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“Iron Man 3” (2013) Review

I wasn’t really hyped to see Iron Man 3 when the first trailer was released. Truth be told, I enjoyed the first two Iron Man films, but didn’t really think they were that amazing by any means (the same goes for The Avengers). Sure, Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect fit as Tony Stark, but the films often felt high on style, low on substance for me. With Iron Man 3, Marvel has gone in a different direction – this entry features less Iron Man and more Tony Stark. Does this change work for or against the new film?

Looking at the plot, Iron Man 3 succeeds in focusing more on its characters. This helps make each event more impactful, as the viewer can connect with the film’s characters. Good thing, then, that Iron Man 3 has some great new characters. The Mandarin is a well constructed character (played perfectly by Ben Kingsley) and Harley is played nicely by the young Ty Simpkins. Still, not every character is great, and the main villain, in particular, is underwhelming in motive and characterization. Despite that though, the cast as a whole does a great job bringing the characters to life and Robert Downey Jr remains an absolutely perfect Tony Stark.

This focus on characters causes a shift in typical “superhero” film content. The majority of the plot is centered on Tony Stark outside of his suit. That is not to say that there isn’t any action in the film (there is, and it looks awesome), but there is much less of it. This will certainly turn off some fans, though this change was a breath of fresh air for me.

One thing "Iron Man 3" always has going for it is Robert Downey Jr. - he has always been a perfect choice for the character and fit the personality of Tony Stark perfectly.

One thing “Iron Man 3” always has going for it is Robert Downey Jr. – he has always been a perfect choice for the character and fit the personality of Tony Stark perfectly.

As far as the other components of the film go, the cinematography is fairly standard. There are some incredible shots during the more frantic action sequences, and the chaos looks beautiful. Despite this, you know exactly what to expect going in, and the presentation of the film does nothing to break free of the general “superhero blockbuster” standards. This goes dually for the soundtrack, which features some intense compositions, but again feels like I’ve heard it in every other Marvel hero film.

In the end, Iron Man 3 combines some genre standards and adds a few twists to them (mainly its focus on characters and not on action). This works in the film’s favor, as this newest entry into the Iron Man series feels more fresh than its counterparts. Despite its many typical pieces, the formula of sarcastic humor combined stunning action sequences works for Iron Man 3 (as it did for its past entries). What sets this third film apart from and ahead of the previous two is its choice to take a risk and focus more on Tony Stark and less on Iron Man. It’s just a shame that a better central villain wasn’t present, or even some better characterization. Thus, as it stands, Iron Man 3 is the best entry in the series (for me), but still lacks the pieces it needs to move from being a good film to a great one.

Final Score: 6.8/10


“Castle in the Sky” (1986) Review

Castle in the Sky poster

As I have mentioned previously (in my review of My Neighbor Totoro), Studio Ghibli is one of the most imaginative studios in the film business today with films spanning more than three decades. The other night I watched another of their films, Castle in the Sky. With Hayao Miyazaki at the helm as usual, the film is certainly an enjoyable experience filled with great animation, excellent characters, and an imaginative story enjoyable for those of all ages. While Castle in the Sky has all of these Ghibli standards, it also has some flaws that hold it back from reaching the same heights as some of their other works.

Castle in the Sky features a story about a young girl with a mysterious necklace, a young boy with dreams of proving a legend true, and the groups of pirates, military, and special interest personnel that quickly become interested in both of them. For the most part, this tale is just as imaginative and interesting as some of the studio’s other works. Yet, one of the biggest flaws in the film is the story’s pacing. About halfway through the film, the plot stalls and the film hits a stagnant period of chase scenes with no plot development. The foundation is there for a great plot, but this section breaks up the two better sections and takes away from the overall film. Had Castle in the Sky been cut to about 90-100 minutes (as opposed to the 125 minutes it stands at), the plot would be more powerful and the film better for it.

Though the plot has its struggles, the animation does not. Castle in the Sky is a visual masterpiece for its time. The film was made nearly 30 years ago and still looks phenomenal today. As always, there are a ton of little details that go a long way to making each scene even more impressive and complete. Even in its more action-packed scenes, the visuals remain exceptional. Though it may be flawed in other areas, Castle in the Sky‘s visuals are not.

For an animated film that is 27 years old, Studio Ghibli crafted some absolutely stunning visuals for the film.

For an animated film that is 27 years old, Studio Ghibli crafted some absolutely stunning visuals for the film.

