Monday, December 30, 2013

My Favorite Movies 2013

In addition to posting my top rated movies (see list here ) I have decided to also put out my favorite movies of the year.  Although half of them are also on my top rates these are the ones that I loved the most and have found myself really looking forward to watching, re watching, and owning myself.  Some of these are not the best movies of the year but they are the ones that I really recommend seeing and consist of a better picture of the movies that I really tend to like, or surprises that I wasn't expected. The key to these movies making my favorite list is that they surprised me with how much I liked them or they actually held up the excitement I had going into them.

My favorite movies are the year are listed here.  I once again did a top twelve list because I wanted to, and when I originally went through my list of movies and tagged the ones I really enjoyed this year there were nineteen and pruning those seven was very difficulty for me.

1. Now You See Me (4-)

My favorite movie of the year is Now You See Me.  There were many things that came together that really got me, the first being that it touched on my childhood joy of magic and , it pulled in some intrigue and went with the whole what are they trying to show you and what is each character really doing.  It also has some of my favorite actors of the moment and the great chemistry between them.

2. Frozen (3+)

Frozen was one of the movies that stood out to me and while witching it, I was thinking how much I liked it and was looking forward to listening to the soundtrack, and watching it again to see all the little things that I didn't notice during the first viewing.  This one I just really liked watching and think it will become one of my staple and favorite animated movies.

3. Don Jon (3+)
Don Jon was the movie that I was looking the most forward to seeing this year and I was very excited that it held up to everything I heard about it.  I had been waiting to see it, since my little sister spent a day as a background person and then hearing all the accolades it got throughout the movie festivals.  I thought that it was an interesting look at this young man, not to mention I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

4. Warm Bodies (3)

Warm Bodies was one of the surprises for me this year.  I went to see it not really knowing what to expect and ended up really loving it and enjoying the use of music throughout the movie.  This is one that I have watched many times since it came out on DVD and it is the one that is currently on my phone and that I start to watch when I am stuck somewhere or bored.

5. Monster's University (3)
   I Like many of my generation was very excited for the release of Monster's University as I was a huge fan of Monsters University (2013).  I even had a remote control Mike Wazowski in my dorm room that I had fun running up and down the dorm room hallways. This one was good and I liked seeing the development of the realtionships of the main characters, although the ending wasn't what I would have liked.

6. Jack: The Giant Slayer (3)

Jack the Giant Slayer is the movie that grew on me throughout the year.  I tend to like this kind of campy fair tale style movie and I was bummed earlier in the year with Hansel & Gretel Which Hunter, so I liked that this one went for a better overall feel of movie that fit together.  When it came out on DVD I watched it again and found that it was one that I like having on while doing housework or cooking, where I can wonder in and out of the story.  Not to mention Nicolas Holt is one of the actors of the year for me.

7. Saving Mr. Banks (4-)
This movie was absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed watching all the the interactions between the characters and the look into Ms. Travers as she struggled to let Walt Disney make Marry Poppins. The cast came together and played off of each other and it has the nostalgic factor of a childhood of watching Mary Poppins.  I came out of the movie wanting to go and watch Mary Poppins.

8. Star Trek: Into Darkness (3+)

I loved the 2009 reboot of Star Trek and have been waiting to watch the sequel since then.  This movie met my expectations and had the joys of the first movie, such as character dynamics and quipy dialogue.  It also had the man of the year in it with Benedict Cumberbatch.

9. The Way Way Back (3+)
 This was a movie that I went in not sure what to expect and ended up really liking the look at this young mans journey at a point in his life.  Where he and his mom are struggling with their relationships, as well as the boys relationship with his mothers ass of a boyfriend.  Sam Rockwell was fantastic and a scene stealer in this movie.

10. Captain Phillips ( 3-)

Tom Hanks bring out another great showing in Captain Phillips.  This movie was interesting and had amazing acting in it.  It is one that I would recommend that everyone see, as it has a strong plot, great acting, and an overall great drama.

11. The World's End (3-)
I am a huge Simon Pegg movie and have been waiting for the third installment of the Cornetto Trillegy since I saw the first trailer for this movie.  It is a bunch on nonsense and has quite a few problems, but it is fun and embraces all of the tomfoolery that happens.

12. Pain & Gain (3)

Pain & Gain was the movie that I saw this year that surprised me the most in how much I liked it and laughed throughout.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to see this movie but my friends wanted to and I wasn't opposed, as I watched it I had a lot of fun and laughed really hard at times.  Because it is based on a true story the plot kept going and didn't have the holes that many movies like this have.  This is one of the best true dark comedies that I have seen in a long time.

My Top Rated Movies: 2013

With it being the end of the year, I have decided that I wanted to put together some top movie list.  I ended up seeing seventy six new 2013 releases this year (not counting the four 2012 releases I saw in January) and this is a huge jump from last year.  Even with watching this many movies that came out this year, there are still many that I wanted to see but didn't have a  chance to, and I am hoping that I will get a chance to watch some of them as they come out on DVD or whenever I have a chance.  If I missed any that were your top rated, let me know, I love to get steered in a specific direction when going back and watching movie I watched.

Here is my top rated movies of the year (I also did a list of my favorite movies of the year which you can check out here ).  I did the top dozen instead of ten because I felt like it.  I recommend seeing everyone one of these movies, especially the top five as they were all wonderfully done with great stories and well acted.

