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LEE DANIEL’S THE BUTLER serves a up sentimental story

27 Jan

the-butler

The most striking aspect of Lee Daniel’s The Butler is Forest Whitaker’s (Cecil Gaines) in the title role. It was a beautiful performance about a man, a father, and a husband attempting to provide for his family while attempting to come to turns with his role in life and his place in history. At the center of the film is a story about a father and a son at odds with one another about what actions should be taken to make a positive difference in the world. The film begins with the embarrassing truth of America’s most shameful behavior and follows Mr. Gaines as he becomes a butler at the White House, while his son, Louis grows up to become an activist fighting for African-Americans’ civil rights at most of the major points in history. It is a sentimental story that takes on too much at once, but Whitaker should not have been ignored by the Academy Awards.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS

22 Jan

PERCY-JACKSON-SEA-OF-MONSTERS

Audiences do not have to be too familiar with Greek mythology to keep up with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The film follows the title character and his friends on another quest to save Olympus from destruction. Percy Jackson is a little older, but not wiser when it comes to dealing with teenage adversity. He feels doubt, loneliness, and does not know how to accept his unbeknownst cyclops brother. Director Thor Freudenthal does a good job taking the source material and highlighting the adolescent lessons of acceptance and confidence along with a very straight forward and fast moving plot. Everything about the film is positive, except the predictability of the story. It looks great and everyone does a good job, but like Zeus himself, audiences know what is going to happen long before the characters do. Percy Jackson’s is not immortal and neither is the second installment of the Rick Riordan’s books.

WORD COUNT: 152

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adma’s Grade: N/A

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE heats things up

6 Jan

THE-HUNGER-GAMES-CATCHING-FIRE

I have not read the books, but everyone tells me the first film was water down when it came to the politics. As for the second film, the same people told me the second installment was closer to the book’s true intention. From an objective point of view, the politics come from  the same oppressive position found in most science fiction films. It was suggested in the first through an ideological state apparatus, whereas in the second film it manifests itself into a repressive state apparatus through military force and law enforcement, which makes it easier for audiences to identify. Both films were good, but the second film is entertaining because the antagonists’ intentions are blurred, making a more complex film for audiences to enjoy. Winning is not the only thing that is important in this film, which creates opportunities for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to build and explore their characters’ darker side.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B

OLD BOY (2013) has some new tricks

1 Jan

OLD-BOY-2013

Spike Lee’s desire to re-interpret the critically acclaimed 2003 South Korean film, Old Boy for domestic audiences was a bold move because of the amount of criticism he would receive from audiences familiar with the original. I was eager to see how he would negotiate certain scenes and particular parts of the story that have made Old Boy a memorable, but uncomfortable film to watch. Technically, everything is in the movie, but done in a way that is more like a jazz musician riffing on a familiar melody than a replay of an old song. Some things worked really well, while others things did not. This version had more of back story, which made it easier for American audiences to understand, but it was too much because those moments of discomfort did not have the same impact. However, I enjoyed this movie and the choice to cast Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen as the principal characters was a strong choice.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

DRUG WAR cooks up something new

28 Dec

DRUG-WAR

America is no stranger to films about crystal meth and the dark characters that are associated with the narcotic, however, in mainland China director Johnnie To breaks new ground by cooking up an interesting gangster film that has a snitch willing to say or do anything to save his life with an undercover cop determined to bring a group of gangsters to justice by any means necessary. Police captain Zhang  (Sun Honglei) takes information from Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) and runs with it by impersonating different gangsters while at the same time pumping Choi for more and more information, until it leads him to the major players behind the drug trade. Choi’s integrity and loyalty are being tested while Zhang  battles with his ego and obsession. Both actors give strong performances that lead audiences along to an amazing climax featuring ultra violence from every possible direction. I liked the film, but buying into the cops’ sting was difficult for me.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep

ZODIAC-FILM

Director David Fincher makes an attempt to capture the most elusive and mysterious figure in law enforcement history. He is no stranger to serial killers, but his interpretation of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) gives audiences a front row seat to Graysmith’s obsession with the infamous case that terrorized Northern California and frustrated investigators for decades.

