Monthly Archives: September 2016

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie review

Plot: As Harry returns for his third year, this time he’s confronted and chased by suspected serial killer Sirius Black. Also coming into play are the incredibly dangerous Dementors, beings who can suck out your soul, shape-shifters, and other magical beings. Hermione’s cat tormenting Ron’s rat forms a rift between the trio, and a new teacher helps Harry defend himself against these new threats. But who is Harry’s connection to Sirius?

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint,  Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, and David Thewlis

The Good

  • The EDITING/ATMOSPHERE
    • I’ve normally started these off talking about the acting or the characters….But we already know that the actors get better and better, so let’s talk about something different; the EDITING. I knew this could be one of the best based on the sheer tension in the film. Alfonso Cuarón, who also did Gravity so the man knows how to do tension well. The opening scene alone tells you that you’re in for a more darker film than the previous two with Harry alone in the deserted park; the scene is slow building but effective. Added magical things like the Night Bus, Shrunken Heads, hippogriffs, Hogsmead, Dementors and Patronuses, the atmosphere in this film is just dripping with magical feel.
  • The MAGIC
    • There isn’t a WHOLE LOT of magic in this film; not so many spells, but that just shows that a Harry Potter film doesn’t need a bunch of spells to hold its own. It just needs to show you that yes it’s aware of its universe. Here as stated above we get to see new things like Buckbeak the hippogriff, much more of the Whomping Willow (which is more prominent in the book), werewolves, animagus, and terrifying Dementors. The CGI really is improved here, and the dementors look insanely creepy, the Patronuses gorgeous, and Quidditch in the rain proves rather dangerous. There are lots of little things in this that just expand the universe; someone turning their spoon in coffee at the Leaky Cauldron, the hippogriff dipping his claws into the lake during Buckbeak’s Flight, Harry and his friends eating jelly beans that allow them to roar like lions, trumpet like elephants or have steam blowing out of their ears, a map that shows everyone in the castle everywhere….and time travel.
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Once again the characters are just wonderful. 

  • The CHARACTERS
    • Once again the characters just shine here in this film. Harry is now a teen, he’s growing up and not taking shiz from people anymore. That’s great and wonderful to see-it’s also a great insight to his growing temper that’s much more explored in the future books rather than the films. Hermione also doesn’t take crap from Malfoy anymore either; that scene where she gives him her right hook is just amazing and I could watch that over and over and over. Professor Lupin is a nice new addition, and is the one who teaches Harry how to produce a Patronus. Sirius Black is a great character, and there are lots of little things in this film that just develop each and every character-Professor Dumbledore and Snape talking in the Great Hall about Sirius, the Weaselys in the Leaky Cauldron, the Minister of Magic gets introduced here as well. This movie is of course more build up to the epic finally, but it doesn’t FEEL like universal build up as the first two did. This is also the first movie with the new Dumbledore; Michael Gambon and he does remarkably with his opening speech to the school and later on in the later films.
  • The SOUNDTRACK
    • Once again composed by the master of scores John Williams, the soundtrack helps the atmosphere and is dripping with darkness and tension. The opening Hedwig’s Theme is much softer, more dark than the brighter original two. Buckbeak’s Flight theme is gorgeous, as is the score when Harry conjures his first full body Patronus which is the iconic stag. The music during the Dementor boarding the train is just eerie as well.
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Expecto Patronum!!! One of the prettiest spells out there.

  • The CLIMAX
    • So….the Time-Turners. They’re both a huge cool thing, and a huge problem story wise. “If they can travel back in time why couldn’t they just kill Voldemort when he was Tom Riddle or save Harry’s parents?” asked everyone ever. Perhaps that’s why come movie/book 5 she destroyed the Turners completely then….ok backing up. The time travel in the end of the film is just amazing. It feels a bit rushed when all of a sudden Hermione whips out this magical object; there’s more explanation in the book but the scene as a whole feels warranted, deserved, and it’s just incredible. One of the coolest climaxes in the series.

