle caretaker goes into the mansion and finds two people talking, who we recognize as Wormtail from the previous movie, and what sounds like Voldemort. We learn that it is a dream, and we see Harry being woken by Hermione at the Weasleys' house. The assembled party of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Mr. Weasley, Fred and George, and Ginny head off to the Quidditch World Cup, where we meet two characters that will be very important later on.

The Quidditch World Cup is ransacked by Death Eaters and Harry sees one of them conjure the Dark Mark, which leads to mass panic and hysteria amongst the ministry. The gang does arrive at Hogwarts, where they learn that they will be playing host to two other schools, the all-girls school Beauxbatons and the all-male school Durmstrang. They learn that these guests are here because Hogwarts is the host school for the Triwizard tournament, a sort of olympics for Wizards where three champions are chosen and participate in three very dangerous tasks. The Goblet of Fire spits out three names, but wait! A fourth name is spat out and that name happens to be Harry Potter.

The tasks go on and Harry is proving himself more than capable of handling them, either due to skill or due to sheer dumb luck. Due to the Yule Ball on Christmas, Harry and Ron also learn about the horrors of the opposite sex and the difficulties in asking one on a date. Harry gives it the old college try with Cho Chang (Katie Leung) a reasonably attractive but horribly dull girl. However, she's already going with another champion by the name of Cedric Diggory (pre-Twilight Robert Pattinson). Ron also attempts to ask the Beauxbatons champion out and the aftermath of that is one of the funniest scenes in the movie.

Speaking of which, the Yule Ball stuff is probably my favourite stuff out of the movie, besides the ending. In the Yule Ball scenes, we get to see the interactions between Ron and Hermione, and how he ruined a perfectly good night for her by letting his jealousy over the fac that she wasn't going with him (whether he wanted to admit it or not). We also see Harry and Ron trying to hide the fact that they are absolutely terrified of the opposite sex and behave like callous assholes to their dates. At least Krum seems like a fun date and that's more than can be said for Ron and Harry. Whether you view it as a study of the interpersonal relationships of three friends or just as a bit of fun to split up the dark stuff in between, there is some of the best stuff in the movie at the Yule Ball.

But there are other tasks to be had. At the final task, Harry and Cedric are very close to winning and they decide to grab the cup together. Unfortunately, this cup is a portkey and Harry and Cedric are transported to a graveyard, which one may recognize as the graveyard from the first scene in the movie. For the mere act of being there by accident, Cedric is killed by Wormtail and through a series of events, Lord Voldemort is brought back to life by his faithful servant. After a wand fight between Harry and Voldemort, we learn that the interaction between their two wands leads to an occurence called Priori Incantatem, where the wands lock in a single stream of energy.

END OF SPOILERS

We also learn of the tale of Barty Crouch Jr., a Death Eater who was sent to Azkaban by his own father. That's pretty much it in terms of story. Again, Steve Kloves writes another good script for the series, probably his best until Deathly Hallows pt I came along. Again, the character development is fantastic, as we find our three main characters growing up even more. We now see the interaction between Harry and Voldemort, and how similar and yet vastly different they are. Like I said in my review of Chamber of Secrets, Harry possesses great power and he has the potential to use it for good or for evil. Which path he takes is up to him.

The performances are more assured this time around, especially Daniel Radcliffe as Harry. The three of them work well together as always. Neville Longbottom's part is extended as well and he's not just a comic foil to be made fun of. Matthew Lewis' performance reflects that, and the rest of the teenaged cast gives good performances as well. The especially notable add-on is Ralph Fiennes as the Dark Lord himself. He plays the role beautifully and creates the Voldemort that I imagined in the books, both in physical appearance and temperament. Another notable add-on is Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody, the new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher. A minorly notable addition is David Tennant, who most of you would probably know as the second most recent Dr. Who, and he gives a wonderful performance as Barty Crouch Jr. This film also features Robert Pattinson as Cedric. Most of you probably know him as Edward Cullen now and that's a damn shame because I thought he was terrific in this. Granted, you can see him attempt to do something with his lazily written character in Twilight, but he is better in this nonetheless. He's also not a bad looking guy either, but moving on.....

The production design is impeccable in this one, and I found that the colour scheme is different from the first three. It is darker, more muted, possibly to show the sense of impending doom that this movie has in spades. It has some fun stuff too, but the doom and dread never goes away. We always feel like something bad is going to happen and when it does, we are proven right. Back to the visuals though. This movie has the best visual effects out of all of them which I have seen. The art direction is brilliant, and again, this has very little use of CGI except the spells and the animals.

All in all, Goblet of Fire is the best of the Harry Potter movies, at least until I see the last. Another amazing entry into a classic series. Impeccable visuals, fantastic acting, great fun stuff, a strong antagonist, pretty good writing, and some moments of sheer beauty, whether in light or in dark. This was the turning point for the series and without this, we wouldn't have the greatness of the later films (greatness that isn't equal to this, but is great nonetheless). There is also more emotional resonance. For example, when Cedric's body is brought back to Hogwarts, we truly feel the pain of Harry, the assembled party, and of course, Cedric's father. In fact, that was one particular place where I was close to tearing up. In short, I would recommend this one as well as the entire series before and after it.


P.S. There is one hilarious scene with Moaning Myrtle and Harry in the Prefect's Bathroom and I don't think I've seen something where someone is sexually harassed by a ghost that is so funny.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
½

I have a distinct feeling that Chris Columbus' directing style would not have suited this movie, or he would have made it into a completely different one. I adore this movie, and it is yet another improvement on its predecessor. It is probably the best-crafted of the series, but its not my personal favourite. It still falls into the #3 spot, with 2 and 1 being the two films after it. Whilst Goblet of Fire was the complete turning point for the series, this film was the game changer. Everything gets darker, but there is still some fun stuff. This is easily the best directed installment of the series and even though I like other films in the series more, this one is fantastic nonetheless.

Prisoner of Azkaban once again finds Harry at the Dursleys, but this time, Vernon's sister Marge is visiting. After she says some rather hurtful things about Harry's parents, Harry loses control of himself and inflates her into a balloon. His anger causes him to run away from the Dursleys and circumstances (as well as an enormous magical double-decker bus) find him in Diagon Alley once again. Mystery is abound in the wizarding world once again, this time with a killer on the loose. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban and is alleged to want Harry dead. You see, the papers say that Sirius was a loyal follower of Lord Voldemort and that he betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort and now wants to kill Harry to finish the job.

SOME SPOILERS

Sirius Black is found in the castle and panic and terror sweep the school. On a forbidden trip to Hogsmeade, Harry comes across some information that sends him on his mission to find and kill Black. He finds out that Sirius allegedly betrayed his parents to Voldemort and was (and still to that day) his godfather. The film also injects some things from Harry's daily life, like class with the new Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher (and my personal favourite of the bunch) Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). Since the Dementors have taken residence guarding Hogwarts from Black, and the Dementors have such a severe effect on Harry, he asks Lupin to teach him how to protect himself, and thus he is taught his signature Patronus charm.

The film is also different from its predecessors and followers in that it has a two-part climax. The first part involves Ron being dragged by Sirius Black in dog form under the Whomping Willow. Those who have seen the second film would remember the Whomping Willow as a very angry tree that resides on Hogwarts ground and made a wreck of Mr. Weasley's car in the second film. Earlier in the climax, Harry goes to return a crystal ball to the Divination professor (Emma Thompson) and she says a prophecy about he who betrayed his friends and servant and master being reunited. Naturally, if you haven't read the book, you think she is talking about Sirius but if you thought so, you thought wrong.

You see, the real traitor is Peter Pettigrew, a companion of Lupin, Sirius, and Harry's dad when they were at school. Pettigrew joined the dark side and betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort, and framed Sirius for the crime he was sent to Azkaban for. Sirius went to prison for the crime, while Pettigrew masqueraded himself as Ron's rat Scabbers. A big secret about Lupin is revealed and the last part of the first half is spent running away from Lupin. After Sirius is caught, the sentence is that he will get the Dementor's Kiss, which essentially means sucking out his soul. Ron is out for the count and Harry and Hermione have to solve the problem and free Sirius, as well as Buckbeak, Hagrid's hippogriff that had been sentenced to death after breaking Malfoy's arm (after being insulted by Malfoy).

SPOILERS OVER

There are a lot of memorable moments in this film, as with the first two, like Harry conjuring a patronus for the first time, sneaking into Hogsmeade, and the awesome moment when Hermione socks Malfoy in the nose. The script is very well-written and again, new characters are introduced and fleshed out whilst still taking time to develop the returning ones. This film also introduces us to a brand new Harry from the first two films, as well as a new-ish Ron and Hermione and an entirely new Dumbledore.

This is a teenage Harry, a Harry who isn't quite as innocent as he was initially. This is an angsty Harry, who finally has the balls to run away from the Dursleys and inflate Aunt Marge like a hideous balloon. After all, if someone called my dad a drunk and my mum a bitch (despite the fact that both of my parents are very much alive) and I had magical powers, I would do a bit more than that. Ron and Hermione are also settling into their teenage years as well, and we see underpinnings of the romance they have later in the books, but those underpinnings are disguised as bickering like an old married couple.

There is also an entirely different actor playing Dumbledore, due to the unfortunate and tragic death of Richard Harris. Honestly, I don't think Richard Harris' Dumbledore would have suited these films and I personally prefer Michael Gambon's Dumbledore. The performances from Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and especially Emma Watson have improved vastly with age and they continue to inprove in the later movies as well. Notable new additions besides Michael Gambon would have to be David Thewlis as Lupin, who gave a brilliant performance and of course, the always amazing Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, who gave honestly one of the best performances I have seen in any movie.

The production design is impeccable, again mostly using sets and using CGI for small things like animals and spells and whatnot. This, as well as the rest of the films in the series, is a very well-made and well-crafted film. The CGI that is used is very well-done. Another thing with the production design (although I'm not quite sure whether it counts) is the fact that the score is absolutely marvellous. I mentioned it in my review of the first film and the fact that naturally, it is fantastic due to the fact that John Williams composed it. There isn't much to be said though because most of the stuff I said about the score previously applies to the rest of the series as well.

All in all, Prisoner of Azkaban is another brilliant entry into one of the best movie franchises of all time. Some may consider this the best one, but I have to disagree, as this is my personal third favourite. Impeccably designed, impeccably directed and featuring brilliant acting from its immense cast of characters, Prisoner of Azkaban was definitely a game changer, leading up to Goblet of Fire, which was the entire turning point for the series. It may take more liberties with the source material, but that oddly works because it lets the director be much more free with his creative vision. If you want to get into the series, then start at the first one, but when you get to this, I can guarantee you will like it.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
½

There are a handful of sequels that are better than the original, and even if the original is fantastic, that still holds true. It holds true with the Harry Potter series, and Chamber of Secrets is one of the best movie sequels of all time. Even after the release of Deathly Hallows, Chamber of Secrets is still my favourite of the books and my favourite of the earlier movies. It takes everything that made the first film wonderful and capitalizes on that, having a few new tricks up its sleeve as well. This movie also serves as a nice precursor to the darker content of the later movies whilst still keeping the childlike wonder and magic of the first film.

Chamber of Secrets takes place during another miserable summer at the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon is preparing to have some guests over and Harry has to stay in his room, making no noise and pretending he doesn't exist. This would turn out fine if Harry didn't find a house-elf by the name of Dobby in his room. Dobby tells Harry that bad things are going to happen and that he shouldn't go back to Hogwarts. Disaster ensues at Dobby's hands and this ends up with Harry getting bars put on his window. However, he is promptly rescued in the night by Ron and his twin brothers Fred and George in their dad's flying car. He then gets whisked away to Ron's house where he meets Ron's father and his younger sister Ginny, who seems to be strangely attracted to him.

Despite all the obstacles Dobby puts in his way, Harry does manage to get to Hogwarts and it turns out that bad things are happening indeed. A mysterious creature is attacking and petrifying muggle-born students at Hogwarts and if the attacks do not stop, then there is risk that the school could be closed. Harry is briefly suspected of the attacks because after the first and only meeting of the dueling club, he speaks Parseltongue (snake language) to a snake and appears to be egging it on to attack a muggle-born student. It also doesn't help that he (as well as Ron and Hermione) is frequently in the wrong place at the wrong time due to sheer dumb luck.

Hermione, Hagrid, and Dumbledore are out for the count when Ginny is taken into the chamber, and it's up to Harry and Ron to figure out what's been attacking the students and of course, to rescue Ginny before its too late. There's also some stuff about regular school life, quidditch, and still the sense of wonder that the first film portrayed so well. A rather insulting comment that Malfoy makes towards Hermione also paves the way for this movie's theme, that is somewhat existent in the later movies but not nearly as much as this one. This one is pride, namely the pride of certain pure-blood wizards that think that the wizard world and muggle worlds should be kept separate and mock half-bloods (people with one pure-blood parent and one muggle-born parent, like Harry) or muggle-borns (people with non-magic parents, like Hermione).

That in fact is the whole reason Voldemort was the way he was, that he himself was a half-blood and he pretended to be a pure-blood because he believed wizards were better than muggles. The character development is fantastic as always, and a bigger cast of characters is introduced and developed while not forsaking the old ones. The same friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione is developed and a particular scene serves as an unknowing precursor to things that they are doing in the seventh film. The themes of friendship, wonder, and pride are still there, with an underlying theme of darkness added on that is much more prevalent in the later films.

At the end of the movie, Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort passed on some of his powers to Harry when the killing curse failed and he was temporarily zapped out of being. That shows that Harry has a bit of Voldemort inside him and has the potential to do great things. Whether or not he uses that potential for good or evil is up to him. It's almost like Darth Vader tempting Luke Skywalker to join the dark side but Luke using his jedi powers for good and not evil. I know I just made a comparison between Harry Potter and Star Wars, two vastly different film series, but that aside, there are some definite parallels.

The acting from the three lead kid actors is improving with age, and they work together as a trio brilliantly. This movie also gives Rupert Grint a chance to step up as Ron and help Harry with achieving his goal. I find it interesting that in this movie, Hermione is out for the count and Ron and Harry have to solve the problem, whereas in Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron is out for the count and Harry and Hermione have to solve the problem. The adult acting is fantastic as always, and I found that I liked Richard Harris (R.I.P) a bit more in this movie than I did in the first one. The film also introduces Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lockhart claims to be a hero, but we see even from the beginning before he admits it that he is nothing but a foppish, dressed-up, peacocked coward.

The acting from the large ensemble cast is great like I said, but props should go out once again to Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. That's all that can be said though, so let's move on to the visuals. The first film had rich visual splendor without relying heavily on CGI, and this carries on that tradition well. There is CGI, like on Dobby and Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, and it is very well-done. The sets are glorious in their detailed design and I was quite surprised that this film didn't get nominated for Best Art Direction like its predecessor. Of course, The Two Towers came out in the same year, so it wouldn't stand a chance in hell of winning, but it deserved a nom nonetheless.

One more thing, I was very glad that they kept Tom Riddle's speech in the chamber word-for-word from the book, because as I said, Chamber of Secrets is still my favourite of the books, and the one I get the most joy out of reading. All in all, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is another fine entry into a very impressive and consistently well-crafted series. There is great visuals to behold, a great climactic battle in the Chamber, good acting, and humour as well to balance out the darkness. This film also served two concepts, giving us wonder and magic like the first installment while also being a precursor to the extremely dark later films. If you didn't like the first movie or you are in love with the series (whether or not you are having a Potter marathon), I would still recommend you give this a go, but if you are not a fan of the series, again, why bother?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Even if you have never read any of the books or saw a single one of the movies in your life, chances are you would still know who Harry Potter is. The little boy wizard took the world by storm and became one of the most well-known characters in both cinema and literature (the latter obviously coming first). But hey, every legend has to start somewhere, and the film series started with the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone, it really doesn't matter) and even though this is not the best of the movies overall, this is still a great start to a consistently well-crafted series and these humble beginnings made for some epic movies later on. The later movies are much darker, but this one captured the childlike wonder of its young protagonist.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone starts out with Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris) and Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) leaving infant Harry on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle's house following his parents' murder. Eleven years later, Harry is horribly mistreated by the Dursleys, being bullied by Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia whilst they treat their son Dudley like gold, resulting in making Dudley a spoiled bastard that would be every normal parent's worst nightmare. They also kept Harry in a cupboard under the stairs. Any normal person would know that a cupboard under the stairs is not an appropriate place to keep a child, but the Dursleys don't seem to care.

One day, their house is barraged by letters, all adressed to Harry. In order to escape the letters, the Dursleys go to a distant house on a rock. This house is broken into by Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) who tells Harry that he is a wizard and makes a rather fitting pig tail grow out of Dudley's backside. Harry is soon swept up into the magical world of wizards, and the magical wizarding school named Hogwarts. He meets Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) and they become fast friends. There is also a mystery going around Hogwarts starting with a mysterious troll in the dungeon and all culminating in a confrontation between Harry and Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed his parents.

This is probably the most light-hearted of all the movies, since Harry is 11 years old at the time of his first year. The film has some great moments, like Harry catching his first snitch at his first Quidditch game, Harry in the boats seeing Hogwarts for the first time, and the Troll in the Dungeon scene. The character development is fantastic, and this film features a smaller cast of characters than the later films. Harry, Ron, and Hermione have a friendship that is depicted very well and they all have a sort of a childlike wonder that is the main theme of the movie. There is also some mystery about Snape, and the mystery is a common theme present through all the movies.

The acting is pretty good, and I think that the standout performance of the movie was Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid. Coltrane suited his role perfectly both in physical appearance and talent, and he depicted the appropriate amount of kindliness that his character needed. Alan Rickman is good as Snape, and the rest of the adult acting is pretty good. I personally like Michael Gambon more as Dumbledore, but I cannot deny that this was Richard Harris' last great role. The kid actors were admittedly not great, but they were pretty good and far beyond child actor standards. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson had good chemistry as friends, and even though their respective performances improve with age, they start off good here.

There really isn't that much of an antagonist, but the movie isn't about battling an antagonist so much as it is about the typical Cinderella story. Harry starts off with nothing, with relatives that don't treat him right and force him to do chores whilst they treat their biological child better. Then, he gets whisked off to a magical place and becomes an entirely different person. It's also an underdog story, and people love underdog stories, which was probably what made the books and the movies so popular. The movie was relatively well-written and the movie is also faithful to the book, which was a deterrent for some of the critics but I don't really understand why.

The visuals were absolutely beautiful and the visual effects were very well-done, especially for the year this movie was produced. The art direction and costume design were both oscar-nominated and they both deserved it, but there isn't much more to say. Even though the effects get better, these ones were still pretty good too. There is one thing that I would like to discuss before wrapping this up, and that is the score. Naturally, the score is amazing, because it is composed by John Williams. It is suitably grand at certain points, like when Harry catches the snitch, and suitably subdued at points that call for it. The best word to describe it would be magical though.

