Movie Review: Mulan (1998)

Confession time: I have never actually watched this movie before. I know dishonor on me, dishonor on my cow, blah blah blah. But I then thought that since Disney recently released their live action remake, I might actually give this animated version a go (finally). So let’s get down to business.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mulan”.

Fearing that her father might die if he goes to war, young Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) steals his gear and pretends to be a man so she can take his place in the army. We all know the basic setup at this point, even if you haven’t seen this movie. And the way it’s handled here I quite enjoyed. It’s not without fault however. There are parts of the story that I feel they glossed over a bit, kinda rushing through some aspects in an effort to get to the “good stuff”. That’s not to say that the story here is bad, it’s still a fun family adventure without a good message at its core. I just wish it maybe slowed down a little more to let certain moments simmer more. But as it stands, the story and the way it’s told is still quite entertaining.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, fun, and surprisingly nuanced at times. First up is Mulan, title character and very relatable person. While the people around her want her to be a fancy girly-girl to honor her family, even though she’s not like that at all. And to see her development in the movie from somewhat clumsy and insecure to someone a bit more tough and confident, that’s engaging. And Ming-Na Wen does an excellent job voicing Mulan. Next we have Mushu, a guardian dragon who sets out to help Mulan become a hero… even if he’s only doing it for his own gain. He’s mostly there to bring laughs, but I think the filmmakers found a good balance in that and making him a valuable part of certain emotional developments. And while it might seem slightly jarring to put Eddie Murphy in a role like that at first, I must say that he was great in the role. Then you also get supporting work from people like B.D. Wong, James Hong, Harvey Fierstein, Soon-Tek Oh, Miguel Ferrer, Pat Morita, Frank Welker, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music of this film is quite good. The main score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and it’s an absolute treat for the ears, creating a lot of emotion through the various tracks, giving us a some great background ambiance. Then you have the songs (’cause you know, Disney) that were done by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel. While I don’t think that all of them are among the upper echelon of Disney musical songs, they still generally work pretty well for the movie. The peak of the tracks is of course “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (sung by Donny Osmond), a most excellent montage song. So yeah, overall this movie has good music.

Based on a Chinese folk legend, “Mulan” was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook (with writing credits given to a shitload of people, good grief). And I must say that the craft on display here is absolutely superb. The art style for example takes inspiration from traditional Chinese artwork, and blending it with traditional Disney animation to create an absolutely stunning look for this movie that feels wholly its own. The animation is especially breathtaking in motion, where it shows great fluency that is a treat for the eyes.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

While its storytelling isn’t the best, due to its fast pace, “Mulan” is still another winning movie within the Disney catalogue. It has a good story, good characters, really good music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mulan” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Mulan” is now completed.

Sometimes you just a need a film that can make you smile. This one did that for me.

Movie Review: The Last Castle (2001)

I don’t have much to say here. Not because the movie flabbergasted me or broke my soul in two. I just don’t have anything clever to say. So I guess we should just get into the review.

Ladies and gents… “The Last Castle”.

Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford) is an army general who has been court-martialed and sent to a military prison. But it doesn’t take long for him to notice how corrupt the entire place is. So he decides to rally the other inmates to rise up against the prison and its crooked warden (James Gandolfini). I like stories of revolutions. And setting one of those within a corrupt prison is an idea that I find pretty fucking clever. However, they only do the bare minimum with that idea, going for surface level ideas instead of giving us the kind of nuanced story one could expect from this kind of idea. That said, it’s not bad. Surface level isn’t exactly what I’d call a bad thing here. The story does entertain throughout the two hour runtime. I just wish it had a little bit more nuance to it.

The characters in this are… fine. Often they boil down to stereotypes we’ve seen before. Asshole, big dude, young/underestimated guy, etcetera. Robert Redford plays General Eugene Irwin, the highly regarded army man at the center of the story. He’s a good man, never bent, always doing what’s best for him and his men. He may not be the deepest character ever, but Redford’s performance really makes it feel a bit deeper than the writing would have you believe. James Gandolfini plays Winter, the colonel who’s in charge of the prison. He seems a half decent fellow at first glance, but it doesn’t take long for his crookedness to be clear. He’s a decent matchup for Irwin, and Gandolfini is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Mark Ruffalo, Clifton Collins Jr, Delroy Lindo, Steve Burton, Brian Goodman, Michael Irby, Robin Wright, and more, all doing well in their respective roles.

The music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and it was good. Plenty of military-style trumpets, some emotional strings, and some heavy and dramatic percussion. It is a little bit generic at times, but overall it’s well composed and works quite well for the movie. There’s also one or two licensed tracks used in the movie, and that works pretty well too.

