Tag Archive: Movie


Arrival – Review

At first glance, Arrival may seem like your typical alien invasion movie. It certainly has the setup for one, with twelve alien ships landing down on 12, seemingly random cities, and each country’s government sending out their military and a small team of scientists to figure out what the aliens are here to do. However, Arrival sidesteps a majority of alien invasion tropes, instead, offering an emotionally driven and thought provoking story with an final revelation that will fill you with wonder.

As previously noted, the setup is fairly simple. There are twelve alien spaceships that have all landed on Earth at the same time, over twelve random cities. Thankfully, this did not result in a full out attack by either side. Instead, the US government, as well as the rest of the world, decided to try to communicate with the alien species, referred to as Heptapods.

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Amy Adams as Louise Banks, standing in front of one of twelve alien spacecrafts

The only problem is their language is completely different from that of any human, so the government brings in Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who has previous experience working with the government to translate classified intelligence. From the beginning of the movie, Louise is haunted by the loss of her daughter, Hannah, to a rare disease. While probably not intentional, it is reminiscent of Up, so yes, it is an emotional beginning. We later see flashbacks to Hannah, and how Louise’s memories of her daughter help her remember little things that clear her mind and aid in her translation and communication with the Heptapods.

Louise is teamed up with Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, who initially seems to be there to offer a scientific perspective, but for most of the film is there as a sidekick to Louise. I particularly enjoyed the role of Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), because he played an intelligent character. Whereas lesser movies would make the military presence exist to essentially fight the aliens, he is fully on Louise’s side, taking the time to listen to her and understand her point of view. I fully enjoyed how these characters were all mature and intelligent, making them all likable while still being well defined.

Don’t expect anything to move at too fast of a pace here. The movie is a slow burner, spending a lot of time between Louse and the Heptapods, as she deciphers their language. This leads to an actual theory in the field of linguistics known as Sapir-Whorf , which in the context of the movie, implies Louise may be perceiving the world around her differently by being so consumed by the Heptapods’ language. This is an intriguing concept and is effectively woven into the story of Arrival.

There are times when the movie decides to broaden its scope beyond Louise and Ian, but it doesn’t work as well as I would have liked. Television news broadcasts show turmoil in various cities, with riots and looting happening all over the world. A few countries get less and less happy with the alien presence, and some bad translations and lack of understanding how they perceive the world compared to humans leads to the third acts final conflict.

arrival

One of the many words translated throughout the movie

Coincidentally, this is when the big revelation occurs, which I will not even hint at, but can confirm it was pleasantly unexpected. This is likely due to the fact that I have watched a lot of science fiction movies and was expecting something somewhat uninspired to occur. Thankfully, this is not the case, and I do not believe I have seen such a profound final act in a science fiction movie since I watched Contact (though, I hear Interstellar has quite the ending as well). I can’t deny the ending did have one rushed element that did not make a whole lot of sense, but it did work, it just felt a bit rushed.

Ignoring some issues, the ending brought together themes of unity and perception as well as the notion of free will. Surprisingly, nothing was left up to interpretation, and the conclusion was very fulfilling. I was left in chills, being both overcome with wonder, happiness, and sadness after seeing how every thread was neatly tied together. This is science fiction at its finest, presenting big concepts and following through in a well thought out and mature manner.

If you value science fiction that is more than explosions and action or if you appreciate a truly emotional drama, I cannot recommend a better movie this year than Arrival.

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Suicide Squad Review

There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of this summer’s Suicide Squad movie, and a lot of it centered around Jared Leto’s interpretation of the Joker. But does the movie actually live up to the hype? Well, it’s not as clear cut as a simple yes or no, but suffice to say, it remains entertaining for the majority of the movie.

As the trailers have shown, the government creates a group of villains to go and fight against threats that require the use of meta humans (what DC refers to their super heroes as, even if they aren’t all genetically different, such as the case with Deadshot in this movie or Batman in the DC universe) and if anything goes wrong, they can be blamed. So, a group is assembled by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis), who is a no nonsense woman and she is going to get what she wants by any means necessary. She is ruthless and always in control.

squad goals

Squad goals, as long as you don’t really want to know half of your squad

 

That control leads her to knowing how to control these super villains. But who are the super villains? First up is Deadshot (Will Smith), a hit man who never misses his target. I had reservations about Will Smith playing a villain, I simply never pictured him being a bad guy. Luckily, he’s not a ruthless killer, and has a backstory involving his daughter who he wants to get back to. He is also really funny, and they knew how to take advantage of his comedic side for this movie.

