Jun 28, 2015

WIWTW #2

Gotta say, I had a great week from a movie watching perspective which included a couple of the stronger films of 2014 plus a few older classics. Credit for that goes to my girlfriend who is probably sick and tired of my typical choices which prompted her to go out of her way to choose some quality titles. Hey, at least I balanced things out with the mother of all superhero movies, Batman & Robin right? I got a job to do after all.

Number of movies watched this week: 8

Average rating: 7.25


Jun 21, 2015

WIWTW #1

Since I don't have that much time to write full-fledged reviews anymore, I wanted to start a feature that I've dubbed "What I Watched This Week" or just "WIWTW" because who likes typing all that? The idea is simply to give you a quick idea of what I thought about a movie, nothing more complicated than that. Oh, and a week is counted from Sunday to Saturday. So without further ado, here's WIWTW #1.

Number of movies this week: 8
Average rating: 5.19

A "Re-toggle"

I know that I haven't posted a review in some time and I apologize for that. I've been doing some serious thinking about the future of this blog and that put a bit of a crimp in my regular production. No, I'm not closing Cinema Whatever down or anything, but there are going to be some pretty significant changes to it.

First of all, I've enjoyed myself immensely during my time reviewing movies. I've now reviewed 472 films which I'm very proud of. Although I like to pretend that my earliest reviews don't exist (really, don't go look at those), I have to say that I'm very happy with the progress I've made in terms of critiquing films and my writing skills. I've also made some great friends along the way which has been a great experience.

That's why it's hard for me to announce that I'm going to be "re-toggling" Cinema Whatever from its current form. CW has been nothing but movie reviews published close to daily which unsurprisingly does take quite a bit of time. With the way my current life situation is, I can no longer afford to spend that amount of time every day to doing movie reviews. I wish I could do nothing but watch movies and write reviews, but it's just not in the cards.

What I'd like to start doing are opinion pieces about... well whatever has to do with movies really. I've got some ideas swimming around my head as we speak, but that's the direction I see Cinema Whatever going in. I'm targeting a weekly timeline for these pieces and I might just throw in the odd movie review here and there if I really feel like it.

So with that beings said, thanks to everyone for all the support that I've gotten from the start of Cinema Whatever and I hope you'll all still be around for the ride. Cinema Whatever isn't going anywhere. It's just changing direction.


Simon

Jun 16, 2015

Review: Batman Returns (1992)

Batman was as much a corporate entity as it was a movie after Batman of 1989. For Warner Brothers, you can bet that they were drooling at the prospect of future revenue streams from their bat-empire. Merchandising opportunities were pretty much limitless. Tim Burton himself wasn't all that pleased after working on such a "soul-sucking" movie and was ready to move on. Luckily for him, Warner Brothers gave him more creative control and most likely a significant increase in pay. What did WB have to lose after all? A sequel to Batman was most likely a slam dunk.

Unfortunately for them, Batman Returns was nowhere near as successful as Batman was. In the global box office it earned $144,526,570 less than Batman which is pretty significant. The budget had also increased by $45 million and marketing costs were probably higher as well which must've made for a pretty miserable summer at the offices of Warner Brothers. It's pretty unfortunate really because Tim Burton himself was much happier with the finished product and I have to say that I agree with him.

Jun 13, 2015

Review: The Wolverine (2013)


X-Men Origins: Wolverine left a seriously bad taste in my mouth as it did for many fans of the X-Men series. Besides an at-times alright final fight and the presences of Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber, there's almost nothing going for it. It was a serious misstep and even Hugh Jackman has admitted as much. Even after an already sub-par X-Men: The Last Stand, it wasn't like the X-Men franchise was in trouble though. Matthew Vaughn's First Class proved that Fox could still make a good X-Men movie and all it took was the right people.

Enter Darren Aronofsky who Hugh Jackman had worked with in The Fountain. He was just coming off the release of The Black Swan and most likely would have been a slam dunk as a director. He unfortunately couldn't come to an agreement with Fox and stepped down. To take his place was James Mangold who had worked with Jackman in romantic comedy Kate & Leopold which is a surprisingly OK movie for its genre. I would rank Mangold as a relatively good director. He's no Aronofsky, but he was definitely a step in the right direction.

Jun 10, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)


Anticipation was almost the death of me in the summer of 2011. After a whole year of waiting for the conclusion to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Part 2 was finally here. Like I had mentioned in my review for it, Part 1 ends in a way that is both extremely satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time. It felt like I had aged ten years since Part 1 and no way was I going to miss it. I was far from the only one either.

It's amazing really to think just how far the Harry Potter series had come in those ten years and how consistently good they've been. Harry Potter mania is still bubbling to this day which makes the development of an additional movie set in the same universe no surprise. The franchise has the potential to be a reliable cash cow for Warner Brothers for a really long time if they play their cards right. As much as I'm skeptical about the Hollywood sequel machine, I will admit that I'm cautiously optimistic for the future of Harry Potter movies, especially if J.K. Rowling is involved. But Warner Bros. I beg you, please don't break my heart like MGM/New Line Cinema did.

Jun 8, 2015

Review: Hai yang tian tang [Ocean Paradise] (2010)


Ocean Paradise or Ocean Heaven in some places was Jet Li's first attempt at a true dramatic film. I don't think that Jet Li has the widest amount of range out there, but he's proven himself to be surprisingly adept when it come to dramatic scenes in the movies he's starred in. At least from what I've seen so far. Sure he's mostly known for his fists but I think if Li really wanted to branch out more he'd be able to without too much trouble.

