The Little Prince Review

The Little Prince

Whimsy and beautiful animation is often not enough to carry a film beyond its initial couple of minutes – which is something that The Little Prince tackles directly. Opening with muted colours and a child with her whole life planned out, the film explores what it means to be a child and adult alike. Even with deeper explorations of themes than most family films, this is still a wild adventure that makes up for a lack of subtlety by the time it reaches its heartwarming conclusion.

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The Samurai Review

SAMURAI_midnight_1

Jakob (Michel Diercks) didn’t want to hunt the wolf that was terrorizing the village he polices. Instead, he fed the wolf. What that means about who he is as a person is the entire provocation for what is one of the most surreal and well-realized fantasy horror experiences I have had in recent memory. The Samurai is a fever dream that doesn’t let up until its explosive conclusion, which brings thoughts of zany movies like Holy Motors and Borgman to mind, but more deftly handled than the latter.

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Jupiter Ascending Review

JUPITER ASCENDING

If there is one thing that has always been consistent with the Wachowski siblings, its that they are not afraid to bite off way more than they can chew. Their ambitions are incredulously high, even if everything else isn’t quite up to snuff. Movies like Cloud Atlas and The Matrix might be great films, but ambitions still outweigh the delivered content. I mean, The Matrix was so lofty in its goals that they made it into a trilogy. Jupiter Ascending cements the Wachowskis as a duo that reach for the stars but have a difficult time finding them in the midst of constellations.

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Man of Steel and How To Undermine a Superhero’s Code

Man of Steel Poster

Man of Steel Poster

TitleMan of Steel
Genre(s)Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Director(s)Zack Snyder
Release Year2013

When Zack Snyder is leading a property that is being released in the summer, I, and many others, know to expect a feast for the eyes. His style is undoubtedly his own, and he is able to change up the formula every now and then to provide incredibly rich and beautiful moments on screen. So it was no surprise when Snyder was announced to be directing Man of Steel, the latest attempt to reboot the Superman franchise since the abysmal Superman Returns. Taking a page out of Christopher Nolan’s superhero handbook (and even having the film produced by Nolan), Snyder’s Man of Steel is a flawed, but visually engaging attempt to reinvigorate one of the major characters in the DC universe. Attempting to balance a realistic take on the story of Clark Kent, as well as deliver the scale of bombastic action that one would expect from a Snyder movie, the film has a hard time soaring to the heights of other superhero films.

When the planet Krypton is about to implode, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) is attempting to continue the Kryptonian bloodline, Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) send their newborn child, Kal-El (Henry Cavill) to Earth, in order to save him as well as create a new future for Krypton. Jonathon Kent (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) find Kal-El and raise him as Clark Kent, attempting to wrestle with the fact that their child is more powerful than any normal human being. Man of Steel is interesting because of how Jonathon struggles with whether to let Clark’s abilities be known to the world. Is the world ready for a superhero? Can the world be trusted with a superhero? These questions are the foundations of what could have been an extremely well-done character study and commentary on society’s outlook on anything that is unknown. David Goyer’s script touches on this several times, and though everything takes place after Clark leaves home, the audience is still presented with flashbacks to Clark’s time with his parents and how that has shaped him into the man he really is. It is wonderfully done, and there were definitely moments where emotions were beginning to swell to the surface, but by the end of Man of Steel‘s bloated 143 minute runtime, any attachment to the character of Superman is lost.

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Oz: The Great and Powerful Is All About Looking Great, Not Being Great

Oz: The Great and Powerful Poster

Oz: The Great and Powerful Poster

TitleOz: The Great and Powerful
Genre(s)Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Director(s): Sam Raimi
Release Year2013

From beautiful landscapes to a big name cast, Oz: The Great and Powerful had all the promise of a wonderful visit back to the land of Oz. Even from the opening moments of the film and the transportation from Kansas to Oz, the film still had me by the hooks, and I felt like maybe my worries of the film being another Alice in Wonderland debacle could be put aside. James Franco’s character, Oz, is immediately unlikable but there’s an element to him that makes the audience care about him: he has aspirations. He’s in this magical world which immediately impresses with its visual style, and there’s a nice cast of supporting characters that add humor and charm to the overall film. Yet, Oz: The Great and Powerful still winds up being almost as lifeless as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland remake (comparisons are difficult not to make), resulting in yet another aesthetically brilliant film from Disney, with no real soul to it.

