Song of the Sea (2014) Film Review

Song of the SeaSong of the Sea is an animated film directed by Tomm Moore, the director of The Secret of Kells.  I really need to get around to watching that movie after having watched Song of the Sea.  I was blown away by this movie.  One could say that my expectations were blown out of the water.  For a movie titled Song of the Sea, there really is not a lot of singing.  Instead, we are treated to a touching story that is made more emotional with a beautiful animation style that looks like a children’s book came to life.

At the start of the movie the protagonist appears to be a young boy named Ben who lives with his parents next to a lighthouse.  That is until his mother unexpectedly dies giving birth to his sister.  Time passes and his sister is seen celebrating her sixth birthday.  Ben’s sister, Saoirse (pronounced like Sir-cha) is mute.  Ben likes to rub it in her face that she is not normal.  He doesn’t seem too fond of her because he thinks she is responsible for the death of their mother.  His attitude towards his sister was understandable, but annoying.  Luckily his attitude changes and improves through the course of the movie.

One night, Saoirse puts on a white coat she finds in a closet and goes for a swim.  The coat looks like something Maggie Simpson would wear except with a hood.  This is a magical coat that turns her into a seal, at least while she is in the water anyways.  Night time swimming is viewed as irresponsible parenting by their visiting grandmother and the kids are taken away to go live with her in the city.

The rest of the movie is about the kids running away trying to figure out how to get back home.  The journey isn’t easy when it is discovered that Saoirse is a Selkie, a term straight out of Irish folklore.  Reality starts to become twisted with surreal surroundings that are just a pleasure to watch.

One thing that caught my attention in Song of the Sea that multiple times the movie pans to a shot with a door that has suggestive writing on it.  There are heavy Irish influences in this movie so I checked to see if the writing meant something else in Irish compared to English.  It more or less has the same implied meaning that one would think.  This was a little odd for a PG movie.

Keep out
Keep out

Song of the Sea did not see a wide theatrical release in the US.  This is unfortunate as it deserves to be seen.  The movie is available on Blu-ray, but is currently on the more expensive side of releases.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, put that membership to use and stream it.

The Kid (1921) Film Review

The KidThe Kid, the classic Charlie Chaplin film, not the Disney movie starring Bruce Willis or any of the other movies that share the same name.  It is a silent film that is primarily a comedy filled with slapstick humor, but there are some dramatic moments that make the film slightly darker than I expected it to be.

The movie starts off with a woman carrying a newborn baby.  Well, it’s implied that it is a newborn since she is walking out of a hospital with him, but the baby is huge.  I guess using a fake baby was out of the question.  The movie then pans to another scene where an artist is standing in front of a fireplace.  On top of the fireplace is a picture of the woman seen earlier.  The picture falls and the artist just tosses it into the fire.  It is harsh, but it is great way of letting the audience know that the woman is a single mother.

Much like the father wanting nothing to do with the mother, the mother wants nothing to do with the newborn.  She places the baby in a stranger’s car and walks away.  This is a shocking and irresponsible move.  If only there was some way to get rid of an unwanted baby.  The situation gets even worse when the car gets stolen by a pair of thieves.  The thieves notice the baby and just leave it in an alleyway to presumably let it die.  Then Charlie Chaplin’s character, the Tramp, appears and everything is hilarious.

The movie jumps ahead five years.  The kid becomes a pawn in a shady business scheme and breaks windows for a window repair business.  He seems too young to be working, but I guess cultural expectations back then were slightly different.  Also, life at home seems a bit rough.  The Tramp can barely support himself let alone a kid.

The majority of the scenes with the Tramp and the kid are played for laughs.  The movie also jumps away to scenes of the kid’s mother and how her life has turned out.  While the scenes with the mother are not funny, it adds an interesting dynamic to the story as we discover whether or not she regrets her decision to leave her child.

Ultimately, there are some heavy-handed themes that I just was not expecting from The Kid.  Although the film was released in 1921, the themes regarding being a single parent still make The Kid relevant in today’s society.  These themes along with the previously unheard-of blend of comedy and drama is probably why The Kid is considered one of the best silent films of all time.  Clocking in at a little over an hour, The Kid is an easy silent film to get through and is worth watching.

