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Film Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | 0 comments

Director Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad was originally scheduled for release in October 2012, but it was delayed until January 2013 due to the July 20, 2012 theater shootingin Aurora, Colorado.  The studio pulled its trailers and decided to re-shoot (no pun intended) a climactic shootout scene in which the antagonists shoot at a theater crowd.  Nonetheless, the re-shoots did

not improve what turned out to be a disappointing film anyway.  To be fair, it is not the absolutely awful movie many critics and viewers have made it out to be. Gangster Squad is a fairly enjoyable, oftentimes brashly violent, genre piece with a star-studded, albeit largely wasted, ensemble cast.  Unfortunately, it is a prime example of Hollywood prioritizing style over substance and glossing over compelling history to make an accessible, fast-paced but pretty predictable, campy run-of-the-mill action flick.

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Film Review: Amour (2012)

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | 0 comments

If one could describe writer-director Michael Haneke’s style in one word, then it would be “deliberate.”  His latest work Amour (2012), which won the coveted Palm D’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, certainly fits within the mold and yet breaks through in terms of emotion.  His previous films tend to be emotionally detached, but this film is anything but, given its topic.  Yet, he does not pull any punches or add any unnecessary flair or sentimentality; instead, he lets tragic story tell itself.  Amour is a methodically-paced, astutely harrowing film with incredible performances that is relentlessly heartbreaking in its simplicity; it is no escapist fare, to be sure.

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Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | 0 comments

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) is a monumental film, if not for its brilliant craftsmanship at least for its historic subject matter.  Fortunately, it is a riveting blend of history and drama.  The last time director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal teamed up for a film regarding the War on Terror, they made the white-knuckle thriller The Hurt Locker (2010), which went on to win six Oscars that included Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.  This was poised to make a similar push at this year’s Oscars before many viewers sparked a controversy surrounding torture, though the film actually portrays it in a balanced manner.  Despite the questions of accuracy (as with any movie based on history) and its controversy, Zero Dark Thirty is a first-class thriller, a captivating and concentrated character study, and a fascinating account of history – its selection as one of 2012’s best pictures is certainly deserved.

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Film Review: Django Unchained (2012)

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | Comments Off

As one of 2012’s most anticipated films, Quentin Tarantino’s latest piece of cinema Django Unchained hardly disappoints.  In fact, many claim it is his most accomplished and entertaining work to date, which is certainly saying something from the man who has made such classics as Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Ficiton (1994), and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Kill Bill (2003-2004).  With this film, he has finally made his spaghetti western, though like any of his movies it does not simply conform to the genre and all of its trappings; it is also a rather hilarious dark comedy, tense revenge tale, and even a thought-provoking period piece.  Viewers may debate where it stands amongst Tarantino’s filmography, but Django Unchained is definitely one of the top films of 2012 – it is an audacious piece of exhilarating cinema, one that is certainly not for everyone due to intense violence and prolific profanity (though its gratuitousness is sharply meaningful, to an extent, in shedding light on a dark part of the American history).

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Film Review: The Impossible (2012)

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | Comments Off

Making a film centering on the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami heartfelt but not overly sentimental is no easy task, but The Impossible (2012) does an admirable job doing so.  It is a harrowing disaster movie but not of the consumerist buy an essay paper big-budget, action-packed studio-produced blockbuster type; rather it is a sobering tale of survival and humanity above special effects and cheap thrills.  Although the filmmakers changed the main characters from Spanish to British vacationers, the “based on a true story” helps ground the film’s more mawkish moments.  Despite its occasional manipulative nature, The Impossible is a traumatic but life-affirming film with excellent performances from its cast.

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Film Review: Les Misérables (2012)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | 1 comment

Victor Hugo’s masterful novel Les Misérables has been adapted into countless productions across several media, perhaps most notably with the musical sensation that arrived in the 1980s.  Since then, Hollywood has looked to find a way to make a feature musical film – thankfully for fans of it and cinema-lovers everywhere, director Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables (2012) is as good as an adaption one will get from the musical source material.  It is a bold, painstakingly designed production with outstanding performances, most notably from Hugh Jackman and a never-better Anne Hathaway.  Although it oversteps its majestic scope and becomes grandiose at times, one should not fault the film for unabashedly wearing its heart on both sleeves.  Indeed, it is an emotionally raw and intimate portrayal of the story thanks to numerous close-ups and magnificent musical numbers.  As long as you do not despise musicals and can enjoy a good piece of filmmaking, you will at the very least appreciate if not love Les Misérables for its grand ambition, impressive technical artistry (i.e. striking imagery), marvelous performances and the story’s emotional resonance.

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Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | Comments Off

Nearly ten years after the conclusion to the incredible Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy,  Peter Jackson invites audiences back into the fantastic world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth via The Hobbit: Un Unexpected Journey (2012), which is just part one of three based on the novel The Hobbit.  It is a wonderfully nostalgic and expectedly spectacular adventure, but much of the magic that made the LOTR so exceptional is missing or less apparent here.  In particular, the movie suffers from a bloated runtime and admittedly lighter and weaker source material, among a few other criticisms.  Nonetheless, An Unexpected Journey is still a technically advanced, fabulously enjoyable and faithful (to a fault) return to Middle-Earth, despite its narrative shortcomings.

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Film Review: This Is 40 (2012)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | Comments Off

Judd Apatow has written and produced many comedies in recent years, but he has surprisingly directed only three features prior to This Is 40 (2012), including its quasi-prequel and his sophomore effort Knocked Up (2007).  Since then, he has shown some development as a writer-director, and this film is certainly his most personal and honest one, even if it is not the most funny (though it is quite hilarious at times).  Despite the overlong runtime and its inherent issue of trying to make viewers sympathize with a struggling upper-middle class family, This Is 40 is a largely sincere and humorous, albeit quite raunchy, slice of familial life picture that almost any family can relate to given the fairly universal problems the characters face.

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Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | Comments Off

Looking for an immensely entertaining, emotional and truthful crowd-pleaser?  Look no further than Silver Linings Playbook (2012), director David O. Russell’s follow-up to The Fighter (2010).  With his sensitive yet sharp script, based on Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name, this romantic comedy lives up to its genre title with sincere romance, genuine humor and best of all it handles the drama of mental illness rather gracefully.  Furthermore, the film features one of if not the best all-around ensemble cast of 2012, with each actor putting forth their best effort in years or ever.  Silver Linings Playbook is an edgy, captivating and truthful adult romantic dramedy that will charm its way into your heart; indeed, it is one of my favorite films from 2012.

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Film Review: Hitchcock (2012)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2013 in Theatrical Reviews | 1 comment

Alfred Hitchcock is indisputably one of if not the best director of all time (yet somehow he never won an Oscar in his lifetime).  Countless documentaries, shows and movies have told his story.  Hitchcock (2012) is the most recent feature film to venture into this area, and it makes for one very enjoyable if not overly enlightening experience.  With two fantastic lead performances and a solid ensemble cast, the movie is highly entertaining, particularly for film buffs, though such viewers may not find much new insight into the mythical director’s personal or professional life (and of course the accuracy is always in question but the consensus seems that this one is reasonably accurate).  Nevertheless, Hitchcock paints a more personal portrait of the brilliant director, portraying the man behind the many myths, of which the movie hits several landmarks regarding the making of his most celebrated and financially successful films Psycho (1960), such as the infamous shower scene.  At the very least, the film certainly generates interest in revisiting his masterpieces or seeing them for the first time, which is a success in commemorating the figure and his hard work.

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