Tag Archives: film

The Top 20 Film Scenes of 2013

20 Jan

Gravity-Scene1Welcome to the third installment of my year end lists. Today, we’re taking a look at the top 20 film scenes of 2013. This list is unranked.

THE FIGHT, “BEFORE MIDNIGHT”: This is easily one of the best-acted, most devastating scenes of the year. It starts out fine, then progresses into a small argument that later becomes a full-blown, ugly verbal war. It’s not cliche at all, and it’s the pinnacle of a fantastic movie.

BELFORT VS. DENHAM, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: When Jordan Belfort invites FBI Agent Patrick Denham to his yacht, what results is a lengthy verbal showdown between the two. The undertones, the veiled threats, the fake cheeriness…what a fantastic scene for DiCaprio and Chandler.

THE ENDING, “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS”: This scene, by itself, elevates this movie to a whole other level. It’s a cathartic, devastating scene that showcases Hanks at his best, and it’s not the kind of ending you’d expect from a thriller.

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The MPAA is at it again, this time with “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Charlie Countryman”

29 Nov

Film-Wolf of Wall StreetContinuing its trend of limiting the vision of various directors and producers, the MPAA is at it again, forcing several films–The Wolf of Wall Street and Charlie Countryman–to cut scenes of people doing things that everyone does at some point: having sex. Oh, the horror! Won’t you think about the kids?! I mean, sure, we can show a bunch of people getting their heads blown off, but show a nipple? Burn it all down!

This has been a persistent problem over the years, and sadly, we’re a culture that shies away from the apparent stigma that comes with being an adult; you know, I’d say most adults don’t encounter a triple-ax wielding monster in dark alleys at night, but DO have sex. Right now, we’re worried about shielding our kids’ eyes from naked bodies, and then we’re slapping a flimsy “I’m protecting them!” excuse on our blatant transgressions. Look, I’m not adopting a “They’re going to see it eventually” attitude; that’s the last thing I want. I just implore us to be realistic about these things.

Anyway, in the case of Scorsese’s new epic The Wolf of Wall Street, some of the film’s “abundant, explicit sex” had to be cut to receive an R rating, bringing the film’s running length down to 179 minutes from its original length of 654 minutes. At least 200 of those minutes featured Jonah Hill dancing naked on top of Leonardo DiCaprio’s facial hair while Kyle Chandler smirked off to the side.

In Charlie Countryman‘s case, Evan Rachel Wood took to Twitter to rant about the MPAA’s deletion of a scene in which Shia Labeouf performed oral sex on her; no word yet on Michael Bay’s interpretation of that scene, which probably involves big robots and explosions. As for Wood’s Twitter rant, even given the site’s 140-character limit, her epic diatribe against the MPAA spanned nearly ten tweets and didn’t lose its impact. Sincere kudos to her; head to https://twitter.com/evanrachelwood to see the whole thing.

Of course, sadly, our films will continue to acquiesce to the demands of the MPAA, and eventually, we’ll see NC-17 ratings on kids movies for depicting two cartoon dogs licking each other. Or something like that.

Credit to Red Granite Pictures and The Wolf of Wall Street for all pictures. I own nothing.

12 Years A Slave Review

2 Nov

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“I’ve had a difficult time these last several years.”

This is what true horror feels like. Steve McQueen’s brilliant take on slavery is brilliant because it’s a realistic take on it, portraying the true horrors of the slaves and the masters shackled by an institution, one which is unrelenting, unforgiving, and unfathomable. Anchored by masterful performances all around, the film is, much deserving, an Oscar treasure trove.

Speaking of Oscars, one might compare this to last year’s Tarantino epic Django Unchained, a fantastic film in its own right. Whereas that film was an idealistic, revenge fantasy, this one is realistic and brutal. Both of these movies are necessary in their own ways. Now, one might ask, “What’s the point of seeing yet another slavery film? We get it; slavery was horrible.” It’s certainly a valid question, but then again, this is a point in our history that has actually not been explored to its full extent. This film is necessary, if only to reinforce our previous notions of the atrocities committed during those times.

Still, necessary or not, it’s still an, ironically, beautiful film. McQueen’s direction is full of lush, gorgeous imagery as a backdrop to the horrors of slave life, and the camera lingers just as much on the beautiful as it does the brutal. In one of the film’s most shocking scenes, Northup/Platt is strung up by a rope, his feet barely touching the ground. What makes this scene particularly chilling is the background; as we hear Northup’s choking sounds, we also see a green background of other slaves going about their business. No other scene sums up better the true isolation of slaves in a crowd environment.