1. Quartet (4)
2. Lee Daniel's The Butler (4)
3. Saving Mr. Banks (4-)
4. Now You See Me (4-)
5. The Way Way Back (3+)
6. Don Jon (3+)
7. Frozen (3+)
8. Star Trek: Into Darkness (3+)
9. The Book Thief (3)
10. Monster's University (3)
11. American Hustle (3)
12. Side Effects (3)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Review

Today I saw Dallas Buyers Club and it is a movie the definitely has earned the nominations that it is getting.  It was an interesting story of a man who was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in the mid nineteen eighties and his desire to get drugs to manage his symptoms, provide these medications for others, and come against the FDA and the providers of medication study to try and stop the HIV virus.  Going into this movie I didn't really understand why it was called Dallas Buyers Club but in watching the movie I discovered that a Buyers Club was an organization were people payed a fee to get a membership at which points they were provided with medications, this was an attempted loophole around getting in trouble for selling unauthorized drugs.  I also didn't realize until I watched the movie that it is a story about a real man, Ron Woodroof.
In Dallas Buyers Club, Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, a homophobic, drug using bull rider discovers that he is HIV+ and has AIDS.  He struggles with accepting his illness and how he is unable to get medication to treat it.  He manages to initially bribe to get medication AZT.  After finding a doctor in Mexico that helps him and teaches him about using supplements and unauthorized medications, he seeks to start bringing in these medications into the US and then start selling them to other people who suffer from HIV with an unlikely cross dressing business partner Rayon, played by Jared Leto, who helps him bridge the gap between him and the gay population who need these medications.  Ron's main struggle is against the FDA who doesn't like that Ron is in business and is against the use of AZT and Dr. Eve Saks, an uncertain doctor who just wants to help people played by Jennifer Garner.
Matthew McConaughey was fantastic as Ron and he acted extremely well, he defiantly deserves the nominations that he has thus far received for this role and he is able to carry the movie, as he is the main focus of the entire thing. You can see his progression throughout the movie and how he struggles to redefine his life and live with his illness without easily accepting his upcoming death, especially since he is only originally given 30 days to live after he is diagnosed. The supporting cast is good but no one can really compete with McConaughey and he is the focus when he is on screen.  This even includes the flamboyant portrayal of Rayon.
The feel of the movie was gritty but it goes with the feel of the overall movie and the mid nineteen eighties setting. This movie was interesting to watch, and although I am glad that I saw it, it isn't a movie that I plan on watching over and over again like I tend to do with movies.  It is worth watching, but the material matter, profanity, and homophobia expressed in this movie, means that it is for the older viewer.  I recomend seeing it but people who struggle with any of the things I just identified would not like the movie.

My Rating: 3-

Saturday, December 28, 2013

47 Ronin (20313): Review

I have been looking forward to the new Keanu Reeves movie 47 Ronin but I wasn't sure what to expect or if it was any good and I am happy to say that it was a good movie that I enjoyed watching.  It is a Samurai honor movie with a Japanese film feel but overall the movie was in English so it inst only for the die hard fan. This movie is for people who like action movies that are not all explosions and gun fights because this movie is at a slower pace and the action sequences are more Medieval in types of fighting.
47 Ronin is a movie that starts Keanu Reeves as Kai, a boy who escaped the evil of the Forrest as a young man but was treated as an outsider by the local Samurai because his father was an Englishman and that he is believed to have demon in him.  He is taken in by the Lord Asano, played by Min Tanaka, and befriends his daughter Mika, played by Ko Shibasaki.  When rival Lord Kira, played by Tadanobu Asano, arrives to stay with Lord Asano and have their Samurai compete, Kira causes the death of Asano with the help of his witch, played by Rinko Kikuchi.  After the death of this Master the now Ronin (Samurai who no longer have a master) lead by Oishi, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, proclaim they will avenge their fallen master.  A year later, Oishi seeks the help of Kai and the scattered Ronin's help to save princess Mika from being forced to marry Lord Kira and succeed in avenging their fallen master and demonstrate the honor of their Samurai vows.
All in all the plot of this movie is very simple and the story line pretty obvious how this movie was put together and paced was done really well.  I saw this movie in 3D but I do not think it was at all necessary (I only saw it in 3D was I saw it late at night and there were no more 2D showing of it).  The 3D added some dimension to the landscapes, which were gorgeous to look at, and it did the use of 3D that I love the most which is snow fall, but overall it was unnecessary and didn't really add to the overall experience.  I really liked how they used CG in this movie as it fit in with everything that was going on and worked seamlessly.  The only thing that I found distracting was the use of the witch's hair but that wasn't the CG but the concept itself.  I saw why they did it, as they had the tentacle things on the witch when she was in dragon form, but i still think it was weird.
The overall acting of the movie was high in the emoting but as there wasn't too much brooding it worked.  Also with the slower pace of the overall movie and the sweeping scenes, everything worked together. I liked the casting of the movie, but with Keanu Reeves in a leading role people who don't like Keanu Reeves will probably continue to complain about him, I liked his chemistry with the other characters and I think everyone fit the aspects of their characters.
Like I said, I enjoyed this movie and I would defiantly go see it again, when movies have really beatify cinematography and use of CG mixed in with everything, I love to go back and pay more attention to the background when I am not so focused on the story and what is going to happen next.

My Rating: 2+

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Battle of the Movies: Christmas Day

This Christmas day there are four big new releases and it will be interesting to see which one wins out against the others for Christmas week viewing.  I am a bit torn about which one I want to see first as I am interested in seeing all four of these movies.  Who else is excited to see these movies?

47 Ronin

I don't know much about this movie but it seems to be very much a Samari themed action flick.  It has been a while since I have seen Keanu Reeves in a movie and am hopping that he can pull on his leading action star abilities and that it is fun to watch  Basically it seems like it about a group of 47 Ronin Warriors whose master has been killed and they go on a mission to avenge his death. This is the movie that my brother wants to see first.

Grudge Match

This is the comedy action movie option that is coming out and this is the option for those who want something a little more light hearted to watch for Christmas. It brings together Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro as over the hill former boxers who were formal rivals who have never identified who was the champion of the two.  They are given a chance to get some money and prove for all who is the ultimate champ.  It has been really pushing the humor aspect of the movie in it promotional material.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a story about a man who has been living a boring life but who gets swept away in his imagination.  He then is trust into a situation where he goes and experiences adventure while seeking down a missing photo negative.  I have seen a few interviews with Ben Stiller about this movie and am hoping that the movie has the feel of the trailers, but sometimes these movies don't really give you a true scene of where the movie will go.

Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street is the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie where he once again plays an egotistical ass.  In this one he works on wall street with Jonah Hill and they may or may not be running an above the bar ship.  This looks to follow the rise and fall of these characters as they try to be masters of their kingdoms.

The movies coming out this Christmas all seem to be focused on the adult audience and none of them seem like family fare.  I am interested in seeing all four of them but they all have a different feel to them, so which one I see first will depend on my mood weather I am more interested in a comedy (Grudge Match), a character drama comedy (Secret Life of Walter Mitty) a warrior action movie (47 Ronin) or a OTT suspense black comedy/drama (Wolf of Wall Street).
What is everyone planning to see and which one is going to be the winner in my book?

Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Review

I have been looking forward to seeing the movie Saving Mr. Banks since I first saw the preview and I am happy to say that I absolutely loved this movie.  It is definitely one of my favorites for this year and I recommend that you go see it.  It is a family film but I feel like it is more for adults as it really touches on the nostalgic feelings for those you grew up watching Mary Poppins growing up.
Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that focuses on the the making of the movie Mary Poppins (1964) and the struggle that Disney went through to get right to make the movie.  Walt Disney has been planning on making this movie and had people working on the screenplay and songs before he had convinced that author of the book series P.L. Travers to let him make the movie.  This movie is focused on Mrs. P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thomsan and the emotional journey she went through to approve the making of her books into a movie and how she was particular and shut down to the idea of Disney making a mockery of her books.  This movie is a combination of two stories and weaves in and out between the two.  The main story being that of Mrs. Travers and the Disney company's headbutting over the movie version of Mary Poppins and that of the early childhood of Mrs. Travers as Ginty, played by Annie Rose Buckley, in rural Australia with her family. This early childhood focuses her relationship with her father Travers Goff, played by Colin Farrell, who has an alcohol problem and struggles in his job as a bank manager.  Although I liked the story of little Ginty and her family, I really connected with Mrs. Travers and how she was desperate to hold true to her vision of Mary Poppins but having to come to terms with allowing it to be made into a movie.  While at Disney Studies she works with Sherman brothers, played by B.J. Novack and Jason Schwartsman, and Don DaGradi, played by Bradley Whitfield.  She also has an interesting relationship develop with her car driver, played by Paul Giamatti.
I really loved this movie and it definitely showcases what an amazing actress Emma Thomson. Although Mrs. Travers is quite haughty, I find myself caring about her and wanting to see her journey of resolving herself to letting her beloved book become a movie by Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, and because I know what the movie actually becomes it is interesting to see how the struggles came and how she resisted a lot of what was coming but then how she was won over by the Sherman brothers songs.  Although there were two different feels to the different storylines of the book Emma is able to get you to see how she might have been reflecting on her early life as she is going through her current journey. Basically I think Emma Thomson was this movie and because of her and the great support she has by the other cast, it was fantastic.  The interactions between all the main characters was great, but I really appreciated the scenes between Thomson and Gianatti, her car driver.
The was just enough of Mary Poppins songs spread through and even though I don't know how true the actual story of this movie is I really liked how the songs were put in the movie and how they were the scores to the emotions of the movie.

I think that this movie is one of the best of the year but it is definitely a family film but not one that is necessary for younger kids.  The movie focuses on a beloved movie of many peoples childhoods but all the characters are adults, I don't know if there is enough to keep kids interested. That being said it was a fantastic film and I look forward to seeing it on DVD and hoping that it has good special features to tell me more about the real life story.

My rating: 4-

Monday, December 23, 2013

American Hustle (2013): Review

This weekend I went to see a movie that I was looking forward to seeing because it seemed like it was different from the more recent movies that have come out lately (set in the late 1970s) and had actors that I usually enjoy.  I quite enjoyed this film and although it is not that original in general plot, the production value was good, everything came together in a way that worked (casting, actors, cinematography, sets, music), and it was different from the other movies that have come out lately and therefore kept my interest. There were moments that dragged on and I don't think that it needed to be quite so long but overall I had a good impression of this movie and am glad I saw it.  My brother was underwhelmed by it and my father didn't like it at all, but I think it is worth a watch.
American Hustle stars Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, a con man who has been taking money from desperate people, with the promise of trying to get them approved for a bigger loan.  He meets Sydney, played by Amy Adams, and falls in love with her.  He brings her into his conning business as faux Englishwoman Edith and they grow the business.  In an attempt to bust them FBI Agent Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper, is only able to get Edith.  Irving is then blackmailed to work with Richie to try and get four other bust in order to let Edith off the hook.  In doing so he is forced to try and catch local Mayor and community helper Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner.  As this movie progresses, Irving gets pulled future into a scheme that he doesn't want to be in and has to find a way to get out of, while under the thumb of glory hungry Richie, who now wants to go after congressmen and mobsters to get the big bust.  Also in the movie are Irving's wife Rosalyn, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who's relationship with Irving is tenuous, and Richie's boss at the FBI Stoddard Prosser, played by Louis C.K., who Richie is always at odds with because his boss doesn't think that this whole scheme is a good idea.  Can Irving find a way to con the FBI and find a way to save himself and Sydney?
I enjoyed this movie and thought that it was a refresher for my movie pallet.  It included many of the elements I like in a movie but also had a different approach then the other films that I have watched lately.  I would put it into the category of suspense drama, as it is focused on the characters, acting, and situations between them, as well as the suspense of having the audience wonder if the pieces will all come together for Irving or Richie, and is more subtle in leading the audience through what is happening, instead of the audience knowing everything that is going on before it happens.  I tend to get frustrated with movies that push the suspense attitude in a movie, that the audience knows for sure what is going to happen at the end of the movie, it just irks me,  this movie does not do this and even though it was a longer movie it kept my interest throughout and wanted to see how it would all resolve. 
The casting and acting in this movie was superb and even those scenes that didn't really add to the story and were more focused on just the interactions between the characters I enjoyed and except for a short bit toward the beginning of the movie (where Irving and Sydney meet) and the very ending, I was focused on the story and ready to see what was happening.  These moments that I mention that were a bit slower were the added pieces to give information about the overall movie but had a different feel as they were not really a part of the story's suspense.  Christian Bale was fantastic in this movie and for the majority of it he blended into the character and I didn't see his Christian Bale-isms that I can sometimes find distracting.  Amy Adams had great chemistry with Bale and Cooper and in one of the scenes even Lawrence.  Bradley Cooper did pretty well with keeping up with all the outstanding acting in this movie but at times you could see him trying to act, while the other characters looked more effortless in their portrayals. The cameo of mob boss Victor Tellegio, by Robert DeNiro was added fun to this movie. 
The production value of this movie was fantastic, the overall feel of the movie was spot on, the costuming had me thinking, how does Amy Adams not fall out of some of those outfits, but they look absolutely fantastic. The seventies music was weaved in to add to the overall experience.