The Meh

  • The DIFFERENCES FROM THE BOOK
    • Here the differences from the book are much more noticeable. The whole “will they won’t they” with Ron and Hermione is much more prominent in the film than the book-they’re relationship definitely takes its time in the books than the films. In the beginning of the film, Harry is using Lumos which is the spell used to illuminate his wand tip; that’s problematic since it’s illegal for underage magic folks to use any magic so in the book he uses a flashlight. However, that change is a welcome one since it’s a much more memorable scene and a nice opener. Also how we find out about Sirius’ connection to Harry is completely different in the film; with the conversation being held by Minverva, Madame Rosmerta and Fudge in Hogsmead. However, the aftermath and Harry’s reaction is just as strong in the film as in the book. It’s the first time in the films we see Harry cry and his darker half exposed. And the change allows for a nice POV shot in the form of Harry’s perspective. The changes aren’t bad per se, but more noticeable and only continue to grow come the next few films.

CONCLUSION

This film is EASILY one of the best of the series if not the best. It’s not entirely perfect, but miles ahead of its time and miles ahead of the first two. Changing directors for each film was a brilliant move, and adding Alfonso to the mix was an ingenious idea. Alfonso knows how to do suspense, which is most of this film. Harry’s darker side is explored a bit more here once he finds his relation to Sirius in the snow filled forest, and the world is expanded in brilliant ways. The CGI is also improved considering this film was out only a few years after Chamber of Secrets.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban gets a 5/5 from me. It’s easily the best of the series (in my opinion) and teaches some valuable lessons to those who watch….Overall it’s a film that lets you get a taste of the darker side of such a magical world.

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The Magnificent Seven (2016) movie review

It’s a remake of a remake of a remake….For those who may not know The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the cult classic turned to staple of western cinematic history the 1960 Mag Seven and that in turn is a remake of a film called Seven Samurai. It seems to be one of those films that can be remade without everyone losing their minds. Perhaps it’s because it’s a story everyone’s already heard of before.

Plot: A small town called is starting to thrive when a man named Bogue takes over the town completely. A woman played by Haley Bennett enlists the help of Seven gunmen, to help take their town back.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier

 

The Good

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This film has some of the best gun fights in any western out there. 

  • The ACTION
    • First thing one has to talk about in a western shoot out film is the action. And within the first ten minutes, you’re promised a lot of it, and while the bigger shoot outs are few and far between, it’s totally worth the wait to see everyone going off on each other like a bunch of Yosemite Sams. The shoot outs are fun, epic but not over the top. You are on the edge of the seat wondering who will survive the gun fight. The fights in this movie are just a lot of fun.
  • The PACING
    • The pacing in this film is a bit quicker from what I remember the 1960 film to be. It’s pretty fast paced yet allows some time for certain characters to develop. We don’t get to know everyone (which is to be expected in a film this crowded) but unlike other big group films of this year it doesn’t feel overcrowded and you do care about the group and their fight. I just wish the pacing slowed down more than just the one time in the film to do just that.
  • The CINEMATOGRAPHY
    • The way this film is shot and edited really helps with that fast pacing. There’s a lot of tracking shots (to the point where I stopped counting them) but that only seems to be when it comes to riding horseback and setting up establishing shots. A lot of the typical western style shots as well; extreme close ups, medium close ups of weapons the like. Perhaps it’s just the good, clean, quick editing that gives this film that quicker pace. Which is good because it means less waiting for the next gun fight.
  • The SOUNDTRACK
    • This was James Horner’s last score he worked on before he died. And as a last score once again he nailed it. They work in the original theme wonderfully from time to time, and the newer scores are just gorgeous and really put you into the world of the old west. Even though this is a modern western film.

The Meh

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The show stealers….Chris Pratt was the obligatory comic relief character.

