Sunday, December 29, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)

My younger son wanted to see this, and he was counting the days to see this film, so we went and saw the film.  I wasn't expecting anything great, but I did want to see my youngest happy so off we went.  The thing is that I had read all the reviews saying that the film was weak and predictable.  I have two boys one older and one younger who also attended, and both enjoyed the film , but not as much as my youngest.  I like to see things through my boys eyes.  It gives me a different perspective, and I enjoyed the movie a bit more seeing it as my boys see it.

Now that being said is this a good film?  It depends on who is the audience.  I feel the film is better suited to younger audience's then older ones, and that's not it's problem.  Some of the visuals in this film are really stunning.  The story is predictable, but the film has a moral, and for its younger audience its okay.  The moral is that we win by sticking together.  It also educates its audience with the names of the dinosaurs.  I've heard the criticism that it's a juvenile film, and all  I have to say is that's is it's target audience.  The animals don't talk or mouth their dialogue.  It is heard as narration, and I didn't have a problem with it.  This where I have to say that without the skills of the narrators this film would be a lot less entertaining.   John Leguizamo narrates most of the film and provides a lot of the humor in it.  The kids got the humor, and it was pretty funny for the adults too.  That is in big part of Leguizamo's skill as a story teller.  I have been a big fan of his for a long.time.  He really makes the film entertaining.  My boys laughed, and so did my wife and I.

It's a special film.  A film you and your family can sit down and laugh with while at the same time maybe learning a few things about prehistoric days.   The animation is stellar, and what the film does is combine live action with animation.  The film does this seamlessly, and as I said the visuals are stunning.

I enjoyed the film.  I'm sure it will have a long life on DVD, because their are always younger children interested in big dinosaurs, and it's audience will always grow, but I do say that I'd wait for the home release of the film and watch it there.  But if you have a little one who really wants to see this and really loves dinosaurs I'd think you would enjoy seeing it with them.  There is some hard scenes where a parent is lost, but like I said the film is not gratuitous, so no parent should have a problem with any offensive scenes because their are none.

I enjoyed going to the movies and seeing and hearing my children laughing, and being captivated by a story. I do have to mention John Leguizamo again for his performance.  I do believe he contributed a lot to the film, and it is his mastery of telling a story that made us laugh and cry.

What I didn't like was how much it was to get into the theater.  That is what is wrong with movies today.  Back in the day ten bucks got you in, and you had money for a drink and some popcorn.  Now I need a loan to just walk into the theater, and that's not sustainable in today's world.  A word to the studio heads.  Make affordable films affordable to the public, or risk loosing that revenue to other venues.  Just my two cents.

Otherwise the film is a good ids film.  If you can wait for the home release then I suggest you do so, but if you have an insistent little one who wants to see dinosaurs go see it.  I think you'll enjoy seeing it with them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Journey to Planet X (2012)

I am always interested in movies about making movies.  Maybe it's because I want to see how others suffer for their art, or maybe it's just plain curiosity. But after watching ten minutes of "Journey to Planet X"  I got hooked. The film is about Eric Swain and Troy Bernier who are scientists by day and amateur filmmakers by night. In the film we see their work from the past and it is very amateur like, but the work has heart. It's Swain's and Bernier's can do attitude which is refreshing and inspiring.  In the film they are making a more ambitious short entitled "Planet X"and the documentary is all about how they do it.  All the good and the bad of filmmaking is seen in this making of film, and middle way through the film you find yourself rooting for these guys.