I really enjoyed this movie and think it is the award nominations it received, but do not think that it is the best movie of the year and that it is an award winner, but as I said it kept me interested through, was solid acting, and isn't what every other suspense/drama movies are doing.  That being said, my father thought it wasn't worth the money to see it, and my brother was more ambivalent, but then again they are more judgmental of movies and the inconsistencies of movies and consistency of reality within the movie.

My Rating: 3

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Review

I was bummed this weekend because I was so busy with scheduled activities that I was unable to go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Because I have been waiting for this movie to come out I decided to stay out later then usual this Monday evening and go see it on a work night and I am glad to say that it was worth it.  I really liked this movie and do not want to have to wait for the third installment of The Hobbit to come out next year, I want to see it now.  The cliff hanger at the end of the movie left me going, "no you didn't just end it there," but I do understand why it was the point of the story where it pauses and it did seem a logical point.  I still can whine about having to wait another year to see it.
Last year I went and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (read my review from last year here  and it was my first adult viewing of anything The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings.  I had watched the first Lord of the Rings movie LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring in theatres when it first came out in 2001 but I never really got into it, I blame it on my teenage girl stubbornness but since last years viewing of the first The Hobbit I re-evaluated my position and went back and watched all the movies and am now a fan (read about my Lord of the Rings Journey here ). I really enjoyed this movie and although it is a very much a middle of the story movie it was a journey with Bilbo and gang that I enjoyed.  As I am a more recent fan of these movies I have not yet read the books so I was not upsetted or annoyed with the adding to the story, as The Hobbit is a short book that was beefed up for the movies and from what I know about the stories Legolas is in no way a part of the book but I liked how his and Taurial were weaved into the story.
In Desolation of Smaug we start with Gandolf, played by Ian McKellen meeting up with Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage, and what gets them started off on this quest in the first place.  We then come back to the twelve dwarfs and Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman, as they continue on their journey from the first movie.  They are trying to get to the secret door to the mountain before the end of autumn but in order to do this they separate from Gandolf and go through the forest, as they are still being pursued by Orcs. In the forrest they come across the Woodland Elves, meet the woodland king Thranduil, played by Lee Pace, the prince Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom, and elf warrior Taurial, played by Evangeline Lilly.  As Bilbo, Thorin and co work to get to the mountain they have to face the very real threat of dealing with the dragon Smaug, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. 
I liked the overall pace of the movie, and once it got through the little set up that it had, it kept a pretty good pace of action (which was not toooo drawn out this time) and moments focused on character interaction and acting. Martin Freeman continues to be great as Bilbo and I really enjoy all that he does as an actor. I don't think that there was a weak link in the acting or casting of the movie, the only thing that I struggled with is that the fact that Orlando Bloom is obviously older then he was when he was in the LOTR trilogy a decade ago, which chronologically happens after these movies) but that cant be helped as he is a decade older now. Going into the movie I wasn't sure how I would like Evangeline Lilly's character but I found out that she added a nice dynamic to everything and I especially loved the chemistry between Taurial and Kili, played by Adrian Turner.
Once again this movie does all of the Peter Jackson cinematography stuff but I would have liked more sweeping landscape shots, which I have come to love and expect in these movies, but as there was less travel over long distances in this movie, it makes more sense with the story. There were moments where I could tell that everything on screen was computer generated but I think that with everything being so HD it is difficult to make everything look perfectly real. 
I saw this movie in 3D and enjoyed the dimension that it gave everything and when I see this movie again I wouldn't mind seeing it again in 3D.  The only thing I didn't really like in 3D was the bees toward the beginning of the movie, as they seemed to be there only for the 3D effect and had no real point.

This movie continues to hold up to the standard expected from Peter Jackson and his Tolkin movies, I think that all of the added material will annoy those die hard fans, but those who have enjoyed the other movies it hits all the marks needed. I think some knowledge of the first movie is needed to get all of the references, but I think that you will be able to follow the movie even if you haven't seen the first Hobbit movie, that is as long as you don't get caught up in the details and just go with what is happening.

