The Forest (2016)

Released: January 8, 2016. Directed by: Jason Zada. Starring: Natalie Dormer (times deux), Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa. Runtime: 1 hr 33 min.

The first wide release of 2016 came in horror film The Forest, also the first top billing role for Natalie Dormer (TV’s Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I).

The Brit is tasked with playing the roles of identical twin sisters. Sara stays home in America, while the other, edgier Dormer (Jess) goes to teach in Japan. When word travels to Sara that Jess went venturing into Japan’s infamous Suicide Forest, she travels to Japan to look for her.

The forest at hand is a real place – Aokigahara is its official name – which lies at the base of Mount Fuji. It’s been depicted a couple of times in film, like in SyFy Channel horror flick Grave Halloween and Gus Van Sant drama The Sea of Trees.

Dormer carries the film mildly well, but her range doesn’t make it feel like she’s convincingly creating two different, twin characters. There’s nothing that really seems to separate them – but that could also just be because of poor character development.

When Dormer’s Sara gets to Japan, she meets Aiden — portrayed by Taylor Kinney – a travel journalist who is going into the Suicide Forest for research. When he realizes he can make a good human interest story out of Sara searching for her sister, he invites her along. Guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Owaza) brings them into the forest, as he’s usually the one to go in during daylight to retrieve any deceased people.

The suicide forest might be the only interesting aspect about the film. The story itself is just wandering around the woods, deliriously searching for a point. When it seems like the story is straightening itself out and actually getting towards a satisfying climax, it turns in a new direction and just loses all sense it might have found.

Dormer’s Sara really isn’t all that interesting, either. Her dedication for her sister is nice but also blind and stupid in ways, insistent on staying in the woods overnight in case Jess returns to her tent. I mean, if she wanted to see her sister again, all she has to do is slap on some eyeliner and look at herself in the mirror. And if Jess would have stayed on the path, all might have been peachy.

The thought of the forest and its frightening intent should instil dread, but it doesn’t. There’s more a sense of psychological torment here and it’s an honest snooze. The premise really should work, but it just doesn’t. This might lie in its complete reliance on jump scares. It’s like the film broke a leg at the beginning and needed that as its crutch.

It really should have used its supernatural spin in a more convincing way. In folklore, no spirit truly dies in the forest and their spirits live on in the forest – and that’s why it’s creepy – but this concept wasn’t terrifying enough in the story.

The Forest2

Natalie Dormer in The Forest (Source).

And supernatural horror is the Japanese horror specialty – so maybe this would be better in their hands. Maybe a remake will be in our good fortunes.

This American take is just drowned by a dreadful screenplay. It brings an intriguing story to a mainstream audience, but its execution fails it. It’s very well-filmed because of the lush landscapes, but really, even a snuff film is going to look beautiful if it’s shot in a forest like this.

It’s convincing that we’re watching them navigate through the Suicide Forest — though we’re just watching them go through a forest near Tara Mountain in Western Serbia.

It’s still very pretty, even when they had to film some of it in a former warehouse. That’s the magic of cinema, folks.

Score: 40/100

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The Giver (2014)

The GiverReleased: August 15, 2014. Directed by: Phillip Noyce. Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep. Runtime: 97 min.

Note: Sorry for the font inconsistencies – I really couldn’t figure out how to fix it. 

The Giver starts out exactly like Divergent; with a basic review of what this futuristic community is like, followed by a ceremony where occupations are chosen for each citizen at their 18th birthday (where those in the premise of Divergent were put into different groups of basic personality traits). The second similarity is a love story – which is interesting to think this was a thing in Young Adult literature circa 1993, so not much has changed – but it’s essential to the narrative. These similarities are where they begin and end.

This is a unique young adult novel adaptation because it depicts a perfect world (a utopia, rather than a dreary dystopia in The Hunger Games), one with no violence, pain, suffering, differences or choice. A young man, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites in his first big starring role), is chosen as the Receiver, a position chosen every ten years or so – and it is a position in which he will become the future Giver – to assist the elders with making decisions for the community. You see, the Giver (a mesmerizing Jeff Bridges) has the most knowledge and experience in the whole community, because he holds all of the memories of the old world. The one with hideous violence, but also wondrous beauty.