All in all, this is a great first film in the only series of more than three films where every single one of them has been good. It has its weak points, but the positives far outweigh the negatives, making for an entertaining total package. The acting is good, the writing is good, the special effects and visuals were good, this entire movie was just fantastic. The later films get better, but all great things have to have a beginning and this was a great beginning to a great thing. If you have read the books and you liked them, then give this a go before the last one comes out. If you don't like the books, then don't bother. Why would you even be curious in the first place? If you are starting a Potter marathon before the last movie comes out, then this is the logical point to start, so give it a go.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
½

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a film based on the first three books in a series of thirteen by Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket. I have read every single one of these books and I quite frankly adored them. I enjoyed them as a child, but I still enjoy them and they hold up to this day, for children as well as adults. The dark humour, intricate plots, and cool characters are transferred into film beautifully. The movie also features brilliant art direction, decent special effects, pretty good performances, and a strong antagonist. It's a real shame that they didn't make more. The first books were rather short, so they would have to be clumped together (like this movie). However, the later books could serve as separate movies.

The film starts out with a happy little animated cartoon, about a happy little elf. However, we are told that this is not the movie we are about to watch. In actuality, A Series of Unfortunate Events is about Violet (Emily Browning) Klaus (Liam Aiken) and Sunny (Shelby/Kara Hoffman) Baudelaire, three very clever children who become three very clever orphans when their parents perish in a fire that destroys their entire home. They are soon sent to live in the care of the villainous Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), either their third cousin four times removed or their fourth cousin three times removed. Count Olaf turns out to be a wicked guardian, and is only after the enormous fortune that the Baudelaire parents left the children.

The orphans are taken out of Olaf's care and placed into two more guardians over the course of the movie, Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) from the second book, and Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) from the third book. Circumstances send the children back to Olaf and Mr. Poe, their trustee and keeper of their enormous fortune, accidentally makes Count Olaf aware that if something happened to the children, he would not get the fortune. That can only be done with blood relatives and married couples. This gives Olaf the idea that if he marries Violet, he will get the fortune. This almost happens, but the cleverness of the children stops it once again and they go off with Mr. Poe, unaware of where they would go next.

Well, I know where they go next, in the fourth book, they go and work at a lumbermill. There are ten more books in the series and those books are unused potential going to waste. I heard something about animated sequels, and that most definitely could work. However, I am doing a review of the movie, not why there should have been sequels, so lets move on. The story is very well-transferred from the books, even if it is extremely condensed to fit three books into one hour and a half movie. The inherent darkness of the story (children losing their parents and their home and being sent to a cruel guardian) is somewhat masked by adding some darkly comedic moments.

Most of the dark comedy comes from the silly, but very threatening villain. In order for books like this to work, they have to have a strong antagonist. Count Olaf got much more evil in the later books, but in the earlier books, he is much more silly and foppish. He is still threatening, and it makes my skin crawl to think what he would have done with the children's fortune, especially if he married Violet. The role fit Jim Carrey like a glove, allowing him to be silly and do what he is best at, but with an underlying layer of threat in one of his most underrated roles to date. He is delightfully over-the-top in every scene he is in and steals the show pretty much entirely.

The children are played by Emily Browning, Liam Aiken and the Hoffman twins, and they play their characters very well. Some may know Emily Browning as Babydoll in Sucker Punch, which came out rather recently. She was pretty bad in that, but its a shame, because she was really good as Violet. Liam Aiken didn't look like I always imagined Klaus, but he did speak and act like the Klaus I imagined and that was perfect in my eyes. The Hoffman twins were very funny as Sunny and the rest of the cast performed well in their respective roles, especially Meryl Streep and Billy Connolly as the other two Baudelaire guardians and an uncredited role as a theatre critic played by Dustin Hoffman. Not Academy Award material, and certainly nothing to write home about, but good performances nonetheless.

Where the movie really excels though is its visual style. The film was nominated for three academy awards, winning one for Best Makeup. The art direction and costume design were nominated as well, but they both lost to The Aviator (another movie I wish to see) and it lost Original Score as well to Finding Neverland. However, the nominations were well-deserved because this movie has some of the most brilliant set design I have ever seen. The makeup deserved its win, but without seeing The Aviator, I think that this movie should have won the Oscar. Either this or the Phantom of the Opera, but most likely this. If anyone knows whether the sets are computer-generated, actual, or a mixture, please leave your answer in the comments. Needless to say, some of the best visuals I have ever seen.

Like Coraline, this is not a kids movie. Some kids might like this, but the incredibly morbid, albeit darkly comedic content of the books is transferred extremely well. The film features dazzling visuals (without CGI overload), good acting, good writing, and of course, strong source material. If you haven't seen this movie, don't worry, adults will like it too, in fact, probably more so than children. I would encourage you to give the movie a go, as well as a few of the books. They are very well-written and the source material transferred to the screen brilliantly. All in all, give it a go. You most likely won't be disappointed.

Thor
Thor(2011)

Kenneth Branagh is a director best known for his Shakespearean films, and Thor is his first foray into the superhero genre. Thor was a very appropriate superhero for his style of direction because I think that if Shakespeare ever wrote a superhero story, it would turn out similar to Thor. It features a rich story, rivalry between brothers, worlds beyond our own, and mythology, and from what I know about Shakespeare (admittedly a limited knowledge) he would be all over that. Regardless, Thor is a brilliant movie in both the action and superhero genres, and one of the best movies Marvel has made since the glory days of Spiderman and X-Men in the early 2000's. Out of their two films that have come out thus far this summer, X-Men First Class is better, but this one was a fine sampler to the summer season and I will tell you exactly why.

Thor takes place in the mythical realm of Asgard, where the All-Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) rules. On the day of his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth)'s coronation, the enemy realm of the Frost Giants attacks. Thor goes and does an unauthorized attack in their realm and as punishment by his father, he is stripped of his power and cast out into Earth. There, he meets Jane (Natalie Portman), an astrophysicist, her friend Eric (Stellan Skarsgard) and her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). The requisite humour of the film comes from Thor adjusting to Earth, like smashing his coffee cup because the beverage was delicious and he wanted another. He doesn't do these things beacuse he wants to be a jerk, he does them because he simply doesn't know any better.

Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Odin falls into a deep sleep and due to Thor's absence, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is made temporary king. We then learn a shocking fact about Loki, and that fact is what turns him into the villain of this picture. Loki sends the Destroyer to attack Thor and make sure he cannot return, and Thor must prove himself worthy to save Asgard and save the humans. See, when Thor was cast out, Odin took his hammer and said that whoever was worthy could pick up the hammer and wield the power of Thor. He then casts the hammer out and it lands in the desert. This alerts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and they promptly build a facility around it. Thor attacks the facility earlier in the movie hoping to get his hammer, but since he is not worthy at the time, he cannot get at it and we truly feel for him when he cannot.

The script was fairly well-written, and there was definite character development present. Most superhero movies are about ordinary people becoming extraordinary, but Thor is quite the opposite. We see Thor go on an extraordinary journey throughout the course of the movie and it is an absolute joy to watch, as the writers set Thor up to be an enjoyable and likeable character, and we enjoy watching him. We see his interpersonal relationships between him and his father, him and Jane, him and his brother, and him and his warrior buddies, and they are fantastic to watch. Loki is a sympathetic character as well, and we see the reason behind his villainy as opposed to just saying that he was born bad.

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston do justice to their roles as Thor and Loki respectively, and they have fantastic chemistry as brothers. Anthony Hopkins was a pretty good choice for Odin, but it's kind of a shame that he's out for the count for most of the movie and not given more to do. However, what he was given to do suited his talents perfectly. Out of all of Natalie Portman's follow-up projects to Black Swan, this one was the best-received critically, and I can see why, as her performance was very good and she made Jane Foster much more than just a love interest. I am also aware that in the comics (which I never really read) Jane is a nurse, but in this film, she is an astrophysicist, and that is something that young children can look up to.

The rest of the performances were pretty good, all except one. I did not really like Kat Dennings as Jane's assistant Darcy. I suppose she was kind of meant to be a comic relief, and she was the one thing that prevented me from liking this movie more, because of her overall annoyingness. I have liked Kat Dennings in other things, and she has acted well in other movies, but just not in this one. The action scenes were well-choreographed and beautifully shot. Obviously, I didn't see this one in 3D because I watched it on a computer, but I can't tell whether it would have been a bonus or an impairment.

One thing I really have to say though was that the visuals were absolutely beautiful. The CGI was very well-done and I did like that there wasn't CGI overload, like in some superhero movies. They actually used sets in some circumstances, unlike what appears to be the circumstance in the new Green Lantern movie. The art direction is absolutely exquisite and the visuals certainly help achieve the grandeur that this film is trying to achieve. I am going to make a comparison to Lord of the Rings in that whilst the LOTR trilogy used CGI but didn't overload and used actual sets as well. Thor did that as well, offering a beautiful total package.

All in all, Thor is a grand superhero movie and one of the best movies that Marvel has produced. Another winning franchise possibility for Marvel and another great tentpole for The Avengers. Beautiful visuals, solid acting and writing, steady direction, and kick-ass action makes for an all-around entertaining movie. If I'm going by the Avengers tentpoles that I've seen (essentially the Iron Mans and this), I think the Avengers movie will be absolutely fantastic. I still need to see the Hulk movies and Captain America when it comes out later this month, but the tentpole movies I have seen are definitely great ones. I would recommend Thor as a must-see for Marvel fans (such as myself) and a recommended see for those who like action fantasy or the previous works of Kenneth Branagh.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The first Transformers movie was rather fun, albeit kind of stupid, so I gave it a fresh rating. For the sake of having seen the entire series before I go and see the sequel, I decided to check this one out as well. May I say, what a piece of shit. I mean it, Transformers 2 is not only one of the worst sequels ever made and one of the worst big budget movies ever made, it is one of the worst movies ever made. This film suffers from horrible acting, horrible writing, an overabundance of sex jokes, terribly choreographed action sequences, bad cinematography, and CGI overload. Worse, that's only a small sampling of the problems I have with this movie. I did give it a 20% for a reason, and I will explain why later, but the negatives far outweigh the positives, making for an all out unpleasant watching experience.

This sequel takes place two years after the events of the first film, and we are informed that there is a secret squadron of the military that is working with the Autobots. After an attack on Shanghai, some whiny bitch government official gets angry and tells them to leave. Sam is also heading off to college, and after accidentally touching a fragment of the Allspark (from the first movie, those who have seen the first movie know its fate) he gets information about the alien race or something. Megatron, the villain from the first movie, is resurrected, and he wages war on the world if the US doesn't turn over Sam and all his information. This prompts a Decepticon disguised as a human (Isabel Lucas) attacks Sam at college and he, Mikayla (Megan Fox again, saying all of her lines like she's starring in a porno), and his annoying roommate Leo go on an adventure to find out what's happening.

This all culminates in a messy overlong final battle where Sam has to find the key to bring Optimus Prime back to life, which is located somewhere in Egypt. The key is called the deus ex machina..I mean, the Matrix, and its the only thing that can bring Prime back to life because he is a descendent of the Primes that created it. They also need Optimus to defeat the Decepticons once again because the human military is helpless. The sad thing is that the final battle probably would have entertained me if I actually cared what was happening. But I don't, because Michael Bay didn't properly set the movie up with likeable characters or character development so as to make the audience care.

The movie is also one of the rare movies that is capable of having too much plot and yet no plot at all. What plot there is is paper thin and overly confusing, making the movie completely unable to hold my attention for its inflated runtime. That brings me to another problem with this movie and with the first movie as well: it was way too long, and not enough happened to justify two and a half hours. But that's all that can be said for that, so we shall move on. The writing for this film is absolutely horrendous. I mean, its a Michael Bay movie, I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but the writers could have at least tried to make the dialogue painful to listen to. The dialogue is also rife with sex jokes, most of them coming from Leo, and they are also painful to listen to.

I will take this time to discuss one of the most controversial parts of the movie, that being Skids and Mudflap. I do agree with the general public that they are annoying comic relief characters and incredibly racist comic relief characters as well. I really hope that they are not in the third film because they will certainly drag the movie down. I suppose Michael Bay could be considered sexist as well as racist, because Megan Fox is not in the movie for any other reason than sex appeal, and the first shot of her is her straddling a motorcycle. She did horribly as in the first film, as did everybody else. Plus, even though I don't think she is very attractive, even I know she's way out of Shia LaBoeuf's league. Shia was horrible as well, but the worst performances were from John Turturro, the parents (most specifically the mother) and Leo.

The only decent performance was Josh Duhamel as Major Lennox from the first movie, and even then he was nothing spectacular. The special effects are well-done, however, there is too much reliance on them and they throw the movie into mania. That pretty much covers the movie, so I shall wrap this up. Transformers 2 can be used as a guide on how not to make an action movie, and it is easily one of the worst movies of all time. Horrible writing, horrible acting from everyone (spare for 1) involved, weak unfocused direction, well-constructed but far too abundant CGI, and just general awfulness all around. If you like this, more power to you, but the general consensus seems to be negative and that is what I think as well. If you liked the first film or if you like general spectacle, you probably won't like this one. It could have been mindless entertaining spectacle, but it's just plain unpleasant and stupid. So in short, I would just recommend that you don't bother and skip it. Or watch the first one, which is considerably better.

Catch Me If You Can
½

Catch Me If You Can is a very impressive movie that was extremely snubbed by the Academy in my opinion, scoring only a nomination for Christopher Walken's supporting performance and original score. There is so much more to the movie though. CMIYC is a suave, engaging dramedy based on a fascinating true story. It has great performances, a great story, splendid music, and an engaging cat-and-mouse chase. The only things that I had problems with (thus preventing the movie from a perfect score) are one awkward scene and the fact that I think the movie got a bit too long. However, that isn't much to complain about, because the movie had a lot of ground to cover and it covered said ground very well.

Catch Me If You Can is about Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) known as one of the world's greatest and most clever con men. Throughout the course of the movie, Frank masquerades as a doctor, a lawyer, and an airline pilot, making a ton of money and cashing millions in phony cheques in the process. The big kicker? He did this all before his nineteenth birthday. But his cover didn't last forever, and the FBI is chasing him, lead by Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) who will stop at nothing to see him behind bars. He falls in love with a young candy striper named Brenda (Amy Adams) whilst posing as a doctor and Hanratty almost tracks him down at his engagement party. That's all I am going to reveal about the plot, because you should see this movie and figure it out for yourself.

I didn't really know anything about the case of the real Frank Abagnale Jr., but what the movie depicted was absolutely fantastic and makes me want to find out more. Frank wrote a book on his exploits and I may check it out. The script of the movie is very well-written, and although technically this film is a drama, there are quite a few comedic moments. I noticed some similarities with the relationship between Frank and Carl and the relationship between Ferris Bueller and Ed Rooney. That being said, the similarities are that Ferris and Frank are both charming and cunning young men who make older authority figures look like asses by outsmarting them on a number of occasions. I love both of the aforementioned movies pretty much equally, but there are some definite similarities, only Ferris Bueller had a cat-and-mouse chase on a much smaller scale.

The movie would not be what it was if it weren't for the spectacular performances of the cast, most specifically Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Jr. Tom Hanks was pretty good opposite Leo and Amy Adams gave a good performance for the small amount of time she was on screen. However, despite the great supporting performances, including the Academy Award nominated one by Christopher Walken as Frank Sr., it is Leonardo DiCaprio who clinched the greatness of the movie. This is his movie, and nobody can steal the show from him. He gives by far the greatest performance of the movie and one that I consider was snubbed by the Academy. I may be biased though, because young pretty Leo can do no wrong in my eyes, but I do think his performance was fantastic.

All in all, Catch Me If You Can is a fantastic movie, and if you haven't seen it, then I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Leo carries the movie on his shoulders, but the rest of the weight is easily balanced by the strong cast, strong script, and a great mix of comedy and drama. The cherry on top is that it is based on a fascinating true story. This is one of my new favourite movies of all time and if you watch it soon, it'll probably be one of yours too. So in short, I give Catch Me If You Can my highest recommendation as one of the best true-to-life movies and best chase movies of all time.

Bad Teacher
Bad Teacher(2011)
½

Despite the painstaking circumstances that made me insane prior to seeing Bad Teacher, I'm glad to know it was worth it. Bad Teacher was not nearly as stupid as it could have been, and it wasn't quite as vulgar as it should have been. However, I was entertained and that was the purpose of the movie. The theatre was also packed and they were laughing too, so the consensus was generally positive. Bad Teacher also features consistent humour, a promising concept, and great performances including a very charming and entertaining performance from Cameron Diaz. It did have its rough patches, but all in all, I enjoyed it, and if you like this type of humour, you will too.

Bad Teacher follows the teachers at John Adams Public School, more specifically Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) the bad teacher in question, who shows movies all week during the first week of schools mostly because she's too hung over from her general substance abuse to teach. She then meets Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) the attractive wealthy new substitute teacher, and she notices that his past girlfriend happened to have a huge pair of tits and the teacher he has a thing for (Lucy Punch) does as well. So, she figures if she gets a boob job, she will get him as well. The film chronicles Elizabeth's adventures to get that money, including a hilarious car wash scene involving hotpants and her whipping her class into shape so she could get her bonus if they did well on a state test.

The film also chronicles Russell Gettis (Jason Segel) constantly hitting on Elizabeth and Amy Squirrell (Lucy Punch)'s constant attempts to destroy Elizabeth, having a mental breakdown in the process. The film is extremely funny, albeit surprisingly non-vulgar. The people at the theatre were laughing and I was laughing too. After all, I am a teenager, and a teenager who thinks that a certain amount of vulgar humour is hilarious. If you don't like vulgarity, then you probably won't like this movie, but if you do, this film will be very enjoyable. All in all, this film was very well-written and fiercely entertaining.

Anybody who knows me knows that I don't particularly care for Cameron Diaz. I liked her in Shrek, and I haven't seen the Mask, but I hated her in Knight and Day and I don't find her to be a good actress. However, I really liked her in this movie and she gave an undeniably fantastic performance as Elizabeth. Another thing I noticed was that she had very nice clothes, as did everyone in the movie. Props to the costume designer for good work. Justin Timberlake really wasn't that funny, his role could have been done by anyone and it would have made no difference. Even his singing was off. He wasn't bad, but this wasn't one of his stronger performances. Lucy Punch was good as Amy, the villain of the movie, and Jason Segel was fantastic (as usual) as Russell, the gym teacher. The rest of the supporting performances were good, and the movie was generally well-acted.

The movie also had a very interesting way in dealing with its protagonist, who was utterly unlikable but kind of charming in a way. It made the people around her so utterly sickening in their sweetness that we started to sympathize with her and Jason Segel, who is of a like mind. The villain is so sickeningly sweet and chipper, like the furry creature namesake of her last name, that I would rather have Elizabeth as a teacher because she would not make me want to barf with her sweetness. But all in all, if you've seen trailers for Bad Teacher and you like the trailers, chances are you will like the movie. If you haven't, I would recommend it to fans of vulgar humour and/or Cameron Diaz. All in all, to make a clever joke, I would say that Bad Teacher scrapes by at about a B.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
½

Boy, I surely missed out when I was a kid, missed out on a fantastic claymation movie that is. Wallace and Gromit have appeared in a series of British short films, and Curse of the Were-Rabbit was their first full-length feature film. It also won Best Animated Feature in the year between The Incredibles and Cars and it wholeheartedly deserves to be in the Oscar winning animated films because it is very good. Curse of the Were-Rabbit has clever sight gags, memorable characters, fantastically detailed claymation, and a big heart. It's also one of many kids movies that will be unappreciated by children for exactly what it is. Don't get me wrong, kids will definitely enjoy it, but they won't get just how clever it is.

