The first film in The Hobbit trilogy was entertaining but suffered from a bloated and overlong run time that didn’t have a whole lot of interesting things happening. The sequel, The Desolation of Smaug fixes pretty much every problem that the first one had. It is still excessively long, but this time the nearly three hour run time packed with far more content interesting content than the first one. Visually the sequel has also improved. The high frame rate technology looks much better this time around, making the amazing special effects very crisp and clear. The action scenes are also improved this time making for a much more exciting movie. The second Hobbit film also has possibly one of the greatest movie dragons of all time in the form of Smaug who is created through some of the best special effects since Gollum from The original Lord of The Rings trilogy. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is extremely enjoyable and a much needed uprade from the first film. Go see it.
Not only is Frozen an absolutely wonderful movie in its own right, it is also one of the best Disney movies we have gotten possibly since Mulan. Combining elegant, beautiful animation with some truly loveable characters and some incredible songs really makes Frozen feel like a lost Disney classic. It also works as an excellent deconstruction of common Disney tropes and themes, particularly in the third act which contains some legitimately shocking twists that manage to set Frozen apart from pretty much every other Disney movie out there. Frozen isn’t perfect, the first act is a bit rushed and it does drag a bit in the middle act but in the end, it really is remarkable. Frozen is one of the best movies of the year. Definitely check it out.
The original Korean version of Oldboy is one of the darkest, most violent, and most entertaining foreign films to ever be made. it is brutal, intelligent, and fascinating. It is a movie very rooted in Korean culture so I was interested to see how an American remake would handle it. The answer: not well. Not only is the Oldboy remake a bad remake, it is also a failure in such a bewildering way. Director Spike Lee doesn’t always make the best films but if there is one thing that his movies are, it’s evocative. Oldboy is just empty and lifeless, there is no trace on creative energy behind it. It’s like filmmaking auto pilot. This is strange for Spike Lee as his films are generally so unique. This version of Oldboy is just flat and boring. Avoid it.
Dallas Buyers Club is a mostly just okay movie that is greatly elevated by the strength of it’s outstanding cast. Though based on a true story, there were obviously some artictic liberties taken with this movie and it shows. The way the script handles it’s themes is so blunt and heavy handed. There are also moments that are way more over the top and melodramatic then what could have possibly happened in real life. But once again the best qualoty of the film is the cast. Matthew McConaughey, who lost tons of weight for this role, gives a career best performance. Jared Leto is also remarkable, showing off his considerable talent that we have never really seen before. Dallas Buyers Club would end up being just okay but the moving very performances make it worth seeing.
Homefront is a throwback to the classic cheesy action movies of the 80s and 90s which are some of my favorite movies. Too bad Homefront isn’t very good. It’s slow, boring and does not have very much action in it at all. the action that is there is alright but it’s not very impressive or particularly exciting. The tone is just so dour and miserable that we are not able to have any fun with the movie. It is entertaining to watch Jason Statham attempt to fake an American accent but other than a kinda fun James Franco performance, there is nothing memorable about this movie. Homefront is not an awful movie, it’s just too bland and forgettable to have much of an impact. Skip it.
The first Hunger Games movie is a cheap, ugly looking, and tv movie quality film that only works because of the strength of the performances and the writing. Catching Fire fixes literally every problem that the first film. The direction is smooth and crisp, there are some Oscar worthy special effects on display, and the cinematography is no longer a mess of incomprehensible shaky cam. The movie just has a much more exciting and organic feel to it when compared to the first one. Once again the writing is top notch and the performances, much like the first film, are fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence once again shows us why she is the best actress of our generation. Catching Fire is better than the first film in every way imaginable and is one of the best movies of the year. Check it out.
12 Years A Slave is without a doubt one of the best movies to come out so far this year. Though it is not an easy movie to sit through, it is also an extremely important movie that I think everyone should experience for themselves. There are some shockingly brutal and heart wrenching scenes here. Though the direction and cinematography occasionally fall somewhat flat, the film is exceptionally well written. The absolute best thing in the movie is the stellar cast. Chiwetel Ejiofor is definitely one of the greatest actors of all time and he gives his all here. There is alos an excellent and varied supporting cast, Michael Fassbender standing out as a ruthless slave owner. Overall, 12 Years A Slave is a remarkable movie and is a definite must see.
Thor: The Dark World, the follow up to 2011’s Thor is incredible. The cinematography is gorgeous and the special effects are absolutely incredibly. The action scenes are also fantastic and breathlessly exciting. It also has an amazing script that is dark and complex while also being effortlessly funny. The performances are also top notch all around, Tom Hiddleston as Loki once again being the stand out. Chris Hemsworth is still great as Thor and Natalie Portman is having a lot of fun with her role as Jane, Thor’s love interest. Overall this movie is a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend it.
