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The Croods (2013) Review | Jamie Daily

The Croods (2013)
86th Academy Awards 2014
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson).
Watched August 28, 2014.

If I could suggest one thing when viewing “The Croods,” it would be to not read too much into the plot and characters and just enjoy the story for what it is.  A pre-historic cave family has their home destroyed and must set out across the unknown in search of safety and a new cave.  With the help of a slightly unwanted stranger, they discover what it is to embrace change and to face adversity together as a family, even if your family is stupid.

That synopsis might not sound too bad until you get into the grit of things.  Grug (Nicolas Cage) is the father, and he is fiercely opposed to any kind of change or outside thinking.  When his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) tests the limits and then meets an outsider named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is also an inventor, he does what any typical dad would do and tries to lock her in the cave.  When their home gets destroyed, everything changes and Grug reluctantly follows Guy and Eep, along with his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), crazy Gran (Cloris Leachman), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and little one Sandy (Randy Thorn) across the unknown.  They face perilous adventures with wacky creatures and explore lands full of vivid colors.  Grug is obstinate the entire way and refuses to accept a new way of thinking.

This is where things could get weird.  The parent is refusing to see another point of view and won’t listen to his teenager.  On the other hand, the teenager thinks she knows best and is drooling over a boy.  The boy seems like the most level headed character, even though he has a sloth for a belt and he invents things like fire.  He is all about progress and moving forward and sees little value in tradition.  The dad is stuck in his ways and resists change to a fault.  He apparently doesn’t use his brain, according to the film.  The black and white representations of opposing sides of society could be that, or just a typical plot point in a children’s film.  You make the judgement call.

The story telling is predictable, albeit entertaining and funny.  There are some basic plot points, although surprisingly both parents last at least the majority of the film, whereas most films for kids feature a dead parent.  The kids have to go through some great emotional turmoil to make them understand the value of family, even when they’re being stupid, and nature continues to beat the cave people into submission.

I feel like this review came off more negative than I intended.  Like I said, the colors are fabulous, the film is entertaining and funny, and I enjoyed the animation.  I don’t know how quickly I would watch the film again because, let’s face it, it’s no Shrek, but it wasn’t the worst film of 2013, that’s for sure.

If none of the things I mentioned above bother you, and especially if you have kids, then I would recommend that you see “The Croods!”

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Death of a Shadow (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Live Action Short Film (Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele).

“Death of a Shadow” is an interesting little short that escapes both time and reality.  A deceased World War I soldier, Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works for a man, stuck in a limbo between life and death, and photographs the dying to be displayed in a gallery of shadows.  He works to have a second chance at life and is motivated by a woman he met the day he was killed.   Sarah Winters (Laura Verlinden) tried to save his life.

He hates his work, but he is so close to completing it he can hardly stand it.  He peruses his options and tries to find the least repulsive death to photograph, while still trying to satisfy his employer’s taste in art and composition.  His last picture, however, proves to be very difficult and he must make a decision between his own happiness and that of the woman he is smitten with.

The film is both a period piece and something outside of reality.  It is creative and well shot, although it is a lot of story to put into a short.  The production value of the short is really astounding.  It is very artistic and emotional, however they didn’t completely match the communication of that emotion with the production design.  That is a small complaint, however, for such a well made short.

Margin Call (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Margin Call (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (J.C. Chandor).
Watched September 5, 2013.

  

Whether or not technical jargon or financial speak is your thing, your forte, your niche–Margin Call is a thriller without ghosts and guns but with speech, money, and meetings.  What The Ides of March is to politics, Margin Call is to banking, but with a twist.

 

It is 2008, roughly 24 hours before the entire US financial system went in the tank.  It opens upon an amazing cast playing bankers within an institution roughly based on Lehman Brothers.  Over eighty percent of the employees are let go in one day, including head of the risk department, Stanley Tucci.  As he enters an elevator with a box of his possessions, he hands his employee Peter (Zachary Quinto) a flash drive with the words “Be careful.”

 

Peter, who is essentially a rocket scientist but got into finance for the paychecks, takes to the task immediately and discovers something that causes the entire upper management to panic and hold meeting after meeting in the wee hours of the morning.

 

I wasn’t able to understand the technical jargon all that much, which is why I appreciate that the CEOs don’t really comprehend it either, and therefore as Peter continually has to explain himself on more and more simple levels, I came to understand what was happening slowly as the movie went on.  Their stock was essentially worthless.  The entire system was going to come crashing down, and if they did not act, they would lose everything.

 

It is a battle between money and morality.  Do you risk losing all of your customers or do you sit by and watch everything fall away?  It is a quick, simple decision that affects the entire economy.

 

There was a lot about this film that I loved, and not very much that I disliked.  The cast is out of this world, including appearances by Kevin Spacey, Paul BettanyJeremy Irons, and Demi Moore.  Even though the lowest representative on the totem pole makes a quarter of a million dollars a year, his character represent the every man–obsessed with money, how to make it and continue gaining it–and how the crashing economy results in him bawling in a toilet stall because he has lost everything.  Those with higher positions make big bucks and earn promotions, while those on the selling floor are let go the minute they get rid of most of their stocks.

 

Besides some quiet audio and perhaps a rather complicated subject for those with no background in finance, there are very few weak points in this film.  I found it interesting, sad, and although I already knew what the outcome must be, it was still nail biting.

 

If you have the patience for well written films with zero explosions, I recommend this one be moved to the top of your list.  I really enjoyed it.