  • The CHARACTERIZATION
    • With the Seven themselves, there are a few standout hits; the assassin was cool, the Comanche warrior was awesome, but the show stealers were Chris Pratt the Gambler, and Denzel Washington the bounty hunter. The casting was a bit more diverse here than the original; there wasn’t an Indian warrior in the original, the wasn’t a humorous gambling character like Chris Pratt, in the original the group was pretty standard. Here it felt like each person really did have specific traits to bring to the team. However, again they only focus on the leader of the Seven for that good character development rather than fleshing out the entire group. I don’t want backstories for everyone, just a little more than “how’d you meet? Why are you here?” sort of thing. Oh and Pratt did a great job handling the comic relief.
  • The VILLAIN
    • The villain did a good job in making me hate his guts. But in the end he is going to be pretty forgettable. I had to look up his full name simply cause I only remembered Bogue. He was good, but your standard western villain dick.

CONCLUSION

There are a few problems with The Magnificent Seven, but nothing huge, and nothing that really ruins the experience of the film. It’s a good fun ride, a good modern western, which are few and far between, and has awesome gun fights. If you’re looking for a good time for about 2 hours, this is the film for you. It’s yet another take on a familiar as old as time story of “Town overtaken by a dick that needs to be saved”; everyone has done it, but it’s how one does it that makes it good and memorable rather than a forgettable bore.

The Magnificent Seven gets a 4/5 from me. It has a few problems, but overall it’s just a good modern western shoot out gun fight type movie with incredible shoot outs, and amazing acting from everyone.    

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Blair Witch (2016) movie review

Plot: In this direct sequel to the godfather of found footage The Blair Witch Project the brother of Heather Donahue from the first film, believes his sister is still alive, and sets out to the Black Hills Forest with his friends to find her after seeing a video uploaded on YouTube of her in a house in the woods….But they find something sinister instead.

Cast: James McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry

The Good

  • The TENSION  
    • This director (Adam Wingard) knows how to just wind the strings of tension until they SNAP. And the ish goes down hard when that string snaps. The way the woods seem to suck you in, draw you in…If you’ve ever been camping there are nights where you just don’t get sleep cause the noises outside. Here they use that to the advantage. And not only that but they do actually FILM what’s going on outside at night when they’re woken up by the noise-in the original film, they just talked about it in the morning.
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When the tension snaps it goes down hard.

  • The WOODS/SETTING
    • The woods just give off this creepy “something isn’t right” vibe. What they were able to do with budget works here as opposed to the original; sure you knew they were in the woods but the area didn’t seem so densely populated with trees. Here the woods are incredibly thick and again it works to the advantage. As someone who used to camp a LOT, I can tell you that you could very easily get turned around in the woods unless you stay on the trail or campsite. What surrounds the woods is unknown, but what they do with TIME was a cool gimmick to psyche out the audience-it even got me thinking “okay how is this possible” along with the characters.
  • The SOUND DESIGN
    • This is the sole reason to see this movie in theaters. They have this thing called Dolby Digital Surround Sound. When the twigs were snapping, the footsteps getting closer, the off camera screams to the left or right….torrential downpours….the sound mixing is incredible in this film. And having that Surround Sound really helps draw you further and further into the woods; admittedly there were times when I had goosebumps on my arms.
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the last ten minutes are incredible….Buuuut you have to slog through a lot to get to it.

  • The LAST TEN MINUTES
    • If only the entire film could be like the last ten minutes….it does have beat for beat like the original, but also builds on a bit and makes you think on what you just witnessed as a whole. However having to SLOG THROUGH the rest of the film to get to the ending….meh. Is it really worth it?

The Meh

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It’s the give and take of haunting movies: fast lazy build up for poor payoff or slow build up for good payoff? 

  • The CHARACTERS
    • Oh look a group of people go into haunted woods. And all that was found as said in text form was DV tapes and SD cards and equipment…..Yeah the “characters” Are just bodies that will be picked off one by one. You do get to care about James and you get why he’s there but in the end….You couldn’t care less if they lived or not.
  • The PACING
    • This is the give and take of haunting movies. If the pacing is crap then you know you’re in for jump scare fest-we’ll get to the jump scares-if it’s slow and methodical like this film then at least the tension is built up to the point where you just WANT it to snap already. This film is that second bit. However when you don’t really care about the characters since you know ahead of time they’re just Witch Bait that will be sequentially picked off one by one….Yeah the pacing can and is a bit of a bore. It helps the film, yet it’s also detrimental to the film as well.

