Denial Review

denialDenial is the kind of film, which I feel guilty for not liking. I would never want my disregard for the film to be construed as an opposition for the great things that the heroine Deborah Lipstadt did. In fact, if anything I think her story deserved a better screenplay then we were presented with in Denial.

To begin the film Deborah Lipstadt is confronted during a lecture about her latest book on the Holocaust. Her accuser is none other than David Irving a scholar who argues against the Holocaust and thinks it is all a hoax. Lipstadt is critical of him in her book and so he brings a libel suit against her in Great Britain.

The actual trial was evidently a huge media circus. It basically put the validity of the Holocaust on trail for about 3 months in a British court. This all seems like it should be extremely compelling but there are problems…denial2

Unfortunately, Denial doesn’t do a good job in making Lipstadt likable. Unlike say the reporters in Spotlight, she doesn’t have to sacrifice much for her day in court. Most of the work is done by her lawyers so there isn’t much emotional growth from her as a character. I feel like she is basically the same person at the beginning and end of the movie. She also could be more grateful of the free labor she is getting from her lawyers but instead she is kind of judgemental of them and their motives.

Rachel Weisz is a good actress but I always felt Lipstadt was kept at a distance from us. Maybe it would have helped to have a diary or a friend she was emailing or something to make it feel more real and challenging.

denial4The lawyers are played by Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott. They do a good job but unfortunately the screenplay also does a poor job showing their journey. We don’t see them building the case or the ‘ah ha’ moments we need to get invested in the trial. Their greatest challenge seems to be getting Lipstadt to shut up and let them do their job. Not exactly compelling.

denial3Timothy Spall is also very one note as David Irving. I was reminded of the movie Breach where Chris Cooper plays a double agent brilliantly. He is presented as a loving father and friend, so his ultimate betrayal is devastating. There is little to no attempt to create this kind of character journey for Irving. If we saw him as a good man in other settings that would have made his rationalizations of Nazism all the more shocking and his take-down more thrilling.

As it is, the courtroom scenes are extremely predictable and more than a little dry. I nodded off more than once.

I have a friend who felt Sully was tedious but at least I felt that movie had something to say about our need for heroes and the media in a post-9/11 world. Plus, Tom Hanks had a character arc through the course of the movie. I at least found Sully much more compelling than Denial.

Some reviews I’ve read have compared the trial in Denial to Donald Trump and his half-truths and lies, but I think this is a stretch at best.

Mostly Denial is just kind of boring and forgettable despite the best efforts of its cast.

In the end, a worthy true story with a weak screenplay.

Overall Grade- C-

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Young Frankenstein Review

young-frankensteinAs I mentioned in my post on watching previously reviewed films on big screen, I recently watched Young Frankenstein for the first time. My friend over at Dellens 456 and I have been looking at the National Film Registry and deciding if the films deserve their spot. This month we selected Young Frankenstein, which was perfect timing since it was getting a big screen release by Fathom Events.

Young Frankenstein was made in 1974 and was directed and co-written by Mel Brooks. Gene Wilder had the idea to do a parody of the Universal Frankenstein movies and did the lion-share of the script but it definitely has a lot of Mel Brooks signature style as well.

In this version Gene Wilder plays the lead, a man named Frederick Frankenstein who is a brain scientist. He is embarrassed by the legacy of his Grandfather Victor Frankenstein and insists on being called Fronkenstein.

After finding out he has an inheritance in Transylvania, Frederick heads there and becomes more interested in his Grandfather’s work by the minute. He eventually creates a monster played brilliantly by Peter Boyle. young-frankenstein2A hilarious cast of characters then comes into play including Igor or “Eye-gor” played by Marty Feldman and an assistant Inga played by Teri Garr. They are all so funny. This script doesn’t settle for the easy sight gag like so many parodies do today but it goes deeper and it carries gags longer. Like there is one character who whenever they say her name the horses neigh. You think they’d eventually forget about that but no. Every time they say her name they neigh.

young-frankenstein4There is also a sense of love for these horror movies and it is not mocking in tone at all. I loved a scene where Frederick and the monster sing Putting on the Ritz before a group of scientists. It was funny but also kind of sweet.

young-frankenstein3Another absolutely hilarious scene is when the monster gets away and receives soup from a blind man played by Gene Hackman.

Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn are also a riot in their roles. I loved the black and white cinematography and the carefully made production design and costumes. There is nothing here that feels cheap or tacky like most parodies today.

young-frankenstein5Young Frankenstein does have its naughty moments and it earns its R rating.

I personally have seen The Producers,  Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs by Mel Brooks, and I think this is much better. I laughed more and it is more carefully made.

So should it be in the National Film Registry? Yes absolutely it should!

Have you seen Young Frankenstein? What did you think?

Overall Grade- A

Month of Previously Released in Theater

previously-releasedYou might have noticed a lack of reviews on this blog for new movies in October. Well, there is a simple reason for that: I haven’t seen many. The only new movies I’ve seen at the theater have been Deep Water Horizon, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader and The Dressmaker, which I both enjoyed very much.  I also saw Miss Hokusai and Long Way North on dvd screener but that’s it for new releases. On Netflix I saw The 13th which is an amazing documentary.

The reason I’ve been so sparse at the theater is two-fold. First, there haven’t been many movies I’ve been interested in seeing. I didn’t want to see Girl on the Train because I didn’t like the novel.

And then Jack Reacher: Never Go Back despite having a horrificly awful title I didn’t see because I didn’t see the first Jack Reacher because of the violence. This was a definite skip. Inferno is the same way. I haven’t seen either of the 2 previous films so I will pass. The Oujia movie isn’t my cup of tea and The Accountant was evidently pretty boring and violent.

However, the other reason I haven’t seen new releases (I’ve debated about seeing Birth of a Nation and a few others) is because this has been the month of seeing previously released movies in the theater!

I ended up seeing 10 movies that had previously been released. 5 of them are Harry Potter movies I saw on the IMAX during a 2 day marathon. 3 are classics I am seeing as part of the my local theaters Classic Film Series. And then 2 were just for fun.

I thought it would be fun to go over all 10 and give you my quick thoughts.

Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban-

So I’ve been rewatching these Harry Potter movies for a podcast I’ve been doing with my friends getting ready for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them. Unfortunately I haven’t found them as compelling on the rewatch as I expected. They are all drawn out and I find myself getting bored. However, one of the best of the group is Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban. It is without a doubt the best made film of the series with beautiful cinematography and a darker sensibility than the Chris Columbus films (which are BORING!). It actually didn’t end up being my favorite on the rewatch but it is strong film. The kids take a definite step up in acting over the first 2 films as well.

Overall Grade- A

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

A movie that is better for moments than the end product. Instead of being boring like most of the films it has the opposite problem. It feels rushed and there are definitely the most plotholes in this entry in the series. Still, when it does work it really works. I love the ball and Hermione’s Cinderella moment and I the stand off with Voldermort in the maze is emotional and gripping.

Overall Grade- B-

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My new favorite of the series. I know that is unusual but this is the leanest storytelling in my opinion. Also instead of just talking about a villain this entry actually has one (2 if you count Voldermort). Umbridge is so great as played by Imelda Staunton. This entry actually improves upon the book which spends way too much time with an emo grumpy Harry. Dumbledore’s Army is fantastic with Harry learning to be a teacher not just a wizard. And the ending with Sirius is emotional and really works. I also love the room with the prophecies and some of the other visual effects/production design. Plus, we get the introduction of Luna who is my favorite HP character

Overall Grade- A+

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered it being. I hated part 1 in the theater and found it super boring but it’s still pretty bad. This is the first one where I felt they were trying to rope in the YA Twilight crowd. The beginning is pretty good and the end with Dobby’s sacrifice moves me but for the most part it isn’t my cup of tea. All that drama in the tent and the weak attempt to make a love triangle happen doesn’t work. And the naked scene I found completely unnecessary and unseemly.

Overall Grade- C-

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

It’s true it is very different from the book but I think that partly comes from them splitting it up, which I still think was a terrible idea. Nevertheless, I like this movie. I think it ends the series in a very satisfying way. I like that all the minor characters are given their moments to shine. I like seeing Harry defeat Voldermort by being a better man and human being. There’s something so pure about that rather than him defeating him with valor or a warrior’s spirit. We definitely get some very sad parts, which feel earned but it is also fun. I love when Harry is in the spirit world and gets the chance to talk to Dumbledore and decide what to do with his life.

