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The Shape of Water

A Sweeping Flood That's Impossible to Resist
While not necessarily perfect, Del Toro holds back his more primitive urges (though they bleed through), refines his most repeatedly practiced themes (fish man, violence, death scenes, magical realism, etc.), and makes a sweeping fractured fairy tale into a flood that's impossible to resist. With an alluring color pallet, fantastic period set design, a love for old Hollywood, and a flawlessly efficient use of music, he creates a world that might be his most grounded and magical at the same time.

Like Amélie mixed with Pan's Labyrinth and Creature from the Black Lagoon.

And if a slightly silly, out of place sex scene (with reactions that break the film's reality) between a human woman and a fish man tricks people to watch good cinema, well I guess I can't complain.

Bowling for Columbine

An Aimless Michael Moore Rant
Bowling for Columbine takes you down the rabbit hole into Michael Moore's opinions on every subject he can fit into two hours.

Moore brings his typical "documentarian" approach to his interviewing which includes arrogant self righteousness and implicating uninvolved others in crimes or as being part of the corrupt system just because they hold a different outlook than him.

It's nothing more that an aimless rant, and even lacks the inspiring visual techniques that some of his other works showcased. Michael Moore pretty much sums it up in the film itself: "I'm doing a, I'm doing a, um a documentary on these school shootings and ya know guns and all that..."

Roger & Me

Visually Inventive and Stimulating Even with its Colored Perspective
With a visually inventive and stimulating film-making style, I was captivated by Michael Moore's debut feature documentary. While it's a truly impressive specimen as far as structuring and camerawork goes, Moore presents a very tinted perspective that doesn't allow any room for the audience to form any of their own opinions about the subject. With his confrontationally ambushing and venomously-undertoned "interviewing" style Moore doesn't really allow anyone else to be heard. On the rare occasion that he does get an honest opposite opinion or valid argument he simply dismisses them by coincidingly matching the segment with pointed satirical imagery or an angry sort of irony. At times he even pleads for you to feel the plight of the laid off autoworkers yet and then is highly judgemental of how they get on with their lives and survive. While I wish the film had presented a more open perspective (or at least a more subtle message) and had been a little more thought provoking, it still held appeal and had me enjoying Moore's radical technique.

Meek's Cutoff

Uncommon Subject Matter Decent Indie Effort
Kelly Reichardt's fifth feature follows a party of three covered-wagon abiding families traversing the Oregon Trail led by their guide the questionably unscrupulous Stephen Meek. Very reminiscent of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, the film showcases the hardships of routine daily life and the enrapturing landscape around them. Unlike Malick's ever-moving camera Reichardt takes an extremely static approach nearly to a fault. But we are always in the middle of real day-to-day life as an unobserved observer. We become a fly on the wall, unseen, viewing the activities of a group of humans not knowing that they are being watched. We cock our heads and lend our ears to catch a conversation between mumbling or whispering characters straight out of an Altman film. We peer into the fading light of day into the coming darkness to catch a glimpse of a meal by firelight. As naturalistic as this was some details lacked realism. Our pioneers crossed a rugged land in starched pressed, artificially weathered clothing and supplies that made them look more like modern reenactment props rather than lived-in tools of survival. Sometimes the devil is in the details, like loading a long rifle with shot when just firing it for its intimidating blast. The dialogue was sparse yet sufficient, but not always delivered convincingly which was surprising given the reputation and experience of this cast. There is little overall action in the plot but that is not necessarily always a negative (as proven by Seinfeld: the show about nothing). This can however be a significant issue though when combined with little to no character development. Meek was easily the most formed character (with Mrs. Tetherow a close second) but almost came off as a caricature. Other small traits seemed contradictory to the character's personalities as survivalists; slight aversions to physical labor, wimpish fearfulness, a general lack of pragmatism, and a bit of naive arrogance. Most of these issues could easily be blamed on the screenwriter and maybe even his own naivety in his modern perspective. But the visual medium of cinema and the performances by actors can makeup for a lack in a screenplay. The majority of the film could be described as a slow burn but in the end its really a buildup to nothing. Ambiguity without purpose simply seems like lazy storytelling. Overall Meek's Cutoff is an uncommon subject curiosity and flawed but descent effort in low budget indie film-making even if it wasn't enough to fix faults in the writing.


