Monday, February 23, 2015

Song of the Sea Review

Song of the Sea
Director: Tomm Moore
Cast Headliners: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan
Original Release Date: December 10th, 2014 (Certain European Countries)
Seen: February 2015 (special pre-Oscar showcase)

            Director Tomm Moore created an fascinating work with his first animated film, 2009’s The Secret of Kells.   What made that film stand out is that it was a Irish film through and through, using a Irish voice cast and utilizing a rich celebration of Celtic Irish myths and culture.  With Song of the Sea, Moore shifts things up a bit and pulls from some new legends. It turns out even better than the first experience he created.
            This two-dimensional animated film picks up, surrealistically , in Ireland’s coast at a light house  with a boy named Ben  (David Rawle) who lives with his father (Brendan Gleeson, who gives a thoroughly great performance with his usual warming tones) and mother (Lisa Hannigan) as they expect the birth of his sister Saoirse (also Lisa Hannigan).  In what is no doubt an excuse to deliver more Celtic lore to the entertainment world, Ben’s mother tells him legends, including the one of the Selkie who has a powerful voice in her song of the sea. Unfortunately, events transpire leaving Ben, Saoirse, and their father alone on that island for years after.   They are only visited by seals, and their intense  Granny (Fionnula Flanagan). 
            What awaits is a journey that must be seen firsthand to experience as the film packs an immense sense of wonder and discovery.  This owes incredible attribution to its artistic visuals.  Moore has once again brought a painting to life. At times surreal, at times calming, at times brooding the animated visuals and atmosphere of the film  is enrapturing. It truly feels like a ancient Celtic piece brought to movement, and it works even better here than in Kells with a new Genndy Tartakovsky-esque element to the animations. In every single moment of the film, it is a luscious cake for the eyes and heart with its comfort.
            The other great aspect is the themes of the story. There’s great writing, and the relationship between the siblings is especially unique because Saoirse cannot speak even at her age of 6.   Even with Ben being the main speaking character, it is never dull and the non-verbal direction is brilliant. Between her communication and cuteness, the influence of Studio Ghibli is even more evident here than in Kells. 
            Moore manages to take those influences and create something new. While the story is predictable, its slight slow moments never take away from the charm of this film. This is living art in a charming fable, and is definitely worth checking out for its putting ancient Irish culture in a modern society context for a delightful tale. 8.65 out of 10

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2015

For the 87th Awards airing Sunday night 2/22

For categories of personal interest……
Best Picture:
·         Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
·         Boyhood – Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland
·         The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes AndersonScott RudinSteven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
·         The Imitation Game – Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman
·         Selma – Christian ColsonOprah WinfreyDede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
·         The Theory of Everything – Tim BevanEric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
·         Whiplash – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster

Who  Will Win: It’s a tough race as always, but I really think that because of their other wins it’s a tie between Boyhood and The Grand Budapest. Though American Sniper being the dark horse wouldn’t surprise me.
Who Should Win: Out of these films I enjoyed Birman the most so I would have to go with that though I enjoyed the rest that any would be fine.
Best Director
·         Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
·         Richard Linklater – Boyhood
·         Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
·         Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

Who Will Win: It’s honestly likely Anderson or Linklater because of their film’s chances
Who Should Win:  Inarritu of course as his job was the most unique out of these

Best Actor
·         Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John Eleuthère du Pont
·         Bradley Cooper – American Sniper as Chris Kyle
·         Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
·         Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Riggan Thomson / Birdman

Who Will Win: Eddie Redmayne has this on a lock, though Cooper could be a upset and I think Keaton’s a near contender
Who Should Win: Michael Keaton, he was amazing in Birdman!!!
Best Actress
·         Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night as Sandra Bya
·         Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
·         Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
·         Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed

Who Will Win:  Julianne Moore if other shows are a indication
Who Should Win: Rosamund Pike since she was a brilliant surprise
Best Supporting Actor
·         Robert Duvall – The Judge as Judge Joseph Palmer
·         Ethan Hawke – Boyhood as Mason Evans, Sr.
·         Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Mike Shiner
·         Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher as Dave Schultz
·         J. K. Simmons – Whiplash as Terence Fletcher

Who Will Win:  JK Simmons, I got a good feel about it
Who Should Win: JK Simmons, the man didn’t rush or drag he was on tempo

Best Supporting Actress
·         Patricia Arquette – Boyhood as Olivia Evans
·         Laura Dern – Wild as Barbara "Bobbi" Grey
·         Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game as Joan Clarke
·         Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Sam Thomson
·         Meryl Streep – Into the Woods as The Witch

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette, she’s on a roll. Could see Emma Stone or Meryl  Streep as well.
Who Should Win: You know what, Meryl Streep. That my vote, I loved into the woods

Best Animated Film
·         Big Hero 6 – Don HallChris Williams and Roy Conli
·         The Boxtrolls – Anthony StacchiGraham Annable and Travis Knight
·         How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
·         Song of the Sea – Tomm Moore and Paul Young
·         The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Who Will Win: I would say it’s a tie up between the big two of Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2
Who Should Win: Because it’s the wild card, I’m going to have to lean towards the Ghibli film of Kaguya. Big Hero 6 I loved as well…
Best Original Score
·         The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat
·         Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
·         Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon
·         The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhanns
Who Will Win: Probably something like the Grand Budapest Hotel or The Theory of Everything when considering past trends.
Who Should Win: Interstellar, because it was one of the best aspects of that film
Best Visual Effects
·         Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
·         Interstellar – Paul FranklinAndrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
·         X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer
Who Will Win: This is a very hard one since I love all these films… my kind of movies! I would have to say a academy favorite is either Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for its apes or Interstellar for its space
Who Should Win:  It’s a tie to me between Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy. They each brought their own different but equally great vision of space…
            So that’s all folks for now. Some tough races in categories I haven’t listed, we’ll see what happens. It’s a solid lineup overall….

