Saturday, November 30, 2013

Movie Review: The Book Thief

A friend asked if I was interested in going to see the above movie and not knowing much about it, but enjoying having someone to go to the movies with, I agreed.  I won’t say I regretted accepting the invitation, but I will say that any movies set in World War II should come with a disclaimer that it can’t end well for all the characters.  The idea and sadness that comes with that time period I respect and understand, but do sometimes feel like it is shoved down our throats by every story-teller and filmmaker out there.  I get it.  World War II was a terrible tragedy.  I believe the world, for the most part, understands and wants to learn from that.  To use that as a setting for so many movies, or stories, to me does it a disservice, just like using 9/11 as a backdrop for a romance story, like in the Robert Pattinson ‘Remember Me’ movie that came out some years ago.  At some point, I feel like it is overdone and is used in an irresponsible way.  Having said all that, this movie was enjoyable and pulled at all the right moments, though handling the Nazi occupation as a little less biting than most movies depict it.

The Book Thief follows the story of a girl who is adopted by a German family, she is lucky enough to also be German, and has to adjust to life in different surroundings at a great disadvantage.  The girl finds some friendship in a nearby boy of the same age and her adopted father, played by Geoffery Rush.  The mother is played by Emily Watson and is both rough and soft on her new daughter.  The story moves on pace with the war the Nazis declare upon the world, things at home growing more and more difficult.

The story ends as you might expect and while I felt moved by it at the time, I didn’t feel the staying power of it over time.  The performances are all well done and the story is touching.  Towards the end of the movie, I just wanted it to be over, and that says something, I think.  This felt like a movie made to win awards, not so much to reach people or encourage them.  The friend I’d mentioned said she was inspired to write after seeing it, but I wasn’t so motivated.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Movie Review: Old Boy

A trend that isn’t so new in Hollywood is to take popular movies from other parts of the world and Americanize them.  In this movie, Old Boy is a Korean movie that has been changed for an American audience.  I admit I haven’t seen the original, but the summary is available online and after having read it, I am stymied as to why the changes were made.

The story is told much through the trailer.  Josh Brolin is imprisoned for unknown reasons for twenty years.  Yes, you read that right, twenty years.  In all that time, he finds no way of escaping the single room nor overpowering his captors.  For unknown reasons, he is set free.  Instead of questioning why he was released, Brolin’s anti-hero is set on finding who put him in there and making them pay.  Needless to say, the lack of direction by the brutish Brolin makes for a good deal of misdirection which culminates into a plot twist that is more than cringe-worthy.

Brolin has always impressed me as an excellent character.  In this movie, once again, he takes centre stage and does so with great gusto.  With that same compliment comes the trouble with the story.  About half-way through I leaned over to my cousin and inadvertently spoiling the ending by guessing something that was well hidden in plain sight.  I fault the movie only in its over-use of violence and sex and underuse of a very able cast and strong story.  It always makes me wonder why gimmicks are used instead of leaning and revealing what was a great story, bringing that to the forefront.  This is an interesting movie, but the Korean version might be much better and worth your $7.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Movie Review: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

More than two years ago I saw the first trailer for the original movie and thought, this seems interesting.  While I never understood the hype around star Jennifer Lawrence, less so after seeing Silver Linings Playbook, the story had a great draw to it.  In a bleak world, Katniss lives in District 12, a place that is known for coal and little else.  The world had been ravaged after a failed attempt to overthrow the reigning powers and each year the Districts must offer up two kids to play in a last man standing battle, to the death.  As luck would have it, on Katniss’ little sisters first attempt, her name is chosen, with nothing else to do, Katniss volunteers to replace her.  Wackiness ensues.  Seriously though, the fight in the arena and on the way to are more stirring because of Lawrence’s prefect timing and annoying lead character.  Katniss thinks she is making all the right calls, and while she does the ‘right’ thing most of the time, it isn’t always the ‘smart’ thing.

In the sequel, the story picks up where we left off and Katniss and her companion victor Peeta are being sucked back into the intrigues of the world when they are forced to go to the Games a second time.  Unbeknownst to Katniss, as in the book, more is occurring than she is aware of and she does her best to sabotage her own best efforts without realizing it.

I want to steer clear of spoilers if I can.  I will say this, from what I recall, the movie seemed very true to what the book had written.  For me, this is when I want to get off of this ride, but I don’t.  I didn’t care for how Suzanne Collins wrote the second or third books and find myself wondering if Hollywood will change any of it given the tone.  I may be in the minority, but the books made me hate Katniss more and more, instead of less and less.  The acting was pretty spot on throughout and the story stayed true to the source, for good or for ill, you decide.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World

I had the rare treat of leaving work early yesterday to attend the AMC event where the original Thor movie, the Avengers movie that came out last year and the new Thor movie were played back-to-back.  The effect of such a marathon, while tiring, helps keep the stories continuous and doesn’t overwork your brain to remember something from a movie you saw over two years ago.

In Thor: The Dark World, the movie picks up much as the original did, citing a hidden threat that is reignited by a cosmic alliance that happens once every five thousand years.  The story moves back through time to the present, showing our astrophysicist Jane Foster looking for Thor and finding something dark instead.  The entity becomes a part of her and only those seeking the power are the ones that can remove it from her.  Thor comes down to earth, seeing Jane in peril and takes her back to Asgard, which is then attacked by these same beings.

The story continues on at a rapid pace, introducing old characters, giving them more depth than seen in previous movies.  The relationship between Thor and Jane is the central piece of the story and while it is compelling at times by great acting from the two leads, it also felt inauthentic at times.  I didn’t believe that Thor would really sacrifice his life for Jane, nor the other way around.  I did enjoy the very unpredictable appearance of Chris Evans.  I do love that Marvel and Disney are going to great lengths to keep the continuity up in all the movies.  The trailer for the next Captain America movie also appeared before this one.

Overall, this was a fun action, adventure movie, but the staying power of the story didn’t hold and I had forgotten about it as soon as I went to bed.  It was well worth seeing in 3D, though.