Ender’s Game, the classic 1985 sci-fi novel by the much despised Orson Scott Card, at last makes its way to the big screen after being stuck in development for what seems like forever. Surrounded by much controversy do to the aforementioned Card and his despicable beliefs, many people are opting to boycott the film altogether. I honestly do not support a boycott of any kind for the film. Card, despite being a complete monster of a human being, is not the only one making money off of Ender’s Game. This is a film, not the novel. If you boycott Ender’s Game, it’s not only Card that you’re boycotting, it’s everyone else involved. Look past Card to see the other, decent people whose careers are on the line. If the movie bombs it wouldn’t really effect the already excessively wealthy Card but it could potentially ruin the careers of others who worked on the film. Now that being said, you might as well not bother to watch Ender’s Game anyways because the movie is not very good. While very designed and exceptionally ambitious, Ender’s Game is dramatically inert and filled with numerous scenes that are both stale and awkward which drain any semblance of fun and energy from the proceedings. This, combined with the lack of any real stakes or tension leave Ender’s Game a chore to sit through. After this point we’re going to be getting into spoilers so be warned.
Decades after humanity was almost driven to extinction after an attack from a race of insect-like aliens called Formics, the nations of Earth have united to form the International Fleet. For vague, poorly explained reasons, the fleet has begun recruiting children and training them to command their soldiers during interstellar combat. A young, tactically gifted but emotionally cold boy named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is chosen by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to attend Battle School. There, Ender and his classmates hone their skills through elaborate war games. The film shifts the narrative focus of the story to remain entirely within the school, mostly by cutting out entire earthbound subplots from the novel. This has the unfortunate side effect of greatly lessening the scope and political charge of the original story. Ender eventually graduates to Command School where he and his accumulated friends take their “final exams” by commanding entire fleets during assaults on the enemy via virtual reality simulation. This comes to a head during the last test where Ender directs a suicidal attack on the home planet of the Formics wherein he loses the vast majority of his men to collateral damage but manages to completely eradicate the entire alien race. After their victory, the big twist reveals itself, there never was any simulation. Ender and his friends had been commanding real fleets the entire time. Ender really did let thousands of men die and he really did commit genocide against an entire species.
To say that Ender’s Game feels rushed would be a massive understatement. Writer and director Gavin Hood’s screenplay jams so many plot points into a film that is only around two hours. To cover such expansive material, Hood hastily runs through each of the major story beats with unrelenting efficiency. Even with a lot of the novel’s content cut out, scenes still come and go so quickly that there is almost no time to evolve or even establish any kind of tangible setting. Because of this the film feels empty and lifeless. This also leaves no time for any form of character development. None of our characters are expanded upon past purely basic traits and service to the story. Even our main character, Ender, is given nothing to show that he is any different then his classmates. Sure, he might be a little smarter then some of them but the only evidence of his superiority we are given is what other characters say about him. The entire second act, which is devoted to showing us Ender’s advanced commanding prowess, is paced so quickly and structured so amateurishly that we can’t really get a sense for why Ender is so talented outside of plot convenience. It comes across much less like Ender’s skills helped him earn is place in the school and more like his his something akin to the “chosen one.”
On a technical level, Ender’s Game is somewhat of a mixed bag. Though the special effects are at times jaw dropping, specifically during some impressive scenes of zero gravity laser tag and a few of the less action packed scenes, they do inadvertently undermine the big set piece moments near the end of the film. The space battle scenes in the third act of the film reach a level of complete CGI overload as the screen in each scene is cluttered with a big, ugly mess of cheap looking special effects. These scenes are undermined even further by Hood blatantly telling us what is happening instead of showing us. At numerous moments during the action, we get characters just speaking with each other about what is happening around them instead of just letting us watch the action unfold. This is because, as hard as he may try, Hood just does not have an eye for spectacle. He is never able to make any of the set pieces look nearly as awe-inspiring as they should.
The performances do not do much to save the film. Asa Butterfield, who has been great in other films, has a consistently flat affect throughout the film. His performance never shows any of the intelligence, wit, and emotional depths that Ender supposedly possess. Harrison Ford divulges in much scenery chewing with his showy, over-the-top performance resulting in a lot of unintentional hilarity whenever he happens to be onscreen. Other smaller roles like Abigail Breslin as Ender’s sister Valentine, or Viola Davis as Major Anderson are all played competently but otherwise are not given much to do. Ben Kingsley as war hero and Ender’s teacher Mazer Rackham does reliably solid work though his characters role is remarkably under used to the point of being completely ineffectual. The real standout here is Haille Steinfeld as Ender’s classmate and friend, Petra Arkanian. Here, Steinfeld is able to effortlessly act circles around actors with decades more experience than herself.
Ender’s Game is a mess. Just one huge and expensive bore of a movie. In terms of writing and drama, it fails on just about every level due to the extremely hurried pacing. The visuals, though impressive at times, do not add up to anything worth while because of Hood’s inability to direct big set piece moments in a satisfying way. It is just plain dull and emotionally disconnected from any sort of reality. Ender’s Game is not worth your time or money. Skip it.