Then there’s Harley Quinn, former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum turned lover of the Joker. Margot Robbie does a respectable job as the popular character, though, she can’t ever seem to maintain her accent, which goes from mild to heavy New York City without warning. We never really are told how/why she falls for the Joker, and there was some confusion with parts of their back story, but as a whole, they worked well together. She’s quirky and fun, and together, her and the Joker are a good pair for future movie appearances.

Which leads me to the Joker. The much anticipated, controversial, and hyped portrayal of the classic villain. How did he live up to expectations? With just a mere 15 minutes of screen time (if that), he nearly stole the show for me. Yes, he has all the tattoos, but they weren’t distracting or even that noticeable (at least the face ones weren’t) during the movie. It’s his personality and charisma that has led me to believe he will be nothing short of fantastic in a Batman movie (I’m hoping for the Batman movie to be a prequel of sorts, so we can see what the Joker did to Robin, which was briefly alluded to in Batman vs. Superman). However, with all of the promotional material highlighting the Joker, it really is a shame he had just 15 minutes on screen. Surely, there must have been a way to have given him a lot more time and woven him into the plot more.

joker harley car

Joker and Harley all like, where’d your scenes go Mr. J?

 

There were also some other characters, including Killer Croc (a guy who looks like a crocodile and can breathe underwater), El Diablo (can create fire and had a really exciting reveal at the end of the movie), Katana (she has a sword that traps the souls of those killed by it, but she sort of just showed up right before the mission), Captain Boomerang (he throws a boomerang, exciting), and Slipknot (he climbs things, really, that’s it). And they’re all led by Rick Flag, who was handpicked by Waller to lead the mission (Waller also got him to fall in love with June Moone, who is possessed by an evil witch by the name of Enchantress, also part of the Squad). So yes, there are a lot of excess characters, mainly Boomerang, Slipknot, and Katana.

While the characters were pretty entertaining, the actual plot wasn’t. Yes, there’s a lot of action, but it doesn’t feel that exciting most of the time. The most tense scenes were Joker flashback scenes (notably one in a club with him and Harley). The actual mission led them to having to fight an evil being, whose motivation wasn’t very interesting, and her backstory was paper thin. Adding to that, the villain (purposely not saying who it is, but you can probably guess) decided her weapon to destroy the world would be a big blue, glowing energy storm, which could have shown up in pretty much any sci-fi movie in the past decade. This made the whole journey a bit disappointing. Luckily, the characters interacted well together, and for the most part, the comedy worked well. I just can’t help but feel there were multiple opinions on what direction the movie should go in, resulting in some awkward pacing and tonal changes.

joker and harley at club

Never knowing what the Joker will do next

At some points it would be very stylistic, taking advantage of the movie’s soundtrack nearly anywhere it could  (I don’t think I have ever heard so many songs played in a movie) and using fun camera work. Then other parts it would become oddly plain. Out of all the DC movies so far, this one suffered the most from its grey color palette. There is also one line of dialogue the main villain says at the very end that felt really out of place and awkward, especially considering the little backstory we are given for the character.

Ultimately, as an introduction to the DC cinematic universe, the main characters – Deadshot, Harley, and Joker – had a strong introduction. Each with interesting personalities, a lot of charisma, and the studio should be happy they are also big names. It was nice to see some more comedic elements, especially since they worked well. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t able to live up to the characters, but fortunately, the characters made up for that. Now the wait for a solo Batman movie begins, and hopefully it will have the Joker in it.

The only thing I knew about Me Before You prior to seeing it was it had a pretty solid cast (Emilia Clarke, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Charles Dance were my standout stars). I knew the main character, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) was paralyzed, in what turned out to be a rather convenient turn of movie events to get the story rolling. However, I was optimistic, given the cast. Thankfully, that optimism paid off.

As previously mentioned, some pretty quick and simple events happened with the first five minutes to get the story started. I won’t give anything away, but if you have seen the trailer, you will know Will Traynor is paralyzed, with limited movement in two of his fingers. This allows him to still be able to move in his electric wheelchair using the control stick on the armrest. He’s not the most

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Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) and Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) 

inviting person, which isn’t wholly a surprise, given his current situation.

Across town is Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), a small town girl, trying to help out her family (she lives at home with her parents), and as Will likes to say, she has a lot of potential. She needs a job, finds Will’s parents are looking for a Carer for him, and then gets the job. She’s fun, energetic, talkative, friendly, and has an eccentric choice of clothing. Fairly basic setup, and I think you all know what will happen next.

Yes, it is true, there’s not much in the way of originality here. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Not every movie has to break new ground. Instead, this movie allows the actors to take center stage. Unlike in Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke is allowed to show emotion in Me Before You. Yes, there are the heartfelt moments, which she does well with, but more impressively, her eyebrows steal the show. It really is like they have a mind of their own. I now apologize if you see this movie and can’t stop being distracted by that.

