‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ Review

Safety Not Guaranteed tells the story of three employees of a magazine who go on a journey to write an extraordinary story. The story is about a man by the name of Kenneth Calloway(Mark Duplass), who claims he needs a partner for time travel in a classified ad. The story starts off in the offices of a Seattle magazine company. The magazine is running out of interesting ideas for pieces to write for their publication . Darius Britt(Audrey Plaza), an intern for the magazine, finds herself tagging along on this trip . Her boss, Jeff  Schwensen(Jake Johnson), pitches his idea to write the story when he comes across a classified ad. The classified ad reads:

WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid when we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Jeff  Schwensen volunteers the help of his two interns, Darius Britt and Arnou(Karan Soni). What initially starts off as a work trip turns into a trip of self-discovery.

Coming from her comedic role as a jaded public official in CBS’s Parks and Recreation, Audrey Plaza fits the role well as a cynical intern . This movie doesn’t really have much comedic relief but the few funny parts involving her were fun to watch. It was intriguing to see her character’s cynical side made into a believer. She has a quirky personality type that works well with Mark Dupluss’s. Mark Duplass’s portrayal of a man who thinks he can travel in time is interesting. His paranoid antics are hilarious on screen. He plays a really likable character.  Even if he’s possibly crazy,  it’s hard not to want to root for him.

A character that I didn’t like that much in this movie was Arnou. His character follows a formula that’s pretty cliche in Hollywood. We see this theme occuring repeatedly in comedies. They add in a story about an socially inept person who somehow manages to get the girl . His role in the movie would have been a little more passable if there was more character development for him. To top it off, the viewers aren’t told much about his past at all. He did help in character development in some regards. The purpose he did serve was as a good insight into Jeff Schwensen’s character. Jeff’s feelings of nostalgia made him want to help Arnou embrace his youth. Though, I don’t think he does it for Arnou but rather for himself.

Jake Johnson is currently starring in Fox’s comedy,The New Girl. He plays a more serious role in this film as Jeff than he’s  best known for. On this road trip, Jeff battles with the harsh realities of his mortality. He realizes he’s not getting any younger and his past perceptions of love perhaps need to be reevaluated. His portrayal of a man living in the past was heartening and relatable; especially towards the end of the film as he started to come to terms with himself.

Coming from the people that made Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed manages to takes some notes  but doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Where Little Miss Sunshine  succeeded was obvious ‘in your face’ humor whereas Safety Not Guaranteed dabbled in a more dry subtle humor. Because of this, It struggles to be a good blend of comedy and drama. Regardless of it’s faults, Safety Not Guaranteed turns out be an unexpectedly decent movie.

 

Review Score 6.8/10

‘Life of Pi’ Review

life-of-pi-movie-image

Once in awhile a movie comes along and makes me appreciate cinema again. I usually don’t give into or condone the purchasing of 3-D tickets, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, it actually makes the film better. The movie is given a sense of depth and clarity with its incorporation. Cheap 3-D effects. that we usually get in blockbusters nowadays aren’t used. Its inclusion is used simply as a tool to immerse the viewer into the world. From the very opening of the movie, your eyes are greeted with mesmerizing and lush imagery.  The film should most certainly be receiving some nods for visual effects at the upcoming Oscars. For its visuals alone, the film, set itself apart from the competition and it doesn’t hurt that it contains a magical and awe inspiring script to boot.

The film was adapted from a short story by Yann Martel. It covers the remarkable and spiritual story of survival of an of an Indian boy named Piscine Patel. Pi  is castaway at sea and is forced to live on a small life boat with a Bengal Tiger. The film covers religious themes but in such away that it isn’t agitating or forcing its way on the viewer. Just as Pi seeks out different religions; the viewer is given the chance to explore them as well. I would say that these themes are actually more about Pi  being given choice, as well as, giving the film watcher a wider perspective on the subject.

The film was amazingly casted and filled by a remarkable set of international actors. One of the only faults I found in movie was the decision to have Rafe Spall play the reporter. He had some pretty flat reactions to some of the more emotional scenes in the film. The decision to have Tobey Maguire removed from the role was probably for the best. He was replaced due to his image being too much related to Spider-Man. Yet, I still wonder what he could have brought to the table.  After seeing him receive a nomination for best actor in a motion picture drama for his performance in ‘Brothers’.  He definitely has shown, in my opinion, that he is willing to prove he can play more diverse characters then what has come to be expected of him.

Ang  Lee truly found a needle in a haystack. The leading role of the film is played by Surah Sharma. Not only is this Sharma’s first role in a major film but Sharma has no previous acting experience before this. Ang Lee chose him over about three thousand other candidates, for mostly his looks, but Sharma has provided a great performance for his Hollywood debut.