I think Brenton Thwaites’ (OculusMaleficent) performance is actually memorable because he is different from his peers and not absolutely robotic. He brings some humour to his character, and hope to his peers. Jeff Bridges as The Giver is great because of his love of life and his need to get beauty back to the community. He also brought a welcome amount of humour to his character, though I am almost convinced he’s still stuck in the voice he used for Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. A charming young Israeli actress Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) portrays Fiona, and is also notable for how well she captures her character’s fear and natural curiosity for change. Taylor Swift portrays one of those characters who play a crucial role in a character’s development but only show up for five minutes. A scene she shares with Bridges and a piano is just lovely.

I think these performers set themselves apart from the rest because everyone else just feels so plain. Especially Cameron Monaghan and Katie Holmes who are both quite boring. Alexander Skarsgård is still boring, but less so than the others. These characters, and every other cookie-cutter citizen, are all about never lying and using the precision of language – so for example, if you want to ask someone if they love you, you must ask instead if they “enjoy” you. At times I wondered if this is what the modern grammar Nazi sounds like.

One enjoyable technical aspect is the utilization of black and white film – which is about half of the runtime, but the other half is in colour. You might notice as the film progresses that B&W and colour are used more and more as a storytelling device to set the film’s tone. Black and white scenes are more robotic and plain, while scenes in colour are usually captivating and intriguing. The more it got into the heart of the film, the more I found myself enjoying it – after a very boring first twenty minutes (though the final minutes left me dissatisfied). One more comment on the technical aspect – the cinematography is absolutely stunning, in both B&W and colour. The Giver is filmed in South Africa, where the settings and nature complement the film’s quality and beauty.

It’s an ugly truth in this premise that in order to have no violence, one also has to surrender race, religion, uniqueness, decision-making, and emotions, among other things. This community is created by characters who focus on the hideousness of the old world, and want to shelter the citizens from it. This character – mostly the Chief Elder – is portrayed by an adequate Meryl Streep. However, the citizens are also being sheltered from the beauty of the world – namely colours, sunsets, and double rainbows. Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society said, “…The human race is filled with passion… Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” That quote does not describe The Giver‘s community, even though it is considered a “perfect” community. Even though our world has violence, one can escape in the beauty of everything around you. It has poetry, romance, love, beauty – but most of all – creativity, and that sounds like the true perfection to me.

Score67/100

Divergent (2014)

Divergent...Released: March 21, 2014. Directed by: Neil Burger. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd. Runtime: 139 min.

Timing’s an important thing to consider when releasing any movie. With Divergent, one must consider if we truly need another post-apocalyptic YA novel adaptation while The Hunger Games still reigns supreme. I think it makes it easier to compare them, even though they’d still be compared if this were released after Hunger Games concludes its franchise. Perhaps by 2015, this wouldn’t be as successful – it seems people are already feeling fatigued from all of these post-apocalyptic young adult novel adaptations.

Divergent follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) whose identity crisis begins when she learns she’s a Divergent, which are members of society who don’t fit into the five factions of this dysoptian Chicago. They threaten society because they’re impossible to control. The film is basically about how Tris is going to fit into society, and she has to pick a faction to become a functioning member of society. She chooses Dauntless, and meets her mysterious boy toy Four (Theo James), and together they must find out the secret of Divergent’s before it’s too late.

Now, I’ll briefly describe the factions. The Amity are farmers who portray kindness. The Abnegation (Tris’ faction of origin) the governing faction, portray the trait of selflessness. Thinking of them Amish, since they don’t believe in vanity, might be a good way to remember them. The Erudite’s trait is intelligence, represented by Kate Winslet’s character. The Candor are brutally honest people who say whatever’s on their minds, so I call this faction the No Lawyers Allowed club (geddit?). The Dauntless, the faction Tris chooses, work as the police force – and their trait is bravery. I think of them as major adrenaline junkies. It’s funny that we’re already seeing Divergent personality tests across the web. (Apparently, I belong in Abnegation or Erudite.)

