Month: July 2015

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Review #35

Posted on Updated on

Wonka totally should’ve gave the factory to Bill.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, directed by Mel Stuart, is an adaptation of the beloved children’s book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by the great Roald Dahl. The story centers around Charlie Bucket, a kind boy from a very poor family with bed-ridden grandparents. In his town resides the factory of Willy Wonka, the mysterious and world-renowned chocolate maker. His factory has been closed for years, and when it is discovered that he has put 5 golden tickets in his chocolate bars, which in turn will give the lucky winners a tour of of the factory by Wonka himself, the world goes mad. Charlie, being the lucky 5th winner of the tickets, is whisked away on a journey with 4 other kids and his grandpa Joe. What follows is a tale of confectionery delights and naughty mishaps.

Now, unlike most people, I was…unfortunate enough to watch the 2005 Tim Burton version first, you might say. But you know what? I like it. I liked that movie as a kid, and I like it now. And you know what else? I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare the that film and this one. Yes, the base story is the same, but it’s focus it’s different. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is more centered around Charlie, while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is coincidentally focused on Willy Wonka’s history. Same book, same characters, different POV.

So, with that outta the way, let’s talk about this film. It is very campy. In a fun way. Everything is played over-the-top, especially Gene Wilder, but we’ll talk about that later. The movie has this whole ‘happy-happy-joy-joy’ feel, even during its down times, something which I think fits quite well with Dahl’s way of writing. Speaking of the story, the plot of the movie, while detracting from the original book quite a bit, still gets the main point and characters across. And while I think that the ending feels a bit rushed, with the out of nowhere twist of Mr. Slugworth, it does not take away that feeling of cheerfulness you will get when you listen to the songs and the payback-cough *demise* cough-the naughty kids get.

Speaking of the songs, Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse are the composers of this film, with Walter Scharf directing the music, and their work is amazing. The music in this movie is the key player in giving Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory its timelessness, with a focus on trumpets and strings, the ultimate instruments in memorable music scores, at the more whimsical parts, and with what I think is a harpsichord for the Oompa Loompa songs. And the songs, oh the songs. For the most part, they are wonderful, with the exception of ‘I Want I Now!’, sung by Veruca Salt, which I found ear-grating, although that was more on the child’s voice than the actual music. My personal favorite has to be ‘The Candy Man’, sung by Bill, the owner of the Candy Shop. Just something about it makes me feel all warm inside. I think it’s because of the way he sings it. I’ll give you an example:

The first verse: Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew,

Now, here, he holds the ‘sunrise’ and ‘dew’ note for a bit and draws a breath, before

The second verse: Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two.

Here, he speeds a just a bit and ends the verse with just one breath. Something about that, and how the violins in the background swell up just gets to me, man. People say Wonka’s ‘Pure Imagination’ is the best, but my heart is for ‘Candy Man’.

While the music has certainly survived the test of time, the sets are much less fortunate. The Chocolate Room still looks beautiful, yes, but the Inventing Room…yeah, not so good. They don’t just look bad, they look cheap. The effects might have been great for the time, but now, you really notice the film’s age, more so when it’s supposed to be timeless.

It’s about time I talked about the characters, and so, here we go. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka was…not I was expecting, really. Wonka in the books was much more jumpy and sporadic, almost like The Mask, and while Gene has his moments, he wasn’t as bombastic as I would have wanted. Now, that doesn’t mean he did a bad job. He is a great Wonka. He had the attire, the random word speaking, and most of all, the childish and mischievous glare. He just wasn’t the one that I grew up reading about. That pretty much is the biggest change in any character, as the rest of the cast, including Charlie, are almost exactly like the books. Charlie is kind, Augustus is gluttony reborn, Veruca is spoiled, Violet is the gum-chewer, and Mike apparently watches westerns instead of gangster flicks, but that doesn’t change his character much. They just replaced Scarface with Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Need I say more?

All in all, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is very good musical film. If you can ignore the aged sets and rooms, you will have a lot of fun with this film. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, too. Just seeing Charlie’s eyes light up when he hears that the last ticket found was a fake, and he so happens to have one Wonka bar with him, made me scream ‘Just give him the Golden Ticket, movie! Damn you!’, before almost crying out in joy when he does get it. The music is still spectacular, and the actors give a reasonably good performance. A must watch with the kiddies too. Share the confectionery love.

