Tag Archives: movie

A Christmas Prince (2017 Movie)

Netflix & Motion Picture Corporation of America

My rating: 3 of 5

In the search for her first big scoop, fledgling reporter Amber Moore (and does anyone else find it hilarious that her last name is still Moore here?!) travels to the small European kingdom of Aldovia to cover the coronation of Prince Richard. Or his abdication.  The prince does have a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and nobody’s really sure if he’ll step up and fill his late father’s shoes or not. Through an unexpected mix-up, Amber finds herself mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, giving her unprecedented access to the royal family up close and personal. And what she finds is not at all what the rest of the press had led her to expect.

First off, I can’t believe I actually watched this; it’s exactly the sort of Hallmark-y film that I usually avoid like the plague. . . . But Rose McIver is kind of irresistible, and moreover, she actually manages to make the movie palatable.  It is very much your expected cheesy Christmas romantic drama, with loads of improbability, predictability, and sentimentality. Even the music and the camera filters used scream “classic Christmas film”–as in old, maudlin film. Yet surprisingly, I found myself liking the characters. McIver does a great job (the one thing that’s not surprising) portraying her character, drawing out the uncertainty, clumsiness, awkward curiosity, and compassion of Amber quite effectively. Ben Lamb’s portrayal of Prince Richard is more expected but still well done, and I quite enjoyed Honor Kneafsey’s work as young Princess Emily and her growing friendship with Amber. Other than that, there’s not much I can say–I enjoyed A Christmas Prince, which is more than I can say for most films of this sort, but I also found it to be pretty typical of the sentimental Christmas movie genre on the whole, for what that’s worth.

Written by Nathan Atkins/Directed by Alex Zamm/Produced by Amy Krell/Music by Zack Ryan/Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb,  Honor Kneafsey, Tom Knight, Sarah Douglas, Daniel Fathers, Alice Krige, & Tahirah Sharif

 

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012 Movie)

Mutant Enemy Productions

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Rated R for basically everything. Consider yourself warned.

Five college kids get together for a weekend trip away at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s supposed to be a time to indulge in scary stories, exploration, drugs, and each other without the judgement and pressures of the world. But the rush of freedom quickly changes to horror as they find themselves attacked by zombies coming out of the woods, picking off the kids one by one. What the kids don’t realize at first is that this is all part of something bigger, that there’s someone behind the scenes manipulating them and orchestrating this little calamity. And when the survivors decide to take the horror back to the source, things begin going spectacularly wrong on the end of the manipulators. . . . Will the world even survive the aftermath?

Anyone familiar with Joss Whedon’s works, particularly Buffy and Angel will find a certain amount of familiarity in The Cabin in the Woods, although this movie is quite possibly darker and certainly more graphic than those shows. There’s a feeling about it that carries over though; it’s certainly Whedon’s story. The story both is a horror story–with all the blood and campiness and creeping dread that such a story entails–and also is a satire of the contemporary horror movie, pointing out the ways that such stories have gone wrong. And I kind of both love and hate it. I’m not big on the genre in general–honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that Whedon wrote it and Fran Kranz (love his character!) and Amy Acker were in it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Because the violence in that sort of show really feels almost pornographic to me, even in instances where there isn’t a lot of sexual content. But in this instance, that’s actually one of the things that’s dealt with satirically, so . . . yeah. I really did like the group of kids they chose; they had a good dynamic, and yeah, Fran Kranz (as a stoner idiot who may actually be the smartest of the group). The way the manipulators behind the scenes was developed was unexpected, but it definitely added a lot of interest and, while super creepy, I enjoyed that aspect of the story. The ending (no spoilers, promise) surprised me a lot, although I found it fitting. And the production of the movie itself was quite well done, with some interesting camera angles, lots of atmosphere, and tons of creepy monsters. I would definitely not recommend The Cabin in the Woods for everyone, but for those who enjoy Whedon’s work or the horror movie genre, it might be interesting to try.

