Wednesday, June 22, 2011

X-Men:First class

X-Men: First Class – 132Min – PG-13

While I was walking out of the movie I overheard some people saying “Sheesh! Can’t they get any comic book movie right?” Before I jump into the review I just wanted to point something out to the hardcore fans. Movies will never be just like the comic books. They are stories that are used as a starting point for films. There are so many different factors that go into making a movie that it is almost impossible to use the original storyline as an exact blueprint for films. You can read more about that later in the Movies IMHO blog. For today, I am just going to write about X-men.

X-Men: First Class tells us the story of the origins of Professor X and his school. It takes us back to the beginning even before the Professor was a professor. Learning about how the movie universe started was a good step in setting down the two different versions of the X-Men. Yes this movie takes liberties from the comic books, but it does do a good job of going back and laying out some of the past history between Professor X and Magneto. I liked watching the foundation of the war between the humans and the mutants. We see the development of the relationship and friendship that brings Charles and Eric together and how they worked with the same goal but from two completely different motivations. From an entertainment standpoint, this movie gets a green light from me. I know that some aspects were changed from the comic book but it was still an entertaining movie. Go and see it if you enjoyed any of the previous films.

We start this movie off back at the concentration camp where we see Eric Lensherr (Bill Milner) as a boy use his powers for the first time. It’s important to see the back ground of how Magneto (Michael Fassbender) became the person he is. We see how his life has shaped his outlook on life. Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) has a completely different origin and it’s interesting to see how the dynamic between these two friends evolves. Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto started a mutant movement with one ideal in mind but have two different concepts on how that should be accomplished. This movie also shows us the creation of the rift between friends and between mutants and humans. I see this movie as not an attempt to bring it closer to the books but more of a prequel to the movies’ storyline.

We also get to see how some of the other characters get their start, we see Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) or Beast as he is know in the X-men, Raven or Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) gets an introduction, Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Shaw the leader of the Hellfire Club. All of the performances were done well and the casting was great. Some of the characters they highlighted were either obscure or unknown to me. Azazel (Jason Flemyng) was a small character in the books. And I had never heard of Riptide (Alex Gonzalez). Angel was played by Zoe Kravitz and she was great, but I never heard of her character before.

The Director (Matthew Vaughn) did a good job of bringing this story to life. I have seen one of his other movies, Kick-Ass and enjoyed it. As far as an adaptation for a comic book story goes it was pretty spot-on for most of the movie’s elements. They had a great cast and a director who had a clear vision of what he wanted to relay. Vaughn’s cinematic timing is also good, we did not have an over use of mutant powers at the beginning of the film they build to a climatic end. John Mathieson who has been the cinematographer on several great movies is at the camera on this movie and it proves to be a good investment. Matheson’s eye for composition is great. One of my personal favorite films of his is K-PAX. Loved it.

I am going to go over some specific scenes that I really liked in the movie but I am hiding them under this Warrning Link below so I don’t give away any spoilers.


One of the most touching scenes and makes me feel almost bad for Eric is when Charles shows him how to tap into his power. The way they did that was really good, it allowed us as viewers to get behind Eric’s tough exterior and let us see how much pain he is still in.

One of the others is sticking with me is how close Raven and Charles were, I have not followed the books but I think this is a huge departure from the comics. I liked watching her start out with the ideals of Charles but ending up facing the reality that Eric presented her. Again, it gave me more of a connection to her as a person than just a bad guy.

Rose Byrne did a great job as the token human in the group; she played a CIA agent who is a characterization of who she was in the books, but still an advocate for mutant human relations. I did not want to mention her in the main review I thought her new role would have been a spoiler for some.

There are others but I just wanted to test out this feature incase I really wanted to talk about the movies in detail and still keep the spoilers away from people who do not want them.

Ok this week’s question is going to be, what side are you on, do you side with Magneto and side with The Brotherhood of Mutants, or are you with Professor X’s X-Men? Let me know what team and why in the comments.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 – 112min – PG-13

When I go to a movie I take a notebook. I usually jot down a few items about the movies as I watch. I can look back at my notes and see the movies that really engaged by the amount of notes I take during a movie. For this film, I have only one note in my book: “loved it! “ I was completely engaged throughout the picture. Every aspect of this movie was masterfully done. The acting, the storytelling, set design -- everything was done really well. The pace of the story was fine and the balancing act between all of the human emotions is awesome. Some people have said that it’s a cross between The Goonies and Cloverfield. I would say “yes and no”. I will explain more later. Right now let me go into other aspects of the movie. I am going to give this movie a full-on green light. I count this as a win for J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg.

The story surrounds a group of kids who are shooting a movie for a super 8 film festival. Super 8 refers to the type of film they are using, not a motel. While they are filming a scene at a train station, a train derails. The crash lets lose something that begins terrorizing the town. The rest of the movie focuses on things that happen while the kids try to figure out what is going on in the town, while finishing the movie, dodging their parents, finding young love and dealing with town familial politics. There are enough elements to keep you involved on several layers in the movie. The complex story is fun to watch as it rolls out. I liked how the kids and the grownups were trying to solve the same things, but were going from two different aspects.

