Posted in Film

Previous Post: Robin Williams, You Are Missed

Note: I originally wrote this for a project I had started with a friend of mine that we are unable to continue. I did not want this post to be forgotten, so I have moved it here.

I did not immediately drop everything and begin watching Robin Williams’ films the moment I heard the news. In fact, I could not as I was at work and would not be able to leave for at least another four hours. I spent the rest of the evening making small chat with customers about what we loved about his films as they brought them up to the register. Some loved his humor, others loved how surprised they were the first time they saw him in a serious role. What most people mentioned, however, was his powerful energy. My relationship with Jack Kerouac’s writing has been filled with disenchantment, but I feel a quote from On the Road applies here:

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

We love Robin Williams because despite the varied roles he played, he was never boring. Even if a film itself was considered a bust, I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about a Robin Williams performance (at least not without conveying a sense of guilt at doing so).
When I did finally get off work after my closing shift, I stopped by the grocery store to grab some ice cream and streamed The Birdcage on Netflix. I’ll admit it was harder for me to believe the truth after watching him on-screen than it was from talking about it at work. Watching someone give so much into their performances can make even the worst news seem like a bad dream. But Robin, I know this isn’t a bad dream. We’ll always be here to watch your intensity burn.

Goodbye, My Captain.
Goodbye, My Captain.
Posted in Uncategorized

So I Know It’s Been a While…

I just wanted to say I’m sorry for stopping this blog so abruptly. I know it has been more than a year, but I never gave a proper explanation for my absence. In short, I needed a break. If you are still interested in following my writing, I sometimes contribute to UC After Cruz, a blog about post-college life by graduates from UC Santa Cruz. If you would be interested in following my work since I stopped writing for this blog, feel free to check it out at http://ucaftercruz.com/.

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Ed Wood

As a kid, I was a big Tim Burton fan. In my adulthood (brief thus far, but worth mentioning) I have become weary of his more recent films and noticed things in his older ones that I didn’t notice before. This week, I decided to talk about one of his films that I didn’t find many problems with and enjoyed just as much now as I did when I was a kid. Ed Wood is a great film that pays homage to (and lightly makes fun of) the oft-proclaimed “Worst Director of All Time”, Edward D. Wood Jr.

I absolutely love how this movie doesn’t take Ed Wood too seriously (especially since it’s clear he didn’t take very many things too seriously himself). The film makes him human and interesting but doesn’t mind gently poking fun at him occasionally. A stuffy biopic would have been completely wrong for this movie simply due to the kind of person Edward D. Wood Jr. was, and the way this was written emphasizes his quirks in a way that makes him endearing while also lending to a sense of vicarious embarrassment.

Directing Plan 9

I can’t help but think of Ed Wood as a man who deeply loved film and would do anything for his friends and idols, but due to a naïvety most of us grow out of he lacks the knowledge of how to handle his career (and some of his relationships). He may be the “worst director of all time”, but this movie makes me wish I could be more like him due to his undying love for what he did.

This is the One I'll Be Remembered For

As for the film itself, it is very well made with careful consideration for how to lend homage to Ed Wood’s films. The film itself is in black and white and much of the score is reminiscent of C and D movies and trailers of the 50s, but the lighting and cinematography are very well done. There is one shot in particular of Bela Lugosi that I can’t get out of my head because I absolutely love how it is framed.

Shooting Morphine in the Car

The shots in this film are very well-arranged and the lighting in Bela Lugosi’s house is fantastic. This film is very visually interesting and contrasts Ed Wood’s actual films just enough to set itself apart from his work, while also being close enough that the audience doesn’t feel like an outsider peeking into a world they will never understand.

Bela's House

Martin Landau and Johnny Depp give great performances for this film. Johnny in particular mastered this unbridled enthusiasm that is hard to find these days, and I never got bored with watching him play this part. Martin Landau, however, did such a good job as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, as he was able to humbly portray the struggles Bela Lugosi was going through, while giving just enough of a celebrity aura to his presence.