The Bad

  • The GOD DAMN JUMP SCARES
    • Stop it. STOP. IT. Hollywood. When the audience reacts to a “jump scare” they jump, scream, laugh it off. Because what they react to is the NOISE not the actual scare. Some movies like The Woman in Black use a jump scare to burn an image into your brain to the point where you won’t be forgetting it for a while. Here it’s literally people just rushing into someone, jumping in front of their cameras, a loud noise used on an edit for whatever reason….They’re the cheapest form of a scare and worthless. Stop it. No. Bad Hollywood BAD.

CONCLUSION

If you liked the first The Blair Witch Project then you’ll like this film. If you hated the first film, you’ll hate this movie. If you thought the first was meh, you’ll think this is meh. The ties to the original are paaaaper thin at best. The characters are just bodies. The jump scares ruin a lot of the good tension that winds up in the first half of the film. But the last ten minutes, the deaths, the tension, the sound design, all cool and range from awesome, to amazing-in particular the sound design really it’s fantastic. The ending does make you think: is there something going on in the woods or was it just in their heads? But the question isn’t really profound and in the end you’re going to forget this movie the very next day.

In the end, Blair Witch gets a 3/5 from me. It’s an average horror movie with incredible sound design, and tension, yet is beat for beat the original which in the end is detrimental for the film.

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A Short List of My Favorite and Least Favorite Films From Summer 2016

Well the Summer Movie Season is officially over with it being September. And it was pretty lackluster. A few standout hits, but most (in my opinions) were only getting 3/5s from me with a few above averages. This summer was really like a two sided coin; on the one side, it was freaking amazing. On the other you just can’t but think “….hey why”. Now keep in mind this list is COMPLETELY subjective. Mostly based on “which ones would I willingly watch and still enjoy once they hit digital?) And all opinions. If you think some of these films sucked let me know below. For me, these 10 films (5 best and 5 worst in no particular order) are the films that made this summer amazing…And some that you wouldn’t remember in t-minus one day.

BEST FILMS

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

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A “wheeeeee!” movie if ever there was one. This time, the filmmakers knew what they wanted to do, and they just WENT WITH IT. And it works to the film’s advantage. It’s more like the 80s cartoon, which is both a good and bad thing. The Turtles feel more like characters, like family, here. They have actual personalities and plights, legit arguments between each other, and Megan Fox wasn’t all that bad either. The fight scenes were fun, the cinematography wonderful at times, there was less shaky cam, the Shredder was an actual person here, Rocksteady and Beebop were fun…It’s just a good time and a nice refresher from the seriousness of most action films this year.

 Captain America: Civil War

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Is it no surprise this will be on everyone’s best whatever list? Yeah this film was everything Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice wasn’t. Marvel has a system, and that system seems to work. Their formula is easy to spot at this point, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It’s everything Dawn of Justice wants to be but isn’t and could never be. The emotions and stakes were high, it was crowded but not stuffed to the brim, it wasn’t trying to be anything else, it had a semi-good balance of humor and seriousness….Only suggestion for the next Avengers film? KILL SOMEONE ALREADY MARVEL MY GOODNESS.

Just don’t kill Vision. Please.

Finding Dory

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You can’t step into the same river twice….But holy lord you can certainly step into the same ocean twice. Over a decade later, and it still has the charm Finding Nemo had and more. While Finding Nemo still remains the superior Pixar film, Dory delivers on intense emotional feels, wonderful animation, and a good story that serves more as a companion piece to Nemo rather than a sequel. Good show Pixar…unforgettable.

Hell or High Water

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The indie success of the late summer…Starring Chris Pine (who also voiced Jack Frost) of all people. He is joined by Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster. This movie just lets its characters breathe. What that means is that the pacing is nice and perfect; the characters are just people and not plot devices moving from point a to point b. I’m not much a fan of westerns, but this is easily a modern western classic.

