Jun
12th
Tue
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Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

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Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually striking film that doesn’t really pay off as well as it could have. It is obvious the filmmakers were trying to give the Snow White tale a Lord of the Rings treatment - which I am not against - but they end up just drawing out events that make the film longer and don’t dedicate enough time to developing the characters (which is why the Lord of the Rings works, because we care about the fellowship). I will say again that the film has some beautiful looking moments, its just a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t amount to much.

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Jun
11th
Mon
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Review: Bernie

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Jack Black does a fantastic job as Bernie Tiede in Richard Linklater’s Bernie. This dark little tale was quite entertaining and a nice step away from your average generic show that you are likely to go see at the movies. If you are looking for something a bit different, you should consider checking it out. It also features a small but solid performance from Matthew Mcconaughey.

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May
27th
Sun
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Review: The Dictator

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Sasha Baron Cohen brings back remnants of the Borat/Bruno satirical humour in his latest film, The Dictator. Cohen plays General Shabazz Aladeen, the last remaining dictator of the world, and is in charge of the Republic of Wadiya, a place he rules with an iron fist. The story takes off when Aladeen is summoned to the United States, and through a series of events, ends up learning the American way.

I’m starting to believe Cohen will never be able to top Borat, a film that I find so incredibly strong. The Dictator seems to be made up of a few too many throwaway gags, notably the opening of the film, which seems like a string of five or so jokes that serve no real purpose except to get some quick laughs. The movie isn’t terrible, it is just something of a missed opportunity. It seems the filmmakers had everything to make an intelligent social commentary (this does happen briefly around the climax of the film) but they waste their chances and instead go for cheap laughs with name-calling and penis jokes. I think this is in part due to The Dictator being the closest to a standard feature film, instead of the candid camera type approach that Borat and Bruno went with.

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I have to take a moment to mention the cameos in the film. I love cameos, I generally find them hilarious - like a big inside joke that everyone is in on. The Dictator has a handful of them, but they seem to miss the big hilarious punchlines like they generally should have. It is mainly in place to show a celebrity face, and then have them off the screen as soon as possible, and then back onto the story. It was a bummer to see John C. Reilly and not have him be as hilarious as he can be.

To rank this with the other two films, The Dictator is in the middle. I love Borat, and hated Bruno, and this one is just meh. There were a few funny moments, personally I found the simple banter between Aladeen and his nuclear scientist quite funny, and wished that there was much more of that. Nearing the end, Aladeen has a big speech with throws the films message into the open; it is a good speech, and really had me interested in what was being said - if only the rest of the film had held up as well.

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Review: Moonrise Kingdom

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I think this might be the darkest film Wes Anderson has made to date, and is not afraid to show you everything that is going on with the characters. This is very refreshing, for most everything nowadays seems to have been polarized with how far to go - you either have a film that hits a PG/PG-13 rating and dumbs itself down (in a sense) to fit a more generic mainstream audience, or a film that hits an 18A/R rating and goes for broke trying to take every reasonable opportunity to show nudity and swear (examples of this: Transformers/Battleship, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo/Shame). Here is a film that goes a solid half an hour without any real causes for concern, and (without trying to spoil anything) enters a brief scene that turns violent, and it takes really the audience by surprise.

If you are unaware of the story, Moonrise Kingdom follows Sam and Suzy, two twelve-year-olds who fall in love and decide to run away together. The couple (played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) decide on a beachfront where they will live out the rest of their days, using the Khaki Scout skills that Sam has been trained with, and staying entertained with the variety of records and fantasy novels Suzy has brought along. Their disappearance causes a fleet of interesting secondary characters to surface as they search for the missing children.

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I really wish I had more time with the rest of the interesting characters the film has. This isn’t to say the leads were not up to par, they were fantastic, but so was everyone else, which includes a line-up of Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray. Everyone does a great job, but I have to say I wish I could see more of Willis as Police Captain Sharp. He really puts something special into this role, as a simple man who is becoming lonelier as time goes on. 

Take any frame from this film and you will find Anderson’s fingerprints all over it. As his first period piece, he does a beautiful job remaking the 60’s, and you really get the vibe of the times, even subtle things like how everyone is smoking a cigarette really paint a picture of the 1965. My biggest issue with the film is its cinematography. I liked the style, and the signature Wes Anderson framings, but it was as if every shot was too perfect (if that makes any sense). The camera placement for this film is so laid on so thick in its presentation, it become almost distracting. Shot one - static camera centered on character, neatly placed symmetrical background; shot two - static camera centered on character, close-up, staring directly into lens; shot three - quirky item on wall, perfectly centered, quick pan to character staring at wall, perfectly centered; repeat. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great, but there is so much of it that it can almost put you out of the story. The very few shots that are shot without a tripod are a relief to see, and become a little more powerful because of how rare they are.

Overall, I really did enjoy the film. It is a great story of growing up and trying to be independent. Anderson knows how to make a good movie and fill it with characters that you love to watch. I am looking forward to seeing Moonrise Kingdom again, another great thing that Wes Anderson movies do, have repeated viewing value! 

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