★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable
Starring Isaac Hempstead Wright as Eggs
Ben Kingsley as Archibald Snatcher
Elle Fanning as Winnie
In Cheesetown, everyone is afraid of the monsters that live under their streets, the boxtrolls, which they believe to be horrible, baby snatching creatures. A man promises to get rid of all the boxtrolls in Cheesetown in exchange for a position of power. Meanwhile, the boxtrolls raise a human boy as their own.
I took my 5 year old cousin to see this for his birthday, but really that was only an excuse to go see it. I would have ended up seeing this movie anyways, because I really do enjoy Laika animation’s style, and some of their films have been really great. The Boxtrolls might actually be my favorite one of their films that I’ve seen (it’s definitely more enjoyable than ParaNorman in my opinion, though I have not seen Coraline in a while and don’t have much memory of how good it was). This is a wacky, off the walls, ridiculous fantasy that involves cheese, trolls living in boxes (obviously), nearly every British comedian you could hope for, as well a song written by one of the Monty Python. In terms of voice casting, this is just about as good as it gets. They assembled quite the team, I didn’t have a clue that Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Ben Kingsley or Tracy Morgan were in it till the end credits. I did figure out that Richard Ayoade was in it, mainly because he has an unmistakable voice. But everyone did such a great job with their voices, if nothing else, The Boxtrolls is voice acting done right. Beyond that though, it’s a really well crafted and beautiful animation. The claymation is outstanding, I actually don’t remember the last time I’ve seen stop motion look so smooth. It almost looks too smooth to be stop motion at times. Of course there were some flaws, mainly in the pacing, which flipped back and forth from rapid to slow moving. The storytelling was pretty good other than for the constantly shifting tone. In the end though, I definitely recommend watching this one, with kids or without. It’s a fun time. Also it has maybe the most creative end credits scene ever done.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Tatsuo Matsumura as Professor Hyakken Uchida
An elderly professor, adored by all his students, retires and spends the next seventeen years surrounded by those that he loves, and those that love him.
Akira Kurosawa’s final film and final masterpiece. This is the definitive “old age” film, about one of the most wonderful characters ever filmed. The focus of this film is about an elderly German professor who retires, and grows old still living life like a child. His students throw him annual “Madadayo” parties on his birthdays. Madadayo translates literally to “not yet”, and in a movie about old age, I’m pretty sure you can figure out what that means. These students are always around their old professor, making sure he’s happy, making sure this sensitive and kind old man is well. Madadayo is a film that shows how good people can be, these students, their professor, nearly everyone around is a truly great person. This is definitely not a movie for cynics, as it’s all about the kindness of people and the beauty of their souls. I would also argue that of the 27 Kurosawa films that I’ve seen, this is tied with The Hidden Fortress for the funniest. Madadayo is through and through a comedy. Which is good seeing as the last few films I’ve seen from Kurosawa have been incredibly depressing or dark. It was time for a change. I have to finish this review up quickly, so basically Madadayo is an amazing movie about the good in everyone, and about what growing old the right way looks like. It has all the elements of filmmaking that make Kurosawa such a great director, as well as some elements of script that we don’t often see from him. I highly recommend this film.
I Killed My Mother
★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Starring Xavier Dolan as Hubert
Anne Dorval as Chantale
Hubert is a homosexual teenager at odds with his single mother, as the two of them treat each other increasingly horribly.
Xavier Dolan is an inspiration. At 25 he’s made five highly acclaimed feature films, all of which have played the festival circuit. Two of his films were distributed in 2010, I Killed My Mother which was first unveiled at Cannes in 2009, and Heartbeats, which was made in 2010 and released that year as well. Heartbeats was a masterpiece love triangle picture, and a beautiful story. I Killed My Mother was less than a masterpiece for sure. In I Killed My Mother, we’re given a kind of bland story, filmed beautifully, but really dull in other ways. Dolan is obviously very influenced by the French New Wave, you can see the inventive filmmaking techniques that Jean Luc Godard employed, throughout Dolan’s filmography. Dolan’s style is bringing back French New Wave techniques and giving them a modern twist. It’s a really good style, and Dolan is one of the best auteur’s out there right now. I Killed My Mother is a beautifully made film, and an outstanding debut in the directorial department, but what really lacks is the script. Dolan’s script seems to think that just by repetition and slamming us over the head with Freudian psychology and a whole lot of teenage angst that he’ll be able to make something deep. Apparently I Killed My Mother is a semi-autobiographical film, which leads me to believe that if Dolan is anything like his character in the film, he’s just kind of a spoiled brat with mommy problems. Hubert is an obnoxious character who erupts at his poor mother over the stupidest things, I mean she is shitty to him, but she’s provoked by his constant temper tantrums that even the most terrible toddlers could learn something from. This movie is basically Xavier Dolan screaming “MOM GET OUT OF MY ROOM GOD YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!!!” for an hour and a half. I Killed My Mother is a weird mix of teenage angst, and French New Wave. I don’t really recommend it, because you can find the same high quality filmmaking in any of Dolan’s other films. I highly suggest watching Heartbeats, which is a masterpiece. I also can not wait for Mommy.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Niels Arden Oplov
Starring Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander
Mikael Blomkvist is a reporter for the magazine Millenium, who has come on some hard times lately with multiple lawsuits filed against him. Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, a successful businessman, to try and solve the mystery of a 40 year old murder trial.