Similarly to the plot, the sound department has some highs and lows. On one hand, the soundtrack is wonderful, capturing various landscapes and sequences nicely and enhancing each scene. On the other, the voice acting for the film is not up to par. It’s nowhere near the worst voice overs I’ve heard, but it’s still disappointing. James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin’s performances really cause the characters to suffer due to poor vocal work.

This voice acting is a shame since the characters designed by Studio Ghibli are exceptional. Each character is given a unique personality that the viewer can easily connect with through each character’s visual design, dialogue, and interactions. With how well designed the characters are, combined with the overall animation, the imagination of Miyazaki and the artists at Studio Ghibli seems limitless. Truly each Ghibli/Miyazaki film is a work of art.

Overall, Castle in the Sky is a great film – not just a great animated film. Its visuals, story and characters are all wonderfully crafted – a standard for Ghibli and Miyazaki films. Still, some shortcomings in voice acting (on the English Disney dubs, not the original Japanese) along with pacing issues hold the film back from standing at the top of Ghibli’s resume. Despite its issues, Miyazaki fans will enjoy, and the film is great for viewers of most ages. If you’ve seen Castle in the Sky, let me know what you think about the film and where it stands against your other Ghibli favorites.

Final Score: 7.8/10

“Life of Pi” (2012) Review

Life of Pi poster

With all of the awards it received, along with its widespread critical acclaim, I’m sure many have at least seen previews for/heard about Life of Pi. As a film lover, I felt it was a duty of mine to see a film which took home four Academy Awards, despite my hesitance toward it. After having seen the film for myself, I must disagree with the majority of praise the film received – it seems to me that every year there is one film that receives exaggerated praise. This is not to say Life of Pi is a bad film, per se, but it is just not that great of one.

Life of Pi tells the tale of Pi, from his childhood, to his unbelievable (and by that I mean extremely, extremely coincidental) adventure at sea after being stranded by a shipwreck, to his adulthood. The tale is structured as a narrative told by the adult Pi to a youthful writer who was told Pi’s tale would make him believe in God. This structure and tale are wrapped around some “deep” themes and storytelling, something I, quite frankly, could not find in the film. Sure, there’s some symbolism here and there, and the ending tries to make the whole story into something seemingly deeply philosophical – this ending did honestly manage to somewhat save the plot from being tolerable to just decent for me, but still faltered by falling into the trap of over-explanation. Worse yet, there were some scenes that became almost comical due to their poor design (scenes that were meant to be serious). Still, the story manages to hit capture some decent moments, but there are too many flaws in the plot that keep it from being highly engaging.

With the plot faltering, Life of Pi has to fall back on its visuals to capture the viewer’s attention. Here is an area that the film largely succeeds in – it is absolutely stunning at times. The cinematography put together by Ang Lee and crew is excellent, with some exemplary CGI modeling and animation work. Despite the unbelievable tale being told, the film’s visuals manage to bring to life every detail. Still, at times the crew seemed to be trying to accomplish too much as various pieces of the film seemed slightly rough around the edges (a minor gripe for such great animation). Along with this, there were multiple scenes that failed to add anything to the plot and seemed to be presented only for the sake of showing off the films visual effects, causing these scenes to feel hollow and forced.

While "Life of Pi" may be visually ..., the film never amounts to much in ...

While “Life of Pi” may be visually stunning, the film never amounts to much in terms of its story and characters.

With the visuals earning their praise, another area I found failing to live up to its accolades was the soundtrack (awarded Best Original Score at the Academy Awards). I really didn’t notice any pieces that really stood out to me, and overall, it felt like a pretty standard soundtrack for this adventurous type of film – in other words, it didn’t enhance the film, or even really make its presence known at many points. Despite this, I do have to again give credit to the sound crew for the effects and mixing for the film, as the animals, storms, and other complex pieces sounded great.

Life of Pi produced an oddly similar experience to Slumdog Millionaire for me (a film that received such great praise, but I found very lacking). For all its complex visual work, the film lacks where it matters most – its plot. It may be a magnificent visual feast, but this is one adventure I did not really enjoy. I am sure there are moviegoers that Life of Pi will appeal to, but there was too much style, and too little substance (actual substance, not superficial substance) for me.

