Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button review

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this movie. Seeing it twice in one weekend might give you some account. Although for those who know me know it’s not unusual for me to venture a movie more than once… does The Dark Knight ring any bells? lol The moment I saw this trailer I was intrigued. The story seemed interesting and unique. Never did I think it would exceed my expectations. However, that’s exactly what it did.

One of the most charming movies of 2008, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, adapted from the 1920’s story by
F. Scott Fitzgerald
, serves up a bazaar yet richly, heartfelt tale of a man born well into his 80’s and ages backwards, while naturally everyone else ages forward. Not having read the book myself but knowing a little about it, I found the movie derailed quite a bit for the original story, and I’m OK with that. This film was so brilliant to me I can’t imagine it done any other way.

It reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump with its history-spanning structure. It makes sense given that Oscar-winning screenwriter
Eric Roth
wrote both screenplays. Directed by David Fincher, whose credits include Se7en, Fight Club and The Game, did an astounding job with this film. Clearly he has a habit of casting Brad Pitt in his films… and why not? Pitt is a great actor who, in the past, has played some remarkable roles. And I’m comfortable saying that this is one of my favorite Brad Pitt movies to date. He played the passive, observing, kind, lovable Benjamin Button perfectly and with ease. It is extremely easy to fall in love with the actor all over again. It’s no wonder he’s up for a Golden Globe. Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, delivered yet another great, soulful performance, embodying style, grace and elegance throughout the entire film. Queenie, (Taraji P. Henson), also did a remarkable job portraying Benjamin’s adoptive mother. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Her character was warm and loving yet strict and firm. There were some really special moments between mother and son that were truly touching, causing me to choke up at times.

The direction of this film felt timeless and dream-like in way. The use of colors in this film was amazing – dark, rich and alluring. The makeup artists should seriously get an award. MY GOODNESS! The makeup was masterful. It’s pretty easy to make a young person look old, but to make someone look 20 years younger puts you in a whole new playing field. Blanchett was able to portray a convincing 23 year old, while the most incredible image was Pitt looking the way he did in
Thelma & Louise
, which was almost 20 years ago. Boy did he look good! I credit Fincher and his vast team of collaborators for their fantastic visionary storytelling, editing and cinematography. Last but not least, the films score was riveting. This music is simply beautiful and touching – exactly what this movie deserved. It just makes you feel good.

This story begins in a hospital room where a very old, dying Blanchet lays in her bed while her daughter Caroline (
Julia Ormond
) reads to her from the journal of dear friend Benjamin Button. On the account of his journal entries, we are then taken back in time to New Orleans at the end of World War 1 where Benjamin is born. The story then progresses from there and spans to present day. The audience is thrown into this wonderful, captivating adventure where Benjamin’s experiences take us to distant corners of the earth and all the eccentric people we meet along the way. Benjamin’s tale is filled with hard yet exciting trials, of happiness and sadness and above all, the timeless, lasting love he finds along the way.

I did find the movie to be a tad bit long. I feel they could have shorted the film by 30 minutes and been just fine. Alas, even with the 2 hours and 47 minutes, it still managed to captivate me. I really love it when movies make you feel like you were apart of the characters life. When, by the end of the movie, you feel you truly experienced what the characters experienced, felt how they felt. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button delivered exactly that. This remarkable piece of cinema was emotional and moving and I found myself tearing up quite a bit.

Benjamin Button was not an extraordinary man, and by no means did he change the world. He was simply a man born under unusual circumstances. I fell completely in love with this breathtaking story and hope you do as well.
“You never know what’s coming for you.”RATING: A

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Twilight review

By no means did Twilight make $70 million opening weekend because it was a good movie. The built-in fan base, consisting mainly of teenybopper girls is why it did so well. I’m a huge Twilight fan myself and was excited to see this amazing, love/vampire story come to life.
My expectations were pretty low from the beginning. The disappointment started when Robert Pattinson was clearly miscast as our gorgeous Edward Cullen. Alas, I was willing to give him a try. I had hoped he would translate better on the silver screen – which he did, but still not good enough. I’ll have you know, he was the least of my concerns regarding this film.

Further more I knew this movie would be a little cheesy. I mean let’s be honest, the books ARE a tad bit cheesy, ("His hair was dripping wet, disheveled ... his dazzling face was friendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips").
But the romance and chemistry between the main characters was extremely intoxicating in itself to forgo the cheesiness. So what went wrong? Why did this movie fall short?...

I blame Summit Entertainment for their lack of budget. I seriously do not understand how a book with such a massive, built-in fan base, was not offered a decent size budget? Did the studio not realize fans all over the world would see this movie again and again? (Well not now) It blows my mind! Twilight is a famously, low-budget production compared to most traditional blockbusters, but this is ridiculous. If Summit allotted more than a $37 million budget they could have turned this movie into what it deserved to be - *MAGICAL* After all the story was already there. All they needed was a good director. A GOOD director. (rolls eyes & sighs) Here we go…

Catherine Hardwick, director of Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, was all wrong for this movie. Her previous films were fine and great for what they were - small town, low budget, semi-fun movies. However, with Twilight I felt as if she was directing her first movie ever. Now if someone with ZERO movie experience, directed this movie I would have been impressed. Needless to say that wasn't the case. I simply expect basic, if not great, quality film making, even if it comes from a sophomore, semi-new Hollywood studio, like Summit.
I feel Hardwick was trying too hard to convey teenage angst between the main characters, which ultimately resulted in awkwardness and silliness. The main actors looked constipated and ridiculous throughout most of the movie. Never once did I feel the chemistry between Edward and Bella. Never once did I feel their strong connection for each other. Their romance was pretty much stripped from the movie. It made it impossible to get swept away in this forbidden, romantic adventure.

The not-so special effects, used to convey the vampires' superhuman strength, agility and resistance to gravity, were a joke. (The moment when Edward sparkled in the sunlight was extremely cheesy, as if Pattinson was given a bottle of glitter-glue and told to rub it all over himself). The editing and lighting, which was shot in moody, washed-out tones, was distractingly jumpy and amateur. And how weak was it when you could see Pattinson's contacts during his close ups?! Come on now. Needless to say the makeup looked cheap and fake. I read Hardwick wanted this movie to have a "rock-n-roll" feel to it, but COME ON! What’s with the cheesy, lame, 80's guitar background music?! I mean honestly. (pauses in shock to shake head). It was highly distracting and super annoying.

However the movie did have its redeeming qualities. The script held pretty true to the book. There were two or three scenes where Edward and Bella toned down the teenage angst/constipation and acted normal - that was a delight to see. I really liked the baseball scene. Thought it was done pretty well. I liked Alice's pitching style, and thought Jasper looked pretty cool when he was up to bat. Having MUSE play in the background during the scene certainly helped. Bella’s dad, Charlie, stole a few scenes with his dry humor and Bella’s classmates were fun to watch as well. Sadly, they were the only characters in the movie with personalities and sass.

I went in with low expectations and came out distraught. I can get behind the script being cheesy. I can even get behind the less than stellar acting performances, but what I can’t forgive is the awful directing and lack of quality this film carried out. The story felt rushed and the movie felt amateur at best. I was hoping the studio would get a better director for the sequel, but to no avail, my hopes were crushed when I heard all major actors AND director signed on for New Moon, slated for mid 2010.

RATING: F-



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