Oz: The Great and Powerful begins in a very unique way: we’re shown our aspiring wizard perform “magic” at a carnival in Kansas, all in black-and-white and a full screen aspect ratio. Oz is a womanizer, a liar, an egomaniac, and selfish, but he truly does want to be a famous magician. However, his reasons for doing so are not because his father was a magician, or because he made a promise to a dying loved one. Rather, it’s merely for fame and fortune. After another performance ends badly, he is eventually swept away by a tornado, escaping a crazed girl’s boyfriend in a hot air balloon. That tornado takes him to the magical world of Oz, where he is met by Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who tells him he is the wizard who will destroy the evil witch and bring peace to their land. Of course, Oz is reluctant to help, but with the promises of riches, he’s in.

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a Mindless Action-Comedy Without the Fun That Entails

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Poster

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Poster

TitleHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Genre(s)Action, Fantasy, Horror
Director(s)Tommy Wirkola
Release Year2013
IMDB6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes15%

If there’s a children’s story that should never be a children’s story, it’s probably Hansel & Gretel. Taken away from their family and tortured by a witch in her candy-coated house, the two kids face an almost certain death but manage to work together to burn the witch alive. Now, that may not sound like the best kid’s book, but it definitely sounds like it could work as an R-rated horror comedy, especially one from Tommy Wirkola, the guy behind Nazi zombies in Dead Snow. Throw in people like Peter Stormare who love to ham it up in their roles, an action star like Jeremy Renner, Prince of Persia’s Gemma Arterton, and you’d think there would be no doubt this film would be tons of stupid fun. Well, instead of watching the two kids raise some hell on a group of witches, I felt like Hansel: being stuffed with pointless eye-candy until I could break free and burn this train-wreck of a film from my memory.

The opening scene definitely sets the tone for the movie, seemingly trying to gloss over the ridiculous elements of the story for the sake of a grittier film. And a gritty take on this story would have been fine as well, filled with gore and frights, but Wirkola kills any notion of a serious film every once in a while with slapstick humor and some terrible jokes. Once we join our heroes many years after their first encounter with a witch, they’re full-blown witch hunters, and some of the best in the world, on the hunt now for a witch that is abducting children for a ritual on the next blood moon. There’s your plot that could have been filled with a reflexive attitude but instead is squandered for jokes like a young boy touching Gretel’s (Arterton) chest while she’s asleep, or Hansel (Renner) being awkward with women. If you’ve seen a film before, these jokes probably won’t work on you. Fortunately there is one gag that worked for me upon its introduction and that is Hansel’s diabetes from being stuffed with candy by the witch they first met. Now he needs to take an insulin shot every couple hours or he’ll completely pass out, something the movie shows a total of three times, one of those times clearly intending to feel comedic as the crux to winning a fight.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Tests Whether You Really Want to Go There and Back Again

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Poster

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Poster

TitleThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Genre(s)Adventure, Fantasy
Director(s)Peter Jackson
Release Year2012
IMDB8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes65%

Going into The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (or The Hobbit, as I will refer to it for the purpose of this review) I had very low expectations. When Peter Jackson announced it would be three movies, let alone two movies where I had already felt the source material was being stretched, I cringed. I knew no matter what the reviews were, I’d see this film, because I was curious what Jackson saw that needed to be kept in, and how he would adapt the children’s book that gave birth to the Lord of the Rings novels. Not only that, but I was also curious as to the presentation of the film, being the first big release to be presented in 48 frames per second (the films we all see are generally 24 frames per second). Everything I felt was going to be poor, and everything I felt was going to be great, did exactly as I predicted. The Hobbit is ambitious, beautiful, and welcomes its viewers back into the warm and quaint hobbit holes of Middle Earth, as it tries to be as detailed and entertaining as possible for every sort of audience. A film that truly begs the question, did this need to exist?

Perhaps that’s too loaded of a question. Yes, The Hobbit is a film that should exist, but in a much more condensed and refined version than it is available as right now. No, an extended edition does not need to be seen except by those who were completely floored by this film. The argument would initially be made that this movie just needed to be cut down by half an hour or so, but when reflecting back on it, exactly what would need to be cut out is dependent on what audience Peter Jackson is willing to aim for. The Hobbit is not a film with an epic story in the same vein as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s far from it, but Jackson wants to turn what is a simple, yet intimidating adventure for one Hobbit, into another massive war as the dwarfs of Erebor attempt to reclaim their homeland from Smaug, the dragon that seized it from them. Now, Smaug isn’t in the first movie except for a mere glimpse and in the introduction scene, reminiscent of The Fellowship of the Ring’s intro. It would have been a lot harder to make three movies from 280 pages if the main enemy was already present and involved in the dwarfs’ journey with young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Instead, Jackson added an orc into the mix, one who was not in the novel but is a part of Thorin Oakenshield’s (Richard Armitage) story. So, much in the same way that The Lord of the Rings films told the parallel stories of Aragorn and Frodo, The Hobbit seems to be going for a parallel between Thorin and Bilbo.

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