Anyway, the government believes that by dividing people into factions they will be easier to control, because they can only obtain one basic personality trait and do what job best suits them. The government doesn’t allow them to exercise free-will, either. I think it’s better portray all personality traits, but that’s a no-no, apparently. A lot of this film goes against basic human nature, especially the ‘faction before blood’ mindset. Screw that – my family comes first. The film brings about themes of fear, conformity and individuality, and the writers’ thoughts about these themes are mildly intriguing.

Divergents are also threatening because, since fear wakes them up, they’re a threat. I like the idea the idea of how one must choose their path at an early age (Tris and her brother choose the same day, so it seems it’s between 18 and 21 years old), no takesies backsies, even if they grow as people and change. (A single drop of their blood drops into the faction bowl of their choosing, so that’s official.) Do you choose to stay in your own faction and stay with your family or part ways? Do you really know your true identity at 18 years old? That’s one of the film’s most fascinating aspects, and the most compelling idea the film has. Though, The Lego Movie is a better exploration of conformity out of 2014 films.

I think this would be a good time to get the inevitable comparisons to The Hunger Games out of the way. I think this film’s Divergent member of society is “Hunger Games‘ Mockingjay. Both of these films are essentially about dysoptian futures and overthrowing the government. I think Tris Prior is a more likable protagonist than Katniss Everdeen, but not a stronger character overall.

Katniss is great, but too Condor-ish to be completely likable. Then again, that’s the point but it makes it so much greater when she shows her vulnerable side. Tris is a good character who stands up for her beliefs and other people, which sometimes brings attention to her when she’s trying to show that she’s someone in society who isn’t hard to control. Woodley portrays her well and heart-warmingly in a few scenes. I think her bravery’s admirable, and I’m curious to see how some of her decisions affect her in the sequels. Woodley, a dynamic actress, has a lot of personality. It seems to me that a challenge for her as an actress would be to be antagonized by a character portrayed by Miles Teller (playing yet another douche), who she has a close friendship with – and was his romantic interest in last year’s “The Spectacular Now.” She seems honestly hurt by some of the things she says, and I like that vulnerability.

As for Theo James’ Four, the character is described as “mysterious” but it feels more like “he’s mysterious because he’s under-developed.” James is forgettable in his role, and his character isn’t anything special. I think the chemistry shared between him and Woodley is believable, but he’s not that great. He’s just there because of the way he looks, sorry for being too much of a Condor with that one. Everyone’s pretty well-cast, from Ashley Judd to Ansel Elgort, but it seems that a lot of these actors just have so little screen time, especially Maggie Q who just gives Tris a tattoo and monitors the dream tests. One antagonizing character is Jai Courtney, who just takes pleasure in bossing people around as a trainer in the Dauntless faction, but he’ll get on your nerves after awhile. So much time is spent in training to be a Dauntless that there’s not much time for anything else. This is really just an initiation film to introduce the characters. I assume the fact that they only foreshadow that there’s something lurking outside the city’s walls suggests they will explore it further in the sequels.

I think the finale is underwhelming, but Neil Burger (who doesn’t bring much style to the film) really does direct the action-packed finale well. Throughout the film, there are a lot of dream sequences, and there’s a serum that allows one’s images in their head to be portrayed on a monitor; I want that serum, because I’d love to rewatch my dreams. There’s another futuristic invention where it doesn’t hurt to get a tattoo, so since I don’t like pain that’d be nice – I could get the Bugs Bunny tattoo I’ve always wanted. There’s a very fun game of Capture the Flag with guns that simulate the pain of real bullets (it makes me think of that paintball version of CTF in Child’s Play 3) and a crazy zip-lining sequence that enables some great imagery and cinematography to take place. The score also fits the film like a glove. Technically speaking, this all looks great – and it’s epic in scale – but only a stern pretty good in many other aspects.