Curse of the Were-Rabbit follows the adventures of Wallace, an eccentric inventor, and his loyal anthropomorphic (although not speaking) dog Gromit. Wallace and Gromit run a humane pest removal company called Anti-Pesto and they are popular in their city. In order to release the rabbits humanely, they use one of Wallace's inventions to brainwash the rabbits to not eat vegetables. This appears to have worked, but later that night, a vicious creature devours vegetables without mercy. This is a problem because the Vegetable Competition at Tottington Hall is in a few days and the beast must be stopped before then. Wallace also has a bit of a crush on Lady Tottington and he has some competition in Victor Quartermaine, who wants to marry her for her money and wants to kill the were-rabbit.

The story in this is very funny and is very sweet as well, But what really got me to like this movie were the jokes. The film is chock-full of clever sight gags, even some of them being sexual in nature. The opening scene is hilarious and the inventions that Wallace and Gromit use during their daily lives are awesome. Children will like this because of the funny characters and the chase scenes, but they won't get the sight gags. That makes it a good animated film that adults will enjoy probably more than children. The voice casting is wonderful, but the only thing that I raised an eyebrow at was the fact that Ralph Fiennes got top billing and Helena Bonham Carter wasn't even noticeably in the credits.

The claymation was beautiful and incredibly detailed, and the written jokes were well done as well as the sight gags. I can't figure out much more to say about this film though, so I shall wrap things up. All in all, Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a brilliant animated film, and one of the best non-disney or non-pixar animated films to come out in the last ten years. The voice acting is impeccable, the sight gags are hilarious, the story is fun, and the film has sweetness to spare. Even though this was distributed under the Dreamworks umbrella, it's way better than most of the stuff they do (spare for the first two Shreks amongst other select movies) and it deserved the Oscar it won. I would give this one my strongest recommendation for anyone, not just fans of animation or parents with kids.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)

Well, the second sequel to this movie is coming out on Friday, so I figured that I might as well review where it all began. Sadly, that will include the sequel, but that's currently beside the point. I am also reviewing this to kick off summer and to celebrate the fact that I am done my final exams. But anyway, onto the movie itself. I do not know how this movie would have been for a hardcore or even softcore fan of the series, but for a casual viewer like myself, I though it was pretty good. The film definitely had its problems, but those problems are compensated for with exhilarating action scenes and great special effects.

Transformers is about two races of robots, the Autobots (lead by Optimus Prime) and the Decepticons (lead by Megatron). They are both after this thing called the All Spark that is hidden in a cube hidden somewhere on earth. The Decepticons attack a military base to gain information about a map to the cube. The map is imprinted on a pair of glasses that belonged to an explorer who accidentally encountered a frozen Megatron in the Arctic Circle. They track the glasses down to the explorer's great-great-grandson, who happens to be named Sam (Shia LaBoeuf) and who is trying to sell the glasses so he can buy a car.

He ends up buying said car and it is slowly revealed over the course of the first act that the car is indeed, a Transformer. Sam and his new lady friend, Mikayla (Megan Fox) are promptly swept up into a veritable whirlpool of military intelligence and robot action, reaching a head in the intense final battle in the city. There's also some stuff about the military trying to deal with the attack of the Decepticons and Sam trying to deal with his geekiness and leaving us with the mystery of how Mikayla was somehow attracted to Sam. I mean, I don't really think Megan Fox is attractive, but she is way out of Shia LaBoeuf's league.

From what I know about the Transformers series, the premise was simple and goofy, but it made sense. The basic premise is still there, but embellished to the max to fit a two-and-a-half hour movie. Out of the two major storylines intertwining with the Transformers, I liked the military storyline better because it had fewer annoying characters and it provided us with some kick-ass action scenes (including the final battle). I also am fully aware of the fact that Michael Bay uses military elements in some way in all of his movies (besides the Platinum Dunes remakes) and in this movie, it works, because of what I said about the action. This plotline also gave me the only character I liked, Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel).

This movie isn't exactly smart, but it's not really dumb fun either. Some of the military elements do get complicated and definitely interesting, making this a much more enjoyable movie then I thought it would be. The writing is horrible though, filled with boring conversations, annoying parents accusing their son of masturbating (due to a locked door) when he is looking for the glasses I told you about earlier, a dad that obsesses over his goddamn lawn, and some very lame (but not enjoyably lame) one-liners. The other thing that was horrible was the acting. Duhamel was good, not great, but the rest were simply terrible. Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox had no chemistry and gave terrible performances.

The worst performances of the movie were by far John Turturro and the parents. I know what you're thinking, John Turturro? I mean, he was in some Coen brothers movies, but he was downright awful in this. The parents were absolutely terrible as well, and my main grievance with the movie. However, my grievances are just barely outweighed by the sheer entertainment value of this movie. The acting and the writing is terrible, but the film features some kickin' action, a sufficient amount of plot, and some great special effects. Not to mention, giant fighting robots. So all in all, I enjoyed this movie, but I fear what may come with the sequel. You may expect a review of this around Wednesday.

Grease
Grease(1978)

Grease is a very interesting movie, in that it is one of the few movies that has inspired a gollum-esque inner battle with me. Part of me wants to join in with all the fun and revel in the nostalgia. But another, probably larger part of me wants to hate its guts for being so goddamn corny and making absolutely no sense. However, I want you to know that I gave this a 60 because I enjoyed most of the songs and I enjoyed the characters of Rizzo and Kenickie. However, I think that this is a terribly overrated movie and I have a lot of reasons why. I understand that this is an incredibly popular movie and a lot of people who will read this probably like this movie. I can understand why, I'm just not a person that can take cheese very well.

Grease is about Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John). They begin a romance during summer vacation and go their separate ways, thinking Sandy has to return to Australia. The rest of the film takes place at Rydell High School, where we see Danny with his friends, the T-Birds. Turns out there was a change of plans, and Danny runs into Sandy with the help of Sandy's new friends, the Pink Ladies. He promptly makes an ass of himself to impress his friends and maintains his image. That's pretty much it, the movie is just cycles of Danny pissing Sandy off, with everything from what I just mentioned to her learning of the fact that he...dated someone before her (*shudder*). There's also some stuff about a dance contest, and that is easily the best part of the movie.

The film ends at the end of the year carnival, where we see Bad Sandy for the first time and where this film's message becomes really messed up. There's also a pregnancy storyline but that doesn't make much sense either. The two things that I just mentioned coincide with the first problem I have with the movie. That problem is that the school year is incredibly abrupt, having no sense of time. The film begins on the first day of school and that's when Rizzo and Kenickie do it with their broken condom. However, when the whole pregnancy storyline comes up, it just gets away with "false alarm". There's also no changing of the seasons, but that can be attributed to the fact that they are in California.

Another problem I have with the movie is that it has no real narrative, no antagonist, and an incredibly contradictory message. The first half of the movie has the traditional "be yourself" message, but the second half shows Danny running track to get Sandy to like him, and the eventual 360 degree turnaround of Sandy. So be yourself, but change completely for the person you want to be with?? That's quite an alarming message, and it could possibly be taken the wrong way in the minds of impressionable young girls who watch this movie and grow up to become teenagers who think hoaring up is the way to impress boys. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but this really bugs me.

However, I did give this a positive score and now I shall explain why. There are some things I do like about this movie, and it is a very pleasant, light and fluffy movie. I also like most of the musical numbers, spare for a few, my favourite probably being Summer Nights or Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee. The worst musical numbers are unfortunately, the solos of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. I also hated John Travolta's Elvis impersonation that he seems to do in a few of his songs. The dancing is pretty good too, but at the end, I had to turn it off because it got too corny. The other things that I enjoyed were the performances of Jeff Conway and Stockard Channing as Kenickie and Rizzo. The leads were terribly dull, so these two made up for it.

Well, I would definitely say that Grease is worth checking out, even though I don't particularly care for it. Some of the performances are good, most of the songs are pretty good, and the film is very pleasant. However, the cons are really big and prevent me from enjoying the movie fully. It technically is a classic, albeit an overrated one, and it was incredibly popular for a reason. So in short, it is worth checking out, but it's not particularly good in my eyes.

Dogma
Dogma(1999)
½

I honestly don't understand why so many religious people hate Dogma, because when you look at it honestly, it's a very pro-faith film. It's also a very smart movie and wonderfully entertaining. I am not very well-versed in the works of Kevin Smith, and according to my mum, this is the only one of his movies that I can see for a long time. However, she allowed me to watch Dogma and I loved it. It has smart humour alongside the raunchy stuff, memorable characters, and great performances to match those memorable characters. Alongside all of that, it has an engaging plot and some genuine insights about religion.

The plot of Dogma is a road trip movie entwining several storylines. The first storyline is about two fallen angels, Loki (the angel of death, played by Matt Damon) and Bartleby (a Gregorian "watcher" played by Ben Affleck) who find a loophole to get back into heaven in the form of a church rededication with an archway that allows whoever walks through a morally clean slate. There's one small problem with this plan: if Bartleby and Loki get back into heaven, then existence would cease to be. You see, according to the film, existence is built upon the fact that God is infallible. If God were to be proved wrong, like by Bartleby and Loki, existence would go away.

In an attempt to stop this, the Last Scion is contacted by the Metatron (the voice of God, played by Alan Rickman) to go to the church and stop the angles. The Last Scion happens to be Bethany Sloane (played by Linda Fiorentino) a woman who works at an abortion clinic in Illinois and who is going through a crisis of faith because her husband left her due to her infertility. Bethany agrees to her mission and she receives help from two prophets, who one may remember as Jay and Silent Bob (played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), a sexy former muse named Serendipity (played by Salma Hayek) and Rufus, the forgotten 13th apostle (played by Chris Rock).

There's also the case of Azrael (played by Jason Lee), another former muse who has rather mysterious origins that are revealed later into the movie. but I won't reveal them. He sends his minions to kill Bethany, because the end of existence would benefit him personally and he doesn't want Bethany to stop them. All these stories intertwine on a train and Bartleby snaps, turning against the humanity he initially felt sorry for and he essentially switches roles with Loki, turning violent while Loki desperately tries to get him to stop. Another good thing about the movie is that it doesn't really have a clear villain. In the first half, the villain seems to be Azrael, but in the second half, Loki and Bartleby (the latter more than the former) shift into the roles of villains, because they will do whatever they have to to get home, even if it ends all existence.

Right before the climax of the movie, Rufus says that its better to have ideas than beliefs, because you can change ideas but beliefs are much harder to change. I would definitely agree with that, and with many other arguments that are presented in this film. This is seriously one of the smartest movies that I have seen and I still don't understand why people hate it, like I said in the first sentence of this review. I also understood Bartleby's motivation for what he does in the second half of the movie, because he lived a life of servitude as an angel and even though angels were created first, humans were treated better and given the choice of whether to acknowledge God or not. Being bainshed, he lives every day with that reminder and one day, he just snaps. That makes Bartleby a much more sympathetic character than he could have been and the intelligent comedy is just one of many good things I have to say about the movie.

The characters in this are very enjoyable, and we feel for them as they go on their journeys. The characters are matched by brilliant performances, the best being from Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Alan Rickman. Anybody who knows me or has read my review of The Town knows that I'm kind of hard on Ben Affleck, more than I probably should be, because of his less-than-stellar ability to pick out good movies not directed by him. Well, I was thoroughly impressed by Ben Affleck, especially in the second half, and he gives the best performance of the movie in my opinion. He plays off his real-life writing partner and friend Matt Damon perfectly, who gives a good performance as Loki as well. Damon being third-best, I think that the second-best performance would go to Alan Rickman as the Metatron. His opening scene with Bethany is just pure hilarious gold.

Speaking of Bethany, Linda Fiorentino (AKA Dr. Weaver from Men in Black) gives a good understated performance (like her performance in Men in Black) as the film's true protagonist. Chris Rock is good as the 13th Apostle, and the Jason Mewes/Kevin Smith duo perform well as Jay and Silent Bob. I haven't seen any of their movies outside this, but my mum says this is them toned down. Jason Lee was absolutely fantastic as Azrael (accompanied with a white pimp suit and three hockey-stick-wielding minions) and Salma Hayek was good as Serendipity, and that's quite the pleasant surprise because she's not a comedic actress. All in all, Dogma is a very underrated movie and one of the smartest movies I've ever seen. A strong script, consistently hilarious and smart comedic moments, great characters, and great performances are amongst the many great things that I can say for this movie and I just can't stop saying good things about it. So in shory, I would recommend it.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 is Dreamworks' best sequel since Shrek 2 and definitely one of its better works. The company certainly cannot hold a candle to Pixar, but they do turn out good quality works and this one is no exception. I really loved the first movie and in fact, I saw it on Father's Day with my dad in 2008, so it seemed fitting that when this came out, we would see it on the same day. So, the question you all must be asking (or I assume you all must be asking) is whether or not it is better than the first one. Well, it is neither better nor worse, which is why I gave them the exact same score. If there is an animated non-Pixar animated film to watch this summer, it's definitely this one, and I will explain why.

Kung Fu Panda 2 continues the adventures of Po (AKA the Dragon Warrior, played by Jack Black) and the Furious Five. They are partners in heroics, but also act like old buddies, daring Po to fit 40 dumplings in his mouth. They are called to action by Obi Wan Kenobi...I mean Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to defeat Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), who has created a weapon that could destroy kung fu and have China bow at his feet. There are also some subplots about Po's friendship with Tigress (Angelina Jolie), and the mysterious connection between Po and Lord Shen. The latter blends with Shen's origins and love of fireworks, until a soothsayer says that he will be defeated by a warrior of black and white, blending with Po's origins and just how he got to be raised by a goose.

The origins of Po are surprisingly dark, and at the end I was nearly close to crying. That being said, some of the stuff in the second half of the movie may be a bit too dark for younger kids, but older kids/teens and adults should enjoy this one. The film is also quite funny, and the children I was in the theatre with seemed to be amused. There were some hilarious moments, but mostly kick-ass moments, and I enjoyed seeing the Furious Five battle against everything they had to battle, whether it was Lord Shen or Po's personal issues. The interaction between Po and his father was very sweet and we do begin to care about these characters that were established in the previous movie. Lord Shen was also an interesting villain and even kind of sympathetic, as we learn of his origins in the first few minutes of the movie.

The animation is absolutely gorgeous, and improves upon the first one by miles. I suppose its silly to say that though, as the visuals and quality of the animation will just increase with time. For the record, I did not see this in 3D, but I had heard good things about it and I saw a couple of spots where it probably would have worked. However, watching it in glorious 2-D gave me full view of the beautiful colours, of the reds of Shen's palace, the yellows of the valley, and the beautiful scenery of the film, which is one of the things that I loved so much about the first one. Needless to say, the animation is wholeheartedly improved upon from the already great first film. The film also presented an A-List vocal cast, most carried over from the first film. All of them perform up to standard, Jack Black continuing his greatest performance since School of Rock as Po. However, there isn't much else to say, so I will wrap this up.

Those who liked Kung Fu Panda will definitely like this one, and those who haven't seen either need to see both as they are two of the best films Dreamworks has done. The film will amuse children with its kung fu action and funny antics. However, adults will like this movie as well, so parents can take their children to this with no fear of being bored. The animation is gorgeous, the cast is funny, the action is exciting, and this is all around a good movie. In short, this and Cars 2 are the two animated movies that I am hotly anticipating this year and I have already seen this, so Cars 2 is up next. All in all, I would definitely recommend this as it is a very impressive installation in Dreamworks' collection.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules
½

I liked this movie, considerably more than I liked the first one. The first film was mildly amusing, but its main problem was an unlikable protagonist. Greg Heffley is not any more likeable than he was in the first one, but this is much more enjoyable for one reason, which I shall mention later in the review. It's kind of a shame this got the reviews it did, because it at least deserves a fresh score. Anyway, this is what I consider one of the sequels that is better than the original and while the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films will not go down in history, they are decent entertainment.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 continues the adventures of Greg Heffley, this time into the seventh grade. The main story arc of the movie is Greg's relationship with his older brother Rodrick. At first, their relationship is quite adversarial, but when their parents leave them in the house for a weekend to work out their differences after a falling out at church, they start to bond. Well, they bond because Rodrick has a party and he and Greg work together to cover it up, even so much as replacing the bathroom door. The shit really hits the fan and the brothers are then forced to spend the weekend at their grandpa's retirement home. There's also some school stuff and crushing on girls stuff, but the party and the cover-up is the main story.

This film has much more of a focused narrative than its predecessor, which kind of went all over the place. I liked this movie's script, and I found it quite funny. In fact, there were some minutes where I was uproariously laughing. I also didn't notice the fact that Greg Heffley is an asshole because the film was much funnier than its predecessor. I can see this movie amusing some adults, and its honestly a shame because this was made for kids. Ever heard the saying that youth is wasted on the young? Well that applies to most quality movies made for kids, like anything from Pixar, as well as this. The unlikable protagonist is also made much more bearable because the film appeals to my inner Rodrick in a way that I enjoy watching him suffer.

What really makes the movie though is Rodrick. I suppose its the combination of the awesomely hilarious well written character and Devon Bostick's performance that made me love this character so much. Another thing could be that I cannot relate to the actual protagonist because he is much younger than I am, so I relate to Rodrick because he's closer to my age. I also found Greg to be slightly more bearable because the film appealed to my inner Rodrick in that I enjoyed watching Greg suffer at the hands of Rodrick, amongst others. Well, the character is interesting and very enjoyable. Devon Bostick played well off Zachary Gordon, who gave a decent performance as Greg. Rachel Harris (Melissa from The Hangover) was okay as Greg's mom, but Steve Zahn was absolutely horrendous as Greg's dad. Needless to say, the film was acceptably acted as the consensus says, with Bostick rising above the others.

All in all, I will let you make up your own mind about Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. However, I will tell you that this is a considerable improvement over its predecessor and those who saw the first and didn't like it needn't fear about this one because it is quite good and now quite underrated. Well, I would give it a recommendation for those who are interested, and say that if you are interested, go ahead. It won't make history, but this is one of the funnier movies I have seen in 2011 and a very pleasant surprise.

Spirited Away
½

I really enjoyed Spirited Away, my first feature film from Hayao Miyazaki. It is a visually decadent, beautifully complex animated feature that my mother tried to get me to watch when I was younger, but I did not. However, I have seen it now and I can see why I would not have appreciated this as a child, because it is an amazing movie for both children and adults, but mostly adults. There isn't any objectionable material, kids just won't appreciate it. The characterization is also wonderful and watching our plucky protagonist grow over the two hours we spend with her is simply a joy to watch. This film makes me want to watch more Miyazaki films and I most certainly will do that

The film is about Chihiro,a young girl who is scared to move into a new house with her parents. Her dad makes a wrong turn and they walk through a tunnel to discover what appears to be an abandoned town. Chihiro and her parents encounter an empty restaurant filled with delicious food. Her parents gorge themselves while Chihiro runs off and encounters a boy that tells her to run and that she should not be there. A bunch of strange figures start to appear and Chihiro discovers that her parents have been turned into pigs. After that, she is swept into a world that is filled with spirits and is forced to work in the laundry under a mean lady named Lynn and the film's villain takes her name and changes it to Sen. Her friend Haku (the boy) soon becomes in danger and Chihiro must return an artifact to the film's villain in order to get her parents back and to save Haku.

