Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rent (2005 movie Review)

     Usually when viewing a musical I can recommend it on the merits of how great the music and dance choreography is but with the 2005 musical “Rent” I had a hard time deciding between what I felt in my heart and my mind. My mind was telling me that this was an outstanding musical with lots of stellar musical numbers, style and having the guts to talk about lots of serious subject matters. But my heart was telling me this movie was disturbing, mean spirited and at times offensive.

    The movie depicts the lives of several Bohemians and their struggles with sexuality, cross-dressing, drugs, homosexuals and lesbians, life under the shadow of AIDS, and paying their rent. It’s very depressing and it gives the film a very downbeat overtone but it clashes with all these very upbeat and energized musical numbers. Most of the songs themselves have this exact contrast, there’s one song called "What You Own" and it sounds so upbeat with such a sizzling vibe that you’d swear it was a vacation song or something like that, yet the song focuses on life struggles and we see images of people out on the street playing music to gain money and all kinds of unpleasant things. It gives you a wired feeling, honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to feel while watching this film.

     Before I get to ahead of myself, let’s look at the individual stories and subjects that are all present in this film. It all takes place in the East Village of New York City in the late 1980s and we have three stories that the film focuses on. The best story that the film should have focused entirely on is a guy named Roger Davis who just lost his girl friend to aids. Now he’s falling in love with a girl named Mimi who lives next door to him and is also suffering from aids. Roger loves Mimi but he is afraid to have a serious relationship with her because he doesn’t want to feel the pain of losing someone he loves to aids again. This, to me is an interesting concept and is well portrayed by the two. The thread that holds all these individual stories together is a filmmaker named Mark Cohen who moves in and out of these three stories and is what links them together. The last two story arcs follow the same theme of homosexuality, we have two boys named Angel and Tom who are in love and there’s two girls named Maureen and Joanne who are trying to get married. Personally, this is a subject that always makes me feel dirty and sick but I’m certainly not talented enough to discuss why I think it’s bad, so let’s just move on.   

    The film does have a terrific selection of songs and it’s hard not to recommend to people who love musicals. The opening song called “Seasons of Love” starts things off very well, it has a very sweet and beautiful melody. The actual “Rent” song is another musicale number with a lot of energy and a very entertaining beat despite the depressing concept of not being able to pay for your rent. “Tango: Maureen” is an interesting dance/musicale number, it’s the only song that features choreographed dance extras in the background and some really fun dance choreography from our leads in the foreground. My favorite musical sequence is “Out Tonight and Another Day”, not just for the great music and but for the changing settings, it’s focuses on Mimi as she begins at work (which happens to be a place for strip dancing) and then we follow her on the road, in her apartment, in someone else’s apartment, back out on the street, interacting with different people and it all happens the some musicale number, it’s great. Other great songs that I love from this film include “One Song Glory”, “Light My Candle”, “I should tell you”, "What You Own", Love Heals” and “Know Day But Today Reprise”. It’s great that many of the actors are actually from the “Rent” show on Broadway and they all can sing very well. There are some songs that I don’t care for and are just plain forgettable but there’s far more good than bad. If you don’t want to be subjected to the films depressing, unpleasant and just all around odd feel, I still highly recommend listening to this soundtrack on its own because it’s really good.  
     This movie was directed by one of my all time favorite movie directors Chris Columbus, who’s worked on other great films including “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Home Alone”, “Gremlins” and the first three “Harry Potter” movies. As always Chris gives solid direction and the characters have good chemistry. Like I said earlier, the films music is fun and upbeat but subjects are very depressing and even the look of the film is downbeat. Everything is shot in the dark and you’re always looking at ether a dirty apartment or street ally. Fans of the Broadway play will be pleased with this adaption but anyone else might be very picky at plotlines and situations that seem to just come out of no ware, there’s plenty of subjects that regular viewers may even take offence too and it makes this film really hard to recommend. With music this good, I definitely recommend the soundtrack but watch the movie at your own risk or at the very least be aware of what you’re getting into because it has a lot of uncomfortable sensuality and it’s a downer. I’m still very glad I saw it because it dose deliver some powerhouse musical numbers, I give “Rent” 3 ½ stars.                             