Dark, stylish, and dripping with hatred, the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an absolute masterpiece. I saw David Fincher’s version a few years back, and read half the book when I was in the eighth grade (I had to stop when my parents found out about all the rape and sadism and stuff that was not suitable for a twelve year old), and I can safely say that, as much of a David Fincher fan as I am, the Swedes did it much better. I liked David Fincher’s stark, grim style better, but the way the mystery unravels in this one, and Noomi Rapace’s performance, as well as some of the changes from the book make this one the better version in my eyes. For one, I actually knew how the mystery would progress, and I knew every twist and turn, but I was still kept at the edge of my seat constantly none the less. The way they unfold the mystery in this film is done so perfectly that it can keep you guessing even when you know the twists and turns. They also keep really true to the book, other than a few small changes (which were better off missing from the adaptation, they worked in the book, but were boring and useless in Fincher’s mega-faithful adaptation). They could not have made a better choice dropping the Cecilia Vanger love plot, and focusing more on the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael. Also, I love the fact that this film feels less like it focuses more on one of the two leads, and instead gives them both equal footing in the story. This version felt equally focused on Salander and Blomkvist, whereas Fincher’s version was all about Daniel Craig’s Blomkvist. Noomi Rapace does an excellent job playing Lisbeth Salander, a character that I would imagine is incredibly hard to portray. Noomi Rapace may not be the greatest actress when it comes to her English language films, but in this, when she’s at home with the Swedish, she absolutely kills it. Anyways, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an excellent film, it’s dark, hateful, but it’s so well constructed and all together, one of the best mysteries out there.
Jack Goes Boating
★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Jack
Amy Ryan as Connie
John Ortiz as Clyde
Jack is a limo driver in New York City who wants more out of life. His friend Clyde sets him up with Connie, who is in a similar state of mind to Jack.
Philip Seymour Hoffman may have been one of the greatest talents in acting of our time, his performances in films like Capote, and The Master could be used to show what real acting should be. However, even though he was a great actor, he didn’t seem to have any of that talent transfer over to his direction with his misguided directorial debut (and only directorial film) Jack Goes Boating. While most of the flaws of the film come down to a poorly put together script, Hoffman could have done something to make it better than that. There is a saying in screenwriting that no line should be in a script unless it; A) Drives plot forward, B) Develops characters, or C) is funny. I would say only about 10% of the lines in the ultra wordy Jack Goes Boating did any of the above. It really is necessary to make every word count in a film like this. The best dialogue driven movies are the ones where every word is necessary and if you cut anything, it would feel off. These are tight scripts. Jack Goes Boating is the opposite of a tight script. 90% of the movie consists of actors just mumbling through boring conversations, which seems realistic, but there’s a reason most films don’t have people speaking through a grocery list. Yes, it’s realistic, but that doesn’t make it good. No one wants to listen to that, they want realism, they can get that daily. Films exist to tell stories, and you can’t tell a story when most of the dialogue is “umm, yeah, sure. Why not.” It’s boring to watch an hour and a half of that. Also, apparently it was supposed to be a comedy? I didn’t laugh a single time, or even crack a smile. That said, Philip Seymour Hoffman does do some really great staging in his scenes, and the camera angles are always pleasant to look at. He definitely showed a lot of promise as a director, if he maybe had the right script, he could’ve done something special.
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
Starring Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy
Paul Conroy, a truck driver in Iraq, wakes up to find himself gagged and tied up in a small wooden box, buried a few feet underground, with only a lighter and a cell phone.
