Sunday, July 22, 2012

30 Second Reviews: A Cat in Paris (C+), Get the Gringo (C-), Dark Horse (C), and Brave (B-)

A Cat in Paris

An impeccably animated French import, directing duo Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's feline thriller surprised many upon the announcement of its Oscar nomination. Despite not receiving a limited release in the states, coupled with the fact it lacked even a U.S distributor, it usurped mainstream favorites such as Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin, along with the admittedly mediocre Pixar sequel Cars 2, and the sadly underestimated and seemingly already forgotten hand drawn gem Winnie the Pooh. Similar to the situation in 2009, where the also hand drawn Celtic fable Secret of Kells appeared out of nowhere to claim a nomination, many were curious as to whether this absolutely independent outsider of the Hollywood system was of any real quality, or simply the Academy championing a small and forgettable feature for no irrefutable reason. It's because of this that I've been enthusiastically waiting for the film's eventual domestic release; curiosity as to whether it deserves the recognition and slight fame the nomination brought. Now, after having viewed the film, though I'm glad this small foreign feature received its 15 seconds of fame, I'm not sure if it necessarily deserved the nomination. Despite excellent hand drawn animation, the plot is a bit of a mess, and the film is too short (70 minutes) to leave much of an impact. Though I'm glad I finally saw it, after coming from nowhere to become one of my most anticipated films of the year, I'd definitely consider it a disappointment.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

30 Second Review: Ice Age: Continental Drift (C)

The main purpose of writing these 30 Second Reviews is so when I eventually struggle crafting the conventional four or five paragraph critique, I'm still able to address my opinion of the film on the site. This rule has held well over the last few months since its creation, allowing me to share short assessments even as writer's block cripples the average writing process. However, for the very first time, we have a tiny takedown not out of necessity, but rather because the subject is so hopelessly generic and paint-by-numbers that I am personably unable to develop even a somewhat thought provoking analysis on it. It's an animated kid's movie that follows the traditional formula so attentively, so vigilantly, that while admittedly slightly enjoyable on first glance, lacks even the smallest glimpse of memorability in the long run. After a clever opening scene involving a prehistoric squirrel's frantic chase for an acorn inside the Earth's inner core, everything falls apart very, very quickly, and by the end, all that's left is the looming feeling of corporate trickery and manipulation for the very fact you've just paid for the fourth sequel to a mediocre franchise. It's the TGI Friday's of cinema: A corporation luring you in with promises of something good, but giving unmemorable inadequacy instead.

Grade: C

Note: The reason the grade is a C and not lower, is because there're a few decent jokes and visual gags. Also, the animation itself was excellent; if only Blue Sky used it to create a better film.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Starry Starry Night (B)

There's a rare, and gratifying feeling once a seemingly mundane children's movie surpasses the modest ambitions of its generally mediocre genre, and attempts to be something far greater than the paint-by-numbers predecessors which came before it. Without the usual Pixar animated treasure to fit the bill (though Brave was undoubtably decent, it's far too generic to fall into this category), 2012 might be considered to be one of the worst years for kid's movies in a very long time. Even with last year's hopefully forgotten Cars 2 debacle, the genre was saved by both Gore Verbinski's animated western Rango, and master filmmaker Steven Spielberg's motion-capture adventure The Adventures of Tintin; films which not only proved entertaining for all ages, but were also two of my favorites to be released in 2011. Surely the genre is in dark times at the present, but have no fear: Starry Starry Night, Taiwanese director Tom Lin's beautifully shot adaptation of the popular Chinese picture book of the same title, is the sweet, though slightly flawed, kid's movie we've been waiting for.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My 10 Year Old Sister's Review of "Moonrise Kingdom" (B)

(It's been a while since my little sister wrote a review for the site, so after a family visit to the movie theater to see Wes Anderson's latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, I figured it was time for her triumphant return. A regular review of the film written by myself should be coming shortly. This is an almost completely unedited review, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Also, I didn't drag my whole family to see the film; everyone was at least a little interested, even though it wasn't necessarily a kid's movie by regular definition.)

I saw this movie with my brother and my sister. We all had very different reactions to it. My sister hated it. My brother fell in love with it, and I thought it was "ok''. My brother wanted to make the ''indie-ish'' movies to be popular, so he dragged our family to see it. Being an "indie-ish'' movie, I only recognized Bill Murray as the father.

I thought this movie was too violent. From when a dog gets shot in the neck with an arrow (don't worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this film), to where Suzy (Kara Hayward) stabbed a kid in the side with scissors. The trailer made it seem so light and peppy and "quirky" (it was at some times).

