2 Stars

Asad (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Asad (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura).
Watched April 2, 2014.

  

I watched Asad right around the time that I watched Captain Phillips.  Both portray the current climate of Somalia and its violence both on the water in piracy and also on land between its own people.

 

Asad is a short film that takes a different approach than the afore mentioned feature.  Asad is a young boy nearing manhood and anxious to go out on the boats and pirate with the other boys in his community.  He knows the ocean and its currents better than anyone.  Instead, the local fisherman who believes in living a different life is convinced that Asad will one day catch the best catch they have ever seen.

 

Although the film is quite short, it conveys Asad’s conflict, home life, and over all environment extremely well.  I got the measure of his character almost immediately.  In fact, it is very skillful how quickly we understand each character.  Granted, the writers did put in several easy to catch stereotypes that might define the soul of a person, such as Asad’s friend with a limp is all talk but has little courage when it comes down to it.  My favorite moment of the film was between Asad and his mother, where she struggles against the pressures of a society she has known her whole life and tries to raise her son in a war torn environment.

 

The film tries to instill a hope, but it is bleak.  Asad will grow up to be a pirate, a thug with a gun, or a fisherman.  His future is already set.

 

The filmmaking is decent, the acting is sub-par, and the story is one note.  After watching Captain Phillips, I was looking forward to a more in depth look at Somali life, but Asad left a little to be desired.  Although it shows the harder side of life, the film becomes preoccupied with a mediocre plot that stalls the pace and progression of the film.

 

All in all, I wouldn’t consider the film a waste of my time, but I would not suggest it for the a-typical audience.

The Gatekeepers (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

The Gatekeepers (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature Film (Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon).
Watched February 1, 2014.

  

It is hard for me to describe The Gatekeepers to you because it is a very straightforward documentary.  It is an interview driven narrative that features all of the surviving heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency.  The men mostly discuss the events that occurred while they were involved, either on the ground or in leadership, and the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

There are certain aspects of the film that are extremely creative.  They used 3D effects on images taken at events (specifically when some terrorists were gunned down on a bus) and make them appear almost life-like.

 

The interviewees are honest and fairly transparent about their answers and what they believed at the time.  They knew that what they were doing was almost without morals but at the time they knew no other way to protect lives.  By the end and in their current lives they might have different opinions, but it is all in retrospect.  They understand that they are treating symptoms and not the problem.

 

This year of Oscars has focused a lot on Palestine and Israel.  It is interesting to see all of the different angels throughout the documentaries and dramas.  Unfortunately, The Gatekeepers was not my favorite.  It was certainly no nail-biter, although enlightening and informative.  As I mentioned above, there is little content aside from interview footage, although the B-roll that is used I quite enjoyed.

 

If what I have describes sounds like it might be up your alley, I would encourage you to see the film.  However, it is very slow and dry, so if you want something you would not likely see in a classroom, you might want to stay away from this one.

Frankenweenie (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Frankenweenie (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Tim Burton).
Watched January 13, 2014.

  

I will be one hundred percent honest, I am not a big Tim Burton fan.  I do not mean this in a particularly negative way, it is just that his form of artistry does not always grab me in the way it does others, and that isn’t a bad thing.  Despite this, his films and in particular his stop motion animations are so incredible that from a technical standpoint, it is hard to hold a candle to his skill.

 

Frankenweenie is no different.  While the animated winner Brave from this year wasn’t necessarily better in story and execution (big ambitions that fell short of expectations), Frankenweenie has a little of the bizarre we expect from Burton and a good amount of emotional connection that works well to keep audiences watching.

 

The film is a black and white story of Victor Frankenstien (voiced by Charlie Tahan), a genius kid who has a knack for science and a best friend who just happens to be his dog Sparky.  His science infatuation is stoked by new teacher Mr. Rsykruski (Martin Landau) and bemusedly endured by his parents.  All of his classmates are classic Burton odd balls with funny shaped heads, spooky accents, and fortune telling cats.  They are all gearing up for the science fair, which has sparked an odd amount of competitiveness in the class, and everyone is looking to Victor for inspiration.

 

While Mrs. Frankenstien is all for Victor’s classic weirdness, the Mr. insists he takes up a sport.  Unfortunately, at his first baseball game, tragedy strikes and good old Sparky gets hit by a car.

 

Cue the classic Frankenstien reanimation sequence in which Victor patches his dog back together and brings him back to life by utilizing a lightning storm.  While the new and improved Sparky needs a recharge now and then, and perhaps a new patch or stitch here and there, he is back to normal and all pet adoring audiences can relate to wanting their pet back again.

 

The science fair and competitive classmates make the story take a turn for the worse.  Will Victor be able to save the day and convince the town that Sparky should stay?

 

Let me tell you, I have lost some precious pets in my day and I cried right along with Victor when he lost dear Sparky.  However, when Sparky comes back with a sewn on head and his tail goes flying if wagged too vigorously, I was properly grossed out and very appreciative of the black and white versus color imaging.  The story was cute, the characters were quirky, and there was an emotional connection to the relationship between Victor and Sparky, but other than that I felt like Frankenweenie was a distinctly kids movie.  Pixar often maneuvers their stories to be equally appreciated by both kids and adults alike, but this nomination was a little too childlike for my taste.  Despite that, there is some morbid, racist, and fecal humor that might amuse some people.

 

While it certainly wasn’t the worst movie I have seen this year, it will never make my top 10.  If you want to appreciate Burton’s exquisite art in the form of stop motion animation, then you will certainly appreciate aspects of this film.  The lead characters were strong and their story lines were decent.  It was the side plots I was more let down by, and the quirky classmates that had me scratching my head.  I have no idea how Victor did not have any friends in such a town of odd balls.

