Archive for the H Category

Husbands and Wives (Woody Allen) 1992

Posted in H, Woody Allen Retrospective on August 1, 2012 by moviemoses

This movie is considered more an infamous chapter in Woody Allen’s life than is talked about for the quality of the film.  This was released in the middle of the scandal involving Allen’s affair with his stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn. I honestly didn’t know anything about it at the time due to my young age.  I wasn’t even familiar with Allen because he never made a film that would have appealed to me at the time.  While this was a personal jumping off point for many Allen fans, I simply have to review the art on its own merits.

Husbands and Wives feels like the spiritual successor to Crimes and Misdemeanors.  Except where Allen got on his soapbox about how we are in a godless universe with no supernatural justice or external morality, Allen is now getting on his soapbox about how marriage sucks and how we do it basically for fear of being alone rather than love.  Is it strange that I find the latter more depressing than the former?  Maybe because the concept of a god really isn’t relavant to me anymore whereas I am aware of my failures romantically and having the feelings of being a lonely bastard.  It is more personal and universal rather than the more philisophical prattlings of whether a god exists.

Personal and uncomfortable are probably the words that sum up my feelings on this movie.  It feels like being trapped in a room with my parents where they argue for two hours about how they are miserable.  Insults and resentful barbs are thrown one after the other and there is a lot of screaming.  You find out people got into a relationship for the wrong reasons such as purely selfish ones and cannot stand when the attention is not on them.  All the while, you would rather just leave than deal with all this petty and spiteful behavior.

If there was one thing I missed from Crimes and Misdemeanors was any kind of escape.  Crimes had a comic relief subplot which was very much the definition of relief.  While not ‘ha ha‘ funny necessarily, it was a more light breather in between the grim moments where people darkly ponder the existence of god and justice in this universe.  In Husbands I would spend time with a couple shouting and saying hateful things, and then immediately cut to another group of selfish pricks.  I just wanted a cut to something that didn’t make me feel like shit.

The movie is shot is a fake documentary style which has it’s positives and negatives.  For the positives it does feel like you are getting the raw emotions of the situations.  This is one of the few times where it seems like the dialog was more improvised rather than Allen’s usual tightly scripted prose.  Everything seems more natural and that is why the arguments feel like they do.  That being said, the documentary doesn’t really work within the context of the plot. This is a documentary about affairs, but the movie flashes back to events that this film crew could not have possibly been there to film.  How would they know to be in the apartment when Sally and Jack reveal the news they are separating?  Why would Gabe see another woman with a film crew when he is lying to his wife about an affair?  It is like the film crew found out about these people and their affairs and got in a time machine in order to film it.  I understand the motives behind the filming, but it was handled with lazy and shitty screenwriting.

The characters are all fleshed out executed well by the actors.  Sydney Pollack does a great job as someone feels stifled by an overbearing wife and wants to be a young man again.  Mia Farrow gives one of her better performances as a very subtly manipulative woman.  Woody Allen even does a great job with his non-comedic role.  He is tempted by a younger student (Juliette Lewis) not because of her looks but because she is more of a challange intellectually.

Woody Allen considers this one of his best movies and I can see why.  While I can appreciate the genius of the movie, it is one of those films that I am perfectly content with seeing once.  This is a brutal and emotional film that does not let up.  While I admire it, that doesn’t mean I want multiple relapses into depression.

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The Hunger Games (Gary Ross) 2012

Posted in H on April 2, 2012 by moviemoses

Short review: The Hunger Games is the American version of Battle Royale.

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Okay, just had to quick piss off Hunger Games fans all over the Internet (I feed off of hate and tacos).  I’m sorry, I’ve had it explained to me like a student held after class but I guess I’m still too thick to see it.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rip off or I’m not claiming any theft.  There are differences between the two stories. I’m just not seeing the vast differences Hunger Games fans see when they let out a frustrated groan and rattle off that I’m just trying to troll people.  But all that being said, I don’t see what the big deal would be if Hunger Games were actually a remake of BR for American audiences.  If the remake does it better than I don’t care if it does come second.  I loved The Departed even though Infernal Affairs came first (and is a great movie).

I was unsure of what to think of Hunger Games going in but I was won over by the end of it.  The storytelling is well done as we are immersed in this new world with a long history and we get to know it all.  I was surprised we go for almost half the movie before even starting the hunger games.  Up to that point we get to know the characters, the world, and everything around them.  It really pays off when we do get to the games because we know the stakes and we are invested in the characters.

On the flip side of the coin, I did feel there were some pacing issues.  As much as I was appreciating the info and the characterization, some times in the first and second act it felt like the movie was spinning its wheels.  I was frankly wondering if we were ever getting to the hunger games at a certain point because we spend too much time practicing and wooing sponsors; something which really isn’t paid off as well as I thought it would.  The sponsors do play into the story, but not to the extent you feel based on all the time they spend building it up.  I thought it would actually be a great movie if even 20 minutes were trimmed.

