Friday, 11 January 2013

A Trailer that Dwarfs All Others - "The Hobbit" Trailer Mini-Review #5

     It takes great skill for a trailer to be as good, or better, than a lot of movies.  The Hobbit trailer succeeds at doing this.  I could literally watch the trailer over and over and it would keep getting better!  Although only two and a half minutes in length, this trailer is packed full of amazing scenery, fantastic characters and breathtaking songs.  First things first: the visuals.  Peter Jackson, the director of the film, creates the perfect setting for each scene.  The wonderfully green, peaceful Shire that’s the picture of safety to the elegant surroundings in Rivendell - each new place shown has its own character.  Through this, Jackson manages to tell a lot of the movie in 2½ minutes through quick shots of the settings. 

The characters really blew me away too.  I’m really impressed by Jackson’s ability to make each dwarf their own person!  Unlike the animated Hobbit movie, each dwarf looks different, and seems to have a unique personality. 

The dwarves in the animated Hobbit (seen above) were
 created as pairs that looked exactly the same.  In this
trailer, each dwarf has his own look and personality (on right).

The character of Bilbo is also amazingly done.  Although it is a different actor than the original in The Lord of the Rings, Martin Freeman portrays Bilbo Baggins in the exact same way.  It’s scary how similar they are!  The manner in which he sits smoking his pipe encompasses Bilbo’s stubborn, “respectable” personality.  Finally, the musical score was astounding.  Composed by Howard Shore, the music keeps you captivated throughout the entire trailer, perfectly reflecting the action on screen.  He immediately brings in the audience as a version of “Concerning Hobbits” begins to play, making any LoTR fans feel nostalgic.  It goes on to an incredible performance of “The Lonely Mountain” which gives me chills every time I hear it.  It’s so mysterious and magical, it instantly puts you into Middle Earth with the characters.  Although this is just a trailer, it is just as good as a movie.  Everything about it is absolutely perfect.  The Hobbit trailer receives a 10 out of 10!

The Cutting Edge of Film - "Edward Scissorhands" Mini-Review #4

     Costumes!  Acting!  Musical Score!  Edward Scissorhands has everything a movie could ask for.  By far, the costumes were the best part of the movie.  Edward’s menacing scissor-hands, his scars and wild hair and super pale complexion were magnificent.  Everything came together to create a very unique character that managed to be creepy but adorable at the same time.  The other costumes, though not so abnormal, were very well done as well.  They may be “normal” people but the neighbourhood is filled with bright colours and interesting hairstyles.  They even had their own colour scheme,
 seen in the picture on the left.  Their bright colours were used very effectively to contrast with the plain, dark colours of Edward to visually demonstrate the gap between them.  Another thing that was very impressive was the awesome acting!  It’s to be expected from such a well known actor as Johnny Depp (The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean and Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  He perfectly portrayed the kind and innocent Edward as he strives to find his place in society.  A scene that stood out the most was when Edward is first introduced.  Depp looks so scared and lost, you can’t help but feel bad for him!  This was a critical scene for good acting because if he didn’t seem so innocent and scared, the audience would have thought it was a horror movie.  Dianne Wiest (Peg) was also an amazing actress.  I’ve never seen her in a film before but she played her character very, very well.  She was kind and protective like any real mother would be. 
You can tell without even watching the movie that she's an Avon lady by the way she smiles and holds her hand!

Along with the acting, the musical score, by Danny Elfman, was brilliant.  He put together a theme that you could always associate with the film, similar to how “Hedwig’s Theme” will always bring Harry Potter to mind and “The Imperial March” is recognized everywhere from Star Wars. 

The theme so well encompasses the character of Edward and everything he goes through that it makes me sad just to listen to it!  The other songs are so wonderful as well but the main theme definitely comes first.  The amazing costumes, actors and soundtrack are all really impressive. This film is certainly worth seeing, it gets a 9 out of 10.