That was honestly a really poor synopsis for a wonderfully complex film, and I didn't delve nearly as deep as the movie went. I don't think I understood all of it, but I certainly enjoyed all of it. The film is very entertaining, but not at all pandering. The characters are interesting, and our protagonist Chihiro/Sen is quite interesting, albeit incredibly annoying at the beginning (the one thing preventing me from giving this film a perfect score). Her relationship with Haku is also incredibly sweet and whilst she is far too young for the relationship to be romantic, it's just kind of like a childhood crush. The film is also very well written and was dubbed very well from its talented American cast.

The film also features some truly beautiful artwork and is visually rich on a level that I haven't seen before in any movie. Every single frame of animation is beautiful, but I haven't anything more to say, so I'm going to wrap this up. I know this is shorter than most of my reviews, but I am literally at a loss for words for this film. It is beautifully animated, richly complex, wonderfully written, and all around a great animated feature. Spirited Away is definitely an animation classic and I would not just recommend it, I would say that everyone put this on their must-see list, even if they aren't into animation. Young children probably won't appreciate this, but older kids and adults will definitely like this.

The Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs is an absolutely fantastic film, certainly one of the best of the thriller, horror, and crime genres. For its time, it was quite scary, and for now, I don't really find it scary so much as creepy. After all, the movie is about some sick bastards and an FBI agent trying to catch one with the help of another. This movie also cleaned up at the Oscars that year, and rightfully so because this film is amazing. This film has everything worthy of a perfect score. It has stellar acting, a terrific story, suspense, and some really genuinely scary moments.

Silence of the Lambs is about Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster), an FBI trainee who is called upon to question a cannibalistic serial killer/brilliant psychiatrist named Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) and get his help with a case of a killer who skins his victims. The film shows Starling's journey as both an FBI agent and a person, as she lets Lector get into her head and she tells him things about her past. A young girl named Catherine Martin, daughter of a senator, is kidnapped by the killer, now named Buffalo Bill, and it's up to Clarice and the FBI to track Bill down and save the girl, with Lector's help.

The film also delves a bit into Clarice's past, and the explanation of the title for both the novel and the movie. However, I don't want to give too much away though, so I'll leave it at that. What I found interesting is that the prison where Lector was being kept had kept him like a trophy, like a rare species of insect to be examined. The character of Hannibal himself is quite interesting and the image of him in the straitjacket and the mask has become iconic and that image, like the role, suits him perfectly. The Academy-Award winning script for this film is fantastic and worthy of its Oscar, Lector getting all the best lines. Needless to say, this film had a great script, and I'm sure the novel was great as well.

What the film really has going for it though is its three spectacular lead performances from Jodie Foster, Ted Levine, and of course....Anthony Hopkins. I was never really a big fan of Foster before seeing this film, and I'm still not, but I cannot deny that she gave a fantastic performance as Clarice Starling and I also can't deny that she had a surprising amount of chemistry with Anthony Hopkins. Ted Levine was terrific as Buffalo Bill, and he was incredibly terrifying. Much more terrifying, but not quite as good, as Hannibal, who was played beautifully (almost like a James Bond villain) by Anthony Hopkins. Both Foster and Hopkins deserved their Oscars, and Ted Levine did not get one because his character was too much of a sick bastard and I agree with that despite his fantastic performance.

The film is also genuinely suspenseful and even scary at times. That is mostly due to the film's subject matter, and due to the chilling performances of Levine and Hopkins as the movie's psychos. Some may not like this, and I understand that this movie was considered quite scary at the time. However, I will admit that I am a desensitized youth and I had no problems watching this movie, although I was seriously creeped out. Silence of the Lambs is a wonderful film, and it earns my strongest recommendation as one of the best films of all time. I have not yet seen Red Dragon or any other films involving this character, but I would eventually like to. So in short, see it.

X-Men: First Class
½

Wow. That's all I can say, wow. I could not have expected anything better, this was exactly all I wanted and more. X-Men First Class is not only the best X-Men film, it is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight came out in 2008. I love the entire X-Men series and this is no exception, being the best one in my opinion. It has a strong script, strong performances, strong visuals, and emotional resonance. It also has no real continuity issues with the rest of the series. The only way that I can see an X-Men fan being disappointed with the movie would be if they were expecting to see the original mutants from the previous films.

The film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, who directed Kick-Ass, another movie involving superheroes. However, I cannot decide which of these is better because they are two entirely different animals. X-Men First Class also separates itself from its predecessors in its era, taking place in the 1960's during the Cold War. The film is obviously about the X-Men, but it takes place at the beginning of Professor X and Magneto's friendship, back when they were young men by the names of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. Circumstance finds Xavier and his "sister" Raven (Mystique) in contact with the CIA, particularly Moira McTaggert and they start a program to track down mutants and essentially stop the Cold War.

The film starts in Poland, at a concentration camp, in a scene that's pretty much shot-for-shot from the first movie. If you haven't seen the first movie, it is Magneto as a little boy in the camp when he gets separated from his mother. His rage allows him to move the gate, letting him see his gift for the first time. This incident grabs the attention of the film's villain, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a slimy bastard who's pretty much every Bond villain rolled into one. Shaw tries to get Erik to move a Nazi coin and when he can't, Shaw shoots his (Erik) mother. Erik promptly goes berserk and is out for Shaw's blood, as well as other Nazis.

The main plot element is the Cold War and Erik's vengeance, and the film is more character driven then it is story driven. We see into the origins of Charles, how he was a mutant of privilege, and how the school in the current film is his childhood home, where he met Raven after she tried to disguise herself as his mother to get something to eat. We see the friendship between Charles and Erik, Charles and Raven, and all the young mutants. I think not having most of the mutants from the previous films was a good idea because those characters have been developed enough and it was exciting to see new ones. I also loved how they went into a little more detail with Mystique and how she got to be with Magneto.

The only character that I had any real problems with was Beast. Don't get me wrong, he was a well-developed character and Nicholas Hoult gave a great performance, but I disagreed with his morals. I mean, why mess up the rest of your gorgeous self finding a cure to make your feet look normal, and why insult Mystique about not wanting to hide. Plus, if you ask me, Jennifer Lawrence is hot in both forms (coming from a straight female). He was still a well-developed character, and quite badass when he turned into the furball we all know and love. I was rather indifferent towards Shaw's gang, except Azazel. Azazel was badass. Kevin Bacon was wonderful as Sebastian Shaw, one of the best movie villains I have seen, and the best X-Men villain (Magneto doesn't count).

The film features some fantastic performances, but the performances that really carry the film are James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles and Erik respectively. We get some inside jokes about Professor X's lack of hair in the later films, but in this film we get to see Xavier with a full head of hair and the use of his legs, and we see that he was quite the ladies man and enjoyed tossing back the occasional whiskey funnel from time to time. We also found out how Xavier lost his legs and without giving it away, it was a very emotionally intense scene when Xavier is telling Moira that he can't feel his legs. Michael Fassbender is fantastic as Magneto, and the rest of the young mutants like Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Lucas Till as Havok, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast were fantastic as well. Kevin Bacon made for a great villain and the rest of the performances were well-rounded as well.

The effects were strong as well, and the film was on a whole very emotionally resonant, as were the other X-Men films that had Bryan Singer work on them. I think that Matthew Vaughn is the ideal director for this franchise, but Bryan Singer started it off, so he should still be involved. All in all, X-Men First Class is a phenomenal film, and the best X-Men film to date. I can only hope that Matthew Vaughn will make another sequel to further showcase his talent as a superhero director. For die-hard fans of the series, this is an absolute must-see in theatres, but for casual fans or people who don't know much about the series, I would recommend it as well because it's like a James Bond film, but with mutants.

The Queen
The Queen(2006)

With the release and triumph of The King's Speech, it seems a good many people have forgotten about this film, which I see as a companion piece of sorts, as it is about George VI's daughter, our current queen, and she does end up making a speech at the end. The King's Speech is better, but this one is wonderful as well, thanks in no small part to the brilliant leading and supporting performances and moving script. Of course, the film does deal with a very touchy issue that was very real at the time, and I think it handles the issue beautifully, not picking sides and examining it from both the point of view of the royal family and the people.

The Queen is about Elizabeth II, and the big issues she went through with the reaction of the people over her general calmness about Princess Diana's death. The film also deals with the dueling ideals of Elizabeth, who was brought up traditionally and taught to keep her feelings to herself, and the new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who's modern ideals oftentimes clashed with those of the royal family's. It is shown that Tony Blair has great respect for the queen, but great respect for the people and he wanted the royal family to show that they do care about the grief of the people. Elizabeth's top priority, of course, was the well-being of her grandchildren that just lost their mother, but the people wanted her to make statements, publicly grieve, and some even wanted to abolish the monarchy altogether.

The film is quite moving, but the only problem I can really see with it was that it was slightly romanticized. I do understand that the people loved Diana and didn't really love the royal family, what with all the big zoom-ins of posterboards saying that "You were too good for them". The whole thing with Charles' relationship with Diana was quite romanticized as well, but it was incredibly romanticized in real life. Also, anyone who has an extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the royal family knows that relations with Diana and the royals were extremely strained, and Diana had quite a strenuous relationship in the press.

I think they filmed the dramatization of the crash really well, and they actually used footage of Diana in the movie, again very well. The cinematography and art direction are not quite as grand as The King's Speech, but they are decent for what they were supposed to do. However, those (along with the romanticism) are only minor bumps. I suppose now would be a good place to talk about the movie's real strong suits. Namely, the fantastic leading performances from Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen as Elizabeth and Tony Blair. Mirren won the Oscar for her performance, and she wholeheartedly deserved it, embodying the quiet dignity of a royal perfectly. I was quite surprised though that Michael Sheen did not get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of one of Britain's most beloved Prime Ministers.

The rest of the supporting performances are really good as well, singling out Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother (AKA Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech) and Alex Jennings as HRH Charles. Helen McCrory was okay as Mrs. Blair, but I didn't really like her character because she seemed a bit of a bitch, and she was very hostile towards the queen. I also liked that the movie did not pick sides, saying that the queen was wrong and Blair was right, or Blair was wrong and the queen was right. The film was very witty as well, especially for those who love dry British humour, like myself. I would recommend The Queen to anyone, but it is a must-see for those who are fascinated with the Royal family. So in short, this has become somewhat underrated and more people should definitely see this because it is fantastic.

Jesus Christ Superstar

some stuff that one might consider spoilers if they don't know the biblical story

Those of you who received my message know that my misson is to look at this from an entirely objective point of view, and that is exactly what I have tried to do in this review, but I feel I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't talk about the controversy surrounding this film. Jesus Christ Superstar was an incredibly popular movie upon its release in 1973, but also a very controversial film, striking a sour note with some church groups that called the film blasphemous. Is it? Well, that's up to you to decide, but I think not. However, I can see several reasons why one may think so, namely being that Jesus isn't the star of the show, Jesus is portrayed as being a bit of a primadonna, and the film sympathizes with biblical "villains" like Judas and Pilate.

Jesus Christ Superstar is obviously about the last few days in the life of the big JC, but there is a bit more to it than that. The film begins with a bunch of actors getting off a bus and changing into their costumes for the movie. That part confused the hell out of me, but moving on. It then commences with a brilliant and chilling musical number from Judas, explaining that he thinks blind worship of Jesus has gone too far, and that anybody with a ton of followers that call him "king" will surely be under the watchful eyes of the Roman priests and he doesn't want him and his people to be executed.

Afterwards, we cut to Jesus' tent where his followers want to know many things that he cannot tell them, and a party is ensuing until Judas, ever the buzzkill, breaks up by saying that Jesus shouldn't be hanging around with Mary Magdalene. In his half of the song, he explains that while he has nothing against her or those of her profession, it looks bad for Jesus to be pawed at by a known prostitute whilst he is preaching an opposite message, and Judas doesn't want to give any excuse for the Romans to arrest all of them. Jesus has a bit of a temper tantrum, tells Judas to back off, and says that none of his followers really understand but Mary Magdalene.

Meanwhile, the priests are planning to do away with Jesus for the exact same reason that Judas predicted. They think he is dangerous because he has legions of followers that could possibly be used to overthrow the Roman empire and get Israel back. That reminds me, the country of Israel didn't come to fruition until the ending of the second World War, so how could it exist in biblical times? If anyone has an answer for me please leave it in the comments. With Judas believing that Jesus has lost the ability to control his followers, he turns to the priests, who offer him money to give them a location where they can capture Jesus.

Following the last supper, this capturing does happen, and Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate. Earlier in the movie, we hear a song where Pilate says he has a dream where a man comes to trial before him and refuses to say anything to defend himself, and he sees the "wild and angry men" (the priests) who seem to hate him, and the "thousands of millions" (the followers) who are crying for him, and they make him the scapegoat for what happened to the man. In his first encounter with Jesus, he has no idea that this may be the man from his dream and he says that since Jesus is from Galilee, that he is not Pilate's problem and must go see Herod.

After getting shooed out by Herod, he comes back to Pilate. Pilate, being a man of the law above all else, tries to convince the court that Jesus has done nothing wrong and that he is harmless, but misguided, and he gives Jesus more than enough chances to save himself. However, resigned by constant pestering and the fact that he will get fired and deported if he doesn't crucify Jesus, he...well...flogs and then crucifies Jesus. In his words, "don't let me stop your grand self-destruction. Die if you want to, you misguided martyr. I wash my hands of your demolition. Die, if you want to, you innocent puppet". The final sentencing of Pilate is one of the most moving and powerful scenes I have seen in any musical, and one of the finest musical numbers I've ever heard.

Well, about Peter denying Jesus, that happens too. Judas also is overcome with a huge sense of remorse and hangs himself after throwing the money at the priests. The movie ends with the actors driving away on said bus, minus one notable person. It seems they actually crucified the actor who was playing Jesus. I hear there are some sorts of metaphorical elements to the films, but I can't really get that, so again, feel free to explain in the comments. The classic biblical story is told very well, but with no dialogue, every word is sung.

The songs are great, as are the songs in any Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. The best song in my opinion is a tie between "Heaven on their Minds", Judas' big musical number at the beginning, and "Trial Before Pilate" the most powerful scene in the film. The songs have the effect they do mostly due to the great performances. Speaking of the great performances, the movie is as memorable as it is thanks, in no small part, to the awesome powers of Carl Anderson as Judas and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. The aforementioned two are easily the best actors in the movie and they blend their vocal talents and acting talents to make great memorable versions of their characters.

The rest of the performances are good, like Ted Neeley as Jesus, Paul Thomas (who's career went absolutely nowhere after JCS, so he turned to porn) as Peter, and the most underrated of them all, Barry Dennen as Pilate. The one performance I really didn't like was Josh Mostel as King Herod, just because he was so damn creepy. The cinematography was good, but that is pretty much all I have to say so I will wrap this up. I will let you know now that this review is not meant to trample on the beliefs of anyone, but I did try to look at the film objectively and I think I succeeded. Anyway, I would say that if you want to, watch Jesus Christ Superstar. If you think it's sacreligious, then that's your prerogative, and don't see it. So all in all, watch it at your own discretion.

Death at a Funeral
½

Death at a Funeral is a 2007 British comedy directed by Frank Oz, and it was a very enjoyable farce with a few minor bumps along the road. I have seen the American remake of this and I did enjoy it. I suppose it has become cliche to say this now, but this one is definitely better than the remake. This one may also be a tad bit too dry for some, but for those that love dry british humour will find themselves amused by this movie. I have to admit, seeing the remake first kind of ruined it for me, because the remake is incredibly faithful and I had seen it all before. However, this doesn't stop my enjoying the film.

Death at a Funeral takes place in London, where Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) is gathering the family together for the funeral of the family patriarch. The family has quite a few skeletons in their respective closets and they all come to a head at the funeral. There are strained brotherly relations between Daniel and his brother Robert, strained father/future son-in-law relations between Daniel's uncle and his (Daniel's) cousin Martha's fiance, and Martha gives Simon (her fiance) one of her brother's valium pills that was actually in fact acid. However, the shit really hits the fan when Daniel meets Peter (Peter Dinklage) and finds out that Peter and his dad were lovers. Peter is also threatening to show some rather nasty photos if he doesn't get cash.

The film does have many plot points, but it has no major problems in juggling all of them. Of course it hits some minor snags, like one particular scene going on a bit too long and the scene with Uncle Alfie and the shit (one scene I enjoyed more in the remake). I don't mean that it is a bad scene, I just mean that it seems kind of out of place with the nature of the rest of the film, which is silly and darkly comedic, but not gross (outside Daniel and Robert's reactions to the photos that Peter shows them). The other scenes fit well together and the film is very fast-paced.

Where the movie really shines though is its script and its performances. The script for this film is absolutely hilarious and it will have you laughing consistently throughout. However, despite all the laughs and silliness, the end of the funeral is genuinely sweet when Daniel gives the eulogy and everyone stops their bickering to pay attention. The film is especially hilarious due to the effect of the acid on Simon, the funniest character in the film by far. The film is also very well-acted with a strong performance by Matthew McFadyen in the lead (who bears a strong resemblance to John Cusack in my opinion) and everyone falling behind him nicely. Two other standout performances would have to be Peter Dinklage (who had me cracking up all the way through) as Peter and Alan Tudyk as Simon, the two funniest characters. So all in all, strong writing and strong performances all around.

In short, I would definitely recommend Death at a Funeral (as well as the remake, but that is irrelevant). It has everything that will make a great British farce, and the only way I can't imagine someone at least giggling in this film is if they aren't a fan of the British or their humour style. If you are bored or just want a rental for a lazy day, I would encourage you to watch this as you will enjoy this (at least a little bit).

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
½

Never before have I seen a movie that is a classic in every possible meaning of the word as it pertains to film. The first time I really payed attention to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I knew that I had seen that movie. I am not very well versed in the works of John Hughes, having only seen this and The Breakfast Club. However, I like this one better than TBC and rightfully so because it is amazing. Every single moment of this movie is classic, but yet I can't seem to give it a perfect score.

Ferris Bueller is a charming high schooler who has skipped out on school eight times without his parents being any the wiser. He decides to go for nine and he brings his best friend Cameron and his girlfriend Sloane along for the ride. That's pretty much the premise, but there are a few little subplots, like Principal Rooney tracking Ferris down and getting attacked by Jean, Ferris' sister, who had left school. The movie is honestly much more character driven than story driven and it wrings a seemingly impossible amount of depth from its simple premise.

The character of Ferris is well-developed, and it is made clear that what he lacks in book-smarts he has in cleverness and charm. Rooney also hates him because Ferris has outsmarted him on a number of occasions and made him look like a total ass, and a man as proud as Rooney cannot take that lying down. Cameron also has parent issues. As Ferris says in the movie, "Cameron's house is kind of like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you aren't allowed to touch anything". He also has a specific issue with his dad and the fact that his dad loves the infamous ferrari more than he loves his son. Sloane isn't as well-developed as Ferris and Cameron, but she is still an interesting character and her relationship with Ferris is still believable and interesting.

The characters are extremely well-written, like in all of John Hughes' movies, and they are bolstered by terrific performances. Anybody who knows me knows that I am hardly the #1 fan of Matthew Broderick, but his sort of acting works in this movie and he gives the performance of his life. I also had a huge thing for Cameron when I first started watching this movie. Alan Ruck's spectacular performance added to that, and those of you who look in my about section will know that I recently added Cameron to the movie characters I best identify with. Alan Ruck and Matthew Broderick also make for a great pair, and joining them is the splendid Mia Sara as Sloane. Jeffrey Jones made a great villain, playing Rooney as a foil for Ferris, and Jennifer Grey was good as Jeanne.