Score63/100

Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone SurvivorReleased: January 10, 2014. Directed by: Peter Berg. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster. Runtime: 121 min.

“Lone Survivor” is a war film that truly expresses how far one will go to survive in a life-threatening situation. It’s like that example commonly used where if a parent sees their child in danger, their protective instincts are going to take over, and if the act requires extraordinary strength, they’ll probably get the necessary adrenaline rush to do so. Sometimes the adrenaline rush doesn’t always help, but it helps give people hope for that situation. This film depicts the courage and survival instincts of the men of Operation Red Wing, a US Marines operation to capture and kill a notorious al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, who had killed twenty U.S. marines weeks prior. The operation takes place in June 2005 in Afghanistan.

The group of marines who take part in the operation are Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) who go at it alone in stage one in the operation, to recon the area where Shahd is suspected of staying. Their knowledge is that the village has a small group of ten men, but what is really in the Taliban village is a small army. That isn’t the only thing to go wrong on the mission primarily, their position is surrendered when a group of goat herders stumble upon them. The moral dilemma of whether or not to kill them (two are kids) puts them a situation that will put all of their lives at stake.

It’s curious that it’s such a moral dilemma for them, whether or not to kill the two kids and old man who stumble upon them. The Marines didn’t want to commit a war crime, but it sparks a heated debate within the four men about what they should do about the situation. But they are Taliban, and the younger men are trained soldiers practically. One of them is a kid, but one seriously hard-looking one looks about 21 years old, no younger than one Petty officer on the operation. Anyway, at least these soldiers do have morals. I guess they wouldn’t clear their military psychology test if they were unstable in that way.

Lone Survivor 1

They do have to do what’s right for their country, and patriotism is a main theme of the film. It’s a rousing film about men fighting for their country, and that’s why I like war films; and the action make them pretty great, too, of course. It’s cool when they have attempts at humour, as well. This film has a few of them, notably during a scene where it shows how Petty officers gains respect from their higher authorities in the Marine corps. There’s a speech that is given by Alexander Ludwig (portraying Shane Patton, he’s a bit better than he was in “The Hunger Games”) where he tells them why he’s going to be a good Navy SEAL diver. Some of it’s good, some of it’s odd. I like the performances by the main four soldiers on this mission.

They’re all talented actors, really. Kitsch’s character is a big shot because he is a lietuenant; he’s good in my book because he likes “Anchorman”, too. Hirsch is particularly good in one scene, and generally good. I really like Ben Foster as an actor, and he might have one of the best lines in the film as far as I’m concerned. Mark Wahlberg just keeps getting better and better, too; I don’t mean to bore you readers with somewhat generic comments on main performances, but I like to give credit where it’s due. The courage these men they are portraying is so admirable, because they just keep fighting. I’m sure that’s why these talented actors were attracted to the roles.

Lone Survivor 2

That’s probably why so many were attracted to see the film. There’s a lot to like about it, but there’s also some stuff wrong with it. I’d have appreciated a different title so it would allow more suspense to take place. It’s still an effective and emotionally impactful film, regardless. It could have been called “Military Communication Devices Suck,” because they couldn’t call in their position to the base half the time, or even “Operation Red Wing” could have been an effective title.

Anyway, Peter Berg directs the film well, but I don’t like some of his creative choices. He uses slow motion way too much for my liking. He’s unrelenting with it, really. Some scenes are improved with it, for example when the soldiers fall down hills, he uses slo-mo at the beginning of it so it’s an interesting shot. Its effectiveness is hit and miss. There’s an archive footage sequence during the opening credits depicting cadets training to be a marine; it’s cool, but it’s not clear if it’s footage of the soldiers participating in the operation depicted of the film. There’s also a funny thing about this film; some films might start with a scene taken from the middle, but this one starts with a scene taken from part of the end! It’s a silly decision because this surrenders some suspense from the film, as well, but the third act is still stellar.

