Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Bling Ring

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How far would you go to be famous? Would you throw your family or other loved ones under the bus to achieve the slightest bit of notoriety? In a society where more people know who Kim Kardashian is rather than the author of the Declaration of Independence, one must question the morals we raise our kids with. In The Bling Ring, based on the article and book by Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola takes us on a journey that attempts to figure out how a group of youths was able to pull off a string of high-end burglaries. They target people who have what they want: money, nice clothes, power, and most of all, fame.

Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid in town, and one of the first students he meets is Rebecca (Katie Chang), who is obsessed with everything having to do with Hollywood. One night, the two enter unlocked cars and steal money and credit cards. Later on they are bored at home one night, and through an internet search find out Paris Hilton’s address and that she is out-of-town for an appearance. They decide to go to her house, break in, and see how the rich and famous live. After bragging about their achievements to their friends, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farminga), and Chloe ( Claire Julien), they decide to pay their old friend Paris another visit. This sets off a crime spree against other rich and famous young stars, including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Partridge. Consumed by their closeness to fame, the group starts becoming careless and soon their deeds begin to catch up with them.

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I thought the best part of the movie was Emma Watson’s performance. Even though in the trailer Watson (undoubtedly the biggest name in the film) was viewed as the main character, her role in the final film was that of a supporting character. Her character, Nikki, was based on Alexis Neiers, the suspect who gave the original interview that the film is based on. I felt that she had the whole attitude of her character down pat. Watson said that to prepare for the role, she watched a lot of reality TV and even created a fake Tumblr as her character. She had the accent of a party girl down perfectly, and even though she had such a small role (and such an empty character), she was really able to create something memorable.

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I also thought Coppola’s vision for the movie was very interesting. She based her screen play on Sales’ article entitled “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, in which she interviewed Alexis Neiers and her alleged connection to the group. From there the story sort of took on a life of its own and those in The Bling Ring became celebrities in their own right. They each had their own story to tell, and I thought Coppola’s interpretation of those stories was really spot on. The film was quick-moving and the story didn’t drag. My only complaint was that some of the dialogue seemed a little too fake, and I got the sense that it was Coppola’s interpretation of how teenagers would talk in these scenes. It seemed too made up, and didn’t flow well at times.

All and all, I thought The Bling Ring was an interesting take on the lengths some people will go to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. The film, though not one of Coppola’s best works, was entertaining, and I thought Watson’s performance made the movie and showed off her comedic chops and how good of an actress she really is.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Bling Ring (2013)
American Zoetrope
R, 90 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Wolf of Wall Street

twowsWhat makes a man successful? Is it money, nice cars, a big house, a good-looking wife, or all of the above? In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the autobiography of the same name, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a tycoon who seemingly has it all. He has a good job, tons of money, and a beautiful house. Despite these riches, we are taken on a journey to see the other side of living such a life. The film poses this question: in order to have it all, does one have to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve that success?

Jordan Belfort is an up and coming stock broker who gets laid off from his first job after the market crashes on Black Monday.  To make ends meet, he takes a job in a Long Island boiler room selling questionable penny stocks. Due to his Wall Street training,  he is able to sell these stocks with ease and eventually recruits Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), as well as some other immoral characters to start a pump and dump company. This attracts the attention of federal agents, who question the ethics of this new company. Belfort enjoys the high life, but will he be able to keep this illegal business going or will his deeds eventually catch up to him?

Let me start this review by saying I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was really good in this role. Do I think it was his best performance to date? No, but I do think the role suited him well and showcases why he is one of the great actors of our generation. I would have been really upset if he had won the Oscar for this movie because I think he has had other, more deserving performances that have gone overlooked. I think this was a good performance in a not-so-great movie. After a while, the story became predictable. I got to one point in the movie where I looked over at my brother and said, “I bet he’s going to have sex with this hooker and then do a line of coke on her ass.” It was three hours of the same repetitive story line, and I think the film could have been edited down more, with some of the repeated scenes left on the cutting room floor.

