The Snow Queen (2012) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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With parents taking their children to the cinemas or sitting with them on the couch to watch a film, even children’s animation films need to be created with a range of age-groups in mind. When it comes to The Snow Queen, the film does a good job of entertaining the children viewers, while also including some jokes for the adult guardians. The film is interesting, but I am not sure if it can stand among other notable children’s films like Aladdin, Monsters Inc., and Frozen (which is another telling of the same tale by Hans Christian Anderson).

The Snow Queen: The only thing preventing the evil Snow Queen from completing her act of covering the whole world in ice, is Master Vegard. When he and his wife disappear, Kai and Gerda (Vegard’s son and daughter) find themselves in an orphanage. Before long, they are found by the Snow Queen’s servant troll Orm. A fight ensues, and Kai too disappears to the Snow Queen’s palace. With Orm and her pet weasel Luta in tow, Gerda ventures off to find her brother, and save the world.

Let me begin by saying: This is not a rip-off of Frozen. The Snow Queen is a Russian computer-animated children’s film that was released back in 2012, and is a telling of the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale. As it was originally a Russian film, it has recently been released in English, but the timing is interesting. There have been a lot of films like this that have come out since the massive world-wide popularity of Frozen, and its release does seem to be piggy-backing on that success.

The story is a little hard to follow at times, but, for the most part, it is entertaining. There are some funny moments – especially lines from Orm the troll – so you are sure to give at least a couple of chuckles.

The animation style does differ slightly from other animated films out there, but that isn’t a bad thing. The characters still aren’t overly life-like, but then again, trolls aren’t life-like either.

The film stays quite true to the original story, and that is primarily what these projects are about. It does bug me when the stories are drastically changed, because they could just as easily have created a whole new story and not used a known-name to get their film made.

There have been mostly positive reviews from Russian viewers; but American reviews haven’t been as good, being mostly of mixed opinions.

There are two sequels in the works – The Snow Queen 2 and The Snow King – so you are probably going to hear quite a bit more about it if you hadn’t already. The film is worth watching if you like the classics, but don’t expect it to be as good as some of the earlier 1990s Disney films.

3 out of 5 stars

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Wish I Was Here (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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There is no denying it: Zach Braff is a phenomenal filmmaker. Continuing on from his Scrubs fame, and the massive success of Garden State, comes Braff’s newest film. After failing to find a distributor, Braff turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. By allowing the general public to essentially purchase merchandise and experiences, the film was fully funded within 48 hours. For those that have not see it, make sure you add it to your list.

Wish I Was Here is about Aidan Bloom (Braff). He is a man in his thirties who is still struggling to combine what he wants from his life, with the life that he has. Aidan is not the only one suffering, with his breadwinner wife being harrassed at work but unable to quit, and his sick father unable to continue paying for their kids to attend private school, meaning Aidan must now homeschool his children. Through teaching his kids, Aidan must find a way to learn about the world, and himself.

Like I said before, this film is amazing, and that is for many reasons.

If you just want a film to make you laugh or for car chases, then this isn’t the film for you. The film is full of emotion. One moment you will be wanting to cry, and the next you’ll be chuckling.

We know that Braff is a brilliant actor who can probably play any character he ever wants. His adult co-stars – Kate HudsonMandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, and Jim Parsons, to name a few – were all great. The length of their roles varied, but each one brought something more to the story. The kids – who both have quite extensive film resumes – make you feel bad about yourself, because you weren’t as talented as they are at such young ages.

Music is an element of film that is vital, yet often overlooked. Braff’s grasp of music is amazing. Like with his previous film, his music choices and placement furthered the story, and heightened the emotions.

Being an ‘arty’ film, it may not be for everyone, but there are sure to be a lot of people that will love the film. At times I have seen independent films like this, and felt they were trying too hard to be edgy and they only end up failing miserably. You can be sure this is not the case with Wish I Was Here.

Unfortunately, reviews haven’t been overly positive. While there are those that do see it for the brilliant film that it is, others have commented that it is too simplified and generic.

This may sound like a gush-fest…and that’s because it is. There are so many films that have earned millions of dollars that are nowhere near as fantastic as this one is, and are only popular because supposed ‘A-Listers’ are in them. When you can shout your support for a meaningful film like this, you pretty much have to.

4 out of 5 stars

The Best of Me (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Only rarely do I like a film like this, and then I usually only watch them late at night when no one is there to catch me. The Best of Me is the film adaptation of the novel by Nicholas Sparks. I don’t have a lot of experience with works by Sparks, but I do know that he has a lot of devoted fans. It’s a good story that – without giving away too much – shows that Sparks is interested in improving his writing. Worth the watch and sure to give you two hours of entertainment.

