The Grand Budapest Hotel

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9/10

Wes Anderson’s latest film is his masterpiece. This film stars Ralph Fienes as the manager of a prestigious hotel in 1928. He has affairs with older rich ladies who rent out the rooms, and he gets in trouble when one of them dies and leaves him a valuable painting. Wes Anderson really hit a home run with this one. Besides it’s usual quirkiness, it has absolutely amazing coloring. Possibly the best i have ever seen. Each scene is highlighted with beautiful shades that radiate off the hotel walls. The same Anderson camera angles are there as well. Back with stop motion perfection that makes any fan of his work smile. The film is littered with it’s usual list of actors that make the best of every scene, but some aren’t given enough time to shine.Bill Murray, Jude Law and F Murray Abraham are only present in a couple of scenes, but you will wish for more as they each give a different sort of charismatic charm to the roles they play. Fienes is absolutely amazing in this role. He has comedic timing that is relevant of the 1940’s style of cinema. Adrian Brody and Willam Dafoe also shine as the son and bodyguard of the deceased madam. They are after Fienes because they feel like he slept his way to the riches. Dafoe is silent but dangerous as a man who breaks all the rules to restore happiness to his client. It is in this role that Wes clearly has seen the SNL skit about him (See The Midnight Cotterie of Sinister Intruders). This film starts to have touches of a horror movie midway through with a dead cat, a severed head and a finger slicing scene that will have you wincing by how quick it happens. I like this darker side of Anderson, and wouldn’t be against seeing it in more of his films. The storyboard sets are also amazing. Some far away shots of the film are done by plastic castle models made nine feet tall. Anderson knew the audience would know the shot was manufactured, so he went with an old school style of building much like the old Godzilla films did. Many people have criticized this and one other scene in the film for it’s practical computer effects, but i think they are just right. They add a cheesy campy feel to the film that adds to the dry comedy. If i have one problem with this film, it is the ending. Characters don’t pay the price for some of the crimes they commit, so it’s a little odd when everyone ends on good terms. Anderson is always known for his odd endings, but this one just didn’t sit right with me. With the exception of that, it’s a perfect film. I will definitely be grabbing this one when it hits DVD shelves so i can see all of the things i missed in the wide angle shots. Every Anderson fan has to see this film. I can’t recommend it to everyone though since his comedic humor is kind of an acquired taste. I will leave the trailer below at the bottom and you can judge for yourself. Excellent film. 

The Lego Movie

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9/10

The most creative movie i have seen in a few years deserves all of the critical praise it has received. The Lego Movie is something out of a childhood dream. It combines incredible animation with comedic humor that is totally unlike anything ever seen in the animation world. I loved the hell out of this movie for so many reasons. The first, it has an amazing cast. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks,Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell and the always great Charlie Day bring so much heart to the voices they deliver. Freeman especially brings us so much dry humor as God. It’s a role that he has gotten so amazing at playing (Bruce+Evan Almighty) that people start to question if this man actually is God. As i said before, the animation is incredible. I give the designers of this film an Oscar based on how they brought the Lego world to life. I kind of want to watch this film again based on what i missed. The designs go on for miles and miles and it truly is incredible. The comedic timing has something for everyone. The kids will laugh because this is after all a movie for them, but the adults will love it too because it’s that kind of humor you can look devilishly at your husband/wife and appreciate. It’s also very creative how they tie the movie together at the end. There is a surprise ending that will really melt your heart for those of us who always played with our toys. A love letter to the child in all of us, if you will. I haven’t felt this good about leaving a theater in a while. Sure, there have been better movies in the last few years, but The Lego Movie makes you feel something that you thought was buried away with adulthood. It makes us feel like we are looking down on the world we create with our minds. A couple of the cameos are also very cool in the movie. I am not going to spoil them all, but only the couple that have already been seen in commercials (Batman, Superman, Spaceman). The only negative critique i have for this film is so little that it doesn’t hurt the movie at all. The 3D is kind of useless. Sure it adds to the coloring and the motion of the animation, but no real big tricks with stuff flying at your face. I think you can see this film without paying extra for 3D and still be amazed. There is also a song in the film titled “Everything is Awesome” that will surely be stuck in my head till the end of time, and that isn’t a good thing. The Lego Movie is a film that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. Moviegoers of all ages will be struck with the magic that Village Roadshow Pictures have created.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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9/10