The film is also hilarious, every moment of the movie being classic, from Ferris in the trenchcoat picking up Sloane to Cameron having a mental breakdown to Ferris dancing on top of a carnival float. My personal favourite moment in the movie is when Cameron makes a phony phone call to Rooney, masquerading as Sloane's father. I have actually kind of fine-tuned my own version of the voice, accounting for the fact that I am female and Alan Ruck is not. Needless to say, even if you aren't a big fan of this sort of movie, there is at least one thing you will laugh at in Ferris Bueller,

The film isn't one of those movies that throws absolutely everything at you desperately hoping that you will laugh. It's a fairly quiet, confident film that knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything more or anything less. It's also the film's lack of ambition that makes it such a classic and makes it so good, because like I said previously, it is confident in itself and it knows what it is. However, I don't want to risk belabouring this point, so I'm going to wrap this up. If you haven't seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I strongly encourage you to do so now, as it is one that everyone and anyone must see. This is a wonderful film and everything about it is oddly perfect. So see it, you won't be disappointed.

Repo! The Genetic Opera
½

First of all, I would like to say that this is my 300th review. I originally intended to review 300 for my 300th (haha get it), but I had no idea whether I would like 300, so I wanted to review something I knew I would like. Well, anyway, I reviewed Repo, and I enjoyed myself watching it. It may not be suited for everyone, due to the often disgusting gore. However, for those who can get past that, Repo! is an incredibly fun movie with great musical numbers and surprisingly good vocal performances.

Repo! takes place in a world where a pandemic of organ failures threatened to wipe out humanity. Out of the tragedy emerged a hero in the form of Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), founder of GeneCo, a company that can provide organs with financing plans to everyone who needs it. GeneCo also develops a powerful and expensive painkiller called zydrate with the rising popularity of cosmetic surgery. This market of zydrate lead to a sub-market, with graverobbers (this particular one played by Terrence Zundich) selling zydrate siphoned out of the dead on the black market.

However, for those who can't pay their debts, GeneCo has repo men who will track them down and recover company property. The head of these repo men is Nathan (Anthony Head), who became head repo man as part of a blackmail by Largo so that Largo wouldn't tell Nathan's daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega) that Nathan murdered her mother. The truth is that Nathan did not murder his wife. The cure he had developed for his wife's blood disease was poisoned by Largo because Marni (his wife) married Nathan instead of him.

Nathan blamed himself for Marni's death and has lived out the following seventeen years switching from the loving father to the murdering psychopath. He also keeps Shilo locked up in her room because she has inherited her late mother's blood disease. Shilo sneaks out one night under invitation by Mr. Largo to the titular genetic opera. There, she meets her late mother's best friend and her godmother, a singer named Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman, of Phantom of the Opera fame) and Rotti Largo's kids. His kids are the psychotic Luigi (Bill Moseley?), Pavi, who wears a girl's face to cover up his burns (Nivek Ogre), and Paris Hilton...I mean, Amber Sweet (played by Paris Hilton).

The individual lies that Shilo and Nathan tell eachother slowly soon to pile up and the shit really hits the fan at the opera. The opera also happens to be Mag's last show, and her leaving GeneCo means that the repo man can come and reposess her cyber eyes that allow her to see. There's also another plot thread about Rotti giving GeneCo to Shilo because his kids are...well...terrible, and not fit to run his company in his eyes. At the end of the film, Rotti's true villainous nature (which was only hinted at) is revealed and everything comes to a head. Before I move on, there's also one more plot point, the fact that Amber is addicted to surgery and illegal zydrate.

My god, I've never needed four paragraphs to describe the plot of a movie before. There are many plot threads in the movie, and it is a good premise altogether. Some of the plot threads work, some don't, but the move on a whole is quite good. I know that some people don't care for this one, and if you didn't, more power to you, I won't knock you for not liking it. However, I found this very entertaining. The film was written by Terrence Zundich and Darren Bousman and the characterization is splendid, my favourite characters being Luigi Largo and the Graverobber. The split personalities of Nathan were very well-done and the rest of the characters were incredibly well-written. This was the pet project of these men and I most definitely pride them on their work.

The musical numbers are mostly terrific, but some are not so good, my least favourite being "Seventeen", sung by Shilo having a temper tantrum. But, I honestly cannot pick a favourite song because I enjoyed pretty much all of them. The singing is also pretty good, displaying surprising range from the male cast, especially Anthony Head and Paul Sorvino. Paris Hilton won a razzie for her performance as Amber Sweet, but I actually didn't mind her performance, although she is no actress. She's no actress because Amber Sweet is essentially Paris Hilton. Namely, a spoiled, overprivileged heiress with a penchant for cosmetic surgery and drugs.

It may not be perfect, and its definitely not for everyone, but Repo! The Genetic Opera is an entertaining film. Just in case Ryan M. reads this review, I will have you know that I am more than 50% sane and I did enjoy this movie. This is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, and I didn't even mind the strong gore that much. That being said, if you are squeamish, you will not like this movie and I encourage you to turn away at this moment. For those of you who like gore, you may like this movie, so I might recommend it. All in all, see it at your own discretion and you will watch an interesting cult classic.

Plus, only once in my lifetime I can say that I saw Paris Hilton's face fall off

Romeo and Juliet

We have been studying Romeo and Juliet in my English class, so I have visited several film adaptations of Shakespeare's classic story. This has concluded the package of films and this appears to be the only famous adaptation that had nothing changed. It kept the Veronese setting and language and this remains the iconic straight-up adaptation. I do agree that West Side Story is the better adaptation, but this is definitely the best adaptation where nothing has changed. It does have its silly moments, but it was made in the sixties, so that can be expected, so those are only milder issues.

I would be surprised if you don't know the story of Romeo and Juliet, but I suppose I will explain anyway. Romeo and Juliet is the story of the Capulets and the Montagues, rivalling families in Verona. The titular characters are two teenagers from the opposite families that fall in love and are needlessly sacrificed to their families' feud, choosing to die together rather than live apart. Those of you who are diehard or even fair-weather fans of the story will be pleased to know that, while having some minor differences in details, the film remains very faithful to the beauty of the original story.

In the 1996 Romeo and Juliet, the dialogue was either shouted unintelligibly by actors who can't handle the dialogue or whispered unintelligibly by actors who can't handle the dialogue. In this adaptation, the dialogue is handled beautifully by the actors and is spoken at a proper volume. The dialogue itself is beautiful, but it's Shakespeare, so that is pretty much spoken for. I suppose we can move on to the performances, but all in all, the dialogue was wonderful and aptly handled by the actors.

While we were watching the movie in English class, before I knew who it was, I was just thinking that Juliet looks ten and Romeo looks like Zac Efron. Well, Olivia Hussey was only fifteen when she did the role and Leonard Whiting was only seventeen, so it can be explained. However, despite their age, they are both tremendously talented leads and had great chemistry as a pair of young lovers. Neither of them really did anything outside this film, and it was a shame, as they are two tremendously talented people. There were other great people in the cast, like Pat Heywood as Juliet's Nurse and Michael York as Tybalt. The film also had lots of pretty boys in tights, and I didn't mind that.

There were strong performances all around, and they were accompanied by brilliant dialogue. However, there is one more element to the greatness of the film. The film has some very striking visuals, and great art direction and costume design. However, there isn't really much to say about that, so I'm going to move onto where the film hits some snags. The film is kind of silly, on a whole, but the silliness kind of adds to the greatness of the movie. Why all men in Verona dressed like court jesters I don't know, but I really don't care. There is a lot of other silly things as well, but that just adds to the experience.

Romeo and Juliet is definitely not a perfect movie, but it is probably the best straight-up adaptation of the movie, and I'm glad that nothing has been changed. Strong performances, great visuals, naturally fantastic dialogue, and even the silliness makes for a simply great watching experience. If you are a fan of the story I would definitely recommend it, but if you aren't, I would encourage you to avoid it. If you are a newcomer to Shakespeare or if you have nothing better to do, this makes for a good rental. All in all, check it out at your own discretion.

King Kong
King Kong(2005)

Some may find a perfect score for a remake a bit much, but I can seriously find no problems with this movie. As of now, I haven't seen the original King Kong and seeing it might change my opinion of this one, but for now, this is an incredibly beloved movie to me and one of my favourites of all time. King Kong is probably one of the best remakes ever made, with its splendid scenery and fantastic performances It is also directed by Peter Jackson, the director of Lord of the Rings, so naturally the film is lush and visually spectacular while also being emotionally resonant.

For those of you who don't know the story of King Kong, it takes place in the 1930's, and it is about Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), a poor woman who is asked by Carl Denham (Jack Black), a film director, to join his next picture, which involves a long journey by boat to the mysterious Skull Island. She falls in love with Jack Driscoll, the screenwriter (Adrien Brody) and they finally make it to Skull Island about 50 minutes into the movie. After encountering some hostile natives, they go back on the boat, but Ann is kidnapped and sacrificed to Kong.

It is revealed by all the skulls that King Kong has killed many sacrifices in the past, but Ann survives because she uses her vaudeville skills to impress Kong. During all that, Jack leads an expedition to rescue Ann and they capture Kong and take him back to New York. It's here where we see the true nature of Carl Denham, which is a greedy bastard rather than a blithering idiot sociopath. Kong gets angry, takes Darrow to the top of the Empire State Building, he gets shot down, and the ending iconic line from Denham is still there.

From what I know about the original, the basic plot elements are still there, and some are even elaborated. There are a lot more characters, and the crew is very interesting. The script is fairly well-written, and the characterization was amazing. I loved all the characters in this movie, from Ann Darrow to Jack Driscoll to every single member of the crew. I'd have to say my favourite character was Jack, but the other two were the badass ship captain and Jamie Bell's kleptomaniac shipmate Jimmy. The brilliant characterization is better than the script itself, and it is accompanied by some spectacular performances.

Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, and Jack Black play the main characters of this film (well, the main human characters, there is a giant CGI monkey) and they deliver fine performances. Jack Black tries his hardest to separate from his comedy schtick, but he doesn't always succeed, despite his performance being decent. Naomi and Adrien have reasonable chemistry as a couple, and they turn in fine performances as well, Adrien being the best of the bunch. Those of you who have read my Celebrity Crushes list know that he is one of them, but this isn't just a good movie because of him. The supporting cast was fantastic as well, so fine performances all around.

This is also a Peter Jackson film, so you can expect the film to be richly immersive and laden with quality special effects. That it is, and the film won a well-deserved Academy Award for the special effects. They used motion capture for Kong himself, the model being Andy Serkis. I suppose I could say that Andy and Naomi had good chemistry as well, and he gave a good, emotionally resonant performance as Kong. The art direction at the beginning and the end was fantastic, and could have even been nominated because the sets looked very realistic of the Depression at the time.

Skull Island itself is also beautiful, everything from the scenery to the creatures. There are action scenes, like when the dinos get the shit kicked out of them by Kong, and there are a lot of cool creatures, like a worm that eats a certain crew member and bugs that crawl all over Adrien and that have to be shot off by Jamie Bell. That was an incredibly cool scene and these were incredibly cool special effects. However, despite the awesome effects, the film is also very emotionally resonant, doing the herculean task of making us feel something for a CGI ape.

All in all, King Kong could be considered a modern classic to some, me being one of them. If anyone were to make an event film for our time, it would be the director of Lord of the Rings, all three LOTRs being event films unto themselves. This film is one of my favourite films of all time and comes with one of my strongest recommendations ever. Anyway, I would not consider it essential viewing, but for those who are curious, I would encourage you to check it out. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Cape Fear
Cape Fear(1991)

I absolutely adored this movie. So much that after deep consideration, I have crowned it my new favourite movie of all time. This is also my first Martin Scorsese film and the first collaboration with DeNiro I have seen, and may I say, this was a damn good introduction. Cape Fear is an intelligent, tense thriller and remains one of the best (and most underrated) movies of all time in my opinion. It has everything that could make a movie good. Great acting, edge-of-your-seat moments, a great story, and one of the greatest endings I have ever seen in any movie.

Cape Fear begins with a man doing pushups with a close-up of his many tattoos. This man, who is named Max Cady,(Robert DeNiro) is paroled from prison and he goes on the hunt, tracking down his defender (Nick Nolte) who deliberately kept a document from him that may have eased his sentence or gotten him acquitted. It was pretty easy, seeing as Cady was illiterate. Well, now Cady can read, and he wants revenge. His lawyer, Sam Bowden, lives a relatively happy life with his wife (Jessica Lange) and his daughter (Juliette Lewis), and once Max Cady turns up, his life turns upside down.

Even though Max Cady isn't very educated, it becomes clear that he is very smart, harassing Sam and his family strictly within the confines of the law. In the beginning, it doesn't appear that he wants to physically harm Sam, he only wants to drive him insane. As the movie progresses, the physical degree of the harassment escalates, all culminating in the final confrontation on the houseboat. There is also frequent mention of rape, and the beginning of that certain act shown. The movie, while not being outright scary, is extremely intense and menacing, and the movie is better for it.

The story itself is very good and it has loads of extremely tense moments, especially within the last 20-30 minutes and everything on the houseboat. The film is decently written, none of the dialogue really stands out, but it helps the story along, like it's supposed to. I absolutely loved how Scorsese made the film "artsy" with his clever use of camerawork and colour, and the general style of the film was terrific. The score was also fantastic and perfectly memorable. Needless to say, this was one of the most tense movies I have ever seen, and with one of the best endings. It's also very intelligent and stylish and that makes it all the more worthwhile to watch.

The film is bolstered by brilliant performances and its just too bad that a little movie called Silence of the Lambs came out in '91, because if it didn't, De Niro would have won Best Actor instead of Anthony Hopkins. Don't get me wrong, Hopkins deserved his Oscar I'm sure (I haven't seen Silence of the Lambs), but if it had come out in a different year, De Niro would have won. If my previous sentence hasn't explained this, Robert De Niro steals absolutely every scene he is in as Max Cady and proves that he is one of the most talented versatile actors in the business. Every scene he was in he gave me the creeps and if this movie has taught me one thing, it taught me not to trust Italian men with southern accents.

The rest of the cast were fantastic, Juliet Lewis getting an Oscar nomination for playing Danielle, Nick Nolte's daughter, and her performance was definitely worthy of a nomination. Jessica Lange was terrific as Nolte's wife, and everybody else in the cast was splendid as well, although I sadly cannot remember their names. I don't really have much else to say about the film, so I'm going to wrap this up. Watching this movie was a great joy, and I was involved the entire time. This has been officially crowned my favourite movie of all time and rightfully so, as this is a tremendously wonderful movie. One of the best and most underrated movies of all time, I would recommend Cape Fear to everyone and anyone.

50 First Dates
½

Before I begin this review I want to make something quite clear. I am not an Adam Sandler fan. Quite frankly, I've never seen his appeal as a comedian because, to be honest, he's not really all that funny, he's just vulgar. This particular film combines gross-out humour and schlocky sentimentality with mixed results, like pretty much all of Happy Madison's productions. However, the reason I gave this a 50% isn't a clever rating to go with the title, it is because I was having an inner battle while watching the movie. By that I mean part of me wanted to get swept up in the laughter and part of me wanted to hate it like my general reaction towards Sandler's other projects.

50 First Dates has Adam Sandler playing Henry Roth, Sandler's usual commitment-phobe character, who works as a veterinarian at an aquarium in Hawaii. He chances upon a woman named Lucy (Drew Barrymore) in a diner and they hit it off right away. However, when Henry meets Lucy again, she doesn't seem to remember meeting him and mistakes him (and his behaviour) for some pervert. Henry is confronted by the proprietor of the diner, who says that a year and a half ago, Lucy and her father (Blake Clark) were in a car accident where the part of her brain that controls her short-term memory is badly damaged, and she keeps living the same day over and over. Her father and brother have had to suffer through it and now Henry joins that. However, Lucy soon finds out of her injury and works with Henry, her dad, and her brother to cope with it.

There's also the maguffin storyline of Henry traveling to the arctic to study walruses and that plotline is resolved pretty quickly. It pretty much serves as a temporary breakup for Henry and Lucy, but like I said, it's resolved quickly. The story is okay, and with Lucy's illness, I saw parallels to The Truman Show (except the fact that The Truman Show is a superior film). Her father and her brother tried to shield the pain of repeatedly learning about the accident by living out the same day for a year. However, their guise will not last forever, and the plot of the film is that it doesn't. Well, the plot also involved Henry's attempts at wooing Lucy, but they combine often.

The film has a lot of gross-out humour, and I watched it in french, so all the dirty jokes were in subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The people in my class were laughing, and I did find myself laughing from time to time. However, this movie doesn't (at least for me) extend past mildly amusing. Gross-out humour and schlocky sentimentality don't mix well at the best of times, and this movie is no exception, having an extremely uneven mix and having Adam Sandler try to be funny at entirely inappropriate times. Some of the gross-out gags were also a bit too much, like one of Henry's assistants (a particularly homely German one) getting barfed on by a walrus. So all in all, an entirely mixed bag of sentimentality and gross typical Sandler-esque humour.

The performances are all okay, except two. Namely, Adam Sandler as Henry Roth and Rob Schneider as his friend. I dislike both of the actors, and neither of them have performed exceptionally well in any of the movies I have seen them in. What makes this movie tolerable in terms of Sandler is the performances of everyone else and how he fits in the big picture. Drew Barrymore gives a decent performance as the forgetful girl, and Blake Clark and Sean Astin.....wha, wha, wha?????? Sean Astin, he's in this movie? The very year before this he did a role where he could have easily gotten an Oscar nomination for and now he does this? My extreme shock aside, Astin plays a typical Jersey Shore-type lisping juicehead, and his performance is decent but mildly annoying, although I think that has to do with his character being the most annoying character in the movie. Needless to say, there is decent to....eh performances all around, the best being from Barrymore and Clark.

All in all, if you are an Adam Sandler fan, you will probably enjoy 50 First Dates, so more power to you. If you aren't, especially if you loathe the man, avoid it like the plague. If you have a neutral opinion towards his films, watch it at your own discretion or if you absolutely have nothing better to do. Like the critics consensus says, the sweetness and chemistry of 50 First Dates is drowned out by gross-out humour and the film overall is a mixed bag. The performances were okay and the film was mildly amusing, but it has the typical Sandler unpleasantness and disgusting humour.

The King's Speech

People are fickle about movies based on true stories. If a movie sticks well to the true events, it gets ragged on for being predictable. If it strays too far, it gets ragged on for NOT sticking to the story. But we seem to love them, especially ones about royalty, and The King's Speech is one of the finest royal movies ever made, and it rightfully won Best Picture and Best Actor this year. I liked The Social Network, but I'm really glad that this won and it could possibly be a new classic. It could also have been terribly cliched and boring, but it wasn't, and I shall explain why.

I know many things about royalty, as it is a common point of discussion between me and my best friend. I decided to watch this in belated celebration of the Royal Wedding. The King's Speech is about King George VI, AKA Bertie (for those of you who don't know, the current Queen's dad, or Prince William's great-grandfather), played by Colin Firth, who suffered from a stammer and was brought to an unorthodox speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) by his wife (Helena Bonham Carter). The first half of the film is just him with the therapist and the second half has to deal with the abdication of Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), who abdicated to marry an American divorcee. Anyway, Bertie has to be king and deliver a wartime speech, and it's up to the therapist to help him.