Overall Grade- A

Lawrence of Arabia

I had long heard about this movie but never seen it and holy cow! I LOVED it!  This movie has some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen in a movie. Lawrence is an enigma and is not the perfect hero I expected. Of course it looks gorgeous and is well made but I was surprised how invested I felt. It drew me in and earns it’s 3.5 hour running time. Every aspect of the film is superb

Overall Grade- A+

Sound of Music

I mean where do I begin on this masterpiece? I LOVE this movie so much I never realized it was over 3 hours. That’s how absorbed I get. It is one of the best stage adaptations because I actually think it improves upon the source material in every way. The casting is perfection with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer having amazing chemistry together. I love all the songs from Rogers and Hammerstein, and the cinematography throughout Austria is beautiful. In my mind just about a perfect movie

Overall Grade- A+

Gone with the Wind

I have a complicated relationship with Gone with the Wind. It is my Grandma’s favorite movie of all time, so I have happy memories of watching it with her.  There is no doubt the epic nature of the movie. The sets, costumes, production design are some of the best ever. I also enjoy the melodrama of it all. It’s like watching a soap opera but with the best production values you could imagine. On the other hand, the magnolia version of the south makes me uncomfortable. Slave holders are the heroes who have been horribly treated by those darn yankees…The depiction of the slaves is cringe inducing and the marital rape towards the end isn’t right. So, I enjoy watching it but I acknowledge all those flaws. It was neat to see it on the big screen.

Overall Grade- B

Young Frankenstein

This was the first time I saw the iconic Gene Wilder film Young Frankenstein. It’s pretty hilarious about Frankenstein’s grandson trying to disprove his grandfather’s theories. The cast is above reproach- so funny. I particularly liked Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn. They are two of the funniest ladies ever. The black and white photography elevates it above a spoof movie. It’s very well done.

Overall Grade- A

The Shining-

One of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen because it dares to leave questions unanswered. This makes the film a puzzle you can come to again and again. It was great seeing it on the big screen and trying to notice how the small details fit together.  While it is bloody, most of the scares are psychological horror rather than gore. It’s about a man unraveling due to cabin fever but is it so much more than that? I think so!  Stanley Kubrick is at top of his game with the cinematography, production design and everything else. I also love the child actor Danny Lloyd and Jack Nicholson is of course amazing. He’s funny yet terrifying at the same time.

Overall Grade- A+

So there you have it! My thoughts on all 10 movies and my grades. Let me know what you think about these movies in the comments section. Hopefully November will have more new releases I can watch!

Hidden Gem- Something Wicked This Way Comes

something-wickedOver on my youtube channel I have been doing a Disney Scares month for Family Movie Night. With October being a 5 Monday month I decided on Black Hole, Watcher in the Woods, Frankenweenie, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Dragonslayer. It’s been particularly fun to watch these films from the 80s that hardly seem like Disney films at all. Watcher in the Woods has some questionable acting but the rest of the production is fantastic. Black Hole ended up being more of a sci-fi movie than horror but I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a good episode of Star Trek more than a horror movie like I was expecting. But this Sunday I will post my review of Something Wicked This Way Comes and spoiler alert I LOVED IT!

Rarely do I watch a movie that excites me as much as Something Wicked This Way Comes did. If you like Stranger Things than rent this film. I think you will really love it. It’s not hokey fun like Watcher in the Woods but just chilling and thoughtful and extremely well acted.

something-wicked5Something Wicked This Way Comes is based on a novel by Ray Bradbury and it focuses on 2 boys named Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade from a small isolated town where everyone knows each other. The boys are a bit rebellious but there is also an innocence to them. They are instantly likable without being too adorable child-actorish. Will is particularly interesting because his father is an older man (Jason Robards) who worries he can’t play ball and be there for his child the way he wants. To me it was interesting to have a parent more insecure about his child than the child. Usually in most movies it’s the unaware, workaholic parent and the damaged child.

something-wicked3The movie does a great job setting up insecurities of many of the townspeople. The school teacher who was once beautiful. The storekeeper who lost limbs in the war but was once the town football star. These aren’t just cliches but characters we grow to care about in their brief screen time. They all have this mixture of innocence and darker desires that the movie explores.

something-wicked6
Then one day a carnival comes into town- something wicked you might say! This is ran by a man named Mr Dark who is played brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce. This is the kind of role that Tim Burton would muck up with exposition and a tragic backstory. Not here. We get very little about him, which makes him unpredictable and scary.

