2016年8月8日 星期一

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon (2010) | by volcanolam - "The 16 yr old Casual Blogger" [Movie Reviews, Opinions, Essays & More!!]

How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Rating:9/10

Dreamworks has made it big time with How to Train Your Dragon. The studio managed to wrap a generic plot with underdeveloped characters with a stunning mix of a "shrieking" high quality script, score, and pacing, along with an original, fresh setting about Vikings and dragons. It is like a well-known story being retold in the best possible methods. The fun. The charm. The spirit. All of these pervaded through the picture. I would highly recommend this film not only to kids but also to some young adults which for reasons that I'll explain in later paragraphs.

It is story about a young Viking discovering the true nature of dragons which is contradictory to his tribe's traditional belief. With a darker force impending, he must have to settle down conflicts with his own people, while utilizing his knowledge about dragons to fight of the evil brute.

Like its titular dragon, the film has its soft side, vulnerabilities. But what makes up for that is the cuteness and warmth that oozes out of the screen every time we see the dragon romps around playfully, and that is just like the film itself. Even for the most cynical critics the tale is too endearing and sweet to be taken seriously. The plotholes and lack of character development don't seem relevant anymore when everyone is mesmerized by the movies' endless charisma. 

The score in particular has to be lauded. This has to be the best scores ever put into animation and it stands along some other Pixar efforts. It is riveting, epic, and spot on with the settings of this movie. As the flying theme kicks off, along with the flying scenes featuring the two protagonists, we audience are given a perfectly paced, perfectly shot, and perfectly fitting to 3D sequence - a unique, gripping, absorbing set piece that is unprecedented in film history. This very sequence is certainly the best of what DreamWorks had made and can probably rival the first 10 minutes of "Up" or any other creations by its Pixar counterpart. Yes, it is really that insane. How can you not love a movie with such kinda stuff in it.

After engendering a movie so warm to the heart, DreamWorks literally has another chance to develop a flagship trilogy, just like "Kung Fu Panda" and "Shrek". But unlike "Kung Fu Panda" the producers do not want this franchise to wallow in the same formula of its first installment, just like how Panda 2 and Panda 3 stick with the fast paced action comedy aimed blatantly for kids. HTTYD 2 is a whole different experience, a coming of age tale that tells are darker, more mature story. The sequel alone is the reason why young adults should see this because the themes are actually quite fitting for such age group, and with the final installment we audience can fully experience Hiccup's growing up and find the franchise an emotionally resonant movie-going experience. Do not expect this to be something stupid. With HTTYD 3 coming up in 2018, we might look back and refer HTTYD as Dreamworks' "Toy Story". So, guys, just wait and see. I have high hopes in this one.

2016年8月7日 星期日

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016) | by volcanolam - "The 16 yr old Casual Blogger" [Movie Reviews, Opinions, Essays & More!!]

The Jungle Book (2016)

Rating: 6/10

Jungle Book is a well made remake that succeeds in delivering a slightly different story, capitalizing on state-of-the-art CGI and laudable performances to suit the whole family.

Official artwork poster of the filmWhen I first watched the trailer, I had real goosebumps when I heard Bare Necessities playing in the background. The nostalgia and euphony of the tune urged me to see the film without a pounding heart. After nearly 5 months I can finally take a close look at this remake. I am a big fan of the 1967 version, which features one of the best sets of songs ever put to the big screen. This 2016 is somehow a much darker, serious film, with more scares and ponderous themes. Throughout most of the screen time, while marveling at the breathtaking scenery and astoundingly realistic CGI (breakthrough performance on the computer's part), I was occasionally bothered by how the plot and scripts deviated from what I expected, and the lack of warmth and humor I enjoyed when rewatching the 1967 musical. The third act is well done, nevertheless, and along with the incredible CGI so as Neel Sethi's extraordinary performance as Mowgli forming the backbone of this remake. Jungle Book is a well made remake that succeeds in delivering a slightly different story, capitalizing on state-of-the-art CGI to suit well for family audience. (Too scary and dark for a kids film, too generic for higher level audiences)

Man, the CGI alone is worth the ticket price (in my case download time). Scenes could have been awkward if the technology had not reach this level, and Mowgli's performance is very worth praising because he expressed and acted naturally even though the characters were not there. 

