The rants and raves of a teenage cinephile who is just a little bit obsessed with Catherine O'Hara and Hayao Miyazaki.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review Slam 6-14-12

So, I figure, if I'm watching movies I have no reason to NOT write at least some kind of reviews for them. Thus, when I watch a few movies, I'm going to do one of these "review slams" where I just briefly list what I watched and write a short review! Let it begin.

Strictly Ballroom (1992) - Okay, I was not expecting to love this as much as I did. Something about the cliche romantic-comedy plot devices being used in the context of a dramaticized version of professional ballroom dancing just really made me fall in love. This being Baz Luhrmann's first film, it's pretty subdued when compared to like, Moulin Rouge!, But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is the better film. It's subtly stylized, the leads are not brilliant actors but they're remarkably charismatic, and the dancing is just exhilarating. Truly a joy to watch. 9/10

The Hunger Games (2012) - I finally saw this, after months of delay. I am a huge fan of the series, and this movie lived up to all expectations. Really, I thought it was a perfect adaptation - especially the score, which was beautiful and defied the trap that action movie scores seem to fall into of all sounding the same. I thought the film did a particularly good job of portraying the absolute horror of this society and the seamless integration of the behind-the-scenes stuff was great. As a whole it didn't hit me as hard as I had hoped, though I think this can be attributed to the fact that the book it is based on is the most expository of the trilogy. Let's see how the other two stack up. 8/10

I'm a Cyborg but That's OK (2006) - At first I thought this movie was trying way too hard, but by the end I was really pleased, and it has stuck with me quite surprisingly. I do think a lot of the plot elements are a little bit contrived, but the spectacular visuals, the risky but successful stylization, and the charismatic performances from the two leads make up for the slight missteps. My biggest problem was the score, which sounded like it belonged to a mediocre 90's film. However, it's overall very enjoyable and enrapturing. 7/10

Sonatine (1993) - I'm not sure if it was the translation, a cultural or period difference, or the haphazard way in which I watched this film, but I am sure I didn't grasp all of the subtleties of the plot. Hence, I don't really feel qualified to discuss anything but Joe Hisaishi's score, which is why I watched the film in the first place. It's perfect, like everything else Hisaishi has done, and it's fun to hear his much earlier work - it's much more electronic as opposed to the rich orchestral colors he employs in his Ghibli era work. The film itself had some great acting but I think I need to see it again to appreciate it. For now though, I'll give it a 7/10

Rampart (2011) - This film left sort of a sour taste in my mouth - in that, despite the fact that there was some brilliant writing and some absolutely fantastic acting, I felt the film didn't really go anywhere. It felt like it was trying to say something but never quite got it out completely, and thus a lot of it fell flat. The acting though, was really commendable. Sigourney Weaver is just FIERCE, Woody Harrellson is very solid, and it's really nice to see Brie Larson, who i love, getting a part in a serious movie like this - a part, which I must say, she did quite well in. 6/10

(500) Days of Summer (2009) - I've seen this movie multiple times, and it was actually my number two film of 2009 when I first made the list (it's since migrated to roughly spot number 4). Nonetheless, I love it more and more each time I see it. It's so expertly paced and aesthetically well filmed, as well as simply endearing. I understand complaints of its over-quirkiness and the Chloe Moretz character (who is the only part of the film I find less enjoyable on each viewing), but overall it's such a unique take on a romance film, as well as a film that just captures my heart in a way few films can. Also, the soundtrack is just...perfect. There's really not a song out of place and the trajectory of the aural and visual experience is absolutely marvelous. Not to mention Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, whose performances get so much more layered on repeat viewings. I love this movie! 9/10

All right, that's it for now. I'll try to keep this a recurring thing - as long as my movie input remains healthy, this post will exist. Haha! :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's ALIVE (AKA a short explanation and apology for my ridiculously long hiatus)

Hello everyone!

As you can see, it's been almost a year since my last post on this blog. I disappeared without a trace, only reappearing briefly during Oscar season to comment on a few of all of your amazing blogs.

Thankfully, nothing dramatic happened to cause my hiatus - no, it was all good things! I went on a few trips last summer, began my first year of college, ended up becoming really busy with practicing and performing piano (my current career path), and the time I used to have to screen a bunch of movies and write posts simply vanished before my very eyes.

I kept meaning to write a post letting you all know that I was busy, or even a review a film or two, but I got overwhelmed and lazy and so many things happened all at once that my poor blog and all of you amazing readers got pushed to the back burner.

Being busy is really no excuse, since I am positive that any good blogger sets aside the time to dedicate to writing, but I lost my ability to keep up with everything that I wanted to, and so I just stopped even thinking about it.

I'm so sorry I left without a trace - when I "reappeared" during Oscar season, I realized what an amazing community of bloggers I had been a part of, and how much I missed being a part of it. You were all so supportive and so amazing during my two-ish years as an active member of the blogosphere and I just vanished without saying goodbye or thank you.

