Monday, September 30, 2013

THX 1138 (review)


Thanks to a recommendation from Dan Spicer, today I have a review of THX 1138 (1971). This is a dystopian science fiction film and was George Lucas's feature film directing debut, produced in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope. It takes pretty heavy influence from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (although I guess you could probably say that about most dystopian sci-fi) and plays out somewhat like Equilibrium (2002) but with better acting and camerawork. The film also shares an interesting and disappointing historical parallel with Lucas's more popular sci-fi adventure Star Wars: both were re-released with added scenes using ugly CGI. Considering this is probably the only version you'll be able to get your hands on, should science-fiction fans chase down a copy? Almost definitely.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Star Wars (review) Childhood Favorites Week.


What am I doing here? What have I gotten myself into? What do you even say about one of the most beloved science fiction franchises in movie history? I grew up with the Star Wars series, but I'm certainly no expert. I don't have any information for die-hard fans you can't find elsewhere. What I can do is help those of you out there who haven't already seen any of the movies decide if it's worth your time. I can help you decide if the original series is worth checking out if you saw the new ones and are unsure. So if you've seen the original Star Wars movies recently I won't be offended if you decide to leave, but if you haven't seen them recently or ever, hopefully I can assist in decided whether you'll enjoy watching George Lucas's Star Wars (1977) with my final review for my Childhood Favorites Week. I'll be sure to keep it spoiler free as long as I can.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back to the Future (review) Childhood Favorites Week


Alright, here we are at day four of my Childhood Favorites Week and I've finally found a movie about which I don't know what to say. It's not that I didn't like it or thought it was boring or something. I really enjoyed rewatching this movie, but the reason why doesn't generate many talking points. Back to the Future is absolutely hilarious. This was easily the funniest movie I've revisited for this project so far. The problem is that I'm terrible at reviewing comedies. I avoid doing it because I have trouble explaining how or why it was funny without spouting a list of quotes which, without their context, aren't really funny anymore (although if you'd like a collection of quotes, here's this image I found). But, for better or for worse, the penultimate review in my Childhood Favorites Week is Robert Zemeckis's Back to the Future (1985).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raiders of the Lost Ark (review) Childhood Favorites Week


No, it is not Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, regardless of what the above poster and your DVD case might like to think. They only added the prefix "Indiana Jones and the" after it became a franchise with the release of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (see the original cover art here). So this review, day three of my Childhood Favorites Week, is of Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). As I'm sure was the case with anyone who grew up watching movies in the 80's and 90's, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones was one of my idols as a kid. As I grew up, however, I lost my respect for Spielberg as a filmmaker, so when I returned to this classic piece of Americana I worried that I wouldn't like it and would have to write a negative review about a movie that everybody loved. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Gun (review) Childhood Favorites Week


Childhood favorites week continues, and here on day two we have Tony Scott's Top Gun (1986). Communicating what this movie meant to me as a child seems almost insurmountable. On the one hand, the reason I would pop it into the VHS player was more about watching some fighter jets fly around and shoot missiles at each other than anything else. But on the other, this was the most emotionally mature movie I would both watch and enjoy until making it past the difficult and confusing stages of puberty (coincidentally, a word used in the film by Kelly McGillis which I wouldn't come to understand until I had already fallen in love with her). The prevalence of drama and romance over action in this movie surprised me on my most recent viewing, and both helped explain the complex feelings I have for it and made me think that maybe this isn't the trashy action movie I remembered it being.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Independence Day (review) Childhood Favorites Week


So this is a project I've had on the docket for far too long due to my overwhelming fear of criticizing modern classics. I've picked out my ten favorite movies from when I was growing up and revisited them all to see how they would withstand the test of time. For the most part, either because I was blinded by my nostalgia or because I had impeccable taste as a kid, I enjoyed watching all the movies from a new perspective. What was really interesting for me, however, was seeing everything that I missed or failed to appreciate. So I'm going to do a review a day for two (maybe consecutive) weeks in no particular order, and if you're lucky I'll write up some sort of ranking at the end. First up, Roland Emmerich's Independence Day (1996).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lawless (review)


A few nights ago I was looking for something new to watch and decided on Lawless (2012). I knew it didn't get fabulous reviews, and after the Transformers movies and the new Indiana Jones installment I definitely wouldn't consider myself a fan of Shia LaBeouf, so my expectations weren't very high. But I was just looking for something to relax in front of, and, I mean, Tom Hardy. He can really make a film enjoyable. In the end, I would say Lawless just barely met my admittedly average expectations, but that doesn't make it a bad (or even average) movie. It simply achieved goals that aren't as high a priority for me as they may be for others. To make a long story short (well the long story's coming as well, but you know what I mean), Lawless has wonderfully deep characters living in a world with underdeveloped themes. It's like the flipside of this year's Now You See Me (my review): where that movie was entirely plot-driven with only surface level character development, this one is entirely character-driven with only surface level story.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nineteen Eighty-Four (quickie)