something-wicked-this-way-comesThe carnival at first seems like an innocent diversion but it of course is not. I don’t want to give away too much but it was so surprising. Each step of the carnival was both a temptation and curse. Some things like a carousel which can change your age appear very appealing but as always is the case there is a price to be paid. The trailer says “never whisper your dreams” and that is such a good tagline for this film. Dreams are where we are often most vulnerable.

something-wicked-2What was so great is not everything was explained and I’m sure someone could point out plotholes and inconsistencies but we are dealing with dark magic here. It really worked. There are some incredibly chilling scenes with everything from psychological scares to creatures in the night. Some scares were even quite devastating like when Will’s Dad is confronted with his insecurities as a father or the school teacher in her lost youth. I cried which is saying something in a scary movie.

Everything works in this film. The cinematography by Stephen H Burum is perfect mixture of Americana and Burtonesque carnival scenes. The music by James Horner is quiet when it needs to be. The sets and special effects held up and were scary and the acting is top rate. Jason Robards, Jonathan Price, Diane Ladd, Pam Grier, and all the small roles including the boys Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson are all fantastic.

I loved this movie. I mean loved it. It builds tension so well and draws you into the story and characters. I just wanted to give you guys a heads up if you are looking for family appropriate Halloween fare to check this out. It is definitely one of Disney’s most hidden gems.

I will go into more detail on my youtube review on Sunday but trust me on this one. It is a fantastic film. Have any of you seen it? Were you as impressed as I was? Let me know in the comments. Thanks

I’m Depressed About 2017 Animation

Since I started this blog in 2014 I have had a goal to see every animated film released in the year. For the most part this has been an awesome experience with even the bad films giving some context to help really appreciate the good.

But I’m seriously debating about whether I should reconsider my goal for 2017. 2016 has been a stellar year for animation with great films coming from big studios and indies alike.

2017 what are we getting…

Yes, I get it. Any movie can be good but a talking mafia baby movie? It just sounds so awful and the trailer was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s honestly reminding me of 9 Lives but less creative and the animation looks atrocious. It seems like an SNL skit of a bad movie come to life. It reminded me of the Jack and Jill trailer where you just sit baffled at how this actually is happening. I mean who saw Baby Geniuses and thought ‘we need that in 2017’ but make him a mob boss baby? And can we put that person in jail?

And what else do we have to look forward too? (heavy sarcasm in that sentence)

Well, really only 3 films right now. I am looking forward to Coco from Pixar. It’s a musical with a Day of the Dead theme and that has huge potential for creativity. (And yes they have done The Book of Life but I think if we have a million Christmas movies we can have more than one Day of the Dead movie).

I am also looking forward to Lego Batman as I loved The Lego Movie and the trailers were amazing.

The Breadwinner from the studio that brought us Song of the Sea has potential and My Little Pony could actually be a commercially successful 2D film and I really like the Friendship is Magic TV show.

I also don’t hate the Cars movies like some so Cars 3 could be good. I’m hoping it will be better than Cars 2, which I don’t hate but don’t love either. I mean it is kind of sad when Cars 3 is one of my more hopeful entries of the year…

So really I have Lego Batman, Coco and Breadwinner in the excited for camp. My Little Pony and Cars 3 in the ‘I hope it will be good’ camp. Not much to hang my hat on for the year…

That’s about all the good I have to say. Let’s go over some of the other gems that have me depressed. In addition to Boss Baby we have:

Blazing Samurai- which has a giant cats butt on the poster and from the team that brought us the recent bomb Max Steel..

Captain Underpants- yes the studio that once brought us Prince of Egypt has sunk to talking babies and a Captain Underpants movie. I’m depressed

Ferdinand- I don’t know if this will really happen in 2017. We haven’t seen any concept art or a poster or anything about it

Despicable Me 3- You guys know how much I dislike the minions and their yellow annoyingness all over everything. Now we get another entry in the highly overrated Despicable Me series

Emoji Movie: Express Yourself- Yes the horrors continue with the emoji movie. We have a character in a major studio animated film named Poop Daddy. Let that sink in for a second. Plus the female character Jailbreak is a complete copy of Lego Movie’s Wyldstyle

Lego Ninjago Movie- The short for this before Storks was completely forgettable and lame. It seriously lessened any enthusiasm I was feeling for this movie.

