Safety Not Guaranteed Review

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Safety Not Guaranteed was a rather splendid movie that I was happy to have watched. Newcomer, Colin Trevorrow, boldly plays around with a lot in his first feature films and offers a lot of unique pay offs. It tells a clever little tale with some real emotion. The characters are really explored not uselessly as some characters in movies are. This is the work of a confident filmmaker who clearly had a tight vision for his movie.

It tells the tale of three Journalists (two of them are interns) who investigate a Want-Ad of man seeking a partner to time travel with. As the female intern becomes very involved and intrigued by her “mark”, if he could be called that, it becomes a apparent that at its heart, Safety Not Guaranteed is a fun film about finding the people who are weird just like you. This was a very different film and as a result I was interested to learn more about these well thought out characters.

Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza really shine in their well written roles. The played so well off of each other that I pleasantly happy anytime they shared the screen together, which seemed to be most of the movie. Everyone else did pretty great as well. A lot just seemed to fall into place as if everyone was just having a good time making a good movie. It was funny and it was serious and it told a good story. What more could I ask for?

If I could think of a complaint it might be that it was almost too short and some of it was a bit predictable. I was entertained and I wanted it to keep going, I felt as though the story could’ve explored more between starting at A and ending at B. As far as parts being slightly predictable other parts made up for that so I wouldn’t call it much of a complaint at all. Overall, it was just a pretty great film I’d happily enjoy watching in the future.

Grade: A-

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Silver Linings Playbook Review

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David O. Russell follows up his inferior The Fighter with a remarkably touching film of love and self-discovery. I say inferior, but I really enjoyed The Fighter for its realism and the human direction he took the story. There was definitely a prowess to way The Fighter was directed and Russell brings that same flair to his latest and superior outing, a film that was not only more entertaining, but also meant more to me.

First off, it was great to see Robert De Niro in this role. He is one of the greatest actors to have ever performed. Russell has written a fabulous script with genuine characters who change and react to the events around them. There’s certainly a realism to the story and like Robert De Niro, everyone is on their game. Jacki Weaver is great, this is the best I’ve ever seen Bradley Cooper act and as always Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal.

Silver Linings Playbook was very unconventional and in all the best ways. The film almost had a subtle reflexivity to it in the way everything plays out. By the end, everything is wrapped in a beautiful little bow and at the same time it’s hard not to enjoy the entire ride. Where other movies fail with similar subject matter, Silver Linings Playbook succeeds because it touches on so much more than just covering the family or love story.

Silver Linings Playbook makes you laugh, it makes you tear up, it gets you interested and it keeps you interested with a marvelous story about relationships and the unique personalities that form those relationships whether it be a connection with a father, a friend, a brother or a lover. We’re all a little crazy. Who defines what’s normal? You look at people and no two are the same. Silver Linings Playbook is about people and relishes in their differences.

Silver Linings Playbook follows a simple enough story about a man picking himself back up after a trip to the “looney bin”. Your family can only do so much and the same could be said about friends new and old, but at the end of the day what pulls you through is the strength and ability to change. David O. Russell blew me away with this one and I can’t wait for his next feature because it definitely seems as though he’s coming into his own as a filmmaker. Silver Linings Playbook was extraordinary.

Grade: A

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been a long time coming and the wait was worth it. First it was going to be one movie, then two and now the story  of The Hobbit is going to be its own movie trilogy. While the story was going through these changes, we also saw a change of a director from Guillermo Del Toro to the man who was born to direct movies in middle-earth, Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest stories ever told and I could not be more happy that Peter Jackson is at the helm of another journey through middle-earth because The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was perfect.

Part of the reason that made this first film in a brand new middle-earth quest so breathtaking was it never once had that been there done that feel to it. I felt privileged to be able to go on another epic adventure with new and old characters from this world that was first established in The Lord of the Rings. On top of that though, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit just feel very different. The stakes were higher in The Lord of the Rings making it much more tense and dramatic, it was extremely emotional and almost had a realism to it where as The Hobbit felt much more like a fantasy movie and a rollicking good time, a bedtime story if you will. Both were simply perfect in their own ways.