A Hypocritical Albeit Comedic Critique on the Superhero Genre
Was this really the meta parody that it's cracked up to be? Short answer: no. Deadpool is more of a hypocritical albeit comedic critique on the superhero genre.

Don't get me wrong it was a good time; entertaining, funny, true to the source material, and an interesting enough origin story. Ryan Reynolds doesn't do a bad job as his somewhat recurring character and fits the part pretty well. He doesn't seem to always have the best comic timing or ability, but then again some jokes are only so funny when they come from an expressionless cgi head. The comedy at times was spot-on and at other times juvenile and forced. But considering the rapid fire pace of everything in this film you didn't really have time to get discouraged about it. T.J. Miller added even more comic relief but the person who really shone in that department was Leslie Uggams who played Deadpool's blind unlikely roommate. Every moment with the duo on screen was laughable from their exchange of snide remarks and insults or just the general situation.

As funny as it was (which is really all it had going for it), in the end Deadpool is just another big-budgeted mindless action-packed explosion full of atrocious cgi. Its really just an R-rated version of what we've already seen. Sure it wasn't another Green Lantern experience but it wasn't a uniquely fresh spin on the genre like something we got with Kick-Ass. A film can't really be considered a parody if it becomes the tropes that it's satirizing. Deadpool is not much different than any other of the numerous superhero films coming out today, it just takes a different path to the same single-minded goal of box office success.

Get Out

Refreshingly-Original Descent Thriller/Horror Debut
Get Out gets a lot of credit where it doesn't deserve and not enough credit where it's due. Many have labeled it as a comedic commentary on race in contemporary American society, but it's really far from that. Yes, LilRel Howery is quite hilarious for most of it but Get Out really aims to thrill not to get laughs or cause a larger discussion on racial politics. The topic of race relations from Jordan Peele should be no surprise considering his past comedy sketches and personal mixed-race background and marriage. But his use of this material is to mainly work as a vehicle for tension and a tool to twist audience perception of what is really going on at this estate visit. A blatant example of this is Peele's smart directorial decision to change the original ending to one that tampers with our expectations and keeps political implications as an underlying subplot rather than the crux of the film. This works very well, drives the plot, our imaginations, and always has us wondering if our protagonist is justified in his paranoia or simply overreacting and misjudging the situation. As a horror/thriller Get Out has a refreshingly original premise with a skillfully witty and tightly constructed narrative plot but failed to evoke enough necessary fear for its own good. Peele makes a decent debut as a director but predominantly (and rightfully so) shows off his creative storytelling chops and attention to detail. But just as Chris misinterprets many people's interactions with him, audiences seem to misinterpret the ultimate point of this film.

Don Verdean

First Two Acts Failed, Last Act Redeemed
The Hess team started their career in a very atypical fashion. With the starting surprise success of Napoleon Dynamite and the continued yet not quite as well received Nacho Libre they made their mark. Their next film Gentlemen Broncos failed to wow me as the first two and showed they couldn't keep producing the same effective comedy as they had before. Don Verdean had a similar issue. The first two thirds of the film didn't even make me crack a smile. In the beginning it mainly poked fun at the world of American Christianity most of which was excellently targeted on the faults, hypocrisy, ridiculousness, and phony parts of organized religion. But to me this came across in more of a bitter/angry sort of way rather than comedic. It just didn't work well and didn't have intrigue, nothing but a bait-less hook. The last third of the movie, on the other hand took a turn for the better. The story became interesting, the writing improved, the continual wit and hilarity that I saw in the Hess's previous projects out poured. While none of the acting was bad, Jemaine Clement as Boaz gave an especially entertaining performance. The beginning gave a bad taste in my mouth, but I'm glad I stuck around for the end.

