Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happiness (1998) Film Review

One of the biggest complaints about Marvel's impressive line up of films is that you don't see much variation in plot. We are introduced to our hero, they make mistakes that put them in life threatening situations, they learn from their mistakes, then finally pull themselves together just in time to defeat the big bad guy trying to destroy the world. While I can understand how this predictable plot and story beats throughout the film can make the films somewhat boring for some viewers I still find it to be a fun joy ride. Plus Marvel does this structure better than anyone else in the industry. Now that said, it still gets a little disappointing when you notice big Hollywood films follow the same story structure time after time, it feels like when you watch the trailers that you can already tell everything that is going to happen. It's this that make independent movies that are not held down by the constraints of the Studio system so fun, entertaining, interesting, and refreshing to watch. It is nice to see someone's original vision brought to screen without someone telling them to change things for the sake of making money. That's what make Happiness so refreshing to watch, a film that has characters that you would never ever see on the Hollywood big screen and asks its audience to look into a dark part of humanity without sugarcoating it. Its a daring and brave piece of cinema and the most bizarre movie I have seen in a long time.

Happiness is written and directed by Todd Solondz starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Adams, Dylan Baker, and Jon Lovitz. The film centers around a unique group of individuals ranging from a psychiatrist, to a woman jumping between jobs in her 30s, an author, and many more as they try to find what they really want in life. Unlike most people, these people find happiness in the some of the darkest corners of society like calling up random people on the phone book to tell them they are worthless or being a pedofile. The film explores these characters, how they impact the people around them, why they do the things they do, and the consequences they must face for it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Snowpiercer Film Review

If you have never seen a film by Bong Joon-ho then you are missing out on one of the most unique voices out in the world of cinema today. My first taste of his work came in the form of The Host which completely caught me by surprise for being original, darkly funny, and having social commentary all while being a great monster film! The film was so good that I put Bong Joon-ho on my watch list and started going through his filmography. Then we come to present day where it feels like I have been waiting forever to finally see his newest film Snowpiercer. It has been tough waiting after hearing so much about the film, the reviews and then the controversy over the Weinstein's trying to re-edit the film, but luckily the time had finally come where this film was in theaters and we go to see the edit that Bong Joon-ho wanted to release. What also makes Snowpiercer exciting is that this is Bong Joon-ho's first English speaking film and first big budget feature. While more money and a bigger release might seem like a good thing, that isn't always an equation for success. Sometimes when a filmmaker tries to cross over to bigger films, they lose what made them such great filmmakers in the first place. Just look at what happened with German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and 2010's The Tourist. So I was hopeful for two things to come out of Snowpiercer, that Bong Joon-ho would be able to keep his voice and style that made his previous films memorable and fascinating and also that we could see another wonderful original film in a summer filled with sequels and rebranded old known products. Read on to see my thoughts on Snowpiercer

The year is 2014 where an experiment to end global warming causes a new ice age across the Earth, freezing everything insight to deadly below freezing temperatures. Fast forward 17 years and the last known humans alive left on the planet Earth are left to survive on the Snowpiercer, a 20 car train that runs on a self sustaining engine that travels around the world all year round. At the back of the train lives the lower class, where the leaders and high class of the train have stuffed most of the population in cramped living conditions. The lower class survives on protein blocks and nothing else but it seems that the back of the train has had enough. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a protege of Gilliam (John Hurt), the lower class rises up and starts to slowly head their way up the train hoping to reach the engine room and take the upper hand. As the upper class fights back, Curtis and the rest of the back of the train must fight their way forward before their are forced to the back of the train or even worse killed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Signal Film Review

Being born in the 1990s, I feel like I missed out on a time where people would go to a movie theater with little to no knowledge about a film before they saw it. For example you would go in seeing a movie called Casablanca and then have your mind blown by how brilliant the movie is! I always wish I could go back in time and watch the first Star Wars film without any knowledge to have that feeling of discovery and wonder at the incredible film. As I started become a big time cinephile, I would constantly read up on movie news, rumors, watch trailers and clips, and do everything I could to learn everything about a movie before it came out. About a year ago I realized this took a lot out of the viewing experience as a lot of the film would be ruined before I even saw it. So I have pulled back and like to go into movies with little knowledge, and while that is almost impossible for some movies I was surprised this weekend to have such an experience. With nothing else to see at the theater, my best friend and I went to see The Signal without any prior knowledge and found it to be a refreshing and fun experience. Read on to see my thoughts on William Eubank's The Signal...

The Signal follows a group of three friends Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Haley (Olivia Cooke), and Jonah (Beau Knapp) as they go out on their road trip across the country to help move Haley for college. While Nic and Haley are dealing with relationship problems, Nic and Jonah pursue a hacker that was able to hack into MIT's servers. Impressed by his work, Nic and Jonah track down the hacker's IP address to find out where he lives. Taking a detour on the trip, they arrive at the hacker's location to find the place empty or so they think. The group soon find themselves abducted and waking up in a ominous location, trapped by a group with unknown origins or motives. Nic faces daily evaluations from Damon (Lawrence Fishburne) but must find a way out of the facility and save his friends along the way while figuring out just what exactly happened to them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shining - Cause It's Halloween This Month