A Doggone Good Movie! - "Frankenweenie" Mini-Review #3

     Frankenweenie, created by Tim Burton, was a thoroughly enjoyable movie!  The sets were unrealistic but fitting, the use of shots was fantastic and the plot was well put together.  It is unbelievable that this was one of Burton’s first films.  In his style, this movie had very strange sets.  It’s hard to describe them; they look kind of like pictures in a pop-up book.    A good example of this is during the graveyard scene.  The silhouetted hills in the background look like cardboard cut-outs pasted in the back.  This style really works for this film so I really liked it.  Another great thing about this movie is the different camera shots.  Point of view, close-ups on expressions and beautiful establishing shots were all used very effectively in Frankenweenie.  One shot that stuck out for me the most was when Sparky (the dog) was hit by the car.  Right before he’s killed, you see through Sparky’s eyes as the car comes right at you.  It makes it a bit scarier to have a car drive right at you!  This shot makes you feel bad for Sparky too because it allows you to imagine how horrible it would be to have a car come at you like that. 
It's like "The Train Pulling Into the Station" but scarier!
Furthermore, this movie had a wonderful moral message.  Sparky’s acceptance into society at the end shows that it’s what is on the inside, not outside, that counts and that being strange does not make you bad.  Movies like Edward Scissorhands and The Hunchback of Notre Dame have similar morals.  This is a feel good movie that can appeal to anybody.  It has some humour, horror, science-fiction, action and even romance!  Not only is it appealing to everyone but it is a very “feel-good” movie.  In a world where so many bad things happen, we need movies like this to cheer us up.  It may not be a masterpiece like Avatar but Frankenweenie is a wonderful movie, I recommend it to anyone!  This delightful film deserves an 8 out of 10. 

As Ugly and Disturbing as it is Interesting - "Batman: Black and White: An Innocent Guy" Mini-Review #2

  I did not expect to like “Batman: Black and White”.  As a comic book, the art is too solid, the people are too realistic and the facial expressions are just unsettling.  This art style was very noticeable in Batman: Black and White and it distracted me throughout the whole thing.  A comic book is normally fictional so I believe the people should look fictional too!  The artist has the opportunity to make people look better than they do in real life.  Some comic books, like this one, don’t take this opportunity for improvement and that’s what bothers me.  A good example of art is in “Death Note”, a Japanese comic book drawn by Takeshi Obata.  Although it’s a more realistic style, the artist uses less facial lines to make them smoother looking and not so scary.  I just can’t see enjoying something with such distressing facial expressions. 
Both drawings of people dying, but which would you rather look at?  Personally, I'd rather not have to nightmares for the rest of my life, so I pick number 1!
Other than the art though, I enjoyed it.  Each shot was different and taken from different angles to show who was powerful, who was weak and to best display the characters’ emotions.  The picture of Batman gliding through the air was very effective; I really got the sense of power that he holds. 
Put on your 3D glasses, this cool shot is even in 3D now!
This shot also effectively used the lighting to put his face in shadow, creating a mysterious air around him.  Another good shot was the medium close-up of the “innocent” guy when he’s talking about the problems with the world.  You can really tell he is passionate (a little too passionate if you ask me) about what he believes.  The plain black background was also done well so the reader is forced to focus on his emotion.  What I really liked about this comic was the way it made you think.  It brings up issues of good versus evil that makes the reader rethink what they know about society.  Is everything really black and white, or are people only good because they are afraid of being caught if they’re bad?  Are all people actually evil inside?  Is there such thing as evil then?  Unlike a lot of media today that people watch or read that kills brain cells ( like songs titled "In Da Club"), this is a good piece of literature!  I believe this ability to force readers into thinking deeper is what makes a good story, whether it’s a book, song, film, manga, TV show, etcetera.  Overall, “Batman: Black and White” was okay.  Although the shots were good and the plot was awesome, I really couldn’t look past the artwork.  I give this a 4 out of 10.