Assassin's Creed

Wasted Potential. Did Not *Execute*.
To begin with I didn't have high expectations for this film. Let's be honest, video game movies don't have a very good track record. The Assassin's Creed franchise was one that has a extreme potential for becoming a good or even great movie, with the complex yet adaptable storyline, a wealth of historical places, figures, and real events, and a visual style including choreographed fights already laid out in the games. Some big names joined the project (like Fassbender, Cotillard, Irons, Rampling, etc.) and gave it even more hope. But it fell far short of being even a descent adaptation, which I think the blame mainly falls on the writing, directing, and overall vision for the movie. The story itself wasn't altogether clear (especially for those unfamiliar with the games) and 95% of it took place in modern times which simply made it less interesting. Little of the movie took place in the past or inside the Animus (and if you've played the games you know that the past events are what defines the entire franchise). What did take place in the time of the assassins was a non-stop action scene with fighting so fast it would make your head spin (simply to avoid any focus on the violence/gore and slide by with a PG-13 rating). The cgi was mesmerizing at times and shameful at others. It's pathetic when the original game made nearly a decade before has better graphics. All of their smoke and haze couldn't cover it up. The fight scenes were pretty disappointing. While they are the highlight of the games here they mostly consisted of choppy digital people stiffly hacking at each other. It lacked the most iconic parts of the game (like there only being one real stealth fueled assassination) and focused on the least interesting parts which they did not execute well.

The Count of Monte Cristo

An Atrocity
This film begins with the words "Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo" appearing from the black. This could not have been a more false statement. Jay Wolpert (the writer of the movie's screenplay) took this classic novel to the chopping block from the beginning, hacking the masterpiece to pieces, throwing two thirds of it away, and then attempting to rearrange the leftovers and make something better. The plot was changed at every turn, trading Dumas' magnum opus for some trashy paperback complete with shallow affairs, "whore" name calling and a stupidly sadistic jail keeper. The characters, their backstories, and their relationships to one another were butchered for no improvement, gain, or benefit whatsoever. This movie reduced a complex fascinating story of genius to simple uninteresting child's play. The writing of this slap-in-the-face "adaption" was its main flaw and ultimate ruin. It's not even worth the time to go into the film's other faults(which are numerous). The movie itself isn't worth anyone's time in watching it either.

Only the Essential: A Hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail

Excellent Little Movie
This short-film/documentary follows lives of a few hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and their journey from Mexico to Canada. The imagery is wonderful and captures the essence of the awe-inspiring nature around them. For a couple of amateurs the film has amazing production value, and is very well done. The script was well written (a little too philosophical at times) but hard to take seriously some of the time with the narrator's dull monotone monologue. I definitely appreciate the effort put in to it and the objective of it all. The makers simply wanted to share the amazing experience that they had on the trail and give others an inspiring look inside. This film deserves some more exposure and it's sure to make you want to go for a hike.


The Real Joke is Calling This a Documentary
This starts out as any typical documentary where Bill Maher presents that he is on a journey to find the truth about the validity or stupidity of religion. By claiming agnosticism (when clearly he is not) Maher pretends to be fair by acting like he is un-biasedly going to explore religion, saying "I have to find out." Shortly afterward one can clearly see that this is purely a Bill Maher ego trip and a Borat-style type of mockumentary. He doesn't really bring any debate, discussion of issues, or scrutiny to the table. Instead he just resorts to a religious joke fest which is all very entertaining and humorous, but then the real joke is calling this an intellectual documentary on the criticism of religion.

To prove his points he finds only the most extreme or corrupt religious fanatics that are even considered nutcases in their own respective religious communities. He especially loves throwing loaded questions to people who are unlearned in their religion, or others who have skewed off-base and non-canon ideas within their own beliefs. He questions laymen and doesn't once acknowledge the experts or learned crowd in religion.

Some of his subjects include pastors who don't even know what their bible says, a Jew who doesn't believe Israel is currently a nation who supports that the holocaust was from God, gay Muslims, a weed smoking church, and a Jewish inventor that creates contraptions to avoid Sabbath laws. These people are all extremely obscure and on the outer fringes of these religious groups.

At one point Maher even tries to argue that the existence of the historical man Jesus was up for debate. I don't know if he actually believes this or if he was just trying to fluster the interviewee and make him falter (I think the latter). But if he does actually believe this he would be laughed out academia by nearly every scholar, theist and atheist alike.