The kids: Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso and Elle Fanning all did wonderfully in their roles. I enjoyed the characterizations that each brought to this young film crew. The kids’ production reminded me of some of my films shoots where you had several people doing roles and also working on the crew. The dynamic between them was well-played. I bought into the friendship they portrayed and enjoyed watching them argue and bicker like friends do from time to time. It felt real to me as I watched them go through this event. For the adult cast they had some challenging elements to bring to the screen, the relationship between Jackson(Kyle Chandler) and Louis (Ron Eldard) was well-performed. There were some really well played-out scenes where the characters grow and evolve and truly enjoy watching the development of the people as well as the story. A movie that has a depth of character is almost more entertaining for me to watch as the story is.

J.J. Abrams did a spectacular job. He made a well-balanced and entertaining film. This movie built to a good pace with the suspense and plenty of emotional story elements to satisfy several different viewers’ tastes. I have been a fan of his work in the past I was truly won over with his version of Star Trek. As a side note I have to admit I was extremely nervous when I heard they were remaking the series in a movie. I was willing to give him the Benefit of the doubt and went to see it with as much as an open mind as I could, I was not disappointed with his take on the earlier years that I surprised and pleased with the outcome. He had me as a fan from that point on. He is spectacular storyteller and does a wonderful job putting them up on the screen. The cinematographer (Larry Fong) did a great job of visualizing this film. His style of filmmaking can be seen in his past projects and they carry over to this one as well. His scene set up for the more suspenseful parts of this film defiantly have his touch to them. The sweeping long shots of the action and the composition of the perspective shots were “Mint”

I still want to address the comparisons to The Goonies and Cloverfield. There are some elements that are really Goonies-esk, you have a bunch of kids going out on an adventure and facing dangerous elements while they pursue their goal. If you take out all of the campy elements of Goonies, it’s not that far off. I have not seen Cloverfield but to the comparison seems to lie in how you do not get a good look at the monster until the very end of the movie. Many films in the past have used this technique so I don’t know if Cloverfield can take credit for it. Aside from that I can’t comment on how much alike those two films are.

Ok this week I am going to ask you what was one kids movie that you liked when you were young and when you watched it as adult it lost some of that wonder, It’s a sad questions but I had to ask, because I was watching Goonies again and I just can’t get that same feeling I had when I was a kid. My tastes have matured I guess.

Friday, June 10, 2011


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Central Station

Central Station - 113min – R

I have always been a fan of redemption stories. In this movie, Isadora's redemption is done in such a dynamic way that I can say my feelings about her transform with her through her journey. Her quest to bring a young boy to his father makes her face some things from her past she has not dealt with. This movie does a wonderful job of taking us through several settings in Brazil -- from the very rough streets of the city to the laid-back countryside. This movie is a combination of buddy road picture and redemption film. From a filmmaker’s standpoint there are several technical aspects of this movie I respect. This is one of the films that I was assigned to watch for a film class. It has a green light from me, please rent this film and enjoy. The movie is not one I would normally seek out. I enjoy foreign films and subtitles do not scare me away, but I didn’t think the cover made it sound very interesting. I was pleasantly surprised to find such a hidden gem. It’s worth a look.

The story is about Isadora (Fernanda Montenegro) an ex-schoolteacher who makes her living writing letters for people who are illiterate. She meets a mother (Soia Lira) and her son (Vinícius de Oliveira) who wants to send a letter to the boy’s father. A tragic accident leaves the boy alone on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. At first, Isadora is a completely despicable character. She bilks the uneducated out of the money she makes for writing the letters -- taking their money but never sending any of the letters. She looks for an angle to make money off the boy’s misfortunes. She then realizes her mistake and decides to take him to see his father as he is his only living relative. On the journey to find the boy’s father, she has to deal with issues from her past and grow as a person. By the film’s end, both characters have learned much from their experiences and emerge as completely different characters.

I want to take a quick moment to talk about the brilliant work that Montenegro does in this film, she does portray two completely different people in this move, I truly despised her at the beginning of this film, by the end I see he as a hopeful and caring person. Her work on this picture is a testament to her art, as the film passes; she does a superb job of making the transition in a believable and compelling way. The other person who deserves a nod is de Oliveira. He is a talented young actor who was a shoe shine boy before he performed in this movie and did an amazing job. His character is the catalyst that gets Isadora to move out of her normal life to grow and. He captures the vulnerability of a boy going through a horrific experience. He plays at putting on airs of strength, but he is still a boy. This is a remarkable picture and the chemistry between these two was magic.

Walter Salles directed this picture; he chose to make this film in sequence that means the first scene of the film was shot first. The rest of the shots were filmed as they came up in the movie. Typically films are shot out of order and the edited together. I have made a few films and most of them were done out of order to better accommodate the cast or locations we had access to. I have done a few films shot in sequence primarily for The Shootout Boulder. It’s a 24 hour film making festival that highlights the fact the films were created within 24 hours and can have no editing. You have to shoot it in sequence. It is a challenging task and I respect Salles for creating this film in this way. The second really cool thing is he has had very little set dressing on this movie; they used all actual locations in their natural settings. This does show the bright and vibrant colors that surround the people of Brazil. Salles does a great job of making sure the film comes across as a natural and clean environment.

I am going to ask you this time is there things in your life you have wanted to change? The reason I ask is because the theme of this movie was change. Now, I am not asking you to find a boy and travel across the country to get them back to their relatives. Are there things in your life that you would like to change for the better? Make those changes. You know what they are, just do it. I am...well I am trying at least.