"50 Cent? I wouldn't pay 2 cents to listen to this!" - In Da Club Mini Review #1

     This song, if that is what people call it, is probably the single worst song/music video I’ve ever come in contact with.  The lyrics are annoying, 50 cent is extremely conceited and the entire piece of music is completely offensive.  To begin with, the lyrics are lacking.  They have no connection to the storyline (he’s created as a super-rapper or something) and focus on himself.  Nobody else could pull off singing an entire song about how cool he is, but that may be because nobody can actually understand what he’s saying.  Or maybe it’s because people get distracted by the nearly clothe-less women?  He seriously sings about “ladies saying ‘50 you hot’”, and “My crib, my cars, my pools, my jewels”.  Lyrics like these fit my next point: his narcissistic personality.  The video consists of him showing off his abs.  I don’t care how muscle-y you are, I don’t need to see a slow motion shot of your abs moving as you run. 
If this photo doesn't prove how narcissistic he is, nothing will.

Another thing is that he focuses on is how many girls love him.  His “appeal” is apparently very strong, or according to him it is.  Every girl in that club is all over him!  I wish it was just his vanity that made this song bad though.  The worst part (and the biggest problem) is the vulgarity of the song.  The lyrics talk about drinking (“You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub”), taking drugs (“roll that weed up”) and having sex (“I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love”).  I’m embarrassed that I ever listened to such a rude song!  He shows terrible morals by making these things sound cool; this is why others think doing drugs is okay!  The video isn’t any better than the lyrics.  The women - who act as attractive objects instead of real people - just sit there or walk across the screen looking pretty in barely any clothing.  They are there for the men’s entertainment and nothing else. 
I never needed to see this!  Is it really necessary to show so many trampy girls in one video?

It really disgusts me that anyone would make a music video/song like this.  The video is sickening, the artist is egotistical and the lyrics are scarring.  Maybe it is partially because I dislike rap so much but “In Da Club”, in my opinion, gets a 0 out of 10.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Citizen Kane: The Grandfather of Modern Film

     Citizen Kane, also known as 'The Greatest Movie of All Time', may have been the greatest back in 1941, but it has been far surpassed nowadays by films like Avatar because we obviously have better technology now.  For a movie made over 7 decades ago though, it is absolutely fantastic.  It set guidelines for future movies; you could say it was the grandfather of our films today.  The acting, musical score and technological aspects were the best parts.  They came together to create a thoroughly enjoyable and technologically unique film. 
     To begin with, the acting of Orson Welles (Charles Foster Kane) pretty much made the movie.  In the scene where he confronts James W. Gettys and starts screaming down the stairs at him was so real sounding, you couldn't distinguish between the actor and Kane himself!  It was also pretty scary, he seemed genuinely mad in this scene.  This film succeeded in creating such a realistic feel (as it should, considering that it is based off a real man's life) because of the amazing cast, particularly Welles.  For those who oppose this idea, compare it to the acting of today.  Nobody can rightly say that the amazing acting of Welles is worse than modern actors like Kristen Stewart. 
This a perfect example of what the acting of Citizen Kane is NOT like.

     Along with the acting, the musical score of Citizen Kane (by Bernard Hermann) was used very effectively in creating the mood of the movie.  Starting right from the first shot of the film until the ending credits, this movie was filled to the brim with gripping tracks that reflected exactly as Kane was feeling at the time.  A scene that stood out for me was the very first one, which featured a sinister and mysterious track to set the mood of Kane's death.  It caught the audiences attention right from the onset and managed to make a bunch of black and white shots of old buildings look truly menacing.  Overall, I would say Hermann deserves to be up there with some of the greatest composers like John Williams (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Star Wars) and Alan Silvestri (The Avengers, Polar Express, Back to the Future, Forrest Gump).  In fact, it is said that Orson Welles believed half the success of Citizen Kane came from the music.