Bill does make many valid criticisms of religions but the problem is he leaves no room for any real intellectual rebuttal. He is mostly catching people off-guard and asking loaded questions. He had some good points like on the U.S. not being founded as a Christian nation, or the absurd idea that "Christianity is American." But there were other claimed "facts" completely false like his information on the Horus/Jesus debate or pulling despicable Biblical stories and not really addressing what those passages were actually about. Maher also asserts that all religion is violent, when in fact just as much or more violence has been done in the name of no religion. He eventually moves on to other religions, but really never far from Judaism based ones which really doesn't touch on most of the world.

This is without a doubt a very funny piece (unless you are extremely offended by it all), but it would be completely inaccurate to call it an intellectual one. It's just Bill Maher being Bill Maher. Even to the point of him bringing up other irrelevant issues like his views on the environment and nuclear applications. He didn't actually do extensive research, he's mostly just shooting from the hip and catching dumb people off-guard. The makers even cut the scenes cleverly in the interviews (weird pauses, strange faces) for extra awkwardness and comedy.

The only thing this "documentary" really proved was that there are a lot of people that believe strange things some of them being very stupid. Most people watching this already knew that beforehand. At one point Maher says: "Religion is arrogant certitude," which ironically also perfectly describes himself.


Without Comparing This to its Biblical Source, It's a Poor Film Regardless
Unlike the viewers who expected a classic retelling of the biblical story, I knew what I was getting myself into from the start having read Darren Aronofsky and Niko Henrichon's graphic novel collaboration of the script. I'm not going to say it was bad because it didn't hold true to its original source material (the Bible) but it was bad even when just comparing it to the comic adaptation which was released years previous to ever getting funding for the movie. It held mostly true to the comic's story but it just doesn't hold up as a good movie period.

This is really more of a fantasy with some sci-fi elements than a biblical epic. It has a Lord of the Rings feel with similar style warriors clothing and weapons. The setting is made out to be an ancient and primitive time but there are many contradictions there some quite laughable. Welding masks? Spring loaded traps? Personal canons that shoot magic gold? There was nothing to connect it to a time period or a real life grounded story. But then again maybe that was their point.

More contradictory was the character of Noah (the peaceful warrior). In the beginning he is portrayed as an environmentally friendly vegan who is against (picking) killing flowers and "respects life" given by the Creator. But what he says and what he does are two different things entirely. Noah is shown at this same time to be nothing close to a pacifist. He claims to be against violence yet kills people with no remorse or second thought.

The acting was awful all across the board and really hard to take the story seriously at times. With all of the big names I expected more from that department. Anthony Hopkins was the only exception to that. Even with just a small part he brought a great deal to the film and was quite enjoyable to watch.

There was evidence of some creativity and good ideas. For instance the imaginative scenes of visions, the inventive stop-motion like cuts similar to some of Aronofsky's previously used fast cutting techniques, or like the explanation of animals following the only water source (stream) to find the ark and their induced hibernation state to make the feat more plausible. The story of creation that contained evolution seemed a little taboo in this scenario and didn't really seem to fit the story, but at the same time the presence of God was kind of ignored or hidden throughout the film (which is kind of ironic).

A lot of this film was just plain ridiculous. There was unexplained magic-gold mining, a newly discovered pregnancy test (spitting on a miracle leaf), convenient lifeboats, and a Grandpa who knocks out his great-grandchild and drugs his grandson so he can see God's will. Some small parts of the movie were well done but they were quickly put to shame by scenes like those with the "rock people." The Watchers were actually one of the better parts of the graphic novel, but here these fallen angels were just like the rock cousins of Ents created with awful cgi and made to act even stupider.They were horrible. Quite pitiful, not to mention the poorly cgi'd animals.

The main story also seemed to have gotten lost in the pettiness of human relationships. The entire world is flooding. That is a pretty huge event don't you think? Yet our characters are wrapped up in the big concern of kids having more kids in the future.

I think they should have not even called it Noah and made it with different characters completely just calling it a "loose adaptation of the Noah story." Then people wouldn't have had false expectations and in return audiences probably would have enjoyed it more. But even with that being said this is not a good film. It's bad to the point of being laughable at many times and is really hard to take seriously.

