Search This Blog

Friday, February 28, 2014

HEAVEN AND EARTH

Here's one of the three Vietnam wars film directed by Oliver Stone called...
  

I'm going to review the film into three acts since each act has a different look on war.

ACT 1


Based on a true story, a village Vietnamese girl named Le Ly (Hiep Thi Le) sees her life and village change due to the effects of the Vietnam War. This first act is really sad and really heavy. We go from seeing a beautiful village and land get slowly destroyed due to the war; to having some members of our main characters' family dying; to having our main character being tortured and raped by both the Americans and the Vietcong; to being seduced from a married man that Le Ly works for, resulting to dishonoring her family. I can't tell you how sad and moved I was from the first hour and 6 minutes. It really disturbed me and made me cry, as well being hard to watch. The actress who plays our main character is so great for her role by bringing the sense of realism and innocence that I can't help, but cry and feel this character's pain. As for the score, it's not memorable, but it is indeed moving. The cinematography, art direction, and editing is excellent and it really does capture the beauty of the village; the destruction and chaos of war; and I like the use of Black & White for the flashbacks and dream sequences.

The narrative structure is good too. The narration that our main character gives is moving and does bring the dramatic tone for the film. However, if I did have any kind of criticism for the first act, I felt like the pacing was a little too quick. I know the film is trying to juggle and put every important aspect to this person's life together within the 2 hours and 10 minutes of the film, but it feels a bit rushed. On top of it, I feel like we don't spend enough time with her family for them to become close and lovable. For example, the two brothers that go out to war and die, we're only introduced to them in one scene before they go out to war and that's it. It's sad, but we barley spend any time with them to feel bad about them. On top of it, we find out through the narration that she was really close with one of the two brothers. Think about how effecting it would be if we actually got to see their relationship. As for her relationship with her Father and Mother, I'm not saying it's not there, it is, but it feels very brief and quick during the scenes when we see them together, mostly with the scenes with her and the Mother. The only relationship I can remember well from the first act of the film is the relationship with her Sister that tries to help her, while at the same time treats her like crap. Not a bad start at all, just feels a little too rushed, probably because audiences are waiting to see the big named star in the second act.

ACT 2


In this Act, Le Ly meets an American soldier named Steve (Tommy Lee Jones) and the two begin to form a close relationship, to forming their own family in America. However, Steve becomes brutal and abusive towards Le Ly as the horrors from the war is coming back to haunt him. So how's Tommy Lee Jones in this role, he's great actually. How he transforms from a kind hearted dream soldier, to a crazed abusive husband with a bad past is great; the relationship and chemistry between him and Le Ly is moving and interesting; and the scene where he breaks down and tells Le Ly about his experience in the war is really sad and moving. I also enjoy watching Le Ly adjust to American life as we see her slowly become Americanized.  As for the score, cinematography, art direction and other filming techniques, it's still just as great as it was in the first act of the film. The only big criticism I have is the pacing. The relationship between Le Ly and Steve is there, but at times it feels just as rushed as most of the scenes in the first act. The acting at times feels rushed; some of the scenes feel rushed; it just feels like the film is trying to cram as much it can within its 2 hour and 10 minute limit.

ACT 3


The final act is when Le Ly returns to her village and without giving too much away, it's a really good conclusion to the film. Unlike act 1 and 2, the pacing feels just right. On top of it, some of the characters who we barley spend time with in the first act, are spent well here, as well as having plenty of good emotional scenes. I also find the speech about their struggle in the war to be just as powerful and moving as Tommy Lee Jones' monologue about him in the war.

OVERALL

While the film does feel rushed, I still think it's a good film. The acting is good (Especially from our two leads); the narrative is easy to follow; the look and feel of the film is powerful; and it does show the brutality and sadness of war. If the pacing of the film didn't feel rushed, perhaps I would have given it my highest rating. With that huge flaw aside, I'm really glad I saw this film, and I was indeed moved by it especially during the scenes that did take its time.

RATING 4/5

Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE



Lego's, boy were they popular when I was a kid and it's popularity is surprisingly still growing. Who ever thought a set of construction toys where you can follow the instructions or make what you feel would become so popular. There were...

VIDEO GAMES


A TV SHOW


A DIRECT TO VIDEO FILM


AND OF COURSE IT'S OWN FEATURE LENGTH FILM


When I saw the poster of the characters sitting in the theater, I was thinking to myself "What is this, a film that's like those "Movie" films only done with Lego's for kids. Hollywood is running out of ideas". Surprisingly, it received a great reception from critics (Including from some of my favorite critics Jeremy Jahns and the Walker Brothers), kids and Lego fans. My friend asked me to see it with him, so I did and what did I think...can I say that it's a bit overrated? Just read me out!