My Favorite Things: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Posted on Updated on

Do you guys have those kinds of films? You know, the kind that you can watch over and over again without once feeling sick of it? The ones that you hold close to your heart and try to spread it to people who might not have seen it. I have several of those films, and I will try to tell you why in this new series I call ‘My Favorite Things’, in which I tell you-or at least try to-explain why I love the film so much and why you should watch it. The writing here will be more free-flowing and possibly more nonsensical, and I will update this series lesser than I write reviews, as I don’t want to use up my well of favorite movies just yet.

So, what’s this film about, you may ask? Two words: illegal substances. Meth, ether, rum, tequila, cocaine, anything that should be used for medicinal purposes that the club people have consumed in excess. This, of course, wasn’t more rampant than 1960’s USA. The Vietnam War was going on, peace protests were everywhere, and Jefferson Airplane had a pretty cool song on the charts. And when does this movie take place? You guessed it, 1970‘s USA!

Threw you for a loop, eh?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, whose life-style is a bombastic one, and whom Raoul Duke is based on. So the story goes like this. Mescaline. Raoul Duke and his attorney Gonzo have been sent by a magazine company to Vegas to write about the upcoming Mint 400 motorbike race. Sunshine Acid. At the day of the race, Raoul fires his photographer Lacerda and goes back to his hotel for more drugs. Ether. The next day, Gonzo goes missing and Raoul tries to flee Las Vegas. Adrenochrome. A whole ton of weird shit happens and Raoul finishes his report.

You guys wanna get high but don’t want to actually get high? Then this film is for you. Terry Gilliam’s directing is trippy, dizzying, and most of all, engaging. The poster for the film should’ve given that away. He gives us a very distinct style and presentation of this film in all the ways possible. The camera, our window into this wacky world, jerks and sways about consistently, as though you, the viewer, are taking the ride with our main characters. Impromptu close-ups, zooms, and pans. Weird as all heck lighting tailor made to enhance. Characters that have nothing desirable about them whatsoever, yet for some reason you grow a likening, and I even dare say, an attachment to them. All this and more accumulate into a wonderful ball of quirk and nonsense.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk characters. Johnny Depp is Raoul Duke, a journalist whose mind has a ten year delay. He’s an artifact of the 1960’s drug explosion, a man who never moved on from what he feels were the best years of his life. He also serves as an occasional narrator, lamenting about times gone by. Watching this movie and interviews of Thompson, I have to say that Depp is Hunter. This was pre-Jack Sparrow, so you know he was going to give a good performance, but oh man…this was on another level. Depp gets his mannerisms and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude to a tee. In fact, his acting here may have influenced his later role as the pirate. Think about it, they almost exactly alike, both being high on booze and stuff.

Benicio Del Toro is the other half of our drunken and drugged duo, and he plays his Samoan attorney/best friend, Gonzo. Hunter based Gonzo on his real life friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, who was also Samoan and an attorney. Sadly. he disappeared in 1974, so little is known about him and his personality, but I doubt someone who hung around with a man like Thompson was a white knight. Dr. Gonzo is like a wilder and calmer version of Hunter, if you can imagine such a feat being achievable. Usually, one would be revolted by these characters, but here, with the excellent acting and writing, Fear and Loathing turns those tables around and shines a bright light on specks of black. And that’s where the genius of Terry Gilliam comes in again. He made us love to hate them.

From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest complaints about this movie I’ve heard is that it has no cohesive narrative. To those people I say…you’re right. This movie indeed does not have a linear plot line. It’s as linear as Duke’s walking pattern. And I completely understand if that bugs you. However, I personally think that it’s lack of a standard three-act structure not only is excusable, it is beneficial to the film’s style. Think about it, the film is basically two blazed people wandering into Las Vegas, do some random stuff, and then leave Las Vegas, all the while under the influence of substances that are made to make your mind fuzzy and unable to think straight. The absence of a standard beginning, middle and end enhances the immersion of the audience into the movie as it makes you, the audience dazed and confused on what the heck’s going on. And what else makes you dazed and confused on what the heck’s going on? You guessed it, low blood pressure! Oh, and also drugs.

I have been giving words upon words upon words of praise for Fear and Loathing. I mean, why else would I call it ‘My Favorite Things’? And so, to counteract that amount, I have thought long and hard about what I might have even slightly disliked about this film. And after vigorous thinking, I have come to conclusion that there is nothing I hate about this film. It’s just right. It makes no sense and complete sense at the same time for it to have no pinpoint negative about it. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is just perfect in every possible way.