Prison Break: The Old Ball and Chain
Episode 23, Season 4

Once Again Back to the Beginning.
This episode basically encompasses most of what I dislike about this show. The makers don't know when to end something. It's a giant cycle that just keeps revolving with each season and it always comes back to the beginning. Only this time they decided to do it in the last two episodes. Prison, escape, going on the run, thinking they're safe, back to prison...repeat. This one did have a role reversal with Sara being the one on the inside. And the never ending deals and betrayals. Ugh. Its not even a surprise anymore, you know everyone is going to backstab at some point and you just literally can't trust anyone from episode to episode. It's just stuff we've already seen before and repetition in this case is not a positive.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Johnny and Dora
Episode 23, Season 2

Practically Perfect Ending to Season 2
It doesn't get much better than this. This was an excellent episode in and of itself but it also accomplished some major plot boosters for the next season. The relationship between Jake and Amy awkwardly starts to take off which everyone knew was coming and was much anticipated. Boyle proves Rosa that he knows her better than she thinks as he helps arrange a surprise birthday party for her. Also Captain Holt's rival Wuntch the witch is once again making trouble, but this time with unforeseen and drastic consequences. The outcome is one that was suspenseful, a game changer, and a total cliffhanger leaving every viewer hungry for Season 3. All of this plays out while a identity thief terrorizes the streets of NYC. To keep it short and to the point: a practically perfect ending to Season 2.

Napoleon Dynamite: Scantronica Love
Episode 2, Season 1

Not As Good As Episode 1
Episode 2 was even stranger than the first with Napoleon's class being subjected to a love machine test that matches students with their ideal mate. This toys with the relationships from the movie but once again leaves realism for a weirder approach. The side story with Kip and Uncle Rico involves them in a magic act business venture once again borrowed from the original film. I enjoyed watching Grandma Dynamite and getting more of her personality as she was a minor rarely seen character from the film. Once again some parts were funny but this episode was not as good as the first and is probably only for people who liked the movie.

Napoleon Dynamite: Thundercone
Episode 1, Season 1

Napoleon Dynamite Fans Will Enjoy This, But Don't Expect To Be Wowed.
I wasn't sure at all what to expect from this. I thoroughly enjoy Jared Hess' films Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, but I was leery and had little faith in this being any good. The storyline was interesting and had some pretty funny parts but the whole plot revolved around a bunch of small jokes from the original movie. Basically take one liners from Napoleon Dynamite and mash them together into a zany little story. One of the most different things about this was that it wasn't grounded in reality at all. It was more like fantasy in an unreal cartoon world. It was unlike the film where its strongest aspect was it being a realistic story about some weirdo pitiful high school kids. If you liked the movie you will probably enjoy this but don't expect to be wowed.


Skip This and Watch Red Dragon (2002) Instead!
As the film opened, a deep striking chord of 1980's electronic music loudly resounded echoing what I found to be one of the picture's greatest flaws: it tried too hard to be dramatic. Overdramatization was everywhere in the unfitting music that ruined the mood to the acting of most the characters. When a segment should have consisted of a casual conversation it turned into a cheesy delivery of a line in a way that no real person would react in that current situation. The soliloquies Graham had with himself while talking to his invisible enemy were probably the worst evidence of this.

The storyline deviated from Thomas Harris' original book Red Dragon in ways that were really detrimental to the plot. One of the strongest points in the book was getting an inside view of Dolarhyde's life story, background, inner demons, psychotic torn personality and struggles. It made the readers understand, pity, and sympathize with him. By omitting those details the intentions and motives seemed to be completely different and almost hidden from view. The best villains always seem to be the ones that viewers can relate to and almost end up rooting for in the end. This story failed on that level completely.

Many times you've heard the saying: "It's all in the details." These filmmakers must not have heard that one before or ignored it. The modern art style buildings and décor of the sets made it visually appealing but didn't fit the book's description or the time period. It made the story that much more impersonal, unrelatable, and unbelievable that this might happen to everyday families like the Leeds and Jacobis. Another stark mistake was the obvious error of showing the wrong William Blake painting that Dolarhyde's sense of power originated from. They couldn't even get the main image of the film and its symbolism correct.