Palo Alto (2014) Film Review

Palo AltoIs Palo Alto basically the Nickelodeon equivalent of Spring Breakers?  Instead of James Franco and two ex-Disney Channel stars, we get James Franco and two ex-Nick stars.  Nat Wolff has really turned his career around.  His performance in Palo Alto almost made me forget that he starred in a television show that I despise.  Knowing how he got his start, I would like to think that Nat Wolff was not really acting and that his show left him this crazy.  Emma Roberts also gives a great, but not as crazy of a performance.

Palo Alto consists of a few different stories that are meant to somehow connect together.  The best of these stories involves James Franco and Emma Roberts.  James Franco plays a charismatic high school soccer coach who strikes up a relationship with Emma Roberts’ character, an underage high school student.  He may be a bit too charismatic as his character is not as creepy as it probably should be.

The other major plotline in Palo Alto involves two teenagers played by Nat Wolff and newcomer Jack Kilmer.  Their characters are probably best described as juvenile delinquents.  Both appear to be reckless, but one of the teenagers tries to turn his life around after getting into an accident while driving drunk.  This adds some depth to the characters and the story, but it seems like an excuse to introduce some odd but fantastically edited montages.  The editing in this film is great and is the highlight of Palo Alto.

Palo Alto is a decent movie that could have been better if the different stories did not feel so forcibly interwoven.

The Bling Ring (2013) Film Review

The Bling RingI like the premise of The Bling Ring more than I like the actual movie.  It is about a group of teenagers that break into the homes of a handful of celebrities.  It is actually based on true events which make the premise all the more interesting.  Unfortunately, the characters are insufferable to watch.  At least it has Emma Watson, so that must make it slightly better, right?  Not really.

The novelty of Emma Watson acting like the complete opposite of Hermione Granger wears of pretty quickly.  The novelty of watching people breaking into the homes of celebrities also wears off just as fast.  Outside of a few parties, most of the movie revolves around robberies.  This is probably for the best.

There are no forced romances or other plots to give the characters depth.  I am skeptical that the real-life counterparts of these characters had any sort of depth.  Everyone is shallow.  They have no real goals or ambitions, or any sort of discernable characteristics.

The Bling Ring just sort of goes on a loop of robberies until the last third of the film.  This is where the movie starts to get better and just comes to an end.  The movie makes an excellent point about how as a society we are generally more interested in news that brings misfortune into other people’s lives and how no one cares about people who do good deeds.  I did not need to watch a movie to figure that out, but watching the misfortune of others is the entire reason why I watched The Bling Ring.  This point changed my perspective of the movie.

There is not much to The Bling Ring and the characters are not likable, but this is what made me appreciate the movie by the end.  I was hoping for an elaborate story, but the truth was not interesting.  The movie tried to glamorize it, which frustrated me when I was watching it, but it feels like a joke now.  Maybe the lives of people who do terrible things are not worth watching and we should just move on.  Unless you really want to watch Emma Watson pull off an American accent, skip The Bling Ring and move on.

The Spectacular Now (2013) Film Review

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now is about the lives of two high school students preparing to graduate.  It addresses issues that most teenagers are probably thinking about.  What will bring them happiness?  Do you really need to be constantly thinking about the future?  What if things are fine just the way they are?  What if I don’t want to grow up and I just want to be a Toys R Us kid?  Well, teenagers are probably not thinking about that last question, but it sort of goes along with the theme of the movie.  Does a person need to change or can they just live in the moment, the “spectacular now”?

The film is fantastic because it does not try to hit viewers over the head with the answers to these questions.  The answers are hinted at throughout the movie as it explores the lives of the two teens portrayed by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.  The characters feel like real teenagers.  The acting is not over-the-top or overly dramatic.

Miles Teller’s character, Sutter has a drinking problem.  Some people around him notice, but his mother seems oblivious to it.  This just goes to show how bad his family life is.  The families of both characters are broken, but it is explored in such a natural way.  There is a huge amount of character development in The Spectacular Now that makes it interesting to watch.