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Top 10 favorite Damsels

      Aren’t we all sick of that time warn damsel in distress cliché, in action and adventure movies especially. It’s a pathetic waste of imagination to have female characters written in the film only so the hero can rescue them. There are plenty of bad ones like Lois Lane from the “Superman” series, Elizabeth Swan from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and need I even mention Bella from the “Twilight” movies. But to be fare, there is a decent amount of good damsels that are more than just pretty faces that are there to elevate the eye candy. Some are written with fun personalities, some are helpful, some can hold their own, some contribute a lot to the film and there’s some that you’d want to have tag along for an adventure. I think every guy fantasizes about this at some point, getting the chance to rescue a beautiful woman and starting a relationship afterwards. In return, ladies sometimes fantasies about getting rescued by some hunk of a man, it’s a funny old world isn’t it. From painfully annoying clichés, to fun and optimistic, here are my top ten favorite damsels that are more often then not, in need of rescuing.  

10. Jenny Blake from The Rocketeer

    Jennifer Connelly certainly elevates the eye candy in this action packed family film. She came close to just being a clichéd girl friend but she’s actually a very active character, taking advantage of a situation, and taking care of herself by outsmarting the villain. Her relation with our lead hero is decent and Jennifer Connelly's performance and personality is a lot livelier then it usually is in comparison to some of her other movies like “Labyrinth”. She was smart, independent, loving, spunky and when you mix that her beautiful looks, she makes a fitting damsel for the list.

9. Dr. Chase Meridian from Batman Forever

      My favorite actress, Nicole Kidman is a lot of fun as one of Batman’s most clichéd, yet terrific girl friends named Dr. Chase Meridian. Now I already said a lot about this character in my review for “Batman Forever”, so I don’t want to repeat myself to much. Naturally, She's the most attractive of Batman's girl friends but as a psychiatrist, she was able to contribute to Bruce Wayne's personal struggles and had a natural affection toward Batman for being such an interesting case study. Dr. Chase was also a little more active than most superhero girl friends, putting up a little more fight before getting captured by the villains. I really like how she’s one of the few Batman girl friends that genuinely tried to help him cope with his troubled past and she felt like a good match for the caped crusader. She was sly, cool and tough but also smart and resourceful, that’s just enough to save her from being a bland character that’s just there for eye candy.  

 8.  Agent XXX from The Spy Who Loved Me

      You couldn’t find more clichéd damsel’s in distress than in the James Bond series. There rarely helpful and are just there for Bond to rescue, but to be fair there are some good ones and the best buy far is the Russian agent, code named XXX from “The Spy Who Loved Me”. This was a chick that could put up a fight and a had a sly demeanor. Her relation with Bond was also really good, instead of just falling in love with him, she actually hated his guts because he was responsible for her husband’s death and that built conflict between them. Under the circumstances, she had no choice but to work with him and that made for a far more interesting character than what we’re use to seeing in Bond films.      

7. Tina Carlyle from The Mask

       This was a really fun character and it was the performance that introduced me to   Cameron Diaz. Actually this was her very first movie and of all the latter films she did (“There’s Something about Mary”, “Knight and Day” and the “Shrek” films), this still stands as my favorite character of hers. I’ll never forget when she made her first appearance in the bank, slowly getting revealed in that hot red dress, walking in slow motion, all matched with some great music, SMOKING! Also, can't forget her awesome wild dance with Jim Carry. Just like all the other ladies on this list, there's more to this character then good looks. Tina is a character that worked for the villain, not because she was evil but because she needed money and the villain wasn’t someone you wanted to get angry but she meets our lead hero, they have a decent relation and he becomes her outlet out of the life she was stuck in. It’s nothing new but Cameron Diaz is just so warm and lovable that she keeps this damsel from feeling shallow.  