Lights Out

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One of my new all time favorite films needs to be on this list. This film operates on the mechanic “the ghost attacks in the dark”. It totally validates and amplifies your childhood fears of the dark; we’re hardwired to fear dark places because back in the day when we weren’t at the top, we HAD to be careful going into the darkness for food or firewood. In modern times, we’re afraid of rapists or killers in dark allies ways or parking lots. The characters are all good-even the boyfriend-and the sheer tension could be cut with a knife. This is a film that’ll definitely make you sleep with the lights on after viewing it.

Definitely don’t watch it alone in the dark.

WORST FILMS

X-Men: Apocalypse

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What to do when you get to reboot your entire universe? FUG IT UP because why not why the hell not. And I had SUCH high hopes for this after Days of Future Past. I do like Jennifer Lawrence. She deservedly shot to fame through Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook and she was wonderful as a young, naïve Mystique in First Class and was okay in Days of Future Past. But in that second film you could see that she was getting bored with playing the blue skinned anti-hero/villain of the X-Men universe to the point where she didn’t want to be blue because “she didn’t want to be recognized” which is code for “she didn’t want to sit in makeup chair for 4+ hours”. That’s not the only thing wrong with this movie; Oscar Isaac was wasted which was a shame after being such an awesome character in The Force Awakens, the obvious build up to another Dark Phoenix saga was just shoved in, and the plot was meh. Come on Singer you can do better than this.

Independence Day: Resurgence

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………Remember when “boom!” was all that was needed to sell a movie back in the 90s? This isn’t the 90s anymore. Yet for some reason filmmakers seem to think that “Boom!” is all the audience needs to get their butts in the theaters. There are some fun elements in this movie, but without Will Smith being Will Smith it’s just a bore. The first movie isn’t as good as people say it is, but it had Will Smith which immensely helped. Alien movies were a big thing….Now….Less so. Sorry Roland but you are twenty years to late here.

Ice Age: Collision Course

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When I saw the poster for this I thought it was a joke. Then I saw the trailer….and yeah this franchise needs to go extinct. There’s always a few animations that give the genre the stigma of “oh that’s just for kids it’s not for adults” and this movie is definitely one of those “oh it’s just for kids who need to be babysat by uncle television” films. The first film was actually really good. Good characters, an interesting story, good quality animation…Here? Nice try guys. But….stop it.

Warcraft

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I got really bored during this movie….Video game movies don’t have to be either so boring for non-gamers or those not into the franchise. I’m not into the Warcraft franchise. I thought maybe this would be a good way to get into it…This movie makes me want to stay far away from the Warcraft games.At least I have my Nintendo Wii U and I’m happy with that…Ratchet and Clank served as a better example of what an at least okay video game movie is like….I’m still hold onto hope for Assassin’s Creed in December. Come on Hollywood you can do this.

Ben-Hur 2016

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I’m not much of an advocator for remakes. If there’s a story to be told, go for it. If it’s a blatant cash grab that’s all about “oh you liked the original here see this one why not GIVE ME MONEY!” THEN I’ll be less than pleasant towards it. This film, is in the latter category. The original chariot race is iconic and can’t be beat. Also the ending…..huh. I mean everyone has their own interpretations but….Magical Jesus healing rain? Kay.

This summer was definitely lacking….Something. 2014 had some amazing summer hits; How to Train Your Dragon 2, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Mad Max: Furiosa-Fury Road. 2015 had Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Insidious: Chapter 3, and Inside Out. 2016….A few good standout hits. It’s been a good year for indie films however, but unless your theater shows those, you’re out of luck. This year was over-saturated with Superhero films (7 in one year is way too many) and the original gems seemed to get swept under the rug. Even the good remakes like Ghostbusters 2016 got slammed simply for being a remake of a “classic” even though that classic isn’t as good as people remember when viewed objectively. If anything, Hollywood could learn from this summer’s performance….Is to try something new for next year. Sure it makes more sense to bet on the thing that people will gravitate more because they’re familiar with it…But trying something new is never a bad thing.

 

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