So I recently finish listening to an audiobook version of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I had a long drive, and, in the wake of the Snowden leaks and all the NSA surveillance nonsense, I was curious how many actual parallels there were between the book and life in today's United States beyond the infamous "Big Brother is watching you". While there were definitely some interesting connections, there were fewer than you might think. And that's not because, on the one hand, the U.S. government isn't actually spying on us, or, on the other, because the book isn't all it's cracked up to be. The NSA is definitely spying on us and Nineteen Eighty-Four is definitely an amazing book. The trouble is that it's more of a critique of failed revolution, specifically of the failure of socialism, than of panopticism or surveillance society. With that being said, I'm not here to criticize our cultures reappropriation and misunderstanding of classical literature. I'm here because, after I finished my audiobook, I watched Michael Radford's film version, Nineteen Eighty-Four (the version which came out in 1984), and I guess I have some things to say about it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Battleship (review)


Yes, your eyes are functioning properly. Today I'm reviewing Battleship (2012), and I'm not even doing it close enough to its release date to ride the wave of excitement and resentment. Evan suggested I check this movie out, and he has a solid track record of recommendations (both An Education and A Boy and His Dog) so I decided to put aside my skepticism and give it a try. My expectations were still pretty low despite the kind word from a good friend. I mean, it's a movie "based on" ("inspired by" would be a more accurate description) the kids' game originally from Milton Bradley (acquired by Hasbro in 1984), and it was nominated in 2012 for six Razzies including Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay (Rihanna won Worst Supporting Actress for her role). So you'd think it must be pretty terrible, right? Surprisingly I found that Battleship was not only not the terrible flop I expected, but was actually slightly above average.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Education (quickie)

An Education took my expectations and threw them right back in my face. First off, it was recommended by my good friend Evan, a fellow Speed Racer enthusiast and illustrious authority on such sci-fi wonders as Battleship and Dead Snow. Needless to say, we have similar taste in movies. Despite my trust in him I was still thrown for a loop when he recommended this. I thought maybe he saw it with his girlfriend or something and they bonded over what was in reality a rather average romantic comedy. No. This movie is great. Carey Mulligan carries the show from start to finish as the charming, strong and joyfully entertaining Jenny, a teenager reaching the end of what I can only assume is the British equivalent of high school and preparing to apply to the most prestigious university in England: Oxford. One day, she meets the cunning David, played by a devious but alluring Peter Sarsgaard, who shows her that there's more to life than school. Initially her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are wary, but eventually they prove to be just as impressionable as their young daughter. But if you think you know where this is going, you don't. At least I didn't.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Heathers (quickie)

Alright, with my celebratory Disney post out of the way I'm back with more movies recommended by my friends, and no movie was suggested more frequently than the 1988 classic Heathers. This movie feels like Mean Girls set in the world of The Breakfast Club, which is an easy way to tell that it is among the all-time best high school movies. But there's something else, something you might never see coming from looking at the movie poster or a plot synopsis. Heathers is bonkers. While it may have the same themes as your average high school comedy/drama, it stirs a little Dirty Harry into the mix to the point where it almost feels like a slightly less psychotic version of House (my review) where the satire targets high school drama instead of horror. Veronica (Winona Ryder), this movie's Lindsey Lohan, is trying desperately to fit in at school, and while she has a fair degree of success, she's alienating her classmates to earn the favor of people she doesn't care for. Then she meets J.D. (Christian Slater, who is just... so good. I mean, he wasn't even 20 when this movie came out) and he helps her out of this deadlock by, well, by killing people. Heathers takes the interpersonal tensions from Mean Girls and fully embraces the murderous fantasies they generate.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top 5 (Favorite) Classic Disney Animated Features


Like many others out there, I grew up with many of the classic Disney cartoons on my television. Disney, to some extent, taught us how to grow up. But how do these movies look today, revisited with a more mature eye (and hopefully brain)? How did they look to our parents watching them over our shoulders? One thing is undeniable: Disney undoubtedly has its faults (racism). On the other hand, however, it's hard to deny the extraordinary amount of talent that went into making the early Disney animations, both in terms of aesthetics and thematics. With that in mind, I rewatched several of what I remembered as my favorite of the original Disney feature length cartoons (as opposed to the modern classics of the 90's renaissance) and reevaluated them. So, here are my Top 5 classic Disney animated features. Also I grabbed all the amazing title screens for your enjoyment.