6. Vicki Vale from Batman (1989)

     Yet another one of Batman’s girl friends, and another perfect fit for the list. At first, Vicki comes off like a very typical damsel in distress, but that's only because she is. Always in need of rescuing, always fashionably awesome, always losing her shoes and always screaming. But she was also insightful and kind while also being quick and coming. Vale was supportive but she had her limits, making her a fun and sometimes interesting. Also I like Vales wardrobe a lot more than Dr. Meridians. Meridian was always in black attire but Vicki Vail wares white and that was a much cooler contrast to Batman and the dark, gothic surroundings. She certainly dosn't qualify as a complex character, but as far as damsels go, she’s leaps and bounds above others.

5. Marion from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

      Talk about a true damsel in distress, there wasn’t a minuet of this movie that she didn’t need rescuing, in fact I counted, there are 8 situations where she needs saving, and all in one film. This is one girl who needs to have the villains stamp her frequent kidnapping card. But for how many times she gets in trouble, she was still a very fun and genuinely likable character. She and Indiana had good chemistry, she was smart, tough, and occasionally tried to help herself. Then there’s that dress, there was no reason for her to put that on but who’s complaining, besides that was all part of a plan to distract the villain and to get him drunk, I dig it. Plus, big points for the world’s biggest smile, I mean that smile just brings me joy. With an amazing smile, two beautiful dresses for the pries of one and a spunky attitude, that makes Marion a very salvageable damsel.    

4. The Sorceress from The Scorpion King

      Of all the damsels on the list, this one is easily the hottest, but hey that’s Kelly Hu in a nut shell. Say what you will about “The Scorpion King”, it still features an awesome female lead. She was so great at holding her own, that I honestly don’t know if I could call her a typical damsel in distress. Well she definitely is a character in need of rescuing, she has the power to read the future and ever sense she was a child, she was used as a weapon for an evil master. When she escaped, she found herself in a different cage, she sees the kindness and respect in others but latter she discovers that she’ll be responsible for the deaths of innocent lives. Then after losing her power, she willingly goes back to her evil master to prevent him from committing mass murder in the process of looking for her. Sense she lost her power, she won’t be able to help him in battle, thus she couldn't be used to harm anyone. I really wish this film spent more time developing her character because I felt that she had potential to be a really great character rather than just a better than average damsel in distress. Bottom line, she may not be the greatest female lead in the world but she made for an excellent damsel that I'd would definitely leap out in front of the train for.      

3. Princess Leia from the original Star Wars Trilogy

       Leia fills the role of a princess in need of rescuing perfectly without becoming completely helpless, she can definitely hold her own. Leia rarely let anyone put her down, never let the pressure of the situation get the best of her, always put up a good fight and everything from her crazy bread bun hair to her insanely skimpy slave girl outfit are all classic. I especially love how she’s developed over the three films. First she was a princess that needed to get rescued, than she had two relations developed over the next two films and a surprise twist in the 3rd film. Overall, Princess Leia is perhaps the most classic damsel of all time, and one of the greatest.  

2. Andromeda from Clash of the Titans (1981)


     Its hard to describe what makes this character so memorable but I grew up with this movie at a very young age and for me, this was the classic princess that I always fantasized about rescuing. She was so young, inocent and cute that it’s no wonder Perceus put himself through so much for her. The two had a harmless and sweet relation and I love how she doesn’t let the status of being a princess keep her from going on a paroles adventure. Overall, she’s the princess that’s always worth fighting for.   

1. Evie from The Mummy (1999)


    I absolutly loved this character, Rachel Weisz dose an excellent job bringing this standard character to life, she’s so loveable as a clumsy yet intelligent and beautiful Egyptologist. Evie’s like a little child that gets excited on Christmas, but she’s also adventurous and very useful with her knowledge of Egypt and its history. Also, I love how she wasn’t just captured for leverage against the hero, the villain needs to use her body to bring his love back from the dead and that makes for an intense situation and it gives her more involvement in the story. With her cute smile, helpful knowledge, charming, lovable and spunky personality, Evie is one damsel that I would gladly bring on the adventure. 

