Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Her review

Spike Jonze is awesome.
The guy has done some great stuff. Being John Malkovich is genius and one of my favorite movies. Adaptation was really good also. Where the Wild Things Are, while not as good as his past directorial efforts, was beautiful and pretty good. None of them compare to Her. I have to admit, as good as it looked originally, I was quite skeptical. All the critics were praising it so much and it was winning so many awards. This made me skeptical because I thought that the amount it was being hyped, the film could never live up to. I was dead wrong. It lived up to it, and then some. Her is about Theodore Twombly. (Joaquin Phoenix) He's going through a tough divorce. Theodore is lonely, so he buys an artificially intelligent operating system (with the voice of Scarlett Johansson) named Samantha. Slowly, Theodore falls in love with Samantha, and Samantha falls in love with Theodore. Thus begins the beautifully strange movie that is Her. Honestly, if you haven't seen the movie yet, just stop reading and go see it now. I wouldn't want to ruin anything. Her is great for a number of reasons. It shows the relationship between Theodore and Samantha, not as this strange weird thing, but as an understandable and real relationship. You almost begin to understand why this is happening. The whole human/operating system relationship is surprisingly easily to understand and relate to. Spike Jonze did a fantastic job with that. And Scarlett Johansson did a great job too. I can imagine it's hard to communicate all the emotion and feeling she did with just her voice. That worked really well. The whole new take on the modern relationship was very clever and well done, but it's not the only thing that makes this film so great. Spike Jonze does a great job of seeing where we might be in only a few years. Sure some of the technology is more advanced, but it's not too far away from where we are now. It's kind of awesome and kind of scary that stuff like this could happen in our lifetime. Jonze makes this near-future seem real and comparable to our society now. At one point, Theodore is sitting on the steps leading up from the subway. This is one of the first times in the film when he isn't completely absorbed by Samantha and his phone or computer. He watches as people come up the steps. Every person is talking to their operating system or looking at their phone. It's a sad moment, but if you think about it, it's just a reflection of today. Spike Jonze covers that beautifully, without hitting you over the head with it. He also manages to cover and explain all the questions problems with artificial intelligence. Jonze brings up a lot of other points about consciousnesses and being. Some great films before it like Moon and Blade Runner have dealt with similar issues, but not to the extent the Her has. It's astounding the level of creativity and emotion Spike Jonze put into this film. As cheesy as it sounds, Her made me laugh, cry, smile, and question life. It's some movie. Her is about the relationship between a man and his operating system, but it's also about so much more. I'm having trouble putting my feelings and what I think about this movie into words because the movie is just so good. Her is, without a doubt, the best film of the year. The writing and directing is fantastic, the themes are so well dealt with, and the acting is great. Joaquin Phoenix is obviously a great actor. He's been terrific in stuff like The Master and Gladiator. Her is one of his better performances. He portrays Theodore perfectly, not making him a sad-sack loser, but still showing that he is a lonely and hurt man. Phoenix carries a decent chunk of the film on his back, but he does it expertly. Amy Adams is great too, as Theodore's friend Amy. Amy Adams is having a great year. First she was in the big budget Man of Steel. Then gave a great performance in American Hustle. Now she shows off her talent again in Her. She's getting a lot of recognition for American Hustle, but I'm surprised she got none for Her. I don't know what else to say, just go see the film and you'll understand what makes Her such a masterpiece. I hope Spike Jonze does more solo stuff because this was brilliant. I give Her 5 out of 5. It is truly the best film of the year. Happy Viewing and Happy New Year! You can always stay up to date by following me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and liking me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.      

