Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Review of The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (1987)

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.


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.

9.5/10-  Must-See


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

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.

Unfortunately, I won't tell you how, but this mission ends in the exploding of the Kremlin. This is basically Russian 9-11, and the team is 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 almost entirely in the field of animation could handle a live-action movie, but after seeing this film, I was thorougly impressed and now 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.

8.9/10-  Highly Recommended, Worth Seeing in Theatres

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Review of E.T.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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.


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.


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.

9.5/10-  Must-See, Instant Classic 

The very definition of ugly-cute

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Review of 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.


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.


10/10- Must-See, Instant Classic

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Review of The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)


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.

10/10 -  Must See

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Review of Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids (2011)

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.


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.


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 fiance. The only thing that I might have liked the movie to do is flesh 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.

9.5/10-   Highly Recommended 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt II (2011)

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.


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.

10/10 (although that's far from enough, it deserves way more)

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Review of Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park (1993)

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.


Don't kill Jeff Goldblum, he's the best actor in this movie

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Review of A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

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.