This is by no means a farewell post - in fact, if anything, it is a reaffirmation that I want to be a part of this community and that I'm going to keep reading and commenting on all of your blogs, and maybe even post every month or so, at least. "His Eyes Were Watching Movies" may never be as prolific as it used to be, but I still love movies as much as I always have and just because I'm not posting, it doesn't mean I've disappeared. :)

So, I just want to say thank you to all of you for having been such amazing blog buddies the past few years and I look forward to keeping in touch with all of you. You're all incredible people and fantastic writers, and I hope you can forgive me for abandoning you all.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Rio (2011)

After being a little more than pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, and then adoring last year's How to Train Your Dragon even more than critically lauded Toy Story 3, it goes without saying that in my mind, Dreamworks has gone from being a factory of second-rate animated fare to a studio that could someday rival even the Grand Deity of Animation itself in terms of consistent quality (the "Grand Deity of Animation" being Pixar, of course). Dreamworks' latest effort, Rio, hasn't quite taken them to that point yet, but it's still a ridiculously enjoyable and lusciously vibrant romp.

The film follows Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw who lives in Minnesota with his owner,
Linda (Leslie Mann). When Blu is taken by ornithologist Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) to Rio de Janeiro in order to mate with the fierce and independent Jewel (Anne Hathaway), he is promptly kidnapped by a group of bird smugglers. Thus, with the help of the other birds of Rio, Blu and Jewel must go on an adventure through the streets of Carnaval in order to escape and return to Linda and Tulio.

From the very first scene (an exhilarating musical number), the film takes full advantage of the resources that are at their disposal automatically from the plot - those being the gorgeous colors and delectable beats of Rio and of Carnaval. The score, helmed by John Powell (one of my favorite underrated film composers), is, needless to say, amazing - and the use of classic bossa nova is intelligent and perfect. And then there's the visual spectacle on display, one of reds, blues, oranges and yellows, put on display most effectively in the climax of the film, which takes place in a Carnaval Parade. It's in this aesthetic care that the film gets its most success.

Also, it's important to mention the quality of the voice acting on display. Though perhaps Rodrigo Santoro takes it too over the top, the rest of the cast is splendid. I'm a shameless Jesse Eisenberg fan, and I loved him here - he was neurotic, funny, and adorable. Anne Hathaway is, well, Anne Hathaway and what's better than that? And then there's Jemaine Clement, whose deliciously evil work as bad bird Nigel is made even better by a musical number that could have come straight out of "Flight of the Conchords".

As much as I wish awesome voice-overs and great aesthetics are enough to make a film succeed completely, they're not. Unfortunately, Rio suffers from an unspectacular screenplay. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it; it flows well, it's funny, and there are unexpected touches of heart here and there. But, it lacks the sparkle that everything else about the movie has, preventing the film as a whole from reaching the heights that it could have.

However, it's impossible not to enjoy Rio. It's cute, adorable, vibrant and totally entertaining. It may not have taken Dreamworks to a Pixar level (and it's certainly no How to Train Your Dragon) but it's still great fun for any age.

See it: if you like any of the actors involved, if you think Dreamworks has potential, if you like bossa nova, if you kind of want to feel like a kid again, if you've ever seen Black Orpheus.

Skip it: if you didn't like How to Train Your Dragon, if Jesse Eisenberg does nothing for you, if you're imperative to cuteness.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mini Review 4-Pack!

Guess what guys? Today you get an extra special treat, which is that I am going to review in short a few movies. It'll be fun!

The Help - The narrative is very clunky, but the spot-on performances from every single member of the cast and the visually appealing aesthetic more than make up for it, and I'll be darned if I wasn't a teary mess by the end. Emma Stone is great, but this is Viola Davis's movie and she runs away with it, giving a performance of sensitivity and gravitas. However, best in show goes to Sissy Spacek, who somehow manages to turn the word "napkins" into one of the funniest moments in the movie. (7)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Cliche time - I admired this movie more than I enjoyed it. Considering this could have been a total joyride made for money's sake only, it was surprisingly artistic and intelligent. It tackles themes like animal testing and human evil in ways that are, while not always subtle, usually successful - not an easy task. Plus, the CGI was UN BE LIEVABLE. Bonus points for the cinematography. (7)

30 Minutes or Less - In short, the movie is as enjoyable and funny as it could have hoped to be but it's nothing really special - and for 83 minutes, it somehow seems to drag. Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg make a really great tag team though, with Ansari being wildly hysterical and Eisenberg providing a unsurprisingly powerful amount of real acting in a role that could have come off as hysterical and incoherent. (6)

Crazy, Stupid, Love - This one was tough for me. I think that I'm confusing how much I wanted to like this movie with how much I actually did. That being said though, despite being imperfect and falling prey to some minor cliches, it's definitely one of the best big-studio romantic comedies in a LONG time, thanks almost completely to the remarkably talented cast, none of whom can really be singled out because they were all just so good. I will say though, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were simply superb, and the amount of chemistry they exuded was irresistible. (7 - but a super high seven. Like, almost an 8. I'd have to see it again.)