One more creative decision I wasn’t fond of: During a scene shared between Luttrell (Wahlberg) and Axelson (Foster), Axelson is asking Luttrell for a favour that is quite touching and one of my favourite parts of the film, and just before I can decide “Hey, is this worth a tear?” Berg interrupts it with a loud explosion! Come on, man! For action fans they might appreciate that the drama gets cut short, but it’s so sloppy to me because it was a great scene. It does depict the harsh reality of war and the suddenness of such violence, and how quickly these soldiers have to react to enemy fire. It’s realistic, but sloppy.

There are some surprises with the film, especially how gritty it is. The blood and battle wounds that cover these soldiers is really just heartbreaking. Even though this film is flawed, I think it deserves a re-watch for the great action sequences. One more thing: The sound effects of this war film are truly spectacular, there are explosions and gunfire going off every which way – and it feels like you’re really in the film with the soldiers.

Score75/100

My Top 25 Films of 2012

2012 saw some great films, and some real stinkers. I have seen 68 of them. These are my top 25 favourite films of 2012, and also the ten worst.

Oh and, some of these films don’t have the highest scores, but they’re higher up on the list. This is because some films (like The Hobbit) have grown on me a lot since I’ve seen them. Click on the title in the caption to get to review (and the titles in the ‘worst of’ list). Anyway, here’s the list, starting with #25:

Pitch Perfect is a fairly original (at least in cinema) and entertaining Glee-inspired musical comedy that may be predictable, but it’s a toe-tapping experience that has a fine plot, great music, some strange characters (most notably Lilly, a character who looks like that creepy big-eyed girl from Frankenweenie), show-stealing performers (like Bridesmaids‘ Rebel Wilson who portrays Fat Amy) and a memorable ensemble cast.

#24 - This is 40

#24 – This is 40

This is 40 is not quite as good as Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying sort-of sequel. This is sometimes over-dramatic because of the numerous conflicts, but it is driven by fresh, laugh-out-loud comedy that helps Apatow get the message, of overcoming family differences and a mid-life crisis, across very well. Laughs, conflict, and advertisements for iPhones, Apple products, TV’s Lost, and a good role for Megan Fox are all present.

#23 - Ted

#23 – Ted

Ted‘s screenplay may be crowded but we must understand that MacFarlane’s comfort zone is a mere 22-minute slot, while this is a whole 112-minute feature. The end product turns out to be better than anyone would think a buddy comedy between a talking teddy bear and an immature man could be, and Wahlberg and Ted’s chemistry help make this one of the best buddy comedies of the year. I’m excited to see what else first-time director MacFarlane has in store for the silver screen, and I say bring on the sequel.

The film starts out fairly slow, but once the games come around the bend, it instantly becomes intensely engaging and entertaining. The screenplay maintains the fascinating theme of propaganda [and how corrupt the government may become], but doesn’t capture the extreme violence that we fans handled in the novel itself, and there isn’t quite enough bonding time with select characters. The adaptation is nonetheless great, and since it was not followed to a tee, there is room for surprise. Anyone who is willing to accept this fresh experience will enjoy it, as it is a promising beginning to a new teen franchise.

Rise of the Guardians is a slightly flawed, but wildly inventive, animated adventure that may have some deeply thematic material and action sequences that could be midly scary for small children. The main flaw is the disorganized beginning – but it finds its pace soon enough. The concept is a sort of edgy animated feature, but is a great end product. This is one of the most original animated features of the year, mainly because of the alterations to the beloved Guardians, like making Santa Claus look like a Russian biker, are very fresh. This is a great message to teach the kids this holiday season – don’t only believe in Santa around his season, also believe in all the other heroes, at least when their time comes around the bend.

#20 - The Grey

#20 – The Grey

The dialogue of this film allows characters to be thoroughly developed and compelling concepts to arise. When the characters aren’t talking, it gets engaging and thoroughly thrilling. The anti-climactic ending says Carnahan has learned to resist throwing full-throttle action at us, and he instead resists the urge and keeps the astounding and exciting survival film as tame as could be. The mostly unknown actors make the spotlight shine directly on the star: Liam Neeson.