Although my brother and sister think differently, overall:

Grade: B

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer of Scares: Beyond the Black Rainbow (B)

Beyond science, beyond sanity, and beyond control, Beyond the Black Rainbow is the disturbing, 80's styled sci-fi nightmare I wasn't particularly sure I wanted, and still am not completely sure I'm glad to have found. More a series of hypnotic and sadistically dreamlike imagery than a cohesive whole with a beginning, middle, and end, Greek director Panos Cosmatos has said the film was inspired by hazy memories of watching Saturday morning cartoons, and sneaky viewings of midnight movies during his childhood. Though it's easy to see where this childhood influence on the film comes from, it feels more like a graphic visualization of one's "bad trip" while on a powerful hallucinogenic drug. Characters smoothly drift in and out, entire subplots are referenced then quickly abandoned, possible twists are acknowledged but never again referenced. It all feels like a dream functioning in present time; a place where people and images flash into existence and then immediately disappear, and new figures and visuals take their place only to inevitably exit as well. The film is in a constant loop of adding characters and plots while discarding the old, occasionally pausing for slight character development for one of the film's few constant players, or a complete non-sequitur with particularly excellent and mesmerizing cinematography. It almost exists in a complete alternate universe of its own; where imagery takes far higher precedence over all other aspects of filmmaking.

That's My Boy (C-)

Usually when writing the reviews for this site, I attempt to keep a somewhat high standard for the films reviewed, so that there will be less scathing critiques featured. However, mostly as result of the "Summer of Scares" feature, coupled with having watched generally mediocre features for the last two month, this watermark has slowly been lowered to the point where the subject of my last review had the title The Girl with the Naked Eye, and not a single explicitly positive review was written in the entire month of June. This is something I'm going to be far more active in trying to prevent in the future: Since the fourth week of June, I've only watched thoroughly enjoyable movies I'm proud to have seen. While a massive leap forward for the quality of the films reviewed on the site is in order, a few ruminants of the dark era remain. Hopefully the last pessimistic review in a long time, lets begin focusing on our "meh" subject: The biggest Adam Sandler box office bomb since Little NickyThat's My Boy. Yes, I'm reviewing an Adam Sandler movie.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Top 10 Movies of 2012 (So Far)

Continuing last year's tradition, here are, with slight introduction, the Top 10 movies of 2012 so far. Though certainly not all of them will appear on the end of the year list, these are my ten favorite movies released so far this year, ranked from least to greatest. Links for the reviews are listed in parenthesis next to the film.

10. Haywire (Review)
9. Monsieur Lahzar (Not Reviewed)
8. Turn Me On, Dammit! (Review)
7. The Cabin in the Woods (Review)
6. Boy (Not Reviewed)
5. Indie Game: The Movie (Review)
4. Let the Bullets Fly (Review)
3. Moonrise Kingdom (Not Reviewed)
2. Footnote (Not Reviewed)
1. Detachment (Review)

Also, the Top 5 worst:

5. Hysteria (Not Reviewed)
4. The Last Screening (Review)
3. Piranha 3DD (Review)
2. Pater (Review)
1. The Girl from the Naked Eye (Review)

The Girl from the Naked Eye (F)

The Girl from the Naked Eye
(My First "F")
A Written Reflection in the Form of the 7 Stages of Grief

1. Shock & Denial

When I began this site, I made a promise with myself that I would never write a failing review. No matter the quality of the film, I would always find at least one factor which would redeem the abysmal film in some slight way. Two times I came incredibly close to giving the dreaded grade, but was pulled away at the very last second for finding the slightest form of redemption. For the 2011 anti-romantic comedy Something Borrowed, I reasoned that despite it being easily the worst film of the year, John Krasinski was decent enough in a supporting role to not fail it, though even he was mediocre. For this year's French arthouse-turned-absolutely-intoleratible-self-indulgence Pater debacle, I decided that Alain Cavalier, the director, had an ambitious enough premise that absolute failure was mildly understandable. I was also briefly tempted with the beyond abysmal sequel Piranha 3DD, but the quick tangents with Paul Scheer and Vhing Rhames were entertaining enough; in comparison with comedy legends such as Mel Brooks and the Marx Brothers in comparison to the film surrounding it. 

Indie Game: The Movie (A-)

Other than maybe in my tweens, never in my life have I considered myself to be a huge fan of video games. Sure, certain games such as Yoshi's Island and the Mario Party and Pokemon will always bring back happy nostalgic memories, which I'm always grateful for, but not once have I obsessed over an existing game, or watched G4 in mad anticipation for an upcoming one. It's not that I dislike video games in general; even less nostalgic programmed diversions such as Call of Duty or Ratchet & Clank still provide enjoyable entertainment, and could, if on an extremely dull day, be played endlessly. From my own personal experience, they're usually engrossing for a couple of hours or even days, but as time gradually passes, so does the enjoyment. Unless you have an almost unhealthy love for the game, or an aspiring designer studying how it works, it's difficult to imagine playing the same thing for an extended period. However, as I watched the captivating documentary by first time joint directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, Indie Game: The Movie, I realized that perhaps my opinions toward video games have been incorrect the entire time.