At the Backer's Party

Of the films Tim Burton has directed, I would definitely say this is his best picture. The subject was handled with careful consideration and the mise-en-scene was wonderful. This movie always makes me laugh and I always come away from it feeling like I can accomplish anything (even if nobody else appreciates it). So what are you waiting for? Go find a copy!

I also wanted to add a brief apology for this review being somewhat late, but you know how it is as a film nerd when the golden globes are on!

Trailer:

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Hello everyone! I decided to review this movie mostly because I hadn’t seen it in a while and wanted to do something relatively fresh. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and is ready to deal with the “second-rate” holidays like Valentine’s Day and Groundhog’s Day, etc. Anyway, let’s get started!

The absolute best thing about this film has to be the cast. I don’t think you can do much better than putting Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, and Gillian Anderson in the same room. While this may seem like a group picked from a jar of names, they all work surprisingly well together and bring out the best in each other. I was honestly surprised at how well this cast worked together and would love to see Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst team up again in the future.

Alison and Sidney

On the point of acting though, I would like to point out Kirsten’s performance as especially rewarding to watch. No one can say this role is the most challenging she’s taken on, but you can tell she took the project seriously and she strongly delivers. I was highly impressed by the scene of her drunk after the break-up with Maddox (played by Danny Huston). Acting drunk is one thing I constantly see in film not being portrayed accurately, but Dunst absolutely nails it.

Alison Gets Drunk

While the cast works well for this movie, I’m not sure I entirely bought the story. With all of the antics that Sidney (Simon Pegg) commits while at Sharp’s Magazine it is nearly impossible to suspend disbelief when he only gets threatened with being fired, and it is an act of God that he ends up with any position of power within the company. I understand that this is a comedy, but the liberties taken with making sure the plot goes in Sidney Young’s favor are a bit too obvious for my taste.

Sidney and Sophie Fighting

Although the finer details of the plot were a bit too far-fetched for my taste, the overall story was quite relatable. Everyone wants their moment of fame and those who get it often realize it is not how they imagined it after all. Even aside from that, however, are the themes of unrequited love, troubled relationships with parents, feeling misunderstood in your new lot in life, etc. This movie is completely packed with situations we can all relate to which helps move the plot along during the scenes that aren’t entirely necessary.

Sidney Watching His Mother

The cast absolutely makes this film, but I can’t say it doesn’t have merit. This is a fun movie to watch on a night at home, but nothing you would insist all of your friends should see. It is entertaining but can also get a bit repetitive and requires a bit of patience. All in all, I’d say this film is one many will probably enjoy but not feel any need to watch again for a few more years.

Note:  I have decided not to include my favorite scenes anymore as they are becoming increasingly hard to find. Thus, I will be including the trailers at the end of my posts from now on.

Trailer: 

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Trading Places

Happy New Year everyone! I decided to finish off my holiday season reviews with a film that covers both Christmas and New Years. Also, I just really miss 1980s Eddie Murphy, so I wanted to watch something with him in it. Without further ado, Trading Places!

Exchange Student from Cameroon

One thing I like about movies is when things get explained without using too many words. The opening sequence of this film is a good example in that it keeps passing between scenes of Philadelphia rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods, emphasizing just how different they are. As viewers, we have a better understanding of just how wide the gap is between the classes in the city, and can piece together how badly things are going to go once the classes are forced to mix. While this is a good technique for this film to use, I do think this scene could have been done better. Instead of strictly showing poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods, they could have done more character development by showing Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) getting ready in comparison to Valentine (Eddie Murphy) waking up on the streets. Instead, this character development wasn’t used until later in the film (and with dialogue).

Porkbellies

On the note of the “rich” and the “poor” this movie does attempt social commentary in a sense and occasionally succeeds. A majority of the jokes in this film that refer to race portray how ridiculous racism is instead of strictly relying on racial stereotypes. However, most of the stuff about how rich people treat poor people and vice versa was overblown to the point of not being realistically relevant. It was great for the story line of the film, but didn’t hold enough credibility to actually be considered legitimate commentary.