#19 - Lincoln

#19 – Lincoln

Spielberg seems like, at this point in his career, is interested in making ambitious biopics instead of blockbusters like Jaws. The intelligent monologue-filled feature intricately throws information at you, and at times it can be quite a bit to absorb, but it is usually engaging. The cast of Lincoln is impressive, most notably Daniel Day-Lewis, who delivers a kind-hearted, endlessly charming performance that adds layers to one of the greatest figures in American history. Day-Lewis captures Lincoln’s will to get things done, and his genuine and kind self.

Killing Them Softly is a clever mafia tale of violence and despair with a great leading performance from Brad Pitt; with his mysterious character delivering us plenty of violence to keep us happy. This tale is also a social commentary on the local criminal economy in 2008, before Obama stepped into office – the concepts are complex, but there are not difficult to comprehend. The not-so-subtle message may be annoying to some, but the story is very engaging. It is a thought-provoking film brought to life by Andrew Dominik’s stylish and artistic direction.

#17 - End of Watch

#17 – End of Watch

The abrupt ending keeps this from being flawless, but this is a stellar crime story with intelligent writing by writer/director David Ayer (who previously wrote Training Day) with some of the best chemistry I have seen all year. End of Watch does for the real lives of cops what Ladder 49 did for fire fighters, but it’s about twenty-six times better.

#16 - Chronicle

#16 – Chronicle

Chronicle is one of the most surprisingly amazing features of 2012. The rushed pace is its main flaw, but it is an awesome experience for the 84 minutes it stays around. It obtains must-see status because of its thoroughly thematic and disturbing content. It is the most must-see found-footage feature of 2012, perhaps of all-time.

Seven Psychopaths has a clever screenplay and is a fantastic second feature from writer/directer Martin McDonagh. It is equal parts brutal, brilliant and hysterical. It is extremely memorable and has great characters and a superb ensemble cast. It is one of the most original screenplays of the year, and it’s another comedy that proves 2012 is one of the best for that genre.

The story may have ideas crammed in the feature, it undeniably has a very emotional core. If the actors weren’t singing the vast majority of their dialogue, the film wouldn’t be quite as exciting or engaging. This combines a great period piece with a profound musical, and it makes this one of the best features of the year.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum create a superb chemistry, and this is one of the finest comedy ensembles of the year. The comedy is always funny, and this is the best action-comedy of the year. The real bite about this is that no one expected it to be very good, and yet, it is a hilarious and exciting ride.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan delivers us an impressive and atmospheric piece of cinema that has incredible thrills, great plot execution and great direction, character development that has room for improvement and a slow build-up that leads to an incredible climax. It is also a thoroughly impressive end to a great trilogy, it’s a slight step-down from the high standards set by The Dark Knight, but it is better than Batman Begins.

#11 - Skyfall

#11 – Skyfall

Skyfall is a compelling experience with great pacing, a great story and great humour. Javier Bardem is simply astounding. His presence is really worth the wait. He is one of the greatest criminal masterminds of recent memory, comparable to both Heath Ledger’s The Joker and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. He is the second best villain of the year, right behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie in Django Unchained.

#10 - Looper

#10 – Looper

Looper offers an entertaining and memorable action experience with a great story and characters, making it a film that should be cherished. Looper is slightly flawed because of a sometimes crowded screenplay and numerous antagonists, but it has a complex story that’s surprisingly easy to follow, with great characters like Jeff Daniels’ nice-guy-ruthless-when-he-wants-to-be crime boss.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a thoroughly satisfying start to a new Middle Earth trilogy. Its usually silly undertone may frustrate some, but to most, like myself, it makes for a great experience. The many expendable dwarfs may get a lot of the attention, but it is very much Bilbo Baggins’ show. That is until the show-stealing Gollum shows up for one of the best scenes of the feature. I cannot wait to see what the trilogy looks like when all of the films are released.