The movie was directed by Rod Lurie, who I think did a pretty good job here. There’s a surprising amount of fun camerawork throughout, and he does have a decent sense of dramatic flair. Whenever the writing is a little bland and uninspired, his direction sort of helps out in making it a bit more interesting.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 52% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 43/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,9/10.

While not a perfect movie, “The Last Castle” is still a pretty entertaining prison drama. It has an okay plot, meh characters, really good performances, really good music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Last Castle” is a 7,23/10. So while flawed, I’d say it’s still worth renting.

My review of “The Last Castle” is now completed.

Do you think Ruffalo played a former pilot because helicopter blades go “Ruffa ruffa ruffa ruffa”?

Movie Review: Chinatown (1974)

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She shivers like the last leaf on a dying tree. I let her hear my footsteps. She only goes stiff for a moment. Oh wait… wrong noir movie.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Chinatown”.

J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private investigator specializing in adultery cases. So when he is hired by a woman to try to expose her husband, Gittes accidentally gets pulled into a complicated plot filled with corruption, murder, water and deception. And I have to say that I was genuinely invested in the plot. It has a great mystery to it with plenty of really good twists. So the overall story I would say is really good. However I do think that the pacing is a little slow at times, so I feel like I can’t appreciate the story as much as I should. Don’t get me wrong, I still really liked the plot and thought it was interesting, but since it felt a slow at times it maybe didn’t execute the plot perfectly.

The characters in this movie are multi-layered, colorful and interesting and it helps that we got some really good actors. I mean, Jack Nicholson… great as always, no questions asked. Faye Dunaway was also really good in the movie. John Huston also did a great job playing one of the more interesting characters, at least in the long run. I know that statement doesn’t make sense unless you’ve seen the movie, but trust me I do know what I am saying (I think). To be honest, I thought everyone did a great job in the movie, even director Roman Polanski who makes a cameo in the movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Jerry Goldsmith and I must say that I think he did a great job. The score is very moody and noir-y and almost a bit eery, kind of like the score to “Taxi Driver”. Sure, there is only about 31 minutes worth of music in this score, but those are some damn good 31 minutes.

Like I kind of stated earlier in the review, the movie was directed by Roman Polanski and he did a great job. The camera is very steady, even when there is a lot of movement going on. The camera movement is smooth and just gives the movie a great mood. Also, that nose-cutting scene… how the hell did they do that? That shit is just impressive. The movie is also pretty suspenseful at times, giving it a little bit of a haunting feel to it.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 86/100. Roger Ebert gave the movie 4/4 stars and added it to his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,3/10 and is ranked #122 on the “Top 250 list”. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best Original Screenplay. It was also nominated for an additional 10 (Holy shit) Oscars in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best set decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Original Score.

“Chinatown” has a lot going for it. An interesting plot, great acting, great music and great directing. However it is brought down a little bit by some slow scenes. Time for my final score. *Cough*. My final score for “Chinatown” is a 9,21/10. It’s worth buying.
Worth buying

“Chinatown” is finally reviewed.

Are you alone?
Aren’t we all?

 

 

Movie Review: Alien (1979)

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As October is coming to a close, so does “The Month of Spooks”. That’s right, this will be the final review for “The Month of Spooks” and that is why I started it in such a cliché way. And I thought therefore that the final review would be for one of the first horror movies I ever saw and hell, it’s even one of the first that I ever enjoyed. But do I still like it after a few years of not seeing it. So we are ending the series of horror reviews in a pretty big way.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big hand to… “Alien”.

So in the movie “Alien” we follow the crew of a giant cargo ship called the Nostromo as they receive a distress call from a seemingly unexplored planet. But after their search for survivors come up with jack shit… sort of. When they return to the ship and plan to leave they learn that some strange biological life form has come aboard and wants to murder them all. So it’s a fight for survival as they try to get home and make sure to not be killed by this Alien. The concept is pretty simple, it’s kind of like “Jaws” but with a scary fucking space alien in a close quarters environment instead of a shark in the ocean. And how is it executed? Saying that it was done well would such an understatement. The story not only is presented in a well told way, but is is also suspenseful and scary. The reason this all works so well is that they keep it very confined and doesn’t stretch it out too far into something that it isn’t. I also like how it explores a very realistic science fiction universe. And the entire way the suspense is real and the scary bits are least said terrifying. Great job, plot of “Alien”!

Since this basically is a monster movie, you expect that the majority of the characters will die at some point. The interesting part is though that you don’t want them to bite the dust in this movie. Yeah, these characters aren’t just tasty snacks for the alien in the movie, but they all feel like actual people who you care about, even if they at times are dicks. And the acting is really good in the movie, and it’s great to see that there are so many well known actors here. Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt… we got a great selection of people here. And they all perfectly nail it in the movie!