Of course, it’s not just Northup here. McQueen deftly explores the relationships that take place in the master’s home, not portraying any slaveowner as too kind or too evil. Yes, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Ford recognizes his true capabilities, but he’s just as shackled to the institution as the slaves; he’s forced to give up Northup to cut his losses. The fact that this is all instigated by Paul Dano’s vile Tibeats only serves to support the idea of men warped by the horrors of slavery, as Tibeats is a symbol of the shocking, seemingly unrealistic depths of the time. After this, we are introduced to the wonderful Michael Fassbender’s Epps, a slaveowner stripped of all moral integrity by lust and desire for power. The dynamic between him and his wife (Sarah Paulson) reflects the tension, jealousy, and brutality of the relationship extremely well. No other relationship is more horrifying, though, then Epps and Patsey’s. In a breakout performance, Lupita Nyong’o brilliantly portrays a woman not only subjected to slavery, but subjected to the dark sexual desires of a delusional maniac. The scene in which she asks Solomon to end her life is a masterpiece of acting, and the scene in which Solomon is forced to whip her is the culmination of all the horrors of the movie.

628x471At the beating heart of it all, though, is Chiwetel Ejiofor in a role of a lifetime. He’s magnificent in every scene, whether it be in the dialogue free, lingering shot of his contemplation near the end or his interactions with Patsey. Solomon’s journey is one of a man that slowly loses hope even as he tries to keep it. He starts out as a respectable man, then is beaten and kidnapped. He keeps that hope, though, telling others that it must have all been a mistake. Then he’s taken on a ship, and his fellow slaves tell him to keep quiet and that all hope is lost. However, once he’s taken to Ford, his life starts to improve, and he tells a woman who’s lost her kids to soldier on; yet, she tells him that there’s no point. Solomon truly sees this when he’s thrown into the pit of horror that is Epps’ plantation, yet he still tries to get a white man (Garrett Dillahunt) to deliver a letter for him. That hope is crushed when Epps finds out. By the time we make our way to the end of the movie, we’ve made our way through so many reversals of fortune that even when he’s rescued, nothing feels right anymore. Did he even have hope all this time?

It is because of this that Brad Pitt’s cameo works. His is the final in a lineup of amazing actors and actresses, including Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, and Paul Giamatti, and it certainly is the most distracting. Yet, it’s so surreal that it doesn’t feel triumphant when Solomon returns home. It’s a final scene of love, but it’s also a scene of uncertainty. Solomon Northup has come a long way from being Solomon Northup; he’s reunited with his family, but he’s always been Platt.

GRADE: A

Credit to FOX Searchlight Pictures and 12 Years A Slave for all pictures. I own nothing.

Captain Phillips Review

15 Oct

627-2We all want to survive. That’s the essence of the film. If you don’t know the story of Captain Phillips, then go ahead and read it; it won’t take away from your enjoyment of this movie. This well-made thriller by Paul Greengrass (Bourne Ultimatum) is a fantastic tale of an ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance.

That’s nothing new, but the film does it in a way that the ending doesn’t feel at all triumphant. All this is is a tale of survival, a tale of people that have to do what they have to do to survive in this world. The Somalian pirates know violence because that’s the only way they can make money, and the film does a nice job of humanizing them without it feeling forced. Yes, what they’re doing is terrible, but for them, it’s necessary.

The film is essentially broken down into two parts. The first consists of the pirates aboard the MV Maersk Alabama, run by a crew led by the titular character. The second consists of the pirates and Phillips in a lifeboat. They both convey a sense of horror, loneliness, and sadness. The first places the crew of the Maersk in a position where they have no way out: no weapons and no one to save them. They know the ship, but they’re trapped in the tiniest of spaces, encompassed by their own boat. The second places the pirates in the same position; they’re near their own mainland, but they have no way out. The Navy’s bearing down on them, the SEALS are standing by, and their own people have abandoned them. They’re in the tiniest of lifeboats, encompassed by their own waters.

It’s easy to tell that the film is drawing the parallels between the two groups, and while it can get a bit heavy-handed at times, Greengrass still does a great job blurring the lines of what’s right and wrong, even amidst actions that we know to be so very wrong. This works largely in part of the acting. Hanks is at his absolute A-game here, conveying the captain’s resourcefulness, compassion, and most importantly, fear; his final scene is one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. The pirates are fantastic as well, and the way Hanks plays off of them is a beauty to watch. His scenes in the lifeboat with them are claustrophobic, heartening, and devastating all at once.

The directing is great as well, although I’ve never been a fan of the shaky cam. Still, Greengrass ratchets up the tension with each subsequent sequence, ending in a long, drawn out half an hour climax.

(Spoilers)

This climax does feel a bit overlong, but it gets the job done. Phillips pushes the kid he helped into the water, once again emphasizing that need to survive. After that, we have a long sequence in which the Navy tries to rescue the captain, culminating in the dispatching of all three pirates (Phillips being in a blindfold actually has more of an effect on his psyche, as he’s a guy that needs to know what is going on. Only being able to hear those three shots is more jarring than seeing the pirates die, and Hanks conveys this beautifully). It’s overlong, that’s for sure, but the final scene of the film is gorgeous, and not in a conventional way.

Phillips is taken to a room to be looked at, and he can’t find the words to say nor the ability to keep his composure. He’s so overwhelmed by emotion, by sadness, by fear, and Hanks is perfect here in this cathartic, transcendent moment. It’s a stunning scene, and if that doesn’t earn him an Oscar nomination, I’m not sure what will.

The camera then pulls back, revealing the lifeboat in the center of all the huge Navy ships. It just shows you how small that lifeboat is, but how big Captain Phillips should feel. However, he doesn’t feel that way. Who can blame him?

GRADE: A-

Credit to Michael De Luca Producions, Scott Rudin Productions, Translux, Trigger Street Productions, and Captain Phillips for all pictures. I own nothing.

Charlie Hunnam realizes what he got himself into, backs out of “Fifty Shades of Grey”

12 Oct

627Charlie Hunnam in a leather jacket, which he would’ve used freely in this movie ^^

After initially mistaking his “Fifty Shades of Grey” role as one in which he gets to play a Kaiju in the bedroom, Charlie Hunnam has finally realized that no, he is not the right person for the job. After arriving on set and being asked to engage in, and I quote “Sexy stuff with sexy toys”, he went home and rummaged through his trash to find his mother’s copy of the book. He flipped to page (inset literally any page) and started reading, then immediately got an erection and threw the book into a cauldron of his blood and tears.

Universal, the production company for the movie, released a statement stating

The filmmakers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Charlie Hunnam have agreed to find another male lead given Hunnam’s immersive TV schedule which is not allowing him time to adequately prepare for the role of Christian Grey.

This statement tells us two false things: 1) Charlie Hunnam was made by a filmmaker, and 2) Charlie Hunnam has an immersive TV schedule. Hunnam apparently spends every second of his day perusing “Sons of Anarchy” scripts and smoking joints with Kurt Sutter, and therefore cannot prepare for his role. Or, the statement most likely means

Charlie Hunnam would be terrible as Christian Grey and he wouldn’t even prepare for it anyway and he has a stupid American accent.

No word yet on Dakota Johnson, but she will presumably be leaving just as soon as she comes to her senses and decides to pass on her role to a more “respected” actress (as if anyone would still be respected after engaging in softcore porn on screen for 2 hours).

Credit to FX and Sons of Anarchy for all pictures. I own nothing.

“Prisoners” Review

26 Sep

627“Prisoners” is an intense, moody thriller that is a fully satisfying ride through the dark waters of murder and intrigue. An obvious comparison would be to David Fincher’s masterpiece Zodiac, and rightfully so; the direction, the ambience, and the slow build up of dread all emulate that movie, and while I believe that nothing can touch Zodiac, Prisoners is able to make itself its own film.

The acting is superb, anchored by a strong performance by Hugh Jackman as a father hurtling down a dark path, the days ticking on as his daughter gets farther from him. However, while he nails certain scenes, he sometimes falls into the trap of equating yelling with emotion. I’m more interested in Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Detective Loki, a man with obvious hidden demons, but a man capable of hiding them. The dynamic between the two characters is perfect, though, realistically portraying the war of patience vs. strength.

The rest of the cast is superb on star value alone, containing the likes of Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo in excellent roles. The main standout is Paul Dano as Alex Jones, a seemingly naive, yet terrifying man who gets the full brunt of Dover’s rage. His character is also inherently tragic, and Dano plays that aspect to perfection.

As for the story itself, it’s well crafted. At a running time of 153 minutes, the film naturally becomes muddled and repetitive at times, but the story is honed enough so that it doesn’t plod on. The cinematography is beautiful, reflecting the rain soaked windows, the dreary, meticulous nature of the town, and the desperation of the characters.

(Spoilers)

The ending of the film is predictable, yet wholly satisfying. On the surface, it seems as if Dover’s actions have been vindicated, but at closer look, it only seems to condemn what he’s done. On the one hand, his endless barrage of torture may have been justified, but on the other hand, torture is still inherently bad. Dover’s subjected an innocent man to his own pain, and he realizes what he’s done.

There are a couple plot twists that feel contrived at the end, and the show moves toward the “Melissa Leo is the bad woman” a little too suddenly. However, it’s all worth it for that gorgeous, gorgeous scene in which Loki rushes toward the hospital in his car. The directing, cinematography, and acting in that scene is untouched by any other in the movie.

The ending scene obviously evokes the symbolism of the moment, with Dover being rescued due to the very thing that started this all. However, as he’s come full circle, he’s carried a burden that has caused him to partake in terrible activities.

(End spoilers)

This is a movie well worth watching, and while the show fails at times to fully tell its story of the human psyche, it succeeds as an intense, gripping thriller.