Yet, I am somehow less satisfied with the film than I thought I should be. Supposedly comedic scenes were somehow dramatized and were given darker turns, and sometimes they feel hollow and disappointing. Elephants scenes are an example. Not only did the elephants not talk, they didn't attain the sarcastic humor that prevails in the 1967 version. Shere Khan was more violent and evil, thus losing the witty sense of humor, and so did Kaa. Another thing is that the relationship between Mowgli and Baloo was not quite as intimate as the first film. Yes, both characters might not be animated this time, but still a weird decision to have Baloo befriending the man-cub just for honey. Baloo's apparent sacrifice at the end was also omitted. As a result, "Bare Necessities" scene was not as memorable as I thought of, and that's cuz their bond was not well developed yet!



I could go on and pick out more stuff that I disliked during viewing, such as how the film ruined "I Wanna Be Like You" by having a big ape throwing fruits everywhere while monkeys squeaked at the background. The scene should be like how the end-credits depicted (King Louie dancing around in his palace). However, I won't go into that much criticism because its a good film. The CGI's amazing. I love how they gave the wolves more screentime and significance, since they are barely developed in 1967 version. Vultures are cut off, good. The third act is also something I never thought would happen in Jungle Book, providing a deeper message and a more thrilling climax than the predecessor. At the end of the day I won't say I am fully satisfied, but yet I'll say I am decently entertained by the CGI and the overall tone of the story. Besides, is there anything better than listening to "Bare Necessities", "Trust in Me" once more with a little modern mix? Priceless.

2016年7月19日 星期二

Movie Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)) | by volcanolam - "The 16 yr old Casual Blogger" [Movie Reviews, Opinions, Essays & More!!]

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Rating: 7/10

The nightmare before christmas poster.jpgCaptivating and unforgettable. The stop-motion musical is one of the most creative and unique works of animation ever to be squeezed within a mere runtime of 76 minutes. Despite how short it is, there are so much being told thanks to the incredible storytelling. But most importantly, gratitude has to be given to producer Tim Burton for his excessively ingenious vision and for his idea of making characters sing through their dialogue and poems as if there are doing a play, making the film feel unique through its songs and dramatic delivery. Accompanied by low budget stop motion and a genius score (Danny Elfman OUTDID himself here!), it is one fantastic animation that I'd highly recommend to everyone who wants to see something enjoyable yet not too childish.

The score is really majestic, also the way the characters sing through their lines in a musical is very enticing to see. The musical pieces are distributed evenly throughout, contributing to the dark, scary ambiance. Yet, the music also seem to be what prevents the film into an too scary horror flick. There were scenes where the music added a cheerful tone to potentially frightening, disturbing images and make it somehow enjoyable. For example, the villain appearance might prove to be a bit too scary, but as soon as you realized he was just one of those chanting and bantering characters you'd overlook that fact. All these testifies how well executed is the movie, walking the trampolines between film elements of horror and family-fun. Release in 1993, before even the release of Pixar's first feature film, the animation should prove to be one of the freshest animated pictures ever to have shown on the big screen at that time.

I do believe, however, that the film lost a bit of its momentum as the climax kicks off, as if Burton couldn't conceive of the best way to end. Why should the villain begin mutiny? What got Jack enamored with Sally? Didn't it feel forced? What was with Santa Claus' inexplicable act of gratitude and kindness towards the village he abominates, raining snow over the land just after he censured the kidnappers for their diabolical act?

But regardless of some unexplained storylines and an average climax, you guys should be watching this film just in case you get bored of watching the same genre all over and over. Here's something new, even after 23 years since release.

2016年7月15日 星期五

Movie Review: Mosters Inc. (2001) | by volcanolam - "The 16 yr old Casual Blogger" [Movie Reviews, Opinions, Essays & More!!]