Film analysis for me has always been a sincere pleasure for me ever since I was introduced to it the freshmen year of my high school year. The teacher told us that we had to write an essay after watching each movie and this was the first time in my life that I had to reflect and put thoughts on paper about how I felt about movies. I wrote about a lot of movies in that class, everything from Singin' In The Rain to Days Of Heaven. This opportunity was the beginning of me starting analyze films, looking for the deeper meanings and appreciating cinema's finest productions ever put on celluloid. I still look for it no matter what movie I'm watching, hell if you didn't see the ideas of rebirth, death, religion, and grief throughout last week's Gravity then I do not know what movie you were watching! So why am I talking about film analysis because today I am writing about the film that has been analyzed more than any other film ever made: The Shining. Now why has this movie been obsessed over and studied like some holy text? Well I will tell you soon so keep reading about a movie impactful on its audience that it still is debated, wrote about, and documentaries made about it to this day.

The Shining is Stanley Kubrick's 11th feature film released in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. Nicholson plays a young writer, father, and husband who decides to take up a job to watch over the Overlook Hotel, a large mountain resort, during the winter months while it is closed. While accepting the job he learns that the previous housekeeper had murdered himself and his family during their stay at the hotel. Jack brushes it off as nothing and decides to bring his wife, Wendy, and young son, Danny, up with him to stay in the hotel for the winter as he tries to write his new novel. Then things slowly start getting weird as Danny starts to see things and Jack begins to lose his grip on reality and his sanity. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013


There are lots of reasons I fell in love with movies. It has a lot to do with growing up watching Jurassic Park and being mesmerized by the spectacle of dinosaurs being brought back to life. It also has to do with an Introduction to Film class I took Freshman year of high school thinking it would be easy and then realizing that film was something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Still there you can't beat that some movies became a cinematic experience, breaking the fourth wall of the screen and soaking me into a world I had never seen before and actually experiencing it. It has those moments where you forget you are watching a movie and become part of that reality. With this I think about movies like 2001 A Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and many more. It becomes awe-inspiring that a film can break through and become something more than moving pictures that they can place us in the middle of these amazing places. Now we have a new kind of experience, one unlike anything I have ever experienced, with a little movie called Gravity. 

Gravity follows the space shuttle Explorer and it's crew as it attempts to update a satellite for medical reasons. Specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a rookie astronaut in space for her first time but luckily she has Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut who wants to break the record for most time in space, to help and assist on the mission. As the repairs and updates commence on the satellite the team gets a report of a Russian satellite being destroyed and the debris heading their way. The team must then rush back onto the shuttle before getting hit by the debris. Soon things turn for the worst and Stone and Kowalski must work together in order to have any chance of survival in the bare, scary, empty space that surrounds them.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

One of the funny things about being a movie maniac in my opinion is that I never once thought that I would reach a point in my life where there would be too many movies to watch. Then as I grew older and I learned more about film, I realized that there are times when there are too many movies to choose from at times. Some movies I want to watch to study the history of cinema, some movies I want to watch to enjoy, and other movies I take a chance on to see if they are any good. So as I came across The Wind That Shakes The Barley I thought I might give the movie a chance and see if its any good. I only know that it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival so it has to be somewhat good. I also saw that it was directed by Kes director Ken Loach so I know that the film was in good hands. So what could go wrong?

The Wind That Shakes The Barley follows the relationship between Damien O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy O'Donovan (Padraic Delaney) during the early 20th Century rebellion of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British Empire. The film explores the bloody and tyrannical rule the Brits had over the nation of Ireland. The two brothers decide to take an oath with the IRA and begin fighting back slowly through guerrilla warfare. As the time passes and the Irish begin to have victories, the two brothers see different views of the future for Ireland. Damien more of the democratic type wants absolute freedom for Ireland while Teddy is more militaristic and is willing to somewhat compromise for any freedom. As tensions rise in the conflict and the brothers deepen their lives into the fight for freedom, the war splits these brothers apart and leads to an unfortunate end.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fruitvale Station

It seems that a lot of things we learn in life pile on. For example if you learn about human trafficking you might see a movie about it in the same week or hear about it in news stories for the next month. While the truth is that stuff like that has been happening your whole life, you finally are acquainted with it's presence and begin to become fully aware of its impact on the world. While this might be getting deep for a movie review, I feel like something like this has been happening to me recently. See I grew up in middle class suburbia and was taught that policemen are honest, good working people that have the best intentions for protecting civilians. Over the past year though my eyes have been slowly opened to the falsity of this idea. While certainly not every policeman is corrupt, I am becoming aware that there are bad cops out there who have done some horrible atrocities over the years. It all started with my Criminology class that showed me how many innocent people were set up and how huge corporations get away with mass murders yearly. Then two movies I saw recently helped me grasp a personal perspective on this corruption, first In The Name Of The Father and now recently Fruitvale Station.

Fruitvale Station follows Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) a young 22 year old in Oakland, California who is just trying to find a stable job while making his girlfriend, mom, and most importantly daughter happy and give them the life they deserve. Oscar may not be perfect and has a troubled past, but he is trying to get his life back together and have an optimistic future. On the night of New Years Eve 2009, Oscar heads out with his girlfriend to enjoy the night and party in the new year. As they try to head back home, Oscar comes face to face with people from his past and one thing leads to another putting him and his future at risk.