Final Score: 4.8/10


Life of Pi just didn’t do much for me as a film. I’m no movie snob, and I realize that, but I enjoy most movies from animated to sci-fi to action and everything in between, but this movie was almost laughable. However, the only really enjoyable parts of Life of Pi were the visuals and many CGI scenes. Some of these scenes were absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, but really were not necessary for this film, seeming to be just trying to distract the audience from the unbelievable plot and story line of the film. Still, it did catch me a few times with some emotions scenes, especially Richard Parker, but probably only because I’m a female animal lover who hated to even imagine the torture that animal faced (even if it was fictitious).

I was upset that this film had received so much praise and many awards this season, that I had to see it. After seeing it, I feel even worse about the hype it received. There were much better films out this past year that deserved those awards over this film. I’ll give the film praise for the visual effects, but story line, soundtrack, and acting were just not at the level I would expect for such a film so highly acclaimed. You can watch it for yourself and see what you think, but don’t forget to let us know in the comments!

Second Opinion Score: 4.0/10

“Anna Karenina” (2012) Review

Anna Karenina Poster

One thing becomes quickly apparent when viewing Anna Karenina – the visual presentation is absolutely stunning. Still, visuals alone cannot make a movie (see Avatar or Life of Pi) and Anna Karenina succeeds on multiple levels to really showcase how to put together a great film. Sure, the basis of the film may be a love triangle story, but I can assure you that this is not just a romance film – it is much more.

As I had mentioned, the story of Anna Karenina focuses on a love triangle between the title character, her husband, and a military officer. This is contrasted against the story of a young man who has fallen for a young woman. For a plot centered on romance, there is a fair amount of depth to the plot, largely due to the excellent writing and symbolism used. This raises the plot to a level well above a romance story and into a great character-driven film. As the characters begin to interact in more tense situations (aided by some excellent acting from the talented Keira Knightly, always excellent Jude Law, and a talented cast of young actors/actresses), the viewer is drawn further into the film’s web, connecting you closer with the story and keeping you firmly engaged. Lastly, while the film follows a fairly straightforward path, there are some nice twists and turns (including some nice surprises) that keep the film from feeling clichéd.

Plot aside, Anna Karenina deserves a ton of praise for its visuals. Every piece that goes into the visual presentation has been painstakingly detailed, resulting in an incredible show for the viewer. The set design is stunning, with the film taking place in a theater setting and sets shifting constantly as the characters walk from area of the stage/rafters to another. The moving set design was a great choice, and one the use of the stage for the presentation ties in perfectly with one of the film’s main themes. In addition, the costume work and cinematography are colorful and brighten the stage, while some intricately choreographed scenes and character movements lend another layer to the film’s already great visuals. I could go on further, but I will stop now and just say that this is a masterfully constructed presentation that perfectly fits the story and themes, and goes a long way to enhance the film as a whole.

The visuals in the film are absolutely stunning, and I cannot praise the set design enough.

The visuals in the film are absolutely stunning, and I cannot praise the set design enough.

The presentation is already being a highlight due to the visuals, but that should not overshadow the soundtrack for the film. The musical pieces for the film are very well composed and stand out as another key piece of the film’s high points. Each scene is even further enhanced by this wonderful, classically rooted score. This soundtrack when put together with the aforementioned visual design even further cements Anna Karenina as such a perfectly presented film.

When compared against some of the best films of last year, Anna Karenina can certainly hold its own. It may not quite reach the heights of those other top films due to some scenes moving too quick with complexly constructed dialogue, and the somewhat slowly developing plot, but the overall presentation is about as good as it gets. I am by no means a romance film fan, but I very much enjoyed Anna Karenina due to its execution. I can easily recommend it to most movie fans, especially those who are fans of theater presentations (who should enjoy the set design and presentation even more). Give Anna Karenina a chance, and it will prove itself as much more than what some might quickly brush off as just a fancy romance film.

Final Score: 8.6/10

“My Neighbor Totoro” (1988) Review

My Neighbor Totoro cover

Studio Ghibli is one of the most imaginative studios in the film business today. With Hayao Miyazaki at the director’s helm, they have created some of the best animated films out there (Spirited Away is still my favorite animated film). After recently starting Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch for the Playstation 3 (for which Studio Ghibli helped with the visual work), I’ve been eager to get back into seeing some of the Ghibli films I had missed. My first adventure was with My Neighbor Totoro – a film that bears Ghibli’s mark proudly.