Monday, December 30, 2013

Alexander, Revisited: The Final Cut review

Who better to play a Macedonian Greek than Irishman Colin Farrell? Am I right?
I really like most of Oliver Stone's movies. Some of my favorites include JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, and Platoon. I also really like some of his other stuff like Talk Radio and Natural Born Killers. I would call him one of my favorite directors, that is until I saw his most recent film, Savages. I have a lot of problems with Savages (particularly the ending), but I won't talk about that now. I wanted to believe that Savages was just one bad apple in a great bunch of films. But I had heard that one of Oliver Stone's worst movies was Alexander. Yet, I had also heard that his Final Cut version was a vast improvement on the original. So I figured why waste my time with the original. So I got up a copy of Alexander, Revisited: The Final Cut, and then watched it. While I don't think this film is as bad as some of the reviews said, I certainly have some issues with it. The movie covers pretty much the entire life of Alexander the Great, focusing particularly on his famous conquest of Asia. From watching this, I can tell Oliver Stone is really interested in Alexander the Great. More interested then the audience probably is. Because of this, Alexander packs a boat load of information into three and a half hours. You read me right, three and a half hours. Some movies like The Lord of the Rings films or The Wolf of Wall Street are able to keep me engaged and entertained for about three hours. While Alexander has it's engaging and entertaining moments, especially the battle scenes, in no way did it keep my attention for the entire 214 minutes. I give credit to Oliver Stone for pursuing his vision and making Alexander the way he wanted to. This film is ambitious as hell, and quite obviously took some serious effort and money to make. I want to love it, I really do, but I just can't for a number of reasons. The whole movie could use a lot of trimming. There's about 20 minutes at the end of Anthony Hopkins talking that is completely unnecessary and there's more than a handful of scenes that could easily be taken out without hurting the film. What Mr. Stone could have at least done is put the film into two separate parts, or cut it up into an HBO miniseries or something. The film is just too long for one sitting. It's manageable but not exactly desirable. It's just incredibly long, and it doesn't need to be. Another thing that bothered me was Angelina Jolie. This probably isn't Oliver Stone's fault, but her accent here is just awful. I don't know what she was going for, but her accent sounds weirdly Russian. I don't know why a Greek would have a Russian accent. I understand Angelina is a pretty good actress, but here performance here is just plain bad. Colin Farrell is alright as the title character, but he's nothing special. Which is a shame because Colin Farrell can really act when he wants to, go watch In Bruges and you'll see what I mean. The rest of the cast is just alright. They play their parts but no one blew me away. I honestly can't recommend Alexander, unless you're a history teacher who's really into Alexander the Great. The film is impressive in it's scale and ambition, but in the end it falters. There was one battle scene towards the end in which Alexander fights in India. About halfway through the fight, Stone makes the screen go red. That was interesting and cool in how it reflected what was happening. There were some moments like that that made me really appreciate what Oliver Stone is doing here. The movie has some nice sweeping landscape shots and some impressive battle sequences but I was fairly disappointed. It's not Stone's worst film, but it is very far from his best. If you do plan on watching this, I recommend doing it in two parts. It'll give you time to breathe and I expect you'll enjoy it more. I can't say I got that experience. Alexander isn't a good movie, and it's kind of sad that this is coming from the guy behind such greats as Scarface and Platoon. Hey, at least it's not as bad as Savages. 
You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies. Happy Viewing!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