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Another thing I questioned was Jonah Hill’s Oscar nomination. I thought he was very deserving of one for Moneyball, but in this performance he seemed to play an early 90’s banker version of Jonah Hill. I thought there was nothing memorable about his performance, which seemed very campy and appeared that he was trying too hard. I did think that Matthew McConaughey (in his one scene of the movie) was much more memorable as Belfort’s mentor and first boss Mark Hanna. Also a great breakout performance was given by Margot Robbie as Jordan’s second wife, Naomi. I thought acting-wise she was a great match for DiCaprio, and despite being a new comer to the business, she was able to hold her own and even outshine DiCaprio in some scenes. I look forward to seeing where her career takes her because I think she will be a big star.

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In the end, I thought The Wolf of Wall Street faltered more than it succeeded. I think the film was just too long. Had some of the less important scenes been edited down or cut out completely, the film would have had a better flow and been more enjoyable all around. I think it bought up a good point about the lengths some would go to for success, but the message was lost in too many scenes of coke binges and sex with random hookers.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Paramount Pictures
R, 180 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Great Gatsby

tggpAre there such things as second chances? If something doesn’t work out the first time, should we just let it be and not try again? If a book is adapted into a bad film the first time, should it just stay a book and never be made into a film again? As I expressed in my page to screen review of the original Great Gatsby film and book, I had hoped that this recent remake would be able to capture some of the magic from the book that the original film adaptation hadn’t. I had seen the trailers and my expectations were high given how dazzling and colorful they seemed. Could those two and a half minutes translate to a film that made me forget the travesty of the first attempt of adapting this novel for the screen?

For those of you who have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (shame on you) or seen the first film (don’t waste your time), The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a recent Yale graduate who moves to West Egg, Long Island. There he is reunited with his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), who live on the other side of the bay in East Egg. While living in his modest cabin, Nick moves next to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), about whom not much is known. In fact people aren’t even sure he actually exists.  All that is known is that he throws the most extravagant parties, which are the social events of the year. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, and through a private meeting with Gatsby finds out that he was once romantically involved with Nick’s cousin Daisy, with whom he is still madly in love. One afternoon, Nick invites Daisy over for tea at Gatsby’s request to reunite him with his long-lost lover. Sparks immediately fly between the two and they begin to have an affair. Who will Daisy choose, the man she gave her word to and has given her her current status in society or her former love, who seems to be the true love of her life.

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I am so torn about how I feel regarding this film. There were certain aspects of the film that I loved and really appreciated, yet there were other things that just fell flat. I thought that it was visually stunning. The party scenes were exactly as I imagined them, and I thought that director Baz Lurhmann did exceptionally well creating, at the same time, a world of mystery and delight . Another thing that was amazing about the film was the music. Lurhmann has a way of making the music another character in his films, which really brings the story and characters to life. The score for this film was executive produced by Jay Z and had many current artists recreating some jazz-age favorites with a modern twist. The music definitely helped bring to life the grandiose ideas behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters.

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Something still fell flat in this translation. It was better than the first film, but still lacked some of the spark that existed in the book. I thought Carey Mulligan seemed very out-of-place as Daisy and looked like a baby compared to the rest of the cast. The way Lurhmann decided to tell the story as a flashback from Carraway’s perspective, as he’s being admitted to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism, was a good choice, but again something fell flat. It lacked the magic of the book, and the anticipation I felt when reading didn’t seem to follow me as I watched the film.

In the end I thought it was better than the first film, but still not as good as the book. Writing this review several months after I saw the film, has helped me write a more honest and accurate review. At first I was so enamored by the music and the lights I wouldn’t have given it such a critical review. I’ll end with this piece of advice: if you have to see a film version for a class pick this one, but if you have time, stick to the book (and this is coming from a non-reader.) Until next time, happy viewing.

3 out 5 Stars

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Warner Bros.
PG-13, 143 Minutes

Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of The Great Gatsby

gatsby-original-cover-artWhat defines a book as a “must read?” Is it that regardless of how old it is, people still relate to the story or still care about the characters? Or is it that one influential person really liked it and proclaimed it a “must read” and people listened?  One such “must read” (which for me was basically a “to-read” until I saw a movie trailer for it) was The Great Gatsby. Once I saw the trailer for the Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, I couldn’t believe I had never read the book. It seemed like a giant party set in the context of the roaring 20’s (my favorite time in American history.) The complexity of the story seemed intriguing and I knew I had to check it out from the library. I read it in less than 48 hours and was obsessed with everything about it. I loved the characters, I loved the love story, I loved the symbolism, and I just loved the simple, yet complex feel of the work overall. I was told there was a movie version of it already made, but that it was not a great translation from page to screen. Even so, I wanted to try it out on my own and see if my new favorite novel could become my new favorite movie.