The look and feel of the setting is memorable and different, however at times it feels like they went a little overboard.  Showing the difference between the malnourished dirt poor underclass and the effete richies are one thing, but it spoiled the mood at times when a child is murdered and we cut back to Stanley Tucci in a blue wig or Elizabeth Banks doing a Lady Gaga impression.  Speaking of child murder let’s go to the PG-13 rating.

I completely understand why this movie is PG-13 however I do think it diminishes the movie in a few ways.  I personally believe having it be more violent would have upped the intensity and the horror of the situation.  Blood and gore do not make a movie necessarily better, but I do feel it can dimnish a movie by sterilizing the horror.  By definition, if you are making it PG-13, then you are saying it is not as bad for kids to see and thereby glossing over some of the consequences of the violent act.  However this isn’t a deal breaker for me.  As I said before, I get it.  While it may not be completely to my tastes this is made with the larger crowd in mind.  What frustrates me more is the shakey cam.  Again, I get they use shakey cam to cover up some of the more horrific elements and it is a stylistic thing.  I have said before I don’t immediately hate shakey cam (as I love the Bourne movies and the latest Batman movies) so when I say it is bad, to me it is horrible.  I don’t know what the fuck is going on and it feels like they put the cameral in a paint mixer while the action was happening.  At times I couldn’t look at the screen; not because of the horrific killings, but because I was getting a migrane.

Now to bring this back to the positive I will say one of the things which I like better about Hunger Games is the protagonist Katniss.  I thought the writer would make the mistake of making Katniss her Mary Sue in that she would be some unstoppable amazon who is absolutely perfect.  Katniss is an independent woman with good hunting skills, but she does get in trouble a few times and relies on other characters quite a bit to help her.  She has her challenges she has to overcome which is good for an effective story.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great since her first role in Winter’s Bone so it is nice to see her in what will be a strong franchise.

I really liked The Hunger Games by the end of it.  It did have some flaws with me such as the pacing, some of the story elements, and some of the directing choices.  However I think it succeeds overall in exactly what it set out for with the general audience.  I recommend this movie and I look forward to the eventual sequels for this series.

Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen) 1986

Posted in H, Woody Allen Retrospective on March 13, 2012 by moviemoses

I will apologize for the shortness of this review as I got busy after watching it and the review was delayed.  It is probably more of a shame with this one because Hannah and her Sisters is one of my favorite Allen movies.  This may be the culmination of many things Allen had been trying to perfect up to this point.

I remember Woody Allen being confused as to why so many people thought of Manhattan as a comedy.  Sure, there were comedy elements in it, but it was more of a romance than a comedy.  That may be part of his overall disappointment for the movie.  In Hannah, it is clearer that this movie is a drama first, and it has some comedy elements thrown in.  Since I am apparently in the mood of comparing movies, this feels like Allen trying to make a better version of Interiors.  Both are dramas about a group of sisters with varying ambitions and problems trying to find some happiness or meaning.  But while Interiors may have had Allen scared of doing any humor by fear of falling back on his comedy, here this feels like he has grown comfortable with all elements of his game.

Nothing feels too morose and  the comic relief is just that.  Interiors may have gotten bogged down by the non-stop drama, there is much needed relief in Hannah.  Elliot (Michael Caine) may be cheating on his wife, but there are moments of levity when he is trying to orchestrate a chance meeting between him and Lee (Barbara Hershey).  Holly (Dianne Wiest) is insecure and nervous, but it is funny when she is competing with her sister for a date with David (Sam Waterston).  Woody Allen is in a supporting role in this movie, and even though he is hitting some common Allen themes (life/death/mortality/god) his role is primarily comic relief.

The drama is front and center though, and it is very good.  This is helped by having some of the best acting in any Woody Allen film.  It speaks to the strength of the cast when Barbara Hershey and Mia Farrow aren’t the best female performers in the film.  Michael Caine brilliantly plays opposite his usual cool persona and earned himself an Oscar nomination.  Max von Sydow is also in this movie and given any more time might have stolen the movie.  They sell all the dramatic elements of this movie whether it be about a cheating husband, competing sisters, looking for love, or the drama floating around that certain member of your family that can seemingly do no wrong.

As I said before, this feels like Allen at his most confident and natrual.  He doesn’t feel like he needs to emulate Bergman or Fellini or anyone else.  He doesn’t feel like he has to do all wacky comedy or completely serious drama.  This is Allen drama, comedy, writing, cinematography, and acting.  It is a must for any Woody Allen fan.

Hugo in 3D (Martin Scorsese) 2011

Posted in H on November 28, 2011 by moviemoses

Young Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who takes care of the clocks inside a train station in 1930’s Paris.  During his free time, he tries to fix an old automaton which his father was trying to fix up before he died.  He is caught trying to steal parts from the local toy merchant (Ben Kingsley) who later takes Hugo on as an apprentice.  Hugo and the merchants daughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz) later become friends and try to both fix the automaton and work out the mystery behind the toy merchant’s past.

This movie is most likely going to end up on my bomb category since it cost about $170 million dollars to make and opened at #5 at the box office it’s first weekend.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I only heard about this movie being released a week before it opened.  That is a bit odd considering Scorsese’s name and all that.  Maybe the problem is it is being released in the overly congested holiday season.  Maybe people don’t think Scorsese had it in him to change genre’s into childrens films (which is ludicrous if you see the numerous genres Scorsese has dabbled in over the years).  The only thing I do know is that it is a shame because Hugo is a great movie.

For one, this is one of the few movies I can say is worth seeing in 3D.  I am not someone who outright rejects 3D but like with anything in a movie, it is only as good as the effort put into it.  Overall I liked Avatar and one of the reasons is because Cameron went all out in making the movie such a beutiful spectacle.  You don’t even have to go that far.  Even movies like Drive Angry 3D put thought into making the 3D an enjoyable addition to the film.  In the case of Hugo, Scorsese shows his talent in making a setting that utilizes the full use of 3D.  It’s not things being thrust in your face, but we see the full depth of the setting surrounding the characters.  Hugo is crawling through these giant clockwork parts and moving through this large station and the movie feels so alive and always active.  It is all so colorful and active that you are enjoying seeing Scorsese play around with all these tools he has at his disposal.

At the heart of the story is a message about film preservation.  The mystery with Kingsley’s character involves films and how the industry changed.  It may seem strange and out of character for a kids movie to talk about preserving history.  And while it certainly seems more geared to the adults in the audience, I think the story is brought to the kids level by the characters played by Butterfield and Kingsley.  They can identify with a child trying to find his home and with a man finding his inspiration and his imagination again.  Kingsley gives a great performance and carries a lot of the emotional weight of the film.  Butterfield and Moretz also give entertaining performances.  I get the feeling Moretz was enjoying playing a somewhat normal girl character after playing a genderless vampire and a psycho killer superheroine.

There are some little nits I can pick with the movie.  I actually thought one of the weaker parts was with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate his character or even dislike it.  I just got the feeling Scorsese was finding him a lot more entertaining than I actually did if that makes sense.  The story also does take a little too long to get going and some of the characters are superfluous.  But even with all that being said, those things I mentioned aren’t “bad“ things just things I didn’t love as much as the rest of the movie.

So yeah, I really enjoyed this movie.  Scorsese makes an absolutely beutiful movie  and has the story to back it up.  Once the movie gets going you are invested in the characters and has a great theme of film appreciation.  It actually kind of feels like Scorsese was trying to make his kid version of Cinema Paradiso.  I am only comparing themes of course and not talking about which is better or any of that.  This movie is recommended and hopefully can stay out of my bomb list.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (David Yates) 2011 NO SPOILERS

Posted in H on July 21, 2011 by moviemoses

I didn’t really write a review for Part One for one reason. That reason being Deathly Hallows Part One is not a movie. I can’t really judge it on its own merits because I am only watching half a movie. Part Two does work a little bit better in that, where One was all build up with no resolution, at least Part Two obviously wraps up all the loose plot threads (redundant statement is redundant). So with all my useless discussion about a never written review out of the way and my ramblings, do I think the movie works best separated into two parts? Well, no.

I still feel this movie could have been a great complete film that was somewhere over three and a half hours. Of course I understand why the filmmakers split the movie into two parts and it is not just about the fact they wanted to make more money. It is because there is a lot of material here and the director probably thought this was the best way to satisfy both normal fans and fans of the books. And before I’m accused of being so unreasonable and wanting to chop up the movies into some mess I want to put into evidence the LOTR movies; both theatrical and Extended Editions. I think the theatrical cuts are perfectly paced to include all relevant information about the plot and make it as exciting as possible. The Extended Editions are the perfect fan service package. Each movie has deleted scenes adding anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of new footage which is perfect for hardcore fans of the series. I think Deathly Hallows could have been a great three and a half hour movie for everyone with the EE’s being an hour longer to satisfy the more hardcore Potter fans.

But for all of my griping, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is still a great conclusion to the series overall. Everything we expect from wrapping up all plots to closing all character arcs are done very well. This movie gives us the satisfying closure we all want. Most of Part Two is action and it is very exciting. The battles are all epic in scale with very good special effects and the series has always done a great job in giving us characters we really care about. I can’t really go into whether the movie follows the books because I never got that far in the series.

It is not like you need me to tell you to go see this movie. If you are this movie’s target audience then you probably already have gone out and seen it. Among all the Potter films, Deathly Hallows does rank among the best in the series for me. I think this movie would be entertaining to anyone even remotely familiar with the series. Yes I do have minor problems with the film and some decisions here or there, but they are all minor. Plus I actually don’t know if it would be fair since some of those problems might lie with Rowling’s original story but you don’t need to worry about that. If you can’t figure it out by now, I highly recommend the movie.

Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips) 2011

Posted in H on June 2, 2011 by moviemoses

It’s the first Hangover but in Bangkok. Good night.

 

Okay I’ll write a little more, but if you could summarize a film in a line that just about sums it up. Now I know what many might be thinking. Yeah, of course it has a similar plot about guys getting drunk and getting into shenanigans. It’s called THE HANGOVER. If the plot were radically different then it wouldn’t be called that now would it? When I say this movie is exactly the same, I mean scene for scene, plot point for plot point, exactly the same as the first freaking movie. We waited two years for the equivalent of taking the script and doing a find/replace for the word “Vegas” and “Bangkok”? What lazy assholes!

The only thing that has really changed are some of the jokes. And by change I mean add a penis to it. Either that or a monkey does something filthy. Now I will say this movie did entertain me and my drunk friends in that it wasted two hours of our lives without pissing us off. The gross out humor was interesting and amusing the first time through, but it won’t hold up for any replay value. It made us laugh at times but I doubt this movie will be remembered past next month. It is just a shame because it is rare for me to really enjoy a fresh and funny comedy nowadays and the original Hangover fit the bill. The sequel showed the creators don’t give a crap anymore and we must now endure the inevitable Hangover 3, and the direct to video 4, 5, 6, and 7 (starring Ken Jeong when all the major stars bail out).

Hunger (Steve McQueen) 2008 Spoilers

Posted in H on May 2, 2011 by moviemoses

Hunger is about a real life strike in a maze prison during 1981.  The government revoked the IRA’s special political status and are now considered as ordinary prisoners.  The IRA prisoners first attempt a blanket strike, wherein they don’t wear any clothes, bathe, and seemingly no restroom privileges (they piss on the floors and smear shit on the walls).  Then when negotiations between the Republicans and the government fail, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbinder) comes up with the idea of a hunger strike.  Instead of having several people strike at once and someone possibly breaking ranks and giving in they stagger the people going on strike.  One person will go on strike, die, then another will take his place, most likely die, and so on until they give into their demands.  In the end I believe it was 9 people who die of the strike before the government gave into their demands.

Oh…my…god this is a depressing ass movie.  I finally gave in to watch this movie because I had heard so much positive buzz about it.  But man, this, this was a test.  Why is this movie so hard?  For the last 30 minutes you see Bobby waste away to nothing and die a slow and painful death.  You may think a person may just get weak and fall asleep from exhaustion and die.  Nah.  This guy lived over 60 days and he wasted away to barely a skeleton covered with skin ridden with festering sores.  This man dies possibly one of the most gruesome and f*cked up ways a person can die.  This is a true test to get through because we are almost forced to watch this guy drip away to nothing.  It is hard; almost too hard to ever get though.

The movie is well done and the first hour is almost a good movie in its own.  The prison is a battle ground between the prisoners and the guards.  The prisoners show no respect and as I mention before shit all over the place and do not bathe.  The guards take any opportunity to “inspect” the prisoners aka take them out one at a time and beat the piss out of them and maybe sodomize them with a stick.  That also doesn’t factor into the IRA members on the outside who assassinate guards as we get in one scene.

One of the best scenes is when Bobby tells the prison chaplain of the plan to strike and they have a debate over the merits of what he was planning on doing.  The Father was trying to reason with Bobby that his actions have huge consequences outside of the prison possibly culminating in a lot more bloodshed but Bobby will not have any of that.  To Bobby it is not about the IRA or politics or religion but of basic dignity and not being treated as sub-human.  Fassbinder (who you may know from Inglorious Basterds) is excellent in this movie.  There are some other characters but this is really his movie.

The direction and the cinematography (for being all set in a dark prison) is really good.  It’s strange to say that McQueen can make the prisoners simultaneous filtering of their waste through funnels into the prison hallways rather hypnotic.  He does enough to keep things interesting all the way through but not going overboard stylistically.

Do I recommend this movie?  Not really.  Don’t get me wrong, I would say this is a powerful movie.  But I also understand you wouldn’t want to thoroughly depress yourself.  That is why I am also a little hesitant to say people must see certain Holocaust movies.  I kind of understand how much of a test these movies can be.  And this movie is a test.  I have seen a lot of movies in my time and even I was in a funk for the rest of the day.  So yeah, it’s great but keep all that in mind when you are deciding if you want to watch it.