The rise and fall of Jordan Belfort tells a story that is so crazy it can never be touched. I truly couldn’t have been prepared for the things that were coming in this movie. Leonardo Dicaprio gives and Oscar worthy performance as Belfort, a stocks trader who robbed hard working Americans of millions of dollars in the 90’s. Dicaprio is one of those actors who will always be an all time great. In Belfort, he makes us love and hate him which is the sign of any great actor. He brings so much to a character that we are supposed to despise because we cannot relate to him. Jonah Hill is also fantastic as Belfort’s best friend who quits his job to join up with Belfort. There were times when i forgot i was even watching Jonah Hill. It shows how far of an actor he has come from his days in Superbad and Knocked Up. The film is 3 hours long, and this is probably the only time i will ever advocate a single film being that long. You have to show every single scene along the way even when it seems pointless. It will all come together in the end like a puzzle. Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors in the world, and he only further cements his legacy with one of his greatest films ever. The lone problem that i had with the film was that we didn’t learn a lot about the characters after it all came tumbling down. We find out a brief interchange, but it doesn’t fill in the gaps to leave us satisfied. I am also curious to hear a woman’s perspective of this film as there are a lot of male misogynistic scenes where women are degraded and treated as meat. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be a woman working at that office. The Wolf of Wall Street is truly one of those films that you have to see to believe. Even though it’s only a film, it tells the story of an insane time in American business. One that will probably never be repeated again. I definitely recommend this film to everyone, but be ready for a long sit and some weird scenes that will make you wonder why they are in there. Once again, if females see this film i would love to hear your thoughts.

 

American Hustle

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9/10

One of the best films of the year that delivers some amazing performances. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give their all in roles that carry this movie to the top of the best films list. Bale and Adams are recruited by Cooper to take down some big corrupt city officials in a plan to save their own lives after being caught by the FBI during a scam they ran. While the four actors i named were equally great, it’s Amy Adams who totally steals the movie. She has those scenes that make you feel what she is saying before she even opens her mouth, and that is the sign of a great actress. I was amazed with how much comedy was in this movie. I laughed a lot at mostly Cooper. He is semi-psychotic as an FBI agent who is definitely on his last ring of sanity. The film has a couple small problems that keep it from being a perfect film. First of all, some of the scenes are filler. They serve as nothing more than to create another funny scenario for the audience. These times in between will make you look at your watch and wonder how far along in the film you are. I almost wish they would’ve left those on the deleted scenes list. There are also a lot of swerves in the film, and that is good and bad. It is good because the swerves were so great that i didn’t see any of them coming (especially the last one). But it’s bad because after a couple of swerves it gets a little difficult to fully comprehend what is going on. This is definitely a film you are going to have to pay attention to. Many people will see it in theaters, but i almost advise to see it on DVD so you stop and rewind when you need to. It’s a great film and one minute should definitely not be missed. David O Russell is definitely turning into a favorite director of mine for his great work on this, Flirting With Disaster, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Check out this film and enjoy some real Oscar contender performances