Sadly, for once I have to agree with the critics. From the moment I started watching the movie, I automatically felt a disconnected to it. Lost was the magical world Fitzgerald created, gone were the extravagant parties I wanted a time machine to witness, and sadly, most everything else special about the book seemed to be missing. I just couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. How could this movie have gone so wrong? Francis Ford Coppola, the genius behind the Godfather trilogy, wrote it and was a huge factor in bringing it to the screen. With a cast like Mia Farrow, Robert Redford, and Sam Waterston in the lead roles, the characters should have jumped off the screen and been bought to life. Out of the three main actors, the only one I truly believed in his/her role was Sam Waterston as the narrator Nick Carraway. He was able to portray the every-man really well.

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The magic aura and appeal of Gatsby and Daisy were lost in the translation from page to screen. These two characters are pertinent to the story, and if you miscast them you might as well not make the movie, as their story is the heart and soul of the novel/movie. Redford as Gatsby didn’t have any mystery to him. He didn’t seem like someone who was unattainable, and something about his character just was lost. He didn’t have that magic feeling about him, he just seemed like an average Joe with a really nice house. I’m trying to think if it was his acting or if it was just Redford in general, but either way he didn’t seem like the Gatsby I envisioned. When I was reading the novel, all I could think of was a young Warren Beatty or Marlon Brando playing Gatsby. They seem so clouded with mystery that I think they would have effectively portrayed one of the greatest literary characters ever written. Mia Farrow was also horribly miscast as Daisy, the lost love of Gatsby, who in a way is the original Kim Kardashian. She has no responsibility; she goes around from guy to guy, party to party, not caring about anyone’s feelings but her own. Mia Farrow seemed too white bread to play this character. In the book, she’s described as the most beautiful woman in the world, a Greek Goddess. Perfection. I couldn’t help but envision a blonde Natalie Wood or Faye Dunaway playing this character. Someone with a little bit more substance to them, but not Mia Farrow.

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One hope I have for the new Baz Luhrmann version is that the magic is ignited and visible throughout the story. There is something so classic about the story, yet it also feels so modern. I think the incorporation of modern music, modern themes, and modern special effects really do the original story justice. I loved Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet as it was a fresh take on a classic story.  It still had the heart of soul of Shakespeare, but was a new and interesting way to present the story. I am already enjoying the trailers I’ve seen because it seems like they finally got it right. Gatsby seems like that mysterious figure, that person that no one really knows. I really hope Luhrmann is able to keep this mystery alive. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out a hot mess like the previous version.

Book: 6 out of 5 Stars

Movie: 1 out of 5 Stars

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner
Paperback: 192 pages
ISBN: 9780743273565

The Great Gatsby (1974)
Paramount Pictures
PG, 144 minutes

Life and 100 Films: Charlie’s Review of Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_PosterThe moment I heard Disney was making Oz the Great and Powerful, I was ecstatic. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big movie geek, especially with anything made by Disney, so this was a GREAT match made in heaven.  I’ll leave it to Wikipedia for the plot:

The film is directed by Sam Raimi and stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda. The Great and Powerful serves as a prequel to Baum’s 1900 introductory novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and an homage to the 1939 MGM Classic, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of both sources, Oscar Diggs arrives in the Land of Oz where he discovers three witches; Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda. Oscar is then inclined to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.

One of the great things I really loved about the film was its continuity. Just as in the original film, the opening sequence is presented in black-and-white, and then transitions into color when the protagonist arrives in Oz. We are also treated to some new changes as well: the aspect ratios and sound effects are different (don’t worry, Glinda still travels in a giant bubble), and the Emerald City looks better than ever. Not too many changes have taken place, however, as we still have the iconic Wicked Witch of the West and her sister Glinda, the Good Witch. Several actors who play Oz characters make cameos in the Kansas scenes as well! I don’t want to spoil everything for you, so if you haven’t seen it, look out for these homages, and comment below on what you think they are! While there are some differences from the books and the original film, Mr. Raimi has done a great job colliding all these worlds together to make a great piece of art for fans of old and new!