My Neighbor Totoro is a much more light-hearted film compared to some other Miyazaki works. The film focuses on two sisters and their father who move to the countryside and begin to notice some creatures that others can’t see. The plot may be fairly simple, but its execution is wonderful, with every character having a distinct and nicely developed personality. These characters are the heart and soul of My Neighbor Totoro, and the audience can instantly connect with the film’s cast. When a film can develop and cause the audience to be connected to characters that lack any true dialogue, there is a high level of praise that should be given to it.

Where My Neighbor Totoro also succeeds is in its creativity. The animation for the film shows some age (the film is 25 years old), but it is still so imaginatively constructed and has so many little touches that it is still a beautiful film. The animation brings to life the intricately constructed and highly creative worlds that Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are known for. I once read that it takes about one month for the Studio to produce 5 minutes of theatrical quality animation, and these kinds of elaborately constructed worlds and characters show why that is the case (and how much care Studio Ghibli puts into every frame of animation). Though this film may not feature the grandiose visions of some other Ghibli films, it still brings its viewers back to a child-like sense of wonder and imagination (bonus points for the Cat Bus).

As with all Studio Ghibli films, "My Neighbor Totoro" features incredibly imaginative characters and animation.

As with all Studio Ghibli films, “My Neighbor Totoro” features incredibly imaginative characters and animation.

To enhance the animation and story, there is a wonderfully composed soundtrack throughout the film. From its thematic pieces (which feature some nice melodies) to its set pieces, My Neighbor Totoro is further enhanced by this music work – I remember my fiancé humming along to the main the at one point. In speaking of the soundtrack, it should also be noted that the voice work and sound effects for the film are nicely done as well, making each character sound natural.

In all, My Neighbor Totoro is a characteristically Studio Ghibli film. Its more lighthearted story makes it a perfect fit for both adults and children alike. Still, the sense of wonder at the artistic worlds that they create is replicated by so few animated films. Know that going into My Neighbor Totoro you will get a high-quality, and highly original animated film, and allow Miyazaki to take you on another entertaining adventure.

Final Score: 9.1/10


Second Opinion:

I agree whole-heartedly with Will’s review. My Neighbor Totoro was a heartfelt film that made you truly immerse into the lives and surroundings of the characters. You connect with the family instantly and could feel the many emotions of the film almost first-handed. I also loved the imaginative forest creatures who truly brought the film to life and made you laugh, almost cry and wish you could ride a cat bus in real life!

The film had a very sweet and imaginative story that any aged audience could enjoy. You would never guess that the film itself is 25 years old. The imagery, soundtrack and story were just as relevant and enjoyable today. I’m so happy that Disney decided to localize Miyazaki’s work overseas and allow it to get to a wider audience, one that it truly deserves. This is one of just many of Miyazaki’s work, and one that I would definitely recommend for children and adults alike. Let us know if you’ve seen My Neighbor Totoro or any of Miyazaki’s other films and what you think of them.

Second Opinion Score: 7.8/10

“Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) Review

Zero Dark Thirty poster

When I first saw the trailer for Zero Dark Thirty, the film did not really capture my interest. The central plot of the film (the events leading up to and including the death of Osama Bin Laden) seemed to be the focus in order to capitalize on the magnitude of these recent events. Then, after the film received widespread critical praise and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, my curiosity was piqued. I had to see the film and evaluate it for myself. The film does have some elements that deserve the praise they received, however, the film as a whole is not as … as its accolades would have you believe.

The basic premise of the film is self-explanatory – the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the events leading up to, and including, the night of his death. Despite the widespread coverage of that night’s events, seeing the actual events leading up to that mission seems like it would be an interesting tale. Yet, the inane dialogue (if I heard the man being interrogated in the opening scenes get called “bro” one more time, I may have stopped watching) at many points in the film makes the events seem exaggerated and fabricated (with reports stating that many events were fabricated for the film) – a classic example of what call “Hollywood-ing” a true story.

Despite the plot’s shortcomings, the overall film remains somewhat tense and fairly interesting despite a padded runtime. Also, there is some great acting throughout the film. Jessica Chastain put in an Oscar-worthy performance, full of emotion despite her poorly written, “badass” style dialogue. The supporting cast, as well, fit their parts well and make all of the events seem more true to life.

Jessica Chastain gives an incredible performance in "Zero Dark Thirty" - one well deserving of her Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Jessica Chastain gives an incredible performance as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty – one well deserving of her Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Another piece of the film that to me was done nicely was the sound editing. From explosions and action pieces, to dialogue, to soundtrack, the mix is excellent. Each area of the sound department did a phenomenal job with their work, and it really shows in each an every scene of the film.