Without going into major plot points, the main question for a movie like this is: does the viewer care about the characters? For the most part, yes. Of course you will feel bad for Will. We learn he is usually in pain, either physically or mentally. He doesn’t easily open himself up to others. We see him start to open up to Lou, which is nice, and she becomes attached to him as well. Again, all very typical, but still enjoyable to watch. Luckily, the movie leaves room for some comedy, often in the form of sarcasm from Will or socially awkward situations created by Lou (and her unique outfits). Truth be told, they both have good chemistry. And then there are the funny moments when Lou’s boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis) is jealous of Will or going on about running some sort of triathlon in Norway.

635899219648350647-MBY-07030r.jpgMidway through, you do basically know the ending. At that point, it becomes more about the journey. Luckily, there are plenty of entertaining scenes to keep the viewer interested. However, the actually ending doesn’t fully take advantage of the weight of the situation. The film discusses an important topic, but it is rarely explored, instead focusing on the relationship between Will and Lou. Sometimes Will’s parents, played by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance, start to explore moral and ethical issues, but that quickly gets pushed to the side. The better moral issues are brought up by Lou’s sister, Katrina (Jenna Coleman) and her dad, Bernard (Brendan Coyle), but they are more to do with whether or not Lou should continue seeing Will (both professionally and emotionally).

I know I said not all movies have to be groundbreaking, and I still stand by that. I enjoyed the characters, their development, and their relationships with each other. It would be a lie to say I did not feel for these characters, especially in the second half of the movie. I actually enjoyed the majority of the movie. While I am not familiar with the book the movie is based on, I cannot help but feel their was a missed opportunity to address a topic that isn’t often addressed in movies. My only other issue with the movie was the use of so many pop songs. They felt awkwardly placed and at times too loud, making it hard to hear some of the dialogue.

If you want to see a well made and heartfelt movie with some genuinely funny moments, this will not disappoint. Every actor is very well cast and they become their characters (I still found it amusing to see past Emilia Clarke and Charles Dance not being mortal enemies like in Game of Thrones).

Me Before You succeeds because of its characters and their chemistry. If Lou wasn’t eccentric her character could have fallen into the territory of forgettable. Instead, she’s fun and the audience can root for her. We want her to succeed in bringing Will back to the world. At the same time, it is easy to understand Will’s point of view. Again, I have not read the book, but as a movie, I was entertained throughout, which ultimately is the reason I go to the movies.

Somehow I managed to miss Silver Linings Playbook when it was in theatres and have managed to miss it since then even though I have owned it since August.  I feel really bad for that because this movie is really great.  It’s like a dramatic romantic comedy or something like that.

Essentially, Pat Solitano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and starts the film by being signed out of a mental hospital.  When he gets home his father, Pat Sr.  (Robert De Niro) is

And so it begins

And so it begins

surprised to see him since his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) signed him out without telling his father.  Still, they’re glad to have him back and simply want to keep him safe.  After a few days he meets up with his friend Ronnie (John Ortiz) who invites him to dinner.  While there he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Ronnie’s wife’s sister.  She too is in therapy and prescribed medication, and while she never really says what it is all for she does let us know it is at least partly for her depression.

Alright, enough synopsis, I don’t want to give too much away.  After a while they become friends, mainly so Pat can get Tiffany to send a letter to Nikki, his wife, who has a restraining order on him.  This makes the movie somewhat depressing, because he can’t see there’s no hope for their marriage and in the meantime it is clear he should really just move on and be with Tiffany.  She makes it obvious it’s what she wants and she also understands Pat, despite his lack of a filter for when he constantly brings up her dead husband.  It’s not like she isn’t equally awkward and it’s rather funny when they both bicker about how out of place and crazy each other are.  They both want to be with someone and it takes them a while to figure out how to do so.  Tiffany relies on other people for temporary happiness but really she’s just pleasing them (keeping it PG here) and not herself.  There’s a wonderful scene when one such man comes to Tiffany’s parent’s house (she lives in the converted garage in the back) and Pat delivers a rather chivalrous speech (for lack of a better word) to him about how it is wrong to take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable state.  The best part is it’s in front of Tiffany’s parents, who are sick of these men coming around and at first believe Pat is one of these men, but they eventually come round and all is well.

It’s difficult to dislike either of them since they really are good people, just troubled.  They’re booth a bit out of control and they know it and they want to control it and they learn they can’t do it without each other.  Sure, they first bond over the various prescriptions they’re on or at least should be on but they eventually find they just make each other happy, and not the kind Pat thought he had with Nikki, which wasn’t really that good, but the kind they both always wanted.