Grade: B+

Credit to Alcon Entertainment and Prisoners for all pictures. I own nothing.

The Great Gatsby Review

31 Aug

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Baz Luhrmann is both the best person and the worst person to direct a remake of The Great Gatsby, a masterpiece in American literature that is still endlessly taught, analyzed, and debated upon today. His films revel in the grandiose, bringing the viewer into a spectacle wrought with flashy cinematography, costumes, and music. This film is no exception. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at; the party scenes are a flurry of color, costumes, and hip hop music, and it lends itself to the delightful high the viewer experiences.

Of course, the extravagance of the setting restricts the wonderful cast, transforming their characters into caricatures of themselves. I guess it’s kind of the point, but the story is as much about the characters as it is the setting, and I would’ve liked to see much more complexity and backstory. For example, what makes Gatsby who he is? Sure, there’s a quick summary of his life thrown in there, but that’s about it. All the nuances of the characters are hidden amongst their lavish exteriors, and a movie should take us deeper than the surface.

The actors do their best, and the worst for most of these actors is still better than much of what we see in other cinema or television. Leonardo DiCaprio can do no wrong, and he, for the most part, nails the role of the despairing, hopeful, yet phony young businessman and lover. Maguire’s performance is one-note, but his relationship with Gatsby is one of the better aspects of the film. Mulligan is good as the final link in a love triangle, but she really doesn’t get to do much more than be exactly that. Edgerton is fun to watch, coming off as a cartoonish villain that fits right into this world. Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke are miscast, leaving small marks on the film as a whole. Ultimately, though, this is far from their best work, and that’s mostly a fault of the script.

The film, at an extremely long 2 hours and 23 minutes (a whole 30 minutes could’ve been shaved off), ends up feeling empty, not really serving any purpose other than to entertain. Movies that are fun for fun’s sake usually are fun, sometimes laughingly so, but The Great Gatsby is fun for Luhrmann’s sake. The plot is muddled and the film drags on, eventually winding itself down to a resolution that should have been earned, but isn’t.

Grade: C+

Other thoughts:

-The music choice is interesting, but I actually really like the decision to blast Jay-Z, Beyonce, and co. during the party scenes. It’s unique, and it draws a parallel between the extravagance of the time to hip hop in today’s world.

-The final sequence of scenes is really well done, in my opinion, but everything beforehand just doesn’t really serve as a good bridge into the climax.

-I found the narrating annoying, not because Maguire is a bad narrator, but because it feels shoehorned into the movie. It’s completely unnecessary, and I really don’t need to be told what’s happening on the screen every 5 minutes.

-Some scenes really click, like the one where Gatsby meets Daisy or Gatsby and Buchanan’s confrontation.

-Man, the symbolism is really heavy-handed here, isn’t it? Look, that light he’s reaching out to represents Daisy, but when he has Daisy, the outside world isn’t beautiful anymore because Daisy’s beautiful!

-This movie is gorgeous.

Credit to Village Roadshow Pictures and The Great Gatsby for all pictures. I own nothing.

Hello, I’m a polar bear.

23 Aug

Welcome to this blog. There are millions of other blogs out there, but you chose to look at mine. No, you did not just randomly come across it; you chose it. I will accept nothing less.

As for what we do here, I think the title’s pretty explanatory. I’m a polar bear, and yes, I do watch TV. I am obsessed with various forms of pop culture, in particular television and film, so I started this to get my thoughts down in writing. I am a member of the fabulous online community of The AV Club (which all of you should check out), and I wanted to do something similar to that.

What will we review? Lots of stuff. Our TV reviews will include American Horror Story, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Bridge, The Americans, Wilfred, Louie, Justified, Parks and Recreation, Community, Sons of Anarchy, Hannibal, Orange is the New Black, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, Treme, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Archer, New Girl, Parenthood, Orphan Black, Person of Interest, The Walking Dead, Childrens Hospital, NTSF:SD:SUV::, Girls, Nikita, Strike Back, Veep, Banshee, The Vampire Diaries, How I Met Your Mother, Arrow, Revenge, Scandal, The Newsroom, Raising Hope, and others I can’t think of right now. Only some of these will have regular coverage, but I’ll try to get in some posts about all of them. I will also be reviewing new pilots, and may decide to pick up some more shows.

Our TV Classic reviews may include shows like The Shield, The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Friday Night Lights, House, 24, Lost, Chuck, Terriers, Arrested Development, The West Wing, Fringe, Boston Legal, and others.

*I apologize, but many of these shows’ reviews will start in the middle of their seasons, as I am just starting to write. However, I will try to give some thoughts on the episodes before.

Our film reviews will include whatever movies I decide to watch at home or in the theater, and can be new releases or old.

I might also post some random stuff; fan fiction, thoughts on entertainment news, etc.

Enjoy.

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