The Descendants Review

There are plenty of examples of films through out history that, for me at least, can be looked at as beautiful pieces of art work and sometimes these pieces of art work can be appreciated, but not always enjoyed. There are many times when I have a complete respect for a film and what a filmmaker has accomplished, but that’s not to say the film was completely entertaining. That was just the case with a film that came out just months ago, The Tree of Life. That’s a fantastic film, but it’s not one that kept me thoroughly gripped through out. This is partly the case with The Descendants, which was a much more entertaining film and while it was pretty well made, it simply didn’t grab me as I’m sure it will for most.

This in no way, shape or form is to imply that I didn’t like The Descendants, because I did. I’m merely stating that the film didn’t offer me quite the escape that other films have this year. That being said, The Descendants was a pretty great film that I will certainly watch again. It was a very intelligent and mature film that was completely aware of where it was going and the more mellow tone of the story truly worked because every character had heart and soul.

The Descendants follows working stiff Matthew King as his his wife has just fallen into a coma and now has to take care of his daughters. The film takes a dramatic turn when Matt finds that his wife is going to die and that she had been cheating on him. The events happen to also coincide with a choice Matt is figuring out on whether or not to sell a piece of land that has been passed down through his family for generations. There are times where that story is heavy hitting and the moments work well, but for the most part the story and light the relationship between Matt and his daughters is very entertaining.

The acting in this film is very captivating. Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley were fantastic as Matt’s completely different daughters. In terms of Clooney, this was one of his best performances. I haven’t seen him perform this well in a long time and that’s not to say he hasn’t been performing to his full ability as of late, that’s to say he was pretty brilliant in The Descendants. His character was defined by good writing and was made a reality by a great performance.

Other than a few lackluster moments, including an out of place wipe transition nearing the climax, the film was directed very well. There wasn’t anything that was flashy or over dramatized. What you saw was what you got and what we got was a great movie. The pacing for this film kept you intrigued and- aside from an ending that dragged a little bit- it was hard not to be entertained through out. Overall, it was a great film and one I hope to watch again.

Grade: B+

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

I’d like to open this review by being as blunt as the movie I’m reviewing; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterpiece. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a murder mystery, it’s an examination of family values gone wrong, it’s a character study, it’s a portrait of the violence and cruelty the average person tries to pretend doesn’t exist, it’s gritty, it’s raw, it holds no punches as it shouldn’t, it’s fascinating, it’s compelling, it envelops the idea of truly extraordinary filmmaking and yes it is a masterpiece.

I had not read the book before seeing this film nor had I seen the Swedish version of the film. This gave me the opportunity to view this film with out an ounce of prejudice. I wasn’t judging the movie based on how similar it was to the book or if it was better than the swedish version of the film, I was able to simply experience it for what it was, a spectacular film. This was the first time I was to take in this particular story and I have no regrets because this film was spectacular.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the dark, and I mean dark, tale of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist and their involvement behind the mystery of Harriet Vanger and her disappearance 40 years ago. I obviously don’t know how much screenwriter Steven Zaillan did in adapting this story for the screen, but the writing was real and enthralling. For coming up with such a calculated and phenomenal story, the true praise here belongs to author Stieg Larrson.

The performances here are more than what you’d expect from great cinema. Christopher Plummer is simply an amazing actor and his work here speaks for itself. Stellan Skarsgard is also always a pleasure to watch and the same goes for his performance in this film. Whether it’s in a good movie or a bad movie, there is just something about Daniel Craig that I find appealing as an actor. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he plays what may be the most human character he’s ever played and plays him with that same appeal. None of those performances were as demanding and incredible as the star of the film.

Rooney Mara as the rebellious and layered Lisbeth Salander is a revelation of potent prowess. Lisbeth Salander is fascinating creation of strong will and self-proclaimed insanity, a character so captivating and memorable that only a truly brilliant performance would suffice. That’s the exact performance you’ll find from Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Every deliverance of a line, facial expression, or gesture is just exquisite. This is a performance that most actors can only give in their dreams.

The direction here is quite honestly indescribable. David Fincher has done something here that you really have to see to believe. Every shot, every music cue, every finite detail is treated with respect and the result is a flawless movie. My second favorite David Fincher film is The Social Network and Fight Club is Fincher’s magnum opus. However, in terms of the scope, the filmmaking and the pure craft of it all The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is second to none. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the kind of film that serves as a reminder of what a perfect movie is.

Grade: A+

Midnight in Paris Review

Comedies for me are very hit or miss. I, like almost everyone, do love the occasional comedy from time to time. There are a lot of comedies out there that, regardless of how much you laugh, are only focused on just that; making you laugh. These comedies don’t really care about the characters and the story their shaping. It’s always refreshing to see a movie that can be considered a comedy and be so so much more. Midnight in Paris is just that kind of movie.

Yes,Woody Allen’s latest film is funny, but Midnight in Paris can best be described as charming and sweet. In a story about a writer who finds out on his vacation to Paris that at Midnight he can travel to and experience the zest and company of the roaring 20s you get a portrait of love and the ability to start over. It’s an interesting tale and one that could’ve fell flat, but instead the concepts were taken seriously and they are fresh, appealing, and it all completely works.

The film is stacked with great performers such as Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen and even the marvelous Marion Cotillard. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Owen Wilson in a more serious role as the lovable, yet wimpish protagonist. Like the actors, practically everything from the camera work to the score just fits. It was a very meaningful, but fun watch.

It’s always nice to watch a shorter film that’s actually very good because most truly good films have to be over 2 hours to tell their stories. Midnight in Paris doesn’t tell too little or too much, it tells just the right amount. There’s only so much you can do with a story about a man who continues to travel back in time to have a good time in the 1920s and Midnight in Paris never feels boring so it obviously did its job and did it admirably. Midnight in Paris isn’t a very challenging movie and it’s not a film that will change you, it is however a well made film that will make you smile.