American Hustle review

American Bullshit was the original title for the film. Which is so much better in my opinion.
American Hustle is a movie about cons, tricks, hustles, and lies. The plot itself is about that, and much of the movie has little things that reflect the whole "con" theme. In the beginning of the film, the screen reads the words, 'Some of this actually happened'. It's hard to tell what's real here. The whole movie is one big con. That's what makes it so damn fun. American Hustle is the kind of movie that you want to see again. You want to pick up on all the little things you missed, and also just enjoy it all again. The film is about a con artist named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who, through a series of not-so-legal business transactions, gets himself involved in a sting operation led by federal agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) involving the mafia and Camden New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Swept up with him are his business colleague/lover, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), and his crazy wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). This is directed by David O. Russell. I'm not as familiar with his filmography as I should be, but his last movie, Silver Linings Playbook, was one of my favorite films of last year. He's done it again with American Hustle, because this is one of my favorite movies of this year. It's actually pretty amazing that this guy can make a spectacular film one year and pretty much immediately make another hit. This movie is crazy entertaining with some awesome performances and a really good screenplay. The film takes place in the 70's. Although it was the actual time the ABSCAM operation, it's also an ideal setting for the movie. The 70's was an era of fake hair, which there is a lot of in this film, and fake music. This whole movie is about fakery, cons, and other stuff of that nature. The whole 70's setting works perfectly for the film. The whole movie just works so well. If you haven't heard by now, the acting here is terrific. Christian Bale is the obvious standout playing the head con artist, Irving Rosenfeld. He gained a decent amount of weight for the role, but his performance is much more than aesthetic. He portrays his character perfectly. Everything from his Bronx accent to his 'elaborate' comb over. While his character is funny, it could be easily turned into a thin caricature. Bale, despite all his cons and tricks, makes the character seem completely real. It's amazing how damn versatile he is. Going from a psycho killer, to Batman, to this takes some skill. Christian Bale obviously has skill. The female leads here are also great. Amy Adams gives another knock out performance as Rosenfeld's partner with a fake British accent, Sydney Prosser. Amy Adams has continued to prove that she is a more than capable actress. She was awesome in last year's The Master. She's even better here and I hope she wins an Oscar for this role. I can honestly say she is one of my favorite actresses. Jennifer Lawrence already won an Oscar for David O. Russell's last film. I wouldn't be surprised if she won again. It's incredible how she can give a great performance in a small indie film, then star in The Hunger Games and in the new X-Men movie, then star in two smaller, more acclaimed films. You could say she's the female Christian Bale. Anyway, she's fantastic here. most of the time she plays a very likable character. Here she's playing a crazy and generally annoying character. And she does it very,very well. Bradley Cooper is really good too. Which if two years ago you called Bradley Cooper a very good actor I would have laughed in your face. After Silver Linings Playbook, The Place Beyond The Pines, and this, I have a lot of faith in Mr. Cooper. Jeremy Renner has a smaller role as Mayor Carmine Polito and i know he's going to get zero recognition for his role but I thought he did a great job. Renner is a very underrated actor. Although American Hustle has done very well critically, recently I've heard a lot of complaints about how overrated it is and how it will win Best Picture but won't deserve it. It's not The Wolf of Wall Street but I'd be perfectly happy if this won Best Picture. It's certainly making my Best of the Year list and I would certainly see it again. American Hustle is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen all year and it entertained the hell out of me. It combined comedy and serious filmmaking very expertly. It's soundtrack also worked really, really well. I am going to give American Hustle 4.8 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing you guys. Remember you can always follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.        

