Sunday, 22 January 2017

Happy Feet (2006)

Genre

Animation | Comedy | Musical | Romance

Director

George Miller

Country

USA | Australia

Voice Cast

Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Fat Joe, E.G. Daily, Alyssa Shafer, Cesar Flores, Anthony LaPaglia, Magda Szubanski, Miriam Margolyes, Steve Irwin, Carlos Alazraqui, Lombardo Boyar, Jeffrey Garcia, Johnny Sanchez, Roger Rose

Storyline

Like other emperor penguins, young Mumble (Elijah Wood) needs to be able to sing to attract a female, but he has a terrible voice. Instead, he's got a dancing talent.

Opinion

I remember being pretty excited about this film when it came out, so excited that I begged my parents to take me to the movies. It never happened, but I was able to catch up with it months later when the DVD came out, and I thought it was okay. Now, as an adult, I decided to rewatch it, and in spite of winning an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, "Happy Feet" isn't great but it still is a quite enjoyable kids movie that delivers several messages.

The story isn't completely original. Although this is the first time a penguin can't sing but dances instead, the story is in fact pretty much like Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling". It is fun to watch though and it delivers the importance of being different, not an original theme still very important in a world that continuously pressures us to conform.

Other than teaching to accept people who are different, the film also delivers important environmental messages - the negative effects of pollution and over-fishing - in a way that is easy for kids to understand. It may look like a stupid way to some, but remember, this film targets kids.

Because of that, the film is maybe a little too heavy and serious for kids, but there is enough humour to make children laugh, and the characters are quite funny and lovable as well, especially the hispanic penguins.

And lastly, the music plays an important role in the film as it shows how powerful both music and dance can be, and how helpful they both can be to cross cultural barriers. Also, the score is great.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

American Gangster (2007)

Genre

Biography | Crime | Drama

Director

Ridley Scott

Country

USA

Cast

Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Ted Levin, Armand Assante, John Ortiz, John Hawkes, RZA, Lymari Nadal, Yul Vazquez, Ruby Dee, Idris Elba, Carla Gugino, Joe Morton, Ritchie Coster, Jon Polito, Kevin Corrigan, Norman Reedus

Storyline

Incorruptible detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the South East Asia.

Opinion

I don't mind gangster movies yet I don't watch a lot of them because I'm sick and tired of those stereotyped Italian gangsters and those shootout scenes that last an eternity. Ridley Scott's "American Gangster" is different though. With a rather limited action, this film is an intense crime film as well a great biopic elevated by its performances.

Based on real life gangster Frank Lucas's life, the story never feels new as it reminds of that of other crime films, but it still is engaging and very interesting because it's the story of a black man who came from nothing and that was more influential than the Italian mob.

What I liked the most is that Scott did not try to mask Lucas's violent life, he did not glorify Lucas's lifestyle like most films of this genre do, but he portrayed him for the man he was. I don't know however how accurate he was since I don't know the story of Lucas.

Another point in favour is the (almost) lack of action and violence. Usually drug-related films are plenty of pointless shooting sequences and are extremely violent as well. Scott was able to tell the story without all of that.

What really makes the film memorable though is the acting. First off Denzel Washington who is - in my opinion and against that of others - the perfect fit to play Frank Lucas, and delivers a great performance as the ambitious, calm and fearless Frank Lucas was. No less important is Russell Crowe who also delivers a good performance in the role of the detective trying to bring down Lucas' empire, a character that was interesting at times, but unfortunately nothing more than a womanizer most of the time.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The BFG (2016)

Genre

Adventure | Fantasy

Director

Steven Spielberg

Country

USA

Cast

Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel BAcon, Chris Gibbs, Adam Godley, Paul Moniz, Jonathan Holmes, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Marilyn Norry, Chris Shields, Matt Frewer, Geoffrey Wade

Storyline

A girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kind-hearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.

Opinion

Roald Dahl's "The BFG" is just another of those books I didn't read as a kid, still I was very interested in seeing this film because of Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance. However, because of the reviews I've read, I didn't have great expectations so it really surprised me.

Although it is nothing like the typical Spielberg's movie, "The BFG" is a quite charming and engaging family film.