Nut Job 2- The original was horrible and so the fact this sequel is happening brings me even more into depression. And it was supposed to come out in 2016 which isn’t a good sign

Smurfs: the Lost Village- This has potential but I’m not a fan of Sony Animation in general and I hated the 2 recent live action films.

The Star- This is evidently a nativity movie but I don’t know much about it  I must admit. I guess it could be good.

So yeah, forgive me while I go into a corner and cry at what I have to look forward to in 2017…Sure there may be a few pleasant surprises in there but right now I am feeling extremely discouraged about it.

But then when Kubo and the 2 Strings makes 67 million and Ice Age 5 makes 404 million worldwide I guess we get the movies we deserve.

sad-mickey

Long Way North Review

long-way-north2For the most part the 2016 animated blockbusters have been excellent. Even the middle tier films like Storks and Secret Life of Pets weren’t half bad. That said, I wish I could convince more people to enjoy the equally strong indie animated scene of 2016. We have had great films like April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday (which grows on me more I see it), Miss Hokusai Phantom Boy and now Long Way North!

Directed by Rémi Chayé, Long Way North, is like nothing else you will see this year in animation. It is a small 2D animated adventure that uses color blocking to create a unique visual style.

long-way-north5Rémi said about the style:

“What interests me is the emotion. I want animators to spend time on the characters’ emotions. I don’t want them to spend time tracing details or pulleys. That’s why the graphic style is so simple. No buttons, no laces, no folds in the clothes. So for the ship, the train, the dog sleds, the carriages, we made 3D objects”

This was so beautiful to watch!

The story is set in 1882 Russia where a girl named Sacha is worried about her grandfather who left for the North Pole and never returned. His failed expedition has become a joke and her family is disgraced. She then sets out on an expedition to find her grandfather and redeem her family name.

Adobe Photoshop PDFMy favorite part of the story was Sacha as a character. She is a strong female character but not in a cliched way. She has diva moments where she doesn’t want to let go of her aristocratic ways and I liked that. She felt human and was fallible and grew over the course of the movie.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-the-northI also liked once they got to the North Pole how things didn’t play out exactly the way I thought they would. Honestly I could have spent even more time there as the adventure really got going then.

long-way-north-still-3-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-a-scene-from-long-way-northThe animation is stunning. I loved, loved, loved, loved it. There was a roughness to the lines and a brightness to the color palate that was so refreshing and beautiful. I think Rémi is right. The simplicity did help me to focus on the emotion of the scenes and Sacha as a character. It’s funny with everything trying to be realistic these days (ala Jungle Book) I get much more emotional truth out of animation like this that is mostly shape and color.

I also really enjoyed the music by Jonathan Morali and a rock band called Syd Matters. It felt modern but as Sacha was a modern voice in this world it worked for me.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-and-katch-voiced-by-tom-perkins-set-sailUnfortunately, there were some negatives to Long Way North. I love a good adventure story but some will find Sacha’s story to be predictable.  This wasn’t a big problem for me but I do think they could have introduced more conflict earlier to make it a bit more interesting. For example, it does not take the narrative risks that April and the Extraordinary World takes.

Also I think the middle segment in the boat lasts a bit too long and I got a little bit bored (also that section was the least visually interesting in my opinion). Once they get to the North Pole it picks back up again and I was engaged.

sasha-at-ball

Even with a few issues, I think it is a very strong feature film for Rémi Chayé and he and his 2D animated team deserve tons of applause. Long Way North is a 100% European production with a studio in Paris of 20 animators, 15 layout artists and 20 cel painters and the staff is equally male and female (how refreshing is all of that!). I love what they produced here and can’t wait to see what comes next!

We need independent visually unique voices in animation so I hope you will seek out films like Long Way North and give them your support. Don’t be surprised if you hear about this one come Oscar season!

Overall Grade- B+ (I’ve gone back and forth between B and B+ but it is so pretty I will go with B+)

Miss Hokusai Review

miss hokusaiSome films are harder than others to describe and critique in a review. Usually these are the unique films that fail to fit into an easy category or genre. Such is the case with the recent GKIDS distributed film out of Japan called Miss Hokusai. It is perhaps the most Japanese movie I’ve ever seen and I think your tolerance for observing other cultures will indicate the appeal of this film.

