Archive for the Drama Category

The Social Network Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by russellsreviews

People are always looking for the next big thing. Napster, youtube, twitter, and myspace were all huge successes one after the other. They became so big that everyone did them just because everyone was talking about them. You ever wonder how these ideas get started? Social Network is a movie about the beginnings of one of the biggest and most popular right now, Facebook.

The Social Network has a cool device working for it. Mark Zuckerburg ,the creator of Facebook, is in deposition and is being sued by several people for the rights to who created the idea of the website. The answers to the questions the lawyers ask are told through flashbacks and we get the see the excitement of how Facebook got created and just who is suing who. It’s slick style of telling the story and isn’t hard to follow for those that are worried. Finding the secrets and friends behind Zuckerburg’s life , some which are true and some not, are fun and provide enough entertainment for me to recommend this movie, but The Social Network goes even deeper and not only explains how Facebook got created in the business sense, but makes you question why it’s there in the first place.

The title of the film has a double meaning. The film is not just about how the social network site Facebook got started, but also the social network in life and the pains of it. It’s about the pressures of changing who we are and fitting in. Then lengths people go to be recognized and the costs of it to the people who are close to us. In the end it doesn’t matter how rich, popular, or smart you are we all sit back and wait for that friends request to answered.

I also have to note the performences of not only the two leads, but Justin Timberlake. He did more than acceptable job that suprised me. The Social Network is a excellent paced story of Facebook that everyone can enjoy, but beneath it all is also a deep statement of a generation.

4 STARS

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted in 5 Stars, Action, Comedy, Drama, New Movie, Review, video games with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by russellsreviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is  very appropriately named. Just like Scott is fighting for love and the social status quo, so is the film itself fighting against really every other movie ever made. Scott Pilgrim vs the World doesn’t pull any punches or ask itself how can I make this work for the mass audience.  Just watching the trailer for this film a lot of people will just think oh well a geeky flashy film for the “Gamer” generation, but they couldn’t be farther from the actual truth. There is always a balance between style and substance. Scott Pilgrim manages a rare feat. It says you can massive amounts of both.

Scott Pilgrim is your less than normal guy. He doesn’t have that many friends and just enjoys just hanging out, playing video games, and listening to music more than partying. He is socially challenged which more guys can relate to than you know. Scott meets Ramona Flowers, literally the girl of his dreams, at a party and luckily manages to get a date. There is just one problem. Actually seven problems. All of Ramona’s Exes have formed a evil league that dedicate to make her life miserable and kill anyone she dates.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is based of a indie comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley and doesn’t hide from that fact. Every comic movie before always asked itself OK how can I make this work in the real world. To director Edgar Wright credit this one doesn’t. He didn’t try to make a movie but hide where its from or who its for. The action is fast and every punch or feeling gets animated with text straight of a comic. They even use parts of the comic for flashbacks. Its not just comics, the film is overloaded with pop culture and video game call backs. The Universal studios title sequence alone got me grinning more than any movie in years. If you pay attention all of the music cues in the film are done with famous 8 bit music from Zelda and Mario.

Scott Pilgrim isn’t just love letter to geeks, it has surprisingly emotional stuff. The romantic elements will have your heart pounding and rooting for someone more than half of romantic movies made nowadays. Scott Pilgrim does a great job of giving people an accurate telling of whats going on in nice guys head when trying to get the girl.  The film also has a great coming of age story for most of its characters and you can see real growth on how to deal with relationships and other people’s feelings. If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World didn’t have all these things going for it it would have just been simply amusing and then quickly faded and forgotten. These issues give the film true staying power.

The movie just hit all the right notes for me. Not just the story, but how everything was cut, transitioned, and brought out with such enthusiasm just made it unbelievably awesome. The movie’s really only flaw is that unless you grew up on going to the comic shop on Wednesdays, staying up late at night on soda playing Nintendo, or experience true rejection pretty much most of the jokes might seem over the top to you. Normally I take things like that into count when I rate the movie, but this movie is so special and unique I have to only look at who it’s trying to reach and accomplish and it did that in spades. Although, even if your not a geek gamer there is still tons of things to love and get. I hope this becomes like the movie Inception and people recognize that there are still fantastic movies being made and go out and see it. The biggest compliment I can give is the Scott Pilgrim vs the World really has just created a new genre that I hope grows and lives on.