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street review

Gordon Gekko's got nothing on Jordan Belfort. Nothing.
Jordan Belfort is a multi-millionaire stock broker and founder of Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage firm on Wall Street. He has a huge mansion gloriously furnished on the most expensive property there is. He often will have events at his firm that involve throwing a dwarf at a target, and bringing a marching band accompanied by strippers into the office. He has a trophy wife, and still enjoys the company of prostitutes many days of the week. Belfort takes a cornucopia of  drugs everyday to keep him going, including morphine, because, as he says "Morphine is awesome!". He is the subject of Martin Scorsese's newest film, The Wolf of Wall Street. The film opens with Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) explaining who he is over voice over while, as I mentioned earlier, he is throwing a very small man at a Velcro target. Thus begins the extremely entertaining and often ridiculous tale of Mr. Jordan Belfort. This is one case where you can say truth is stranger than fiction. The film documents Belfort's rise from ambitious kid to multi-million dollar entity. And it also document his fall. First off, this film was incredibly entertaining. It may be Scorsese's best film since The Departed, maybe even since Casino, but it isn't Scorsese's best movie. What I can say is that it is Martin Scorsese's most entertaining, insane, and funny film yet. Truly, it is awesome to have a 71 year old man make a film so vibrant, crazy, and entertaining as this. The Wolf of Wall Street runs at about three hours. I was completely absorbed the whole time. Some critically acclaimed movies like Lincoln and Blue Jasmine were well done in many ways, but failed to keep my attention and entertain. Scorsese (with the help of screenwriter Terence Winter) manages to craft a wonderfully enjoyable film, that is also a truly good film. He's not sacrificing content and message for flashy-ness and beautifully filmed scenes (like movies such as Spring Breakers kind of did). Point is I really enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, and it was really good. For many, many reasons other than just being incredibly entertaining. The acting was quite good, for one. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most committed and talented actors working today. He is occasionally talked up for more then he is, but overall I think the guy is really good. He's proved he can act in movies like The Aviator, Django Unchained, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape. I can honestly say The Wolf of Wall Street showcases Leonardo DiCaprio's best performance yet. Him and Scorsese are a fantastic actor/director team that I hope keep on working together for many movies to come. I really hope Leo wins an Oscar for this. He not only personifies the money and drug addled craziness of Jordan Belfort, but takes the role to many different levels. Jonah Hill also gives a more than decent performance as Belfort's close associate and partner in crime, Donnie Azoff. Hill is definitely a capable actor as he's shown before, he only solidifies that now. The rest of the supporting cast is really good too. Matthew McConaughey shows up for a very funny cameo. McConaughey is an actor who I used to hate, and now really appreciate and love. His role here may be small, but it's still pretty damn good. Many of you may know that Martin Scorsese is my all-time favorite director. I have a lot of favorite directors like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson among others, but Scorsese is the only one who never disappoints and always continues to wow me. I can't think of a bad movie the guy has made! His work here is a fantastic return to the insane form that inhabited some of his stuff like GoodFellas, Casino, and After Hours. The Wolf of Wall Street is insane and excessive and over-the-top, but Martin Scorsese does it all so, so well. He uses old devices like voice over and constantly moving camera to really tell this story. You could easily fail at doing the story of Jordan Belfort. You could make it too gratuitous without really giving meaning to the story and exploring the themes. Luckily Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese know what they're doing. The Wolf of Wall Street is about not only the excessive greed and malpractice of Wall Street, but it's about learning from your mistakes and the misinterpretation of the American Dream. What frightens me is that people will miss the meaning of the story and use it as an excuse and guide for trying to live like Jordan Belfort. Many people completely missed the meaning of Scarface, how excessive greed and power will eventually bring you down, and took it as a handbook on how to be a "cool" gangster. Similar to that, many people were "disgusted" at the film because of it's many scenes involving drugs, sex, more drugs, and other devious acts of debauchery. What these critic don't understand is that these acts are necessary to the themes and message of the movie! The Wolf of Wall Street is a cautionary tale. I just hope people realize that. I've heard a lot of talk recently about how 2013 is one of the best years for movies in a long time. With stuff like this coming out, I can't help but agree. We are in a golden age of cinema. Martin Scorsese is just one fine example of that. Scorsese is focusing on Wall St. for this movie. He is known for his mafia films like The Departed and GoodFellas. I think they're very similar. Scorsese paints a picture of excessive and crazy Wall Street life in the 80's and 90's, that isn't all that different from the mafia life he told us about in some of his other films. Making movies like this seems to be what the guy was born to do. If you haven't noticed by now, I really liked this film. Call me crazy, but it may be the best of the year (so far). And yes, I would watch it again in a heartbeat. I give The Wolf of Wall Street 5 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing everybody. If you want to keep up to date with my reviews and other things, you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.              