The real praise, however, should go to the visual effects team at  Rhythm and Hues Studios for creating one of the most believable and life-life characters ever to be brought to life; Richard Parker. Your given the opportunity to forgot that he is fictional. Even the slightest movements of Richard Parker contain subtleties that give the beast personality. The most unexpected and unique bond is brought to life on screen between Richard Parker and Pi. With all the hard work put into Richard Parker; we are actually inclined to believe that all of this. somehow might be possible.

The movie follows a pretty basic formula. Pi’s childhood is explored, he is given a romantic interest, and an obstacle he must overcome. He overcomes his obstacle but there is no definitive moment of catharsis for his character. Instead we are given an enigmatic ending  that is neither happy or sad. The moviegoer gets to decide for himself what they want to believe. This idea of story telling is very powerful and I want to praise Ang Lee for his courage in taking this film on that route of imaginative narrative. You aren’t just simply watching the movie. You have created a relationship with the author of the story. You are required to come into understanding on the material presented to you on your own accord.

Life of Pi pulls you in, breaks your heart, and leaves you to decide how to put all the pieces of the story’s puzzle back together again.

Review Score: 9.5/10 (Beautiful Film)

‘Lincoln’ Review

Our most highly regarded president, next to George Washington gets yet another movie, fortunately this time he isn’t fighting off hordes of vampires. What we do get, is a pretty straight forward account of Lincoln’struggle to pass the 13th amendment through a divided house. Sounds tantalizing right? Sadly, the film is a sleep inducing two hours and thirty minutes of your life.

Spielberg who has the role of producer and director of the movie , was once well known for his producing and directing of blockbuster caliber cinema. His ambitious decision to take on the task of a biopic of the renowned president, was met with mixed reactions.I suppose I was stupid in allowing myself to believe that because Steven Spielberg was attached to the film, it would somehow be a bit more interesting.

Don’t get me wrong the movie is intelligent. It covers the very important and often nowadays overlooked topic of the abolition of slavery and racism in our country. Yes, I know it probably sounds professional to pretend to enjoy movies that are ‘deliberately’ slow and rigid in their telling but I refuse to compromise. The only thing that sets this film apart from being a cringe worthy BBC program is its permission to allow Lincoln to crack a few jokes now and then.

I suppose Lincoln’s personal story and joke telling were one of the best aspects of the film. One particularly scene I’d like to  mention involves a portrait of George Washington in the John.  He was well known for his humor and this was explored successfully in the film. The comedic elements of the movie lightened the otherwise colorless tale. Yet, even the comedic aspect of the film grew stale, leading to an on screen character eventually declaring that he can’t take another one of Lincoln’s stories.

Several parts of the movie I thought could have been handled a bit better; Lincoln’s family affairs and his imminent assassination. There were several scenes with Lincoln fighting with his wife about whether on not to allow their son to join the war but their only purpose seemed to be in cooking up a sense of empathy for Lincoln and his wife. Yes, Lincoln’s assassination happens off screen. Some may say this was done tastefully but I disagree. I think their was a missed opportunity to create some suspense and a more dramatic and climatic ending.

The BAFTA award winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis creates a believable character and is dedicated to his portrayal of the president, much like he is with most of his roles. Sadly the script is boring and uninspired and leaves little room for the actor to show any real emotion. The plot unravels at a snails pace and concludes in a anticlimactic and flat manner.

Do yourself the favor and limit yourself to just the trailer/preview. The story can be summed up in a couple words: My name is Lincoln and I want those gosh darn votes for my amendment. The best parts of the film arrive during debates on the floor of the house of representatives. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before though, in countless other movies without the old fashion, and at times difficult to follow style of speech. I suppose if you want to watch a history book unveil its self on the screen , you’ve gone to the right place.

Review Score : 5/10

‘Argo’ Review

I’m not a big fan of  the whole “based on a true story” idea in cinema for many reasons. Hollywood tends to dramatize events and sometimes lie altogether. Argo may be a little guilty of this and have some other small annoyances but didn’t bore me to death like most films in the genre. The movie follows Tony Mendez on his quest to extract 6 U.S diplomats from Iran during the Iran hostage situation in 1979.

Argo uses some very interesting camera filtering techniques to create a very authentic vibe that gives the illusion that your witnessing the past.  The opening animation and narration was a bit unnecessary in my opinion and served little purpose. Most of that information was elaborated on during the following scenes and close ups on television sets.

The film is based on a true story but it is apparent that certain elements of the plot were added for suspense. The big Hollywood film producer Lester Siegel(Alan Arkin) didn’t exist in real life and neither did many other aspects of the plot. There was also the fictional airport scene, in which their was a cat and mouse between the diplomats and the revolutionaries. These events were used to build suspense and heighten the sense of relief felt when they were home free. (Do I need a spoiler Alert for a true story?)