The Spectacular Now kept me on the edge of my seat, not because of its gripping drama, but because of the number of driving scenes.  It just seems like driving scenes never end well in a drama.  I kept expecting something terrible to happen with all of the distracted and drunk driving.  Remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving.

Anyways, The Spectacular Now is a great film.  It is one that I wish I had watched sooner.  Also, is Shailene Woodley just destined to play a 16-year-old or a high school student?

Forrest Gump (1994) Film Review

Forrest GumpForrest Gump is as fantastic as everyone says it is.  It really is impressive that I find myself glued to the screen for two and a half hours and wish the movie just kept going.

Forrest Gump is a movie about a man who tells his life story to strangers at a bus stop.  No one asked for it, but it is a great story.  The film moves at a nice pace and ends at a good point.  This is not surprising at all considering that the film is directed by Robert Zemeckis.  Just look at Back to the Future, a movie in which not a moment is wasted.  Unlike Back to the Future, Forrest Gump never received a sequel, well at least not as a movie.

There is a novel named Gump & Co that serves as a sequel to the movie and the book it was based on.  I have not read it.  I have not read the first book either.  I heard Forrest becomes an astronaut.  I also heard that the books are much darker in tone than the film.  I am kind of afraid that the books are going to ruin my perception of Forrest.

Forrest Gump is a textbook example of an unreliable narrator and the movie is better for it.  It adds to the film’s charm.  Forrest is a simple man that does not know any better.  He continues to mow lawns even after striking it rich by investing in a “fruit company”.  This is his most believable moment in a long list of extremely impressive accomplishments.  I want to believe everything he says.  It just gives me hope about the future.  If he can do these things, so can anyone.  It makes me feel optimistic.

If there is anything that ruins the film’s optimism, it would be Forrest’s best friend, Jenny.  Jenny is a terrible person.  This is probably the direct result of her abusive childhood.  Maybe it also has something to do with her trustworthy advice of running away from everything.  I do not want to dwell on her character too much.  Jenny is frustrating, but she does not ruin the movie.

Forrest Gump is a must see film.  The story is fantastic.  The special effects are impressive.  The soundtrack is also a great starting point for anyone wanting to dive into 60s/70s music.  At the moment, Forrest Gump can be found on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.  There is no excuse not to watch it.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015) Film Review

Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 coverPaul Blart: Mall Cop is a decent movie.  It is certainly a movie that is better than the trailers and advertisement campaign made it out to be.  I have watched it more times than I would care to admit.  It does not need a sequel.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 raises the stakes and takes Paul Blart on an adventure in Las Vegas.  It is not the Ocean’s Eleven spoof that I thought it would be, however.

Instead of protecting money, Paul gets to protect pieces of art.  This is slightly better than it sounds.  I guess it does not really matter what a mall cop is guarding as the humor comes from the premise of a man taking a job that no one takes seriously, too seriously.  This type of humor is more unrealistic this time around.  Instead of seeing a man passionate about his job, we are shown an ensemble of equipment and weapons that have no practical use.  I suppose that is the joke, to further push along the notion that mall cops are useless.

In fact, the entire movie seems unrealistic.  The first movie was absurd, but it is entirely believable that thieves would try robbing a mall on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.  This time around, there are thieves that want art from a hotel.  Their motives are not really clear and their plan is sloppily constructed.  These thieves seem to get around the security sensors on art pieces by using what appear to be flash drives.  I would have thought security in Vegas is a bit more complicated than that.

Looking past how unrealistic Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 can get, the movie still has problems.  Paul Blart as a character is less likable and acts as a showoff throughout the entire movie.  The relationship with his daughter is a major plot point, but making it important does not make it any more interesting to watch.

There are still some laughs to be had with this movie.  A highlight of the movie is the inclusion of Vic Dibitetto, the guy from that popular “Bread and Milk” video that was popular on YouTube a few years ago.

The first movie is better.  If you liked the first movie, give Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 a watch.  If not, this movie will not change your mind about Paul Blart.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for a Cherry brand mechanical keyboard.  I thought I had just imagined seeing one, but the folks over at /r/MechanicalKeyboards confirmed it.