The documentary goes through the whole process of our two hero's making their film from preproduction to post, and we get to see how the actual film develops.  Both Eric and Troy are interesting characters too. One very particular, and the other is whatever works is okay with him. How the two come to terms with their different personalities is funny and inspiring.  Amateur means doing something for pleasure, and their passion for doing the film shows through. It's this that makes the film so genuine. It's an interesting film to watch and see how these two individuals make their dreams come alive. The documentary is 76 minutes long and it is a fairly short film that has good pacing. The filmmakers Josh Koury and Myles Kane do a good job at capturing their subjects passion. Watching Eric and Troy tackle technical problems, scheduling issues, and location limitations is interesting and can be revealing to the average public. After all no one really knows what it takes to get a film finished, and seeing how they handle each problem is quite inspiring. In the end it inspired me to create something myself after watching this movie. After all creative types know the highs and lows of producing. This film shows that it is possible and in the end we do what we love, and this film captures that spirit and as I said can do attitude.  If Hollywood studios would stop letting the bean counters make the films and put it back in the hands of the artists we would have some better films being made today, but that's another argument for another day. If you get a chance to see this film, and you love filmmaking I highly recommend seeing it.  Get inspired and just keep doing it until you get so good that studios will be calling you.  Then the FUN really begins.  


Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Affair of the Heart (2012)

Rick Springfield is a unique musician.  In this documentary we are shown Rick Springfield and his fans.  The problem with the documentary is that I enjoyed seeing Rick Springfield perform, and even listening to his devoted fans, but the film doesn't know what it wants to be.  A fandom film explaining why his fans love him, and go out of there way and see him, or that of the artist himself.

I really took away the hard work Springfield puts into his concerts and his performances.  He really is a working mans musician.  He seems like a really ordinary person who had fame thrust upon him, and then disappeared for awhile.  Springfield still produces new material, and tours heavily, but it's the fans that the filmmakers seem to be interested in and yet they do a poor job at getting into the heart of that.  The filmmakers focus on only a handful of fans, and don't really get to the heart of why Springfield is so popular with them.  We do see how hard Springfield works, but I'm sure that any musician worth his or her salt does the same.  After all it's because of the fans and their love for them that the performer is even on stage.

I wanted to know more about the man especially when they talk about the details of his life.  The suicide attempt, the infidelities, and the problems with drugs are all glossed over.  They do mention that Springfield wrote a book "Late, late at Night" and the film feels like a commercial for the book.  Maybe it's all covered in the book, but one wonders if the film is all about the promotion of the book or an actual account of an artist and his fans.

So I really don't know what to say about the film.  Yes I really do have some respect for Springfield, but he glosses over things and doesn't really answer the question of why.   It's a good hour and half to hear and see Springfield's commitment to his fans,and to see how hard he works, but if you want to know who he is, and why he does the things he does then you'll be disappointed.  Their is no true depth to this documentary.

I like the artist, but the documentary is just gloss and fluff.  The film doesn't know what it wants to be.  I feel that the filmmakers were too close to their subject and not objective enough.  It also feels that maybe they too were blinded by his charisma and lost their objectivity.  The scenes with the fans also seem a bit staged, and sometimes they come across as too obsessive.

Your better off putting on one of Springfield's albums for a better experience with the man, and skip the documentary altogether because according to Springfield it's all in his music.   All the pain, hurt and joy is there and all you just need to do is listen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What to Expect when Expecting (2012)

Okay it's the holidays and you want a feel good flick, or you just want to laugh out loud with others.  Then sit back and watch "What to Expect when Expecting".  Going into this film I totally thought "chick flick", but hold on there buddy there is some stuff in here that isn't all that bad.  First off I have to say Chris Rock steals the movie for me.  What part is scripted and what parts are all Rock is to be debated, but honestly he made me laugh, and he was quite good in it.  Could it be Rock is softening with age?  He still retains his humor in this film, but he lets some zingers out that make you laugh out loud.

The ensemble cast is pretty good, and Jenifer Lopez who gives a beautiful performance in the film.  I swear she had me welling up tears at the end, but I won't swear to it.  I also have to say that Ms Lopez looks so beautiful, and she seems to really put her heart and soul into her performance.  The cast does a good job at showing the different stages of pregnancy, and what women go through.   Elizabeth Banks as Wendy certainly gives a good performance on what it's like to be pregnant, and the problems women sometimes have.  You will certainly laugh at her antics, and what she goes through within the film.  It's really funny, and I think a lot of women out there get that, and maybe that's why it hits the mark for them.  It is honest that pregnancy isn't all afterglow, and cravings.