He gets it

He gets it

But wait, I forgot the most important thing, the movie takes place in Philadelphia!  I absolutely love how the first time we see Pat’s father he is complaining about DeSean Jackson throwing the ball away at the one yard line.  As a lifelong Eagles fan it is something I’ll never forget and it was great to have that moment come up in a movie.  I will admit they went a bit overboard with the Eagles fan stereotype.  I have been going to the games for twelve years now and have never seen any sort of racial fight break out like in the movie.  As the years have gone on there have been substantially less fights and to be honest, last year was incredibly flat and this year didn’t pick up with fan morale until Foles got in there.  I guess maybe they wanted to try to bring back something from back when but it felt out of place and just kind of a lame way to start a conflict scene.  But it was cool to see people with Kolb jerseys on and having everyone make fun of the Cowboys fan throughout the movie.

Anyway, back to the actual movie.  The ending is really fun and energetic and there’s a cute little scene rewarding us for rooting for Pat and Tiffany.  It’s not a profound movie or anything and I have no idea how accurate the portrayals of bipolar and depression are in the movie, but then I’m not looking at this to be that sort of movie, it’s more or less just there to allow the characters to be appropriately awkward and vulnerable.  They’re good people that are rough around the edges and we can like them for that because doesn’t that describe most people?  Tiffany says how they’re true people that don’t hide who they are and it’s that honesty which makes them and the movie so likable.

Her Review

Every so often a movie comes around that is so simple yet profoundly affective it sticks with you for a long time.  That is what Her accomplished.

At its heart, Her is a story of being happy.  While this is shown throughout the movie between the main character Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), Theodore’s recently

Just Theodore and Samantha at the beach, no big deal

Just Theodore and Samantha at the beach, no big deal

purchased operating system, it is Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore’s friend since college, who drives the theme home as the movie progresses.  Nonetheless, the movie focuses on Theodore and Samantha.  Theodore is coming off a big breakup (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer) and it has been a while since he’s dated, and in fact he really can’t find the desire to date anyone or commit to anything long term.  Instead he spends his time mainly alone, which doesn’t do much in terms of keeping him happy (which has caused some concern for a few of his friends we do not see on screen but try to get him out of the house).  So on his way to work one day he decides to buy the first self-aware operating system.  And so she names herself Samantha and their relation begins.

Now, Samantha obviously has no body and that becomes the best part of the film.  Theodore never knows if he should be in a relationship with her.  Yes, they really enjoy each other and find it difficult to not think of the next time they’ll be together (which isn’t that difficult since the future is Microsoft’s dream gone by for Windows 8 and apparently every device is run by the same OS).  As their relation progresses it doesn’t seem that strange, but that’s because we know them a bit more at this point, what about everyone else in the world of the movie?  Well, we don’t get to know that, but Theodore thinks about it.  He’s happy with Samantha so why not keep it up?  There could be a list of questions at this point, but I’ll spare you, just know the list likely crossed Theodore’s mind a few times.  I found myself feeling sorry for him at times, wanting him to move on and just have fun again.  When he eventually finds a smile again it is fulfilling not only for him but for the audience.

Again, that’s what the movie is about: finding someone who makes you happy and not caring what anyone else thinks.  During the course of the movie there is a part when Amy tells Theodore something along the lines of how life is too short not to be the the people that make you happy.  I love this message.  Yes it is simple and we’ve heard it a thousand times, but it seems like the majority of times we hear it is in an average romantic comedy because someone cheated or they had a fight and they’re told by a friend or some random person how life is too short and so on.  In those movies it rarely feels genuine and instead is just a lame plot device to have an over-the-top ending in which the guy does something crazy to win back the girl.

Amy and Theodore at Amy's place

Amy and Theodore at Amy’s place

Her presents characters grounded in reality, facing real problems and resolutions.  Samantha not having a body explores human emotion in a new and interesting way, raising the question of what it means to be human and what it means to love and care.  Having Amy as a friend feels real.  Not every person you meet is going to be a relationship and their friendship is what seems to keep them going the further along them movie goes.  They make each other happy and isn’t that all that really matters?  Finding someone who gets you without judgement.  Someone to be there to help you and for you to help.  Relationships don’t need to be advertised all over the world or the internet or whatever, they just need to make the people involved happy, whether it be in love or friends.  Theodore discovers this throughout the course of the film, as he tries to let go of the past that can only bring him sorrow, and along the way look at himself and how he can make himself happier.

Note: I found this a surprisingly difficult film to review in fear of giving anything away, but just know, this is an amazing film and it should not be missed.