Cherry Keyboard
/r/MechanicalKeyboards sure knows a lot about keyboards.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) Film Review

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of WaterI was kind of worried about how good the new SpongeBob movie was going to be, not only because of the quality of recent episodes of the show, but also the lack of hype for it.  The hype surrounding the first SpongeBob movie ten years ago was huge.  Maybe it has something to do with the movie not being targeted to people my age.  I watched the movie during the third week of its release and was almost alone in the theater.  In fact, I would have been the only person there if people did not walk in during the previews.  I guess the hype for the movie is there as it has slaughtered the box office rankings, especially when comparing it to the first movie.

Empty Theater
So many seats to choose from.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water surpassed my expectations.  The commercials made it seem like most of the movie was going to be live action.  This was not the case.  Most of the movie, a little more than two-thirds of it, was done using traditional animation.  Some people might be upset about the commercials being misleading, but there are enough live action scenes that it does not feel like a case of false advertising.  If there had been any more live action scenes, the movie may have dragged on a bit.

I was entertained throughout the entire movie.  While I did not burst out laughing, I had a giant grin on my face.  There are some funny moments that SpongeBob fans will appreciate.  The thing that intrigued me the most while watching the new SpongeBob movie is how weird it is.  It almost reaches Ren and Stimpy levels of weirdness.  There are trippy time travel sequences and a talking dolphin that controls time and space.  Not to mention that as the trailers reveal, SpongeBob and his friends somehow make their way onto land and transformer into superheroes.

The 3D models in the live action scenes look fine.  If they could use those models in a SpongeBob game, that would be great.  There is just something that looks off about the characters in SpongeBob games.  The games are mostly mediocre cash-ins anyways, so first they would actually need to try to make a decent game.  The live action scenes are probably the weakest part of movie.  They are not bad.  It is just that seeing SpongeBob characters out of water has already been done.  The first movie did it and it had David Hasslehoff.

The animation in the 2D scenes is great.  It is crisp and clean.  It is also refreshing seeing 2D animation on the big screen.  The animation style is not a departure from what people used to.  The style is a mixture of the TV show and the first movie.   That is fine.  There is no need to change things up like in the Rugrats movies which had a much darker color scheme than the show.

I am looking forward to the Blu-ray release of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.  I want to see how well it holds up to multiple viewings.  Will it stand the test of the time like the first movie, which seems to have only gotten better as time passes?  I have a strong feeling that it will.

Please Subscribe (2013) Film Review

Please SubscribeA documentary about the lives of YouTube celebrities sure sounds like it could be interesting.  I ended up losing interest about halfway through.  It tried several times to answer one question, why are these videos popular?  In the end there really is not a concrete reason.  Each “famous” YouTuber interviewed had no idea how their videos got so popular.  I use the term famous loosely as there was only one person that I recognized throughout the entire documentary, Dan Brown, the guy who did that great video on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  I guess it shows how much variety there is on YouTube.  When I think of top YouTube personalities, they are all gaming related.

This is how I learned to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

I can’t help but feel that this documentary would have been more interesting if it used people that I recognize, but that is a narrow-minded outlook.  The main issue that I have is that most of the YouTubers were vloggers.  I do not have a problem with vlogs, but it is just that vlogs by nature are already exploring behind the scenes of a person’s life so it seems redundant to spend time exploring the making of one.   I think it would be interesting however, to watch a YouTuber make a documentary using footage from his or her vlogs.

There is a false ending that feels out of place.  The credits roll and another ten minute interview takes place, followed by more credits.   Did the director forget about the interview and shove it in at the last minute?   Maybe it was done for comedic effect.  The final interview was interesting and should have been placed earlier in the documentary, certainly before the credit roll.

Please Subscribe is repetitive.  The time spent watching it is better spent on YouTube looking for new channels to subscribe to.  If you are interested in seeing a great behind the scenes/making of video, James Rolfe has a great video of how he makes an Angry Video Game Nerd episode.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Film Review

Spider-Man films need to stop being so ambitious. Was it really necessary to include three villains in The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Was nothing learned from Spider-Man 3? There is no point in having three villains if they are not all fleshed out. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just does not know where to stop. Had the film been shorter and placed all of its focus on Electro, it would have been fantastic and better than the first Amazing Spider-Man which I enjoyed watching. Unfortunately, the plot is a mess and the pacing is all over the place making The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a disappointing sequel. It is nowhere near as bad or disappointing as Spider-Man 3, however.

