Category: Movie Review

February 29, 2016 Felipe Godoy Diaz

When movie studios run out of ideas, their first thought is to recreate a film that was successful in the past. Sometimes it works like last year’s “Star Wars” movie and sometimes we get “Zoolander 2”. The classic 2001 comedy that parodied the fashion and modeling industry gave us hilarious lines and memorable looks like…

February 7, 2016 George Hyde

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If you’re looking for a strange, clever mix of comedy and drama in the Coen brothers’ latest film, you might be a little disappointed. “Hail, Caesar!” is a love letter to old Hollywood films, showcasing techniques, choreography and attitudes that haven’t seen the light of day since the Production Code. Mixed with the Coen brothers’ trademark sense of oddball character, this makes for an adventure that has a lot of fun with itself. However, it lacks the cleverness or dramatic heft that some of their other films, like “Fargo” or “The Big Lebowski,” have offered.

The film focuses on Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin, “No Country for Old Men”), head of production at the fictional Capital Pictures. He’s a busy man: he green lights and oversees every picture made, is being pressured into a new job with a weapons company — at the onset of World War II, no less — and on top of all that, he’s trying to quit smoking. Suddenly, as if to add insult to injury, the star of the upcoming Capital biblical epic “Hail, Ceasar!” (George Clooney, “The Men Who Stare At Goats”) is kidnapped by a mysterious group known simply by “The Future.”

Beyond that, it’s a set of wacky hijinks involving Mannix and the other strange characters in and around Hollywood. The storyline of the film feels like an afterthought. It’s as if the Coens thought of a lot of brilliant characters, hired a brilliant cinematographer, and still needed an excuse to throw them all together. The film is filled with anticlimaxes – not unlike “The Big Lebowski” – but unlike “Lebowski” the tone and characters of “Caesar” don’t mesh with that kind of storytelling.

Thankfully, like “Lebowski,” “Caesar” is more about tone and character than it is story. Every character is filled with comedic pizzazz, and they bounce off of each other admirably.

That’s to say nothing of the small vignettes shown throughout the film. Almost every character is introduced by whatever scene shoot they’re partaking in. They’re all filmed in such a precisely nostalgic way that you’d swear they were all older films if not for humorous characters playing them out. The fictional directors of photography in “Caesar” are masters of their craft, with great camera angles that make their films within a film feel larger than life. That cinematography also largely applies to the film itself. Through the camera work, the fictional Capital studio lot is grandiose in scale.

Combine those two aspects and you have a film that will put film buffs in straight-jackets with laughter. Anyone who’s had to deal with a prissy director or an actor who just can’t quite get a line right will find something to snark at. Because it’s filmed in an old style, “Caesar” feels like a humorous deconstruction of 1940s filmmaking – it jokes about a time when each take was valuable. The choreography in some of the fake musical numbers is fantastic, up there with the greats like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Those numbers are also a joke. They’re meant to humorously contrast with their actors’ true natures, and the finesse that goes into them makes those jokes and characters so much more effective.

It would be an incredible movie to talk about if there were, well, more to talk about. There’s wheat to “Caesar’s” chaff, but the stalk holding it up isn’t very strong. It’s less of a story and more of an excuse for the Coens to showcase old-timey characters and filmmaking techniques — characters and techniques that still stand the test of time, admittedly. If “Hail, Caesar” had as much storytelling chops as it had style and charisma, it’d stand with some of the Coens’ best work. As it stands, though, it’s still a really fun romp.

Film: “Hail, Caesar!”

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton

Genre: Comedy

Release Date: Feb. 5, 2016

Rating: 4/5

January 10, 2016 Felipe Godoy Diaz

When I was kid I had an uncle who was obsessed with Star Wars. He collected all the action figures, which one day would be given to me to inherit. When the new series of Star Wars films were announced I was pleasantly surprised and was curious as to which direction the franchise would go….

October 23, 2015 George Hyde

The 1950s were a strange time in terms of foreign policy. In many Americans’ eyes, it was clear: it was us, or them. Many Soviets saw things in a similar way. It’s an inviting setting for a story about character above ideals; that two nations can rise above their differences and come to resolutions peacefully,…

October 21, 2015 George Hyde

The October 21, 2015 that we see in “Back to the Future: Part II” is a very different from the October 21, 2015 that you’re reading this article in – or after that date, as the case may be. The world of “Back to the Future’s” 2015 has no financial crisis (that we know of),…

August 6, 2015 George Hyde

“Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’” is a movie for the “Dragon Ball” fans that have been around since the beginning, and it’s not for many else. If you can’t read this review’s story synopsis without scratching your head, “Resurrection ‘F’” isn’t for you yet. This isn’t a bad thing, though; internet culture has made “DBZ”…

July 25, 2015 George Hyde

Poor Ant-Man. He’s the Marvel hero no one can take seriously. When you have gods like Thor, super-soldiers like Captain America, and forged warriors like Iron Man, it’s hard to take someone who can shrink himself that seriously. And when news of an “Ant-Man” film hit the Internet, the general public was quick to mock…

July 7, 2015 George Hyde

This movie had the potential to rescue a franchise that badly needed rescuing. The first “Terminator” film was an awesome thriller with excellent character development, and it was exceeded by “Terminator 2,” which had a wonderful emotional payoff. However, the franchise was soon milked by entries that didn’t understand the appeal of the series: the…

July 1, 2015 George Hyde

“3022 ft.” is the story of Mt. Marathon, Alaska’s legendary 4th of July mountain race that’s drawn racers to Seward for over a century… No, that’s not quite right. “3022 ft.” is the story of fiery passion and redemption; of people who, to outsiders, seem like maniacs who have sold their souls in an Ahab-like…

June 25, 2015 George Hyde

The first “Jurassic Park” film was a landmark in cinema. While it didn’t have the most captivating story, the special effects were groundbreaking, combining traditional puppetry and animatronics with then-mindblowing computer-generated effects to create a believable, dinosaur-filled world. With memorable characters and quotes, it made for a movie that some would argue still stands up…

June 9, 2015 George Hyde

There are some movies that are so full of holes and flaws that they descend below awfulness and become good again. “The Room” and “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” are perfect, unintentional examples. But what happens when a group of independent Swedish filmmakers tries to intentionally create something so bad that it’s great? “Kung Fury,” one…

May 26, 2015 George Hyde

Reboots are tricky things to do. Right off the bat, audience expectations are low. Some might accuse executives of reaching for low-hanging fruit. Fans of the source material will cry foul when the reboot inevitably goes wrong. And often times, it’s seen as a soulless cash grab. But with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” that’s not…

May 14, 2015 George Hyde

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ALL PREVIOUS MARVEL MOVIES BELOW It has been two years since the Chitauri invasion of New York. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been all but obliterated, and the sinister Hydra has risen from their ashes. In their hands: Loki’s scepter, the key to Baron von Strucker’s so-called “age of miracles.” With the Avengers so tied…

April 29, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

In an impressive feat, “Come Out and Play” manages to destroy viewers’ sympathy and investment within the first 15 minutes. How is this accomplished? As it turns out, anything is possible when bored — and boring — actors are given a bad script. Based on the 1976 novel “El juego de los niños” — and,…

April 21, 2015 Jocelyn Stanley

Over the past few weeks, “Anchorage Is” has been playing weekend after weekend at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. It was originally scheduled for three showings, but it played eleven times. The film was a part of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Centennial Celebration. According to the Anchorage Centennial website, “’Anchorage Is’ … tells the story of…

February 18, 2015 Jacob Holley-Kline

“The Returned” sincerely wants to be deep, but doesn’t put in the effort to actually be deep. It’s the worst kind of lazy movie: It expects its main conceit to carry the viewer’s interest. Director Robin Campillo knows his idea is interesting and seems to want viewers walking away knowing that, but not much else….

February 18, 2015 Kierra Hammons

The jocks, the rich kids, the goths — many are familiar with the cliques of “Mean Girls,” but those groups seem largely voluntary and homogenized. “Dear White People” examines the social organization of “Mean Girls” through the intersection of race. The question of “Why do all the black kids sit at the same lunch table?”…

January 12, 2015 Kierra Hammons

Recite the preamble to the United States Constitution. Perhaps a few people still remember it from high school government class. But could you say how many county judges are in the state of Alabama? Then name them? That’s what Oprah Winfrey’s character in the film ‘Selma’ must do before she can register to vote. Like…

October 29, 2014 George Hyde

Since its premiere in 1985, “Les Misérables” has been a musical staple of modern theater. To this day, it remains a masterful adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. So does the production running in Anchorage this week live up the musical’s outstanding legacy? In short, yes. The effects are very impressive and the roles are incredibly…

October 6, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline

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Title: “Gone with the Wind”

Director: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood

Release date: Jan. 1, 1939

Rating: 3/5

Sometimes, a work of art is so influential that it starts to look like a cliché. “Gone with the Wind” is just one American epic among a select few to have that kind of influence. Watching it today is a weird experience: It’s beautifully shot, melodramatically acted and served in a bundle of clichés. This year, it celebrated its 75th anniversary and showed at Century 16 on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1.

Set against the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, “Gone with the Wind” follows Scarlett (Vivien Leigh, “A Streetcar Named Desire”), through her desperate pursuit of her cousin-in-law, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard, “The First of the Few”), to her marriage to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, “The Misfits”).

By today’s standards, “Gone with the Wind” feels bloated at four hours. It’s long, but not as much of a drag as one might think. Gable is here in top form — a man’s man with the morals of a bygone era. While the movie’s treatment of gender and race feels horribly antiquated, each actor brings flair and characteristic ham to his or her role. The wonderful Hattie McDaniel (“In This Our Life”) brings humanity to her otherwise type-casted role.

The fact is that the acting just seems cheesy now. Mugging men and fawning women enunciate every consonant and play up the movie’s drama, though it comes off as more natural than other flicks of its time. And while the first part has the drama of the Civil War to lean on, the second half focuses on the characters, and the characters just feel too shallow to fill the screen.

One thing that has aged well is the cinematography. Still today, especially on the big screen, “Gone” is beautiful. The colors are rich and deep, the Georgia landscape and Reconstruction Era America are characters in themselves thanks to the deft eyes of cinematographer Lee Garmes, Technicolor cinematographer Ray Rennahan Kand Ernest Haller. The climactic Atlanta depot sequence burns just as brightly as it did 75 years ago.

While it may not have changed cinema in general, it did change American cinema. The sheer scale of it is still staggering, especially considering the technology the crew worked with. It’s undeniably epic and undeniably clichéd. At the same time, it basically started all those clichés. The widowed wife searches to fulfill her unrequited love in the arms of a mysterious, dashing stranger. Even though cinema’s come a long way since, “Gone with the Wind,” should be required viewing for any fan of the movies. Sure, it feels overstuffed at times, but it’s charmingly unabashed in its ambition, and that’s certainly something worth seeing.

July 22, 2014 George Hyde

Title: Director: Release date: Rating: “The Purge: Anarchy” James DeMonaco July 18, 2014 2/5 The first “Purge” film turned a lot of heads when it came out a little more than a year ago — at least, before it actually came out. The premise was ambitious and seemed very promising, but the film didn’t live…

June 30, 2014 George Hyde
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Transformers: Age of Extinction
Michael Bay
Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci,
Kelsey Grammar
June 28, 2014
1/5 stars

I entered the theater with a hoodie and sunglasses on. I put them all on as I approached the box office, and asked for movie tickets. As I took my seat, a couple of men with muscle shirts and backwards ballcaps sat directly behind me. Even though I had never known these men before, I was scared to whip out my phone for fear that they would learn my identity. This was all to preserve my dignity. I didn’t want to be caught watching this film, even if it was for a job.

Oh, I’m sorry. You probably wanted a synopsis of the film itself, not my personal story of how I entered the theater. Well, my story is a lot more interesting than “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and it’s going to be important later, but if you really must pry, I suppose I’ll tell you about “Transformers.”

So it turns out the dinosaurs were really wiped out by an ancient Transformer race – no wait! Don’t leave. I thought you wanted to hear this movie’s synopsis.

See, this is the issue with “Transformers.” It looks very pretty, yes. The explosions are quite spectactular. But start talking about the context of it all and suddenly audiences lose interest, because there are plot holes and deus ex machinas everywhere. There are big-name actors, but they’re wasted on characters that would have been more interesting if they were portrayed instead by giant boulders with frowny-faces drawn on them.

No, reader, you and I both know of the issues that plague the series. You already knew everything in that last paragraph, even if you’ve never even seen a “Transformers” film before. So instead, I’m going to tie my own personal tale with that of “Transformers.” Because I did say that it was important.

My only knowledge of the “Transformers” franchise is of the first live-action film. I’ve had friends begging me to steer clear of the franchise, and other friends telling me I had to see them. I’ve waited until now to watch another one, and I’m going to tell you one thing that I honestly didn’t expect. I don’t know if this is true of the other films as well, but it’s still worth pointing out.

There is product placement in every corner of this movie. Even as Beijing is getting demolished around our heroes, there are still clear advertisements for products ranging from Victoria’s Secret, to Bud Light, to Chevy, to My Little Pony, to Beats, to Rolls Royce, to… well, you get the idea.

This film is a massive commercial in motion, and that’s what’s convinced me that this movie isn’t for normal people. This is a movie for shareholders and board directors. “Transformers” is a machine purely built for profit.

And that is why, even in my humble disguise, even with my phone hidden, I have still lost dignity by seeing this movie. This is a gigantic money monster, and by buying a ticket, I have directly fed the beast.

Perhaps “Age of Extinction” is an accurate title for this movie, because my dignity is pretty much extinct at this point. But there’s still hope. Don’t waste your money on this movie. Save your dignity for a film that deserves it more. Together, we can save ourselves.

June 24, 2014 George Hyde

Film: Director: Starring: Release date: Rating: “How to Train Your Dragon 2″ Dean DeBlois Jay Baruchel Cate Blanchett Gerard Butler June 13, 2014 5/5 stars The first “How to Train Your Dragon” film was something of a surprise success. Very loosely based on a recent children’s book series, it was a coming-of-age story about a…

June 13, 2014 George Hyde

The first “How to Train Your Dragon” film was something of a surprise success. Very loosely based on a recent children’s book series, it was a coming-of-age story about a boy raising a pet dragon against the will of his village. It was pretty standard stuff when it came to film tropes and clichés, but…

June 10, 2014 George Hyde

Film: &nbsp Director: Release date: Rating: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Bryan Singer May 23, 2014 4/5 stars The “X-Men” film franchise has seen its ups and downs in the almost-14 years it’s been around. The first two, directed by Bryan Singer, are generally seen as superhero classics. The next two, “The Last Stand” and…

June 10, 2014 Jacob Holley-Kline
Nymphomaniac
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“Nymphomaniac:
Volume 1″
Lars von Trier
March 6, 2014
4/5 stars
Denmark

If the viewer could look into filmmaker Lars von Trier’s mind, chances are it would look almost exactly like his opus, “Nymphomaniac: Volume 1.” Every character struggles with an emptiness and the most damaged of them, the protagonist Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Melancholia”), think loveless sex will cure all their ills.

Over two volumes and a little over four hours, “Nymphomaniac” tells self-diagnosed nymphomaniac’s Joe’s story, from childhood to adulthood. After the kindly bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard, “The Avengers”) finds her bloody and beaten in an alleyway, he takes her back to his apartment and listens to her story.

Like the sex-hungry, self-hating Joe, “Nymphomaniac” looks like indulgent mess accentuated by changing color palettes. Joe’s hunt for willing men is equated to “reading the river” in fly fishing, and sex itself becomes as prevalent as nature, but is filmed like a clinical experiment. It’s disconnected.

But just like Joe, there’s sense in the chaos. One-third fairy tale and two-thirds parable, the movie revels in excess. Much has been said about the pornographic sex scenes. But they’re not titillating — they’re detached and sometimes alien.

That being said, this is not the movie to watch if you’re put off by extremely graphic sex, which sometimes feels like too much. At other points, it seems like von Trier is just putting as much onto the screen as possible. It can be overwhelming.

Like the sex scenes, the dialogue is mechanical. Every character speaks with the same surreally formalized diction, practicing the “say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said” style of public speaking. It’s off-putting, but is delivered convincingly by the talented cast.

“Nymphomanic: Volume 1” is thankfully a far cry from von Trier’s hopelessly shallow “Melancholia.” It’s a chaotic, indulgent ride, and not everybody will have the wherewithal to stay on. But nowhere this year will you find a movie as ambitious. It’s a work of art in vulgar clothing, something to be entranced with and revolted by.

May 27, 2014 George Hyde

The “X-Men” film franchise has seen its ups and downs in the almost-14 years it’s been around. The first two, directed by Bryan Singer, are generally seen as superhero classics. The next two, “The Last Stand” and “Origins: Wolverine,” fans perceived as sinkers. The next two after that, “First Class” and “The Wolverine,” were seen as improvements. And now,…