The film has some flaws but is saved by some casting decisions. Bryan Cranston’s role as Mendez’s CIA supervisor was pleasant to watch. He offered humor and as expected can turn on the intensity if need be. There should have been more screen time for the diplomats. I thought that preparation for immigration at the airport was bit glossed over.

Affleck not only directs the film; he is the bright spot. I’ve never understood the hate for Affleck’s acting.  I really enjoy his presence on screen. The bearded but ruggedly handsome Affleck, comes across as a genuine and caring man, who is devoted to the lives of the 6 diplomats trapped in Iran.

The film is broken up by comedic relief during several scenes. This was one aspect of the film I didn’t really think belonged. It might seem silly to root for a darker film but for the sake of lightening a relatively grim situation, I suppose it was necessary.

Ben Affleck is establishing himself as a true man of his craft. After watching his directorial work in ‘The Town’ it is becoming evident that this once overlooked actor may have more ability then he is given credit for.  With solid performances from Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin; Affleck has created an enjoyable film which also to happens to be informative. Whuddya know?

Review Score: 7.5/10

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ Review

tumblr_mt4l0l7ctv1r0stblo1_1280

Silver Linings Playbook tells a story of Pat Solitano; a bipolar patient, played by Bradley Cooper, who has just been released from a mental institution. After a tough breakup with his wife,  Pat must struggle  to find a way to reenter society. On his way to that he tries to win back the heart of his wife. He finds help on this journey from a troubled individual, by the name of Tiffany. Jennifer Lawrence plays the role of Tiffany, a widow who is coping with the lost of her husband. This movie also stars Robert Deniro, as the concerned father who tries to reconnect with his son. He uses his love of the Philadelphia Eagles and football to try and reconnect.

David O. Russel, the director of ‘The Fighter’, has a sleeper hit on his hand. Russel has captured the essence of Philadelphia through the movie. Robert Deniro and Jacki Weaver, who play the mother and father, play some of the most authentic Philadelphian personalities that I have had the pleasure watching in a long time. Robert Deniro’s acting is superb and shows no signs of declining with age.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence display to the world that they are ready for more rewarding roles than their box office hits. Seems like just yesterday, I was  watching Jennifer Lawrence in the movie-adaptation of ‘The Hunger Games’. It’s nice to see how Jennifer Lawrence has progressed for a young actress. Bradley Cooper is establishing himself as a multidimensional actor, coming from roles like ‘The Hangover’.

I really enjoyed the way Cooper and Lawrence depict these troubled individuals. The emotions that they display during arguments and stressful times are very touching. The on screen chemistry caused by the clash of  these two personalities is a delight to watch.

The unstable lives of these characters makes you feel surprisingly at home. You’ll find it hard not to smile or laugh at the dark humor that happens through Cooper and Lawrence. There’s never a dull moment in the movie. You can’t help but root for Pat, a man who has lost it all and is trying his hardest to come to terms with his illness.

I highly recommend this movie. If it’s still available in your area go out and watch this movie. You won’t regret it. This heartwarming adventure of a man dealing with his bipolar condition will stick with you.

Review: 10/10 (Heartfelt and Moving)

‘The Evil Dead’ (1981) Review

In preparation for the Evil Dead remake, we take a look back at the original cult classic. A movie centered around a seemingly normal vacation to a a cabin in the woods, This film has been considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time and skyrocketed Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell to stardom.

This film is one of the most gruesome and gory films I’ve ever seen. Yes,  in a industry overrun by movies such as Saw and Hostel, this movie still happens to make me cringe, even thirty years after its release. The down right lack of ability of the newcomer actors didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this film in the least.

Most films in this genre nowadays take things much to serious and end up failing in being believable. Where this movie succeeds is in its ability not to take itself so seriously. Some of my favorite scenes in this film were the reactions of the characters to the demons in the cabin. Seemingly dreadful and gruesome scenes were for some reason unknown to me hilarious at times.

Computer generated graphics only played a minor part in this film and it made for a much more authentic experience. One of the best aspects of this film comes from practical effects. Sure they might have been crude and low budget but Sam Raimi and the staff did a wonderful job. Every impaled and dismembered body part was done masterfully. The make up for the demons in the cabin was also some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Sam Raimi suffered a life long chin injury filming the final scene of the film. The dedication to the cinematography truly shows in what is considered his finest work. The camera work was unique. Close ups on characters and filming from the demons perspective built up suspense.

The Evil Dead delivered an innovative piece of cinema for its time, yet, I don’t believe Raimi could have known the sheer joy his title has caused me. I’ve felt out of the loop for this film for so long. After hearing of its dedicated following I knew I had to watch it. What a great decision that was! Now it is truly instilled in my mind as the greatest horror film of all time.

Review: 9.5/10 (A Bloody Masterpiece)