My Rating: 3-

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Book Thief (2013): Review

This weekend I went and saw The Book Thief and I am glad to say that I really liked it and was glad that it was up to my expectations.  I have not read the book but when I saw the first preview for this movie, it looked very interesting and Leisel the heroine intrigued me.  Although this is not a movie that focuses on the warm fuzy feelings it focuses on how people can touch each other and really make an impact on the people around them.
The Book Thief is a movie adaptation of the 2006 Markus Zusak book of the same day.  It is narrated by Death, voiced by Roger Allam, who has been kept busy as the story is set during WWII Germany and due to the war many people are meeting him.  One day as he is taking her younger brother he sees Leisel, played by Sophie Nelisse, who intrigues him and who he follows throughout her life. Leisel is on her way to live with her new adopted parents, Hanz, played by Geoffrey Rush, and Rosa, played by Emily Robertson.  It takes a while for her to settle in as she meets friend Rudy, played by Nico Liersch, and is teased because she cant read.  She starts to learn to read with papa Hanz and because focused on books.  As the war rages on, her family takes in an on the run Jew Max, played by Ben Schnetzer, and are put in danger because they are hiding him in their basement.  Leisel tries to make sense of her world of secrets, books, and friendships, all while being in peril from the war and air raids.
This movie was wonderfully shot and executed and I would recommend it for anyone who likes good dramas. The casting and acting was fantastic and the story pulled me in.  I loved the relationship between Leisel and Hanz as well as how although she was cranky, underneath Rosa really cared for those around her. The filmmaking and costuming was really good and when I wasn't focused on the story you could see all the work that was put into the movie and how all the components fit really well together. I was able to be drawn into the world of Nazi Germany that Leisel lived in and see how she struggled with her curiosity and secrets.
For those who have read the book I am sure that they will think that the book was better (who doesn't usually think this) but for me I really like it and am now thinking about reading the book. One of the things that some people may struggle with in this movie are the accents, at times they are very thick and the dialogue difficult to hear, which is a bummer because what is going on has a lot of depth. There are also moments of subtitles, which need to be read to gain the pertinent information.
I recommend seeing this movie and although it is set during the war and has death in it, it would be appropriate for older children.

My Rating: 3

Out Of The Furnace (2013): Review

This weekend I went and the movie Out of the Furnace and although there was nothing terribly horrible about it, all I can really say is that it was mediocre.  Going into this movie is was expecting it be an thriller type movie, with the previous focusing on Christian Bale going to find out what happened to his brother but for me it was slow paced, focusing on emoting from the actors and week in story.  I kept waiting for something compelling to happened but it just didn't.
There was a lot of attempt at putting story into this movie and now that I think about it there weren't that many characters to mull up the works and prevent from really going into the character, which was slightly hinted at.  You have Christian Bale as Russell Baze who has been working a hard life in his steel mill town and being the big brother to Rodney Baze, played by Casey Afflick, who has been participating in alley fights to make money for his gambling habit.  Rodney decides he want to fight up in the hill country and persuades local bookey John Petty, played by William Dafoe, to set up a fight with Harlan DeGroat, played by Woody Harrelson, who is a violent man who even Petty is scared of.  Also in the mix are Russell's ex Lena, played by Zoe Saladana, and her new man police Chief Westley Barnes, played by Forrest Whitaker. 
I was disappointed by how un-engaging this movie is because of the great caliber of actors in it.  Many of the main characters are people who I tend to like and find engaging to watch even in movie that are poor but that were not able to do much with this boring movie.  I didn't really care about any of the characters and they all seemed to keep making just stupid decisions when there was peril written on the wall.  Maybe it could have been better if the story wasn't so transparent and the audience could have felt some anticipation or wonder what was going to happen.  Also at the end the movie just ended.
There was nothing truly horrible about this movie and for people who tend to like movies that are heavy of the melancholy and overtly focused on the long emoting scenes of the actors will like this movie as that was it is, for me I like movie that have some excitement, emotional connection to the story or one of the characters, or just plane fun.  This was none of them. 

My Rating: 1

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Homefront (2013): Review

With my father back in Michigan for the holiday, it was time to take in the most recent B-action movie with him and my brother.  Today we went and saw the new action released Homefront, written by Sylvester Stallone and starring Jason Statham and since I wasn't really expecting much I was pleasant surprised that this was a semi interesting, basic action movie in a little bit older style that was good enough.  When it comes to this type of action movie the main deciding factor for me is whether or not it does something that I find annoying and this one did not so for me it was time well spent.
Homefront was written by Sylvester Stallone and the story line was pretty basic with no a whole lot of depth of story but heavy on the relationships.  This movie hinted at some of the bounds of relationships which could have been further developed but were not, to me this was the one big bummer of the movie, I wanted more development between the characters.  I would have liked it to have been another twenty minutes and gone into these dynamics and backstories.
Homefront stars Jason Statham as Phil Broker am undercover agent in a biker gang who has been cooking and distributing crystal meth. Broker helps to bring down this ring and while doing this the gang leader is arrested but his son is killed.  He blames Broker for this and is determined to see him pay.  Broker retires from doing undercover works and moves to a small town in the south when his deceased wife grew up.  He moves there with his gradschool daughter Maddie, played Izabela Vidovic.  Not long after they movie there she is bullied by a boy at school, defends herself and gives the boy a bloody nose.  His mother meth addict Cassie Bodine Klum, played by Kate Bosworth, get angry at Broker and goes to her brother Gator Bodine, played by James Franco, the local meth distributor to scare Broker into knowing not to mess with them again.  While he does this Gator discovers that Broker was an undercover cop and hatches a plan to bring him down.  He brings in his ex-biker girl girlfriend Sheryl, played by Wynona Rider, to help execute the plan to get Broker and become bigger meth distributers. 
Like I said this movie is a pretty standard action movie but is a little more old school in presentation.  In it there are hand to hand fights, gun fights, and some car chases. Jason Statham continues being a solid action lead and right now he is one of my favorite action guys as he has the presence to be believable as a bad ass who could stand his own and kick some major butt.  I liked the casting of this movie and think that the characters play well together.  I really liked Kate Bosworth and although she is emancipated in real like, because of it she looks convincing as the meth addict. Even though she was only on screen or brief moments she was shown with depth.  This is the same with many of the supporting characters, they were only on screen for short moments, but during those times they showed that there could have been a lot more done with each of them.  They only one who seemed one dimensional was James Franco, but this may be because he has become one of those actors that I have trouble seeing melt into the role they are playing and see them throughout the performance.
This movie continues to do the thing that I find annoying where they bring the action in really tight and it is a bit hard to follow the actual fight or now who did what while it was happening, but it wasn't too bad in this movie because the action sequences were kept reasonable in length.
Basically this is an action movie to see if you like action movies because it is interesting enough and has the action the it needs to keep it going.  The main negative is that at time it does seem to mosey on through in pace.