Written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/Directed by Drew Goddard/Produced by Joss Whedon/Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, & Amy Acker/Music by David Julyan

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016 Movie)

Heyday Films

My rating: 4 of 5

1926, New York City. Something magical is wrecking havoc, and the magical community is desperately trying to keep the whole thing under wraps and the muggles out of it all . . . which would be easier if there weren’t obsessive, outspoken muggles crying witchcraft from the street corners. Enter into the mix a bumbling young idealist from England carrying a suitcase (bigger on the inside, naturally) full of magical creatures just dying to get out and roam the city. Obviously, trouble is going to ensue, especially when said wizard manages to get himself and his (possibly illegal) creatures seen not just by a muggle but by a straitlaced ex-Auror as well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a fun jaunt in the world Rowling’s creation. It’s clearly Rowling’s work, but on the other hand, it’s most definitely not Harry Potter, by any means. And it was odd to me that there was this big plot involving the entire local magical community and tying the story into the whole Harry Potter storyline . . . but that part of the story felt almost artificial or forced to me. Like it was there to tie everything together and to make Newt’s story bigger and more exciting, only I wasn’t really interested in that part of the story. But there were other parts of this movie that definitely made up for my not loving the big plot part. For one, the setting was really interesting–1920’s New York, with the added bonus of getting a peek into American wizardry, what’s not to love?! And all of the creatures . . . there’s a sense in which parts of the story almost feel like just a catalogue of magical creatures, but they’re so interesting/cute/wonderful that it’s totally okay. Even better (absolutely without a doubt my favorite part) are the main four characters and their interactions. Newt Scamander himself is the best. He’s a hearty helping of Eleven, a touch of Merlin (especially the sass and attitude), a bit shy and awkward, but thoroughly idealistic and devoted to his creatures and his mission to protect them and educate people about them. I don’t know; I just really enjoyed his personality and the unusual friendship he develops with the others. Jacob, Tina, and Queenie are also rich, well-developed characters who were cast brilliantly. I really loved that they weren’t your typical likeable protagonist types, none of the four were; they’re awkward or bristly or just unusual, and I loved them for it and for the friendships they formed. I would really love to see more of these characters. I think their small (but significant) personal story was what made this movie, and it is certainly what would make me recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to anyone looking for a quirky, magical tale.

Written by J. K. Rowling/Directed by David Yates/Produced by David Heyman, J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, & Lionel Wigram/Music by James Newton Howard/Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, & Carmen Ejogo

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Lust for Love (2014 Movie)

Gravitas Ventures

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

Sweet, overly-affectionate Astor manages to scare off his lifelong crush Mila shortly after they started dating; although he’s a nice guy, he was waaaay too transparent and clingy for her to handle. Desperate to win her back, Astor goes to Mila’s old friend Cali for advice, only to find out there’s been a huge rift in their friendship–details not disclosed to him at the time. Not to be discouraged, he bugs her for help in wooing women, with rather pitiful but kind-of cute results. And as he and Cali spend more time together, he begins to fall for this cynical, wonderful woman, although he’s still too set on winning Mila to admit it at first . . . not that Cali’s any better at admitting her growing feelings for him. Meanwhile, Astor is also trying to manage a truce with Mila’s current boyfriend Jake and to get Mila and Cali to work out their differences. Life for this poor guy is complicated!

