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Brave (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Brave (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Animated Feature Film (Brenda ChapmanMark Andrews).
Watched April 28, 2013.

When it comes to kids’ films, Brave is pretty good.  When it comes to Pixar films, it doesn’t quite meet expectations.

 

The animation is nothing to complain about–it is the absolute beauty that we have come to know and respect from a Pixar film.  However, except for Cars 2Brave almost hits the bottom of my list of watch-worthy Pixar films.  I was more than excited when it came out in theaters–Pixar’s first female lead is a fiery Scottish red head who wants to ride through the glen shooting arrows instead of getting married.  The story is indeed what holds this film back, and I hardly felt it was worth 93 minutes of my time.

 

Perhaps my expectations got the better of me when it comes to Brave (and who can blame me with the song they chose for the trailer–see below).  It starts out well enough, following a predictable yet charming and entertaining storyline that is very well in line with the trailer.  Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald)has a long, unruly, incredibly red mane of hair that goes deep down into her soul.  While her father is distracted by hunting bears and telling the story of how he lost his leg, her mother is preoccupied by making a lady out of her daughter, who is in fact a princess.

 

As is true in many royal situations, and other cultures besides, Merida is going to have an arranged marriage, although the method of choosing her suitor is rather barbaric and the candidates are bleak.  They participate in games to win her hand–such as throwing heavy objects and other manly displays.  Merida is furious with both of her parents, but most especially her mother.  The two of them have a strained relationship, fueled by both who refuse to see the other’s point of view.

 

I won’t say much else about the story, else I should give away some major plot points, but it is the rest of the story that I was very disappointed with.  There needed to be some way to solve the situation.  If Merida lay down and accepted the marriage, she wouldn’t have become a Pixar leading lady.  However, there needed to be some way to bridge the communication gap between herself and her mother, and frankly I found the results a lot more childish than most Pixar blockbusters.

 

There are a few twists and turns in the story that don’t lend much, and actually weigh down the plot, although I cannot embellish lest I give too much away.  Therefore I will leave you with this: the animation, colors, and scenery are all beautiful.  The music is fairly good, and although the men are all one dimensional, they were my favourite bits of the film.

 

If you enjoy Pixar, I would say that Brave is probably worth seeing at least once, but there are a lot more films on my list to watch before I would see this one again.  Maybe I can satisfy my need for more Celtic culture in my life by listening to the song from the trailer (“Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’ Chuain” by Julie Fowlis) over, and over, and over again.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Melinda Dillon), Art Direction (Joe Alves, Dan LominoPhil Abramson), Directing (Steven Spielberg), Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Music-Original (John Williams), Sound (Robert Knudson, Robert J. Glass, Don MacDougallGene S. Cantamessa), Visual Effects (Roy Arbogast, Douglas Trumbull, Matthew Yuricich, Gregory Jein, Richard Yuricich).
Won Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond).
Watched October 22, 2012.

 

 

[This review contains spoilers.]

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, like Star Wars, is another sci-fi film released in 1977 that was nominated and won awards for its achievements.  It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year and held records for a good while.  This is, of course, thanks to Steven Spielberg, his incredible understanding of the craft, and his abilities as a story teller.  I, for one, will forever be a fan of Spielberg, not necessarily for his out-of-this-world artistic abilities, but for his all encompassing domination of filmmaking as a whole.  Although certain aspects of Close Encounters are dated, the majority of it withstands the test of time far more than its counterpart, Star Wars.

 

If you have guessed correctly, like I did, Close Encounters is a film about aliens.  Similarly to other such films where extra terrestrial life visits Earth, you don’t actually see the aliens themselves until the end of the film, although you see a good amount of their ships.  Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is your average blue collar worker with a wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and three children.  When there is a huge power outage one night, he is called into the field, but once he has a unique encounter with one of the ships, he turns off his radio and decides to chase down the aliens.  He is completely obsessed, even once they have gone, preoccupied with a pyramid shape that he can’t place.  A woman he met the same night, Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) is just as preoccupied, but when her son Barry (Cary Guffey) is taken, her terror leads her to chase down her visions of the mountain.  Roy’s obsession eventually makes him so crazy that his wife leaves with the children.

 

Meanwhile, a group of scientists have been tracking and communicating with the aliens and have discovered that the lifeforms have been sending them direct coordinates to Devils Tower in Wyoming.  They immediately evacuate the area, and it is the television coverage of the panic that clues Roy and Jillian in on what their visions have been of.  They both rush to the area, of course meeting up and driving recklessly into the military protected national park.