Dallas Buyers Club

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9/10

Such a great film with the performance of a lifetime from Matthew McConaughey. I have been very impressed lately with Matthew’s roles as i feel he has taken on some films that have brought out the real actor in him. The film stars Matthew, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner as pawns in a new Aids world. McConaughey is a live fast rodeo bull rider who hits a speed bump when he finds out that he has aids. The transformation that he takes is what really makes the movie. McConaughey’s Ron Woodruff is a rugged homophobic jerk who doesn’t care what he does and who he offends as long as he isn’t interpreted as gay. It is in that role that Woodruff becomes a pioneer for these people who are affected by Aids, but have to wait until the right medicine is passed by the FDA in America. Ron travels all over the world to get his clients the drugs that they need to fight the unpredictable disease. He gets closer to Rayon (Leto) as he finds out that there is more that meets the transexual eye. I love Leto in this performance, but i don’t feel it is Oscar worthy like everyone says. Leto isn’t given enough screen time to even make a claim at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The only real problem i had with the film is that there are times when it drags. The film is nearly 2 hours, but isn’t filled with enough drama to keep you from wondering when the film will end. Even that is a little nitpick, as the film is one of my top ten for 2013. The film kind of surprised me with how funny it was in parts. The dialogue is very entertaining for asshole characters you wouldn’t normally give the time of day too. Dallas Buyers Club isn’t playing in many theaters, but i definitely recommend you give it a chance and see it for yourself. You will understand how the FDA in the country is nowhere near the point we need it to be to give our suffering the treatment that they need

Kids For Cash

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9.5/10

Ladies and gentlemen, i give you an early favorite for film of the year. It’s very rare that a documentary will hit me in such a way that Kids For Cash does. That’s not to say that i don’t enjoy documentaries, but when compared to the year’s best screenplay films, it never adds up. I think that is about to change with this enraging documentary about the 2007 Kids For Cash scandal that saw many innocent kids under the age of 18 go to jail for minor offenses. The film explores the huge holes in the American legal system and how we are one of the only countries to have no revisions to our original juvenile legal system. This is a film that i feel every parent should watch because it’s about those times when being our children’s protectors is taken from us due to corruption and greed. The story focuses mostly on two judges from Pennsylvania who accepted a 2.2 million dollar bribe from a prison owner to fill his prison in order to get a new prison built and more funding coming through the doors. The judges in question are Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. One thing that really impresses me about the story that director Robert May tries to tell is that he tells it with both sides debating their points. Ciavarella and Conahan are each given their time to explain why they accepted the bribes that they did, and the only small points that they did wrong. It’s interesting that they take no blame what so ever in sending these kids away and ruining their lives for small things like a stolen bike that the child had no idea was stolen property, a girl creating a fake Myspace page, and a kid getting in a fight at school. While watching this film, you will absolutely despise these two judges and there is no way around that. Without spoiling too much, i can say that one result of a child in particular will get you to the point that you feel like you are this boy’s parent and fighting and yelling against Ciavarella. I am getting off topic, but i promise you that the film itself is very stylishly shot. Screen text throughout the film will always keep the reader side by side with where the story is headed even if you don’t fully understand the legal mumbo jumbo of the lawyers and judges, respectively. There are lots of legal information about ours and other countries around the world when discussing child punishment laws. It paints the picture that even though we are one of the most lucrative countries in the world, and one of the most powerful, we are still years behind on a perfect system. The zero tolerance policy is not a system that will ever work well for children because you can’t compare them to adult criminals. The film goes as far as to explain that the teenage mind will never be fully developed when a child makes a terrible choice. They are literally still being molded into the people they will become one day, and grouping them with murderers and rapists probably isn’t the most logical choice. The background score is done very beautifully as well with lots of mellow tones to accomodate the parents when they tell the horrors of what their children went through. The ending credits are played off to a child choir singing Creep by Radionhead. This is quite appropriate for two reasons. The first is the sad tone coming from the choir voices, and the second is that it’s during that song we learn the fate of the two judges. In his directoral debut, Robert May examines hard hitting details as a result of over a decade of interviews. This is a film that wasn’t made in a year and you have to respect that with how fast films are thrown at the public in the course of a year. Kids for Cash does what any great advocacy doc does: give you the cold hard facts to get you angry and make you want to pay attention so that something like this never happens again. It’s a cruel look at a crime that will never happen again, but baffle you that it ever happened in the first place. No parent can miss Kids For Cash. I am glad that after a 5 month wait i was finally able to catch this film on Amazon Instant Video. INCREDIBLE.

Prisoners

 

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9/10

Hugh Jackman is an Oscar contender in this dark kidnapping drama. This 2 and a half hour film is filled with enough swerves to always keep you guessing. I thought the film played out more as a TV show than a movie. It has such a bleak surrounding that you wonder if the sun ever shines in this town. Two children go missing on Thanksgiving Day after playing outside, and the only thing the parents have to go on is an R-V that the kids were playing on outside. The thing i find the best about this movie is that it’s much more than a harrowing drama. It plays out a story that shows how parents can become a nightmare version of themselves when they lose the thing that can be the most precious to them, their children. This film turns in great performances as well from Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Maria Bello. Infact, i think Terrence Howard is the only actor who was wasted by a jam packed film. There simply just isn’t enough for him to do in this film. Some people who watch the film are going to hate it because there is kind of a negative aspect to the way the film ends, but i think it’s perfect. All of us have to answer for the sins we have committed and that is no further proof than in the film Prisoners. This is definitely the best film in theaters right now, and i recommend that everybody go see it. I don’t think a film has ever been as smart to cops and how they act when a child goes missing. A top ten of the year for sure.

The Frozen Ground

 

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9/10

OUTSTANDING OUTSTANDING OUTSTANDING!!! Before i begin my review, i want to say it is a tragedy that this film will not receive a worldwide release in theaters. It is currently playing on Pay Per View on demand and will be out on DVD soon. This film was one of the best films i have seen this year. The only single problem i had with it was the ending being a little abrupt, but it’s really just nitpicking. The performances were totally out of this world. I am someone who doesn’t like Nicolas Cage after 2001. Outside of Kickass and The Family Man, he hasn’t done anything good in this century (my opinion). This film totally brings Nicolas Cage back to positive status. Definitely one of his five best performances as the police chief hunting a serial killer with almost a decade of kidnapping, rape and murder. John Cusack is my favorite actor and he is totally chilling as Robert Hansen. The best thing about the films of the 50’s and 60’s were seeing Hollywood actors portray roles that you never expected. I never expected Cusack to play a derranged killer, but it is one of his best performances ever. Quiet, plotting and absolutely terrifying. I could go on and on about the cast. Vanessa Hudgens showed some deep acting chops as the only victim of Hansen’s who got away. 50 Cent is amazing as a pimp who makes some bad decisions. Dean Norris, Radha Mitchell, Jodi Lynn o Keefe, Kevin Dunn. The list goes on and on. I did a little studying up on Robert Hansen before watching the film and it seems this story is about 95% true with the telling of the gruesome events. This film and The Iceman were two true stories that were told real well this year, and that is why they are both in my current top 5 for 2013. The scenery is absolutely beautiful as well with a cold, chilling Alaska being the setting. I think it is almost symbolic of Hansen’s cold insides, and the things he did to these poor women. I definitely recommend this film to EVERYONE. If you see five films this year, make sure one of them Is The Frozen Ground. I imagine someone will find something wrong with this film that they will take out on it, but in my opinion it is better than all of that. If you don’t like this film, you don’t know good storytelling.

The Way Way Back

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9.5/10

Every year there will be a couple of films that get delayed a few months because i wasn’t able to catch the films while they were in theaters. Luckily, The Way Way Back announced that it was going back into theaters for a limited engagement. This was a film that i wanted to see since May, and it didn’t disappoint. This film was a lot better than i thought it was going to be. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash write and direct a tribute to all of our adolescent memories. The Way Way Back is about a family who takes a vacation to the father’s (Steve Carrell) beach house. First of all, the characters are the best i have seen in a film all year. Carrell plays an amazing douche bag who tries to rough up his step son by dragging him out of his shell. Liam James plays that kid we all once were who longs to belong to someone or something. That feeling of loneliness that drifts into all of us when we enter our teenage years. He also plays it very well. Toni Collette was great as his mother, Amanda Peet, Rob Coddry, and Maya Rudolph turn in decent performances as well. My only gripe is that Coddry doesn’t have much to do and is kind of wasted, but his character isn’t a main one so it didn’t bother me that much. The two people who really steal this film are Alison Janney and Sam Rockwell. Janney is brilliant as an alcoholic mother who is a humiliation to her kids and friends. She has some of the most awkwardly funny moment that can’t help but drag a smile out of you. Sam Rockwell plays my favorite character of the year, by far. His character works as kind of a father figure to James and he sees the child that he used to be with loneliness. He gets James a job at the Swim park he works at, and it turns into the best summer of James life. Rockwell’s dialogue is something that deserves to be seen by everyone. He has a sarcasm that reminded me a lot of Randall Mcmurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). The script is amazing and really gets across the dramatic points that this story has to tell. It’s with those dramatic tones that this film is hard to judge if it is a comedy or drama. I personally saw it as more of a comedy. The drama shows that there are more problems with this family that meets the eye. Steve Carrell is not the best adult figure to these teens going through growing up. The only things i didn’t like about this film was slight nitpicking. I feel that the beginning 15 minutes start off slow and might make some people lose interest. Some people don’t have patience at the beginning of a film, but i am telling you to give it a chance. Those fifteen minutes just build the story before it plays out the problems in front of our eyes. I also didn’t like the last two minutes of the film. The film technically has two endings. The first one is amazing. It sends you going home with a smile. Then there is the 2nd one that leaves you with kind of a bad taste. I can’t give away too much because i really want people to see this film. It’s just not the way i would’ve ended it, but i think the directors were going for a realistic tone that happens in the everyday world. Overall, i definitely recommend this film. I don’t want to give away where i have it ranked currently, but it’s definitely one of the best films i have seen this year. Plus, i was alone in the theater and that always makes for a more enjoyable experience.

The Place Beyond the Pines

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9.5/10

Absolutely the most powerful film of 2013 so far. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper deserve Oscars for performances that are definitely the best thing that either one of them have ever done. I will try to review this without spoiling anything. This movie is awesome because it has so much balls to do something ultra shocking in the first 1/3 of the film. After that it turns into a story that crosses the characters interactions so well that it becomes that kind of film on the likes of ‘Crash’. This movie had beautiful cinematography in the way it was shot and edited. It takes a yuppie town and really makes something beautiful out of it. The woods itself was a character in this movie. The score is also not disappointing as it compliments a jump in the story 15 years ahead and gives music for that time. The only problem i really had with this film was the running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. While i totally understand why the film was this long as they had to build up the big payoffs they were giving by the end, i do think that an average movie fan will be bored by the 2 hour mark. It kept me pretty well entertained, but i can see both sides of the ball on that one. The biggest thing i got from this movie was the fact that it may be better if we don’t know everything about our pasts. Sometimes they will come back to haunt. I recommend this film to anyone who digs powerful performances and deep impacting situations.

Oz : The Great and Powerful

 

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9/10

The best 3D movie i have ever seen. Such beautiful cinematography that added to the amazing 3D effects of things like falling snow, shooting arrows and a white water thrill ride. I didn’t really have a problem with Mila Kunis like everyone else has who has seen this flick. However, i thought it was Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz who really stole this movie. I had a couple of very small continuity issues with how it translates to The Wizard of Oz, but they are very small gripes. With that said, i will now say something that will definitely get me shot – I thought this film was better than The Wizard of Oz. Trust me when i say that Wizard of Oz is a classic and deserves all of the recognition it has gotten, but it also drags in parts. This movie is one that always kept my eyes on the screen and fully entertained at all times. I recommend this film to everyone, but you MUST see it in theaters. If you don’t see this movie in 3D, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the movie in general.