If you are a fan of Oz, I don’t see how you won’t enjoy this movie. Is it a masterpiece? No, however I think that it served its purpose perfectly and will allow generations of people to enjoy the works of Baum in new ways. If you didn’t know, Disney plans to turn this into a new franchise of their own, especially after it dominated at the box office. I know there are some fans that are mad about this: the fact that the film got the Disney treatment, James Franco’s acting, etc. In my opinion, they need to just shut up and live a little! Even though I may be biased as a massive Disney fan, I think they did great by this franchise, and I love James Franco in the role. Would I have liked Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp better as they were the original picks? Maybe, but I think James did a great job for what it’s worth. To be honest the person I was a little disappointed in was Mila Kunis (something just didn’t seem right), while on the other hand, Michelle Williams was made for her role. I was also happy to see Zach Braff back in the game, as I have missed him on the screen.

It’s been a long time coming for the world of Oz to return to the big screen, especially with the technology we have today to really bring this world to life. Disney has been trying to do it for quite some time, and even though MGM may have been a bit of an annoyance since they seem to own the most random rights (like the ruby slippers from the original film), I think they did a fine job, especially with the ending! Some think it’s a ripoff of Wicked to some regard, but this film is actually loosely based on the original books (which I now want to read), whereas Wicked is completely made up. All in all, if you are a fan of Oz, fantasy, or just a plain good old-time at the movies, I suggest you go see this film, as I don’t think you will be disappointed.

4 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Les Mis

lesmisposterWhen waiting for a movie to come out, often times anticipation plays with our mind. When we finally see the movie, it doesn’t live up to the hype that we imagine the final product will be. Often times, even though we have a pre-conceived notion of what the movie will be and how it will look, as well as what choices the director and actors will make, it just doesn’t hit the mark somehow. There’s no denying I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Les Miserables movie. I even wrote a post about the women of Les Miserables (which you can read here). Although it is not the first film adaptation of the classic Victor Hugo novel, it is the first adaptation of the musical, which itself is adapted from the novel. I have been following the progression of this film from the first announcement, to casting announcements, to the first leaked pictures, to the first trailer, TV spots, and even random cast members on talk shows. I couldn’t get enough clips and literally could not wait any longer to see the movie. Would the hype of the movie ultimately ruin it for me? Would it be everything I had imagined it to be? Would it be a bigger let down than Mockingjay of the Hunger Games series? So many questions were finally answered when I saw the movie on Christmas Eve.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Les Miserables begins by introducing us to Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. After he is paroled by the no-nonsense Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), he realizes he cannot exist with his old identity because his papers have labeled him a dangerous man. After a chance encounter with a bishop, Valjean vows to be a better and honest man. Over the course of the movie, you witness the story of a student revolution, a mother’s unwavering love for her child, a love triangle, and finally a story of redemption, all told with an amazing score and incredible songs.

Ok, I cannot wait anymore to tell you what I thought of the movie. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of the best musical movies ever made. One thing which made it one of the best musicals ever made was the decision to sing live while the cameras were rolling, as opposed to pre-recording the songs. With live singing, you experience the emotions the actors were trying to get across.  The songs came across much more genuine than they would have had the actors pre-recorded the songs. Although this is not the first time an actor has sung live on the set (I believe Rex Harrison sang live for My Fair Lady), this is the first time 100% of the scenes in a musical were sung live 100% of the time. It was an incredibly intimate way to portray the story of Les Miserables, and it worked perfectly. I hope more musicals decide to try this in the future.