5 STARS

Where the Wild Things Are Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review on November 6, 2009 by russellsreviews

Where the Wild Things Are is a live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. The book not being very long no doubt gave director Spike Jonze a lot liberties on the direction the film could go, but he has to tackle the difficult task of how far to take it. Does he go deep and maybe a little dark and stay true to the creator’s vision and risk losing people or head for a lighter tone and a formula sure to be huge family favorite? Give Spike Jonze a lot of credit because he sure didn’t go the safe route.

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Max is an energetic restless young boy who already has his fair share of problems. Max is misunderstood and feels his broken family is moving farther away from him. The night his mom brings home a date, Max dresses up like a wolf and misbehaves and bites his Mom out of anger. His Mom scolds him, causing Max to run away from home. Max finds a boat and sails away somehow, landing on a strange island with giant scary creatures. To avoid being eaten Max convinces the creatures that he is actually king from a far away land with mystical powers not to be messed with. The creatures accept him and slowly become good friends living everyday just to have fun.

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Where the Wild Things Are very easily could have “movie by the numbers” with great special effects. It would have been more successful and created tons of fans. Instead, the movie tries very hard to dig deeper to the true meaning of the book. The movie looks at how scary the world must look at for child who just learns at school that one day the Sun might be gone. Max is dealing with his innocence and impulsiveness with reality. More importantly, his anger and insecurity. Now like the book, you could say the creatures are different parts of his personality, but to me the creatures all represent things or people in his life. The creature Carol is basically Max. His Mom is K.W. If you pay close attention all the events on the island are the events prior to him arriving. Carol just wants K.W. affection and attention, but she seems to care more about the owls Bob and Terry, who represent his Mom’s boyfriend. When K.W. brings Bob and Terry to their newly built fort, Carol throws a violent fit only earning K.W.’s distrust and fear. Max wants to control of everything and keep everything the same, but he can’t be the king of his emotions. There is no such king.

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There is always a flip side of taking a risk. The movie is very psychological in a sense that the raw emotions will leave children confused on why the creatures are fighting among themselves and some might even find the monsters too scary and intense. The story pace will make some viewers feel like its moving to0 slow and wonder whats the point of it all. The best way I can describe the explanations in Where the Wild Things Are is that everything is introverted. When Max returns home and greets his Mother, she welcomes him home in open arms but never really says a word to him. Emotions come across and Max understands that he is loved and accepted, but with little dialogue it will leave most people thinking to themselves, that’s it?

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Where the Wild Things Are is a ground breaking film in understanding the pain and confusion of youth. Some may find it very depressing and pointless, which is understandable, however, there is a great and powerful message underneath. The movie peels back the dangers of insecurity and anger and the maturity it takes to conquer them. The film could have used more mass appeal, but the film worked for what it was trying to do. It might not be for you, but then you can’t sit back and complain when Transformers 7, X-men 10, and Saw 23 come out and wonder gee I wonder why Hollywood can’t make anything original and full of passion once in a while. Where the Wild Things Are will get overlooked, but I recommend you give it a try, you might hate it, or you might find your own reasons for thinking its genius.

4 STARS

Inglourious Basterds Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review on September 13, 2009 by russellsreviews

Quentin Tarantino has made some of the coolest movies in the last 17 years . He has an instantly recognizable style and broke much ground that has been only imitated since. The thought that Tarantio newest is a world war II epic is enough to get any fan excited at the possibilities where only he can take it. Inglourious Bastards is absolutely a WWII movie like you have never or really ever see, but will it reach the same cult classic status?

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In Nazi occupied France, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has assembled a team of young American Jews hungry for revenge. Calling themselves the Inglourious Basterds (yes its suppose to be misspelled like that), their only mission is cause as much hell as they can and strike up so much fear from the Nazi’s that they will loose the will to fight by the time America enters the war using any means necessary. The Basterds are free from any laws or rules and not only try to kill every Nazi they can, but in such ways the German people will look at them as monsters or savages. Lt. Aldo wouldn’t want it any other way. When the Basterds get word that in Paris the Germans are going to throw a big premiere party celebrating the release of the Nazi propaganda film “Nation’s Pride” with not only Hitler’s right hand men, but maybe with a chance of the Fuhrer himself attending, go undercover to destroy them all at once and hopefully end the war.