Based on a historical manga of the same name, Miss Hokusai is about a woman in 1814 Tokyo named O-Ei. She is the daughter of a famous painter named Katsushika Hokusai. She watches him paint and instruct his 2 apprentices, on finding the passion behind the painting. It turns out that O-Ei is actually quite skilled at painting and she challenges her father and the apprentices to up their game. Her father is also very strict with her and insists she only produce the best art.

hokusai3There is a lot of fun banter between O-Ei and the other characters and it is neat to see their artistic processes unfold. At times you literally dive into the famous paintings of her day.

misshokusai_bThe movie is definitely not for everyone. It is extremely episodic, mostly a grouping of short stories. If you require a structured traditional plot than this film is not for you. It also assumes a fair amount of base Japanese cultural knowledge on the part of the viewer.  There were moments that felt a little confusing and overwhelming even though I’ve been to Japan and am decently aware of Japan and its traditions.

hokusai2O-ei figures that she wants to paint in a modern kind of way.  Part of the problem with that is her life experience is simple and naive according to her superiors. She tries to gain experience at certain points which end up being more awkward than anything else.

She does have a younger blind sister that she helps in some lovely scenes. Like in one scene she introduces her sister to the idea of snow, which is very exciting.

misshokusai_aBecause I am not an expert on Japanese culture, there were some confusing segments- such as there is a long run in a geisha house and I didn’t really understand everything that was going on with that. And the narrator doesn’t really take time to make it more digestible.

Still, it was inspiring to see Miss Hokusai continually improve and find new  art she  believes in. The visuals and the sound design are also gorgeous from every turn. You feel like you could dive into these paintings and few times you actually do just that. The main message is the piece of your soul you give up in creating art.

miss-hokusai3If you like a non-linear plot that focuses on a small number of characters than Miss Hokusai is for you. It’s emotional and will make you think about art in new ways. It’s a soft and simple film without a ton of drama or gravitas.  If you can’t watch a foreign film and really think about your life than this isn’t for you.

Miss Hokusai is not a match for the Studio Ghibli films but it stands on its own as a beautiful, simple story of a female artist in 1814’s Japan. That’s certainly not a timeframe I know much about but I think they do a good job filling in those details for the uninitiated while continuing on with the short stories.

It’s not going to be for everyone because of its pacing and episodic feel but if you want something different and have patience it might just be for you.  It’s a little meandering and all over the place, but I’m certainly glad I saw it.

There is also some mature content so adults only for this one.

Overall Grade- B

Blind Spot 10: Unbreakable (Spoiler)

unbreakableFor this month’s blind spot review I decided to check a film by my least favorite director, M Night Shyamalan off the list, Unbreakable. This is the film that everyone said was ‘one of the good Shyamalan films’. I had my doubts as I don’t like Signs which most seem to love but I figured it was worth a shot. Now that I’ve seen it I think it is an okay dopey thriller but not much more than that.

This post will have spoilers as it is impossible to talk about the pros and cons of this movie without talking about key plot points and another Shyamalanian twist!

unbreakable2Unbreakable stars Samuel L Jackson as Elijah Glass a man with a debilitating bone disease. His bones are very fragile and will shatter easily. He just might be breakable….Then we have Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a security guard who starts to wonder about his own strengths after he is the only survivor of a train crash. He just might be unbreakable…(subtlety is not Shyamalan’s strength).

So, the train crashes at the beginning of the film and it seems completely unlikely that all 131 passengers would die on this train. This is not a plane where that would make more sense. I’ve never heard of a train crash ever killing all the passengers. Nevertheless, you have to go with that (hey at least it’s not killer grass like in a later Shyamalan film…)

Elijah invites David to meet with him and he suggests that David is a superhero like we see in the comic books. David dismisses the idea but then realizes he has never been sick his entire life (something it seems like you would realize before this) and that he can lift 350 lbs on a bench press (something I would think you’d realize as a former athlete).

unbreakable3David also learns he has one weakness which is water (the aliens in Signs and now this. What is it with Shyamalan and water?) and begins to hone his super skills, which includes the power of learning what crimes people have committed by touching them. I’m not sure this skill makes much sense or would be very helpful when we all break speeding limits and other unlawful behavior. How does the skill decide what is a ‘crime’ and what isn’t? It could be self defense after all or an accident or any number of murky crimes?