 

Unlike many alien movies of our day, Steven Spielberg’s aliens are friendly and curious.  Although they have taken many people over the years, as well as accepted voluntary travelers, they seem like they too are merely scientists wishing to understand, explore, and experience.  This also differs from the films in the 70s and before.  The typical storyline is, of course, that their world is dying, they are feeding, or they simply want to terrorize the planet.  Spielberg’s creation, although also suspenseful, is much different with much better special effects, which are perhaps two of its best traits.

 

As far as performances and characters, I thought everyone was phenomenal.  Dreyfuss is very convincing–his crazy is very realistic and because we know his experience was legitimate it is probably less weird to the audience than his wife, although at the climax of his meltdown it is easy to understand and sympathize with Ronnie.  She begins as very loving and supportive, although clearly worried.  At first I was surprised that she might actually be so loving that she completely upholds her “in sickness and in health” vows without question, but she eventually cracks and opts to protect her children by removing them from the situation.

 

I would definitely recommend this film.  It is more lighthearted than recently viewed films, but certainly has more depth than Star Wars.  Even if you have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind before, it would definitely be a good choice for this Halloween evening!

Sources: Classic MoviesZap 2 ItIMDBRotten TomatoesHorror NewsNY Times

The Shore (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Shore (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Live Action Short (Terry George, Oorlargh George).
Watched October 19, 2012.

 

Unlike many of the critics, and the Academy itself, I was not such a fan of The Shore, particularly after seeing Raju last week.  The imagery of the film is absolutely breathtaking, but the script and acting were fairly lacking in comparison.

 

Joe (Ciarán Hinds) has been living in the States for the last twenty-five years and has not been back to Ireland since “the trouble.”  He finally brings his grown daughter back with him after his wife passes away.  Everyone is incredibly pleased to see him, but it is soon revealed that his daughter Patricia (Kerry Condon) doesn’t know much about her father’s past, like the fact that he was in a band, or that he hasn’t spoken to his best friend since he moved away.

 

The story with Joe and his daughter is so slow moving and dialogue driven that it throws off the pace of the entire short.  Condon’s acting doesn’t help the situation.  Joe tells the whole story of how he lost his best friend, Paddy, and how his secret ex-fiancé is now married to his ex-best friend.  Patricia then convinces him that he should visit Paddy and set things right.

 

My favourite aspect of the film (I prove that I am a huge romantic, yet again) was the relationship between Paddy (Conleth Hill) and his wife Mary (Maggie Cronin).  There is no doubt that they have an amazing amount of passion in their marriage.  Their chemistry is out of this world, which in turn casts a blinding light on the lack of chemistry between Hinds and Condon.

 

The Shore is a half-hearted comedy and a half-hearted drama–it never successfully scores in either direction.  The timing is off, most of the characters have little depth, and the lines are so transparent, it’s a wonder the actors could pull anything remotely Oscar worthy out of Terry George’s winning piece.

 

If your opinions tend to be more in line with the Academy when it comes to shorts, or if you would like to catch a glimpse of Ireland’s beauty (which is expertly captured, might I add), then by all means you should search out this film.  Otherwise, I would not recommend it.

 

Sources: Album ArtIMDBRotten Tomatoes411maniaOpinionlessPaste MagazineReeling ReviewsSmells Like Screen SpiritThe Independent Critic

Tempest (1928) Review | Jamie Daily

Tempest (1928)
1st Academy Awards 1929
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Art Direction (William C. Menzies).
Watched October 17, 2012.

 

The sun is setting on silent films, but is also setting on John Barrymore’s illustrious acting career.  In a performance that is reportedly more mellow and controlled than his norm, which is something that flies well in today’s audiences, he once again plays in a romantic film.  He is a sergeant in the Russian army and is studying to become an officer, something that has not happened in years.  To a society that had World War I fresh in its memory, a film about Russia and the fall of its aristocrats was common, although in Tempest, it is easier to feel sympathy toward the Czar.

 

Sergeant Ivan Markov, although he is socially a peasant, has somehow gained the favor of the General (George Fawcett) and is therefore granted a review.  Despite the Captain (Ullrich Haupt) being very anti-Markov, Markov is impressively promoted to Lieutenant and, in an incredible display of affection, the General gives Markov his old epaulettes.  In a recurring role, a greasy, wide-eyed peddler (Boris de Fast) discourages Markov constantly throughout the film, telling him that Russia will soon belong to the people and that the aristocrats will never truly accept him.