The film takes place in a Lego universe and our hero is an average, everyday construction worker named Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) who meets a woman named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and finds a giant red Lego called the "Piece Of Resistance". It appears that Emmet is the chosen one for finding the piece and it's up to him to bring the peace and stop an evil Business man named Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from using a weapon to freeze the Lego citizens in place. However, Emmet is not a skilled builder and the rest of the Lego Universe begin to lose faith in him. To be honest, I do like the Set Up. OK, not the cliche plot, but I like that there's more than one Lego world that our characters can explore with its own different theme. That's actually pretty creative for a kids film. As for the plot not only is it really cliche, but it's atmosphere, style and narrative is all over the place. I mean there's so much going on, so much happening, so many stuff being thrown at our faces that it never stops, gets confusing, and isn't straight forward. In a film like "Wreck It Ralph" that has different worlds and popular characters, the story was not only clear and creative, but it didn't feel overloaded, it had a right balance. This film feels like it's trying to throw as many worlds, pop culture characters and jokes as possible as the writers played "Mad Libs" with a cliche story.



The characters while being cliche, I did surprisingly enjoy most of them. Our hero Emmet while being the typical idiot loser and a misfit who slowly becomes a hero is at least still fun and likable. The leading lady WyldStyle is actually my favorite character in the film. She's tough, she's smart, she's adventurous, she's cool, she has great chemistry between our hero, and she has Batman for a boyfriend! She's the best character in the whole entire movie. Speaking of Batman by the way, I honestly didn't like his portrayal in this film. I felt he was too mean, too silly, very uninteresting and felt like a forced in character by popular demand, which is sad since I was looking forward to seeing Batman. Morgan Freeman as the old wise wizard (As if we have never seen that before)  Vitruvius, is an ok character. First off, I didn't know it was Freeman till I got to the middle of the film, which is very impressive voice acting, his design is cool, his fight scene at the end was cool but with that said I didn't find him all that interesting. The villain voiced by Will Ferrell who was another voice I didn't recognize till later on in the film, however, he's not really funny, villainous or interesting, he's just the typical corporate villain we keep seeing in kids' films recently. We have a two faced cop called Good Cop/Bad Cop who has a really funny two faced personality and despite being similar to the Two Faced Mayor in "The Nightmare Before Christmas", he's still enjoyable. He's also voiced by Liam Neeson, who I didn't recognize until I looked up the casting. As for the supporting characters, the ones I really enjoyed were the original characters made for the film. Yeah characters like Superman, Green Lantern, Dumbledore, Gandalf and Wonder Woman, didn't make me laugh, ALTHOUGH I did laugh at the cameo of Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and Lando, which by the way the last two characters I mentioned are voiced by their original actor. Characters like Metal Beard The Robotic body Pirate, Princess Uni-Kitty (Who's half Unicorn and half anime Kitty) and the Space Guy Benny (Charlie Day) they were fun, enjoyable and creative characters and to be honest I wish the film had more creative characters like them than having too many pop culture characters.



The jokes in the film are passable. I laughed here and there, but overall, the jokes in the video games are funnier than the ones here. There's also a song called "Everything Is Awesome" which to be honest is a very positive and fun song and now when I listen to it, I can't get enough of it. As I said before, the film is a mess. The pop culture references not only feel forced, but they're just not that funny. The action scenes, didn't hold me on the edge of my seat since there was so much stuff going on that I couldn't take the time to embrace it. When I heard that the film was done in Stop Motion, I was excited to see a Stop Motion film, however, it was obviously done in Computer Animation. With disappointment aside, however, the computer animation was indeed creative and really makes it look like the Lego's are really alive. I also do admire the detail, it's creative look, it can look realistic and actually making it look laughably cheesy at points, so it works well.



The last thing, I should talk about is the twist in the film without giving too much away of course. The twist while not making sense at a few points it does indeed make sense about the many choices I criticized that the film made and does redeem the many things that I faulted the film. It also helps with its film moral of creativity of thinking both inside and outside of the box and what makes us different and unique, that's not a bad message for kids. However, I will admit it did feel a bit dull or corny, but it was still nice and innocent enough to get its message across. I guess my biggest question is, if the film didn't have that twist would the film be as successful and forgivable with its choices? NO, in fact, I probably wouldn't have appreciated the film as much if it wasn't for the twist.

The film to me is a bit of a mixed bag. The characters while cliche or feel forced in, the ones I praised are really good. The voice acting is very impressive and yes, there are times when I can separate the actor from the character and not even recognize the actor at all. While disappointed that it's not in Stop Motion as I was told, the animation is still incredible! While the film feels like a confusing mess, that twist at the ending explains everything...almost everything. While feeling like a long commercial and perhaps being a money making tool for kids to buy Lego's, I still feel plenty of passion and creativity behind it all. I have the feeling that the film will get better for me with each viewing and this is indeed a film that I wouldn't mind seeing again.

RATING 3/5