Zero Dark Thirty has received much critical acclaim since its release. Some of it is well-deserved (the acting and sound editing are excellent). Other parts of the film, however, are poorly done. With a plot that feels too embellished and dialogue that tries too hard to be “cool” and ends up making some characters sound like they came straight out of a cheesy action flick (one-liners and all), the film suffers but still manages to be an entertaining watch – just be prepared to overlook these flaws.

Final Score: 6.2/10

“Evil Dead” (2013) Review

Evil Dead 2013 poster

In order to make a great film, at least one of two things needs to be present. The film must either have a unique/interesting story or find another way to be highly entertaining. Recently, the majority of wide-release horror films have lacked both of these criteria. These films are often riddled with poor, recycled plots (how many exorcism films have there been over the last few years) or uninspired serial killers. It seems that horror films have spent more time trying to implement more jump scares or find the next fad (from zombies, to exorcisms, to paranormal activity) rather than taking a step back and remembering to make the experience entertaining. Evil Dead is here to bring horror back to its glory. With Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s blessing, Fede Alvarez has crafted an incredible experience that outdoes its source material, and what I can say is the best horror film I’ve seen in years.

For those unfamiliar with the original film, Evil Dead focuses on a group of young adults who take a trip to a cabin. There they find the “Naturom Demonto”, or Book of the Dead, which awakens evil demons in the surrounding woods that then begin possessing members of the group leading to a sequence of violent and gory deaths. The reboot happens to take the plot of the original film and add some extra layers and twists to better flesh out its tale and make its characters (slightly) more three-dimensional. Though the plot may not be overly complicated, its tale is still entertaining to watch unfold – especially for fans of the original, as the reboot takes some new twists and turns with its cast of characters. However, where the film stands out is in its tongue-in-cheek scenes and sequences that make this campy film so good.

Evil Dead is surely expected to be a gory, violent film – an area in which it does not disappoint. It must be noted that Alvarez chose to avoid CGI in creating the effects for the film and go with purely practical effects and camera tricks. This is a great tribute to the pre-CGI era of horror films – one that is by no means a hinderance to the film. Its effects are a sight to behold, with its over-the-top violence becoming laughably entertaining at points (I will say now that if you don’t find humor in Evil Dead, you are missing out on the point and a good amount of the fun to be had here).

The film pays homage to its source material at many points - as a fan, you will be glad to see the treatment the chainsaw gets.

The film pays homage to its source material at many points – as a fan, you will be glad to see the treatment the chainsaw gets.

In addition to the effects, the film’s other parts all work to enhance the experience. The cast is (for the most part) surprisingly adept at fulfilling their roles. Jane Levy, in particular, really does a wonderful job with the lead role – she is tasked with a constantly shifting role, and never falters in her performance that is much more than your typical female screamers in horror films. Also, the film’s soundtrack is nicely fitting and well implemented (something I rarely note in horror films).

One last piece that deserves some attention is the cinematography done by Alvarez. He chooses to saturate the film with certain colors – mostly dark colors, black, and red. This both makes the visuals quite striking, but really aids the special effects. The plentiful blood spilled looks much more stylish with Alvarez’s work in the visual department.

More often than not, a remake/reboot/re-imagining does not manage to do its source material justice. Even more rare, is the remake that enhances its source material, lifting it to another level. Fede Alvarez’s re-imagining of Sam Reimi’s cult classic, Evil Dead, does just that – it transcends the original. In doing so, to put it simply, Evil Dead is horror done right. It manages to be scary, tense, and campy all at the same time, making this one of the most fun and entertaining horror films I’ve seen in a long time. Fans of the original series will find much to enjoy (including many nods to the originals that will make fans smile), while unfamiliar horror fans should still be greatly entertained by this one. Let me know what you thought of the film, and what you hope for with the continuation of the series.

Final Score: 8.7/10

“Skyfall” (2012) Movie Review

Skyfall poster

I’m going to get straight to the point with my review of “Skyfall”. To me, this latest Bond journey was as much a break from the typical Bond flick as it was a slightly above-average action film. The film manages to take some risks, but still manages feeling pretty conservative in much of its execution, with a plot and villain that just don’t quite feel that compelling.