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Inglourious Bastereds gets very brutal sometimes and the Bastards do it with a smile. They do try to kill Nazis in horrible ways, but in this movie that’s part of the fun. For obvious reasons when the Jews commit these acts, you find yourself cheering and feel little remorse. Part of feeling this way is the opening chapter. The movie begins with a Jewish family hiding at a farm with an Italian family to avoid capture from the new S.S. Jew hunter Hans Landa only to be betrayed and slaughtered. From this point on you can only feel like the Nazis are only getting what they deserve. Tarantino knows this and takes full advantage. The Inglourious Bastard team are all unique and funny. Especially Brad Pitt’s LT. Aldo Raine. He delivers all the lines flawlessly and enjoyable. You will spend more than half the movie just waiting to see what he does or say next. Aldo Raine is one of the coolest characters on film. However, this is also the reason why the movie sags in the middle.

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As it turns out that one of the girls from the Jewish family that was killed in Chapter one managed to escape. She starts a new life in Paris in chapter 3 opening up a movie theater and gets courted by a German war hero and in order to win her affection tries to move the premiere of his new movie to her theater to help business. Seeing a chance to get revenge she conceives her own plot to blow up the theater and getting her own revenge, only the same man that killed her family stands in her way. This is an ok side story, but it takes up about half the movie parallel to the Basterds storyline. The two merge together, but with the other story being so engrossing you just wish you could fast forward and get back to Aldo. Only by the fantastic acting and dialogue of actor Christoph Walts’s portraying the Jew hunter Hans Landa saves these chapters from being a waste of time. What Pitt does to bring out Aldo’s character, Walt’s matches with the the demented and cunning Landa. The movie is worth seeing just for these two performances alone.

Inglourious Basterds is a great ride and has all the dialogue,music, and jolts that all Tarantino movies have. It isn’t as fantastic from start to finish as the others, but there is enough surprises, including something that wasn’t in the history books, at the end to be considered great. The movie does dip, if you can call it a dip, enough to keep it from being perfect, but not enough for fans to care. You have never seen WWII like this, so check it out.

4 STARS

Nana Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Review, Romantic on August 26, 2009 by russellsreviews

Nana is a live action adaptation of a popular manga, anime series of the same name. I have never seen or read any of it, and the little knowledge I have of Nana was really only what I remembered from when my fiance talked about it. Its a foreign romantic story, yes, so if you have low tolerance on character drama or “love stories” this could mean to some people will automatically write Nana off, but to these people I say grow up, and try to expand your horizons a little. Now thats out of the way on to the movie.

Nana is ironic story of two girls from very different worlds, but with the same name and some deeper things very much in common, meet by chance on a train. Some time later when one Nana decides to look for an apartment in Tokyo to be closer to her boyfriend she once again bumps into the other Nana looking at the very same apartment. Recalling how well they got along at that chance meeting on the train and how they both are need of a room mate they decide to move in together. Although the two girls couldn’t look or act more opposite, they find similarities in their lives, grow closer, and become a much needed support in crisis. They help improve each other and make them see that their love life needs a second look.

All of this might sound too girly, but the movie never crosses that line so even the average guy should like this film. The problems of both girls look very real and well done that you care and feel their ups and downs. All of the emotions have real weight to them. Not only this, but the outcome you can never be sure about. It’s been a long time since I have seen a romantic movie were you don’t have a check list of what happens next and how they all end up.

On top of the great love stories, you have a great message about humanity in general. Both Nana’s are totally different, yet the same. They both have insecurities, passions, and desires. Through the bridge of music they find something to build a friendship on. If people could be nice to each other and try to find things to relate to life would be much easier. You can’t judge a person by looks or how they act alone. Look deeper at that person that you might have thought was weird or different to you could end up being a better friend to you than the ones you have now.

I can’t say how well Nana adapted the source material to film, but as movie it accomplishes a lot. The acting, the direction, and emotions are top grade. Nana is another movie in a long line that mainstream Hollywood should check out on how to make simply good drama. So should you.

4.5 STARS

20th Century Boys Review

Posted in 4.5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, New Movie, Review on July 17, 2009 by russellsreviews

A good mystery can be a non-stop adventure that leads to one direction then to the next. Its full of twist and turns and of course the who done it. A good mystery could also be a slow build, working like a snowball building suspense and clues along the way until the huge reveal. 20th Century Boys does a great job of both.