 

Here we introduce Princess Tamara (Camilla Horn), daughter of the General, and an extremely proud woman.  Our first glance of her is during Markov’s review, when she asks her father if a man could be more perfect.  This implies that she is a fun-loving, kind woman, but this opinion is quickly corrected.  Prior to Markov’s official promotions, his fellow Sergeant Bulba (Louis Wolheim) steals the clothing of two bathing women from another soldier and upon intending to “return” them, Markov reprimands him and takes the clothes back himself.  Inevitably, it is Tamara bathing and her fury is very evident.  Markov, however, is a little dense and suddenly thinking himself in love, he kisses the princess.  This leads to his persistent (and incredibly creepy) chasing of the princess, even at her birthday party.  After being rejected, Markov drinks too much, and in search of the wash room, finds himself in Tamara’s bedroom, where he falls asleep on her bed next to the flowers he intends to give her.  When the princess finds him, she rings for help, and the General arrests him in a fury.


Markov is stripped of rank and sentenced to five years hard labor, which is quickly increased to solitary confinement.  The princess suddenly feels remorse and affection.  When the aristocracy finally falls, the peddler is revealed as a heartless leader.  He breaks Markov from prison with Bulba at his right, gives him a fur coat, and lets him sit at his left while dolling out death sentences to anyone who supported the Czar, literally ripping children from the arms of their mothers and throwing them in front of a firing squad.

 

Many movie critics often talk about the suspension of reality, which I generally find very annoying because unless it is a documentary, it is always just a representation of an idea and therefore is not reality.  However, when it comes to Tempest, I will wholeheartedly say that in order to enjoy this film or think it remotely romantic, you will probably have to accept that it would never happen in real life.  Markov was very creepy in his initial affections and I don’t blame the princess for not encouraging him whatsoever–too much positive reinforcement and you create a stalker.  She doesn’t show him any kindness until the end of the film and therefore it is a wonder Markov can think his affections are love.

 

The artistic qualities of the film are hard to see, due to damaged film, and the end of the film is very fragmented because it is so severely irreparable.  There are a lot of scratches, bubbles, and dirt that cloud up the picture, but if you can look beyond it to the elaborate sets, you might be able to see why Tempest won the award for Art Direction.  William Menzies was in competition with such films as Sunrise, therefore his achievements must have been well appreciated at the time to conquer such a running mate.

 

All things considered, I would not recommend Tempest.  I found it intriguing how I rooted for the Czar and the aristocrats so much, but it is possible because none of their characters were creepy, but instead genuine and believable.  Beyond that and the sets, there is little to recommend the film.

 

Sources: The Silent Movie BlogClassic Film UnionIMDBClassic Film GuideSlant MagazineSean Axmaker

The Artist (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Artist” (2011)
84th Academy Awards, 2012
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 5.
Nominated for Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo), Cinematography (Guillaume Schiffman), Art Direction (Laurence Bennett and Robert Gould), Film Editing (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michael Hazanavicious), and Writing-Original Screenplay (Michael Hazanavicious).
Won Best Picture (Thomas Longmann), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Costume Design (Mark Bridges), Directing (Michael Hazanavicious), and Music-Original Score (Ludovic Bource).
Box office: $44.7 million (Rotten Tomatoes).
Watched: May 2012.

The Artist is a 2011 French film.  It follows an actor named George (Jean Dujardin), who is quite famous for his work in silent films, from 1927-1932.  However, when the “talkies” come into existence, he is out of the job and sits by in misery as his cinematic journey falls out from under him. The world he once knew is thundering along in the wake of innovation as he drowns in nostalgia and alcohol.  To add salt to the wound, his near-prodigy, Peppy (Bérénice Bejo), who he encountered and encouraged as an extra and chorus girl, finds huge success as a heroine in talking movies.

 

Directed by Michael Hazanavicious, “The Artist” is much more than a French film.  It is a parody, a film noir, a genius and complex cinematic nod to all the greats of the past, including Charlie Chaplin and Citizen Kane (Telegraph).  It is also, much more simply, a black and white silent film.  It is a love story.  For anyone who loves when actors act with their eyes more than their mouths, this is a great film to watch.

 

That being said, I did not care for it as much as I had anticipated.  The overall story and theme was very cookie-cutter and predictable, which was very yawn-inducing on my part.  For the entire first half hour, I was wishing that it was a short film instead of an impossible 100 minutes long.  However, past the first half hour, it gained my interest through cinematography and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of the main character (Darjardin).  There is one shot done of a set of stairs that is absolutely breathtaking.

 

You do not have to be a film buff to enjoy the artistry of this film.  However, if your main film interests are 007, I would suggest staying away from “The Artist” unless you are feeling particularly sophisticated and want to impress your friends.  At the same time, it is definitely a film to add to your repertoire.  If you are a fan of Charlie Chaplin in the slightest, take a couple hours out of your day to dive into the past with this witty French cast.  It is probably worth watching the entire film just to see the dance number at the end!

Have you seen “The Artist?”  What were your thoughts?

 

Sources: wikipedia, rotten tomatoes, telegraph.co.uk.new york times

 

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