Most of the acting was nothing to boast about but Brian Cox did give a solid Lector performance (or Lektor as they just had to be different)that I think Anthony Hopkins' probably used as some inspiration and built upon later in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Red Dragon (2002). Overall the movie was a real disappointment, as if we heard the story from someone after playing the game "Telephone" with their mishearings and mixed up details. And let's not even address that awful shootout in the end. They completely ruined that twist from the book. If you want my advice go watch Red Dragon (2002) instead, it is far better than this.

Red Dragon

Skip Manhunter (1986) and Watch This!
From the very beginning you can tell that this movie revolves around and stemmed from the success and cult following of Anthony Hopkins' performance of Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It is prevalent all throughout and is strongly reaffirms in the end that this is a prequel to the previous mentioned film. It is kind of ironic when considering that Red Dragon was actually Thomas Harris' first novel of the series.

The performances in Red Dragon are good which was to be expected from an all around well known cast. Anthony Hopkins came back with his character not quite as chilling as before and while I do like Edward Norton, I found him a little too boyish for his role. I was especially impressed with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ralph Fiennes who brought to life our villain straight from the pages of Harris' book. There were a few tweaks to the story that the filmmakers took the liberty of using that I think actually improved the story. One being the scenes of Dolarhyde showing off the tattoo and then Graham using Dolarhyde's weaknesses and background against him in the final scene was a nice touch. This film is definitely not as good as the book (when are they ever?) but is a worthy adaption of its source material and definitely a huge leap up from its predecessor the 1986 film Manhunter.

The Mask

Very Enjoyable and Funny Watch but Far From Perfectly Executed
For all of the fans of The Mask comics from the early 90's, I don't think you will be exactly satisfied. While the storyline is a little different, the riotous out-of-control violence is missing making it "kid friendly" and more of a family film. In other words you won't see The Mask shot full of holes and the graphic chaos similar to a Deadpool comic.

This Stanley Ipkiss is not exactly the awkward shy fearful nerd that I expected but more like the typical goofy screwballish Jim Carrey. In his early movies especially Carrey very much seems like a one trick pony. He may be good or the best at his routine but it doesn't change the fact that he isn't very versatile.

The look of this film was clearly a 90's sets and was reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with its similar effects and visuals. The crazy style was perfect in some ways for instance the makeup for the mask and his big shiny choppers. Some of the effects were on the cheesy side and the stupid dancing scenes kind of brought the whole film down. It started out strongly but the train lost steam in the end as the movie became less interesting relying on a lot of fake-looking visual gags. That being said it was a very enjoyable and funny watch but far from perfectly executed.

Life as We Know It

Highly Predictable Romantic Comedy
This movie did entertain with its comedic elements and a story that most audiences can relate to in some way, but the underlying construction of the plot was weak. Weak as in the entire storyline was predictable. It was somewhat unique with the tragic circumstance and the couple being thrown into guardianship (which we already even knew from the original trailer), but the rest of it was the epitome of a cliché. It hit on almost every romantic comedy cliché in the book: a player falling for the "good" responsible girl, two bickering always fighting people not realizing that they are in love, a misunderstanding with a breakup and a reunion, etc.

The acting itself was solid across the board. I have seen a couple of other Katherine Heigl films and within the scope of those she doesn't seem to have much variability in her skills (not that she is bad in this). Her characters in Life as We Know It, Knocked Up, and 27 Dresses are almost all exactly the same in slightly different situations. Josh Duhamel also did a fine job but I am not as familiar with his work. To reiterate: an enjoyable funny romance but you will sarcastically be saying to yourself the whole time "I wonder what will happen next?"

Serbuan maut

Must See For Martial Arts Fans, Incredible Fights, But A Little Lacking in Dramatic Storytelling
If you love martial arts, vigorous fight scenes, and police/special teams movies you definitely need to check this out. The film's tagline says it all: 1 Ruthless Crime Lord. 20 Elite Cops. 30 Floors of Hell. This story starts with the team's initial break-in to the crook's complex which was most intriguing to me (as it seemed like an accurate portrayal of a raiding operation). Once inside things do not go to plan and fallout that follows plunges into nonstop action with a lot of extraordinarily choreographed fights. While some of the realism is thrown out the window at this point (and almost every other scene is reminiscent of that famous Old Boy hallway fight) the skill and creative uniqueness put into each fight is pretty incredible. The dirty tattered aged concrete landscape contributed to the raw and gritty feel of the entire film, but unfortunately I thought they dampened that a little with the shaky screen effect. While the story was focused mainly on the brawling it did attempt to give the film a dramatic side with our main character's family ordeals, not quite enough in my opinion but then again who watches martial arts movies for anything but the fight scenes.