My Rating: 2

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Frozen (2013): Review

I have been excitedly waiting for the new Disney animated movie Frozen to come out and I am super excited that I absolutely loved it. It was a lot of fun to watch, with the standard Disney songs, humorous characters, and those who are not exactly as they appear to be.  All the kids around me seemed to like it and this movie isn't just for the little girls although it is another Disney princess movie.
Frozen is ultimately a story about two very different two sisters, Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, who has a magic ability to freeze what is around her, and her little sister Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell. As  the little daughters of the King they used to play together with Anna loving her sister using her powers to create a winter wonderland, but one night things go wrong and Anna is accidently hit in the head by Elsa's power.  The family goes to the local rock trolls and because Anna was hit in the head and not the heart he is able to save her but not without wiping her memory of her sister's power.  It is decided that Elsa is dangerous and that she has to learn to conceal her power from the world and her sister.  Elsa is kept away where she struggles to control her power.  When the princesses are older, the King and Queen suddenly die and Elsa and Anna are left alone, Elsa to try and keep those around her safe from her power, and Anna feeling more alone then ever.  Three years later, it is Elsa's coronation day and the palace is being opened up for a festival of the coronation with Anna escaping the caste and meets Prince Hanz, voiced by Santino Fontana, and falling in love. That day all Elsa is doing is trying to keep herself under control but that snaps when Anna asks for Elsa's blessing to marry Hanz a man she met that day. Elsa denies her blessing and approval and when Anna keeps pushing her Elsa is unable to control her power and winter busts forth from her as she runs away to hid on a mountain.  Anna is determined to find her sister and along the way meets an ice merchant named Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Geoff,  and an animated snowman named Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad. Can Anna make it to her sister before those trying to destroyer do and can she find a way to save herself and the kingdom from being destroyed by her sister's winter.

I absolutely loved this movie and am looking forward to seeing it again with my mom and sister (they were busy this weekend and I didn't want to wait).  This movie is good to see by the whole family, as is something I recommend seeing.  The story being focused on the two sisters with the other characters around them is great and for me I was drawn into the struggle of Elsa and really felt for her and she accidently hurt her sister, struggles to shut her powers in, failing because you cannot suppress your emotions in the long term, and not knowing what to do when she is overwhelmed by everything and just wanting to find out who she is and Anna a girl who doesn't understand why she lost her relationship with her older sister and only wants to be loved by those around her because she loves so intensely herself. 
There are two different princesses for the little girls to like and I expect that many Frozen gifts will be on the Christmas list this year, and for the younger boys their Olaf, who the young man (around 8 years old) who was sitting next to me during the movie just had to tell me was his favorite character after the movie ended and who laughed at his antics throughout the movie.  This movie has some stuff in it but never really get that scary so it should be fine for littler kids who are just big enough to go and sit through the whole movie. 
The story sucked me in from the get go and there were several times where I felt for the characters and how they were struggling with everything around them, this movie really got me to emotionally connect and there were enough moments of humor and fun that it kept it from getting really sappy dappy. The story was a bit simple in actually content and a few characters where just kept as their superficially shells but there was some hidden agenda's and attempts at being diabolical by some of them.
This movie was really beautiful to watch and the landscapes of the snow, with the mountains and the sky were amazing to look at.  It is amazing what is now capable with all of the technology and computers out there.  I went to see it in 3D but there was nothing that really stuck out to me as 3D as I watched it, so that means either it is unnecessary to see it in 3D or so seemly that it blends in.  But because I didn't really notice anything special about the 3D I think that the extra price isn't really worth it.
Basically I just recommend seeing this movie and foresee it become one of my animated favorites and staples that I watch.

My Rating: 3+

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frozen (2013): Trailer

This Thanksgiving the new Disney animated movie Frozen comes out and I am excited for it.
Watch the trailer here:

Ever since I saw the first teaser trailer for this movie with the snowman and the Moose I have been interested to see what they would do with this movie.  For me there really hasn't been an animated movie released that recently that I wanted to see, I am glad that this one looks fun enough to go see and from what the trailers look like it will be exactly what a little girl would want to see coming up on the Christmas holiday. Check out my review which should be up over the Thanksgiving weekend because I am looking forward to seeing this movie.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013): Review