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The performance of the movie was none other than Anne Hathaway as the factory worker-turned-prostitute Fantine. From her first scene to her last scene (over the course of 20 minutes), she captivates the audience with her portrayal of this tragic character. She gets her hair cut on-screen and you can see the fear and despair in that particular shot in her eyes. She became this character who literally is in a downward spiral with no hope of ever getting out of it. Fantine’s signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” was moved around in the movie compared to its placement in the musical. In the musical it is right after she is fired from the factory job, and in the movie it is right after her first experience as a prostitute. The movement of this song made the already sad lyrics even sadder. To put the cherry on top was how Hathaway decided to sing the song. She decided against belting it, instead going for a quieter version. Her version was so emotional, so raw, and so heartfelt that every time I’ve seen the movie (which is now up to three times), it breaks my heart and I feel a single tear coming down my cheek. I also have to give credit to director Tom Hooper for his shot choice during this song. It is shot in one long take with a minor cut in the beginning, and is just focused on Hathaway’s face. You could feel her emotions jumping off the screen. It was an incredibly effective way of shooting this scene.  If she is not this year’s best supporting actress for her performance as Fantine, then clearly all the Academy members went to the bathroom during that scene because it is utterly heartbreaking.

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Some other strong performances were Samantha Barks as Eponine, the street urchin who gets the short end of the stick in a love triangle, and Eddie Redmayne as the student revolutionary-turned-love sick puppy named Marius. Samantha had previously played Eponine on the West End Stage and the O2 25th anniversary concert. She lights up the screen with every scene she is in, and she really showed restraint in her vocal changes. Having come from a stage background, she said that she was used to singing to 2,000 people in a theater and that she had to learn to retrain her voice to strip down her singing. She really gives a great debut performance and will have a long movie career ahead of her. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was able to take one song I really don’t love, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and make it a heart-tugging performance. He had a boyish quality that Marius is often missing in the stage show, and he really added validity to the story that he had never been in love until he saw Cosette. Hugh Jackman was also Oscar-worthy as Valjean, and is probably in the final five of my Best Actor Oscar list, but unfortunately for Jackman it looks like nothing is stopping Daniel Day-Lewis and his incredible performance as Lincoln. However, Jackman was the perfect screen adaptation of Valjean.

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Someone who I feel is unfortunately getting the short end of the stick by many critics is Russell Crowe as the persistent inspector Javert. At the end of his career, would this one performance be what he is known for? Probably not, but he didn’t ruin the movie as many critics have stated. I actually thought as the movie went on his performance got stronger.  He was by no means one of the strongest voices of the cast, but he wasn’t as bad vocally as Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia (just even mentioning his croaking singing makes my ears hurt). In truth, he really had the unrelenting quality that any good Javert should have. His soliloquy was actually one of the strongest parts of the second half of the movie, and as in the play, we finally see some humanity in Javert. Also, I’ve heard that people don’t like Amanda Seyfried as Cosette because of her vibrato. I will say that after hearing the soundtrack, I was afraid it would be annoying and would make me hate the character of Cosette more so than I do already. However after seeing the movie, the vibrato in fact makes Cosette a more endearing character somehow. You often forget that Cosette is someone who (until she meets Valjean) has never known the true love of a parent. You forget how Valjean guards her, and through the imperfection in Seyfried’s voice you really understand the sense of innocence that her character has. Her performance in the epilogue was really heartbreaking and if you don’t tear up, you may be hollow on the inside.

lesmishughIn closing, I will answer the question I posed in the introduction: did the hype ruin the movie? No, it lived up to all of my expectations and surpassed many more. It wasn’t a let down like Mockingjay. It was everything I imagined it to be and was pure perfection. Not many movies can be labeled perfection and I think this is one that deserves that title. I would recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, even if you don’t like musicals. I think this story has developed a way to transcend the barrier of the musical. It has figured out a way to tell the story with music, rather than the music becoming an annoyance and taking away from the beauty of the story. In short, you have to go see this movie.

7 out of 5 Stars

Les Miserables (2012)
Working Titles Films
PG-13, 157 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Hobbit

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-movie-poster-1The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was one of my most anticipated films for this year. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big geek, and this is one of my holy grails! A film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, it was in development for several years after the critical and financial success of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Peter Jackson was initially going to produce a two-film adaptation of The Hobbit, which was to be directed by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro left the project in May 2010 after about two years of working with Jackson and his production team, due to delays caused by the financial problems MGM was facing. To make a long story short, Peter Jackson finally came to his senses and took over the project as director, as it should have been all along because he is the rightful heir to the throne! Besides Tolkien, may he rest in peace, no one knows Middle-Earth like Peter!

