Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life - 9 stars out of 10

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life - 9 stars out of 10

“The Lady in Number 6” is simply an amazing story.  Even if it was just the story of a 109-year-old woman who still played the piano to satisfy her love of music, it would be pretty awesome.  But when you add in the fact that she is the oldest living Holocaust survivor and that music is the thing that saved her, it becomes a must-see.  Alice Herz-Sommer’s story begins the same as many musicians.  She was recognized for her talent at a young age, she studied with an elite piano teacher, and she began a performance career as a concert pianist.  Her story is different because she was spared from immediate concentration camp death due to her musical abilities.  Her story differs from many Holocaust survivors, experiencing the side of the concentration camp where Nazis force talented Jews to perform in propaganda films to show that they were being treated well by the Germans.  Her survival relied on her music and this 40-minute telling of her story is one that everybody should see.  She did at the age of 110, one week before this film won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary.  What an amazing tribute to such an incredible woman and her beautiful story of survival through music.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pompeii (2014) - 4 stars out of 10

Pompeii (2014) - 4 stars out of 10

I was actually surprised by this movie.  I thought that it would be another disaster film with a loose (almost inconsequential) plot to tie together the lives of the victims, but the film actually focused on the characters and the historical accuracy of the city.  The disaster was just the backdrop for this love story.  Don’t get me wrong – this film has plenty of flaws.  A lot of the dialogue was cheesy, the acting was just average (even with Kiefer Sutherland as the bad guy), the story could have been better, and the destruction sequence was actually a bit of a letdown.  I don’t understand how, on an $80 million budget, the CGI during the film’s “main event” that everybody is waiting for could look like a video game instead of real life.  Perhaps if the film was called “Gladiator: The Minor Leagues,” the audience would have been more focused on the gladiator sequences (which are probably the best that I have seen outside of “Gladiator”); instead, we spend most of the movie waiting for the love story to end and the volcanic destruction to begin.  At least the film has the right ending.  For a second, I was worried that we would see an unrealistic, ride-off-into-the-sunset ending, but they toyed with our minds and gave us the right one.  The critics believe that this film was a bigger disaster than the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and I wouldn’t recommend this film for its quality, but it’s worth watching to see the amazing recreation of Pompeii and the thrilling gladiator sequences.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Monuments Men - 5 stars out of 10

The Monuments Men - 5 stars out of 10

“The Monuments Men” is an interesting film that tells the story of World War II from the perspective of the artwork being plundered by Hitler throughout Europe.  While my rating is average, this film did not meet my expectations.  With an all-star cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Jean Dujardin, I expected an overwhelmingly awesome display of acting.  I hoped that Clooney and Damon would bring the drama, Murray and Goodman would bring the comedy, and that team would work together like the next “Oceans Eleven”; however, when the group split up for their individual missions, we lost that cool team approach to saving the artwork.  The story became compartmentalized, limiting each actor to his small facet of the story.  Rather than giving each actor a chance to shine, we didn’t get enough time with any of them to enjoy their performance.  That being said, the story is very interesting.  The loss of humanity during this war makes it easy to forget that things like art and music still existed.  One of the smartest aspects of the story is Cate Blanchett’s hesitance to help the Allies as the Germans and Russians turned this situation into an “every man for himself” race to get a hold of these priceless treasures.  Also, the theme that men were willing to give up their lives to protect this artwork for future generations was excellent.  I love how George Clooney had his father play the future version of himself.  Those are the details that made this film so enjoyable.  “The Monuments Men” fell short of its potential, but it is still an awesome story that is worth experiencing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Brother Bear - 7 stars out of 10

Brother Bear - 7 stars out of 10
1050th Review

“Brother Bear” greatly exceeded my expectations.  I have grown to have little faith in any Disney animated film produced between 1999 and 2008 (the post-Mulan era) as traditional musicals were out and the “let’s try to appeal to a new generation” philosophy was in; however, “Brother Bear” had some of the heart of the Disney Renaissance.  Like “The Lion King” and “Mulan,” the themes of this film are geared toward adults while the adventurous content and humor keep children entertained.  The shortcoming of “Brother Bear” is that, unlike the aforementioned films in which kids understand the important themes in a more innocent way, there is disconnect in this film where the adults “get it” and the kids simply enjoy the adventure without a resonating moral.  That being said, the comic relief is right on par with the Disney classics.  Rutt and Tuke are like the Canadian version of Timon and Pumbaa, voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in a tribute to their famous Bob and Doug McKenzie characters.  The rams are even funnier during their 2 minutes of screen time.  I would watch the movie again just for them.  The atmosphere transports us to a place that is mysterious and intriguing, even though it isn’t too far away.  Most importantly, the film has a gut-wrenching moment of realization for the audience.  Maybe I am just na├»ve, but I never saw that twist coming and it was presented with perfection.  After so many subtle hints throughout the film, it just hits you at the same time that it hits Kenai.  I really love how they completely change the perception of the opening of the film by simply changing the bear’s eyes from beady, frightening ones to loving cartoon eyes.  It really is one of the best-presented Disney moments.  Unfortunately, a lot of the film just can’t contend with its Disney predecessors.  I love the soundtrack by Phil Collins but I would have much rather heard the characters sing the songs.  The animation was better than any other animation studio, but just not up to par with Disney’s standards.  The voice acting is okay but no comparison to films like “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.”  The characters aren’t even that memorable (I can’t picture Kenai as a human right now, and can barely remember the names of the other characters).  I think that 7 stars is a fitting rating for this film.  Above average, entertaining, worth watching, but nowhere near Disney’s greatest.