Monsters Inc. (2001)

Rating: 9.5/10

Extremely ingenious high concept film that is superbly well scripted. Not only does the film boosts the very best character chemistry, the plot is so brilliantly crafted with all those superior foreshadowing and connections. As the Randy Newman song, also such a great song, kicks off in the background, it is all for you to continue expanding the wonderful bond between the two leads and to marvel how much you have seen throughout just 80 minutes. Vintage Pixar.

Even crazier still, this is one hell of an animation that entertains adults too. Basically I couldn't find a scene older viewers would feel uncomfortable with, and even the emotional scene to the end was so well done it may even touch adults alike (though I somehow didn't feel connected with that particular scene Idk why but anyways good scene). The animation is great too, and I'm talking about a sequence in particular during the second act where Mike and Sully entered the huge hall full of door transferring wires. That is the jellyfish sequence in Finding Nemo happening two years prior. Last but not least, Billy Crystal was KILLING it in his role as the one-eyed monster Mike. His hype, energy, and comedic performance is a gleaming example of how you do voice acting in animation. His performance stands along Tim Allen, Ellen DeGeneres etc. as the best Pixar voice acting collection. I know, Robin Williams is still the champ, yes.

I can imagine the time in the early 2000s during when film goers were blessed with Monsters Inc., then Finding Nemo, and then The Incredibles in such rapid succession. By the time WALL-E was out, people were saying things like "its originality surpasses all the previous eight films produced by the studio yet" which is surprisingly true and untrue the same time. I do feel like WALL-E is the ultimate Pixar work, but it sadly shares the production studio with other perfect films that just because time passes, have to be put aside to let the newer works shine. That's the truth about Pixar. After WALL-E, we got Toy Story 3, which is now the champion cuz it is the final installment of an era. A era just like the DIsney Renaissance. Now it's history, and we are looking back in time to wonder "What the heck happened to us, and our reviews?"

Movie Review: Hugo (2011) | by volcanolam - "The 16 yr old Casual Blogger" [Movie Reviews, Opinions, Essays & More!!]

Hugo (2011)

Rating: 7/10

It might not have the adventure, the scale, or the thrills you want, yet it is still an endearing and warm tale of a young boy named Hugo in a journey to uncover the mysteries of his father's heritance and the true identity behind a shopkeeper of the train station he swelled in. As aberrant as his subsequent work "The Wolf of Wall Street" would soon seem, this family film is an outright anomalous project from the hands of one of the most legendary directors in Hollywood, Martin Scorcese, and even though there didn't contain a single foul word, pop culture references or even PG stuff, trace of Scorcese's masterful visionary can be seen hidden in the core. It is a well-crafted and lovely film, if not matching the expectations I held beforehand.

Hugo (2011) is said to be the dearest picture to the great director's own heart of his filmography. It is true considering that Hugo, the protagonist, actually depicts Scorsese himself in his childhood times. You'll kinda get the feeling that this film is all him doing whatever he want instead of proving the world of his abilities to produce classics and large-scale movies, pretty much like Nolan making what he loves like Inception and Interstellar after rising into power with The Dark Knight. The story is much more simple than I thought of, and the only peril our small protagonist faced was the station inspector who threatened to bring him to the orphanage, but he is actually present for most of the screen time for comic relief, showing silly facial expressions throughout with some occasional slapstick. So while the great director is not dramatizing the plot in this one, he makes up of it with some crucial film elements. Firstly the visuals and the use of colour is exceptional, as the bluish background adorn with scintillating lights of the train station and the city as a whole is enchanting, mysterious and inexplicably warm to the heart, while the score is fantastic. The lead characters, despite being child actors, have delivered laudable performances. These film elements are brilliant decorations, allowing the movie to entertain while it is trying to convey meaningful themes and paying tributes to the birth of cinema and the great filmmakers that once lived.

With this apparently simple-minded movie, Martin Scorsese has once again shown the grandness of his vision. For more sophisticated viewers, the movie is breathtaking and thought-provoking, an epic that doesn't need any language or violence to depict, but instead captures on the innocence of boyhood that were almost wiped out within most older viewers. That's the reason why the movie looks so easy is understand but so hard to fully appreciate.