Fincher’s visual style and attention to detail are impeccable. He takes his time with the characters and attempts to replicate these events as accurately as possible from Graysmith’s perspective, but it does lead to a slow pace and a long run time. The cast is formidable, however, Gyllenhaal’s performance isn’t nearly as strong  as Mark Ruffalo as Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery.  It is difficult to satisfy audiences with such an ending, but Fincher remains true to the story and keeps “Hollywood” out of it as much as possible.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

The Prestige is an underrated film

14 Sep

THE-PRESTIGE

Christopher Nolan has been known to trick and challenge his audiences to think, but he explores new ground in the underrated film, The Prestige. Two magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) have turned a friendly competition into a bitter rivalry that consumes each of them with obsession and jealousy. Both actors give convincing performances. Their preparation for the roles of magicians are obvious and not lost on the audience.

Magicians are not supposed to reveal their secrets and Nolan continues to amaze audiences with his ability to direct or should I say misdirect the obvious from the mind and eye. Wally Pfister’s camera work and use of dark-lighting sets the tone for Nolan and his brother Jonathan to adapt a story that is full of mystery from start to finish. Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The Prestige has all three parts and has audiences leaving the theater asking, “How did he do that?”

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B

Riddick grabs you by the throat…

13 Sep

RIDDICK-FILM

Riddick grabs you by the throat at the beginning of the film and squeezes hard. The special effects and the gritty survival story pulls everyone in right away, until the B-level supporting cast (bounty hunters) shows up and reminds audiences they are watching a sci-fi film closer in quality to Pitch Black than Chronicles. Diesel’s slow delivery and deliberate physicality demonstrates his box office appeal. He has not lost a step, although this version of the title character has an “in the gutter” sense humor that helps keep audiences entertained as he must kill man and beast over and over again. It does get a little repetitive at the end, but Riddick delivers on his promises. This movie does not advertise to be something it is not. Audiences get what they expected and most people leave satisfied and hoping for another film that will feature a climatic showdown between Riddick and Vaako (Karl Urban).

WORD COUNT: 154

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Magnetic (short film) not strong enough to hold me

11 Aug

MAGNETIC-SHORT-FILM

There is an old saying, “opposites attract,” but not in the short film, Magnetic. Writer/Director . F. C. Rabbath draws you into its story with a young boy offering a small magnet as a gift to a young girl, but she rejects him. The look on his disappointed face is priceless and worth pausing the video for a moment. For a second, I’m thinking this is going to be a psycho-killer film as the kid stares past the object of desire and is unable to see the obvious, but thankfully Rabbath has another path for this character to follow. The film jumps forward to the character as a young adult still obsessed with the image from years ago. The story mixes in some science fiction to create a comic book-like scenario that creates a strong, but unpredictable power. Rabbath is a good storyteller and a solid filmmaker, but Magnetic was not strong enough to hold me.

WORD COUNT: 155

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Tick Tock takes us back in time

20 Jul

TICK-TOCK-SHORT-FILM

Director Ien Chi’s short film Tick Tock uses time to frame his short film. At the beginning, an ordinary wall clock is mysteriously ticking backwards, until the characters begin to talk and move in reverse. The punch line is revealed at the beginning and the male character takes you to the point of crisis. Along the way, Chi provides headings to title the sequences, Cowardice, Reputation, Pride, Embarrassment, Greed, Indifference, and Laziness. At the end or should I say beginning, the motivation behind Chi’s story is revealed. It was a wise choice to play everything in reverse because in the other direction it would have a been a much different project that probably would have felt more like a poorly done student film. Chi is an imaginative artist that can turn the ordinary into something special– “leaving only what is truly important.”

WORD COUNT: 142

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A