And just for fun (and because I love lists), my top 10 performances from this quartet, in no order:

  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Sissy Spacek, The Help
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help (um, range much? this was completely different from Tree of Life)
  • Jesse Eisenberg, 30 Minutes or Less
  • Aziz Ansari, 30 Minutes or Less
  • John Lithgow, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Ryan Gosling, Crazy Stupid Love
  • Marisa Tomei, Crazy Stupid Love
  • Liza Lapira, Crazy Stupid Love

So, which of these movies or performances was your favorite? As always, your opinions, be they affirmative or negative, are always welcome below

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I don't really know what kind of girl I am."

As a movie viewer, reviewer, and critical watcher, I find myself so often confronted with the problem of expectations, assumptions, and outcomes when going in to see a film, an issue I've talked about on this blog before, most notably in my post regarding my conflicting feelings for I Am Love. However, the problem here isn't so much a purposeful act of contrarianism, but self-imposed limitations in the range of films that I watch, and that I want to watch.

For example, when I see a trailer for a big-budget superhero movie or a goofy family film, I'm not nearly as excited or intrigued as when I see a trailer for a foreign artsy drama or a quirky indie comedy, mentally proclaiming that the former "are just not my kinds of movies".

The thing is though, when movies like the aforementioned I Am Love and other films I less than loved such as Precious and Up in the Air (all of which I was really excited for) fall flat in my estimation, while movies like Kung Fu Panda and Thor end up being highly entertaining and enjoyable, I can't help but question my own presumed taste (even if the formula does work the other way around, with many movies that I knew I would hate absolutely living up to their expectation).

The most recent example, and the one that prompted me to reflect on this topic, is Jurassic Park, which I finally saw for the first time only a couple of days ago. I was expecting to enjoy it, sure (it's not so popular for nothing, right?) but I wasn't expecting at all to love it as much as I did. I thought that there was no way that a movie about dinosaurs on an island could be that good and thus I was rather surprised when I found myself absolutely falling head over heels for it.

It's a problem that I'm not sure really has any solution, besides perhaps toning down my own snobbery and keeping an open mind to even the most unappealing of movies. That's not to say that anyone should go see everything because it "might be good" - I mean, that would be impossible! But, that perhaps good cinema can exist in many different realms and by widening our horizons you can get the best of everything.

Of course, I'm still young, and my tastes are still developing. What I find entertaining now I may find detestable later on - who knows what my cinematic tastes will be like in one, five, ten, twenty years - but I hope I can always examine myself and that I don't get in the way of my own moviegoing experiences.

P.S. This post obviously has nothing to do with the ever polarizing Juno, but the quote seemed appropriate.

Do you find yourself surprised by your own tastes and expectations? Are your tastes still developing? Love Jurassic Park? Hate Juno? Sound off below!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Quick List of Anticipated Movies

I'll be honest with you all - I've been a bad moviegoer this year. I've seen not more than ten films, and I've missed out on a lot of movies I've wanted to see. Plus, besides The Tree of Life, I've not been floored by any of the year's output (though almost everything has been pleasantly and surprisingly enjoyable).

However, there are quite a few upcoming releases that I just can't wait to get my hands on - so without further ado, a quick look at my top ten most anticipated releases for the rest of 2011.

10. Shame - This would be higher based on the Fassbender/Mulligan factor (both actors I love) if there was just a bit more information about it. For now though, I'm content with my curiosity.

9. A Dangerous Method - Cronenberg is a fascinating director, and with Fassbender as one of the leads, this is a must see. Also, after Keira Knightley's surprisingly powerful work last year in "Never Let Me Go", I'm looking forward to see what she can do with what looks like strong material.

8. Crazy, Stupid, Love - The cast is impeccable. Julianne Moore and Emma Stone? Ryan Gosling AND Marisa Tomei? It's coming out this weekend so thankfully the wait isn't that long!

7. The Artist - It looks so quirky and interesting - the silent film aspect is intriguing and I look forward to something so different and unique.

6. The Skin That I Inhabit - It seems like Almodovar has been trying to make something frightening for the past few years, what with "Volver" and "Broken Embraces" having dark elements. Thus, this all out horror film is extremely exciting - plus, remember what happened last year when an auteur made a shameless horror movie? Brilliance, that's what.

5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - I love the book, and though I was underwhelmed by the original, the trailer looks like Fincher's going to blow us all away. I can guarantee that I'll be midnight screening this one.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin - I read the source material, which was unbelievably dark and disturbing, and it's a perfect role for Tilda. Honestly, Tilda's one of those actresses who I would watch reading the phonebook.

3. Contagion - OH MY GOD THIS CAST. I love every single member of this cast and the trailer looks frightening and thrilling.

2. The Future - I've not seen Miranda July's debut feature, but I'm a big fan of her writing (if you haven't read her short story collection, "No One Belongs Here More Than You", you absolutely should), and the trailer showed a lot of promise.

1. Melancholia - Um, did you guys see the trailer? There is absolutely nothing about this that I don't want, right now.

A Good Year for Westerns!

So, remember that big announcement I made the other day? Well, the first episode of Amir and my new series "A Good Year" is up over at his blog Amiresque. GO CHECK IT OUT!