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford review

Sam Rockwell is good in literally everything. Everything.
Recently I've been hearing a lot about how good this film is. There was a revival screening in New York and some of my favorite critics to read were doing re-reviews praising it. It's written and directed by Andrew Dominik, who wrote/directed last years Killing Them Softly (also with Brad Pitt). I really enjoyed Killing Them Softly, and because I'm watching a lot of westerns this month, I thought this would be a great movie to review. And I think I'm right. The story is a very well done, and almost heartbreaking in a way. Young Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) has always idolized the outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt). He's kept dime novels telling of James' escapades under his bed for years, constantly reading them. He collects other memorabilia relating to Jesse and the James gang. Ford wants nothing more than to be a member of the James gang. Soon, it seems like he may get his chance. But Robert gets involved in police work and starts to question whether Jesse James is the man he thought he was. Ultimately leading to what the title told you will happen.  Now regardless of everything, let me get it out of the way right now and tell you that The Assassination of Jesse James is the most beautiful western, possibly even most beautiful film, I've ever seen. Roger Deakins should have won the Oscar he was nominated for for cinematography. The shots are utterly astounding.I don't want to sound too corny with saying that but this truly is a breathtaking film to look at. This could be a poorly written, poorly acted, and generally ridiculous film, but the cinematography would still make it worth the watch. Granted, it is a well written, well acted, and generally awesome film that also has mind blowing cinematography and camera work. It's no perfect movie though. At times I was riveted and even entertained by this film. At other times I felt quite bored, and it started to really drag. But that was only occasionally. Most of the time though, I was in love with Jesse James (the movie, not the person). Dominik uses this novel-style narration for the movie that really works well. Especially against Deakins' beautifully filmed backdrop. I remember thinking how great Andrew Dominik was when I watched Killing Them Softly, now I know that this guy is going places. The performances here are great too. Brad Pitt is more than capable to no one's surprise. Pitt may be the biggest name here but Casey Affleck is the real star. Casey Affleck blew me away as Robert Ford. No wonder the guy got an Oscar nod for this! I've seen Affleck in some other stuff like Good Will Hunting and the Ocean's movies, but never like this. He really shows the pain Ford felt of being overshadowed by his older brother and how all he wanted was to be like Jesse James. Affleck portrays Robert Ford with the perfect mix of sad rejection, want for fame, and anger for everyone. Who knew Ben Affleck's brother had such acting talent? Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, and the always great Sam Rockwell give some good supporting roles (especially Rockwell). Many westerns focus more on a journey, or the violence, or some needless plot point. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford focuses on the characters and their emotions, the weather and the landscapes, and so much more. This is a much more thoughtful and articulate western than many I've seen. This isn't The Lone Ranger my friends. Westerns are declining in popularity already, and the fact that this was much more different then what people thought it would be, are probably the reasons this movie did so poorly commercially when it was released. It's really a shame considering how damn good this film actually is. If you haven't seen this, I urge you to immediately. Even though you already know the ending. I don't want to say this is my favorite western of all time, but I don't want to say it's not either. After a couple more viewings, I can say this may find it's way unto my favorite of all time list. Also, Roger Deakins' cinematography. That guy is great. He shot Prisoners, Skyfall, and some other stuff and is always astounding. Just see the movie. Happy Viewing guys, and if I don't see ya, Happy Holidays! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies if you haven't already.                

