Month: November 2015

The Blues Brothers – Review #53

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I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating when I say this film is one of a kind.

The Blues BrothersThe Blues Brothers, directed by John Landis, tells the story of Jake and Elwood Blues, brothers and lead vocalists for the band ‘The Blues Brothers’. After Jake is released from prison, the two try to raise $5000 to pay the back taxes for the orphanage they grew up in to prevent it from closing. They try to do so by getting their old band together. What follows is excellent music, beautifully done car stunt-work, and raunchy comedy all bundled up neatly in a little two-and-a-half hour package.

If this film has a definitive category, I have no idea what it is. It’s a mixture of various genres that have rarely clashed before, if ever. Yeah, there are action comedies, and yes, there are comedy musicals, but when’s the last time you saw an action comedy musical? Not only that, an action comedy musical that’s done this well? Nothing seems out of place, thanks to John Landis’ brilliant directing. The banter between Jake and Elwood is humorous, the car stunts are amazingly choreographed, and the music is top-notch blues.

While this movie is a clash of genres, its central theme is about music, so I guess it’s mostly a musical. And as a musical, The Blues Brothers has one of the best movie soundtracks ever devised. Every song in the movie is well played, well sung, and sometimes even well danced-to. From the simplistic cool of the Peter Gunn Theme to Aretha Franklin’s amazing vocals in Think, and to arguably the most famous song from the movie, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s cover of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. Speaking of Aretha Franklin, the movie has a few cameos from legendary music stars. We have Aretha, of course, best known for her single Respect, to Ray Charles making me sweaty by doing the twist, to the freaking Godfather of Soul himself James Brown basically baptizing us with song. Even you have no interest in the movie, at least check out the soundtrack. The amount of sheer blues in it will consume you whole.

So, the music is great. Do you know what else is great? The stunt-work. Yeah, you don’t expect stunt-work to come form a musical, do you? But that’s how the Blues Brothers roll, and boy can they roll. And crash. Dozens of police cars are just wrecked with seemingly no care for any repercussions. You have the Dodge Monaco police cars crashing into each other, various debris spilling out of them; you have the Nazi Pinto dropping out of the sky; you even have the Bluesmobile doing a freaking back-flip in the air. A total of 103 cars were wrecked during production, and it shows.

Last thing I want to talk about before ending this review is the acting, and here’s where the movie falls a bit. I have no problem with the main stars, of course- Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s off-beat humor fits perfectly well with the tone of the movie. It’s the side characters and singers that are more ‘eh’. As much as I love Aretha, you can tell she’s much more comfortable at singing than at acting. Same goes for some of the band members. But that’s a few flaws in a waterfall of praise.

In conclusion, The Blues Brothers is a film unlike any other. There was nay a film like it before its release, and there hasn’t been a film like it since. A ‘classic’ in every sense of the word.

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An Apology to Shia Lebeouf

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In the very off chance that Mr. LaBeouf sees this, I have written something for you.

Dear Mr. LaBeouf,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you. What I DO know is that several years ago you were in a franchise that I loved dearly. You probably know which one. And I will freely admit that I was on your hate bandwagon for a while. Thinking back, I don’t even know why. I liked the films-I have the toys to prove that-, and I never found your character distracting. A bit boring, maybe, but never distracting.

Perhaps it was the influence of the masses, or perhaps I was a very impressionable young kid, who didn’t really appreciate the movies back then, but someway or another I started to dislike you. I know, hating someone based on their outward appearances and not for who they really are, pretty stupid, right? I probably should’ve have been more open-minded, but alas, I wasn’t, and your random bouts of social experimentation didn’t really help that either.

When I first heard the news of you doing this #allmymovies thing, I wasn’t surprised. You were known as the ‘just-do-it’ guy, a freaking joke, and I wasn’t going to take you seriously right then and now. In fact, I didn’t even really participate in your experiment. I popped into the website, saw your face for a few seconds, and then closed the tab. I didn’t know what you movie you were watching then, and frankly, I couldn’t care less about you watching movies for 3 days straight.

But you know what? After reading about your event on various news-sites, and watching some pictures, I found something in you that I didn’t know you had. Humanity. You watching your own films, laughing, cringing, crying, basically showing emotion, is what opened my eyes. Like I said, nobody took you seriously, including me. Some people still don’t. Your most famous films ‘shat’ on beloved franchises from people’s childhoods, and you took the blunt of the hate because you were one of the main stars in them. It was easy to hate you, so people did. You were a punching bag. But now, as weird as it sounds, you look more ‘human’ to me. You aren’t a punching bag, you’re a person with feelings and needs and desires. It’s not your fault you got it bad, you just had a string of bad luck.

And so, on behalf of my young stupid self, I would like to apologize to you, Mr. Labeouf. I judged a metaphorical book by its cover and am only now realizing my fault, because in all honesty, you look like a pretty cool guy. I would probably share a beer with you if I could. I’m sorry for ever hating you based on bias, and while I have no idea what you are going to do next, I hope that it works out for you in the end. By God you deserve at least some positive things said about you.

Spectre – Review #52

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Good God the opening shot felt so good. No, not the tracking shot, the one before that. That shot.

SpectreSpectre, directed by Sam Mendes, is the 24th official film in the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig once again plays Bond, this time doing a more personal assignment in Mexico. When things get out of hand, and by out of hand I mean demolished a building, Bond is grounded by M. And speaking of M, he’s having a power struggle with C, the head of the new Joint Intelligence Service. The JIS is planning to make an agreement between nine countries called the ‘Nine Eyes’ agreement, which would render the ’00’ section of the MI6 useless. So you can see why M doesn’t want that. Bond, disobeying M’s orders, travels to Rome. I won’t spoil much else, because frankly, the storyline’s way too thick to describe quickly in one paragraph.

This movie, being the 4th Bond movie in the Craig-era, and following after the great Skyfall, has a lot to live up to. Is it better than Skyfall? Well, it depends on how you want your Bond. Skyfall was a grittier Bond film, with the movie having more focus on the issues with the characters. It’s not that there’s no wit and charm, it’s just that it’s severely under-played to fit the darker story, if I recall correctly. Spectre, on the other hand, is a more traditional Bond film, just with a darker coating. It’s Goldfinger wearing Casino Royale, and it wears it pretty well for the most part. Hearing ‘gritty grunty’ Daniel Craig Bond say flirty one-liners can be pretty strange, but you get used to it. Heck it even has some of the more ‘out there’ cliches concerning Bond films. Car with numerous gadgets and gizmos? Check. An near unstoppable mini-boss for Bond and Bond girl to defeat? Batista says hello. Outrageous villain with a love for domestic animals? All hail Christoph Waltz. While the cliches themselves are nonsensical if you think about it too much, director Sam Mendes is able to downplay it not too much as to become boring, but not too little as to retain its goofiness.

Speaking of Sam Mendes, this is his second Bond film, and it is one of the best Bond films I’ve ever seen, from a visual standpoint. Then again, I’ve only watched 4 Bond films, including this one, but I digress. This movie is the freaking dictionary definition of the word ‘slick’. Everything about it is just…slick. The way the camera ‘glides’ with its shot setting, the yellow hues from the lighting, all of it just works. It looks like those car commercials you see with a night time setting and a very expensive car. Imagine that, but with James Bond.

The cast is still great as always. Daniel Craig is again great as Bond. He’s still the grittier Bond that we see from Casino Royale onwards, but this time his humor is amped up just a bit. Ben Whishaw is Q, the gadget guy and the source of most of the comic relief. His chemistry with Craig is great, with them exchanging witty dialogue when they meet every time. Ralph Fiennes is the new M, following the great Judi Dench, and while I’m sure he’ll grow into the role with subsequent films, here he’s a bit vanilla. Léa Seydoux is Madeleine, our resident Bond girl for the movie. She’s one of the few Bond girls I remember that actually helps Bond when he gets in a kerfuffle, and I really hope that the relationship that they have doesn’t end à la On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. My poor heart-and Bond’s- will break. Dave Bautista is our Oddjob, and yeah, I can buy that he’s this grizzly bear of a man. Nothing else to add. Christoph Waltz is our main villain Blofeld, and good God does he eat every scene he’s in, all 3 of them. Yes, people have criticized the movie in that Blofeld isn’t in it much, but I think that’s a good thing. Yes. he’s only in 3 scenes, or set pieces to be more precise, but those scenes are long enough for him to establish himself, and not too long for him to out-stay his welcome. Who DOES out-stay his welcome though is Andrew Scott as C. It’s less about the actor and more about the part, really, although his acting in this does feel like he’s rehashing Moriarty. His character’s entire sub-plot felt rushed, and you could see the ‘twist’ from a mile away. Overall though, the cast is well rounded.

And before I conclude, special mention goes to Thomas Newman for the music throughout the movie. I don’t have much to say about him, just wanted to compliment his work. The strings that accompany most of the movie’s sound just fit. Oh, and Sam Smith sang a song I think whatever.

All in all, Spectre is like Goldfinger remade with the stylings of today. Grit with cheese, dirt with sprinkles. This might turn some people away as it deviates slightly from the much more serious Craig-era Bond films like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but I personally really liked it. Maybe if the script was re-worked a bit more, it may have been better, but I still enjoyed what I got.

So I guess I should watch Casino Royale now to ease the wrath of Bond fans.

Halloween – Review #51

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This movie didn’t really ‘stick’ with me, and that is in no way its fault. Well, maybe some of it.

HalloweenHalloween, directed by John Carpenter, is set, of course, on Halloween night. Jack o’lantern’s are all about, children dress up and get candy, and serial killers come out and find fresh victims.

What, don’t act like your neighborhood doesn’t have one, silly.

In one of those suburbs, we meet Laurie Strode and her friends Annie and Lynda. They’re played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis and P. J. Soles respectively. Of course, unlike the children, they don’t go and trick-or-treating, no. They go and get laid. Well, except for Laurie. She’s not that type of girl, and so she decides to babysit a kid named Tommy instead. However, what she doesn’t know is that something sinister as afoot, as not to her knowledge, an inmate of a sanitarium escaped, and has set his sights on her, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Right from the opening, with its iconic eerie theme with the piano stings, to the happy looking pumpkin at the title screen, to the 4 minute POV shot-of what I will not say-the movie sets itself as a
creepy movie. Note that I said ‘creepy’, not ‘scary’. John Carpenter builds up the tension of Laurie’s life and Myers’ danger expertly. Michael Myers actually does very little for the majority of the movie until the third act, and while the payoff is short but sweet, with a very effective ‘oh shit’ plot twist at the end, some people might find it boring, even more so because of the characters.

Yes, I didn’t really connect with the characters, not even Laurie. For one, I find the dialogue in the movie being strangely outdated and pronounced. I don’t know about you guys, but it just feels like the actors are reading off the script as they act, especially the main teenage trio of Laurie, Annie and Lynda. Speaking of them, they do not look like teenagers at all, with Jamie being the youngest at 20 when the movie was made, with the other two being 28 and 29. I’ve heard this was par for the course, and I expected it, but it just takes me out of the movie. With a movie like Halloween that is grounded in realism, that is a very big flaw.

But I digress. They’re serviceable, and when the s**t hits the fan you forget about that. No, what really took away the creep factor of Michael Myers was not a problem of the movie. It just comes down to the simple fact that I do not celebrate Halloween. I have never gone trick-or-treating, I’ve never carved pumpkins, and I’ve never been a part of any Halloween festivities. Here Halloween is thought as this curious oddity of a festival. We know what it is, we just don’t do it, so the thought of a serial killer coming during the 31st of October is lost to me. Again, not the movie’s fault at all. I just wasn’t its intended audience.

Halloween is widely viewed as the film that started the slasher craze of the 80’s, and while I appreciate for what it has influenced, the fact still remains that this movie is based on festival that I’ve never been a part of. It’s still a good movie, don’t get me wrong, the tense scenes are amazingly done, thanks to John Carpenter’s directing and cinematography by Dean Cundy, but when you see shots of little kids going around door-to-door asking for candy, dressed up as princesses, vampires, pumpkins etc., and not knowing that feeling of childhood joy mixed with fright, you feel like you’re watching something that was not intended for you.

So, all in all, Halloween is a well made thriller morror with its now considered ‘old-school’ approach to scaring, it’s grounded atmosphere and amazing score, but it just wasn’t my cup of pumpkin tea. Happy belated Halloween, and go out there and have some spooky fun while you still can.