The film has many wonderful elements to it, and it got twelve Oscar nominations for it. However, the strongest point of the movie and what would eventually make or break the movie would be Colin Firth's performance. There are also some innate problems with making a movie about a royal. Namely, making a King, Queen, Prince, or Princess a sympathetic character. Royals are people too, but they have titles that most of us couldn't even dream of and it's very hard for us to feel sorry for them. However, Firth made the character very sympathetic and by the end of the movie, we really wanted Bertie to make the speech and lead Britain successfully in war.

Colin Firth rightfully won Best Actor for his performance, but there were two other actors who were nominated. Namely, Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the speech therapist, and Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth (AKA the Queen Mother). They were certainly no Christian Bale/Melissa Leo, but they were fantastic for the characters they played. The auxiliary roles, like Michael Gambon as George V, Guy Pearce as Edward VIII, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill were all fantastic, and I find one particular fact quite interesting. The thing with doing a movie with british actors is that at least one of them has been in Harry Potter. In this case, Bellatrix Lestrange is the Queen Mother, Dumbledore is George V, and Wormtail is Winston Churchill. Everyone, even the little girls who played Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, gave great performances and this was one of the most well-acted movies I have ever seen.

The story is well-paced and put together, coming in at just under two hours. The film won best original screenplay at the Oscars, and even though Inception should have won, the screenplay was very good. The movie was actually quite funny at times, and there were some good lines, especially due to the interplay between Firth and Rush. They had terrific chemistry as a pair, as well as him and Helena having good chemistry as a married royal couple. Elizabeth was meant to be a loving and kindly wife, and Helena played that perfectly. The characters were well-developed and done justice to by a brilliant script.

All the elements were there to make a great movie, and they gelled perfecly, making this wonderful royal classic. It may be predictable, but it didn't follow the cliches it could have and it is a fantastic film nonetheless. Spectacular acting, a great story, great script, great art direction, and just general greatness make this a must-see films. It doesn't matter if royal movies aren't your thing, you will like at least one thing about this movie. I would recommend this to everyone and suggest that if you haven't seen it, get on it immediately.

Rio
Rio(2011)
½

When I saw trailers for Rio, I just thought that it would be a mildly amusing, albeit unmemorable piece of children's entertainment. Now that I've finally seen it, I can't help but say that I was impressed. In fact, the only reason that I didn't give it a perfect score was the fact that it is rather straightforward in terms of story. But, it is an incredibly fun movie and a worthwhile watching experience nonetheless. The animation is vivid, the characters are funny, the acting is fantastic, and the music is very catchy. This film is also from the people behind the Ice Age films, and Rio is actually better than Ice Age in my opinion, and I shall tell you exactly why.

Rio is about Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a macaw that lives in Minnesota with his owner, Linda. Linda and Blu share a close relationship and he has been domesticated so long that he never learned how to fly. Linda finds out that Blu is the last male of his species from an ornithologist named Tulio and they go to Rio to have Blu mate with the last female, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). Circumstances find them chained together by smugglers, and they have to learn to deal with eachother, Blu has to learn how to fly (both literally and figuratively), and Linda and Tulio have to find the birds. There's also an evil bird named Nigel (Jemaine Clement) who is out to get Blu and Jewel for his owner.

This is a predictable story, but I really enjoyed it because it is what all childrens movies should be. It's freakin fun. Rio is the very definition of a party film, it has bright colours, fun music, and wonderful humour. Those three things that I just mentioned are the movie's greatest strengths, and what makes it worth watching. I did not see this in 3D, but I can imagine that it might actually be a bonus if it didn't dim that beautiful bright colour palate. Anyway, in 2D, it was beautiful, vibrant, and a feast for the eyes. The individual characters were very interesting and well-characterized. My personal favourite was the bulldog voiced by Tracy Morgan (who I don't really care for outside 30 Rock normally).


The acting is wonderful as well, and we actually felt that the characters were characters, not just actors voicing characters. The leading couple are voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, and they are both hilarious in their roles and makes me feel that this movie could work in live action with the two fantastic actors playing similar roles. Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jake T. Austin voice the three main human characters and they all give great performances. As for the villains, I found the main human villain to be a bit lacking, but the human lackeys are hilarious and had me laughing all the way through. The bird villain is fantastic though, and voiced brilliantly by Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) who is awesome in everything he does, including this. Needless to say, a very well-acted movie.

All in all, Rio is a very pleasant surprise that I would recommend for anyone who is interested, young or old. It has wonderful animation, a great soundtrack, funny performances, great humour, and it will please adults as well as the kids. It's also a very sweet, endearing film, and had quite a few aawww moments. I think it's still in theatres, so I would suggest checking it out, or at least checking it out when it hits DVD. So in short, Rio was a very pleasant surprise, and the second best animated film of the year thus far, behind Rango still. If you go into this movie with an open mind, it's impossible not to be taken in by it.

The Sound of Music

This is a movie that is absolutely impossible not to like, at least a little bit. While I was watching this film, I was thinking, "Feel that? that's a cavity, right there" even though I haven't had a cavity in years. This movie is incredibly syrupy-sweet, and even the most cynical of moviegoers will be won over by its unapologetic warmth. This can be kind of an endurance test, what with its nearly three-hour length and many musical numbers, but it's an enjoyable endurance test nonetheless, and is an instant classic and one of the most, if not the most iconic movie-musical of all time.

For those of you who don't know, The Sound of Music is about Maria (Julie Andrews), a nun in training who is encouraged by the Reverend Mother to leave the Abbey and be a governess to Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)'s seven children to see if the nun life is really for her. She meets the Captain and his children, and finds that the Captain has raised his children very strictly since the death of his wife, and they have been through many governesses. It only takes a little while for the children to fall in love with Maria and it only takes a little while for their combined forces to loosen up the captain and get him to allow music in the house once again.

The first half of the movie ends with the marriage of Maria and the Captain, and then it takes a bit more of a serious tone. Despite that, it still has the sweetness, although it now has to share the story with Nazis. More specifically, Nazis wanting the Captain to join their navy, and his Austrian pride making him not want to do so. Even though the family is not Jewish, they find themselves under scrutiny by the Nazis and figure the only way out is to escape over the Swiss border. But they are ambushed, and must go sing at a festival under heavy Nazi supervision. However, they do manage an escape and it's up to Maria, Georg, and all the power of the nuns and the kids to evade the Nazis and escape over the border.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this movie, and I have loved this movie ever since I first saw it as a child. The story is perfect, from the beginning to the end, even though it has a somewhat soggy middle. This film has one of the most iconic beginnings and one of the most iconic endings in a movie ever and the last twenty minutes are quite suspensful because you want the von Trapps to elude the Nazis and escape safely into Switzerland. The characterization is perfect, and the film is very well-paced, despite its length and oddly paced middle.

The film also has over 20 musical numbers, pretty much all of them getting reprised in the second half, and they are all terrific. The majority of the songs, like "Do Re Mi" and "So Long, Farewell" have engrained themselves in pop culture so hard that a lot of kids have heard the songs without seeing them in context or even knowing where they're from. The rest of the songs are absolutely terrific, and even if this review doesn't encourage you to watch the movie, I hope you check out the soundtrack because it is wonderful. Needless to say, every single song in this film is great and extremely memorable.

The performances are also great. Julie Andrews kicks ass in everything she's in, and one of the best actresses and singers of all time. Her performance in here is terrific, and she has the sweetness, but also the passive agressiveness that makes this character perfect. Christopher Plummer is very badass in his role as the Captain, but is still very likeable. His performance is terrific, and he was quite the dish in his time. That's probably why the Baroness is after him in this movie. I mean, she doesn't want the kids and she's already rich so she doesn't need his money. That's the only explanation. The children are all fantastic in their roles and Liesel's boyfriend Rolf (played by an actor who I can't remember at the moment) is terrific as well, so strong performances all around.

This is a movie so sweet and unapologetically sappy that it will give you cavities. However, that does not stop it from being a wonderful moviegoing experience that is a must-see instant classic. That's right, I don't care if musicals are not your thing, you have to see this movie. Strong acting, a great story, memorable songs, and a surprisingly suspenseful ending makes for a fantastic movie. So in short, see it. YOu will not be disappointed, unless you have no soul. No offense to soulless people, but this is one of the movies that requires one.

Hanna
Hanna(2011)

Ever since I saw preliminary trailers to Hanna, I was looking forward to it, as Hanna the character looked like a much less violent and profane Hit-Girl. Now that I have finally seen the film, I am not at all disappointed. Hanna is a very clever and very exciting film that's one part fairytale and one part chase thriller. It has a few tricks up its sleeve, and it takes itself seriously despite the flagrant silliness of its premise. Rango was still better, but this is definitely the second best film of the year thus far and I will tell you exactly why in the following paragraphs.

Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan) lives in the woods with her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA agent, who is training her to be a cold-hearted expert assassin, and she has the strength, smarts, and skills to do so. When circumstances separate them, Hanna has to go on the run and elude the evil government agent Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) and a mercenary named Isaacs (Tom Hollander) who is trying to hunt her down. On her way, she encounters a British family that helps her get to Germany and encounters secrets about her past that will explain why she is how she is. Pepper that with fantastic, but not overpowering action scenes and you have a wonderful movie.

This movie is part chase thriller, with Hanna showing Wiegler and Isaacs that she can be both the cat and the mouse, and it's part fairytale as well. The story itself is absolutely preposterous, but it takes itself seriously and the movie would have been much worse had it not. It's also part fairytale because, from a fairytale perspective, there are similarities, like the fact that Marissa Wiegler is a heartless fairytale villain and Hanna has no mother. Seriously, all fairytale girls have no mothers (watch any Disney Princess movie and you will know that). We also see that Hanna is a cold-hearted assassin, but there's a sense of wonder, as you see her amazed with things like televisions and tea kettles, things that we take for granted.

The film features some fantastic performances, possibly even Oscar worthy performances. Saoirse Ronan is terrific as the main character, and she pretty much carries the film by herself, as she is the character on screen the most. Eric Bana was terrific as Hanna's father, and we could also see his cold-heartedness, but we could also see that he did care for his daughter. Cate Blanchett is also wonderful as the Wicked Witch, Marissa Wiegler. Her character is just pure evil. She hires a mercenary to track Hanna down, she wants Erik and Hanna dead for no apparent reason (well, we find out later in the movie, but in the beginning, we don't know), and she will kill them without a second thought.

The action sequences are very well done, but they are not too loud or overpowering that they take away from the substance of the movie. That being said, this is a very quiet movie, and for a revenge thriller, its surprisingly non-violent. That's a good thing, because it makes the film much better for not being too overwhelmed with action. Ronan has a very wonderful quiet presence and her performance as Hanna was probably the best leading female performance that I have seen thus far. I haven't seen her in many things, but if all of her performances are like this, she'll be going places. But I've already talked about her performance, so we'll move on. The cinematography is also fantastic, and the landscapes are wonderful. I don't know if this film will get at least one nomination for cinematography, but I certainly hope so. The action scenes are very well done and this is probably one of the most sophisticated action movies made since the Bourne series. The soundtrack is also the best I have heard since the Daft Punk soundtrack for Tron Legacy.

I would definitely say that most anyone will like Hanna, as it is an intelligent, sophisticated, but not pretentious revenge fairy tale. If you have high hopes for this movie, then they are not unfounded, it really is a good movie and worth seeing. Stunning visuals, Oscar worthy performances, great action, and a great story make for a fantastic film that is the second best of 2011 thus far. This goes with my strong recommendation and if Rango hadn't come along, this would be the best of the year. So in short, see it. You will not be disappointed.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Both of these Scooby-Doo films have major nostalgic value for me, because I liked them when I was a child. That's why I'm not being particularly hard on them, even though I realize they are very mediocre films. Scooby-Doo 2 isn't really a bad movie, and sometimes its better than the first one. In fact, I would actually say its better than the first one. That's right. I like this movie, and I have no shame in liking it. It's no masterpiece that's for sure, but it's certainly not a bad movie and it accomplishes the job it's set out to do. That job is to please kids, and it certainly does that.

Scooby Doo 2 takes place in Coolsville, and starts at the opening of the new criminology museum, with a special wing dedicated to the exploits and successes of Mystery Inc. Several monsters come to life and attack the museum, and the gang find themselves under scrutiny lead by journalist Heather Jasper Howe (Alicia Silverstone). Then, more monsters start attacking the city, and its up to the gang to figure out the source and stop it before Coolsville becomes Ghoulsville (line from the movie). There's also personal drama, like Shaggy and Scooby thinking that they have no real purpose in the group and Velma having romantic issues with a handsome curator played by Seth Green.

The film focuses much more on the mystery and on having as many monsters as possible in the movie rather than focusing on the individual characters and nuances of the group. There is some character development, but not much, and that's one of the problems of the movie. I like each of the characters, but I realize that they aren't very well-developed. The film is also filled with lame jokes and that is definitely a problem for an older viewing audience. However, it will make kids laugh, and that's its target demographic. Plus, like I said, these movies have huge nostalgic value for me, and even watching it after all these years is still an enjoyable watching experience.

The acting has actually picked up from the first movie with improved performances from Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, as well as spot-on performances from Linda Cardellini as Velma and Matthew Lillard as Shaggy. Seth Green is actually a favourite actor of mine and he was pretty good in this movie. I don't really like Alicia Silverstone though (Clueless is overrated) and she was my least favourite performance in the movie. The gang had good rapport together, and in general, the acting has improved all around.

The special effects have also improved, and what kid wouldn't like a movie full of creative monsters? The special effects in the first film were questionable, and the ones in these are not spectacular. However, they most certainly are improved from the first film. In fact, if I were to describe Scooby-Doo 2 in one word, it would be improved. Like Attack of the Clones, it is a decent sequel to a mediocre first film. The acting has improved, the story has improved, the special effects were improved, and it's just an overall improvement from the first. I would recommend it (meaning the series) to children (or kids at heart), parents who want to distract their children, or people who have nothing better to do. But if you're not interested, watch the cartoons instead, you'll get much more entertainment out of it.

Scooby-Doo
Scooby-Doo(2002)
½

It seems that Hanna-Barbera cartoons cannot be made into movies that extend past the level of mediocre. Maybe it's because all Hanna-Barbera cartoons look like they are done with $5 and a couple sheets of paper, but I digress. I loved the Scooby-Doo cartoons as a kid and even though I have realized that they are beyond formulaic, I still liked this movie too. I liked this movie when I first saw it as a child, but how does it hold up watching it as a teenager? Well, it is a very mediocre film, but as family movies (especially live action adaptation of cartoons) go, it's not that bad.

Scooby-Doo (the cartoon and the movie) is about Mystery Inc., a team that solves mysteries that consists of Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), the leader, Velma (Linda Cardellini), the smart one, Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the hot one who keeps getting captured, Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), the stoner (i mean come on....) and the titular dog, Scooby Doo. The movie finds them after a two-year breakup getting individually invited to Spooky Island to investigate, well, spooky goings-on at the island, which serves as a popular amusement park. Spooky goings-on including but not limited to brainwashing are happening, and they require a sacrifice, and Scooby-Doo is needed to perform the ritual and the gang has to save Scooby.

The story is okay, but it's filled with lame jokes. To be fair, I was expecting that, even after nine years. After all, this is a movie marketed towards children, and it will definitely please children. Parents though, and anyone else, it will not please. You may chuckle once or twice, but this one is for the kiddies. I didn't really laugh during this, watching it for a second time, but I can see why kids would like it because I myself once liked it. If this had no nostalgic value for me, I would have given it a much lower rating, but it does, and even now, I was entertained. This was a terribly novel movie to watch, reliving the old days.

The acting is average, but the only performance that rises above average is Matthew Lillard as Shaggy. Some may know Matthew Lillard as Stu Macher in the first Scream film, and he gave a decent (albeit mildly annoying) performance in that. However, in this film, the critics were right. Lillard is spot-on in his role as Shaggy, an almost identical copy of the show. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar did this movie while they were both still popular, and their performances were average as well. I found it kind of funny though that Fred and Daphne are love interests and Prinze and Gellar are actually married. The only other performance that was really spot-on was Linda Cardellini as Velma. She and Lillard were great, but the rest were just average.

Where this movie really hits a big bump is its special effects. They, like the effects in the fourth Indiana Jones film, were what would be considered "questionable". The CGI Scooby wasn't very well-done, and the creatures also weren't very well done. There isn't really much else to say about them, so I'm going to move on and wrap this up. Scooby-Doo isn't a great movie, and the cartoons are certainly better. However, it is a good distraction for children if their parents need to make dinner, do laundry, etc. Lillard and Cardellini are spot-on, but everything else about the movie is really mediocre and I wouldn't recommend this to any of the childless adults out there. It's not a bad movie per se, it's just very mediocre and not very memorable. So, in short, watch the cartoons instead, you'll get much more fun out of it.

West Side Story

In my opinion, the film version of West Side Story is and will always be the best retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Surprisingly, this means telling the story is best done with songs and modern language. Those who don't like musicals will be instantly put off by this movie, but those who do like musicals will be very pleased with this one because it is definitley one of the best movie musicals ever made, mostly due to its brilliant choreography, great songs/singing, and its timeless source material. There is also fantastic acting from everyone involved and great chemistry between Richard Beemer and Natalie Wood.

The story takes place in New York, where the rivaling gangs called the Jets (rough equivalent of the Montagues) and the Sharks (rough equivalent of the Capulets) fight for turf. This film also touches on the racial divide of the groups, the Jets being white and the Sharks being Puerto Rican. Their part of the story centres on having a rumble to figure out who gets the streets once and for all. The romantic part of the story centres on Tony (Richard Beemer) and Maria (Natalie Wood) AKA Romeo and Juliet, and they meet eachother at the dance and instantly fall in love. Then, their story of ill-fated love begins, ending in....what I'm not going to give away.

Those of you who love the original story will be happy to know that all the basic plot elements are still there, obviously changing the dialogue, setting, and minor details. The rough equivalents of the characters are still there as well, with Tony and Maria being Romeo + Juliet, Anita (Rita Moreno) as Juliet's Nurse, Bernardo (George Chakiris) as Tybalt, and Riff (Russ Tamblyn) as Mercutio. I have seen some bits of the 1968 version of Romeo + Juliet, and I do like it (as it's probably the best straight-up retelling), but I think that this is infinitely better than that version and it's the best general retelling.

The choreography for this film is absolutely stunning, and I cannot even imagine dancing for this film, especially because I cannot dance. That brings me to another point, if you think that all gangs should be badass and not sing or dance, then you will not like this movie, so I would encourage you to avoid it. The songs are also amazing and memorable, my own personal favourites being "When You're a Jet" and the infamous "Tonight". If this review does not encourage you to watch the movie, then I hope it at least encourages you to check out the soundtrack because this movie has some of the best songs I have heard in any movie.

The acting is pretty strong, especially from Richard and Natalie as the two leads, as well as George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn as the leaders of the respective gangs. The singing is also wonderful, even though neither Richard Beemer or Natalie Wood did their own singing. Although, I do have to say that I adore Tony's singing voice. In fact, the dubbing sounds so natural that I had no idea until I watched this for a second time and looked on wikipedia that he didn't do his own singing. Natalie Wood...not so much. I mean, I love Marni Nixon's singing work in this and in My Fair Lady, but her voice coming out of Natalie Wood's mouth did not sound natural at all. The rest of the actors did their own singing (as far as I know) and they were all terrific too.