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis review

Movies like Inside Llewyn Davis are hard to write about.
Like many Coen Brothers films they're simple. Yet also complex on other levels. They definitely have a lot more to them than immediately meets the eye, but I can't figure it out exactly yet. And they're really good. It can be hard to express how you feel about a movie a lot of times without sounding cliche. I'm trying to find what to say about this movie, but to be honest it's pretty hard for me. But I'll try. First off let me tell you what this here film is about. It takes place in 1960's New York. It's centered around a cynical young folk singer named Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac). Llewyn is what you'd call down on his luck. He doesn't have an actual address. He can't afford an address. He hops from couch to couch, sleeping at one friend's house at one night and another's the next. He lives off of the minimal money he makes off his musical gigs. Mostly playing at The Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village. Llewyn's life seems to be an endless cycle of disappointments and obstacles, each seemingly worse than the next. His partner jumps off the George Washington Bridge. Gets his married friend pregnant. Accidentally lost his other friend's cat. Gets stranded on the highway on the way to Chicago. It seems like Llewyn Davis never catches a break. His whole existence is a pointless Odyssey. A Frodo without a mount Doom. A hero with no destination and no epic battle. Embarking on a journey to nowhere. An exasperated adventurer who just wants to sell his record. Davis isn't your classic hero. To put it in the words of Carey Mulligan's character, Jean, he's an asshole. Although you definitely feel for him most of the time, Llewyn Davis is the kind of guy you want to punch sometimes. Llewyn is a jerk, but his crappy circumstances are partially to blame. He reminds me a little of Larry Gopnik, the protagonist in the very underrated Coen Bros. movie, A Serious Man. They both have a lot of problems that seem to be unceremoniously dumped on their laps that they have to try and deal with. Their endings may not be happy, but they're story is certainly one worth telling. The Coen's are master filmmakers and I absolutely love them. The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Raising Arizona. The Coen Brothers are cinematic geniuses who have birthed an array of awesome films. Inside Llewyn Davis isn't their best, but it's still really good. Even if you had problems with the characters and the story (which I did not), you still can at least appreciate their darkly funny and sometimes somber dialog and their fantastic use of camera and editing. Many directors are great at say, directing actors, but they struggle in many other areas. Joel and Ethan Coen are pretty versatile in their skills. They direct the actors in such a way that they really get the most out of them, but they also create such a vivid world in which their movie takes place. For No Country they made this whole dangerous, dusty western atmosphere that fit the movie just fine. For Inside Llewyn Davis they have captured the whole 60's NYC folk scene perfectly. Not only that, but every emotion and aspect of Llewyn's life seems to be reflected into the film's setting. It all works really well. Granted, it's not a perfect film. It drags in certain spots and there are a few parts that are longer than they should be. Overall though, it was really quite well done. The acting was really terrific too. Oscar Isaac was fantastic as the title character. I remember seeing that guy in some really small roles but all I can say is, where has he been all this time. I suppose it takes the Coen's to really bring the potential out in an actor. Carey Mulligan is superb too as Llewyn's sometimes friend. Justin Timberlake was alright as Carey Mulligan's character's boyfriend, but he' yet to show he can really act. John Goodman shows up for a bit as a washed out jazz musician. He brings some laughs. Although then again, when doesn't John Goodman make you laugh? All that stuff is great, but I have to mention the soundtrack. Inside Llewyn Davis may not be the best movie ever, or even the best of the year. But it certainly has the best soundtrack in any movie I can remember. There are a lot of fantastic folk songs here. The movie is worth seeing for the music alone. Yeah, it's that good. Anyway, Inside Llewyn Davis isn't The Coen Brother's best, but it's still really terrific. I can't help but recommend it. I give Inside Llewyn Davis 4.6 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and make sure to like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies! 
By the way, I'm going to stop doing #tbt reviews so I can have more freedom to review more movies and not worry about what day to review them on. I'm also getting increasingly annoyed with the hashtag so that's a reason too. Anyway, Happy Viewing1 (Happy Holidays too!)  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug review