The Best of Me begins with young Romeo-and-Juliet-esque lovers. Amanda and Dawson are from different backgrounds, with Amanda’s family making it more than clear that she is too good for him. It isn’t until Dawson finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in prison that he knows that isn’t the right life for Amanda, and he tells her goodbye. But as the saying goes, it’s a small world. Twenty years pass and Dawson and Amanda reunite. Amanda – unhappily married and with a family – is torn between the life she always wanted, the life she has, and the life she still desires. To make matters even worse, trouble once again comes looking for Dawson. Will Dawson and Amanda finally be able to let go of the past, or has their story only just begun?

This film definitely has its good and bad aspects.

Firstly, without going into specifics, the film is not as straight-forward and generic as you would think. The story elements that Sparks has expanded and improved, really do make the film different from his others – and his books – and you feel surprisingly content with it as a whole.

The acting was the right level of melodrama for a Sparks film, however it is also one of the biggest letdowns of the film. There are so many actors out there, that you would think finding two that looked even slightly similar wouldn’t be impossible. Young Amanda and Dawson look absolutely, one hundred percent, nothing like Older Amanda and Dawson. This is mostly evident for Luke Bracey and James Marsden. Not only are aspects like their hair and eyes so different, but their entire body structure is. It’s also been said that the first-choice of casting for Older Dawson was actually Paul Walker, but this had to be changed after his unfortunate death. However, even Bracey and Walker don’t have enough in common to try and be the same person.

Back to good: the emotion is something that Sparks does well. He knows how to make you feel what he wants you to feel.

The soundtrack was also good and is sure to sell a lot of copies.

Overall, not a totally unwatchable film. The end makes up for some of the earlier downfalls, but it’s not a film that will break any records or win a bunch of awards.

3 out of 5 stars

Grace of Monaco (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Yes I am Australian, but no, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman. Unlike what some may believe, it is not a requirement of citizenship. The film has definitely had a rough go by the critics, and despite the locations and costumes being beautiful, the film as a whole just isn’t up to the standards set by others.

Grace of Monaco is obviously a story about Grace Kelly – a former Hollywood star. She is constantly surrounded by adoring fans, protective guards, wanting producers, and desperate photographers. She is married to Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth), and becomes what many little girls dream of being. However, there are issues with France’s Charles De Gaulle and a looming French invasion, the royal’s marriage is struggling, and Kelly desires a return to Hollywood.

There are aspects of this film that were done well. You do feel like you are back in the glamorous days of Hollywood, with flowing gowns, men in suits with slicked hair, and big personalities. The costumes were true to the time and the props made you feel nostalgic – even though I wasn’t born for another 30 years.

The locations and sweeping landscape shots were perfect, and echoed the magnificence of the lives of most Hollywood starlets.

Now, about the acting. Not all of the performances were spot-on. As I said before, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman, but she wasn’t ‘too’ bad. It’s a very difficult job to play a real person, and even more so when the person was loved so much. Most people have also probably heard of a lot of the cast, and they have shown they have acting chops.

The part of the film that lets the rest of it down is the issue of authenticity. Though, Kidman has said that the film is neither a documentary nor a biopic, and is instead more about Grace Kelly’s “vulnerability and humanity”. Grace Kelly’s children have also been very vocal about their dislike for the film, requesting changes and condemning it for its over-dramatics and lack of facts. There have also been fights between the French parties and the American parties over what to include, which does not make the finished product sound very promising.

The film has received very negative reviews – mostly online. As an aspiring film-writer, I shudder to think that the months (if not longer) that everyone spent on this, comes down to such bad words. For the most part, however, the critics seem to just be overly protective of Kelly, and so they might be more inclined to find fault.

These kinds of films are not particularly my favourite, but this one was not completely unlikable. I don’t know exactly where the film deviated from the factual events, but you will never get something like this that is perfect. Overall, not a bad movie, and I think it might be more well-received by the general audience than by the vocal critics.

3 out of 5 stars

WolfCop (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Let me begin by saying that Teen Wolf is one of my favourite television shows, and comes from one of the best movies the 80s has to offer. As per the natural reaction, when hearing the name WolfCop, immediate thoughts do not go to ‘award winning’ and ‘influential’, but that does not mean you will not enjoy yourself. This film is a perfect mix of comedy and horror, and is the next in line of popular B-Grade films.

The film follows Lou, an alcoholic policeman who has a habit of making a mess of things. While he is used to waking up in unfamiliar places, when he begins to become hirsute, even he knows there is something strange happening. With turning into a werewolf just part of a bigger, scarier, story, Lou will need to figure out how to save the day, and hopefully become a better man.

The story is interesting, but has trouble working as a full-length feature. Lowell Dean (the director) had won a trailer contest that gave him $1 million USD to make the film, but it probably would have been better as a slightly-longer short film. Parts of the story were fleshed-out, while others were only granted a short screen-time before we were moved along.

B-Grade films have been rising in popularity over the last couple of years – including Sharknado and Piranha – and WolfCop is definitely set to be one of them. It does not try to be anything more than what it is, and allows the audience to escape their lives for two hours and have some entertainment.

The actors are not A-listers, but they play the characters well. When it comes to films, personally, I like it better when I am not seeing the same actors over and over again. Even though this film is far from realistic, not knowing the actors makes it more believable.