#8 - Life of Pi

#8 – Life of Pi

Life of Pi is interesting because it is not afraid to bring in concepts of faith and religion. It is also visually beautiful, sometimes funny, thought-provoking, magnificent, terrifying and saddening. There is also a  great story, great direction, wonderful cinematography, great conflicts and relationships present. The actors bring it all to the table, and a short list of performers carries the film very well. This is one of the best films of the year that will be a large Oscar contender. If you’re going to see this, see it in its full 3D glory.

#7 - Flight

#7 – Flight

The drama is solid and the overall film if profoundly enjoyable, compelling, emotional, sometimes funny and often gripping. The suspenseful scene at the beginning is the only action scene in the feature, and it soon turns into a character study, with fascinating concepts of addiction. Those who find the concept of addiction fascinating will enjoy this even more.

Many may think it is simply just another teen slasher, but what gets thrown at you is surprising, extremely fresh and endlessly entertaining. This is one of the most original horror films of all time, with signature bites of comedy from Joss Whedon.

Wreck-It Ralph is the finest animated feature of 2012 and is generally one hell of a nostalgic and enjoyable film. This is like the Toy Story for a new generation. Disney has delivered us a great film yet again, and mashed two generally loved things together: their acclaimed animation, and video games. I had high expectations for this film, and this really rocked my world.

#4 - Argo

#4 – Argo

One of the most captivating things about the nerve-racking Argo is the boiling suspense of the situation, and the viewer can just feel it build throughout. Argo plays out like an assassin giving you his first choke-hold, he’s inexperienced and you may feel the grip loosening from time to time, but then it strengthens again and doesn’t let go until the very end.

Silver Linings Playbook is hilarious, beautiful, meaningful, sad, emotional, and very dramatic at times. It is a truly magnificent blend. One thing that helps the film is the impeccable writing by David O. Russell, and Matthew Quick who originally wrote the novel. The viewer may not be able to relate to the exact situation of these characters, but they could fully understand their motivations – and most may have felt similar emotions that these characters express on a daily basis.

The profound analysis of teenage angst is accurate, brilliantly touching, and heartbreakingly poignant. The performances are great, the story is awesome, and the atmosphere it offers is perfect. This is a film that I’d like to watch over and over. That’s one heck of a definition for an enjoyable experience.  It’s a fine, under-seen classic of 2012 that can define a generation as well as John Hughes could.  If it comes to your town, get off the couch, grab a few friends – but if you don’t have any, it’s okay to be a wallflower – and go see this movie!

Django Unchained is a modern masterpiece, and is Tarantino’s finest film yet (even if I’m the only one to think so). It’s a great story about survival and it has great themes of racism and slavery, that Tarantino explores expertly. The performances, the writing, the soundtrack the direction and the themes are all immaculate. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the best villain of the year.

The ten worst of 2012:

10. The Watch

9. Chernobyl Diaries

8. Silent House

7. ATM

6. Red Dawn 

5. Dark Shadows

4. Mirror Mirror

3. Project X

2. The Lucky One

And the true test of patience…

Well, there you have it. Hopefully you agree with some of my picks, like them, dislike them, or even detest them. Feel free to leave comments!

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games

Release Date: March 23, 2012

Director: Gary Ross

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Runtime: 143 min

Tagline: The World Will Be Watching.

 

I favor the book.

The film is set in an America which, after a war, has been renamed Panem in the future.  As a cruel reminder to the people of Panem for a past rebellion, two representatives from each district, one male and one female, are chosen to for an annual lottery (where no one in the lower districts will want to win) called the Hunger Games. The Games are a fight to the death, where twenty-three of the twenty-four young teens die, with one lone victor. The Hunger Games is an annual propaganda-based reality TV show favourite, for the people of the Capitol at least. This 74th Annual Hunger Games marks history for District 12, as it got its first volunteer, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss took her sister’s place and it was a noble act, indeed. She must use her hunting skills/wilderness experience and sense of direction to stand a fighting chance to survive.