Many people are going to walk into Carrie ready to hate it. In fact, it was probably doomed to be hated by many right from the get-go. The newest version of Carrie is not just a horror movie, but a remake of one of the very few horror movies that is almost universally agreed to be excellent. The 1976 Brian De Palma version of Carrie is a masterpiece. A stylish, deftly paced, tension filled look at the consequences of high school cruelty. It strays from the original Stephen King novel which, lets face it, was shlocky and kind of dumb so that was clearly for the best. The newest remake of Carrie is not more faithful to the novel as some have said, instead it is a practically scene for scene retread of the De Palma film. Despite almost outright copying the original film, make no mistake, the new Carrie is just as awful as you imagined. A terribly written, ugly, poorly acted mess that not only completely misunderstands its source material, both the novel and the original film, but also completely fails on its own merits as any kind of stand alone film.
For the few of you who haven’t read the Stephen King novel or seen the De Palma film, though if you’ve seen the trailer for the new film then you know exactly how it goes, the story goes like this. Carrie White (in this version played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is a lonely high school student who is viciously bullied by her peers and suffers at home under the hand of her psychotic, obsessively god fearing mother Margaret (Julianne Moore). After an ordeal in the locker room where she gets her first period, Carrie discovers her latent telekinetic abilities. After a particularly cruel prank is pulled on her at her senior prom, Carrie snaps and uses her new-found powers to trap her fellow classmates and brutally murder each of them.
The thing about remakes is that generally they only work if the original film was not very good to begin with. There are a few exceptions to that rule, for example the Evil Dead remake that came out earlier this year, but remakes of already good films tend to suffer by comparison. Director Kimberly Pierce, however, clearly has a lot of love for Carrie and I was interested in seeing her substantial talent bring some unique energy to what sounded like just another horror remake slog. But for whatever reason, Carrie is every bit as routine and empty as you would expect from a typical Hollywood horror remake. The build up to the infamous prom scene was what held the De Palma film together but this remake rushes through all the main aspects of the story with abandon. The callous efficiency with which it passes by each plot point is clearly the films way of reaching the prom scene as effortlessly as possible. Here lies one of the major issues, aside from updating the prom climax with revamped effects, there is literally no reason to do a remake of Carrie, especially if you’re just going to blow through the story with no attempt to even put a different spin on the material.
Not only is the writing a total mess but Carrie also happens to be completely technically inept as well. In terms of visuals, this is an ugly film. It contains some of the worst looking special effects I’ve seen in a long time. Particularly the horrible gore effects and some egregiously obvious uses of green screen. If there was any possible tension to be had in the prom scene, though I doubt it’s possible considering just how boring the movie is, it would be undermined by just how fake it looks. The most hilariously bad effect comes when one of Carrie’s tormentors ends up with her face smashed through a car wind shield with big shards of glass in her face. Carrie desperately needed some energy but unfortunately the cookie cutter cinematography adds to the generic feel of the film, making the overall lifelessness of the proceedings even more apparent.
Another huge issue with them film is the casting and the performances. Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the better actors of our generation but she is horribly miscast here. Whether it is because she is unable turn off her natural charisma or just poor direction, this version of Carrie just does not work in the context of this movie. The film attempts to frame Carrie similarly to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, an emotional wreck that has been beaten down and systematically degraded by her peers, but Moretz never acts in a way that is consistent with that characterization. Everything centered around Carrie in this film tells us that she is pathetic and freakish but physically she is almost indistinguishable from her tormentors and she is very clearly capable of taking care of herself. All of the issues surrounding her character are issues of tone and framing. The film’s climax is still framed as a harrowing and uncontrollable outburst of rage but Moretz plays it up like she is a of super hero enacting righteous vengeance.
The rest of the cast is weak but entirely forgettable, though the male lead (Ansel Elgort) is pretty damn bad. But this is a small problem in a film filled to the brim with giant ones. The one bright note, however, is Julianne Moore and Carrie’s insane, religious fanatic mother. She is quite good, though not particularly fantastic, and manages to bring a certain amount of creepiness to a horror film that is otherwise entirely devoid of any kind of horror. Though again when it comes to her character, there are big problems with the way the film frames her. Margaret White is still framed as the main antagonist of the film but this is undercut by the way the narrative clumsily attempts to make us feel sympathy for her due to her very out-of-place self-mutilation.
Aside from everything else wrong with it, the biggest issue with Carrie is how horribly boring the whole thing is. For me this makes it worse than something that is outright terrible like The Rage: Carrie 2 since at least that had some semblance of passion behind it. This is just nothing, a big narrative mess with wild tonal and framing problems. It’s a dead on arrival catastrophe and an enormous waste of time for us as the viewers and the anyone involved in its creation. Keep as far away from Carrie as possible.