Creating a mix of genres is where a lot of films fail. WolfCop was not too bad. Its horror was more gory than scary, but some lines can get a chuckle.

The filming style/technique of WolfCop is also notable. While other feature films are spending millions of dollars on computer-generated imagery, Dean instead used practical effects. This not only let them work on a much-lower budget, but also allowed the team to have greater control over the production.

The reviews have been quite mixed. There are always going to be those that do not appreciate a B-Grade movie for what it is, and mock it for its style. But for those that see these types of movies for what they are, they will understand how brilliant it is.

Obviously this is not a film suitable for kids, and there are many out there that do not like horror and gore. Me, I am in the latter category, but for everyone else, this is sure to be a mindless and enjoyable film.

2 out of 5 stars

Manny (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier. We have all heard of these world-renowned boxers. But there is one name that is quickly growing in fame and popularity, and that name is Manny PacquiaoManny is one of the better feel-good and inspirational sports films that has been released of late, and is one that can be watched by everyone in the family.

The film Manny follows the life of Manny Pacquiao. This – for some time relatively unknown – Filipino boxer has his story translated by Hollywood alum, telling the tale of his rise from impoverished teen who began his boxing journey just to feed his family, to a thirty-five year old eight-division world champion. We follow him as he becomes known by the world, and furthers his career, entering politics and film. The film deals with the ups and downs that go with becoming a professional athlete, and the more personal side of it.

Even from just watching the two-minute trailer, you can feel the way the film gathers you and inspires you. It does more than make you want to watch the film, but also to get out and make something more happen for yourself. If Manny can do it, you can do it.

This film has some Hollywood bigwigs behind it, powering it out of the plain ‘documentary’ world, and onto the stage with other feature films. The famous faces help us to connect with the rising figure that many probably haven’t heard of before. These stars include Liam NeesonMark WahlbergJeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel, who aid us in relating to a film that is in another language. Manny also featured original music by Lorne Balfe, whose name is on Inception, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man – to name a few. To have this kind of power backing you, Manny Pacquiao must be a big thing.

The colour and cinematography of the film also raise it to another level. It feels like a feature film with the odd-angles and slow-motion sequences, and it makes the experience all the more entertaining and enjoyable.

One thing people need to remember before taking their young children to see this film, is that it definitely involves violence and blood. For some, it is inappropriate, and for others, it just isn’t their cup of tea. However, there are also those that will only care about the boxing and not about Manny’s political, etc., successes and aspirations.

There is a lot of anticipation and expectation around this film, which comes to me as a surprise. I was surprised by the attention, by the A-lister stars, and then by the story. Manny has what it takes to be a hit. The film points out how successful Manny Pacquiao has been in boxing, politics, and as the representation of the low-income people of the Philippines, and it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for Manny to gain a healthy film following too.

3 out of 5 stars

Dinosaur 13 (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Dinosaurs are something not just loved by nerdy little boys. There are so many questions surrounding their types, way of life, and death, that it is a mystery that attracts all. In Dinosaur 13 (not as cool of a name as the 2002 book from which it comes – Rex Appeal), we look back twenty-four years, to a group that were looking back even further. This documentary had all of the interesting points – discovery, dinosaurs, and even an apparent big-scale conspiracy theory – but still found itself lacking in entertainment.

The film follows the story of Peter Larson, a palaeontologist whose group makes the biggest dinosaur discovery before or since. The event occurred in 1990, but it was what happened afterwards that turned it into the bigger story. Two years after excavating an almost-complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton – named Sue – the team found themselves battling the United States government, museums, Native American tribes, and other palaeontologists. The film follows the ten-year battle, that saw fossils taken, careers in jeopardy, and one member of the team in prison. Why was this discovery so controversial, and how would it all end?

For the most part, this film wasn’t bad. It had its moments where it dragged and the audience could easily lose interest, but the story was an interesting one, and you wanted to see how it would all end.

Like I said before, dinosaurs aren’t just a topic of interest for little boys, but the seriousness of the film and the emphasis more on legal/political matters, might not make it the kind of film that will be for everyone.
The video quality is oftentimes quite poor as well, as some of the footage was taken back in the 90s before cameraphones and HD video. This might turn-off some of the younger audience members who weren’t alive then.

Dinosaur 13 does, however, have a strong way of gathering the Davids in the hope of slaying Goliath. They do well in making you want the ‘little guys’ to win and find out the real reason behind why all of these events had to happen. But, they tend to play the sympathy card a bit too much. Sure, we feel bad for them in that their whole lives were turned upside down, but there are a lot more important things going on in the world. They also focus more on emotion, than on logic. There were more angles – like the deeper legal implications – that were simply not explored as thoroughly as they could have been.

Reviews have been quite mixed. It obviously has struck a cord with an audience, giving it a wider release than previously expected. The online reviews have been predominately positive, and it’s sure to be played in a lot of schools all over the world.

Overall, this film is worth taking a look at.

3 out of 5 stars