Grade: A-

Hesher Review

There are a lot of different reasons to see a movie. Most of the time it’s because you want to be entertained, maybe it’s because you want escape, maybe you want to appreciate the art or maybe you like the director whose making the film. I hadn’t heard much about Hesher, but I did know Joseph Gordon-Levitt was starring as the title character in a role that was completely different from any he had ever taken before. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he was the reason I saw this movie.

This was a very unique film to say the least. In terms of the messages it tried to establish, sure there was nothing new here, but what made this film so innovative was in the dark ways it established the themes. It was also a film that never failed to make you laugh on occasion. It was certainly what you’d call a black comedy, but it also had a lot of heartfelt moments and none of it felt forced. I could certainly see how this film might not be able to grip everyone, but Hesher truly captivated me through out.

Hesher follows the story of a young boy, TJ (played very well by Devin Brochu), and his father (Rainn Wilson who is cast out of character and pulls a lot out of the smaller part he was given) who have both just lost someone very dear to them in a car accident. TJ finds a new quasi-friend in the rebellious and anarchic Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who may very well be the tough and unusual push to get this father and son living their lives again.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just astounding as one of my favorite characters to come out of cinema this year. He swears, he lights stuff on fire, he’s vulgar, he’s intimidating, he’s threatening, he does not give a shit, but when the time calls for it he doesn’t hesitate to get out of his tough exterior and show that he does have a beating heart. The character is defined so well in the writing and Levitt plays him flawlessly. The film is worth seeing if only for his performance. The rest of the cast was pretty great as well and that includes Piper Laurie as the lovable Grandma and Natalie Portman as the store clerk TJ falls for.

Hesher was just an extremely entertaining film through and through. Was it some kind of perfect film? No, but any slight flaws it had I found myself forgiving because I couldn’t stop rooting for these characters and some kind of satisfying ending. Well, you can’t really expect much from someone who is so apathetic, but Hesher delivers.

Grade: A-

The Dark Knight Rises Prologue Review

In the true brush stroke of brilliance, The Dark Knight Rises Prologue does exactly what a movie opening should do. If done right the beginning of a truly incredible film should introduce a bit of story  while getting you excited of the rest of the film. The Dark Knight Rises dances circles around this idea by simply teasing you a little bit and finally introducing the world to the character and voice of the mysterious Bane.

I won’t give a way every detail because this is certainly something you want to experience, but I will say that most of the scene takes place on an airplane. There has been a lot floating around regarding Bane’s voice and I won’t lie and say that I understood every word, but I absolutely loved his voice. It’s almost somewhat eloquent and it reminds me of Darth Vader, but more menacing and british. It’s so completely different from what you’d expect from such a brute, but now that I’ve heard his voice I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If the score is as good or better in the rest of the movie as it was in the first six minutes than this final film might very well have the best music in a series filled with amazing music. The music cues are awesome and correlate right along with the beautiful action and dialogue on the screen. Christopher Nolan has a habit of upping the ante when it comes to action scenes (i.e. hallway scene in Inception, truck flipping scene in The Dark Knight, etc.) and this opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises is an action sequence that you just come to expect from this masterful director.

Then after the beautiful opening six minutes a short montage of shots follow that get you pumped for the film you’ll be sitting and watching next July. We finally get a shot of Catwoman in full costume, we get to see the bat wing, more shots of Bane and then the resonating last shot of Bane discarding a broken piece of Batman’s mask. I don’t think I’ll ever be as excited for another movie as I am for The Dark Knight Rises and watching this prologue, a long with the recently released second trailer, is exactly what I needed to hold me over before next July when my favorite series of film is concluded.

Grade: A+

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Review

I wasn’t expecting much when it came to the fourth installment of the Mission Impossible series mostly because I’m not a fan of the series in general. Watching this fourth film was probably the most fun I’ve had watching a Mission Impossible movie, but that certainly didn’t make it a great movie. It’s not even that I’m bias against Tom Cruise whom I think isn’t a very good actor because I have seen Tom Cruise movies I enjoy thoroughly. I was even open to the idea of this film being a good time because it was helmed by “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was not a good film, though I did have fun occasionally.

After being blown away by the “The Dark Knight Rises” prologue I was in such a pumped up mood that I knew nothing could put me down. I was absolutely right and for a while I was having a blast with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol but past a certain point I just realized that for the most part the filmmakers and actors didn’t care about an interesting story or developed characters so why should I.? What the filmmakers cared about was the constant action. As a friend and I walked out of the theater my friend said something a long the lines of, “I can’t believe a movie with that much action could be so boring”. I couldn’t have said it better myself and I couldn’t agree more.

Sure, a lot the action was fun especially the sky scraper scaling scene shown in the trailers and showcased in the movie posters. At the end of the day however, it just couldn’t be ignored how lazy the writing and performances were. What subsequently followed the skyscraper scene was a chase scene that felt fifteen minutes too long and in the middle of that very chase is when I realized that I truly just wanted the movie to end. To be completely honest, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t just walk out because I had already seen what I paid to see.

Even though I was not a very big fan of this film at all, I will admit that while some of the action scenes were beyond stereotypical, there were some that really kept you on the age of their seat. The other best quality of the film was Simon Pegg, I’m always a fan of his work and he certainly had a funny role in this film. There’s not much else that can be said, I like Jeremy Renner, but I was not a fan of his work here and the attempt at a cool twist ending that was hinted at the entire movie was completely atrocious. If you enjoy some mindless action and violence Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol might be the film for you and I can respect another person’s taste, however count me out on this one.

Grade: C-