Tonight I went and saw the first showing I could of the new installment of The Hunger Games movies, Catching Fire.  I am glad to say that I enjoyed it and that for anyone excited about this movie it definitely hits that mark and the production value is much better then the first.
Catching Fire continues after the events of the first movie with Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, back in District Twelve having survived as the victors of the 74th hunger games.  Katniss is just trying to forget what happened during that time and put her life back together but the Capital and Specifically President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, wants to see her demise.  Katniss has to struggle with her old life, which includes her sister Prim, her mother, and best friend (who is in love with her) Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth. Katniss struggles with her relationship with Peeta, because she played up her love for him in order for them both to have survived the previous Hunger Games and the world is seeing this as hope for a rebellion against the Capital.  Katniss is told by President Snow that if she doesn't help to diminish the rebellious spirit of the other districts and convince everyone of her love for Peeta, everyone she cares for will be killed.  With the guidance of previous District Twelve Victim Haymich, played by Woody Harrison, she has to convince President Snow that she is working with them.  After President Snow decides that she is too much of a threat, for the 75th annual Hunger Games also known as the third Quarter Quell the tributes from the districts are reaped from previous victors.  With that we have Katniss and Peeta going back into the arena to try and survice, both with their own opinions of which one of them should survive.  Also brought into play in the games are previous victors Finnick, played by Sam Claflin, and Johanna, played by Jena Malone. The movie also brings back Tribute Twelve Handler Effie, played by Elizabeth Banks, Katniss's stylist and friend Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz, and television host Caesar, played by Stanley Tucci.
I think that this movie goes from good to really good because of the great cast of actors involved. To me, what makes the Hunger Games movies stand out from other teen lit movies that have been popular and  prevalent lately is the quality of actors that it has gotten to play the main characters.  Yes Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were not hugely know when the movie came out, but Lawrence was nominated for an academy aware for her initial big movie role and Hutcherson has always just been so darn cute and as Peeta quite loveable.  This supporting cast is fantastic in Banks, Sutherland, and Harrelson.  In Catching Fire I think that Elizabeth Banks is able to play Effie in a way where she is likable and you actually like her, where in the original Hunger Games (2012) this character was a little more one note, here she has more range and it really works for the character.  Donald Southerland is just great at playing the type of bad guys he does in these movies and it is shown in how much the President Snow role is beefed up in the movies compared to the books. Catching Fire follows along with what was started in The Hunger Games with showing the behind the scenes thinking and motivation for the decisions Snow makes and what leads to influencing the situations Katniss is put into. Woody Harrelson is once again fabulous as Haymitch and Harrelson has slowing become one of my favorite actors in general.  He continues to be able to bring you into to liking him as Haymitch, which is a character that could very easily be played too one way or another, but hits just the right notes.
With Catching fire the production value is better and the special effects fit pretty seamlessly in with the movie, except where it was suppose to have the appears of allusions the effects didn't draw notice to them being effects.  I really liked how this was done in this movie. 
With this movie, the pace of what is happening happens really fast and it packs a lot of stuff into its story.  With all the stuff going on and the fast pace of it all, the movie didn't have the feel of it being a two and a half hour movie, that being said, with the two parts of the movie (pre-arena and arena) it kinda feels slightly too full and that this book as well could have been made into two different movies.  I know many of the people who read the books would have liked more of the content from the book in there (but who doesn't want this when they see a movie of a book they have read).
Overall I really liked this movie and want to see it again just to get all of the stuff in there.  There was a lot going on and a lot of things that with the knowledge of the books you would understand how it could have had a lot more things associated with it.  This movie also puts little touches in it that are leading up to the third book in the series and are needed only so that they can be build upon, because without that in this movie it would make no sense in the next.

My Rating: 3

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Captain Phillips (2013): Review

This weekend I finally made it to see the new Tom Hanks movie, Captain Phillips.  It has been out for a while now, but there were some other movies that were higher on my list and things just didn't work out for me to see this movie before this weekend.  this fall the dramas have all been pretty good and this is continued with Captain Phillips and I had hopes for this movie because I like Tom Hanks movies and think that he is great at carrying a movie, and as he plays the title character it is important that he carries this movie.  He once again is a likable character and I found myself rooting for him, but knowing that he wasn't going to have a pleasant time.  Captain Phillips is based upon a true story but I haven't done any research on it so I don't know how true it is to what actually happens, but as the end of the movie gives an update I think it follows the main events pretty well.
Captain Phillips is a drama where a cargo ship is attached by Somalia pirates and is broken into two parts.  The first part is one the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama where the crew is on a route to deliver their cargo and are boarded by these pirates and then the second part when Captain Philips is kidnapped and on the life boat with the four Somalians and being negotiated with by the US Navy.  The two parts of the movie go together as it is the sequence of events that happened but each has a different feel to them.  I liked both parts, the character interactions of the first part and the anticipation and anxiety of the second part. 
I think that this film was cast well and it is all centered on Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips.  I liked the mate of the ship Shane, played by Michael Chernus and found that I really liked the moments that he was on screen.  It takes a while to get the peril going, but this is needed because without it the movie would have felt like it didn't have a beginning.  Once there is interaction between Phillips and the main pirate Muse, played by Barkhad Abdi, the movie really starts to build up. 
I think that through the storytelling of this movie it was able to get me on the suspense of it and I was engrossed throughout the entire thing.  I didn't really know what was going to happen and there were enough things to keep me going oh and how is this going to end.  I really did like this movie.

My Rating: 3-

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Best Man Holiday (2013): Review

This weekend The Best Man Holiday came out an it was a really fun movie that pulled me in and got me laughing one minuet, then crying the next, and then getting me back to laughing while I still have a tear in my eye.  To me that is the best I can hope for and exactly what I want with this type of movie.  This movie is a rated R comedy that follows the standard plot of getting old friends back together in one place, where some of them have fallen out but need to reconnect because they truly need each other.  When together the personalities conflict, humor is relied upon and there is things that pulls at your heartstrings to get you really engrossed with what is happening during this snapshot of the people's lives.
Going into this movie, I was thinking that this group was getting together because one of the guys is getting married but that is not the case, the group is getting together for a Christmas weekend just because they are good friends and it has been too long since they were all together.
This movie consists of several main characters who's backstories are introduced very quickly in the beginning of the movie but is a little confusing because there are quite a few characters.  The main male seems to be Harper, played by Taye Diggs, who has been having problem with his long time best friend and football star Lance, played by Morris Chestnut, because Harper slept with Lance's wife Mia, played by Monica Calhoun, years ago.  Mia is the lynch pin of this group and desperately wants to get everyone back together and on good terms this holiday.  Everything in this movie is based on the relationships between the characters and basically everyone has some type of history.  Harper and Lance are estranged because of Harper's betray.  Harper needs money and is trying to figure out how he can write Lance's biography as his next big book. Jordan, played by Nia Long, is best friends to Mia and old friends with Harper, but at odds with Harper's very pregnant wife Robin, played by Sanaa Lathan.  Harper and Lance are old friends with Quentin, played by Terrence Howard, and Julian, played by Harold Perrineau.  Quentin is the one of the group who is always making a joke, being inappropriate, making sexual comments and just being entertaining.  He is Mia's sister but has a long standing love hate relationship with Shelby, played by Melissa De Sousa.  I never really got how Shelby is part of the group except that she used to be in a relationship with Julian (but I think she may be sister to Lance as she is treated like family in the movie).  Julian is married to Candace played by Regina Hall, who has some problems with her husband because he is told about an old film that is now on the internet where Candace took money for sexual favors as a younger women.  Lots of situations happened and inter-drama amounts the characters. You also have Brian, played by Eddie Cibrian, who is the token white guy in this movie who is dating Jordan.
I liked this movie from start to finish, it kept my interest, I cared about the majority of the characters and liked the drama between them and I laughed more then I thought I would. The beginning was slightly confusing and it took a minute for me to understand which person was linked to who and how, but once the movie got going it made sense.  To me Taye Diggs was my least favorite as he seemed to be put in the foreground of the story and it seemed like he was suppose to be likable, but I didn't find him to be as likable as it was pushing for him to be.  Because of some of the underhanded things he was doing, and yes some of them where taken by his fellow characters wrong, I didn't find myself really caring about him and therefor the drama between him and Lance was the storyline I was just watching to see the rest. 
Terrence Howard was by the far the best in this movie, he perfectly embodied Quentin, who was a character who easily could have been hated but because of how he played it and how you could see the care he had for the people around him was just fantastic.  He was crass, inappropriate, high most of the time, and whenever he was on scene I found myself laughing.  It was also great how you could see his care for his friends and his genuine affection for his sister. 
I was surprised going into this movie that I liked it as much as I did, the story kept me interested, the character interplay was fun, the dialogue was good and it had the right amount of emotion to get you sucked in.  I would recommend this to anyone who like character driven stories and these type of situations movies.  This was one of the best ones I have seen in a while.  There were things that were predictable and it wasn't very original in concept but it was fun and I kinda want to see it again and don't want to wait until it comes out on DVD.  Go see it.