Ian McKellan, as always, is just brilliant as my favorite character from middle-earth. We’ve met Bilbo Baggins before, but not like this and Martin Freeman captures the character and his traits to perfection, I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of this adventure with him. My favorite newcomer (not counting the young Bilbo) is Richard Armitage as the dwarf and leader of the company, Thorin Oakenshield. It was a treat to watch this relationship build between this heroic warrior and this Hobbit who seems to be out of place.

Every character was unique and added to the greatness that is this story being told. This is a story about stories and the experiences that shape who you are and the stories you pass on. Bilbo could’ve just been sitting on his bench smoking a pipe or reading a good book, but now he’s off seeing the world with a wizard and a bunch of dwarves. This is a magnificent story worthy of an epic telling and Peter Jackson, thus far, has been doing just that.

I was always against Peter Jackson turning this shorter book into its own trilogy, but now I have nothing but complete faith in his talents. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the beginning of something beautiful and new. Because it is a trilogy, Peter Jackson is able to take his time and fully realize exactly what he wants to do with this brand new adventure that has already began to brilliantly prelude another journey. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a masterpiece, I savored every second and I wait eagerly for the rest of this tale.

Grade: A+

Killing Them Softly Review

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Killing Them Softly is a movie I’ve been craving to see for a long time and maybe it’s because 2012 has had such an amazing track record, but there wasn’t much doubt in my mind that I was going to enjoy Killing Them Softly. This is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not saying it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while, I’m saying it’s one of the most disappointing. I was expecting one thing, what I got was unfortunately not a good movie.

This is the second feature film by Andrew Dominik and just like his first feature, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, KIlling Them Softly stars Brad Pitt and a role he does wonders with. Unlike his first feature, Killing Them Softly was a bad movie. I loved The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, it was an incredibly well made film and the acting was amazing. This was another reason I was excited to see Killing Them Softly, it seemed to have that great combination of director and actors. The actors did what they could with the flat characters they were given and lightning just wasn’t able to strike twice when it came to Andrew Dominik’s career.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was just under three hours, while Killing Them Softly is just a little over an hour and a half. Killing Them Softly manages to feel longer than Dominik’s first feature. Now how did he manage to do that? It had something to do with meaningless scenes of dialogue that went absolutely nowhere, characters that could’ve easily been cut from the movie because their arcs or lack their of offer nothing to the film other than more wasted time, but worst of all it offers up for our appreciation a simplistic and predictable story with an obvious theme that could’ve been established in 5-minute short film.

I’ve read comments of people who enjoyed the film expressing that the reason there are people who don’t like it is because they don’t understand the underlying themes. My main compliant with the movie is that there was no way I couldn’t understand the point of the movie. There was no subtlety in the movie whatsoever, there was one purpose the film was attempting to get across and it was shoved farther and farther down my throat. Throughout the entire movie it is made completely obvious what the film maker’s agenda in making this film was and then the theme is punctuated by its last moments which is when I realized how much of a waste of time the movie really was.

If there was a bit of light that could be found in this dark and dull film, it would be some brilliant camera work and some good acting. The film was shot beautifully and when it comes to the performances I just can’t complain, it’s just sad these actors were given such lackluster characters and unimaginative dialogue. Killing Them Softly was a disappointment through and through and I can’t wait to just forget about it because the more I think about it, the more I just get frustrated.

Grade: C-

Lincoln Review

“This isn’t usual. This is history.” This is arguably the most important moment in American History making this a completely necessary film. Not only was it a film the needed to be made, it was a fantastic film all around. Steven Spielberg tells an incredible interpretation of this powerful moment in our time and this is mostly in part to a flawless performance from the greatest actor living today as the titular, President Abraham Lincoln.

Stylistically, Spielberg doesn’t offer anything new or tricky, which works perfectly for the the film he was trying to make. What he does offer is simply a very straightforward and linear retelling of a historical event that deserved to be expressed in this, the greatest art form. Spielberg just does his job, does it well and allows his actors to do their job. You just have to expect greatness from Daniel Day-Lewis and yes it is his show and he is perfect in the role, but it’s also complete perdenent that I mention the other performances as well.

Sally Field does wonders as Lincoln’s neurotic wife, a performance that I feel must’ve been trying. John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson and James Spader play very well off of each other. Other great actors make up a fantastic supporting cast; Hal Holbrook, Jared Harris, Jackie Earle Haley, David Straihairn and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt is along for the carriage ride. Tommy Lee Jones is an actor who deserves undying praise for his vivid portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens.

