May 24, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)


Three days after the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, filming of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets began. That's what happens I guess when you have a young cast that will quickly going to grow out of their roles if you wait too long. Even so, the trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have visibly matured since the first movie which makes the series an interesting growing-up project as you watch these three over the years. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, this is unfortunately Richard Harris' final HP movie as he passed away during post-production of Chamber.

Chris Columbus was back in the directing chair for this one and Steve Kloves also returned as screenwriter. Like Philosopher's Stone, they took a very direct and faithful route for adapting Chamber of Secrets from its source material which can be a good and a bad thing. Either way, the last thing Warner Brothers and Chris Columbus wanted to do was alienate established fans so it's an understandable decision. Funnily enough, Chamber is the shortest book of them all but was turned into the longest movie of the entire series.

May 23, 2015

Review: Oblivion (2013)


I've somehow never seen Joseph Kosinski's directorial debut Tron: Legacy. I have heard however that it has its fair share of issues. Supposedly, it's also visually striking and it features a cool electronic score from Daft Punk. I'll admit that I'm a pretty big sucker for cool visuals in a movie and I have no doubt that Oblivion is the same way. Low critic scores have me a bit worried however that it falls into the same pattern as Tron: Legacy though.

I feel like it's been a while since I've seen a Tom Cruise movie. I think the last one I saw was Jack Reacher which is funny since he plays another character named Jack in Oblivion. It's nice to see him starring in what is an original sci-fi film in a world where sci-fi films always seem to spawn a series. A sequel could still get made sure, but I wouldn't really say that Oblivion did exceedingly well at the worldwide box office. You never know though.

May 22, 2015

Review: Ugly Duckling (1939)


The story of The Ugly Duckling needs no introduction. Everyone is familiar with the fairy tale I should think which was originally written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and published in 1843. It was with good reason that it joined the continually expanding fairytale adaptation lineup at Disney. Funnily enough, it's actually not the first time that Disney did an adaptation of The Ugly Duckling.

Disney had already done an adaptation in 1931, but in black and white of course. As the final Silly Symphony release, Ugly Duckling is pretty much an opportunity to modernize the original film with some colour. Back when there were no movie geeks calling for Disney's head for being as lazy as remaking a movie from eight years ago, I personally think Ugly Duckling was a great way to end Silly Symphony as a way of showing how far the animation medium had come in such a short time.

May 21, 2015

Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)


I saw Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone three times in theatres when it was released. I was eleven years old (the same age as Harry), I had read all the books that had been published up to that point and I was absolutely mesmerized. Even my parents were. In fact, they were the ones who insisted on seeing the movie again and again. When it was released on DVD, you bet we bought it. No question that we're pretty far away from me getting my dad to take my sister and I to go see Pokémon: The First Movie.

Anyway, adapting a series of books that already has a large following is a big deal. Obviously it was a following that would get even bigger, but it's always difficult to please everyone. One thing that I'm sure set Harry Potter up for success though was the fact that J.K. Rowling became very involved in the production of the film, such as insisting that all the cast be either English or Irish. She was not about to let Warner Brothers or Chris Columbus control everything. An animated Spielberg-directed film with Harry voiced by Haley Joel Osment anyone? Didn't think so.

May 20, 2015

Review: Listen to Britain (1942)


With Listen to Britain, I'm going out pretty far from my usual fare when it comes to the short films I've been watching lately. Why would I want to watch a mid-World War II British propaganda film? Well besides my personal quest to watch whatever comes my way, Listen to Britain is listed in some pretty prestigious film lists like They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? as well as Sight and Sound's top films from a poll in 2012. LtB appears to be one of the greatest films ever made in the UK, so that's reason enough no?

Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)


Even though X-Men: The Last Stand was supposed to be the final X-Men movie, was anyone surprised that Fox absolutely wanted to keep the franchise going? You always to keep a good thing going. Even with the mixed critical reception that The Last Stand got, clearly there was money to be made in X-Men. So why not a prequel going into Wolverine's past? Logan had always been a fan favourite and there were many other mutant characters with no shortage of actors to play them that could be thrown in for good measure.

Hugh Jackman himself was very much on board as well. He was involved as a producer through his film production company Seed Productions that in the end netted him $25 million. Not a bad chunk of change at all. Filming was a very messy affair unfortunately and despite a pretty decent worldwide box office take (less than The Last Stand), critical reaction was far from positive. I actually remember liking the film the first time I watched it, but opinions can sour as we all know.

May 15, 2015

Review: Elle s'appelait Sarah [Sarah's Key] (2010)


Sarah's Key is based on the novel of the same name by Tatiana de Rosnay. It's a two plot book focusing on a young Jewish girl named Sarah in France during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942 as a modern-day journalist tries to find out what happened to her and her family. Yes, Sarah's Key is a Holocaust movie, but from the French side of things after becoming occupied by Germany which is definitely something different.

Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Julia Jarmond and she's always struck me as a talented and fascinating actress. Born in the UK, she eventually moved to Paris where she still lives to this day. Completely fluent in French, she's carved out a little niche for herself in French cinema which is pretty cool. Being able to switch back and forth from English to French is a great skill to have in real life, but it opens up some pretty interesting possibilities for movie roles as well.

May 14, 2015

Review: Jurassic Park III (2001)


A lot of things went wrong with The Lost World: Jurassic Park. At the same time though, it did have a few worthwhile moments from time to time. Admittedly, those moments were pretty rare compared to the blockbuster glory that was Jurassic Park which is an unsurprising result in the reality of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels. Was there ever any hope that Jurassic Park III was going to right the boat?

Steven Spielberg having left the director's chair was obviously a huge concern. He was still on as executive producer, but you'll find his fair share of not so great titles if you take a look at his filmography while acting as a producer. Joe Johnston took his place and there's no question that he had some pretty big shoes to fill. Strangely enough, Alexander Payne and frequent Jim Taylor were brought on as writers. Election was a great movie, but could the duo tackle the story of an almost $100 million blockbuster? That was the million dollar question.

May 13, 2015

Review: Batman and Robin (1949)


Batman (1943) may have been the first screen adaptation ever for Batman, but as we all know it's far from the only one. As the second serial for the famed character, Batman and Robin throws in some new actors for all the roles and cuts down pretty heavily on the humour. Well, it tries to anyway. That inadvertent-type comedy is still alive and well which is good news.

I slowly digested Batman and Robin over two days. I mean can you blame me? Tackling 260 minutes of old school Batman isn't necessarily the easiest of things to do if you ask me, even as a fan. It's split over fifteen parts just like Batman was and all of these "episodes" except the first one fall into the 16-18 minute range. They're almost over before you know it though which is why it was crucial for me to keep notes on each episode so I wouldn't lose track of what was going on. It's not like the titles can help you out much either since they hardly even correspond with what happens in the story.

May 11, 2015

Review: Ferdinand the Bull (1938)


Unbeknownst to me until after I had finished my post-movie reading, Ferdinand the Bull is actually based off of an illustrated children's book called The Story of Ferdinand by American author Munro Leaf. It was published right before the Spanish Civil War and caused an uproar all across Europe as it was deemed to be carrying a pacifist message. With a story centered around a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight, it was banned in quite a few countries as a result.