     The most amazing part of this movie was the technological aspect of the film.  This amazed me, considering how old the movie is.  Effects like going through the sign to zoom in on Susan Alexander's interview or using a special camera to keep in focus the entire scene are the things that make this movie so good.  Most people would never even notice the trick behind going through the sign (I certainly didn't!).  The special camera was the best idea by far though.  By showing the Kane's mother and Thatcher on one level, Kane's father on another and then Kane himself out the window, it added meaning to an otherwise dialogue-filled, tedious scene.  The fact that a special camera was created just for this movie is amazing and proves how dedicated Orson Welles was to making the film fantastic.
     Citizen Kane, although very old, managed to impress me more than a lot of movies today.  Maybe it isn't the greatest film now, what with all the new technology we have today, but it set high standards for future movies to overcome.  This film changed the way people thought about movies and helped to shape the way movies are made today.  The acting, music and technology were all fantastic.  I would give Citizen Kane a 90 out of 100.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful

Music Video Critique

One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful

     The music video “What Makes You Beautiful” by Britishboy band One Direction is not an accurate portrayal of reality, although they try to show it as real.  There aren’t dancing woodland creatures, like in Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” or creepy automatons singing (“Turn Me On” featuring Nicki Minaj), but the
lifestyle shown by One Direction is not realistic.  In what world would five guys go to a beach and sing about a girl being beautiful?  None.  On the other hand, this video does perfectly depict what many teenage girls want to believe could actually happen.  In the words of a talented blogger (and devoted One Direction fan), their songs are, “full of a teen girl’s every wish – songs about how wonderful you are, how perfect you are, and how much foreign men in colourful skinny jeans love you. Who wouldn’t want to listen to that?” (Proctor, 2012).  While this reality does not exist, it is created in the video to target an audience of giddy teenage girls.
     “What Makes You Beautiful” demonstrates the classic codes and conventions of a boy band and a pop music video.  The five band members (Harry, Louis, Niall, Liam and Zayn) are all in casual clothes, singing on a beach.  Like many boy band music videos, they are just hanging out having a good time.  Right from the beginning you notice the stereotypical personalities of each member.  Liam is clearly the leader, while Louis is the clown; Zayn is quiet and mysterious; Harry, charming and Niall sweet and carefree.  Also, the fact that they are walking on a beach is a convention of a pop music video.  These kinds of bands seem to always be singing on beautiful beaches or near some other scenic view.  Other codes and conventions of boy bands shown are slow motion, singing in harmony together, catchy, repetitive lyrics, and most of all, the engaging arm movements that reach out and try to pull you into their world.

     The creed, or value, exhibited in this music video is that you shouldn’t try to change your appearance because it’s important to be yourself.  At the beginning, Liam sings about how you, “don't need make up to cover up, being the way that you are is enough.”  It is wonderful to find a popular song with any good values in it.  This is a rare message for modern pop culture to express as most media today centers around trying to be perfect (thin, pretty, popular, etc…).  Another creed is revealed when they sing, “You don’t know you’re beautiful.  That’s what makes you beautiful.”  These lyrics mean that it’s more attractive to be humble or modest instead of flaunting your good looks.  The creeds in “What Makes You Beautiful” are honourable, especially compared to other music videos (Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” for example) of today’s pop culture.  There are only really two groups of significance in One Direction’s video: males and females.  Both are portrayed as “popular”, positive, stylish and they are always smiling.  These groups are depicted in this manner because the audience (teenage girls) wishes their lives could be this way.

     This song, and One Direction in general, are targeted towards teen girls, and therefore that is who this video appeals to.  It is unlikely that many guys would listen to this song or enjoy the video.  In fact, boy bands are usually created and marketed to girls (eg. N’Sync, Back Street Boys, even the Beatles).  The simple, sweet lyrics, extremely catchy tune and stylish outfits catch the attention of teen girls.  This is really effective for selling the song because the one-dimensional feel to the video perfectly suits the preferences of a lot of girls.  In this way, the video and song match completely as neither of them are very deep or make you think.

“What Makes You Beautiful” is a typical boy band song. It’s completely innocent and the lyrics are repetitive and catchy.  In a year, it probably won’t be distinguishable from countless other boy bands that are past their 15 minutes of fame.  Anybody remember the Jonas Brothers?  Then again, don’t we need music like this?  You can listen to this song over and over again and it just gets better.  In this era of music videos featuring whipped cream bras, crazy parties and skimpy clothing, a song such as this is needed to even it all out.  Overall, I would definitely say this is a good music video, and so would the millions of 1D fan girls out there.