Needless to say, West Side Story was terrific and rightfully won Best Picture. Those who don't like musicals or the film's personification of gangs will be put off this movie, and should avoid it. However, those who are curious or love musicals get my earnest recommendation to check it out. In fact, for fans of movie-musicals, this is a must-see. If you haven't seen it already, I highly encourage you to do so. Fantastic singing/songs, a timeless story, breathtaking choreography, fantastic acting, and many many other things make for a perfect movie that I can't see anything wrong with.

The Hangover
The Hangover(2009)

I don't think this is the funniest movie ever made, but The Hangover is certainly the funniest movie I've seen in a good long while and is good enough to call a comedy classic. This was probably one of the, if not the, biggest surprise of 2009 and boy did it take the world by storm. In fact, it took the world by storm so badly that I wish people would stop quoting it because, even though the quotes are funny, it's been done and it's getting tiring. Regardless, The Hangover was a tremendous comedy with great raunchy humour and fantastic chemistry between its cast.

The Hangover centres around Doug (Justin Bartha), a soon-to-be-married man, Stu (Ed Helms) a poor beleaguered dentist with a girlfriend who's a total raging bitch, Phil (Bradley Cooper) a handsome schoolteacher, and Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Doug's odd future brother-in-law. Doug is getting married, so the four men go to Vegas for his bachelor party. Sounds pretty basic, yes? Well, all hell breaks loose in the morning when Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up not remembering a thing with a trashed hotel room, a baby in the closet, and a tiger in the bathroom. However, despite all these problems (and more, like the fact that Stu is missing a tooth), they have a bigger fish to fry: Doug is missing.

The entire film follows Phil, Stu, and Alan retracing their steps to find out what the hell happened that one fateful night and encountering all sorts of crazy shit on the way. There is also a hooker named Jade (Heather Graham), Mike Tyson, and a very strange little man named Mr. Chau (Ken Jeong) who they first encounter when he jumps out of their trunk completely nude. Put that all together, serve in a chilled martini glass, and you get one hell of an awesome movie. This film, whether you yourself love it or hate it, is what most comedies aren't nowadays. It's consistently funny. You'd think that comedy writers would know to make their film funny, but some don't and there have been loads of unfunny or occasionally funny comedies made because of it.

However, The Hangover is consistently hilarious and it has great dirty jokes. However, considering its ribald premise, it's surprisingly tame (at least compared to the likes of Hot Tub Time Machine). That being said though, I shouldn't have to say this, but children shouldn't watch this movie. Older kids can watch this movie, but just keep them away from the end credits, because they are easily the dirtiest part of the movie. I've only seen snippets of the end credits, because my own mother will not let me watch them. There is a lot of swearing and some sexual-based jokes, but I'm not writing a parental advisory, so we'll be moving on. Needless to say, this movie is terrifically hilarious and will keep you in stitches from beginning to end, even though the stitches decrease with repeated watches.

The film has four main actors, and they all give great performances. Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper are wonderful as Stu and Phil respectively, and Justin Bartha is good as Doug, despite him not being in the movie much. There are two big scene-stealers in the film, namely, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong. I can't imagine Zach Galifianakis carrying a movie by himself, but if he keeps doing movies like this, then he'll have a nice steady job going for many years. Jeong is fantastic and steals every scene he's in with his memorable profane one-liners. The rest of the supporting cast are terrific and this film just has good performances all around.

As for cinematography and visuals, there isn't much to say, but there are some nice shots of Vegas and an absolutely beautiful hotel room (before it's trashed of course). Anyway, I don't have much else to say, so I'm going to wrap this up. It may not be perfect, and it may not be as funny as when I first saw it, but it's one of the funniest movies of the last five, maybe even ten years. It's also good enough to be considered a new classic and in my opinion, it's turning into somewhat of a must-see. I wouldn't call it a must-see myself, but it gets my recommendation for a rental. All in all, a great movie, but if you are easily offended, then steer clear.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim. This has got to be one of the funniest, most creative, most interesting, most entertaining movies I have seen in a while. I could probably think of many more adjectives to describe this wonderful film, but I'm afraid that you'll have to make do with this review. From the minute I saw the opening logo for this movie I knew it was going to be something special and when I finally saw this in theatres, I was not disappointed. It does have its problems, but it will most certainly please its target demographic and it has enough fun to please those outside its target demographic.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22 year-old living in Toronto. He's in a band, and at the beginning of the movie, he's dating a 17 year-old named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). He soon meets the beautiful, mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and they soon begin to date. However, to continue dating Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes, who are hell-bent on killing him. The movie pretty much shows the progress of Scott fighting the exes as well as the personal baggage he and Ramona and the band have happening to them. The baggage includes the fact that Wallace and Scott share a bed (which makes for a couple of very hilarious things), the Battle of the Bands, and Scott getting over his own evil exes.

In the middle of the movie, Wallace says that if Scott really wants to be with Ramona, he will fight for her. See, Scott is kind of a flighty asshole who's afraid of commitment, and if he really wants to be with Ramona, he has to let that go. The character of Scott Pilgrim is an ass, but in the end, he makes for a protagonist that you can root for. He is played fairly well by Michael Cera, an actor I don't particularly care for (outside this and Juno, and even then, I liked that movie for Ellen Page). Ramona is played by Mary Winstead (who some may know from some horror films or from the movie Sky High) and she was very good as well, albeit not great.

They also had reasonable chemistry as a couple, but where the moie shines is its great cast of supporting characters and a great cast of villains. Kieran Culkin steals every scene he's in and he is awarded the majority of the witty dialogue. He's also awarded the very funny scenes of Scott waking up, then him waking up, then some other guy waking up. Trust me, that's hilarious. Ellen Wong is also terrific as Knives and in my honest opinion, she can date whomever she wants, not a schlub like Scott. The band people are okay, nothing great, but nothing really spectacular. The villains in this movie, however, kick ass. My personal favourites are #1 (Matthew Patel, played by Satya Bhabha), #3 (Todd Ingram, played by Brandon Routh) and of course, the most passive-agressively evil of them all, #7 (Gideon Graves, played by Jason Schwartzman). They all kick some serious ass and are the most fun characters in the movie by far. Bhabha, Chris Evans, Routh, Mae Whitman, the asian twins who i don't know the names of, and Jason Schwartzman all deliver note-perfect performances and make for some of the best villains i've ever seen in a movie. Michael and Mary may be good, but its these guys that truly steal the show.

The movie has wonderful performances and decent dialogue, but easily the most extraordinary part of it is the perfect special effects and the creative editing. That's what makes the film one of the most interesting I've ever seen, because it has a very different style then that of other films, and that's what sets it apart. If you peruse this website often, you will know that most videogame movies are shit, but if anything came close to being a great videogame movie (that wasn't actually based on a videogame, but a series of graphic novels), it's this. The film combines comic-book style visuals and videogame style sound effects. Plus, the story is pretty much a videogame story, and that's why it probably got ripped on. This film probably could have squeezed into the Oscars, at least in visuals (I mean, hereafter??? come on. yes, I'm still angry about this.)

Scott Pilgrim vs the World was one of the best films of last year and one of the most highly entertaining films I have seen in a while. If you haven't seen it, then I would highly suggest that you get on that as soon as possible. I geeked out big time when I first saw this movie and if you like either comic books or retro videogames, then you probably will too. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about this movie screams 'cult movie'. I suppose that it could be because it's based on a cult source material and it did well critically, but didn't do well commercially. Anyway, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is an awesome movie and well worth my recommendation.

Men in Black II
½

Men in Black was not a movie that needed a sequel. As a stand-alone movie, it was great, but it made a shitload of money at the box office, so a sequel was inevitable. Waiting five years for this was a huge deal, so naturally this film was a hugely anticipated one. When people saw this in theatres, a great many walked out disappointed. I can see exactly why. Men in Black II isn't really a bad movie, but it's still a colossal disappointment for a sequel to a movie as popular and memorable as Men In Black to be just mediocre. It just feels like a reheated, less clever version of the first movie that borrows stuff from its predecessor with mixed results, like the consensus said.

MIB2 takes place five years after the original, with Agent J (Will Smith) now working with the over-emotional Agent T (Patrick Warburton). Agent T is just a sorry excuse to get Tommy Lee Jones back and we are glad when he finally does get back. J is called to investigate a murder of an alien at a pizzeria and he meets Laura (Rosario Dawson), who he starts to have feelings for. Serleena (disguised as Lara Flynn Boyle), an alien plant (that just looked like a less cool version of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors) is looking for a light (that happens to be on a bracelet belonging to Rosario Dawson, another element from the first movie) and if the light is on Earth too long, Earth will be destroyed. This also involves K getting his memory back (if you've seen the first movie, you'll understand) and the secret of Laura.

I won't give anything else away, but this film's story is okay. The jokes are much less fresh than the original and while still being sporadically funny, are much more silly. The jokes are also based more on running gags and one-joke characters, like the running gag of Tony Shalhoub's character getting his head blown off. There's also Johnny Knoxville and his second head, and the...eh villain of Lara Flynn Boyle. I do like Frank the Pug though, just because I really love pug dogs and he's pretty much the only talking animal that still amuses me. He is a one-joke character, but a one-joke character that I really enjoy.

Smith and Jones still work well together, despite their diminished script and diminished jokes. I still can't see anyone but them playing Agents J and K. Rosario Dawson is okay, and she and Will have okay chemistry. Lara Flynn Boyle is...eh as the human personification of Serleena, and the rest of the performances range from average to eh, so we'll be moving on. The special effects, however good they are, make the movie suffer from CGI overload which could kill it. The designs of the aliens also aren't as creative as the first movie, even if they are wonderfully CGI'ed (if that's even a word). The action is okay as well, but again, it just feels like a mediocre rehash of the first film.

All in all, watch MIB2 at your own discretion. It still has all the action and special effects of the first movie, but what it's lacking is the sense of humour, heart, and outright coolness of the first film. Maybe the third film will be better, but I hope with it they will at least try a little harder and let this just be subject to middle-child syndrome. It has its moments, but MIB2 just ends up being mediocre and disappointing, copying the first film with mixed results. If you saw and liked the first movie, watch this one just for completion's sake, but prepare to be disappointed. If you haven't seen the first movie, check it out and watch this one based on your reaction to the first film.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

I am a rather new fan of South Park, but I figured that I've seen and loved enough episodes to watch this movie, and may I say, I absolutely adored it. For those of you who have never heard about South Park, it is about four boys (Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny) who live in a small Colorado town called...well, South Park. The show chronicles their very politically incorrect adventures and it's one of the best, most clever shows to ever be on television. Their new season is coming in a couple days, and I would highly encourage those who are curious to check it out. But hey, this isn't a review of the show, this is a review of the movie.

This film starts on an ordinary Sunday morning in South Park. Stan, Kyle, Kenny, Kyle's adopted little brother Ike, and some homeless guy go to see the Terrance and Phillip movie, called Asses of Fire. The boys share the new language that they learned from the movie and it really pisses off the parents of the town, especially Sheila Broflovsky (Kyle's mom), who starts MAC (Mothers Against Canada) and pushes for banning of the movie and swearing in general. The Canadians promptly bomb the Baldwins and the US takes it as an act of war, declaring war with Canada and declaring the execution of Terrance and Phillip. After Kenny dies again (if you watch the show, you will understand), he gets sent to hell and finds out that if Terrance and Phillip die, Satan and Saddam Hussein will rise from hell and rule the world. So its up to Kyle, Cartman, Stan, and the rest of the kids to save Terrance and Phillip and stop the war.

If you had trouble following that, I wouldn't be surprised, because this is one crazy movie. The film starts out rather basic, and then all hell breaks loose (no pun intended). This was an absolutely mind-blowing movie and it embodied everything that was great and clever about the show and made it on a larger scale and with more uncensored swearing. Yup, there's a lot of really bad language in this movie, in fact, it broke the Guinness Record for most swearing in an animated movie. If bad language offends you, then avoid this movie like the plague. However, if you like offensive and very lowbrow humour, then you'll probably like this.

Canada is the butt of the film's jokes, due to the premise of the movie being a war with Canada, and it may piss off some Canadians, but not me. For those of you who have seen my aboot section (haha get it, Canadian, aboot) know that I am in fact Canadian. I can assure you that my mouth does not come detached from my head when I speak and I don't have beady black eyes. I don't mean to offend anybody, but I found it hilarious that the film says that Canada is responsible for all the dirty humour in television and film but it's actually American comedy shows that have the most dirty humour. The jokes are incredibly rude, but incredibly funny and very well-thought out, and they'll either offend you or leave you in stitches. My bet is on both.

The songs in the movie are awesome, and I hope to download them all, my favourite being "La Resistance Lives On" and of course, "Shut your F*cking face uncle f*cker". The animation admittedly is not that spectacular, but I don't care because the movie is funny as hell. Plus, I actually like the animation because it separates South Park from other animated shows. The voice acting is also really good too, but the most important part of the movie is the jokes, and they do not disappoint. If you haven't seen any episodes of South Park, then I will warn you that this does not serve well as an introduction to the series, as without background knowledge this will be a very confusing movie. I would encourage you to watch at least one season before watching this movie. However, chances are, if you like the show, you'll like the movie and if you hate the show, why bother?

Men in Black
Men in Black(1997)
½

If Men in Black had been done differently, if the directing had been different, if the characters were played by different people, it could have been an average summer movie. But it isn't. Men in Black has all the visual thrill and dazzling action of a summer sci-fi action movie, but it succeeds due to the fact that it's just so cool. That's the perfect word to describe this movie, cool. The characters are cool, the premise is cool, the special effects are cool, I mean who in their right mind can't like this movie in at least one way? One of the best summer blockbusters of all time and one of my most beloved movies from childhood, Men in Black is solid in almost every way.

The story starts out with Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his pre-Will Smith partner investigating some aliens when circumstances force him to erase his partner's memory. James Edwards, later known as Agent J (Will Smith) is an NYPD officer who sights an alien and comes into contact with K because of it. He is invited to try out for the Men in Black, an elite government division that specializes in monitoring and controlling alien activity. Meanwhile, an alien bug possessing a dead farmer (Vincent D'Onofrio) is attacking the city looking for a galaxy that happens to be on the collar of a cat. It's just too bad a violent alien species is also looking for that galaxy and they will attack Earth if they don't get it. A dying alien (of that species) gives J and K the clues and they must find it and defeat the bug so Earth will be saved.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wouldn't be two people that you would expect to have instant rapport and great chemistry, would you? Well, they do. The two actors are great in their own right and are perfectly cast as agents J and K respectively. They also work very well together and make their characters awesome, but human at the same time. Their partnership is very similar to buddy-cop movies, especially with the old, learned cop and the young rookie characters, which are personified by Smith and Jones perfectly. With them, it doesn't really seem like a cliche at all. As for the other actors, Vincent D'Onofrio is wonderful as Edgar (the posessed farmer). He is a wonderful actor in pretty much everything he's in, and I have great respect for him having to do a role where he constantly had to give a good performance with his face all funny. I realize some of it was added through CGI, but nonetheless, he was good. Linda Florentino was solid as Laura Weaver/Agent L and Rip Torn was pretty good as Agent Zed.

The special effects for this movie were downright awesome and worthy of the Oscar they won. The aliens looked incredibly realistic and they also were designed very creatively. I haven't seen the second film in forever, so I can't verify their special effects, but these ones are downright extraordinary. The cinematography and art direction are splendid as well, so the film on a visual level is fantastic. I can't really point out any obvious flaws in the movie, so it's just shy of a perfect score. The action scenes were also terrific, but not much more can be said for this movie so I'll make one more point before I wrap this up. The script is hilarious, and this is one of the funniest, well-written action movies I've ever seen.

All in all, Men in Black is nothing short of an epic movie. It could have been an ordinary forgettable summer blockbuster, but it transcended that and became an extraordinary sci-fi action comedy, and one of the best of all three of its genres. This is due to its perfectly cast leads, cool script, great premise, and of course...aliens! I would classify this as a must-see and encourage you to check it out as soon as possible if you haven't already. Men in Black is certainly a movie I won't be forgetting anytime soon, even with the upcoming third film (ugh...) So see it, and you won't be disappointed.

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons is, in my opinion, the best show currently on television. Whether you love it or hate it, you have to acknowledge that it's lasted so long for a reason. I also love the new ones, but my personal favourites are seasons 5-17. Naturally, a movie adaptation was decided upon and me and my dad were in hysterics going to see it. Needless to say, we were not disappointed because this is one hilarious movie. Some may think that a perfect score is ridiculous for a film of this nature, but those who truly understand my love and adoration for the show will know exactly why I loved this movie so much. The glory days of the show are long over, but this film fills me with nostalgia about seasons 5-17 and why I love this show so much.

The Simpsons Movie centres around...of course...the Simpson family and the fellow citizens of Springfield. During church, Grampa Simpson has what can only be called an epiphany where he says these exact words: "A twisted tail, a thousand eyes, trapped forever!!! EPA, EEEEPAAA". After a Green Day concert ends in disaster (the band's barge is eaten away by pollution and they die horrible deaths), the citizens of Springfield (with a little nagging from Lisa and a dreamy Irish boy named Colin) realize they need to clean up their lake. Homer and Bart also come across a pig at Krusty Burger and bring it back home (twisted tail/Spiderpig).

The last piece of the puzzle comes to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and catches their attention in the form of a many-eyed squirrell. Oh, did I mention, Homer dumped a silo full of pig crap into the lake, polluting it beyond repair and mutating the squirrell. This is taken to President Schwartzenegger (yes, you heard right) who decides to seal the town in a dome. Word soon gets out that their entrapment is Homer's fault and the Simpsons have to go on the run and later, have to save Springfield. This is a surprisingly multi-tiered story, but it's not at all hard to follow and it's hilarious as hell. Seeing this in theatres was one of the best days ever and I will remember it indefinitely (at least, I hope so).

The Simpsons is an absolutely hilarious show and the movie sucks up every drop of that. Some may disagree, but this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen and it has a brilliant script. I have seen this movie so many times that I can practically quote it word for word and every line in this movie is pure gold. The show always had amazing writing and this movie is no exception. If you are a fan of the show, you will be in stitches, and if you aren't (for whatever reason) you will at least chuckle. Needless to say, the dialogue was fantastic, as the show always was. Plus, it has an environmental message that's......subtle!!!

I love these characters and I have loved these characters ever since I first started watching the show, which has been pretty much since I can remember. Since I love the characters, I was overjoyed to see them all on the big screen and I wanted to see them survive their ordeal. The film also manages to squeeze some genuinely heartfelt moments in between all the comedy, like exploring the father-son relationship between Homer and Bart and the marriage of Homer and Marge. This film still paints the picture of the very dysfunctional nuclear family and hearkens back to the show's glory days, and the movie is fantastic for it.

The animation is also slicker and is similar to the newer seasons, but there isn't much that can be said about that, so I'll just wrap this up. I absolutely adore this film and all naysayers of this movie either don't like the show or don't like the newer seasons. Well, my recommendation is pretty basic. If you like the show, then chances are, you'll like the movie. If you don't like the show, then why are you wanting to watch this, you're going to hate it. However, if you are trying to get into the show, then I would not encourage you to start with this because it takes some familiarity with the story and characters to like it. However, after watching at least one season of episodes, watch this movie and you won't be disappointed.