Dragons can be be pretty damn greedy sometimes. How about some gold for the rest of us Smaug?
About a year ago, the much anticipated film, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released. Although I vastly enjoyed the first installment in the Hobbit movies, it was met with fairly mixed critical reception. That was quite a surprise considering the massive critical praise (and numerous awards) for Jackson's Lord of the Ring's movies. Just reminding you, I had very little problems with the first Hobbit movie. It wasn't up to par with the Lord of the Ring's films, but it was pretty good. With the newest Hobbit movie, I think it's safe to say Peter Jackson is back on his A game. Sure, it may not be Return of the King, but it's still pretty awesome. This time around, Bilbo Baggins and The Dwarves (Is that a band name?) continue their unexpected journey of trying to reclaim The Lonely Mountain where the dwarves once resided until it was taken over by Smaug the dragon. Meanwhile, Gandalf the Grey goes off to find out more about the mysteriously evil being called The Necromancer. First off let me say, this is a much more exciting and well done film than the first. That's coming from a guy who liked the first. Pretty much everything about it is better. I saw this in 3D. I've only seen a few movies in my lifetime, like Gravity and Avatar, that have been worth seeing in 3D. The Desolation of Smaug is one of those movies. The big sweeping shots of these beautifully CGI-ed fantasy landscapes really pop with the 3D. It makes the whole thing seem so real and exciting. That's another great thing about the film everything seems very wonderful and fantasy-like, yet I was so drawn into the story and visuals that I didn't notice the preposterously fantastical element of it all. I was there with Bilbo, trying to run away from Smaug. I was with Gandalf and Radagast, climbing up and old enchanted fortress. It all is so enthralling. Not to say the movie doesn't have it's problems. I thought the CGI in the beginning was a little shoddy and strange looking, but it only increased in quality after that. A whole lot of people were complaining about the film's three hour running time. First of all, it's only about two hours and forty minutes. Second, with the fast moving and exciting plot plus Jackson's nice direction, i barely noticed the time pass. Some movies, I'll use Lincoln as an example, make their running time feel stretched out ten fold. It feels like you can barely sit through it! The Hobbit make it's running time feel necessary. I don't think this movie'd be the same if it was shorter. I think the three hours are all used to their full extent. The actors aren't really the showcase here, but they do a good job. Martin Freeman, (coming off a nice turn in The World's End) plays his courageous and small hobbit quite well and Ian McKellen is good as always as the wise wizard, Gandalf the Grey. Benedict Cumberbatch does some deliciously evil voice over work for both Smaug and The Necromancer. Luke Evans shows up for a bit as some guy named Bard. He really didn't do anything that he hasn't done in any of those crappy period flicks he's been in recently (The Raven? Ugh.). Orlando Bloom comes back as the very awesome Legolas. I know Bloom can act, but he doesn't really show it here. He's not bad, but he's not great either. He does kick some serious Orc ass though. Most middle-of-the-trilogy films almost always falter and almost never live up to the first one. The second installment in The Hobbit trilogy completely the first in so many ways. Overall, The Desolation of Smaug is an exciting and entertaining film that I can definitely recommend. In a season of movies trying too hard for Oscars, it's good to have a well made blockbuster like this to break everything up. I give The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 4.1 out of 5 stars. Happy Viewing! As always, you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#tbt The Searchers review

This film stars John Wayne. The movie star, not the notorious and horrifying serial killer. Just wanted to clear that up.
As many of you guys may know, I'm focusing mostly on watching and reviewing westerns this month as part of a project to really understand the genre. I started by watching High Noon (which I thought was very overrated, but not that bad), and then proceeded to watch John Ford's 1956 classic, The Searchers. Let's juts say this movie has earned it's 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. The plot of the film is that a group of Comanche Native Americans murder almost an entire family but kidnap the youngest daughter. Civil war veteran Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), was the brother of the man whose family was killed. So Edwards and his adopted nephew, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), go off  in search of the missing girl. I have mentioned, in some of my other reviews, that westerns seem to have fallen out of favor in the past few decades. I can only think of about three great ones that came out in the 2000's, and two of them are remakes. Yes, I think it's fair to say that the western genre is endangered. It truly is a shame though, because the western was a once great genre. The Searchers is proof of that. The whole movie is just fantastic. It's an epic, mixed with a revenge flick, with a little bit of buddy movie thrown in there. And it's incredibly watchable. I never thought of John Wayne as a "good" actor. He always seemed to play the same character, and just never wowed me.Even most of the stuff I saw him in was just alright. I felt that the supposedly great Rio Bravo was a fairly unoriginal movie with a mediocre performance by Wayne. I can't say the same for The Searchers. His performance here is the best I've seen of him yet. Especially one of the last scenes he really displays some acting prowess. I won't ruin it for you though. Just see the movie. There's a common misconception that old films are boring, stuffy, and irrelevant. I won't lie, I once thought the same thing. There are many great oldies out there, The Searchers being one of them. The last 10 minutes are some of the coolest and more exciting sequences in film history. It involves John Wayne's character and a whole bunch of cavalry dudes charging a Comanche camp and it's pure awesome. I'm sure many movies have been inspired by this. It's not just a straight western either, it goes deeper than that. Ethan Edwards is very cautious and prejudice against Comanches, partially stemming from his experiences in the war and partially just from the mindset of the time. His partner and adopted nephew, Martin, is part Comanche. This proves to be a big problem for Ethan  throughout the movie. The fact that his niece has been kidnapped by people of that race doesn't help him at all. At one point he learns that Debbie, his niece, has lived with the Native Americans so long that she has begun to accept them as her people and live like them. This angers him so much to the point where he wants to murder his own niece. The transformation he undergoes is pretty astounding, and Wayne does it terrifically. I have no idea why this film received no accolades at all, especially for John Wayne's performance. My only problem with The Searchers is that it drags occasionally, especially in the middle of the movie. Otherwise it really is a damn good western. If you haven't seen it, even if you don't like westerns in particular, you really should. It's a well done movie that I wouldn't hesitate to watch again. Happy Viewing y'all. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.        