Electro’s design is great and really gives the impression that electricity is flowing through his body. I hope that Michael Bay uses Electro’s design for his upcoming Smurfs reboot. Any time that Electro manipulates electricity, the soundtrack is altered and becomes a mesh of dubstep inspired noises. The sound effects help to show how unstable Electro’s emotions are as most of the time he is just releasing raw anger. It is not until Electro confronts Spider-Man, which happens to be the only thing in his life that he wants, that the dubstep noises resemble any form of actual music. The movie does a nice job establishing Electro’s/Max Dillon’s motives. He is tired of being ignored and just wants to be noticed. It is simple, but it works.

Harry Osborn is introduced and is one of the movie’s strongest characters. He just gives off a creepy vibe whenever he appears on the screen and it is interesting watching Harry and Peter’s relationship unfold. Harry develops some sort of undefined illness and believes that the only way he can survive is to get Spider-Man’s blood. Unable to get the blood himself, Harry turns to Electro for help. The development of Harry and Electro’s partnership is rushed and Harry’s transformation to the Green Goblin is even worse. The Green Goblin barely gets any screen time. I am pretty sure that Venom in Spider-Man 3 had more screen time and that is saying something because he was barely in it.

If Green Goblin’s screen time was not bad enough, the Rhino appears on the screen for an even shorter amount of time. Immediately after the opening credits, there is a scene where Spider-Man tries to stop Aleksei Sytsevich from stealing a truck. It is a pretty exciting scene that is only enhanced by crazy camera angles and Spider-Man’s sarcasm. Spider-Man catches Sytsevich and is never seen or mentioned again until the end of the movie where he briefly appears in the Rhino armor.

While Rhino’s appearance does generate hype for the planned Sinister Six movie, Sony should have taken the Marvel approach and included him in the scene after the credits. What is weird is that there is a scene midway through the credits to spark interest not in the next Spider-Man movie, but for X-Men: Days of Futures Past. It just feels really out of place and bizarre considering that the film is being released in less than 30 days. Speaking of things that feel out of place, product placement has been improved and limited to just Sony laptops. There are no more awkward scenes with Peter Parker using Bing. He now uses Google like a sane person and uses professional strategies to get the information he is looking for.

Another thing that I find weird about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the airplanes. There are two scenes that involve airplanes. The first involves a hijacked plane that is on fire and about to tear apart into multiple pieces. Even as this is happening, the plane’s Internet connection is still working. I wish I had an Internet connection that stable. The second scene involves two planes. During this scene, the power of New York is out resulting in radio communications not properly working. One plane detects that there is an estimated four minutes until a collision with the other. Instead of moving out of the way, the pilot asks a flight attendant to start a timer and see what happens. With mere seconds until impact radio communications are restored and the pilot gets orders on how to handle the situation, move out of the way. What an idea.

Andrew Garfield once again does an amazing job of portraying Peter Parker and Spider-Man. His performance is funny, energetic and sincere. When Peter Parker is not fighting crime, he is either trying to find out what happened to his parents or gawking over Gwen Stacy. It is understandable that Peter Parker would want to know why his parents left him and the movie delivers a reason. Whether or not it adds anything significant to the overall story is debatable as it mostly reveals that OsCorp is *gasp* evil. As for Gwen Stacy, some of the scenes involving her are emotionally moving and watching Peter and Gwen’s on-again/off-again relationship is more interesting than Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship ever was in the Sam Raimi trilogy.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 might be the most blatant case of false advertising since The NeverEnding Story. Despite what the posters and news articles say, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does not have three villains. The Green Goblin and Rhino are barely in it. Anyone that plans on watching the movie to see them will be extremely disappointed. While most of the film is very enjoyable, the unequal screen time that the villains get makes it hard to recommend. If you just want to watch more web-slinging, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets the job done.