The Hobbit films were produced back to back to back, just like The Lord of the Rings films. Yes, you read that right, I said back three times. At first it was only going to be two films, but now Jackson is turning The Hobbit into a film trilogy. When the credits started rolling after I saw the film, the guy behind me was like, “WTF, it’s only one book.” All I wanted to say was, “have you been living under a rock?” Before you say to yourself that I’m nuts and that The Hobbit is the shortest of all of Tolkien’s books, I’m quite certain that Jackson knows what he is doing. It’s not just to make more money, as I believe that he always has the end goal of making the best possible product on his mind at all times. Adapting The Hobbit to film was a very hard task to begin with, but now that he’s completed this Peter has allowed us to enjoy it to the max. He has added appendix material of Tolkien’s, including side stories happening off of the main page, and even added a few things of his own to make this into the epic trilogy that the story deserves. I will admit, some studios have been doing this as of late just to make more money, but this adaptation is for pure entertainment in my mind. Without an author like Tolkien, who I believe is the greatest of all time in his genre, we wouldn’t have many of the great stories we all know and love today.

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The series acts as a prequel to Jackson’s highly acclaimed Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Several actors reprise their roles from The Lord of the Rings in this new trilogy, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom. For those of you who don’t know, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set in the fictional world of Middle-Earth, and the films follow the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman [aka BILBO PERFECTION]), hired by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), to accompany 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbactch [aka a NEW GEEK GOD]). The next in the series is The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and There and Back Again (2014). I can’t be any more excited!

Now, even though the film is already awesome, what makes it even cooler is that it’s filmed at 48 fps (frames per second) instead of the normal 24 fps. This is the first time we will be seeing this on the big screen, and it will provide the most realistic 3D experience to date, as if you were actually with Bilbo in Middle-Earth. It’s getting mixed reviews, but I think that’s just because some people don’t like change. This is the future of film, and trust me, when you sit back, relax, and think about it, its pure awesomeness! I really couldn’t believe how crisp and quick the image was. I’m a technology nerd, so it made me love it even more.

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All in all, I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It ended at such a great moment, and even at almost 3 hours running time, it was legit the fastest 3 hour movie I have ever seen, which is a great thing! I can’t wait for the next two! I think that one of the best things about this movie is that it’s told from the point of view of an older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), whom we all know and love from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The story is told as he is writing a book, which allows for us to see our old friend right from the beginning of the movie! One final note, this is defiantly a lighter tale, whereas the book was originally written for children, but it is awesome nonetheless, as they manage to include some darkness as well. To top it all off, it’s the 75th anniversary of the book, so if you haven’t read it already, be sure to READ it, and if you have already, READ it again! Peter Jackson has done it again!

5 out of 5 stars

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Lincoln

lincolnLincoln was a film I had anticipated for a long, long time. In the mid to late 2000’s it was said that Steven Spielberg was working on a film about Abraham Lincoln, with Liam Neeson playing the titular character. That just sounded like pure gold to me. After numerous delays, script changes, actor departures, etc., we are finally seeing this movie.

In my opinion, it’s the best possible version we could have asked for, so it was well worth the wait. The best thing about it (besides the fact that Spielberg was obviously still directing despite all the changes), is that Neeson dropped out and the one and only Daniel Day-Lewis took his place. He may just be the greatest actor of his generation, as everything he touches is perfection. He is extremely particular in the roles he plays, as he has only been in five films, including Lincoln, in the new Millennium. So far, he has been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards two times, and Lincoln will undoubtedly be his third. He is so good, especially as Lincoln, that you have no doubt in your mind that what you are watching is real footage, and that he is actually the real Honest Abe in the flesh. He may have been put on this Earth to specifically play this role.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo all give outstanding performances as the ensemble cast.

Lincoln_One of the great things about this film, which at first I wasn’t sure about, is that it’s only based on a certain period of Lincoln’s life. It’s actually based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of his life. It focuses on Lincoln’s efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Even though we all know the outcome, the movie still has you on the edge of your seat wondering who is going to vote which way. There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to bring home some gold men at the Oscars, and in my eyes, Daniel Day-Lewis is a guaranteed lock!

YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. Everything about it is brilliant, and it’s definitely on my list of top films of 2012! It may be a little slow for some, but if you enjoy history, want to learn a little more about the greatest president to ever live, or just see a great film that everyone is talking about, go check it out. It’s some of Spielberg’s best work, and unlike anything he has done before. You mark my words: the success of this film is going to open up many doors for other films about Lincoln. Not only do I recommend the film, but I highly recommend checking out the book as well.  Both offer great insight into the fascinating life of Lincoln.

5 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Lincoln

lincolnWhat makes people consider a film to be an epic? Who decided one day that The Godfather was an epic? Did a reviewer label the film an epic and his reviewer friends decided to copy him? Very rarely do films come out and scream “epic” like the biopic Lincoln did. From the day that this picture was released to the time I finally saw the film, everything about this film seemed so epic and larger than life. Maybe it was the amount of preparation the cast went through or the fact that the crew was required to dress in period costume, but this film seemed destined to be different than anything I had seen in films since The Artist.  My biggest question before seeing it however was whether or not it would live up to the title of “epic.”

Lincoln follows the President during the last five months of his life, a time he was seemingly defeated by the events of the past four years. Having just been re-elected to a second term, we see Lincoln attempting to keep his country together by trying to mend the part that attempted to break away. The story depicts Lincoln’s fight to pass the 13th amendment, which would outlaw slavery in the United States. You are introduced to Lincoln as a man who seems exhausted from the tasks he has had to deal with, but is dedicated to seeing them all the way through. Working with some allies in the House of Representatives and his cabinet, while working against some more formidable enemies, will Lincoln see the bill pass, the war end, and the country reunite?

First let me start off with the good: there were some PHENOMENAL performances in this film. If Daniel Day-Lewis does not win an Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln, the Academy Awards are a sham and I will not watch them for the next five years. Okay, that is a lie, but still he embodied everything I imagined Lincoln to be. Unfortunately there are no sound bites of Lincoln, but I imagined Lincoln sounding like Day-Lewis made him sound. Since the film takes place during the last five months of his life, which coincided with the end of the Civil War, you can only imagine how exhausted Lincoln was.  Day-Lewis was able to get Lincoln’s mannerisms down pat, and you can even hear the tremble in his voice. It was mind-boggling how good he was, and I would love to pick his brain to see what sort of work went into preparing for the role.

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Also, there were a very solid group of performances with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Both had limited screen time, as the majority of the film was rightfully focused on Lincoln, but both really lit up during their allotted screen time. This was the first time I got to see the rumored crazy side of Mary Todd, and Field was able to capture that perfectly. It easily could have been overdramatic and frankly campy, but she balanced it out perfectly. Jones as Stevens, an abolitionist senator fighting for the passage of the 13th amendment, was another understated performance, but nonetheless great in its own right. He was not as flashy as Field or Day-Lewis, but really strong nonetheless. I predict Oscar nominations for Field and Jones, but not quite sure about their victories yet.

Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg called Day-Lewis Mr. President and Sally Field Molly or Mrs. Lincoln throughout the entire three and a half month shooting of the film to keep them in character. This practice definitely paid off because both performances were fantastic.

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Now to the downside of the film. From the time the film started, it suffered from serious pacing issues. I thought the story was really interesting and an important one to tell, but there were certain scenes which I felt were never going to end. It seemed that the story (and the director) focused on trivial points rather than pushing the story forward. During some scenes, I couldn’t wait for the story to move forward because I was losing interest due to the stretching out of unnecessary points. Also the sound seemed very off in the film; I almost wished there were sub-titles because during some of the scenes, I was unable to hear some of the dialogue which was whispered or spoken in a lower tone. Although there were some beautifully wistful parts to the film and some equally beautifully filmed scenes (my particular favorite was their son at the theater), something prevented me from fully connecting to this film. I truly struggled to get past the pacing problems.

With everything being said, I think Lincoln has the components to be an epic, especially considering its outstanding director, incredible performances, and gripping story. Even with those strengths, however, there was something missing which made this epic film fall semi-flat in my opinion. I think all of the actors involved in this film should be given a standing ovation because they were brilliant, and their performances should be used to teach future generations of actors what a good performance is. Unfortunately, you can’t depend on strong performance to hold a film together. Eventually a story must be told and if the backing isn’t there, the film can never fully take off.

3 out of 5 Stars

2012 In Review: Adam’s Top Five Films of the Year

moonrise_kingdomWhen Kim asked me for my top five films of the year, I thought “wow that’s going to be really hard to decide”. I love films and I love reading critics’ top ten films of the year lists. Sports people get excited for draft days and signing of free agents. I, on the other hand, get excited for the end of the year and the start of Oscar season. To read what critics loved and loathed and being able to see how my own list compares to theirs greatly excites me. To finally be able to do my list is really awesome! Unfortunately seeing films in Manhattan is expensive, so I haven’t seen that many 2012 releases.

Author’s note: I have not seen Les Miserables yet.  Odds are once I do, that will be number one (unless it sucks). But as of December 9, 2012 this is my top five list.

Number 5: Moonrise Kingdom: An extremely unique love story told by the massively creative Wes Anderson. Just from viewing the trailer, I knew this would be a classic Wes Anderson film. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom offered me some of the most carefree time spent at the movies this year.  A great ensemble and great cinematography make this a film not to be missed.

2012_5_25_AbrahamLincolnVampireHunterNumber 4: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Ah, yes the lesser known of the two Lincoln “biopics” films of 2012.  Adapted from the equally entertaining novel of the same name by Seth Grahame- Smith, this film tells the unknown history of one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had (you can read my book review here and my page to screen review here.) With action sequences and solid performances that kept the audience at the edge of their seat, this film proved once and for all that there is such thing as a good book to screen adaptation.

Number 3: I couldn’t decide between The Hunger Games and 21 Jump Street, so I picked them both!

HG PosterThe Hunger Games: Another excellent page to screen adaptation and definitely this year’s first blockbuster hit (rightfully so). The young cast, in particular Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen, jumped off the screen and made the audience feel like they right there in the games with them. I think the shaky camera work used by director Gary Ross helped illustrate this feeling as well. Every emotion I felt while watching that film lined up perfectly with how I felt as I read the book.  If you’re one of the very few people who haven’t seen this film yet go check it out, but read the book first!

21 Jump Street: I’ll admit it. I was highly skeptical that this film would be funny. Channing Tatum in a funny role? No way. I saw his SNL performance and thought it was pretty bad.  After seeing this film, I take it all back. Channing Tatum, funny? HELL YES! This is probably the most quotable film of the year.  My side hurt from laughing after seeing this film. Jonah Hill as the sidekick was hysterical and his performance just made my night when I saw it. Definitely check this comedy out, it’s so worth it.  I’m hoping the film receives a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy.  I’m doubting that it will happen, but after The Hangover received one and won it a few years ago, so  you never know.

darkknightrisesNumber 2: The Dark Knight Rises- First things first, screw The Avengers. It was semi-entertaining, but nothing compared to the final installment of The Batman Trilogy. From the bad ass-ness of Bane, the twist ending, and the incredibly gorgeous Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I could not have scripted a better ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all time (only behind The Godfather Trilogy in my opinion).  Like his other two Batman films, Nolan was able to leave the audience wanting more when the credits rolled. He was able to create a Gotham City that was real and very life-like. The film had a tough predecessor, especially with Heath Ledger’s genius portrayal of The Joker, but this film came really close and in some aspects topped the previous two films. Also how could you hate a film that spawns something as awesome as this picture?

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And number 1……….

argoArgo: Ben Affleck, you are forgiven for Gigli and Jersey Girl (actually I was never mad at you for those because I never saw them). This film left me absolutely speechless. Ben Affleck is a master director and because of that was able to tell this unknown story of a classified CIA case with ease and honesty. If you are unfamiliar with the story, six people were able to escape the American Embassy the day the Iranian Hostages were taken. They hid at the Canadian ambassador’s house until the CIA concocted a plan to rescue them. CIA agents went undercover, stating that they were a Canadian film crew scouting a site for their new film, aptly titled Argo. The suspense you felt in this film was real and genuine because it was a real story. Even though the end was fabricated for the screen, I was still on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen to these people who had suffered so much already. It was a mesmerizing story with excellent ensemble acting, and perfect direction from Ben Affleck. He has definitely found his niche as a director and found a fan in me. Definitely check it out.

Well readers, there you have it. My top five (really six) films of the year.  Do you agree with my selections? What are your top films of the year?