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Kingsmen: The Secret Service Review

Kingsmen: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast Headliners: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson
Original Release Date: February 13th, 2015

            The pairing of director Matthew Vaughn with the world of comic books has always proved to be a winning combination. Whether he brilliantly  rebooted X-Men with First Class and did writing for its crazy sequel Days of Future Past,  or did the fantasy tale Stardust he has created a unique and immersive world each time. And best of all have been his adaptations of the works of Mark Millar in Kick Ass and its sequel. The time has come for Millar’s next  series to reach  adaptation , and so for Kingsmen: The Secret Service it makes perfect sense that Vaughn returns in the director’s chair for a crazy ride.
            In this world there exists an order of  elite spies based in Britain known as the Kingsmen. Masters of both combat and suit coat fashion style, they are sent to do the blackest of operations while using Arthurian monikers such as Galahad (Colin Firth), Merlin (Mark Strong), and Arthur (Michael Caine).     One of their organization is taken out on a mission by extravagant business mogul Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and his blades-for-legs assassin Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).  It’s up to Galahad to find a new replacement for Lancelot.
            That’s where Gary “Eggsy” Unwin comes in, our main hero played by Taron Egerton.  He’s a bloke of a average joe and it’s up to Galahad to shape him up into Kingsmen material at the academy alongside 11 other competitors for their can only be one.    Egerton is  a pretty good main character, bringing a charisma unseen in the likes of Kick-Ass’s Aaron Taylor Johnson. He has a laugh line or two before he gets into the program, but by the end of the movie he is a suave coolguy nearly up there as a junior James Bond himself.
            The movie has strengths in its many weird characters.  The villainous team of Valentine and his assistant are great and enhance every seen they’re in,  with even SLJ managing to break type by utilizing a Mike Tyson-esque lisp and aversion to getting his hands dirty.   Firth is deliciously classy as Galahad, with  the best parts of the film being when he gets to step in on the action using cool ideas for spy gear (of which there are many) and delivering great one liners.  Mark Strong is the other comedic highlight as the trainees overseer.  Mark Hamill makes a decent but criminally small appearance as a Professor the Kingsmen are tracking, but it’s a shame his role is mostly reduced to whimpering in fear.  
            This is a long movie that gets a bit slow and somber when it’s not being funny, but it certainly manages to pick up immensely once a certain plot point happens. Because it turns out Valentine’s plot leads to people wanting to viciously murder each other on command, which is when the film’s R-rating comes bloodily crashing onto the screen. And oh boy does it get bloody. The touch of Matthew Vaughn is evident in these frenetic action scenes and it really feels like a comic book, AND MORE, at this level of intensity and chaos.   At a moment or too the visuals can seem a bit cheesy and sloppy, but that may be the point.           
            Overall the movie is full of surprises, which is fitting to its spy theme.  It’s a crazy, unique take on the spy film and it feels like the “Kick-Ass take” on the genre.  The tone ranges from silly, to dramatic, to insane action but it mostly manages to carry a steady quality. And when it becomes insane…. What a wild ride it is.  8.15 out of 10

(updated from 8 to 8.15 in november 2015 after reflection)

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water Review

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Director: Paul Tibbit, Mike Mitchell 
Cast Headliners: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Mr.Lawrence, Antonio Banderas 
Original Release Date: February 6th, 2015

 Sometimes one must think of the tough questions, like “who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”  After nearly a decade later, the resident of said aquatic fruit is back with a new film in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.  Now there are no references to the first film, so in some regards this is a very loose sequel.   But the nice thing about Spongebob Squarepants is its easy to jump in anytime.
            The film starts typically enough, with Spongebob (Tom Kenny) , Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) and Mr.Krabs (Clancy Brown) defending the Krusty Krab restaurant against another usual sort of attack by the villain Plankton (Mr. Lawrence).  The nice surprise of the film is that it is actually mostly in 2d unlike what the trailers would have one believe, and like the first movie it exists (mostly) as a really long episode of the television show with slightly better animation quality.   The main plot happens when the Krabby Patty formula goes missing, leading to a time-travelling adventure where amusingly the rivals of Spongebob and Plankton must work together to save their town of Bikini Bottom.  The writing is just as silly as the show, and the fact that this is a film allows things to get a bit crazier than usual. There is a large extended cast from the show as well, including Gary the snail and Sandy the squirrel (Carolyn Lawrence).
            However, the trailers and title of the film do exist for a reason.  There’s a bizzare overarching plot where pirate Burgerbeard (Antonio Banderas) is reading a storybook about all of these events occurring.  He does a wonderfully hammy performance as the pirate, and the main crew of nautical characters is forced to confront him in the “real world” once they find out about his deeds. This end-segment, and other live action portions showing Burgerbeard, are not quite as good as the 2d parts. The CGI visuals of Spongebob and friends look slightly off, and it really feels like a separate movie.   For better or worse this portion flies by though.
            The whole movie flies by in fact since it is just over a hour and a half long.  The story unfolds as a series of brief jokes and weird twists, and while lacking in substance that’s perhaps the best way it should be.  One will have some laughs over its brief runtime. For a Spongebob movie, it works again more or less. 7.6 out of 10