Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

I have been looking forward to this film for a very long time.  Some disclaimer, I am a little bit of a Godzilla fan, and even was tempted to road trip to BC to the filming there.

Now as a film itself, Godzilla isn't too bad.  It's fairly predictable in some areas, there are some plot
holes, not a lot of character work.  But the gem of the movie is what it contributes as a Godzilla movie. In terms of Godzilla movies, this is a strong movie, with classic elements from the original movie and continuing through the monster movies than fans love.  Yes, there is a take over with the American narrative and adaptation, but I feel it still remains true to both these elements.  

My only critique is that I really wish that there could have been more monsters fighting on screen.  Yes, we get to see the cities destroyed, and the human impact of the monsters.   But come on, you and I both know that half the reason we go is to see Godzilla fight other monsters, and that was a short fight, in my opinion.

So, for fellow Godzilla fans, I would totally recommend this movie. For other moviegoers, it is a decent movie, very interesting for those new to the Godzilla genre, and quite a treat to see. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2

I just saw the sequel to the Amazing Spider-Man, and I have to say, I am giddy with joy.  It truly was a joy to watch.  It has a different tone to it than the first movie.  While the first movie was more about origin, about self-discovery, and taking responsibility, this one is more about consequences, about learning the truth, and about growing up.  It is, in a way, a graduation.

The characters are well written, the plot a smooth continuation from the first movie.  I need to point out that some of the romance feels a little shaky in moments, but still feels very true to the characters and the story.

Overall, yes, there are some things that are seen in the trailers that aren't in the theatrical cut, but what I love is that the trailer doesn't have all the highlights of the movie.  The trailer only shows a few of the highlights, and with over 2 hours of movie, there is plenty of edge of the seat delight to be seen.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Hobbit in IMAX

I just got back from seeing the Hobbit, and while I have many other reviews on the go, I think that it's worth finishing this off while it's still fresh.

Okay, so this is definitely not the animated Hobbit I grew up on as a kid, nor is it completely original to the book. Peter Jackson's vision is to create a massive movie saga that works together, and the Hobbit is a part of that saga. As such, information and events depicted in the movie(s) may not have immediate obvious importance to new viewers, but works with The Lord of the Rings trilogy to create a coherent whole.

At least, that's the idea I'm getting. It's hard to tell with one The Hobbit movie out.
perhaps when the rest of the movies are complete i'd be able to review this better.

As it is right now, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an adventurous treat, full of action and humorous moments. I was quite pleased at what marks the beginning of the trilogy.

There is also the matter of the IMAX experience. People have been giving it quite a lot of different reviews. The image and sound quality in IMAX is magnificent! It truly brings the 3D medium alive. However, it is not without faults. Like early Real 3D experiences, I found myself having difficulty getting my glasses to focus properly all the time, and then to stay on my face so that they would focus right. Also, maybe it was the glasses plus the very crisp-maybe-too-clear images, but i did feel a little headachy and sick afterwards. I was able to stay for the entire movie, but my group noticed people around us who left in the first few minutes. Maybe perhaps technology has gone beyond human limits? Either way, for some people who get motion sickness, have sensitive stomaches and/or are not very experienced 3D moviegoers, the IMAX experience for the Hobbit can be unpleasant.

Of course, this does need to be tested out with other movies to see whether it is the Hobbit in specific or the commercial theatre system in general.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

I don't normally do this.  Usually when I seen something, I read or watch it, and then sit on it for a while, letting it sink into my head.  Not this time.  I've just come back from watching The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel. 

I was going to review the entire book trilogy, and then the movies, but I don't think I'm going to do that.  For one thing, it'll be too much time between reviews, and leaves out the excellent chance to do a brief comparison.  I usually don't do comparisons between books and film adaptations, but for this, I'll make an exception. 

First off, the book.  I read the book at the urging of my friends, and I normally don't read too many teen/young adult books.  I tend to find the themes and stories of self-discovery rather bland and unable to relate to me, even when I was a teen.

Somehow, I find it very unlikely that most teenagers reading The Hunger Games will be able to completely relate to Katniss Everdeen.  How many of us live in a futuristic dystopia, struggling to survive against governmental forced starvation, and then volunteer to participate in a battle royale death match for the spectacle of the ruling class, just to save your little sister?*
Yeah, not too many of us.

At the same time, this is a story that is about survival and the emotions of dealing with tremendous amounts of stress with a dash of relationship and self-discovery added in there.  And I do say a dash.  There is nothing terribly romantic, but it is very honest and bleak.    While there is a sense that the book is a sort of memoir and that Katniss survives, it exists subconsciously in the first person narrative.  The rest of the time, it is never certain whether she will make it, and if she does, what the cost will be.  I wouldn't call it gritty or dark, but it is emotional, heart-wrenching, breath-holding story of survival.

Strangely enough, I find this a refreshing change.

As for the movie...  okay, film makers, pay attention.  This is how you make an adaptation for a book.  Yeah, you can't follow the internal thoughts and emotions, so show them.  Show them, don't tell them.  And yes, there are a few changes and deviations from the book; it's reasonably needed in order for film format.  The changes were made to keep the important details in the story and worked with the story, added original parts presented the audience with information needed, and the parts taken out did not distract from the overall narration.