The score for the movie is about as tense as the story. Yes, I think it’s pretty damn great. It got a lot of subtle tracks which sort of just lie in the background as ambient noise, but then we also got a lot of the tense and action-y tracks which made my heart race. And who do we have to thank for all of this? The combined forces of Jerry Goldsmith and Lionel Newman, that’s who!

This movie is almost 40 years old and the visual effects still hold up brilliantly. And the overall directing is pretty damn fantastic as well, all perfectly orchestrated by Ridley Scott who despite some failures, is one of the greatest directors ever. And of course we have to give some awkward and creeped out love to H.R. Giger who designed the alien in the movie, it is scary and will live on forever as one of the coolest monsters ever. And the sets all look fantastic and oh my god, everything in the technical department is just amazing in this movie! I’m sorry, I can’t help but praise the praise-worthy stuff in this movie, it’s just great in that sense.

This movie has gotten some pretty great reception over the years. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and has it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,5/10 and is ranked #52 on the “Top 250” list. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for 1 additional Oscar in the category of Best set decoration. 

Guys, “Alien” is one of the first horror movies I remember seeing and actually enjoying. And that memory is now justified with a tense, scary, well acted, perfectly directed movie that also has great sets, visual effects and music. Time for my final score. *Hiss*. My final score for “Alien” is a 9,88/10. It most certainly, without a single doubt gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

“Alien” has now been reviewed.

In Space, no one can hear you scream…

Movie Review: Gremlins (1984)

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I bet you all have experienced the situation of a family member/friend talking about a certain movie, often counted as a classic, that they love but you haven’t seen an therefore they bombard you with comments like “What the hell, man!? How can you not have seen *Insert title here*!?”. This has happened me a few times. One of the times was the pretty awesome “Blues Brothers” which I reviewed a while back. And as you may have expected, this is another one of those movies someone loved and told me I should watch it.

Boys and girls… “Gremlins”.

In this movie we meet young man Billy (Zach Galligan). He has a fairly normal life, living with his mom (Frances Lee McCain) and his inventor dad (Hoyt Axton, R.I.P). One day around christmas Billy’s dad brings home a box containing a creature he claims to be Billy’s new pet. At first it seems fine, a cute and fuzzy little creature they call Gizmo. Sure, there is the hassle of a few pesky rules, three to be exact; Don’t expose him to bright lights, don’t let him touch water and absolutely never feed him after midnight. And as you may expect, Billy accidentally breaks these rules and he has to take care of the strange creatures coming from that. And with that silly shit out of the way, this plot was pretty great. It is a simple concept that only need to bring an entertaining and funny plot. And did “Gremlins” deliver on that? Uh, yeah… pretty fucking well! Seeing these creatures wreak havoc and how Billy tries to fix everything is both fun and interesting.

The characters are pretty good in the movie. Zach Galligan as Billy is charming enough. He is a regular, slightly clumsy yet charming man-child. His parents are pretty good too, especially his dad played by Hoyt Axton who tries like I said is an inventor (Sidenote: Not the best inventor though). Also, simply because this is a 1980’s movie, Corey Feldman is in it for some reason. But we are not here to talk about the humans, but rather the Gremlins (roll credits) themselves. First off we have Gizmo who is the cute and fluffy guy who follows Billy throughout the movie and helps him. The next one we can actually identify is Stripe who is one of the biggest badasses in movie history. I mean, he is a mischievous Gremlin… WITH A MOHAWK! And even though we can’t really identify any other Gremlins by name, I can still say that they all are entertaining as hell. They are always up to something fun and silly.

The score for the movie was done by Jerry Goldsmith who I think did an excellent job. It was created to convey, and I quote “the mischievous humor and mounting suspense of Gremlins”. I would say that it kind of sounds like John Williams could have made it, but he didn’t and I don’t care because this was still great.

Seeing as this movie is a comedy, were the jokes funny? Yes, I think they were, especially when the Gremlins really become, well… Gremlins. They really show off the WORST of humanity when they turn and that make for some of the most hilarious parts of this movie. Let’s just put it like this: the scene in the bar is by far my favorite scene in the movie, it is pure hilarity. And the movie is pretty well-directed overall. This movie was directed by Joe Dante who besides this, I haven’t seen anything from. Sure, internet tells me he did the sequel to this too, but besidse that, he is competely unknown to me. But he still did a good job.

This is a fairly well-received movie. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 85% positive rating with a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic this movie doesn’t even exist. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com the movie has a score of 7,2/10.

“Gremlins” is a hilarious and silly 1980’s horror-comedy with a well-executed plot, fun characters, good music and some pretty good direction. Time for my final score. Ouch! Okay, who threw the envelope on m- Oh hey there, Stripe. Go away! My final score for “Gremlins” is a 9,88/10. It definitely gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”
Seal of Approval

“Gremlins” is now reviewed.

Merry fuc- What? It isn’t christmas? Well… shit…