Looking back, this thousand word essay took me literal weeks to write and polish. And now, I’ve finally finished it. My not-so magnum opus. I feel like Raoul Duke in the movie’s penultimate scene, without his grammatical expertise, of course, in where he monologues to himself about older days. I can feel him crouched over typing, finger hitting key after key, putting his thoughts into words and to share to anyone who has the time to read it. And honestly, is it worth it? Right now, it’s 1:02 am. Any second now, my mother will wake up and see me still typing, which in turn will cause her to force me to go to sleep. All because of what most people refer to as ‘just a film’.

And so, in ending my longest writing yet, I answer my own question. Is it worth it to write about something that may have a personal connection to you, but may only seem as just a movie, or worse, a bad movie, to everyone else? I mean, you don’t gain anything from it, if not a bit of recognition, and even that’s a very big if. You’ll just be another writer in the writer kingdom. In months time, this will just be another page in your blog, or another entry in your website. Sure, the feeling of achieving a personal feat may last, but they are just feelings. What else do you get? Is it truly worthwhile to write just because you want to?

And my answer to that is yes. Yes it is.

Up in the Air – Review #34

Posted on Updated on

You wanna know why we where slip-on shoes? That’s where we store our kung fu powers. Watch Bruce Lee films and see what he wears on his feet. In fact, watch any martial arts film made during that era. 9 times out of 10 they wear slip-ons. Laces are for the weak!

Anyways,

Up in the AirUp in the Air, directed by Jason Reitman, is a comedic romantic tragedy starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga. Ryan Bingham is a man who travels around the US to fire people from their jobs. He loves the travelling, and wants to become the 7th person to hit 10 million miles with American Airlines. To explain his character further is to spoil, and I do not want to spoil this movie. On one of his excursions, he meets a woman with a similar lifestyle called Alex, and the two begin a relationship. One day, he is unexpectedly called back to his company. A newcomer, Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, has devised a new way to fire people without actually having to travel to the companies, greatly reducing transportation costs. Bingham, of course, doesn’t like it and his boss forces him to take her on the road to show her the in and outs of his work. What follows is a road trip movie unlike any other I’ve seen.

On the surface, this film looks unappealing. Nothing really stands out about the film’s poster, and it just barely fits the bill to be considered mainstream. It’s like if you went to your local theater to see what posters they have up, and it goes through your mind like: “Ok, so Avatar‘s coming soon, The Princess and the Frog looks good, and there’s this George Clooney movie. Eh.” Throw those presumptions out of your backpack. Go on, chuck ’em out, because this movie is amazing.

George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, and he makes the role his own. His character is one who is cynical, no-nonsense, and straight to the point, but he also has brief moments of emotional lapse, and is naturally charismatic, so he’s not a complete robot. Clooney, I think has a personality quite similar to Bingham’s, and that’s why he is so good in this. His line delivery, his movements, his voice, everything about him just feels right. Batman and Robin may have tarnished his reputation, but this movie proves that he can’t just act, he can act very well. The rest of the cast is very good too. Vera Farmiga is Alex, a person whose basically a mirror of Bingham, and her chemistry with Clooney is excellent. Their relationship feels real, something which will play a pivotal part in the third act. Anna Kendrick is also surprisingly good in this. With my only exposure to her being Scott Pilgrim, she didn’t appear to be anybody worth noting, but her performance in here shows that she has potential. Who knows? I might even give Pitch Perfect a shot.

The directing style is very clean, but it has quite a peculiar mixture. I’ll try to explain what I mean. So, I assume we are familiar with Edgar Wright’s directing style and Joss Whedon’s type of dialogue. This movie is like if somebody sucked elements of their styles, while not stealing it entirely, and implemented them into Jason Reitman. Now, I have not watched any of Jason Reitman’s films, so I don’t know if this is a one-off thing, or if most of his films have that type of quick cuts and snappy writing, but for what he gives, I really enjoyed it.

With the amount of praise I’ve been giving this film for exceeding all sorts of expectations, it’s hard to press to find any negatives. And really, my dislikes are more like minor nitpicks than actual critical opinion. For one, Anna Kendrick, while having done a good job, just looks too young. Yes, her character is fresh out of college, but she looks like she should be in high school! Another thing is…huh, I can’t think of any more.

Up in the Air, a movie that looked so boring and plain, yet was the exact opposite of that. I fully recommend it to anyone that even has a slight interest in it. If you don’t, still take some time to watch it. George Clooney’s vocal cords will grab you hook, line and sinker.