Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Purple Rose of Cairo Review

I highly recommend the first 73 minutes of this film to everyone.  I was greatly enjoying pretty much every minute of it, from the concept to the characters to the dialogue to the plot points, but the ending kills it.  The film is beautiful in just about every way, and it is honestly hard to believe that a movie this awesome exists, but the ending kills it.  After the film ended, I pounded my fist against the wall, and I had to restrain myself from punching the wall with all my strength.

Perhaps Woody Allen was going for a more realistic ending, since in real life, things don’t usually work out perfectly, but nothing about this movie can be taken seriously since the premise of the film is a movie character coming out of the movie into the real world.  (This is a neat concept for a film, but it could have been done poorly had it not been for Allen’s writing that really made the story work well.)  So, there is no reason to give a comedy of this nature a serious ending, especially one that is so disappointing and dissatisfying.  A sad ending is okay sometimes, but an ending that throws away the viewer’s emotional investment by saying, “I guess it never really mattered much anyway” is repulsive.  I’ve noticed that Woody Allen has had a sub-par ending for just about every movie of his that I’ve seen, but this one was an easy fix that he neglected to handle well, which I find, in professional terms, yucky.

35 The Purple Rose of Cairo

A Christmas Story Review

I meant to have this up by Christmas day, but unfortunately I got very sick, and wasn’t up for writing anything.  Also, I would have a spoiler warning, but it seems there is no need since everyone has seen this movie before.  As many have noted before me, everyone has livedthis movie before.  It effectively captures the experience of being a child during Christmas time, while also adding elements that are plausible or desirable, which fit in perfectly.  This is one of those great movies that should not work, and yet it does.  The plot is loosely connected, the protagonist’s goal is unimportant, the pacing is odd, and there are interruptions (daydreams) periodically – and it still works well.

There are flaws, however.  I am always bothered when family films, particularly those clearly inviting children to watch them, contain elements that may not be appropriate for children, and this movie does have that.  A lot of the jokes are rather weak, which would be bearable if the jokes kept coming constantly, but the film is actually pretty slow.  It is difficult for me to stay focused on the film since it has a pace that is bordering on too slow for me and my ADD.  The unconventional structure also makes it hard to stay into, but that can only be prevented to some degree since the nature of the story is purely a child’s Christmas experience.  I also have issues with the film purely because I can’t totally relate.  I didn’t want a gun as a kid, nor did I get bullied, or get bad grades, or lie much really.

Still, I understand why this is a Christmas classic.  It’s just not one of my favorite Christmas classics.

34 A Christmas Story

Harry Potter 7 Review

(MINOR SPOILERS)


Yeah, I got tired of writing out the full titles.  They’re really long.

Anyway, the seventh film in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One is dark.  By about the third or fourth film, it was clear that this series was not for the children anymore, but now this is especially true.  It’s time to bring back beloved characters, bring back characters we didn’t care about and make us love them, and then finally kill them off.  It’s also time to bring back old Umbridge, who unfortunately does not get her heart ripped out of her body and her skull bashed in in this film, but I can dream.

It is more fun to see our heroes in the Muggle world than in a Quidditch tournament, so that’s a plus.  There’s basically no Hogwarts or Minerva McGonagall, and there’s hardly any Snape or Dumbledore (despite the fact that this would be a great time to learn more about these two characters, particularly the latter.)  I have heard that, in the books, there’s a lot more information about Dumbledore revealed, but the movie is not focused on him.  The upside to this is that there is more time spent with the main characters, and the lack of Ron means more time focused on Hermione, who is, in my opinion, the most interesting character in the franchise.  I would like it if the films would go into her background a little more, and I’d like to see her brain at work, solving mysteries and showing off, but I guess you can’t have everything.

I do believe that this is one of the films that does not have the charm of the first two movies in the series, but the interesting details that are revealed, the focus on the main characters, the interesting drama, and the fascinating plot make it a nice film overall.

33 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

I’ll try to keep this review simple and spoiler-free.