But for us guys it's a funny film with some funny moments.  I was surprised to see Dennis Quaid in the film as an old time race car driver who is a father again in his late 50's.  The rivalry between Quaids character and his son played by Ben Falcone is pretty hysterical.  The racing golf carts is too funny.

Some of the movie seems to go on and on, but just when you think you'll loose interest in the film the film seems to drag you back in, and you are touched or you are laughing.  Since the movie is based on a book that has no characters, or story it isn't that bad of an ensemble piece.  The filmmakers seems to have put things in the movie that appeals to every demographic.  Young, middle, old it's all in there, and maybe that's where it's a bit weak.  By catering to everyone you loose a bit of the films moments.  Everything isn't like a Hallmark story, and there are pretty heady issues that are only glanced over.  A better film maybe would be less characters, and less slapstick, and more meaningful plot.  But that would be a different film all together, and some how that's what this film isn't.

But again the film is light, and it does have its moments.  Renting this movie for an over night viewing may be the best way to see it.  Also see it with someone you care about, or with your significant other.  I think it will get you talking about stuff, and you'll laugh again at the antics of our hapless characters, and maybe recognize a bit of yourself in the characters.

On a scale to 1 to 10 I give it a 7 or maybe a 7.5.  The movie entertains, and it has it's moments, but it could have been much better then just a comedy drama.   When a movie makes you laugh, and you weren't expecting a whole heck of a lot from the film to begin with you have to give it its props.  The film is entertaining, and it has some poignant moments in the film, and for that I certainly give it its due or should I say its due date.  Okay I couldn't resist.   See it and laugh a bit, you'll thank yourself later.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Okay I have to get this off my chest.  I finally saw the movie "Cabin in the Woods", and I have to say I was very interested in seeing it, but it totally let me down in the end.  The movie has great production value, and even some interesting casting.   Especially Richard Jenkins, who I think should have gotten the academy award for his performance in "The Visitor", but I digress.  Even putting in Bradley Whitford in this film doesn't help it.  I do like the scenes between Whitley and Jenkins, but again putting A list actors in a B type movie does not help it.   It does make it memorable, but only because the actors are really good, and you can see that their having fun with their performances.

It's a typical teenagers or in this case college roommate's and friends weekend away from civilization when things go horrible wrong.  The twist to this is this, and this is a SPOILER ALERT.  The victims are part of a test and they are nothing but lab rats caught in a horrible maze.  That's about it.  How the testers subject our victims to the horrors is sometimes amusing, and just plain stupid.  Again this movie has some originality, but it's wasted in the end.  I was hoping that this was something more then just people in a cabin being dispatched in interesting ways, and there is a glimmer of that, but the end is such a let down.  It's like the filmmakers throw in everything and the kitchen sink, and then come up short for the touchdown.  Sorry for the sports metaphor, but the movie plays like that, and coming from such filmmakers as you would think that the movie would have some interesting thoughts on the genre.

To blame it on the "ancient ones" is just plain weak.  Too manufacture a threat so great that it will destroy the world seems really interesting, but really?  You're telling me that these ancient ones who are so powerful, and mighty go underground, and we humans keep them there and appease them through sacrifice of the innocents, the athlete, the misfit, and the lustful?  REALLY!!!!!

Like I say you almost had me, but that ruined it for me.  Also invisible force fields too.  COME ON!!!!!

I love horror, and I think that there are some very good horror films being made, but this isn't one of them.  This steals from all the genres and wraps it up with a weak plot.  Do I care for these helpless victims.  I did, but they were too stereotypical written.  I know that's the point, but I thought this would be different.  Sure it's great to root for the underdog, and have the testers get their comeuppance, but throwing weak folklore without any real world logic is to me talking down to its audience, and I hate that.  It's like the filmmakers are winking at us and saying "watch how cleaver we are".  Well you're not, and next time you want to do a horror film why don't you do some research, and watch some old movies, and read some really good horror novels.  Then see what you come up with.  It would be way better then this mediocre movie.

Okay so I hated it.  Maybe you'll like it, but if you're a fan of the genre you'll find yourself hating yourself because its 1hour and 35 minutes that you won't get back. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole

It seems that this week a few well known entertainment celebrities have passed on.  For this one I wanted to celebrate Mr. O'Toole's work, and try to persuade some readers to see some of his work that the critics have failed to talk about.  Most of the news agencies have all done tributes to this great actor, but they always forget other works that need to be talked about and I'm here to remind others that there is a a number of Mr. O'Toole's films that need to be seen.  So let's start with the first.

Of course there is "Lawrence of Arabia", a film directed by none other then the famous director David Lean.   Not only is O'Toole's performance brilliant, but the film is epic in scope.  Alone for the photography the film is an interesting piece of cinema.   His performance is outstanding, and watching it one feels for his character.  But let's go on to other movies that O'Toole was in that aren't mentioned, but should be.

A film I once saw late at night on TV was a film called "Murphy's War".  In it O'Toole plays the sole survivor of his crew, that has been massacred by a German U-Boat in the closing days of World War II.  In it he is driven mad by his desire to extract revenge on the U-boats crew.  O'Toole gives a riveting performance in the film, and one I have always remembered for so long.  Not only is his performance fantastic, but the cinematography by Oscar winner Douglas Slocombe is beautiful.  O'Toole's performance as man driven to madness is quite breathtaking to witness, and O'Toole does make you believe that his obsession is just.  If you get a chance see this film you'll soon not forget the film or the performance.  I think it is the performance and the way O'Toole communicates his madness that made it so memorable for me.  I can still remember the last shot of the film, and though I won't give it away it stays with you, and is most fitting for the end.  It is a lesson about obsession and how obsession can burn us and why sometimes our obsessions should be just left alone, and not acted on.  Peter Yates directed the film, and it is a well directed piece of cinema that has been relegated to bottom of peoples list.  Not mine that's for sure.

Another film where O'Toole is at his top is a film that I consider a modern cult classic.  'The Stuntman" was released in 1980 by the director Richard Rush.  Rush had been trying to make this film for over ten years, and it is to his credit that he created a masterpiece of cinema, but it is O'Toole's performance that makes the film so memorable.  As Eli Cross the director of a fictional film in the film O'Toole pulls out all the stops.  One wonders if O'Toole is channeling all the directors he has worked with into his character or if he is just making it all up.  In the film O'Toole plays a manic director who is trying to complete a film about world war I, and in it comes our main protagonist Cameron played by Steve Railsback.  The scenes between O'Tool and Railsback are exceptional.  O'Toole plays Eli as a God like figure, and in a lot of the scenes he is seen floating on a camera crane giving orders and advice to his actors as if he was God.  "The Stuntman is a film for cine-files as well as a film for the general public.  It has so much to offer and the director plays the movie on so many levels.  I can remember taking this film apart in my film criticism class way back in college.  O'Toole's performance is flawless, and I was stunned when he didn't get a Oscar for this film alone.  It is also sad that he never got an Oscar for any of his nominations.  Which speaks to Hollywood's wisdom.  As  the screenwriter William Goldman said in his book "Adventures in the Screen Trade" nobody knows nothing, and in Hollywood that is so true it seems. 

Lastly I want to point out one of O'Toole's latest films.  Venus directed by Roger Michell.  O'Toole's performance in the film proves that even at an advanced age O'Toole was all about the performance.  I do not want to spoil anything about this film.  I will say that it is about some old actors getting their world turned around when they meet a brash young girl.  O'Toole's gift even for physical comedy is astounding, and in this part he shows that age is only a number.  I really liked the film, and it is a favorite.

Of course I have not mentioned all of O'Toole's performances that were exceptional.  There are so many films worth noting such as:  Becket, What's New Pussycat, The Lion in the WinterGoodbye Mr. Chips, Man of LaMancha, Caligula, and My Favorite Year.

Peter O'Toole leaves us with an impressive work, and he was a very extraordinary fellow.  Thanks Mr. O'Toole for the work and the performances.  He was a very gifted thespian, and one we will never see again.