I personally love it when action stars branch out into new territory. There's just something so irresistible about an action star taking on a dramatic role no? You can understand then why Maggie with Arnold Schwarzenegger sounds so intriguing to me. But yeah, too bad it doesn't seem to have found much distribution. At least not in Montreal anyway. Jackie Chan has also changed up his career a bit actually and after all the abuse his body has taken over the decades, who can blame him? Compare Police Story 2013 to the original Police Story and you can see a pretty big difference in tone and intentions.

Jun 7, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)


Splitting the adaptation for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into a two-part extravaganza was a risky decision that would inevitably spark accusations of Warner Brothers milking the franchise for everything they could. Were they really though? No question that wallets would get fatter with two movies instead of one, but the argument was that there were legitimate artistic reasons for the split. Lionel Wigram didn't think it was possible to do a one movie Deathly Hallows and he was able to convince David Heyman of the same thing.

The split had to be done unless Warner Brothers felt comfortable releasing a rushed final chapter that probably would've had many, many cuts. Personally, I can see the logic behind the split. I could be totally wrong, but I'm skeptical about a one film finale really having worked. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows actually wasn't the first movie to be split up like this though. Kill Bill was split up to avoid having cuts made although Tarantino's homage to martial arts films wasn't quite in the same situation as Harry Potter. Now when it comes to Twilight, The Hobbit and The Hunger Games, well that's a whole other kettle of fish.

Jun 6, 2015

Review: Batman (1989)


There were a lot of questions regarding Batman before it came out in the summer of 1989. A lot. It was Tim Burton's first true blockbuster film after finding success with smaller films like Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice and who could really say if he was the right guy for the job? That was nothing compared to the uproar over the casting of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman though. Apparently 50,000 letters were sent to the offices of Warner Brothers to get them to cast an actor who could actually tackle a non-comedic role. Talk about trial by fire for that poor mail room intern.

It kind of reminds me of the response to when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker actually for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. People mouthed off over social media instead of sending letters, but the result was the same. People were pleasantly surprised at just how well Michael Keaton performed as Batman, just as people's minds were blown when they got a whiff of Ledger's Joker. I try to take a wait and see approach when it comes to casting choices these days because of all this and I think most people should too. Doesn't really matter what I say though, just look at the response to Ben Affleck as Batman...

Jun 5, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was David Yates' first experience to Harry Potter and with the Half-Blood Prince he had the opportunity to really put his stamp on the series. That he did. Critics responded well to the ever-darkening tale of "the chosen one" and so did audiences to the tune of $934,416,487 worldwide. It was the second highest grossing movie of the year behind the unbeatable Avatar, but I get the feeling that Harry Potter book loyalists weren't particularly happy with HPatHBP.

The book the movie is based on is full to the brim with background information regarding characters and past events, making it an impossible task to truly adapt everything into a movie that's under three hours. While it's too bad having so much cut out, Steve Kloves didn't really have much of a choice. While it might be easy to say that the book is better, cutting out material doesn't necessarily make an adaptation worse than its book counterpart. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is proof of that.

Jun 4, 2015

Review: VeggieTales: King George and the Ducky (2000)


I think I kind of accidentally, on purpose forgot about VeggieTales because it's been a while since the last time I've seen one. Can you blame me though? It's like mentally preparing yourself to go on a run. The hardest part is actually starting. Once you're moving your feet though it's not that bad. It's the same thing with VeggieTales. Once you got Bob and Larry lecturing you from their familiar counter top, it's not so bad. With a bit of gritting your teeth anyway.

Jun 3, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)


I don't know why really, but I was pretty disappointed with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the first time I saw it. Something seemed off to teenager me and I can't really pinpoint the reasoning behind it. Maybe I was in a bit of a rebellious stage where I was rejecting the series that I had loved so much previously? Who knows, but I can tell you straight up before I even begin this review that I feel very different about Order of the Phoenix now.

David Yates was brought in to succeed Goblet of Fire helmer Mike Newell and at this point Yates was mostly known as a television director. Whether or not this was the plan from the beginning, Yates was kept on as director until the end of the Harry Potter series, overtaking Chris Columbus as the only other director to work on more than one HP movie. Order of the Phoenix also has the distinction of being the only movie of the series to not have a screenplay written by Steve Kloves. Michael Goldenberg had the honours and had a tough job ahead of him to try and adapt the longest book of them all.

Jun 2, 2015

Review: Owning Mahowny (2003)


Main character Dan Mahowny of Owning Mahowny is based on real-life Canadian gambler Brian Molony who worked at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto. In the 1980's he became infamous for having embezzled millions of dollars to fund his highroller trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. As all embezzlers do, he was caught in the end after having stolen $10 million and shocking everyone in the process due to his generally unassuming nature. No one expected such a "boring" man to have done what he had did.

Unfortunately, Canadian/UK produced Owning Mahowny was one of those movies that did well with the critics (especially Roger Ebert) but not so well at the box office. With a $10 million budget which is the same amount that Brian Molony embezzled no less, it made a paltry $1.2 million worldwide. I suppose that's why there's no Owning Mahowny 2. Heh...

Jun 1, 2015

Review: Lend a Paw (1941)


I've been watching lots of Disney short films for the last little while but Lend a Paw is (if I'm not mistaken) my first short with the famed Disney mascot himself, Mickey Mouse. Seriously. I believe that I've maybe seen Steamboat Willie by chance when I was a kid, but that doesn't really count. That was long before I kept obsessive records of the movies I watched and religiously rated them on IMDb. So definitely a pretty big deal here.

Anyhow, Lend a Paw won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and was the first non-Silly Symphony film out of Disney to do so. I'm sure there would've been winners from before Disney's Silly Symphony phase, but don't forget that the category was only created in 1932. It's not like Disney was really hurting anyway since they won the award eight times in a row before having their run broken up by MGM's The Milky Way. Can't win 'em all I guess.