Hoodwinked
Hoodwinked(2005)

I recently heard that there is a sequel of this film coming up, and after seeing a few trailers of it, the film looks like it could go either way (despite the worsened quality of the animation). This film is, in my opinion, one of the most woefully underrated children's films of the last decade and one of my favourite movies from childhood. This is also one of the movies where I have no understanding of why the critics hate this movie. Admittedly, the quality of the animation isn't that spectacular. However, the film makes up for it with its witty screenplay and charming vocal performances.

Hoodwinked takes the classic, well-known story of Little Red Riding Hood and turns it into a crime procedural. The film starts at the end of the actual fairytale, with that whole "what big eyes you have" business. Then, the police are called to investigate the crime, and they think they have an open-and-shut case. That is, until Nicky Flippers comes in and lets Red (Anne Hathaway), Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Granny (Glenn Close) and the Woodsman (Jim Belushi) tell their sides of the story. The film then goes into their individual stories and they try to come to a conclusion. There's also the issue of the Goodie Bandit, who's been stealing recipes and threatened to do the same with Granny's goodie shop.

The story still follows the story of Red Riding Hood, and it doesn't really change anything. Well, I shouldn't really say that, it does change some things, but through addition, not subtraction. They change the details, like the Wolf being an undercover reporter and the Woodsman not being a woodsman at all, but an actor pretending to be a woodsman so he could be in a bunion cream commercial. Don't worry, that won't spoil the movie, it's no big secret. There's also the exreme-sports secret life of Granny and that leads to the "liar revealed" part of the movie, which is easily the weakest part.

For those of you who don't know, the liar revealed is a cliche pretty much used in all movies nowadays. It's in moovies where someone lies about whatever, it's revealed about 3/4 into the movie. The liar is shunned by the person or persons who the lie directly effects, until they realize they've been idiots and come together at the end. Well, it killed the movie for about 5 minutes until the ending, which was, for lack of a better word, awesome. The film has somewhat of a twist ending, and without giving it away, the first time I saw this film, I was actually quite surprised by it. The ending of the film is fantastic and I loved what they did with the story and the story structure. I loved that they turned it into a crime procedural, and I just loved this movie.

Without the witty dialogue, this movie could have been an average kids movie, but with the witty dialogue and some pop-culture based humour, it can entertain adults and kids and it retains its woefully underrated status from me. The script is great, but the animation is not that spectacular. It's certainly unique, and I kinda like that. I do wish that people would stop judging this film based on Pixar standards and just judge it as its own creation. There were some pop-culture jokes, but it's certainly no Shrek 2. I also wish that people would stop comparing this film with the Shrek films and judge it as its own creation.

Anne Hathaway is pretty much great in everything she's in (except *coughBRIDEWARScough*) and voice acting is no exception, delivering her signature charm to the character of Little Red. Patrick Warburton is one of the greatest voice actors of our generation, mostly due to his distinctive voice. He's great as always, and so are Glenn Close and Jim Belushi as Granny and the Woodsman. The only other voice actor in this movie that I can think of off the top of my head is David Ogden Stiers (AKA Cogsworth) as the voice of Nicky and he did quite wonderfully.

All in all, Hoodwinked will probably remain underrated, unless the sequel is either so good or so bad that more people pay attention to it. A very clever and inventive fairy tale family adventure, I would recommend Hoodwinked for a rental. It's not the greatest animated film ever made, but it's certainly not the worst, and it's not trying to be the best ever. So in short, this movie has subpar animation but a witty script and charming vocal performances, which is enough to like it in my book.

X-Men: The Last Stand

one spoiler

I actually don't mind this film, contrary to the majority of the moviegoing population. Yes, there are a lot of things wrong with it, but so sue me, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. This was actually my introduction to the X-Men, and now I love the two first films better, but like I have a soft spot for Scream 3, I have a soft spot for X-Men 3. There are cons, but the movie is just entertaining enough to warrant a 60. However, the change in directors is very visible in the film itself, replacing the character development and sacrificing the heart of the Brian Singer films.

X-Men 3 starts with flashbacks to a young Jean Grey and young Warren Worthington (whom those of you familiar with the comics might know as Angel), then flashes forward to a danger room session with Wolverine substituting for Scott. Scott has apparently changed entirely from his boy-scout persona in the first two films to a grieving husband, and he's pretty much the only character I actually care about anymore thanks to the lack of character development. It's just too bad he went with as little dignity as possible. Thank you Brett Ratner. You could also see the joy that he had at the lake being able to see his wife again, before...you know, he went with as little dignity as possible.

The rest of the story borrows from the Dark Phoenix Saga, where Jean Grey returns, but as a much more powerful version of herself, and much more dangerous as well. A pharmaceutical company (run by Angel's father) has also developed a 'cure' for mutancy and that itself threatens to divide the mutant community. Plus, it really pisses off Magneto and he implements a plan to invade the facility and kill off the source of the cure, a young mutant boy. In the first two films, Magneto said that there was a war coming, and in this film, there certainly was. They also put the cure in guns and that alone can be considered a form of genocide, something Magneto is all too familiar with, and it pisses him off some more.

The one thing that really pissed me off about this movie is that it has a higher body count than the first two and Ratner just played fast and loose with beloved characters and expected us not to get mad. Well, we did, and it's your (as well as the writers) fault. I'm not going to name names, but certain characters get killed off or de-powered and if that didn't happen, the movie would be much better for it. Without naming names, I can't elaborate much more on this point, so I'll move on to another thing that pissed me off: the lack of character development.

If I hadn't seen the other two films, then I wouldn't have any emotional investment in the characters. But I did, and I've come to like them, which makes this film all the more disappointing. I suppose this could be said for the playing fast and loose with beloved characters, but I feel the need to separate this from my first point. The only new characters I really liked were Angel and Beas, and the movie might have been better if they had been in it more. I mean, when that scene with Angel escaping from getting the cure and his wings were spread out fully came on, the shallow teenage girl in me came out, just like when Ryan Reynolds is in any movie. He was played rather well by Ben Foster, but I'll get onto the acting in the next paragraph. Beast was awesome as well, and he rose the movie up considerably with Kelsey Grammer's sheer acting talent alone.

The acting was also okay, diminished from the first film but not horrible. Hugh, Halle, Famke and James (again, for how little he was in the movie) were okay. The Sirs were okay as well. Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore and Aaron Sanford were okay, even though I hated that Ratner turned the great complex character of Rogue into a jealous bitch. The rest of the new additions ranged from average to eh, and that's pretty much all that can be said about the performances, so we'll be moving on.

Like the other two films, the art direction and special effects were fantastic, but again, nothing more can be said for that, so I shall move on. This film is also much less intelligent than the first two movies and resembles a shoddily made Michael Bay action movie at times (although those times are very few and far between). The film is very entertaining though, and the final battle sequence is terrific, like the other two films. Needless to say, it was just entertaining enough to warrant a mildly fresh rating, even though there were countless things wrong with it. One more note before I wrap this up, I liked the end "Fire vs Ice" battle between Bobby and John (Pyro/Aaron Sanford) and I thought that it was actually metaphorical for their relationship.

As a stand-alone film, this is okay, but as a part of a beloved superhero series, I wouldn't deny that it is disappointing. After all, a perfect score to a 60 is a big jump. I still have a soft spot for this, and even 2009's Wolverine, but it definitely isn't as good as the first two. So, this is a decent superhero film, and a good rental for a rainy day. I only hope that X-Men First Class can improve upon it. So in short, watch it at your own discretion, but if you are a fan of the series, I would encourage you to check it out, but with low expectations.

X2: X-Men United

Like I said in my review of Spiderman 2, comic book movies often have no problems when it comes to their sequels. In fact, the majority of comic-book movie sequels surpass the qualiy of their predecessors, this one included. This film took upon the huge task of surpassing the first film and it did just that, taking everything that made the first film great and capitalizing on it, giving the viewers more of what they like. It also takes on the herculean task (like the first film did) of being thoughtful without being boring and entertaining without being dumb. This was the best comic book movie ever made for a while and it still remains as my favourite Marvel film.

X-Men 2 delivers on all the normal sequel goods. It's bigger, louder, and the consequences of the danger are much more severe. However, it still manages to be better than the first. The story starts off with a teleporting mutant named Kurt Wagner (AKA Nightcrawler, played by Alan Cumming) trying to kill the president, which sets off a string of events that puts the entire future of their species at risk. To be a bit more specific, William Stryker (Brian Cox) leads an attack on the school to get Cerebro, or enough of it to build one. For those of you who are terribly confused and don't know what Cerebro is, it's a machine that lets Professor X track down mutants and if he was forced to concentrate hard enough, he could kill them all. The professor is promptly kidnapped and this plan is put into action, and the good and bad side of mutants have to team together to stop the plan and save all of their lives.

Brian Singer proves again that he is a godsend to the X-Men franchise, and unfortunately, this is the last X-Men film he ever did. The characters are well-developed, and new characters are introduced while still taking time to develop the old ones. The origins of Wolverine are further explored, and some may not like that, but I don't mind. Jean and Cyclops' marriage accompanied with her growing affections for Wolverine is also explored a bit and his grief after the end of the movie (which I won't give away) is very real. Another great scene I can think of, and easily the funniest one (in a dark sort of way), is when Magneto breaks free of his plastic prison. I absolutely adore the new character of Nightcrawler as well, and he is very well-developed. He didn't mean to attack the president, and he's a kindly religious German mutant and a very likeable character.

Another great scene is around the middle of the movie when Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, a minor character in the first film) tells his parents that he's a mutant. It reminded me of a teenager coming out to his parents, except instead of telling his parents that he's gay, he tells them that he's a mutant. His mother's callous remarks (Have you tried...not being a mutant?) and mention of the mutant "problem" just made me sympathize with Bobby all the much more and turned him into a major player as opposed to a minor character I never really cared about. I really like all of these characters and Brian Singer does a great job of developing them further. It's too bad that Brett Ratner threw that away in the third film, but moving on.

The film has a great ensemble cast as always, and the Sirs deliver great leadership with their splendid performances as Professor X and Magneto. Hugh, Halle, James (for the short time he was in the movie) and Famke are great as well. Anna Paquin and Shawn Ashmore actually improve on their performances in the first film, and the new addition of Aaron Sanford as Pyro (an auxiliary villain in the third film) is terrific. Plus, there's the Blue mutants, Mystique and Nightcrawler, and they are both played wonderfully.

The film also has a more dangerous human villain. If you thought Senator Kelly was an ass, then you'll really hate this guy. William Stryker is played wonderfully by Brian Cox as a ruthless madman who will kill mutant children to get what he wants and doesn't care about wiping out an entire species of people. He hates Professor Xavier and uses him as a pawn to wipe out mutantkind just because Xavier couldn't "cure" his son and his son, resenting his parents, drove Mrs. Stryker to commit suicide. The difference between the first film and this one is that Magneto technically is not a villain in this one, because he has to put his differing ideals aside and band together with the X-Men to save his entire species.

The artistic elements, namely the special effects and the art direction, of the film were fantastic, and the special effects definitely improved from the first film. The design and duality of the school is still the same and the set design for the dam at Alkali Lake was brilliantly done. Again, the film was decently written, but nothing really spectacular stands out in my mind outside a few quips. There isn't really much else to say about the film as a whole, so I'm going to wrap this up. X-Men 2 is nothing short of extraordinary and is one of the best superhero films ever made. The thinking man's superhero film (before The Dark Knight) and also one of the best endings I've ever seen. So, if you liked the first film, you'll like this one. If you haven't seen the first one, then check it out and rent this one as well. They certainly make for a great marathon.

X-Men
X-Men(2000)
½

This film came out one year before Spiderman did, and my god, it put Marvel movies on the map. I have read some X-Men comics, but before seeing these films, I had little knowledge of the premise of X-Men. Before I watched the Lord of the Rings films, this was my favourite film series and this was also the best superhero film until its sequel came out. X-Men has everything that makes a superhero film great. The film has a wonderful cast, a well-paced story, fantastic (for their time, now they may be a bit dated compared to the other films) effects, and it proved that a superhero movie can be intelligent and thoughtful while still being consistently entertaining.

Every single one of the X-Men is a beloved character and Brian Singer could have easily screwed up and pissed off a lot of comic book geeks. Thankfully, he didn't and we have the two movies he did in the series to show for it. I don't know what involvement he does or doesn't have in the upcoming fifth film, but if he's involved, especially in the director's chair, then I know it will be great. I will still see X-Men First Class regardless, as it's one of my most anticipated films of the year, but we shall move on to the actual movie. X-Men is about Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his school for mutants. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) are rescued from Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) and are taken to the school where they learn what it's all about.

The X-Men are also facing Senator Kelly (Bruce Davidson) and his Mutant Registration Act. The Act really pisses off Magneto and he plans to attack a UN summit and mutate world leaders with a machine he created, which he needs Rogue to power. See, Rogue's powers consist of draining people's energy or life force (and in the case of mutants, temporarily their powers) and Magneto would pass his powers onto Rogue so she could power the machine and it would kill her instead of him. However, the mutations the machine creates are not natural, so the mutated people die soon after they receive their powers. So it's up to the X-Men to save Rogue's life and stop Magneto's plan.

Among those plot threads is also the plot thread about the origins of Wolverine and why he doesn't have any memory of what happened to him. His origins are more of a story focus in the second film, but they are lightly touched on in this film. Professor X tries to help Logan uncover secrets of his past, and why his skeleton was covered in metal and what Magneto wants with him (which is nothing, Magneto wants Rogue). The characters are all very memorable and played fantastically by the film's brilliant ensemble cast.

The strengths of the acting lie on the shoulders of the Sirs. Namely, Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto. They both play their parts beautifully and are easily, but arguably, the best actors in the movie. Hugh Jackman is also fantastic as Wolverine, and who knew that an Australian Broadway singer could play him as badass as he did. Needless to say, I can't picture anybody but them playing their roles. There are also a ton more actors in the cast and many more performances to mention, so I have to move on. Storm is played wonderfully by Halle Berry and Cyclops is played just as brilliantly by James Marsden, a horribly underrated actor in my opinion. Anna Paquin also proves her acting talents as Rogue, and the rest of the young cast is just as good.

The villains are also extraordinary, some of the most memorable in cinema history. Of course there's Magneto, and he's one of my favourite villains because he's evil for a reason. For those of you unfamiliar with the story and characters, Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, and that's what makes him hate humans so much, because he has seen what they are fully capable of. He is brilliantly acted and very well-written. There are also the auxiliary villains, namely Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) Toad (Ray Park) and Sabretooth (Tyler Mane). Their performances were all okay, nothing great but nothing terrible. Mystique was definitely my favourite out of the auxiliary villains in terms of character, because Toad and Sabretooth were just okay.

The film was decently written, and featured some clever quips as well as very intelligent interplay between Stewart and McKellen. The visuals in this film were fantastic, from the art direction to the special effects. For 2000, these special effects were extraordinary, but since then they have become a tad dated and the effects in the later films are much better. The school is designed beautifully, and the comparison between the low-tech upper levels and the high-tech lower levels is wonderful. It really shows the duality of the school and it's outer face vs inner face. Needless to say, the special effects were fantastic.

This is also a consistently entertaining movie and has great action scenes as well as a great story. The story could be seen as having some parallels to hatred of Jews in WWII (fitting because Magneto is a Holocaust survivor) and fear of communists during the Cold War, and it is very well-paced and put together. The final action scene on Ellis Island is pure action gold and will entertain from beginning to end. Other than that, the action scenes are rather minor, giving the audience time to breathe. Plus, this film has something that is a foreign concept to most action films nowadays, and that thing is character development. Through this trilogy, we come to care for these characters and this is where that started.

I would definitely recommend this film and its sequel. This is also a good starter franchise (like the Spiderman films) if you are a novice and would like to get into comic book movies. If only more superhero films could be like this, then the comic book world would be happy and at peace. I have high hopes for X-Men first class, and I really enjoy this entire series (even the third one and Wolverine). All in all, one of the greatest superhero films ever made and one of the finest ensemble casts ever. It's not one of the greatest films ever made, but one of the greatest of its genre and a great rental.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

Well, who knew David Bowie's son would turn into quite the talented young director? I, as of now, have not seen Moon, but I really want to, and seeing this movie has secured my faith in Jones and knowledge that he can deliver great movies. Anyway, I have finally seen Source Code, which was one of my most anticipated movies of the year (besides Scream 4 and a lot of superhero stuff). May I say, I was not disappointed. This is the best film of the year thus far and if nothing more similar comes, it could easily be considered the Inception of 2011. I don't think that's a fair title though, because this film is definitely its own creation, and a fantastic one at that.

Captain Colter Stevens is a very confused man. The last thing he remembered was crashing a helicopter in Afghanistan and now he's on a train he doesn't know, in a body he doesn't know, sitting across from a woman (Michelle Monaghan) he doesn't know who keeps calling him Sean. Suddenly, the train blows up and surprisingly, he wakes up safe in a capsule. Nobody will tell him anything initially, but that his job is to find the bomb and bomber of the train to prevent an even worse attack on the entirety of downtown Chiacgo. Stevens soon finds out that he's in the Source Code, which is a program that sends him back into Sean (a dead passenger on the train) for the last eight minutes of his life to find the bomber. I can't explain any further because I would pretty much be talking in circles and I'm trying really hard not to give anything away.

There are some definite parallels to Groundhog Day, except for the obvious difference that Groundhog Day is a comedy and Source Code...well...isn't. Despite the parallels, there isn't enough to be considered a ripoff and it can still classify as an original idea. This is also an original idea that came at a time when they are practically extinct. The film is also terrifically written and without giving away the twist ending, it was actually quite surprising. Duncan Jones' steady hand benefitted this movie very much and I'm glad this movie introduced his talents to a wider audience.

The film also features spectacular acting from everyone involved. In Moon, Sam Rockwell pretty much carried the movie by himself (so I've read) and the same can pretty much be said for Source Code, except with Jake Gyllenhaal in place of Rockwell. 2010 wasn't exactly a good year for him, it was a year that his body got much more attention than his acting. I'm sure his bank account didn't mind 2010, but I'm just talking in terms of critical response. Well, this film definitely got the year off to a good start for him as he carries the film well on his broad shoulders. Michelle Monaghan wasn't really given much to do but play the love interest, but she did well with what she was given. There was also Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright, who were there to provide exposition and delivered every line of it perfectly.

Needless to say, Source Code is nothing short of a perfect movie. I see no flaws in it, and it is, as of now, the best film of 2011. There was a strong original story, great writing and directing, great acting from everyone involved, and great cinematography/special effects (however minimal they are). A great deal of talent from both in front and behind the camera and a film that I could even classify as a must-see. So in short, there may be better films in 2011 yet to come, but this is the best one yet. Highly recommended, especially in theatres.

as for trailers:

X-MEN FIRST CLASS: I love these new trailers and quite frankly this movie looks epic.
LARRY CROWNE: Looks like it could go either way, I might check it out depending on the reviews.
THE BEAVER: Quite frankly, this movie reeks of Oscar, and I am kind of curious to see how it will play out.
TREE OF LIFE: Another one I want to see and another one that reeks of Oscar.

Scream 4
Scream 4(2011)

I loved the first two Screams and I have a soft spot for the th