McFarland, USA

Not a Remember the Titans but a Solid Disney Sports Drama
For those of you who are turned off at the thought of this movie because its about running, don't be. Although the formation of the cross country team is the driving force in the plot of the film, it really is a family drama with a diversity of elements.

This was a relatively low budget film for Disney (only about $17 million) and they got some pretty well known actors like Kevin Costner who gave a strong yet not a stunningly mind-blowing performance.

It is nice to hear a moving story based on real events (how accurate we will never known) and that made it more heartfelt and touching in the end.

McFarland, USA has your standard sports films clichés but who wants to hear about losers or born winners? Where's the struggle and inspiration? Aside from the captions that showed the years of the events there was little to connect it to the 1980's. Some things were a little cheesy but it had humor and heart.

Not a Remember the Titans but a Solid Disney Sports Drama.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

A Pretty Fantastic Little Film
To begin, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl as a kid, but this was his worst book by far. It was a dull simple bare bones story but the makers of this film really added the meat and interest to the plot. The characters were given unique personalities that were un-expounded upon in Dahl's book and extra events were added so that it could be made into a full feature. The writers definitely made this into an engaging story. From the beginning it was evident that Wes Anderson had a hand in making this (which was good in this instance) from the vintage artsy style to the panning cutaway room camera shots to his reoccurring all star cast. Stop motion has always fascinated me and the detail and quality of this work was incredible with only a few small hiccups when it came to the additional challenge of fur. The movie was all around funny, quirky, had enjoyable creative ticks, and pleasurable music. Only a few complaints remain in the end: that wolf scene made no sense and I hate cheesy dancing scenes at the end of movies that they typically include in kids movies or Bollywood Films. I find them utterly ridiculous, but even with that this is a gem of a film that achieves the rare accomplishment of outshining the book from which it originated.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Really Plays to the Teen Generation of the New Millennium
Michael Cera is an awkward genius as he has proved before in many of his other works with best example probably being Superbad. This movie was no exception and his and the others' acting was all something to be proud of. The story held very true to the comic. A few details were shifted around and a few minor ones omitted but it still worked well. The graphic novel had a little more depth and character development which would have been nice in the movie adaptation but it also would have extended it to an undesirable length. The whole video game feel worked much better in the film medium rather than the comic. The music and bands were pure brilliance with songs that I think could be actual catchy hits. Bryan Lee O'Malley definitely created a strange but fun type of story that plays a lot to the teen generation of the new millennium. It combines elements like hipsterism, 20-something unemployed slackers with their fates resting in the success of their band, the music scene, fads like veganism, making fun of pop culture, and is really aimed at a generation raised on video games and the drama that goes on with dating and young life. One thing I found unexplainable was that the characters were grounded in real life but when the insane fights happen they seem to be no big deal. Also the subspace highway was never really explained same as the book. It was a fun, laughable, and entertaining 112 minutes.

Source Code

Premise a Little Shaky, But Solidly Entertaining
Well this is another film I watched just because of Gyllenhaal, and once again Jake didn't disappoint. The movie itself was just okay, nothing incredible but definitely not bad. It made an excellent use of a limited setting, uniquely using a plot with the "Groundhog Day"-like scenario. It had a lot of different aspects, sometimes it was action packed, other times a serious drama, or a sci-fi mystery and was also occasionally funny but solidly entertaining all throughout. The premise of the entire movie was on shaky ground in my opinion. Their explanation for how the whole source code worked was vague and relied mostly on a cheap typical sci-fi scapegoat of "quantum mechanics and calculus" which really doesn't tell us anything. Its kind of a hollow statement that sounds really fancy if you know absolutely nothing about the subjects. The film also tried to be clever, mind-blowing and trippy in the end but it didn't really seem to work. It came across as a little fuzzy and unclear of what really transpired which I think the unexplained process of the source code and the unbelievability of it contributed to.

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