It’s funny how I’d give Cap 2 about the same rating as Guardians of the Galaxy, but for completely different reasons.  Basically, Guardians worked because it was silly and fun, and it knew how to handle that.  Cap 2 worked because it was dramatic and mysterious, and it knew how to handle that.  I generally like my super hero movies to be light and fun, but this one just keeps the audience engaged in the mysteries of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its enemies, and I felt compelled to try to figure it all out.  The drama between characters strangely works because it is handled very carefully, and the light banter between Cap and Black Widow is brilliant.

It’s hard to say why I’m not giving this film a higher rating, but even though I think the stressful time I was having while watching it (for unrelated reasons) may have skewed my view of the film, the fun, colorful feeling I like a superhero movie to have (see Guardians, Burton’s Batman, ‘66’s BatmanDoctor Who: The Movie, Big Hero 6, etc.) just isn’t there.  It feels rather pale, like it’s trying to look a little bit like The Dark Knight in terms of lighting and color.  While there are certainly fun moments, the movie might be taking itself a little too seriously overall.

If you like a movie that keeps your mind working and is packed with surprises and suspense, you’ll enjoy this one.  (Just be sure to catch up on the Marvel films that precede it – otherwise it won’t be half as fun.)

32 Captain America - The Winter Soldier

THG: Mockingjay – Part 1 Review

(MINOR SPOILERS)

Wow.  Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.  Wow.

It takes a lot for a movie to have me this emotionally invested, in spite of the fact that I don’t personally identify with the main character all that much.  The film does so much right.  The acting is very good, as usual, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “animation” is unnoticeable in just about every scene (with the exception of his first scene, oddly enough).  The music works, the lighting works, the editing works, the cinematography works, and it all fits together nicely.  The sets are really impressive as well, though it’s hard to tell which were built and which were just CGI.

The story is intriguing and well-built, with good twists and turns, even though a few of them are somewhat predictable.  It’s clever and delightful, at some points making me beam with excitement, and at other times just about bring me to tears, which hardly ever happens.  The pace is a little slow for my taste, and the humor is lacking, but this is not a comedy, so I guess that’s okay even if it makes the movie less appealing to me.  The focus on the marketing and propaganda involved in war is delightful, making this film of particular interest to me since that is the element of war I find most fascinating.  The ending, as other reviewers have pointed out, is really its biggest problem.  I fully agree with Doug Walker that the second film in the series cut at just the right time, and this one did not – it really needed to cut sooner.

Despite my minor issues with it, it’s a good movie.  Even if you’re not into action or war movies, just as I usually am not, it is still totally worth seeing.

31 THG Mockingjay - Part 1

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Review

Boy, is this a tricky one to review.  I saw this movie for my first time this past Thanksgiving night on Netflix, and I had no idea it was a Thanksgiving movie until I started watching!  I love coincidences like that, but in movies, coincidences have to be handled very carefully (segue, segue, segue).  Planes, Trains, and Automobiles does a remarkable job at playing up the absurdities of its continuous coincidences, and making the disastrous circumstances as funny as possible.  From a writing standpoint, it is a very well-built film, which is uncommon for a movie that is essentially a series of things going awry.  The acting from Steve Martin and John Candy, who were on top of their game in this film, is perfect.  The film also has some great attention to detail, cool shots, fun cameos, and a very nice ending.

The problem that I have with it, however, is that it requires laughing at the suffering of the protagonist.  One could argue that laughing at the pain of others is the essence of comedy, but as Mel Brooks said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”  In other words, if something bad happens to you, it’s tragic from your perspective, but funny from mine.  Similarly, in television, film, and other media, it is easier to laugh at the suffering of those with whom we do not identify.  Since this movie made me empathize with the main characters, it was difficult for me to laugh when they were suffering because I “felt their pain.”  So, I found the movie kind of uncomfortable.

Regardless, I am impressed with the film and its ability to take a rather common kind of comedy story, and make a special one of a very high caliber.  It’s just what one would expect from John Hughes.

30 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles