Friday, April 23, 2010

An Education (2009)

"An Education" was nominated for several Oscars this past year, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Carey Mulligan.

I wasn't sure what to expect with "An Education", but I am glad to say I really enjoyed it.  

The acting was brilliant.  Everyone held their own in the picture.  Of course, the best performance was by Mulligan herself.  She was very likable and convincing as the teenage girl who wants a new life.  I also really enjoyed Alfred Molina as her father.  I thought he stole every scene he was in.  He was quite funny too.

Everything was excellent about "An Education".  It had deep emotions running through me, along with a few laughs (mostly by Alfred Molina).  

I loved the look of the film also.  It really felt like we were in 1960s England.  From the sets, the locations, and the wardrobe, the era was effectively convincing.  

Even though I did really enjoy the film, I just had this bad feeling throughout.  It was very strange how Mulligan and her parents would be fine with her dating a man in his 30s.  We find out that her boyfriend (played by a very talented Peter Sarsgaard) is in fact hiding something, but it was not what I was expecting.  There was just a strange feeling I had that Sarsgaard and his friends were going to get Mulligan into some deep trouble...  

"An Education" is brilliant in many ways.  There isn't much to fault here.  It is a great story that really teaches this young girl what life is really like and shortcuts to becoming an adult may not always be the best plan.

A-  I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" is the story of how a struggling Walt Disney Animation Department got on top of the world again and became the dominating animation studio.

The entire documentary is done with archival footage along with newly recorded narration.  The film begins in 1980 where we meet the animators of "The Fox and the Hound".  Here we meet a few people that would become giants in the film industry including the disembodied voice of John Lasseter (He was the cameraman), and a young animator with a look of displeasure named Tim Burton.  It was very fun to see these people at such a young age.

Most of the film deals with the tension between Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.  While they ultimately had the same goal in mind, they each had their own way on getting there.  Katzenberg is made out to be the villain of the documentary.  He was an executive for Disney and let's just say he was very executive like.  All he cared about was money and he seemed to have a big ego.  When films like "The Lion King" came out, he made the talk show rounds appearing with live lions.  He wanted to be the face of the Disney Company.  Michael Eisner and Roy Disney are portrayed in a brighter light.  Michael Eisner really became the face of the Disney Company and I think he was a good choice.  He was tough and stern, but he had a quality about him that was genuine.  I believe he always had the best intentions for everyone.

When the film got to the making of "The Little Mermaid", we are introduced to the musical team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.  Howard Ashman was very charismatic.  He was extremely passionate about his work and he knew what he wanted in life.  He was very well respected and loved in the Disney Company.  He died in 1991 due to AIDS and this portion of the film was very emotional.  It will most likely bring tears to a viewer's eyes.

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" is a great documentary that people should see, even if you are not a fan of animation or Disney.  It is a good story with a beginning, middle, and end.  We begin with the making of some unsuccessful Disney films like "The Black Cauldron" and "The Great Mouse Detective", but by the end, the Disney Company is on top once again with films like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King".

A-  I recommend it.

It's Alive (1974)

For years, I have seen the image of a scary mutant baby in horror film books.  That baby is from "It's Alive" and I had hoped the film would live up to a wonderful special effects make-up by Rick Baker.

"It's Alive" is a simple movie.  A baby is born, but it's a monster.  The Monster Baby kills everyone that it comes in contact with.  

It was very interesting to see how the couple that had the baby dealt with this situation.  Not only do they have to deal with this murdering baby, but they have to worry about paparazzi, co-workers, and neighbors.  Will these parents see their baby as a monster like the rest of the world or will they love their child unconditionally?

The reason "It's Alive" is so good is because we never get a good look at the baby.  A clear shot of him would most likely be comical.  But strange disoriented close-ups and uses of shadows, keep the monster mysterious.

"It's Alive" is a unique monster movie that one will never forget.  The acting was very good, especially from the baby's father played by John Ryan.  It is scary, entertaining, and it has a bit of social commentary.  What exactly made this family have a mutant baby?  Could it have been these new birth control drugs prescribed by modern day physicians?  That's yet to be determined...

B+  I recommend it.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

I really had no interest in seeing "Clash of the Titans".  It didn't look that great to me from the trailers and I had only seen bits and pieces of the original.  Because my expectations were so low, the film was better than I thought it was going to be.

Sam Worthington is good in this movie.  It seems like the only movie I don't like him in is "Avatar".  He is really the only interesting character in "Clash of the Titans".  There are other good actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes in the picture.  While they looked great playing Zeus and Hades, they just didn't have much to do.

"Clash of the Titans" is a special effects extravaganza.  Most of the time, the effects were good, but some didn't quite work.  The whole Medusa scene was terrible.  She looked horrible and she was not one fraction as terrifying as in the original version.  There are also some long shots of Sam Worthington swimming where he is obviously a special effect.  It didn't quite work.

A few things didn't make sense in the film.  At one point, blood from a villain creates giant scorpions.  With a few magical words, a creature allied with the humans, tames the giant insects.  Our heroes then began to ride them.  I wasn't too keen on that.  Another problem was Zeus.  He is stubborn, a rapist, and a potential destroyer of men.  Yet, at the end of the film, we are supposed to be OK with him.

"Clash of the Titans" is not a perfect movie by any means.  But aside from the problems it does have, the film is quite enjoyable.  It is an epic adventure that never loses its steam.  

B  I recommend it.