Islands in the Stream (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Islands in the Stream (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 StarsNominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp).
Watched November 12, 2012.

I watched this film quite a while ago, before I got married and my posting schedule for the blog completely changed.  I am just now getting around to this piece, and unfortunately we weren’t missing out on much.  Islands in the Stream is based on the last Hemingway novel.  Really it was pieced together by his wife after he passed away and we can’t really know if he would have ever had it published himself, but it is said that the main character is based on who Hemingway saw himself as.

 

Thomas Hudson (George C. Scott) has seen a lot in his life and has retired to an island in the Caribbean where he fishes, sculpts, and drinks.  He has some good buddies who don’t expect much from him but would do a lot for him.  When the film opens he is expecting a rare visit from his three sons from two marriages.  Ranging in age from 10 to 19, the boys all have unique relationships with their father.  The oldest, Tom (Hart Bochner) remembers his mom and dad having a loving and passionate relationship, while the middle child David (Michael-James Wixted) is resentful toward his father for the way he treated his mom–the second wife.

 

Wixted is probably the best performance from the three kids, and it is just as well because his character has the biggest arch out of the three.  It is very much a coming of age tale for him, and it helps that his dad is there to gently coach him through it.  Though you wouldn’t expect it, especially because Thomas has been absent for much of their lives, he really does care for his children.  He perhaps has more affection toward Tom because that marriage was the best, and he misses it.

 

The second part of the film is quite slow and is punctuated by an unexpected visit from the first wife, Audrey (Claire Bloom), who brings hard news that perhaps spurs on the third act, which is so drastically different from the first two it’s a wonder it ever made it into the film.  Although the first two thirds of the film moved very slowly, I was interested in the characters and their relationships.  The third act completely lost me.  I’m not sure if it is a part of the book–some reviews made it sound as if it was an addition to the film and I would love to know if this is true.  Perhaps the production team was attempting to liven up the story, but I really wish it had not been included.  There are rescued Jews (the story takes place at the beginning of World War II), smuggling, and cheap looking explosions.  It is a huge disruption from the tranquility of the island life.

 

I’ll be honest that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Islands in the Stream.  I was curious about Thomas, his family, and the relationships all throughout the film.  I cared for them, but there were certainly moments that I won’t specify (no spoilers here!) that could have been done better.  The cinematography was certainly beautiful and well done, especially for a film from the seventies.  The acting was acceptable, and although the pace of the film was slow it fit with the lifestyle of beach life.

 

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this film.  I probably won’t be watching it again.  If you are curious about Hemingway’s last book, it might be a good place to start, but I expect the actual novel would be a much better medium.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 3 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (Ken Adam, Peter Lamont, Hugh Scaife), Music-Original Score (Marvin Hamlisch), and Music-Original Song “Nobody Does It Better” (Marvin Hamlisch, Carole Bayer Sager).
Watched November 4, 2012

  

The reviews are positive, but my views are different.  Granted I have not paid much attention to the 007 franchise prior to Daniel Craig and thus my opinions will be incredibly jaded, I was not a huge fan of The Spy Who Loved Me.  I find that I am having trouble looking past the dated 70s styles.  However, it has been pointed out by many reviewers that the film did exactly what it was supposed to–it was never created to be film noir but a mindless entertaining film that all one must do to enjoy it is sit back and relax while James Bond does all of the hard work.  I will admit that, for the most part, The Spy Who Loved Me does that successfully.

 

This generation’s Bond is played by Roger Moore, who is following Sean Connery, but he apparently does much better in this film than the previous Bond flicks he had starred in.  He is smarmy, with a classically good looking smirk, and a hidden pain of lost love that makes him attractive.  Not to mention his mad skiing skills that are said to be one of the best openings to a Bond film–ever.

 

In this storyline, the bad guy, Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens) has been tracking and trapping nuclear submarines from all sides, which is why 007 and the Russian Agent XXX (Barbara Bach) suddenly find themselves working together.  Bond and Major Anya Amasova have significantly different feelings about working with one another.  Bond is of course attracted to the feisty female agent, while she resents his typical pig headed manliness and pushes against him in an attempt to not be overshadowed by a man.  Through their adventures she begins to soften toward him, until she finds out that he killed her love just weeks before, which of course means that she has to kill him once they save the world from nuclear destruction.

  

Complete with excessive explosions and gunfire, underwater cities, and women in bikinis, it is a true Bond film.  In comparison with today’s franchise, the cinematography has zero creativity.  There is a serious lack of angles.  The editing is a bit slow, and the sound design was perplexing.  The lack of a sound track fails to disguise the terrible foley art during the fight scenes, not to mention how very choreographed every punch felt.  Somehow, Amasova did not come off as intelligent as she was supposed to be, probably because she kept making dumb decisions and relying on Bond to save her.

 

The acclaimed villain who everyone loves–Jaws (Richard Kiel)–would have been a lot more intimidating had the editor not had a preoccupation with dwelling on his metal-mouth grimace.

 

All in all, I would consider it another TV movie entertainment date, but not necessarily for the main Friday night event.  In my mother’s words, it’s quite “campy” and outdated, but I did enjoy the last half hour that is spent completely devoted on freeing the submarine crews and saving the world.  Many reviewers disliked this part, but to me it was my favourite because it embodies Bond so well.  There is very little attempt at serious story telling and just straight entertaining, unrealistic action.  Perfect.