This is another one of those random indie films that I basically only watched because of the cast. Lust for Love is a pretty cute and random romcom focusing on this guy who is super sweet and earnest but who totally has no clue and no luck with girls, especially with the girl of his dreams whose personality totally does not mesh with his. I don’t even know what to call the love polygon that ensues during this story’s development–there are so many weird off-shoots and connections that it resembles some bizarre molecular construct. And I’m not usually a fan of even your basic love triangle, so that part of the story was kind of a downer for me. Also, fair warning that, while this is officially not rated, it would probably be rated R if it were . . . so there were some parts that were definitely TMI. But in spite of that, there were aspects of this story that were really beautiful. I loved the dynamic between Cali and Astor; there’s this one scene where they’re on the roof together just relaxing, watching birds, dancing, and being themselves, and it’s pretty much perfect and wonderful. (Of course, I think Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman have a good dynamic on-screen together just in general. Actually, the whole cast pretty much has a great dynamic, which is one of the things I love most about this group of people.) It’s pretty obvious right from the start that these two will end up together–so much so that I don’t even feel guilty about spoiling that part one little bit. I also liked the way that all the friendships were worked in amidst the drama and the romance. I would actually have loved to see more of this so the ending didn’t seem quite so forced; it almost feels like we’re missing a scene or two right before the conclusion. One of my favorite relationships (and one of the few that was never romantic at all) is the friendship between Astor and Jenny (played by Miracle Laurie). They just have such a fun, sweet atmosphere between them that’s absolutely precious. I think for people who enjoy indie romcoms–or for those who enjoy Whedon’s shows (especially Dollhouse) and want to see more of the actors in them–Lust for Love may be a random but fun movie to try.

Written & Directed by Anton King/Produced by Anton King, Dichen Lachman, & Jack Wylson/Starring Fran Kranz, Dichen Lachman, Beau Garrett, Caitlin Stasey, Enver Gjokaj, Karim Saleh, Miracle Laurie, Felicia Day, & Maurissa Tancharoen/Music by Jed Whedon

Note: You can find out more and view the trailer at the show’s website, http://lustforlovefilm.com/.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014 movie)

Marvel Studios

My rating: 3.5 of 5

An unlikely band of misfits and unsavory types is thrown together–mostly by their own greed and/or hatred of each other, surprisingly enough. And in the midst of their joint efforts at prison breaks, selling of stolen goods, and running for their lives, they somehow manage to go from being at each others’ throats to having each others’ backs. Which is good, because they might just be the only thing standing between the galaxy and total destruction.

I’ve probably stated this before, but I’m generally not a big fan of superhero/comic-based stories–and Marvel ones in particular. I actually mostly watched Guardians of the Galaxy because Karen Gillan is in it. That was a bit of a disappointment; I felt like her character ended up being pretty flat. *cries* But I did enjoy other aspects of the story and characters. It was weird to me that the entire main group of characters are really not what would typically be considered good people–thieves, bounty hunters, traitors, and individuals bent on revenge. But they made for an amusing and sympathetic group, I have to admit, and the tension between the characters is a big part of the enjoyment of the film. Obviously, Rocket and Groot are the best (and funniest) part of the whole story. But with that, I also have to give fair warning that this is PG-13, and it shows in the humor–as well as in the language and the violence, although it’s not particularly bloody or anything. I think one of the things I loved the most is how integral music and dance are to the story throughout. Plus, it’s an origin story of sorts, which I generally enjoy, so there’s that. Overall, the whole film has a funky, off-kilter flair that feels almost indie, although that’s immediately belied by the impressive visual production, which is quite attractive and fun. While it will probably never be my favorite movie, I think Guardians of the Galaxy was a funny, quirky tale that I did enjoy and will likely watch again sometime.

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman/Directed by James Gunn/Produced by Kevin Feige/Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Music by Tyler Bates/Starring  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, & Benicio del Toro

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My Neighbor Totoro (1988 Movie)

Studio Ghibli

My rating: 5 of 5

Satsuki, her father,  and her little sister Mei move to an old, slightly decrepit house in the country to be closer to the hospital where their mother is being treated. It’s a big change, but it’s also an adventure, and both girls are delighted, especially when they find the house is inhabited by soot sprites–tiny spirits that the adults can’t even see. Even better, Mei encounters a large, friendly spirit calling himself “Totoro” during her explorations while Satsuki is at school. (Satsuki’s a tiny bit jealous about that.) But one rainy evening when the girls go out to meet their father’s bus, Satsuki gets to meet Totoro as well! It seems that not only are their new neighbors glad to welcome the family to the area; the forest spirits are as well. Good thing, too, because it will take everyone’s help when Mei goes missing.