Nevertheless, in one scene he goes to a train terminal where an unusual number of criminals seem to be gathering, but he follows a janitor who has murdered parents and then gone back to work for some strange reason with the children still handcuffed to the bathroom wall. Doesn’t that seem strange that he would go back to work when friends, family, anyone could come and free the girls, see the murder? It makes no sense that such a man would leave the girls like that to go to work and even less to return back to the scene of the crime. The only reason is for the script to provide him with a confrontation with David.

This fight is David’s first heroic act and soon after we get the big reveal (it’s a Shyamalan movie after all. Of course there is a big twist!). It turns out, Elijah is the one who caused the train wreck in the first place, so he could find David. This really makes no sense. In the world of comic books there are handfuls of supers for millions of normal people. The likelihood that a super would be on that train at that moment makes no sense. If there was some proof that Elijah had been following David for years but needed a final conclusive evidence than that might make sense but like I said a train crash would rarely have such casualties or produce such definitive proof.

The point of the story is that now Elijah has his purpose as the super villain against David’s superhero. Ok. I can buy that but it is the road to getting there that doesn’t really work.

That said, if you turn off your brain it’s a well made decent movie. The problem is Shyamalan thinks he is being so clever, so it’s a little hard to accept as a dopey fun thriller. His camera work is very distracting with odd angles and movement for no discernible reason. We also get the M Night cameo that made me roll my eyes.

The acting is pretty good from both Willis, Jackson and Robin Wright as David’s wife. It is also better paced than many other Shyamalan films.  I was never really bored and it’s a pretty creative twist on the comic book genre. Unfortunately I appreciate it more for the potential than the end result.

Overall Grade- C+ Shyamalan Grade- A

The Dressmaker Review

dressmakerThere are some movies like The Lego Movie that I don’t understand people disliking and then there are others like The Dressmaker that I totally get. It is a weird movie and in some ways I wonder if only people who see lots of movies like I do will dig it. When you see 15-20 movies a month they do start to feel repetitive. Then you see something that’s totally different and nuts like The Dressmaker and it is kind of exciting.

The Dressmaker is directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and it is an Australian film starring Kate Winslet. It is about a woman named Tilly who returns to her hometown to try and remember the trauma of her youth that caused her to be an outcast. She has been away training to be a tailor and quickly makes her impact on the town with her high end dresses but her past creeps back into her life. There is also love with the hunky Teddy played by Liam Hemsworth.

dressmaker3The Dressmaker is part campy soap opera, part romance, part revenge drama, part uproarious comedy. It has violent moments that shocked me but also times I was really laughing hard. It’s hard to remember a movie that is more tonally dissonant but I think that is intentional. It gives the film a unpredictable feeling. At first I thought it was going to be Chocolat but with fashion (mysterious stranger comes in and teaches town how to live!). But just when I got comfortable something shocking would happen and then I would be taken in a new direction.

And Kate Winslet. Wow…

dressmaker2She is just fantastic in this movie and is so beautiful but also heartfelt when she needs to be. I had no problem with her being with the 15 years younger Hemsworth. I mean after all men are frequently that much older than their female counterparts, and how the romance resolves is extremely surprising. I’ve always been more of a Chris Hemsworth fan but Liam is HOT in this film.

dressmaker5Judy Davis is also fantastic as Tilly’s mother. It’s one of the strongest supporting actresses performances I’ve seen this year.

judy-davis-the-dressmakerHugo Weaving gets some great laughs as a cross dressing cop and I also liked Sarah Snook as a mousy town girl who is transformed by Tilly’s dresses.

And speaking of the dresses…Holy cow are they beautiful! If this film doesn’t get nominated for best costumes than that is a real travesty. It is completely stunning work by Margo Wilson and Marion Boyce. It reminded me of the costumes from My Fair Lady designed by Cecil Beaton. The costumes are so beautiful they have an entire exhibit with them on display in Australia. How often does that happen?

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dressmaker4The Dressmaker won’t be for everyone. Like I said it is very strange and the tone goes all over the place but I kind of dug it. It continually surprised me and all the performances are so campy and fun that it worked. It looks so gorgeous and sometimes it’s nice to see something different.

It’s in general a mild R rating with just a few jarring scenes of violence and a little bit of language.

Overall Grade- B+

Here is the trailer to see if it looks like your cup of tea: