Sunday, May 31, 2015

Paul's Favorite Films - An Introduction


Cinema is many things to me. It goes beyond entertainment and mental stimulation, but to see the world through a new set of eyes. Every movie tells a tale that filmmakers felt needed to be said, even when all odds and forces of nature, studio and egos got in their way. It is a miracle that any film ever gets made, and it is even more of a joy when it turns out to be a glowing representation of what it means to be human.

Films can transport us to an entirely different world, where the laws of physics and reality no longer apply. It can take us back to a time that we never thought to see again. It gives us immortal characters that we adore, despise, relate, respect and most importantly observe as we embark on this journey along them. Movies can even offer us a new perspective on our world that we never would had considered, making our time on this planet so much more appealing.

Cinema can be poignant, terrifying, heart-warming, uproarious, thoughtful, debatable, tear-jerking, disgusting, and is almost always beautiful. In a sense, film can be whatever you want it to be.

Movies are a gift to the world, with each one offering a new, dazzling view of our existence. There are many wonderful things out there in the world that we haven't seen, and film gets us a bit closer to those awe-inspiring moments in life. In fact, movies can often be those wonderful things, capturing a precious point that we can admire.


But most importantly, cinema is the ability to see the lives of every filmmaker through the lens of that camera. Their hopes, dreams, aspirations, everything they love and hate about life is put up on that silver screen for the world to see. A part of all filmmakers is put into the movie, and that gives cinema its soul.

I love cinema because it is reflective of mankind.

Welcome to a project that I've been working on for a very long time and have wanted to do since I started this blog - an appreciation of why I love cinema as much as I do.

The best way for me to go about doing so is to look at my favorite aspects of movies, and review the films that have stuck with me for a very long time. The films that I cannot stop thinking about and the ones that I keep coming back to, year after year, and are still as fascinated by them now as I was when I first watched them.
CHRISTIAN BALE stars as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action drama “The Dark Knight,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and also starring Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION.
As such, this will be a new series as I review my top 25 favorite films of all time, starting at number twenty-five and working my way up to my favorite movie ever. I won't be spoiling what films will be reviewed, but if you've followed me for long enough then you can probably guess what some of the films will be.

What I can say is that there is a wide-range of films, dating back as far as the 1930s to as recent as 2008, made by filmmakers from all over the world, creating films of many genres.


These reviews will focus more on why I love them, rather than the traditional pros-and-cons. Not that I have many negative things to say about any of these movies, since they're all A+ material to me. These are also not necessarily what I would consider the greatest films ever made, just the ones that left the biggest impact on me and changed how I looked at movies. Though that doesn't mean you won't be seeing some of the films that I consider the greatest on this countdown.

So, without further ado, let us begin this look at my favorite films of all time. In the next few days, you can expect a look at my twenty-fifth favorite and the beginning of my longest series yet.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mini-Review - "Time After Time" (1979)


H.G. Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) invents an actual time machine, then gets it stolen by Jack The Ripper (David Warner), and now Wells has to chase him down in present-day San Francisco. Oh, and the film is written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, the same man who gave us "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan."

If that is not enough incentive to go out and watch this unbelievably crazy, wacky yet hilarious story of two famous historical figures time traveling, then I don't know what is. It is worth watching just to see Malcolm McDowell playing the author of "War Of The Worlds" and "The Time Machine," attempting to understand how cars work.

How can you go wrong with that?

Final Grade: B+

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mini-Review - "Papillon" (1973)


I'm beginning to realize that I am not the biggest Steve McQueen fan.

Don't get me wrong, I think McQueen is a one-of-a-kind actor. I've never seen anyone turn in a performance like him, in that his are often emotional, but also silent and distant. In "Papillon," McQueen plays a convict, wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit, and is sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island, the French equivalent of Alcatraz.

The problem with "Papillon" is that McQueen never really attempts to connect with the audience. We just go along with him for the ride, as he attempts to escape from this prison, for over two and a half hours. The second half of the film is incredibly tedious to sit through, as we just wait for the film to end once McQueen and his friend (played by Dustin Hoffman) nearly escape.

I don't know about you, but something is wrong when the audience is just waiting for the something to happen so that the film can end.

That being said, "Papillon" does not pull any punches when it comes to the violence of prison. We see realistic depictions of a man's head being cut off via guillotine, as well as throats being cut and fresh bullet holes through people's heads. I was surprised when some of those happened, as I did not think the film would go that far.

Still, these random acts of violence aside, "Papillon" does not have much going for it. The acting from Dustin Hoffman is nice, as always, but McQueen just sits around and waits for events to happen and the film gets stale half way through.

Final Grade: C+

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mini-Review - "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" (1939)


Some time ago, I wrote a review of the 1925 version of "The Phantom Of The Opera," and discussed how the only true memorable part of the film was Lon Chaney's terrifying and haunting performance as the phantom. In a way, the 1939 version of "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" is the same way with its lead role, played by Charles Laughton, but with the added benefit of developing this distant and foreign world.

If you've watched the Disney version of "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame," then you will see a similar plot in this film, though with less musical numbers and no talking gargoyles. What the 1939 film changes though is that Quasimodo (Laughton) is now deaf from being near the bells for this long, and has very few lines of dialogue. Laughton must communicate to Ezmerelda and Frollo through facial expressions and body language, which is made even more difficult with the large amounts of make-up on him. Yet he is able to give Quasimodo this loving and curious attitude, even though the lack of dialogue and make-up.

Though Charles Laughton's performance is the reason to watch this film, what I found the most intriguing was how strange and ancient this 15th century France was. The wealthiest citizens are amazed at the sight of a printing press, able to create a book in under a week, as opposed to before taking two to three years to make one bible. Or how King Louis XI talks about Christopher Columbus attempting to travel west to get to India faster, and other aristocrats speaking up to say that they know the world is flat and that he'll fall from it.

Most of these gave me a good chuckle, but at the same time, this is the world they lived in. Where they had not discovered what we now know and go off merely their own faiths and beliefs, and accept them as truths. Which is why someone like Quasimodo would be forced to live in a church, locked away from the rest of this prejudice and scared society.

"The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" certainly has many elements worth checking out, including Charles Laughton's performance and an exciting climax where Quasimodo must fight off most of Paris. It is a bit slow near the middle of the film and Ezmerelda is a pretty forgettable character. Still, this one had a lot going for it.

Final Grade: B-

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie Review - "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) - What A Lovely Day!


When it comes to filming any sort of action movie, there are three different routes the director can take - Either to make the action simple, logical and fluid, to be elaborate, sprawling and epic, or make something that is elaborate seem like it is simple.

A logical action film, like "The Terminator" or "Assault On Precinct 13" are barebones and do not attempt to do much else other than serve as a vehicle for suspenseful action sequences. Then there are sprawling action films, like "The Avengers" or "Die Hard," which take every opportunity to showcase the detail and scope of the filmmakers, so that the audience may share in their passion for filmmaking.

Every once in a while, you get a film that falls into that third group - Where you can tell that the filmmakers put in intense thought, time, creative ingenuity and passion into every frame of the film, yet it is combined with a simple and straight forward narrative and direction that everything flows naturally.

It is as if the film is walking a tight rope between simplicity and over-the-top, only in this case that tight rope is insanely tiny that is seems invisible, and it seems as though the film is walking on air.

This is the charm of "Mad Max: Fury Road." In its execution, the film could not be simpler, as the characters run on logical reasoning and their drive to survive in this world that no longer suits them, while at the same time the filmmakers put in as many loving details and eccentricities to the visual style. This makes watching the film a feast to both the eyes and the mind.

Set some time after the events of the previous "Mad Max" films, Max (Tom Hardy) continues to roam what is left of humanity's wasteland, attempting to outrun scavengers, crazies trying to get his supplies, and his own demons of people that he could not save. After Max is captured by a ruthless cult leader who controls a massive underground water supply, he ends up getting caught in a revolt where Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) attempts to take the leader's women used for breeding away from this dreaded place and keep them somewhere safe.


Honestly, there was very little of this film that did not impress me, but what got me the most was how little of the film was computer generated imagery. The majority of this film relies on stunt work, tricky camera placement and movement and utilizing the massive landscape of the barren desert. Obviously there are a few scenes that rely on CGI, like a scene with a car chase through the middle of a desert storm, but it is used logically and sparingly. The size and scope of that chase would not have been possible without CGI, so I have no complaints.

The visual style of "Mad Max: Fury Road" is stunning to say the least. Every shot of this film is visually pleasing in one way or another. Whether it is the size of the desert landscape against our tiny characters with a massive army of cars approaching them, the lighting of a scene from inside the cult leader's hoard of steering wheels as if it is a shrine to cars, to the jumbled-messes of vehicles that everyone drives that range from absurd to awesome, to the massive explosion of a gasoline tanker while Max zips passed it on a car driving by.


Imagine "Lawrence Of Arabia" if it was directed by James Cameron, and you get a pretty good idea of what "Mad Max: Fury Road" might be like.

Also, talk about an empowering film for women. Besides Charlize Theron kicking all sorts of crazies (and with one hand no less), she has several other dedicated and knowledgable women by her side who are ready to throw down if they have to. In fact, Max becomes sort of minor character at some points to the dramatic action sequences to showcase these women taking down a horde of insane bandits as they head into the eye of the storm.

But what makes "Mad Max: Fury Road" so satisfying is that, when it comes to the plot and motivations for our characters, the film could not be any more simple. Furiosa is doing this because these women need some sort of hope in a world that has none. They've lived their lives just surviving, and now that they've suffered for this long, they deserve to live. This is helped further by having very little dialogue between the main characters, as there is not much that needs to be said.


It is rare to see an action film today where the main characters do not act out of some version of revenge, equality, liberation or vengeance. These characters are merely looking for salvation, which is nice to see.

"Mad Max: Fury Road" is a gem that stands out above any other summer blockbuster in the past decade. It is beautiful to look at, straight forward in its execution, yet elaborate at showcasing stunning action sequences, and never stops being exciting and fun. If you enjoy action films of any kind, be sure to go see this one and you will not be disappointed.

Final Grade: A

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mini-Review - "Stella Dallas" (1937)


A little known fact about me - If I had to pick a favorite actress of all time, it would be Barbara Stanwyck. Her ability to deliver such ferocity, charm and sentiment is unlike anything I've seen in any actor or actress. She could melt any screen with just a single tear, and "Stella Dallas" proves that.

I'm convinced that this film was created specifically to show off just how great of an actress Stanwyck could be. In this film, where Stanwyck plays the titular role, we see this poor-born girl go through a myriad of life changes, some good and others terribly selfish and greedy. She ends up marrying a rich man, and Stella ends up falling in love with the idea of being rich and popular, causing the two to drift apart. But not after the two have a child together, and Stella takes the baby to raise on her own, even if the father moves away for business.

At this point, Stella forgets all about her other life and grows into the role of a mother, and all the sacrifices that come with that. Her own personal happiness is tied directly to her daughter, Laurel. She only wants to give her daughter a good life, one that Stella did not get. But as Laurel grows older and learns more about the world and her father, it might just be that living with Stella might not be the best path for Laurel in life, much to her mother's dismay.

Of course, all of this comes to a head in the final scene in the film - which I will not spoil - where tragedy and success meet, and one of the crowning moments in Barbara Stanwyck's acting career is found. A moment where, through no dialogue at all, Stanwyck communicates to us about loss, pride, respect, acceptance and happiness. The pain that she must be going through is excruciating, but the joy that her job as a mother has led up to this moment is even greater.

"Stella Dallas" is not just a great example of Barbara Stanwyck's acting abilities, but a modern-day tragedy about a fear that all mother's must face - their children growing up and becoming adults themselves. A timeless tale that pulls at the heart and reminds us that being a parent is a difficult task, but it is also a very rewarding one.

Final Grade: A-

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mini-Review - "Unbreakable" (2000)


M. Night Shaymalan is one of the strangest oddities in current filmmaking. When he started out with "The Sixth Sense," everyone was blown away by his creativity and simplicity, as he had given us a thriller that has not aged at all and continues to impress audiences to this day. After that, it is clear that Shaymalan thought highly of himself and thought anything he created was a work of genius. This has led to many disastrous movies, such as "The Happening," "The Lady In The Water," "The Village," "After Earth" and "The Last Airbender," with each next film going further down the rabbit hole.

But before Shaymalan descended into full madness, he did manage to give us one more good film. People debate over whether that film is "Signs" or "Unbreakable." After seeing Shaymalan's work that serves as an homage to super heroes, as well as a deconstruction of them, I can honestly say that "Unbreakable" is just as good as "The Sixth Sense."

Much like Shaymalan's other great work, there is a creepy yet undeniable atmosphere to the film. In the case of "Unbreakable," it plays with the idea that we're not in control of our destiny. That fate has decided whether you are good or evil, and there is nothing that you can do to stop that. No matter what you do with your life, no matter what you've accomplished, life has already chosen if you are a bad guy. This makes the film utterly terrifying, especially near the end when we get our classic Shaymalan twist.

For a movie, this is a rare and often neglected point of view - the negative effect of a pre-chosen fate. Most films about this path are about how we should trust the grand plan of the universe and believe in it. But "Unbreakable" insists that thousands of innocent lives are endangered because we must follow the "grand plan."

That being said, "Unbreakable" is often pretentious with the cinematography and exaggerated color scheme, as well as the long-drawn out pauses in dialogue that we've come to expect from M. Night Shaymalan. However, much more to love about "Unbreakable" than there is to hate, and that makes this one a creepy yet unforgettable ride.

Final Grade: B

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mini-Review - "My Dinner With Andre" (1981)


"My Dinner With Andre" is quite possibly the simplest idea for a film - It is merely two old friends sitting down for dinner, and the conversations they have over the course of the meal.

The topics range from the experiences one of them had while traveling to far-off lands like Poland and the Sahara desert, the New York Theater, the fear of being buried alive and how society has become mechanized. Never at any point during the dinner does this actually feel like a movie, as the dialogue between these two is natural and opinionated, giving their conversations some edge to it. It feels like a casual conversation that eventually turns to a deeper and judgmental subject.

However, your mileage with "My Dinner With Andre" will vary, depending on your reaction to Andre (Andre Gregory) and Wally (Wallace Shawn) discussing how people today are automated and tend to live in their own private dream world and that this could lead to the extinction of humanity.

Granted, this is just one man's opinions, but since Andre puts this on a pedestal and swears by it, as if to mock anyone who enjoys electronic devices, that can make the middle of the film grating and eye-rolling.

"My Dinner With Andre" is at its best when Andre recollects about his many fascinating experiences. Without any sort of visual cut-aways or voice over narration, Andre describes the vast Polish landscape and its eccentric theater community, making sure to go into explicit detail and analogies as much as possible. Nothing is forced upon the audience, and it feels like we've now been apart of that ride with Andre.

Overall, "My Dinner With Andre" feels like I've taken part in a long conversation, albeit an often uncomfortable and judgmental one. The conversation does tend to ramble on at points, and does come to an abrupt end, but that is to be expected during any dinner conversation. A unique experiment in filmmaking with a unusual outcome.

Final Grade: B-

Mini-Review - "El Mariachi" (1992)


Wow, what a way to start out for Robert Rodriguez.

In this homage to Hollywood shoot-em-ups and films cases of mistaken identity, like "North By Northwest," Rodriguez not only directs the film, but also wrote it, produced it, edited it and did the cinematography for this Mexican gangster flick, on a budget of $7,000. Just about the only thing Rodriguez didn't do for "El Mariachi" was write the music, which might explain why the film has five different composers.

It is no surprise that after this film, Rodriguez was launched into filmmaker stardom, giving us many big hits like "Desparado," "From Dusk till Dawn," the "Spy Kids" franchise and "Sin City," as well as having a strange working relationship with Quentin Tarantino. This is possibly due to both of their love of excessive violence and the over the top nature of old movies, especially their need to pay homage to that zany violence.

I would describe "El Mariachi" as Rodriguez giving his take on a Hitchcock film, but with the violence of films like "Dirty Harry" and "Robocop." You end up getting a taste of everything, even if the film does not excel at any one aspect. It is not that "El Mariachi" does anything wrong, but the film does not do anything that stands out. The plot is good, the characters are decently relatable and the action gets the job done.

Though I do respect "El Mariachi" for how much Robert Rodriguez was able to do, and still make a film that turned out alright. Usually a director is also a producer and sometimes a writer, but never the cinematographer and editor as well. Kudos to you, Mr. Rodriguez.

Final Grade: C+

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mini-Review - "Schindler's List" (1993)


It has taken me this long, but I finally understand what makes Steven Spielberg one of the most revolutionary film directors of all time and quite possibly the most influential living director - Spielberg not only creates the stories that he would want to see in theaters, but he makes the ones that he feels need to seen. The ones that reflect history that is often overlooked, and tells it in a medium that is more accessible than most others. Whether it is the story of the Munich incident, the tale of rescuing one man in the middle of WWII or the liberation of 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust, Spielberg dared to bring images that were either thought impossible or unthinkable.

And he makes it work better than any other director. All this took was watching "Schindler's List" and realizing this was made by the same guy who brought us "Jurassic Park," "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" to see that Steven Spielberg is the most imaginative filmmaker who is also in touch with the importance of history.

For the record, "Schindler's List" is the second very important Spielberg film that I've watched for the first time, long after people have praised the hell out of it.

This makes it difficult to discuss, since everything that needs to be said about the film has already been said - it is a film that does not pull any punches on one of the darkest times in human history, and shows that war brings out the best and worst in humanity, including our lust for power, but also our stunning will to save those who cannot save themselves.

The scene which stands out to me is during a party, when Oskar Schindler (Liam Nesson) and Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) are drunk and talking on a balcony about how powerful Oskar is for holding his liquor so well. This leads into a discussion about what it means to be powerful. Goeth believes that it is to hold the lives of so many helpless people, and to be able to extinguish them at any point. Schindler retorts, saying that power is the ability to take away a life, and then to pull back. To be able to have this strength, but the humanity to forgive and understand one's faults.

From the beginning, I believe Oskar Schindler intended to save as many lives from the Nazis as possible, even though he probably wouldn't admit it. He witnessed the world falling apart around him, innocent lives being viciously taken away by monsters with no remorse. Oskar Schindler used the skills and possessions that he had to make sure as many of those innocents could live just one more day.

Yet it is tragic that this great man felt like he could have done more.

"Schindler's List" is a poetic look at the Holocaust, with a scope and atmosphere that is baffling to the think about. So many extras needed for the victims of this tragedy, including some who had to lose weight and pose as corpses. All while still feeling grounded in humanity, giving us a story of a man who did not want to watch the world around him fade away in flames and bloodshed.

Final Grade: A

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Movie Review - "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" (2015) - There Is No A.I. In "Team"

If you were to ask me what the best summer blockbuster film was, Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" would be very close to that top spot. Not only did it encapsulate everything that Marvel had been working on up to that point, brought together a vast range of characters, actors and storylines into a solid cohesive plot, but it was non-stop entertainment.

If it wasn't showcasing a sprawling action sequence, it was delivering the laughs with Robert Downey Jr. taking everything in stride or Chris Evans not understanding anything about the 21st century, to suspenseful moments with Loki and Bruce Banner. "The Avengers" is everything that I ever wanted out of a popcorn film. Even if you don't read comics or know anything about these characters, there is something to be admired out of what "The Avengers" was able to accomplish.

So naturally, my hopes for "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" have been pretty high. Given the build-up surrounding this film, including adding in more heroes, James Spader being casted as the villain, Joss Whedon himself comparing the sequel to "The Godfather: Part II" and many more, it is safe to say everyone has something to look forward to. Ultimately, this sequel does live up to some of its expectations but does not always deliver on the goods, leaving a film that removed some of what made the first film so great.

After much searching, the Avengers have now located and captured Loki's staff from rogue Hydra agents. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) intends to take it back to his home, Asgard, but Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) finds out that the staff runs on a computer-like system that is more advanced than anything he or Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) have seen, and theorize that this can be used to create an artificial intelligence - a machine that could create peace in our time. It's just too bad this robot, Ultron (voiced by James Spader) sees that the only way to bring peace is to whip out all of humanity.

Now it is up to Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the rest of the Avengers to bring down Ultron and his twin "enhancers" Quicksilver (Aaron-Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).


Let's start with what really worked in "Avengers: Age Of Ultron"'s favor - the elements that separated it from "The Avengers." Namely, the teamwork and how this group has evolved. In the first film, it was about heroes who were used to doing their own thing coming together and facing something bigger than themselves, while still having a sense of character for each member. In this film, everyone acts as a group and uses their strengths to make their comrades better. From Captain America and Thor combining their shield and hammer to create devastating attacks, to Black Widow using her charm to calm the Hulk down, this feels like a complete unit, not a group of rag-tag heroes.

What I love about this film, as well as the first film, is that the Avengers do feel like heroes, and not just guys taking out a massive threat. They put innocent lives ahead of everything else, as their first priority is always civilians and making sure they are safe before dealing with the threat. This is heavily emphasised in "Age Of Ultron" as Captain America and Hawkeye go out of their way to make sure single individuals are fine, even when hordes of robots are coming their way.

To be honest though, I felt that the best character in this film was Hawkeye, than Iron Man or Captain America. We see that Hawkeye, also known as Clint, has more to his character than just a bow-and-arrow and a snarky attitude. He is given several standout moments, where he breaks Scarlet Witch out of her shell and develops a strange rivalry with Quicksilver to see who is faster. But the best moment comes when we realize that he is a family man and wants nothing more than lead a simple life where those that he loves can be safe and secure.


Hawkeye develops from this background Avenger with one cool trick, into the most human member of the team. Which leads me into one of my biggest complaints with the film - the lack of development for the others.

While the team is a big part of the film, I do not feel emotionally connected to the other people. We're not given anything new with Captain America or Hulk (other than a budding relationship with Black Widow), and it felt like Thor did not contribute anything to this film, other than the running joke of who could pick up his hammer. Black Widow had an opportunity for development when her assassin back story is explained, but it ultimately goes no where and is never brought up again.

This becomes a problem when "Age Of Ultron" insists on a more personal conflict, attempting to divide the Avengers and make them destroy each other. But we're not emotionally invested in these people, only the team. Though the film tries desperately to get us invested, it ends up jumping around to characters fighting internal struggles that add nothing to the film, which also hurts the pacing of the film.

When the climax begins, I was unsure where most characters stood or if they were over their personal struggles. The film seemed to think everyone was buddy-buddy again, when nothing was necessarily resolved. Not to mention, while the final fight is happening, characters keep jumping around, with Iron Man fighting alongside everyone one moment, then he's miles away a few seconds later. It made the fight very inconsistent and clunky at times.

So did I hate "Avengers: Age Of Ultron"? Not at all. In fact, I enjoyed it way more than I disliked it.


Much like the first film, the action sequences are captivating and imaginative. My personal favorite was Iron Man in his massive Hulkbuster armor fighting a raging Hulk, with an automatic repair-bot flying above, ready to give Iron Man new parts after they get torn to shreds. Robert Downey Jr. gets lots of great lines as he fights a monster that only gets more angry as you beat it up. Because of this, and several other lines scattered throughout the film, the comedy is consistent and works rather well for the egos that these characters carry.

However, while I did have fun with "Age Of Ultron," I can't see myself watching it many times in the future, like I have with "The Avengers." The first film often felt like it wasn't even trying and that many of these scenarios wrote themselves. "Age Of Ultron" though often tried a bit too hard to be different from the first film, especially in the poorly paced middle. When it was good, it was a blast. But other times, most of the character moments just fell flat.

Final Grade: B

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mini-Review - "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942)


Without even looking at the crew of this 1942 adaptation of the novel by Booth Tarkington, you can tell that this is made by the same people as "Citizen Kane." From the dramatic camera angles, to the lighting of indoor scenery, to the way the characters talk about life as if everything they say must be grandiose and dramatic. Orson Welles' fingerprints, much like "Citizen Kane" are all over this film. This gives "The Magnificent Ambersons" a charm that is hard to match - the look that is stunning for 1942, and a longing feeling for times that will never come again.

I would best describe "The Magnificent Ambersons" as Orson Welles recapturing his childhood, and showing the nostalgia for America before the turn of the 20th century. A time when horse-drawn carriages were the best way to get around, and people made time for everyone because there was nothing else to do. The film brilliantly captures how the world was forever changed when automobiles were created, and how it was leaving those who refused to change and others who prospered behind in a big cloud of exhaust and fumes.

These were simpler times for people who didn't need much in life, and Welles was one of those people.

However, outside of that and the cinematography, there isn't much else to "The Magnificent Ambersons." The story is like any other rich-spoiled brat who gets what he deserves plotline, and very few performances stood out, other than a few scenes with Agnes Moorehead as Fanny Amberson as she breaks down when her life begins to fall apart. The pacing also certainly does not help, as near the beginning it is slow as molasses and then near the end it feels the need to wrap up everything quickly.

Overall, "The Magnificent Ambersons" had many good qualities to it, especially the love letter to the olden days of Welles' childhood. It is worth checking out just to see how Orson Welles and his crew follow-up on "Citizen Kane."

Final Grade: C+