It’s a really interesting film that uses propaganda as a main theme, and just shows how corrupt the government has really gotten. For the young adult audience, it’s a very fresh idea; but I have heard that this film feels like a big rip-off of the Japanese film that was released in 2000, Battle Royale. I haven’t seen that one, so it won’t taint my view of this film at all, so it felt like a fresh experience.

A lot of it feels like just a youth spin of Gladiator (which I still have to find the time to watch), and the film sort of reminded me of an old Roman thing, bread and circus. The bread means food which the emperor would give to the people of Rome, and the circus meant entertainment.

In this case, the President would give food the people, and that’s what going on here, as the tributes have the option to put their name in numerous times in the raffle as a way to get more food (even though they should be getting more food in the first place, as it is revealed in the second book [I don’t think it’s a really large spoiler] that the people of the Capitol drink this fluid that makes them vomit, so they can stuff their faces even more). The entertainment is most obviously the Hunger Games, which is a reality television show put on for the people of the Capitol, which is really a heinous occurrence which would be pretty bad if it happened in this day and age (granted, it does make for a pretty interesting film [or book] idea).

The film really is quite entertaining and an interesting experience and has a really great ensemble, with a few great characters (that the writers actually want you to connect in any way with) and very intense sequences. There’s some really memorable action sequences, but don’t expect a full-throttle action thriller. Expect a nice adventure flick with a great heroine (push over, Bella!) with some solid action sequences, and lots of adventure and a bit of dramatic science fiction futuristic material.

Okay, some stuff I didn’t like about it. The first is a spoiler and the second is pretty spoiler, but expected.

                                        *SORT OF SPOILER ALERT*         

I didn’t feel there was enough bonding time with Rue to be shared here. Not solid enough character development for her, as in the book.

I don’t see why Collins, like Stephenie Meyer, just had to add in a love triangle. It seems to be that it can’t be a young adult phenomenon without it. It’s very expected, so I didn’t really care for it; but at the same time is effective.

*END OF SPOILERS*

Okay guys, it’s pretty safe to read here. Some other stuff I didn’t dig about the film is that some of the material is a little unclear for those audience members who haven’t read the book, and I didn’t like that aspect of it. I would have thought that the loose ends of the background information would have been better connected with the actual author of the book (Suzanne Collins) having a writing credit for the film.

I feel that the film just needed a bit more violence to be better appreciated; readers could easily handle the violence portrayed in the book, so why couldn’t there be a lot more of it in the actual film? Sometimes young adult’s imaginations can be even more violent than what is portrayed on film, so I just didn’t care for it in that aspect. It couldn’t have even gone for a 14A rating? Or like a really strong 14A rating that could have been secured without going too far as to get an 18A rating? I know it’s a young adult audience, but seriously; more than half of the tributes were killed off screen.

In some ways it’s not an incredible adaptation, it isn’t quite on the same great caliber as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings but outshines (or should I say… out-sparkles? I’m calling you out, Edward) Twilight by great lengths.

I guess this film review, that’s turning into a bit of an essay, should reach its conclusion soon.

It’s a film with a great heroine, great performances (by Jennifer Lawrence especially, who I wish the Academy will be so bold to nominate her for Best Actress; which I doubt will happen), great action/adventure sequences, and a story that offers a fresh enough cinematic experience. The film is a bit lengthy (with the Games starting about 65 minutes into the film), but of course there must be some background  information to be shared here, which could have been better-developed at that. For Oscars, I think the film should get Academy recognition (or at least large award recognition) for its Costume Design, Make-Up jobs especially, and its Cinematography, and even maybe a Best Picture nomination.

The film has a dynamite cast with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead spot, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks (nearly recognizable, except for her voice, as Effie), Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Alexander Ludwig (Cato) and Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove; whom I know as the little psychopath from Orphan).

It’s a film with slow pacing at the beginning but gets great when it heats up, has many entertaining sequences, and could have been a better adaptation, as there’s a lot of room for improvement, but is a great experience for both young adults and even some adults can enjoy; and should be enjoyed by those who are willing to accept it for the quite unique adapted experience it offers.

80/100