Holy shit this movie is a nightmare put on screen, I’m not even claustrophobic but I felt like I was while watching this movie. Buried is one of the most tense movies I have ever seen, as well as being one of the most emotionally crushing. I’m actually surprised that this isn’t considered a horror film by many, seeing as Buried had me more terrified throughout than any horror film I’ve seen has. I think it might come down to the fact that this is something that actually happened in Iraq. People would be kidnapped, and held hostage in a place where all they can do is sit and slowly die. It is a terrifying thought to wake up in your own grave. Anyways, the execution of the movie was pretty great too. Using lighters for lighting is a good idea, and is really the only way it could have been done in those scenes, but despite that fact, it does get annoying to watch a flickering flame be the lighting for most of the film. Again, I’m not saying they should have done anything different, it’s the only way they could have done it, it’s not pleasant to look at. Moving on, I never knew Ryan Reynolds could act! I’ve only ever seen him in roles where he can just walk in and be good looking, but Buried shows a whole other side to him, a side that can carry a film where he’s the only one on screen for the entire film. He did a great job with his role. Finally, I won’t spoil the ending, but god damn, that crushed me. I just sat there for a few hours afterwords and felt kind of depressed. The ending is one of the most depressing twists ever. Anyways, Buried is a really well executed thriller. It’s definitely something I never want to see again in any circumstance, it stressed me out way too much, but I definitely recommend it. I still think though, when it comes to “one person in a dangerous situation made in 2010” films, 127 Hours still leads the pack for me. Buried was excellent though, I just didn’t connect with it on a level above “oh my god this is tense.”
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Daniel Monzón
Starring Alberto Ammann as Juan Oliver
Luis Tosar as Malamadre
Juan Oliver is a soon to be prison guard, who is getting a tour of the prison, when a riot erupts, trapping him inside with the violent inmates and their hostages. Juan then lies, saying he’s an inmate to survive.
This is a really cool and fun action movie, and one of the better prison action films I’ve seen. I first heard about Cell 211 back a few years ago thinking it sounded really interesting, but only just watched it recently. Cell 211 exceeded all my expectations. It is pretty much better in every way than you would think it would be. The script is excellent, mainly in the way the plot flows, which makes this hour and forty minute film, set over the course of a day, feel like one of the most epic movies ever set in a prison. The scope of the film is masterful, and everything that happens makes the scale seem larger and larger. It takes damn good writing to make a one location, one day film feel as big as The Godfather. The characters were also incredibly well developed. We feel for every character in the film, as bad as they may be, we understand what they want, and we can relate to them. Malamadre, the films antagonist, is incredibly relatable. I felt myself connecting with this murderer crime lord a lot more than I know I should have. Of course, Cell 211 does have some flaws, mainly in the way it looks. The lighting of the film makes it look like it could be a YouTube video, which gives the film a certain really amateur quality. Also, there’s no real creativity in the way it was shot. Cell 211 was probably shot in one of the most bland ways possible, it was just typical action movie camera work, and when the rest of the movie rises so much further above all that, the camerawork drags it down. It’s too bad, especially because if they hired a cameraman who is known for doing some really original, and great looking stuff, this movie could have gotten a perfect rating from me. So in the end, it’s a great script, with great performances, but not so great camerawork. I highly recommend finding this one. It’s a whole lot of fun.
★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Michael R Roskam
Starring Tom Hardy as Bob
James Gandolfini as Cousin Marv
Matthias Schoenaerts as Eric Deeds
After a “drop bar” is robbed in Brooklyn, Bob finds himself at the center of a complex web of robbery, deceit, murder, and puppy dogs.
The Drop definitely didn’t live up to my immense expectations from it’s trailer, but it’s certainly still a really good movie. It’s one of those films that is really cool and stylish, but you know that with what it has going for it, it could still step up it’s game. The story of the film goes in a completely different direction than you feel it should at the start. It’s about a bartender and his boss trying to get money back to the Chechen mob after they’re robbed. It sounds like it could go down a gritty, mystery storyline. But really it becomes more of a conspiracy and dog film. It’s strange that the screenwriter/author decided to do it that way, because there’s so much more to be done with a crime epic than a crime conspiracy. Speaking of which, the storyline was often hard to follow, I still don’t know exactly what Marv hoped to get out of all this. It never makes perfect sense. Also, the dog, even though it’s stupidly adorable, feels more like a dumb plot device than anything. So as I’ve been saying, this movie would have been a lot better if the story worked better. Now on to the good, because there are a lot of amazing parts to this film. Mainly the acting. The Drop features one of the most solid ensemble casts I’ve seen in a while. Tom Hardy of course kicks ass as per usual. James Gandolfini is perfect for the role (it’s like a Tony Soprano ten years after being forced out of being a gangster.) But the biggest surprise for me was Matthias Schoenaerts’ performance. I’ve seen him act in Rust and Bone before, but that was in French, and god damn, you can’t even tell that the guy isn’t a native English speaker, he has a perfect Brooklyn accent. It’s incredible. Even Noomi Rapace after years of being in English films still has the Norwegian accent, she can’t not play European. Schoenaerts could very well become one of my favorite actors in the next few years if he stays as good as he is in The Drop. Also, I have to say, the gritty Godfather-like cinematography is amazing in this film. Really all together, The Drop is a weak story with awesome everything surrounding it. Some wasted potential, but for the most part, it’s really pretty damn good.