According to many of the reviews I read the problem with this film is the plot. There is none. Well, actually there's one, but it's very simple, not so exciting and it is pretty flawed. Also, two hours are a lot of time to tell that little story. But frankly I didn't care (I would have loved seeing stronger villains though).

"The BFG" is not one of those movies you watch for the plot, but one of those you just watch to escape from our world, and as such it works just fine. I'd say it's a magical film from dreamers, and if you are one of those, you're going to enjoy it. 

And it's all about the interactions between Sophie, a 10-year-old orphan, and her unlikely friend, the Big Friendly Giant, that make the film quite funny as well - some of the jokes are very childish though. Also the chemistry between Ruby Barnhill and Mark Rylance is quite good.  

The CGI could have been better. Occasionally stunning and with some shots that seem very real, sometimes is unfortunately mediocre, just like when the Big Friendly Giant carries Sophie in his palm.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Featuring an Actor/Actress that Passed Away in 2016


Welcome back to Thursday Movie Picks, the weekly series hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves where you share three movies to fit the theme of the week each Thursday.

Like I mentioned in my 2016 in Review post, a lot of actors and actresses have left us in the past year, and as suggested by Birgit, we are today picking films featuring them. It has been snowing a lot here so at first I decided to go with three movies with snow. Then I realised that the scene I was thinking about was in the first Star Trek, not the one I picked, so screw that. 

Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban (2004)

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Harry Potter's life is in danger again as convicted murderer Sirius Black escapes from Azkaban Prison and everyone believes he's after Harry to finish what Voldemort ordered him 13 years earlier, kill him. This film is truly amazing, and my personal favourite because for me it's the first film that really captured the magic of the book.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Anton Yelchin as Anton Chekov
On their way back home, the crew of the Enterprise is interrupted by a new threat, that of an unstoppable one-man terror cell. Not the best one of the new trilogy, and the script is kinda weak but it still is a quite a solid entry. Also Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain so it's definitely worth watching.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
3 years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Imperial Walkers assault the Rebel base, so Leia, Han, Chewbacca and C-3PO escape in the Millennium Falcon, while Luke follow Kenobi's command, and starts his Jedi training. Star Wars just can't get better than this one. It is spectacular from start to finish, we hear the Imperial March for the first time and we find out the truth about Luke's father. 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009)

Original Title

Luftslottet som sprängdes

Genre

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Director

Daniel Alfredson

Country

Sweden

Cast

Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Annika Hallin, Sofia Ledarp, Jacob Ericksson, Georgi Staykov, Aksel Morisse, Niklas Hjulström, Micke Spreitz, Anders Ahlbom, Hans Alfredson, Lennart Hjulström, Carl-Åke Eriksson, Peter Oscarsson, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Mirja Turestedt, Johan Kylén. Tehilla Blad

Storyline

After taking a bullet to the head, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is under close supervision in a hospital and is set to face trial for attempting to murder his father (Georgi Staykov).

Opinion

The good, the bad and the ugly. Those are the words that come to my mind when I think about the trilogy this film closed. A trilogy that started off beautifully with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", but that ended awfully with "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", not only the weakest of the three, but a film that doesn't even work as a crime thriller.

This time around Stieg Larsson's novel - my favourite of the trilogy - has been tore apart. I don't know what the filmmakers were thinking, but clearly they weren't thinking straight. This film is indeed a complete mess.

Actually, I should be blaming Ulf Rydberg for writing a terrible screenplay that only "focuses" on the main storyline, leaving out events and details essential to understand the story. There was an interesting subplot regarding death threats sent to one of Blomkvist's coworker that is just left to die. And the fight between Lisbeth and Niedermann was basically a cat and mouse game.

But that's not all. The reason why this was my favourite book is the final part, a gripping legal thriller. In the film there is no such a thing, and the trial scenes are too rushed and boring. The highly engaging, interesting and passionate debate between Teleborian and Annika Giannini is so pathetic.

The characters weren't treated any better. There isn't much characterization, and some characters, especially Monica Figuerola, are nothing. And because of it, the acting is awful. Some members of the cast, like Noomi Rapace, still manage to do a decent job, but most of them give poor performances because they have nothing to work with.