My Neighbor Totoro is one of those movies that never gets old and that has something for everyone. My two-year-old niece adores it, and my dad does too. It’s a wonderful story for many diverse reasons. Just as a start, the animation and the music are wonderful. Joe Hisaishi has some of the most interesting and beautiful film scores out there, and the score for this movie is no exception. And yes, the art isn’t always as detailed in some scenes as the modern CG stuff that’s created today, but the form, the details that the artists choose to capture, and the overall flavor of the place and time that is evoked is absolutely stunning. The characterizations of the children–everything from the art to the scripts to all the tiny details–is incredibly captivating and believable. Satsuki is the quintessential big sister trying to hold it all together and mother her little sister while still being just a kid and worried about her mom’s health herself. And Mei is so full of whimsy and imagination and childish impulses and mannerisms. I love the way in which the culture and community of a rice-farming community in late 1950’s Japan is presented, too, with all sorts of details. And the way in which the wonders of the spirits and traditional beliefs and fantasy are all woven in is just lovely and charming. In short, My Neighbor Totoro is a sweet, lovely animated movie that I would highly recommend to basically anyone of any age.

Note: I watched the 2005 English dub for this movie. It’s excellent.

Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki/Produced by Toru Hara/Music by Joe Hisaishi/Starring Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, & Frank Welker

 

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Ten Inch Hero (2007 Movie)

Follow Spot Entertainmentten-inch-hero

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/Rated R

The help-wanted sign outside the quirky little sub shop tells you everything you need to know: “normal people need not apply.” The employees certainly attest to that, from the owner Trucker, a surfer child of the sixties who is obsessed with owner of the crystal shop across the street, to the new hire Piper, a bright young artist who came to Santa Cruz in search of her daughter. Then there’s Priestly of the crazy hair and ironic t-shirts, Tish who mostly uses her (formidable) sex appeal to get what she wants, and Jen who feeds the homeless and is sure she’s met her true love online. Together, these individuals form something more than just a group of co-workers–they’re a family. Which is a good thing, because for all the fun, flirtation, and laughter that permeates the very foundations of the shop, there’s a large measure of tears and broken hearts to get through as well. . . . Which they will do, together.

Ten Inch Hero is definitely one of those movies that I would normally never have watched and that I basically picked up just because Jensen and Danneel are in it–because I feel like you can hardly be a Supernatural fan and not watch the movie where they fell in love. And I have to say, the Priestly/Tish dynamic in this story is superbly adorable. But I found that I loved this movie for so much more than just that. Actually, I found myself entirely captivated within the first five minutes. The characters are–every single one of them!–unique, well-written, and excellently cast. They cast some seriously talented people (not what you’d typically expect on an indie film like this), and the actors fit the roles beautifully. The story itself is adorable and heartwarming–a quadruple love story, no less, so if you’re in the mood for romance, this should fit the bill. Plus you’ve got all the friendship dynamics within the shop and Piper’s interactions with eight-year-old Julia, which are just wow. Those are aspects I would love to see a lot more of in any and all stories. Honestly, the movie could easily have been disgustingly Hallmark-y, but the combination of indie quirkiness, funky humor (it’s very funny), and the language/sex/nudity that make it R-rated help to counterbalance the sappiness and keep the story grounded. Just be warned that the rating is earned; there is a lot of sexual content here, although surprisingly I found it a lot less embarrassing to watch than some PG stuff I’ve seen. That’s probably just me. In any case, for adult viewers who like a cute romance with a refreshing indie tone, quality acting, and nice original music, Ten Inch Hero would definitely be on my recommended list; it’s certainly a happy place for me.

Directed by David Mackay/Written by Betsy Morris/Music by Don Davis/Starring Elisabeth Harnois, Clea DuVall, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jensen Ackles, Danneel Harris Ackles, Alice Krige, & John Doe

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