Winthorp and Valentine Meet

As a reviewer, I usually feel inclined to say that a movie was either “good” or “bad”, but I honestly don’t feel either way about this movie. The character development is decent, and Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy are both in their prime, but there are various plot holes that even for a comedy I can’t quite shake off.  It’s been hard to find things to say about this film because it is pretty straight-forward. This film is not visually stunning but it is not vapid or completely void of substance, either. I like this movie, but I honestly would not think to watch it outside of the holiday season. Sorry my last review of the holidays is so short and essentially amounts to a shrug, but that is the best way to describe my feelings for this film. I hope everyone has a wonderful new year, and I look forward to going back to normal reviews for your enjoyment!

Favorite Scene:

Posted in Film Commentary

Review: Christmas with the Joker (Batman the Animated Series Christmas Special)

Sorry this review is late, but after the technical difficulties I’ve been having this week there was also this pesky “spending time with the family” thing that got in the way. I wasn’t originally planning on reviewing another television special, but I received some positive feedback about my review of The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever and decided to share another favorite special of mine with all of you. To those of you who have followed my blog for a while now, I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of Batman (comics, shows, movies, you name it). It should be no surprise then that another favorite special of mine is from Batman: The Animated Series. I will admit, some people did ask why I wasn’t planning on reviewing Batman Returns with Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer, and it is because I feel that Christmas with the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series does a better job of meshing the Batman Universe with the themes and tropes of Christmas.

Joker as Late Night Special Host

One of the main things I look for in a Christmas special is a plot-line that doesn’t deviate too far from what a regular episode of the series would be like. If the episode would not work without the Christmas elements, then the drawing board needs to be revisited. This episode could work just as well if it were not a Christmas special. Too many shows throw away their usual story lines in favor of Christmas stories with a message, and this episode not only avoids that trap, but makes fun of it. Robin spends the beginning of the episode trying to convince Batman that nothing is going to happen because it is Christmas Eve, and Batman is thoroughly confused by the amount of good will on the streets during his patrol. Despite all of this, the Joker wreaks havoc on Gotham anyway, pointing out that just because it is the Holiday Season does not mean that the world is safe and carefree.

The Joker Wreaking Havoc

Another thing I love about this episode is the character development. Despite losing his parents, Dick Grayson (aka Robin) is more optimistic as a character than Batman, and it shows in his unwillingness to believe that anything could possibly go wrong on Christmas Eve. The opposite is true of Bruce Wayne, however, who is so convinced of the horrors of the world running rampant that he can’t understand why everyone seems to think the world is a better place just because it is Christmas. These examples are fairly black-and-white, but then we get to The Joker. Always one to love mayhem through theatrics, the Joker uses Christmas as an opportunity to take center stage throughout Gotham and terrorizes the civilian population with the use of things that are normally meant to bring joy and good cheer. As the perfect blend of kooky clown and sinister mastermind, this episode does an excellent job at giving screen-time to both sides of the Joker’s personality.

Bruce and Dick Discover the Joker's Scheme

I will not attempt to present myself as being unbiased for this review, as Batman is one of my favorite characters of all time and the Animated Series is perhaps my favorite portrayal of the Batman universe. However, I do not like this strictly for the fact that it is from Batman. This episode was very well written and can be enjoyed by many people: children, their parents, fans of the comics, etc. For being a simple television episode, this is a very well-rounded Christmas special.

The End of Christmas with the Joker

Sneak Peak: 

Posted in Uncategorized

Review Postponed Due to Technical Difficulties

Sorry I am unable to post my review today. My computer has been acting up and I am unable to stabilize it at the moment (I am posting this from my phone). I will hopefully be able to post my next review before Christmas morning.

To make it up to you all, I would love to review a movie for the New Year for you! Just let me know in the comments or on twitter (@CFH2289) what you would like to see me review. Happy Holidays, everyone!