The Conjuring Review

To call The Conjuring a horror movie is to call every movie in a dark room a horror movie.  It does have all the ingredients: dark rooms (as mentioned), ominous clouds, birds flying into windows, and of course a demon.  This is all well the-conjuring-trailer-poster-movieand good, and together creates the proper atmosphere.  Additionally, the camera work has some very good moments, such as when the camera zooms in while panning (simple, yet surprisingly unsettling).  However, the movie never really leaves the safe zone.  However, do not think this is a bad movie, as it really is not a bad movie, and is actually rather entertaining, it’s just not a good horror movie (if this doesn’t make sense please keep reading).

I guess by now it is an industry standard to have every horror movie include an evil/possessed girl that appears out of nowhere with black teeth and black blood dripping out of her mouth and generally being a bit disgusting (just think the makeup effects used in the remake of Evil Dead).  So then does The Conjuring, and when I say industry standard I mean it since she literally does nothing to progress or add to the plot.  Fine, I’ll look past it, because the rest of the demons and ghosts do serve a purpose, and for the most part they’re implemented well. 

As far as the story goes it’s actually not bad and is well told.  Characters are likable, which goes a long way towards the movie trying to make the audience feel for them and their unfortunate situation.  The movie even avoids a potential love interest getting in the way of things, which I am grateful for.  There are two sets of characters: the Warrens and the Perrons.  First the Warrens, who mainly consist of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga, who gives a very good performance, redeeming herself after Bates Motel), a married couple that happen to be ghost hunters.  Their back-story is limited, but I believe that was done intentionally, which works out well in the case of Lorraine’s story, making it more unsettling than it would otherwise be.  Then there are the Perrons, who after moving into an old home soon discover the old home is haunted by an assortment of spirits and demons.  I was relieved to see Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) as a well written character, as horror movies don’t seem to often have believable characters or would opt to have his character simply ignore all that is going on until something big happens to him.  He trusted the judgement of his family and while skeptical at first, he was never rude to the Warrens.  Now, not as much can be said for Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) whose character won’t be difficult to figure out if you have watched any of the Paranormal Activity movies.  Then there are all the Perron kids, who never get in the way, help progress the plot, and are well acted, but by having so many kids some of them ended up on the sidelines not doing much.

To say it was a bad movie would be a lie, but it’s not a good horror movie.  There were very few actual scares.  It seems like the movie wanted to be more of a drama but ended up having to jump through some obligatory horror ropes to get there.  At times there was reason to believe the movie was going to touch on the human reactions and emotions of such an event, but then it quickly jumped back to walking in a dark room or basement.  Another factor holding it back is the length.  Coming in at just under two hours there’s not enough time to fully develop the characters and run through the horror scenes.  I would have loved to have seen some more talking scenes with the Warrens, as they had some pretty interesting moments before getting to the Perron’s home. 

I would recommend seeing this movie, as it is a good time, but it fails to realize its full potential, and that’s disappointing, because we could have had a horror movie that dealt more with characters than a jump scare or loud noise.

Side note, the style of the early 70s-late-60s is awesome and should come back.

Time for a Best of 2012 list, here we go!

Movie: Les Miserablesles miserables

I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into this movie, but after seeing it twice now I can honestly say it is the most emotionally moving movie I may have ever seen.  I say this because I’ve known the music and have seen it live on stage before but not until the movie have I been as moved.  At first I was disappointed when songs were cut and some were shortened, but once I watched the movie I didn’t feel like anything was missing (though, why was Eponine not in the last song like she’s supposed to be?).  I fear that alone may have given away too much for anyone who has not watched the movie, so I will simply say to see this movie, even if you don’t like musicals you should give this a chance.  Also, Russell Crowe isn’t nearly as bad as people say he is and Hugh Jackman arguably has the lowest point when he has to try to tackle “Bring Him Home” (true, it’s not an easy song to sing, but I find it best just to go with it, which I did the second time and it was less noticeable, which is good advice for anyone who knows Les Miserables, don’t go into this movie trying to compare it with the stage version or you will miss out on some of the emotional impact).  And Samantha Barks as Eponine, simply amazing.

So, brace yourself for one of the most emotional yet brilliant movies of the year.

Trailer, possible spoilers for Eponine and Marius:

Television Show: Doctor Who

Why Doctor Who would be  a good question, after all the first five episodes of the latest series have been average to bad.  However, the Christmas Special overshadowed all the nonsense threads that were never resolved throughout the last two and a half seasons.  I’ll just pretend like the unsolved arcs never happened, and that’s mainly due to Jenna-Louise Coleman as the new companion, Clara _____ _____ (I fear saying her full name will create a good amount of spoilers).  Unlike pretty much every companion since the reboot (except Donna), she has a personality (really, how many more times could show runner Steven Moffat copy and past Amy slapping the Doctor and River saying the same lines over and over?).  She’s fun and a lot flirty, but more importantly she’s smart and not afraid to challenge or be challenged by the Doctor.  Speaking of the Doctor, I hope he continues to be more serious throughout the season, as he started to become far too goofy and was more of a bumbling fool than he should ever be.  I say bring on the rest of series 7, after just one episode the show may as well now be considered a reboot of the reboot.  The show feels alive again, and I’m glad Moffat was able to look past prior mistakes and hopefully start with something fresh and new.

Album: Silverthorn

Bombastic, epic, and emotional, that is Silverthorn.  After the departure of lead singer Roy Khan it was going to be interesting to see how Tommy Karevik would be as Kamelot’s new singer (for those who do not know, Kamelot is a power metal band from Florida).  The album marks the band’s tenth, and first with their third singer, Karevik.  Formerly of progressive metal band Seventh Wonder, it was no secret how diverse his voice is, and with it he brings a new dimension to Kamelot.  With what seems to be common with new singers, the album tends to play it safe with him, but after listening to the ballad, “Song For Jolee” it is clear there is a lot of potential for their next album.  Silverthorn is a concept album that admittedly is a bit difficult to follow, but luckily there is a short story book provided with the special edition that helps clarify the songs. Musically, it is their best album since The Black Halo, which was three albums ago.  Rather than just being another album, Silverthorn feels more like a rebirth of the band.  They have clearly started on a new path and have shown a continuing growth and maturation in their music.  To call it a metal album is unfair, because when one says metal it is easy for people to assume Metallica or Black Sabbath, but this is more, for as the band has grown so has the difficulty of categorizing them, so I’ll leave it by saying if you are a fan of film scores or Tran-Siberian Orchestra then you too should be interested in this album.

Notable guest singers include Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist), who have both appeared with Kamelot on tour.

Kamelot Live with Elize Ryd performing “Veritas” from Silverthorn:

Pop Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen

While this year had Taylor Swift whining about some boyfriend again, Katy Perry going on and on about being divorced, Rhianna pretending to sing, Nicki Minaj continuing to try and stay in everyone’s mind, and Lady Gaga… well I don’t know what she was doing, which is probably a good thing as it means she was being productive and working on a new album.  However, in the mix of all of this there was Carly Rae Jepsen came out of nowhere with “Call Me Maybe.”  She’s not sparking any controversies, isn’t riding the same old gimmick, she’s just releasing fun singles from an almost solid album, Kiss (the second half falters some, and Justin Bieber should not have been on the album).  Her newest single, “This Kiss” has a stronger dance feel and continues her fun image.  It is refreshing to have a pop star who is not involved in a scandal or some sort or switching boyfriends every other week.  I for one am glad none of her slow songs have yet to become a single, as her upbeat songs are always fun to hear on the radio.  Here’s to hoping she continues to have success in 2013.

Video Game: Far Cry 3

This was a tough choice, as there really weren’t many standout games of 2012.  Sure, there were big titles like Mass Effect 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3, and while I highly enjoyed both of them, neither captured me as much as I had hoped.  Far Cry 3 (FC3) really does feel like the advertisements say, and that is a modern era set Skyrim.  Hear me out, Skyrim is very light on RPG elements and basically just lets you update a few skills here and there, which is essentially the same as FC3.  What really impresses me about FC3 is how much better it is than FC2, not to mention the gorgeous looking tropical island setting (and I’m only playing it on the 360, I can only imagine how nice the PC version looks).  Having hunting serve a purpose is also nice, as Assassin’s Creed 3 has it there for really no reason and so does Red Dead Redemption.  If you want a world with a surprisingly good amount of lore, solid voice acting (well, the main character whines a lot but the rest are very good), a nice collection of guns, and the best sand box since last year’s Skyrim, FC3 is the game for you.  Also, the last battle sequence has the most over-the-top music, you’ll know when you hear it.

Trailer, note there is a good amount of language and gun play involved here, but it is a mature rated game:

 

Well, for the sake of being short I will wrap up my 2012 review here.  Yes, a lot of other things have happened, but chances are they’re somewhere throughout the rest of the blog or aren’t worth mentioning (i.e. why are there three Hobbit movies or the Eagles season which should have been 1-15, but I’ll ignore that).

So here’s to 2013, let’s see what awaits us this year, which having a 2013 should be enough as the world was supposed to end not too long ago.

 

To be honest, I didn’t like the previous movie in the trilogy, The Dark Knight.  I thought it was very lacking in plot and it just seemed to drag on forever, especially by throwing Two-Face who didn’t do much of anything.  However, I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises substantially more than its predecessor.  This is in large due to better plot progression revolving around Bruce Wayne rather than the villain.

