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These Amazing Shadows: The Movies that Make America

19 Oct

These-Amazing-Shadows

These Amazing Shadows is a straight forward documentary that demonstrates the importance of the National Film Registry and its impact on film preservation. There were several enlightening interviews from some of America’s greatest filmmakers, as well as clips from America’s most memorable films, as well as a list of some not so popular choices that shows off the diversity of the selection committee. Directors Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton guide audience into the vault and reveal some important contributors to film history, especially the often ignored women directors from Old Hollywood. The documentary shares the old and the new, but more importantly the film inspires audiences to revisit  and watch our countries favorite films again.

WORD COUNT: 115

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

Starlet shines

26 Sep

STARLET-FILM

The title hints to the world that will be explored in this film, but it does not prepare you from the reality of the situation, until you are fully invested in Jane’s (Dree Hemingway) likeable character. She is a working adult film actress that befriends an elderly woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Initially, her motivation is fueled by guilt, but their relationship develops into something much more than an ordinary friendship. The given circumstances will appear strange and uncomfortable to mainstream audiences, but there is something about Jane’s character that allows audiences to forgive her poor choices, at least temporarily. Director Sean Baker makes some bold choices that most filmmakers would never consider, but he successfully executes his vision in a way that keeps people talking about the characters and their relationships, as opposed to reducing the film to a single scene. Starlet shines.

WORD COURT: 143

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

WARNING: This film contains strong sexual content.

The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high

30 Aug

THE-DARK-KNIGHT-RISES
Everything comes to an end in Christopher Nolan’s ambitious conclusion to his Batman Trilogy. Set eight years after The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a guilt-ridden recluse content with his tarnished reputation. A powerful, new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy) has a complex plan to destroy Gotham.

The Dark Knight Rises is a good film, but not a great film. Nolan tries to do too much with Bane. A “revolution” of convicts running around didn’t work well in the first film and it doesn’t work in this one either. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was brilliantly played, but she became one of Nolan’s unnecessary moving parts, although she contribute in the end; she serves as Batman’s deus ex machina rather than something she can stick her claws in.  The expectations were unreasonably high for the third film, but it cannot be used as an excuse for some basic story problems. The Dark Knight Rises, but only so high.

WORD COUNT: 159

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade for IMAX: B+
Chuck’s Grade for Standard Screen: B-

ABE (short film) has a different serial number

3 Aug

ABE-short-film-2013

Killer robots is nothing new in the horror/sci-fi genre, but writer/director Rob McLellan interpretation of the idea is a fresh take that mixes psychosis with humanity, which are usually absent from such characters. The short film opens on a high note and is able to maintain the pitch through a well written monologue and adept cinematography from Kate Reid. A robot that feels loss and finds itself desperate to fix things creates a sympathetic character for a moment. The story lures audiences into a web like a spider, until it is too late to late to change our minds. ABE has a different serial number that separates him from other models.

WORD COUNT: 111

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

World War Z adapts to the zombie genre

31 Jul

WORLD-WAR-Z

World War Z wastes no time. The exposition is about five minutes, and then all hell breaks loose as Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his family find themselves in middle of mass hysteria and death as the infected run wild through the city. Gerry is a former UN investigator that is forced into tracking the origin of the virus with a small team. Most good zombie films have been attached to some social/cultural/political metaphors to describe the contemporary condition. There are hints of all of these ingredients in the film, but rabid consumption and depression from lack of stimulus resonated the most with me. I am not a zombie fan and I have not read Max Brooks’ novel, but I will pick up the book and I look forward to the seeing a sequel. It is a serious story that equals 28 Days Later, but like its predecessor finding a suitable ending that will satisfy everyone is its biggest shortcoming.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: C+

Memorize (short film) the story and not the cast

6 Jul

MEMORIZE-SHORT-FILM

Eric Ramberg and Jimmy Eriksson came up with a great concept for a sci-fi action short. In 2027, everyone is implanted with a memory chip that records everything a person’s sees and does. A special unit of police called the Special Surveillance Unit (SSU) regulate the system and catch criminals by reading the chips. The film opens in the middle of a chase between a SSU officer and a suspect. He moves from one suspect to the next by immobilizing them and reading their memories. There is a bunch of gunfire and video-game like violence which is cool, but the cast lacks presence and charisma. Obviously, the film was on a limited budget and some of the shots could be more stylized, but Ramberg and Eriksson did a lot more with less compared to seasoned directors with a larger budgets. Memorize the story and not the cast because I believe it will become a full-length feature in the near future.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai honors its director

9 Jun

ghost-dog

Writer/director Jim Jarmusch puts together his most mainstream film to date when he explores the idea of a man living by a code.  Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a film about an African-American hit man named Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) contracted by the mafia to assassinate special targets that cannot be traced back to the mobsters. He lives by a code modeled after Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai, a strict lifestyle that promoted an honorable, but humble life dedicated to carrying out his chosen master’s orders. Jarmusch inserts passages from the book throughout the movie that helps frame the story and its ideas. Whitaker embodies this role and convinces audiences of this character’s unusual choices. He makes it difficult to see anyone else playing this part, which demonstrates the singular commitment of the code. Whitaker is a modern day samurai/actor that really serves his director with great honor.

WORD COUNT: 152

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Star Trek Into Darkness

21 May

star-trek

In 2009, J.J. Abrams’s vision of Star Trek revolutionized the sci-fi franchise for an audience much larger than its “Trekkies” faithful. His second attempt does not disappoint either group. Star Trek Into Darkness is filled with thrilling action driven by a story that goes warp speed to the point that spectators cannot help smile as the force of the film pushes heads back to take in the universe of amazing visuals.

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is faced with a formidable enemy named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a terrorist within Starfleet who’s especially good as a villain. Kirk and the Enterprise crew must embark on a manhunt and be prepared to go where no man has gone before. The story is not completely original, but it is a blockbuster summer hit that will leave audiences wanting to beam up to Scottie and give him a high-five for taking them for one hell of a ride through the final frontier once again.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Strangers (short film)

11 May

strangers-short-film

Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor do not need any words to describe the racial tension between Arab and Jewish people. In 2004, the writers/directors put together a seven minute film that reminds everyone of the fear and dislike that exists between these groups. The racial prejudice and religious intolerance is felt between subtle gestures and eye contact as a Jewish man and Arab man sit across from one another on a European subway train. The uncomfortable silence is broken when their mutual distrust is interrupted by a gang of skinheads that wear their over hatred for others on their sleeves. The cast is convincing and the climax gives hope, but in the end, Nattiv and Tadmor remind audiences of the gap between the two sides. A powerful film that will lead to an expanded version a couple of years later, but these seven minutes capture the moment and the message.

WORD COUNT: 149

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Lincoln passes the bill

3 May

Lincoln-the-movie

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the enormous task of dramatizing President Abraham Lincoln’s quest to pass the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives. He employs Tony Kushner to develop a screenplay about the most pivotal moment in the United States’s history. Like most political films, the negotiation process can be tedious, but Kushner and Spielberg find a way to keep the story moving, although at times some of the scenes feel deliberate and staged. The cast is an assortment of Hollywood’s most respected actors playing some of America’s most polarizing figures. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant as the Commander in Chief and his performance, as well as his stature dwarfs everyone else in the film. Tommy Lee Jones as Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens makes his mark in the film and casts his vote with authority. In summation, I would like to use a quote from the character Schuyler-Colfax in regards to Lincoln, “This isn’t usual, Mr. Pendleton. This is history.”

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B+