Looking at the plot, “Skyfall” tries to create a more personal Bond tale. While the film starts out with a more personal feeling, by its midpoint, it had lost this touch for me. For me, there was potential for what could have been the most interesting conflict in any Bond film (between Bond and M). The opening sequence presents this as a possibility, but just shortly after the opening credits, this conflict becomes abandoned – patched up effortlessly to allow Bond to begin his mission to take on the newest Bond villain (played by the talented Javier Bardem). Speaking of the villain, one of the central pieces of a Bond film is its villain. While Javier Bardem does much to bring his character to life, the villain’s actual story wasn’t anything too special. Overall, the plot for me was merely average, full of many action film clichés and many contrived twists.

One area that the film really succeeds in is its visuals. In particular the opening credit sequence is stunning in its artistic execution. The main film sections themselves showcase a nice mix of color schemes, from the drab/sleak mix in the underground MI6 base, to its varying landscapes, to the dreary Skyfall sequences. Alongside the visuals, the cinematography is also quite nice, capturing all the action with some interesting angles.

Another successful area is the soundtrack. There is some great musical work behind the action, nicely capturing each changing situation. The main “Skyfall” theme is also quite good and seems to excellently fit the theme of the film. Still, I can’t help but feel Adele could have done better with the vocal work. Don’t get me wrong, I think she has a great voice, but it just seems like she isn’t letting it all out here, like she’s holding something back that could have really made the theme special.

When has putting a highly dangerous villain in a glass cell ever been a good idea?

When has putting a highly dangerous villain in a glass cell ever been a good idea?

Moving on, I want to quickly mention the acting. Javier Bardem does excellent work as mentioned previously. He really manages to take an underwhelming villain and make him much more intriguing than he would have been had a less skilled actor portrayed him. Daniel Craig offers another solid performance as the central agent, James Bond (I happen to think Craig is one of the best Bond actors). The supporting cast manages to keep up alongside the central characters and help flesh out the characters nicely.

Overall, “Skyfall” is a decent action film, and clearly a 007 adventure. It strays from the Bond mold – but while some of these changes are refreshing, the film misses out on much of its potential. For 007 fans and action-loving moviegoers, “Skyfall” should have a good amount to offer. Just don’t go in expecting a revolutionary Bond adventure or an exceptional action film.

Final Score: 6.5/10


Second Opinion

I have to agree with Will on the majority of the positive points he makes about Skyfall, from the soundtrack and cinematography to the wonderful acting and visuals (however, unlike Will, I was somewhat disappointed in the opening scenes). They all really came together to make this film a wonderful action movie that was able to hold your attention with more than just explosions and fight scenes, but a wonderful, fresh storyline as well.

Movies of this length can rarely capture my attention the entire time, but there were very few instances in this case that I got distracted or bored. I loved the storyline with the relationship of M and Bond, the villain and Bond as well as the more minute relationships between other characters. This modern Bond film is a fresh take on an old story and was really enjoyable for me. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good action movie with a storyline that is deeper than the surface. Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree with either of us and what you though of the latest film in the Bond journey, “Skyfall.” (All I can hear in my head when I say that is the wonderful title theme that Adele co-wrote and sung for the movie – it truly captured the essence of the film!)

Final Score: 8.3/10

“Jackie Brown” (1997) Movie Review

Jackie Brown Movie Poster

As I mentioned previously in my review of “Django Unchained”, I am a Quentin Tarantino fan. He is an extremely talented director, with many of his films having spots in my personal film collection. Yet, for some reason, I had never known about or heard of “Jackie Brown”. Releasing between “Pulp Fiction” and the “Kill Bill” films, “Jackie Brown” is an easily overlooked, under-the-radar Tarantino film about an airline flight attendant, a gun-runner, a recently released convict, drugs, guns, cash, and some members of law enforcement. Classic set-up for a Tarantino film right? Then why is this film always overlooked when it comes to discussions on Tarantino’s works? I don’t have an answer to that, but I can tell you about my viewing experience.

To begin, “Jackie Brown” is classic Tarantino. It fits perfectly right next to “Pulp Fiction” and before “Kill Bill” as you have a similar style to the former, with a female protagonist like the latter. Within that framework, and with the aforementioned characters and items, Tarantino crafts a slick crime thriller whose plot is constantly engaging. The twists and turns that the film takes over its 2.5 hour running time are entertaining to the point that you don’t always quite know what to expect from this group of characters. Further, the film moves at a fairly steady pace, never really getting bogged down, nor moving too quickly. Sure, there are some scenes that run a little long, but Tarantino loves his dialogue, and that makes some of those scenes.