      To sum things up, this cliché is old and only getting older but you can still make damsels good characters, they shouldn’t be there just for eye candy or just for the hero’s to rescue, they need to have personalities, they need to hold their own, they need to be helpful and they need to be likable characters, and these are ten damsels that made this time warn cliché salvagable again.      

                                                                     The End

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Top 10 favorite Musicals

    When it comes to genera’s of film, musicales aren’t exactly amongst my absolute favorite, I’m more of a comedy, Sci-fi and action movie guy, but musicals are still a joy to watch. It’s easy to just sit back and enjoy films with great musical numbers, terrific sets, swift dancing choreography and lovable characters. This is when things like plot or character development are important but there not what you pay attention to, it’s all about the escape and submersing yourself into a world of music, wonder and entertainment. I’ve seen all kinds of great musicals ranging from “Singing in the Rain”, to “Guys and Dolls”, to “Sweeny Todd” but instead of just listing them off, I’m selecting my top ten favorites, here we go!  

#10 Chicago (2002)

      It lacks both the heart and emotion of other musicals but it is still very inventive with an amazing artistic style and some genuinely great music. Unlike most musicals where the characters are actually singing, all the songs are imagined by the lead female who’s crazy about the theater, making this both unique and original. The cast is brilliant, the adorable Renée Zellweger, the smart and sophisticated Richard Gere, the very talented Queen Latifah and the gifted and insanely beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones all play there parts to a tesp. If you love musicals then check it out!  

#9 Rent (2005)

        It's intense, downbeat and even offensive at times but it’s also a little more human than most musicals. The conflicts are deep, and the situations at hand are things we see all the time in real life. All this drama and negativity are balanced with high-spirited musical numbers that are all very memorable and occasionally quiet beautiful. The film has its problems to be sure but for anyone that loves musicals adapted into film, this is one worth viewing.         

#8 The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
        I’ll admit, when I first saw this film, I thought it was boring and lacking any genuine excitement but it’s grown on me over the years. Joel Schumacher brings art and craftsman ship to the film and the musical numbers are all rather good, not exactly my style of music but great for what it is. Gerard Butler is fantastic as the Phantom, proving that he doesn’t just have a commanding Spartan voice but also a great singing voice and Emmy Rossum is very lovable in the role of Christine. Overall the Phantom is just as fun as both a classic Universal horror monster and as a rich musical. 


#7 Mary Poppins (1964)

    Julie Andrews's has starred in many successful movies and musicals but nothing tops her role as Merry Poppins. Even the most cynical film viewer will fall victim to her irresistible warmth. Also Dick Van Dyke is outstanding and a lot of fun as Bert. This is such a delightful family fairy tale with dazzling visuals, upbeat songs, a magical environment, a great family moral and it really puts you in a good mood while watching it. 

#6 Hairspray (2007)


     It’s hard to explain what makes this film so good, it’s just such an innocent and pure film, with terrific musical numbers that will make you want to get up and dance, some genuinely funny moments, a really cool artistic style using special effects and an amazing cast of talented actors including, Amanda Bynes , Queen Latifah , Christopher Walken , Zac Efron and that’s just to name a few. They are all having a blast with their parts and I especially enjoyed newcomer Nikki Blonsky who is delightful and full of energy in the role of Tracy.  It’s a sweet and wholesome family musical that easily puts you in a good mood.

#5 West Side Story (1961)

      The most iconic and technically brilliant adaption of Shakespeare’s classic drama (Romeo & Juliet) to the big screen. The performances are strong, the choreography is brilliant, the lyrics are terrific, the score is great and Robert Wise’s direction is still just as dazzling as ever. I think that sums it up, check it out. 

#4 Evita (1996)

   Perhaps the most epic musical ever maid (at least one of the biggest), with a solid lead performance from Madonna, a sly and fun side performance from Antonio Banderas and potent look at one of the darkest chapters in the history of Argentina, “Evita” manages to convey lots of complex emotions through its music, making the experience all the more powerful. The style is great and I love how the music perfectly ranges from rich and haunting to fun and upbeat. There are times when the music will make you want to get up and dance, but still keeping the dignity of the source material in check.   