My Rating: 3

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013): Review

This weekend I went and saw the next installment of Marvel's phase two and it was a movie that was a lot of fun throughout the whole experience.  It had a fantastic balanced of humor, gags, action, interplay between characters and references to the other movies. although this movie was a lot of fun and I would recommend it to basically everyone as fun superhero action fun there was little that was memorable about the movie or that really stood out as something special.
Thor: The Dark World is the newest installment of Phase Two of the Marvel Avengers  and follows along the storylines of the movie that came before.  Although it is helpful to have seen the movie before hand, I think that basically everything needed to follow the plot is explained in the movie or from watching the Avengers.  In Thor (2011) you are introduced to the main characters; Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, is the god of thunder who saves the world with his mighty hammer; Loki, played by Tom Hiddleson, is his adopted brother who is resentful of what he feels he should have gotten as his birthright as a prince of the Frost Giants; Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is a human scientist who assisted Thor in the first movie and is the romantic interest; Darcy, played by Kat Dennings, is the former intern of Jane and works to understand the science what is happening between the realms; Dr. Erik Selvig, played by Stellan Skarsgard, a scientist who played a role in the Avengers when he was taken over by Loki and his knowledge of the different realms used; Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, who is the King of Asgard and father to Thor and adopted father of Loki; Heimdall, played by Idris Elba, who is the gatekeep between Asgard and the other realms as well as able to see that which is unseen by other; as well as a few fellow Asgardian Warriors and Thor's friends.
In The Dark World, the stories of these characters continue but this time with a new villain trying to send all the realms back into darkness.  Five thousand years ago the Dark Elfs lead by Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston, who was trying to use a powerful fluid energy called the Aether to plunge the realms back into a state of darkness where their kind used to rule. While trying to do this they majority of the Dark Elves they were destroyed by Odin's Father Bor but Malekith was able to escape and wait until the next convergence to try his plot again.  The convergence is a moment in time that happens every five thousand years when all of the realms are in alignment and their gravity is interacting with each other.  Jane and Darcy discover that physics is going wonky and Jane finds herself become the newest host of the Aether.  Thor and the other Asgardians discover what is happening and that the Dark Elves are once again making a play for the Aether and Thor wants to save the world as well as Jane.  Being at odds with his father on how to do this, Thor seeks the help of the imprisoned Loki, hoping but not really believing that he can be trusted.  Thor tries to find a away to be the hero and save everyone from the deadly Makekith and his fellow Dark Elves.

This movie was a lot of fun all the through it, I found myself entertained by the dialoged between characters, he situations that they were in, the in jokes and gags that were added, and the action sequences (which were kept a reasonable lengths compared to some other recent action movies). For me this had the balance of what I like in these type of action movies.  It was fun, didn't take itself too seriously but didn't go too far into campy humorfest.  It has a story that needed quiet a bit of explanation, but for me it had to have things that were weird because it is a Marvel comic book movie about Thor.  It is difficulty to believe that many villains or entities could stand up to Thor as he is a god, not just an enhanced/ special human.  Although the story tried to explain the physics of what it going on, I recommend not trying to figure it out and just go along for the ride that is the movie and enjoy it.
I think that Chris Hemsworth did a great job as Thor and you can see how in this third installment of him laying the character he has settled into and embodied the character.  There is a moment in the beginning of the film, that is put in there solely for objectification purposes which shows the amazing amount of work the Hemsworth put into to get the physic of Thor and I have to say that he looks really good in that scene, this guy is seriously hot.  Tom Hiddleston continues to be fantastic Loki and the interplay between these two is great.  The acting overall in this movie is overdone and dramatic but that is the type of movie this is and overall works.  The only person I found myself getting annoyed at was Natalie Portman, which surprises me because I usually like her.
I found myself laughing throughout and movie and really liked all things that were put in there, the standard Stan Lee cameo was fun and there was also a cameo from another well know Avenger character in the middle of the movie that is probably by favorite part of the whole films.  You will know what it is when you see it.
Although I did not see this movie in 3D I can see the work that was put into the CG and could imagine how well some of the shots would have looked in 3D, especially all of the depth in the scenery and the floating of the light orbs into the sky. I think that the specially effects were done very well and did not take away from the movie, although I knew that some of the sequences and scenes were significantly CG it was not blatantly there.
This is a movie that I would recommend seeing and although it is nothing truly memorable in components the whole experiences is fun and exciting.  Basically I think you should see this movie.

My Rating: 3