And in the end, it produced the same effect as the original.  I laughed, cheered and wept at all the same spots as in the book.  I walked out of the theatre feeling the same way I did when I put down The Hunger Games the first time.  It is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen, and an incredible film on its own. 

While I highly recommend both the book and film for readers and audiences looking for, well, everything I said above, I do have to put in a warning.   Both the book and film(s) may not be appropriate for people who are triggered from trauma and/or have a history of mental health issues.  The series does address these issues in its narrative, and due to the very emotional nature of the series, it kinda hits hard at times.  So be aware and stay safe, especially with young viewers.  This one earns its rating. 

Otherwise, enjoy!

*yes, it can be argued that there is sociology-economic-political commentary there, but those aren't my areas of expertise, so I'm not going to address it.  I'll leave that for the people who are better versed in such matters. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brendan and the Secret of Kells

Brendan and the Secret of Kells is otherwise known as just The Secret of Kells in some areas.   I have to admit, I'm a bit biased on this one.  I saw it when it came out in 2009 at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, and fell in love with its storytelling and art style.   Plus, I'm always intriguied by animation from areas outside my expertise, and this is a beautiful example.

The Secret of Kells is an animated film about the fictitious origins of the Book of Kells, a rather important piece of Irish history and heritage.  There are many theories on the origins of the Book of Kells, and the movie plays around with some of these in order to build a gorgeous original spin of a story.

The premise of the film is somewhat simple: Brendan, a young boy at the Abbey of Kells, ventures outside the safety of the walls in order to complete the Book, befriending the fairy Aisling and facing the dangers of Viking invaders.  However, the story and characters are well-made and solid, developing in a subtle and meaningful way.  They address serious issues and their own fears relative to their time period and relateable to the audience as they move through a rich celebration of Irish art and history as it unfolds on the screen.

It is a complete delight to watch.  I highly recommend it for families and everyone who loves to watch well made animated films.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ah, who doesn't love a movie that starts with a city blowing up? Akira is one of those movies that starts with a bang, and keeps at it for the entire film, starting with its plot and including it's themes and animation. In many anime circles, Akira is considered to be a classic and one of the defining moments in anime history. If you're interested in anime, it's usually required watching, not because a person may like it, but for educational purposes. It's kinda like Neon Genesis Evangelion; you watch it because everyone else has and makes reference to it, even in university lectures*. Except I think more people argue about Evangelion and like Akira more**.

Let me make something clear though: Akira is not a kids movie. Subject matter includes sex, drugs and teenage biker gangs beating the crap out of each other. Which then becomes exploding peoples heads and exploding cities. And that's the simple stuff.

Akira also boasts some interesting theories about where human knowledge and creativity comes from, theories which are dwarfed by the topics that occur in the seven huge volumes of graphic novel that the movie just skims over. The movie takes the basics of the original manga and condenses it into a compact but coherent and spunky whole.

Yes, subject matter can be a tad heavy, but Akira is in no way boring. Rather, it is packed with action, with a lively script and animation that has held up over time. Also, the voice acting for both the English and Japanese cast is really superb. I highly recommend it to viewers, anime lovers or no, new or old, who want something that will take them seriously, is fast-paced and full of action, and who aren't afraid of blood and gritty parts of reality.

I also recommend that you pick the language settings that are the easiest for you to follow along, because you really don't want to miss out for a second when watching Akira. 

*at least, they do in mine. But then, I went to a pretty progressive university with courses on cyborg fiction in English that included a lot of movies, and a course on comics in culture studies where we studied speed lines in manga and had Ty Templeton as a guest speaker.

** However, that's just my opinion.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sucker Punch

I have to review this one.  I'm not entirely sure how, but I have to.  It's one of those movies that, for better or for worse, you can never fully forget.  It is incredibly unforgettable.

Sucker Punch is purely a fantasy action movie, and doesn't even pretend to be rooted firmly in reality.  For that, I am glad, because if it were taking itself seriously with its loose historical inspirations for its depictions of mental hospitals and by extension, mental illness, then I'd have a problem with it. 

It takes the images and plot points that it needs from stark reality, and weaves them into a somewhat complex narrative and highly detailed graphics.  At least, I think it's suppose to be complex, but I'm pretty sure it's just the visuals that makes it seem that way.

The overall result, however, is an explosive string of action that really wants to be a video game.  Like, it really really really wants to be a video game, so much that it's not sure which setting and genre to place its cast of scantily dressed girls.  But given how brutal the "reality" scenes are, I don't think I can blame it.

And honestly, I'm not entirely sure how I really felt about Sucker Punch when I walked out of the theatre.  There were parts that were just sheer action and eye candy, and parts where it seemed to hint at a deeper meaning behind all the un-sugar-coated reality.

So you can watch it for the action, and you can puzzle over the subtleties, but I know one thing for sure: this movie is not for children or the faint of heart.