#3 Les Miserables (2012)


      Ever sense I saw the play, I've been in love with this musicale, and this theatrical retelling is a more then worthy adaption. Full of emotional depth, elaborate sets and powerful performances, it's just an epic muscle on all grounds and one that I've been anticipating for years.

#2 The Wizard of Oz (1939)

    It’s the classic family fairytale that we all grew up with and is a must see for both young and old. The songs aren’t really sensational but they're still timeless, the characters are just as lovable as ever and in all honesty, it’s just a spectacle to look at. The painted backgrounds have so much charm and the set designs are absolutely beautiful. It’s one of those great nostalgic gems from our past that’s always great to dig up again.

#1 Moulin Rouge (2001)

      This is simply one of my favorite movies ever, it’s a big love it or hate it film and as for me, I love everything about it. The music may not be original but in all honesty, these old songs never sounded this good and it feels like a celebration of classic music, just given new life, like how “Mama Mea” was a collection of ABBA’s music, just given new life. In all honesty, I love just looking at this film, there’s so much color, and very detailed sets, every time I watch  it I notice something new, and everything has some kind of symbolic meaning. The relation between our two lead lovers is so sweet and Nichol Kidman gives one of the best performances of her career. The film is very daring with its vision and despite using old songs, it still feels very original and it works in place with the films time seting. But great music and beautiful sets aren’t all the film has to offer, it also contains topics of morality, a beautifully written story and some real legitimate drama. It’s such a spectacle with big music, big cinematography, big emotion, big sets, some may say it’s to over the top but I love it, this is a movie that celebrates cinema, and if you’re a big movie buff then this film is mandatory.     

Friday, May 13, 2011

Memento (Movie Review)

      There are challenging movies to review and then there are movies that almost seem impossible to review. The 2000 movie “Memento” is unlike any other movie I’ve ever reviewed and there’s no way I can do it justice. I’m almost reluctant to review this film because I think it’s a film you really just have to see for yourself, however it’s a film I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time and I always love a challenge. The movies directed by Christopher Nolan and as always, he’s a master of his craft. He truly is a visionary genius who puts interesting story’s and even thought provoking concepts into a film production that go beyond expectations and his later films like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” certainly prove that.

     The plot focuses on a guy named Leonard Shelby (played very well by Guy Pearce), who suffers from short term memory loss. After something happens to him, he forgets about it 5 min latter. All he remembers is his life before suffering from a head injury. The last thing he remembers is seeing his wife murdered, now he swears to find the man who murdered her. The film does a brilliant job putting you in his place by having all events of this movie play back words, that’s right, as far as I know this is the first movie to play the events back words as opposed to going in a linier order. It feels very disorienting and confusing at first but you catch on to what’s going on soon and it really puts you in the characters place. There are several scenes when Leonard would find himself doing something and not knowing how he got there or what he’s doing. My favorite part in the whole film is this one scene when he finds himself running and he thinks he’s chasing someone, Leonard leaps in front of him only to find out that the other guy is actually chasing him. The following line from Guy Pearce is delivered in such a perfect dead pan expression that I was just rolling with laughter. 
     We also have a very strong cast (most of whom stared in “The Matrix”). There’s a character named Teddy played by Joe Pantoliano (who played Cypher in “The Matrix”) and Carrie-Anne Moss (who played Trinity in “The Matrix”) stars as this very mysterious woman named Natalie. At first she seems like a nice person and is fairly helpful but her character has a sudden change at the end.

    I’m really lost as how to properly continue reviewing the film because it’s one of those things you just need to see for yourself. I really just wanted to bring the film up and hopefully it could get someone’s attention. It’s very confusing at first but it’s such a unique film with such an original premise and enough mystery threads to keep you invested. I’d be lying if I said it’s a film I watch often but if you haven’t seen it then it’s definitely worth checking out. I give “Memento” 3 stars.