Making a film is a collaborative project and in this case there were a lot of talented people collaborating, but it’s the performance of the Abraham Lincoln that makes this film truly extraordinary. Abraham Lincoln may be the most iconic historical figure ever and for him to justly be portrayed in a film would take an incredible performance. Daniel Day-Lewis offers that and more with a grand portrayal filled with subtleties and confident choices. He takes a great man, one we could only imagine actually being in the presence, and makes him utterly human.

Lincoln is just a great film through and through. It’s made by a man who still knows how to make a great film and it serves as a reminder and proof that Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor. This is a film where the drama and climaxes come from decisions and conversations. It’s a tasteful and mature film meant to bring us to a time and place and to tell the tale of one of the most important points in American history. It was a film that needed to be made and it was incredible.

Grade: A

Skyfall Review

Skyfall is quite the film. I loved Casino Royale, it was just this perfect telling of James Bond’s first mission and I couldn’t help but think I’d never see a better Bond film. It was that good. I’m also one of the few who loved Quantum of Solace. Was it Casino Royale? No, and it wasn’t trying to be. It was Quantum of Solace, a fast-paced and precisely devised action film that continued the real and raw drama that began in Casino Royale. Skyfall was something completely new and not only is it the greatest 007 movie I’ve seen, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

The film opens with a black and blurry silhouette of a man. The man walks towards us eventually having his eyes illuminated revealing the pearly blues of the greatest James Bond in 50 years and 23 films. The film jumps right into it with a thrilling chase sequence, the kind of action you have to expect from the Daniel Craig versions of the character. The scene is a better action sequence than any of the previous Craig movies and there were even better action sequences still to come. If one were to look at the film for its action elements it’s one of the best ever crafted, but action plays second tear in this epic of characters, emotion and the ways of old and new.

While no Bond film has ever cut deeper with such powerful themes, the true center of this film is James Bond. It’s his show and in this perfect 007 movie James Bond may go on his most spectacular mission yet, but that’s not all. Director Sam Mendes actually takes his time and asks questions about this character who has been going on missions for the past 50 years. For example, what makes James Bond James Bond? But more importantly he asks, how much longer can this man be doing this? In Skyfall, the greatest secret agent of all time must prove himself against the most formidable and sinister adversary he’ll ever face.

Raoul Silva (formerly Tiago Rodriguez) is a malevolent mastermind not bent on world domination mind you. No, he’s much more concerned with revenge against the person who means most to Bond in this world. A good villain usually makes for a good movie and Silva is one of the greatest villains in film. In the beginning, there is a mystery that is the villain of Skyfall, with only whispers of some evil menace plotting in the backdrop. Then Silva makes his grand entrance almost halfway through the film, his audience being a captive 007. Silva is a theatrical and confident man with a single agenda, he’s a former MI6 agent and now he’s a betrayer dedicated and bent on vengeance against M. James Bond is dedicated to his duty and in this case it’s very personal; the protection of M.

Judi Dench is given much more territory with M this time around and she excels with it. Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris are great. Ben Whishaw is a real delight to watch as Q, a new school tech guy who juxtaposes extraordinarily with Daniel Craig’s seasoned veteran. The Skyfall interpretation of James Bond and Raoul Silva are simply two of the greatest characters in film. Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem have their unique characters realized down to a “T” both giving tremendous performances.

Skyfall is a film that is very derivative of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Legend (or The Dark Knight Trilogy if that tastes better going down). Sam Mendes has openly stated that he was inspired by Nolan’s work with Batman. I can’t fault Mendes for being inspired by the best. Skyfall is a different film and it was made to perfection. It utilized an icon to delve into broader motifs and darker territory. This is a James Bond film made by people and for people who appreciate the beautiful art form that is film.

Skyfall is one of the greatest films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. It’s a film that looks and feels beautiful. It emotes so much depth and artistry, while masquerading as a simple action piece. This is just an example of a film getting every single finite detail perfectly, whether that be a character arc, the film’s extraordinary structure or even something as simple as a one-liner. Skyfall is nothing short of a masterpiece of the highest caliber.

Grade: A+