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#tbt Annie Hall review

"I'd never want to belong to a club that would want someone like me as a member."
This is how comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) describes his love life. Finally being with a woman he wants to be with, and soon growing bored and detached, eventually leaving her. Soon Alvy meets Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), a lovable and occasionally clumsy girl who he soon falls deeply in love with. Woody Allen creates a relationship and a story that is very funny and fresh. I haven't seen a romantic comedy done this well since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Annie Hall is the movie that pretty much rocketed Woody Allen to stardom and placed him on everyone's top directors list. It's the film that everyone points to as a sign of Allen's genius. It won 4 Oscars, including Best Picture. I can see why it's not just brilliant, it's one of those movies that may have actually changed film itself. So yeah, I think it's safe to say Annie Hall is pretty good. And it's a real shame I haven't seen it until now. Woody Allen's most recent film, Blue Jasmine, got a lot of praise and is even getting some awards buzz. Personally, I didn't think it was all that great. It had some really nice performances, but overall it just wasn't that special. But I'm not here to review Blue Jasmine. What I can say, is that Annie Hall makes Blue Jasmine look like Grown Ups 2. It's that good, I assure you. Spike Lee sometimes uses the technique of talking to the camera. That same documentary-style technique is used in many TV shows today like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family. It seems to have all started with Annie Hall. The film has such a simple plot: a man looks back at his broken relationship wondering what went wrong. Yet, Allen makes it work so well. I've never been as captivated and entertained by a romantic comedy like I was with Annie Hall. It's so well done. Especially the screenplay, written by Woody Allen himself, is so witty and smart. It mixes very interesting and original techniques with pop culture references and poignancy into a truly fantastic movie. There's one scene in particular where Alvy and Annie are just getting to know each other and are talking on Annie's roof. They're making small talk, but in subtitles is what they're actually thinking. Alvy will say one thing, but underneath him it'll say "I wonder what she looks like naked.". It's really quite clever. I probably don't have enough life experience to "get" Annie Hall. But I can still enjoy it. And boy, did i enjoy it. If I watch Annie Hall a few more times, I'm sure it'll make it as one of my favorites of all time. Maybe it already is. Annie Hall is the kind of movie you want to watch again. Happy Throwback Thursday and as always, Happy Viewing. You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies!
P.S. I've decided to devote this month to westerns. So for the rest of the month I'll be watching and reviewing exclusively westerns in order to really understand the genre as a whole. Then at the end of all that I'm going it write a piece on my thoughts about the entire western genre. Just wanted to let you guys know so you're not wondering why I'm only doing westerns for my next Throwback Thursday reviews. Thanks for reading!