Speaking of which, the film is just as well-written as any other Tarantino film is. He has always been lauded for his clever and quality scripts, and this one is no exception. Sure, some characters are a little eccentric, which Samuel L. Jackson always does right with his character having a dialogue that consists of 40% f-bombs, 30% racial slurs, and 30% of everything else. This is where Tarantino always succeeds – crafting humorous dialogue across serious scenes that still manages to make the viewer attached to each character’s fate, and “Jackie Brown” is a perfect example.

As always, Tarantino puts together a phenomenal cast, with Pam Grier putting in a great performance in the lead role.

As always, Tarantino puts together a phenomenal cast, with Pam Grier putting in a great performance in the lead role.

In mentioning characters, I will again give credit to Tarantino for bringing together an immensely talented cast. From Samuel L. Jackson, to Robert De Niro, to Robert Forester, there is a star-filled cast that performs to a high level (even down to its minor characters – Chris Tucker makes a nice comedic appearance). Still, I have to give a special mention to Pam Grier, who delivers a perfect performance as “Jackie Brown” and really revitalized her career (she was in “Mars Attacks” the year before). With such a great cast, the film really feels authentic in its execution.

Lastly, I just need to quickly mention the soundtrack for the film. Once again, Tarantino is often noted for his soundtrack choices and implementation. Here, “Jackie Brown” has become one of my favorites amongst all of Tarantino’s works. The soundtrack is exceptional in its selection and use throughout the film, and adds another layer of style to the film.

Overall, “Jackie Brown” is a great film. It doesn’t quite top the like of “Pulp Fiction” or “Inglorious Basterds” (my two Tarantino favorites), but it should easily be in the conversation next to any other Tarantino film. I am still amazed at how I was unaware of this film, and how unknown it is compared to Tarantino’s other works. I know I, for one, will be recommending it to anyone who enjoys Tarantino, or to any crime thriller fan (or even just a general film fan). Has anyone else seen “Jackie Brown” – what did you think? Where does is rank among Tarantino’s film library for you?

Final Score – 9.0/10

“Hop” (2011) Guest Movie Review

Hop Movie Poster

Every now and then, I love to watch an animated movie that’s just silly and fun. “Hop” was definitely a treat of a movie. I can’t say that it ranks up with some of the classic animation movies in the last decade such as “Finding Nemo” or “Monsters, Inc.”, but I can say that it was a light, feel good movie that is perfect for young kids, and even adults who just want to feel like a kid once and a while (like me!).

The computer-generated animations were wonderful. Technology has really come a long way, especially for these animated movies. The colors and visuals of all the candies of Easter Island were brilliant and made you want to swim among the masses of jellybeans and marshmallow peeps. The soundtrack was a bit odd with some very dated songs that brought back memories for me, but would have no effect on young children who weren’t alive for such bands. The rock songs related well, because obviously E.B. was dreaming of becoming a drummer in a rock band, but I still think they could have chosen some better songs, or guests artists – Like who the heck are the Blind Boys of Alabama?!?

Carlos and Phil were two of the many characters who brought some dimensions and additional storyline to the film. Phil is also one of my favorite characters, he’ll definitely at least make you crack a smile with his antics!

Carlos and Phil were two of the many characters who brought some dimensions and additional storyline to the film. Phil is also one of my favorite characters, he’ll definitely at least make you crack a smile with his antics!

Anyway, despite my musical ignorance, I still thought the movie was fun. The storyline was nothing too deep, but still enough to be heartwarming and have deeper meaning for young children and kids. It presents a number of wonderful messages to kids, such as do what you love, respect your elders (even when you don’t want to) and to always believe in yourself.  Though I found it cute, Will did make a point as we were watching that the movie has many stereotypes in it. The worker chicks were Latino or Hispanic while the Easter Bunny or boss was British, along with a few others throughout the movie. On another note, the acting was mediocre, which is expected in an animated film. It wasn’t the best, but nothing that your kids are going to complain about.

It was the perfect movie for a relaxing night with the kids and to help excite the children for Easter. I really enjoyed the movie even as an adult, but there are definitely a number of other animated movies that I would prefer to this one. Have a few laughs with your family or loved ones and check “Hop” out for yourself, especially with Easter just around the corner and let me know what you think!

Final Score: 7.0/10

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