I would argue that Batman is Brett Farve, because it always seems like Batman is retiring one minute and then the next he’s back in the action.  This is how the movie begins, with Wayne having given up being Batman, but soon enough he is back cleansing the streets of Gotham.  But first he decides to follow Catwoman across the city.  I don’t know if I really like how she is implemented in the movie, because she’s not there often, but when she is there I was hoping she’d be there longer.

At the same time I didn’t seem to care when the villain, Bane was on screen.  Now, I know special effects are everywhere in the movie, but the really annoying part was how Bane’s voice was mixed in a bass heavy way making it difficult to understand him in a movie that is already heavy on the bass.  More importantly, his character was not interesting.  The past two movies there was Scarecrow and The Joker.  Both interesting villains and the movies allowed these villains to develop.  However, Bane never does much developing and his back story was just sort of there and felt thrown in to create a twist at the end (a rushed twist, but a twist).  Ignoring the lack of development, after you tear away all the superficial stuff, Bane’s super villain plan isn’t all that super villain.  I won’t be surprised if his ultimate evil plan is the same plan a generic villain will have in an action movie this year.  Though, it wasn’t all bad, as Bane wasn’t useless or anything, he just wasn’t as interesting as past villains.  In all honesty he was interesting until a last minute twist made him a lot less useful.  This leads me to a tough situation, as I didn’t like the second movie due to the lack of plot but this movie’s lack of a villain makes me question which one I’d rather have a lack of.

I still think I’d rather have a lack of a villain.  Batman was rarely in The Dark Knight Rises, and I enjoyed seeing Wayne for once.  Yes, the first movie does, but that’s an origin story, so it’s not like it is anything major we have not seen before.  Not to say his story in this movie is complex, but it’s a fitting story of basically getting over the past in order to do what is right.  It may sound cliche, but it’s a superhero movie and a very well acted one.

The Dark Knight Rises is dripping with atmosphere.  We’ve come to expect nothing less, but here it’s taken to a new level.  Unlike the past movies, the action here takes place during both night and day.  The final act is mainly during the day, and the bleak winter setting mirrors the dire situation Gotham is in yet again (at this point wouldn’t it be better just to move?).  Just for good measure a sunny day scene was put in there, but by then it feels awkward since the rest of the movie is shrouded in dark.

If you pay attention you’ll end up noticing a large inconsistency towards the very end of the movie, and I’m sure there are other plot holes.  Some of these issues arise due to a lack of character development, not only with Bane, but with Catwoman.  Rather than trying to explain anything about her, the writers thought it would be better to have Batman/Wayne simply say something along the lines of there’s more to you and then cut to the next scene.  That’s a cop out, but I guess they didn’t want to break the three hour mark.

The ending was particularly jarring, and it’s obvious somebody wanted to force a happy ending.  Not only that, but an awkwardly placed potential for a sequel sneaked into the final moments.  I know Batman is popular amongst kids, but this is supposed to be a more mature take on Batman, and rather than having a more daring ending, we are left with a rather simple ending.

Ultimately, The Dark Knight Rises is my favorite of the new Batman movies.  It has its shortcomings, but an interesting plot, fantastic effects, strong use of atmosphere, and a strong cast made it a very good superhero movie and summer blockbuster.  I appreciate the ambition of these movies, but it seems like they could have drawn this out into two movies in order to properly explain all the characters or maybe less characters would have worked.  A story following Wayne brings it back to reminding us he really isn’t super, he’s just a normal (granted super rich) person trying to help the city he loves, and that human element makes The Dark Knight Rises more compelling than many other superhero movies.

District 9 Review

Anytime I see Peter Jackson attached to a movie in any way I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a drawn out movie (King Kong) or a poor movie adaptation (The Lovely Bones).  Yes, he did very good with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but since then it seems he’s been running off that success without matching it.  It seems as a producer he didn’t introduce these problems to District 9.  Director Neill Blomkamp (who along with Terri Tatchell wrote the movie) clearly knew how to control the pacing of a movie without drawing it out. 

Prior to seeing the movie I recalled the commercials, which weren’t very clear on what type of movie it would be, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I don’t think I was the only one feeling this way, as the movie itself didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be.  Most of the time it focused on being a social commentary of sorts, showing how humans would react to aliens living right next door to them.  In theory this isn’t a bad concept, but the execution seemed like it tiptoed around issue.  Most of the time the government was not involved, which is a shame since world governments would probably have a lot to say about a giant space ship full of aliens showing up.  I was hoping for some discussion such as in Torchwood: Children of Earth when various political leaders had a heated discussion with the the Prime Minister.  Instead the movie has a lot of clips of local people around the alien camp and a few professionals from researchers to the main character’s co-workers.

Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is our protagonist, works for Multinational United (MNU) which is basically set up to control the alien population since the government is apparently useless.  Nearly everyone else exists as a collective antagonist.  We get both the generic company mastermind who is all for killing and experimenting on aliens and the cliche-to-the-max leader of the soldiers hired by MNU (really, I don’t think this guy knows how to think, all he does is run around shooting stuff).  Somehow the movie manages to get past this (though, I’m confused why not a single person at MNU (scientists included) or the government did not want to try to talk to any of the aliens.

Merwe ends up being a very interesting character, as he has a lot of screen time and appears to be the only character written with any thought.  I can’t remember a fictional protagonist I’ve recently watched that has gone through so many horrible situations in such a short period of time.  This is when the movie shines, as it goes into a somewhat generic but entertaining story of friendship between the two most unlikely people.

At its heart, the movie seems to really want to be a social commentary.  But the ending falls a bit short, as the last twenty minutes are non-stop action, which admittedly I zoned out during since it was obviously just put there to please those who wanted it to be an action movie.  For the other two hours I was hooked, and was glad to see an alien movie when the aliens weren’t there just to blow up Earth.  Though, it would have been nice if they did more than simply have the humans wanting to blow up the aliens (though, it seems every alien weapon literally blow up people, just leaving a cloud of red, which got old rather quick).

All in all, it is a good movie that tried to be too many things, and fails at trying to add elements (such as action) to please everyone, but is substantially more successful at doing what it was written to be, a drama.  Maybe one day there will be a science fiction movie that realizes it doesn’t have to involve a giant action sequence or intergalactic war.

Nowhere Boy Review

I’m always a bit nervous when sitting down to watch a movie about a famous person’s life.  There’s always a chance that it’ll end up trying to make it just on the fact of having a famous person portrayed in it.  However, this is not the case for Nowhere Boy, the story of a young John Lennon.  That’s important, because it is not a story about The Beatles, or even about the early formation of the band.  Sure, it has Paul McCartney in it for most of the second half (and he’s a pretty nice contrast to Lennon, much like their music balances each other out) and George Harrison is there for a few minutes, but at its heart the movie is about Lennon.  Before I go on I have to say I was amazed how similar the actors – Aaron Johnson (Lennon), Thomas Brodie Sangster (McCartney), and even the members of Lennon’s first band The Quarrymen– looked to the people they were meant to represent.

The days when dressing like a hipster was mainstream

Going into the movie knowing nothing of Lennon’s early life (aside from his first band and some other music related information) I was surprised to see his family life.  Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) is possibly the best aunt in any movie and amongst the best parent figures I’ve ever watched on screen.  She makes you understand her being bitter and abrupt because when the smoke clears she always comes through and shows her caring side.  By the end of the movie, and by end I mean very end, I really did feel for her.  Though, I can’t say as much about Lennon’s mother.

I won’t give anything away for those who aren’t aware of Lennon’s early life, but I think a quote by his mother, Julia will help fill you in on what type of girl she was in her younger days:

“Do you know what it means, rock ‘n’ roll?  Sex.”

Needless to say, she was what I would politely refer to as promiscuous.  Then somewhere along the line she seems to have gone a little kooky and her relation with her son ends up being awkward to watch.  Still, it is an interesting relation, but one that is never fully addressed.

The movie has a problem of getting caught up in being too artsy at times, making some sequences make you wonder why they’re there.  Particularly, there are donkeys in Lennon’s dreams/flashback sequences that seem to serve no purpose other than being artistic or something (kind of like but not as annoying as the lizards in Nic Cage’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans).  Luckily there are very few of these types of scenes, but there is another problem.  At times the pacing feels awkward and forced.  It’s obvious there were a lot of ideas and important moments they had to work with, but some of them either just pop up or there are sporadic mood swings by characters just to continue the plot.  Yes, this may seem like a big complaint, but as a whole, these moments don’t take away from the drama and emotional connection between the viewer, Aunt Mimi, and Lennon.

Is this a perfect movie?  Well no.  Is it an emotionally involving movie that makes you forget it’s a John Lennon movie?  Yes, and I like that.  I didn’t want to sit there and watch him go collect band mates, fly over to America, be famous, and all that stuff.  Seeing the drama made it more personal, and because of that made it more accessible to those who are not big fans of The Beatles (such as myself).  At the very least, you will definitely come away from the movie with a greater appreciation for Aunt Mimi’s influence on Lennon’s life.

As a side note, this movie definitely has the most amount of smoking I’ve seen in any recent movie, it’s like an inside joke or something amongst the cast, as I don’t think there’s a solid minute of screen time without someone smoking.