In 1969, Kenji and a group of his elementary school friends build a secret base to get away from big twin bullies. The kids spend every day there playing and coming up with crazy dreams and stories of a future disaster that can only be stopped by a group of friends. Flash forward to the mid 90’s, Kenji has now given up his dreams and is forced to settle managing a convenience store. When he goes to a class reunion he bumps into most of all his old friends and attempts to reconnect them. Kenji sadly finds out that one them recently was killed and turns the group’s lives upside down. At the same time a strange cult being lead by a masked man simply calling himself, Friend, is growing and is found out to be behind Kenji’s friend’s murder. Friend is also commenting terrorist attacks, literally acting out every detail that Kenji and his friends wrote about when they were Kids. Why is Friend acting this out and how did he find out about these stories? More importantly who is Friend? Only Kenji and his friends know whats going to happen and have the power to stop Evil Friend’s plans.

20th Century Boys is a masterful mystery going back and forth from different points of Kenji’s life that only gets better as the movie moves along. Story and flash backs that once you thought was just character development plays big parts down the line, this is not the kind of movie you can divert your attention from. The movie rewards you doing so ,however, and ties in every character making everything important and engrossing. Seeing how the friends interact when they are kids and when they grow up only attaches you more to their problems and make you care for the outcome. The movie pace builds upon every scene and as you come closer and closer to the answer you still can’t figure it out. Friend is a formidable villian and only becomes more engrossing every step Kenji gets closer to figuring out who he is.

The final showdown comes down between the group of friends and a giant robot. For those who think the giant robot might ruin it, don’t be afraid, the movie never looses its maturity mostly because the design of the robot is realistic and very impressively done on the movies low budget. The final scenes are very memorable and no doubt go down in cinema history at least in Japan and hopefully be somewhat recognized in the west.

20th Century Boys is epic and deserves attention. It’s high class and one of the best films to come out Japan. The only reason you might feel down after the movie is since the movie is based of a popular manga it had to be broken into three parts and ends in a exicting cliffhanger. What’s great though is since all of the movies were filmed at the same time, if you wait after credits they show a cool trailer for part 2. There has been news recently that the whole trilogy is going to be brought over for North American release on DVD very soon, so it will be easy to watch what has already taken Japan by storm. I recommend you do.

4.5 STARS

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Anime, Drama, Foreign, New Movie, Review, Romantic on July 1, 2009 by russellsreviews

Anime is very misunderstood art. It often gets labeled as cartoons or for kids and gets overlooked by many people. Anime also gets pigeon holed as just fast, cool, weird mindless entertainment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Japanese animation is every which way and can be anything only limited to the imagination of the artists. Anime is also free from the restrains of American thinking of what can or cannot be in animation. The art pushes the boundaries of thoughts and explore worlds or emotions that can never be achieved in live action in any country. It can be action, fantasy, family, or even romantic. The Girl who leapt through time is the latter.

Don’t be fooled by the sci-fi name this is very much a love story. Makoto is a regular clumsy girl high school girl who just likes hanging out with her friends. One day after school she some how gains the ability to literally leap backwards in time. The farther she leaps, the farther she can travel back. She uses her new power to help friends, but also to make sure she never makes a stupid mistake again with very funny results. Things get complicated for her however when she discovers that both of her life long friends actually have a crush on her. She doesn’t want to ruin their great friendship so she keeps on leaping back to just simply avoid the questions and changes, but she finds that no matter how many times she goes back she just can’t change fate or love.

How and why she gets to time travel does require some disbelief, but it really adds an extra dynamic to the love story and gives everything unique emotions and a interesting plot twist. The only flaw really is how the movie ends. Its good and emotional, but without giving to much away its also a little heartbreaking and confusing.

Even though the movie is new it looks more out dated compared to most anime standards of today but the hand drawn approach works and gives the characters more realistic emotions than if it was done the other way.

The ending does keep The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to be a true breakout hit, but the movie is still a rewarding experience. Even with the ending, like Studio Chibli films, this a good movie to show your girlfriend who might not be that into Anime as a starting point, but also a good one to show people who have a boxed mind when it comes to Anime.

4 STARS