Footloose (2011) – Review

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I’ll be honest, I was biased when I pressed play.

I recorded it weeks ago, but with nothing else on TV, I decided to finally put it on.

Remakes in general drive me nuts, so I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one – not to mention they removed the best part: Kevin Bacon!

From reading this review, you may think I’m some old fogey. No, I am almost 25 years old, and am honest enough to admit that I do not agree with the kids in this movie at all. Instead of my usual review format, I’ll just do bullet-points.

The Good

  • The acting. I didn’t know most of them (with the exception of Miles Teller, Dennis Quaid, and Andie MacDowell), but all of them played their roles well.
  • The dancing featured some of our favourite moves from the original, while incorporating modern actions.
  • They kept to the idea of the original, not trying to make it something different. After all, what makes movies like the original Footloose a great movie, is that it can be timeless.

The Bad

  • Rules make kids rebel – No, idiot kids do that just fine on their own. It’s like saying laws like ‘No Murder’ are responsible for people wanting to murder. Of course ‘no music’ is ridiculous, but indulging in underage sex, drugs, and alcohol aren’t intelligent decisions. Until we are ~25 years old, our brains are still forming, and the last part to form is the long-term effects of their actions. As adults it is our responsibility to ensure those still developing aren’t making the decisions they cannot make. If they think it’s unfair, tough luck.
  • Church and State – The world isn’t going to follow God and doesn’t believe in Him, but that doesn’t mean He’s not real. There is no real separation of church and state, God has laws and they are above all other laws. Most of the time, where do you think they got the laws?
  • Dancing in the Bible – Yes David and the worshippers danced, but no where in the Bible does it have them rubbing up against each other in a Holy way in celebration of God.
  • At every step of the movie they show how right the laws were. These kids didn’t want to do things the right way. When there was no law against music, they still acted like idiots. If they didn’t have alcohol and drugs, and didn’t let their dance movements lead to underage sex, then there wouldn’t be a problem.
  • Adults may play these roles in the movie, but the ages are 15/16/17 years old. They are children, not adults. They have barely been alive, and yet they think they know everything. News flash, they don’t.

I’m sure there are many more reasons I can name, but I’ll leave it there for now. Let me know what you thought of the movie.

To finish on a lighter note, here is the amazing Kevin Bacon doing his famous dance in 2014.

 

3 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

Planes: Fire and Rescue (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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So, it turns out that Disney are not quite done with this franchise. This is a spin-off to Disney’s Cars series, and a sequel to Planes, released in 2013. I know this is not targeted towards my demographic – early 20s – but I am really getting sick and tired of these computer-animated kids films that are the same thing over and over again. They might entertain the little kids, but they are a far-cry from the old Disney films that entertained numerous generations and are still enjoyable today.

What began with Dusty Crophopper learning to overcome his fear and racing around the world, is now the famous air racer joining a team of aerial firefighters. Together, they battle massive wildfires and learn about themselves, and what a real hero looks like.

It takes a special actor to bring a character to life with only their voices. They cannot convey anything through body movements or facial expressions, making it a job for a talented selection. Though the children in the audience will not be able to pick-out the names of the actors voicing their loveable onscreen characters, the adults will find a large number of them recognisable. The cast list includes Dane CookEd HarrisJulie BowenBrad Garrett, and Teri Hatcher.

For films to be truly successful, they need to be relatable to kids, parents, and grandparents. If it can do that, it has a better chance at having longevity. Planes: Fire and Rescue had a couple of instances that seemed to be targeted to the adults in the audience. These were mostly comedic one-liners, but might not be enough to compensate for them being dragged along by their kids.

The film’s story is quite general and not complex, though some of the fire scenes and topic might be a bit intense for the younger children watching.

Especially with some recent animated children’s films, it feels more like a marketing opportunity than a film with meaning. It has been pointed out that Planes: Fire and Rescue has a theme reminiscent of ‘the little engine that could’ and perseverance, but it feels kind of flat. As per usual, the shops will be releasing a plethora of toys, bed sheets, and everything else imaginable. They have already announced a video game based on the film to be released on a number of consoles.

The response from critics and audiences have been mixed. The majority of the reviews agree the little kids will fall in love with the characters and be dazzled by the animation, but also that it is not a film for anyone else.

If you have to take the kids to the cinemas, Planes: Fire and Rescue will keep them entertained, and you can be sure they are not being subjected to coarse language and inappropriate themes.

Overall, not the best film, but not the worst, either.

3 out of 5 stars

Before I Go To Sleep (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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There’s a collective wince every time a novel is adapted into a film, with the literary fans protective of the work. Before I Go To Sleep – starring well-known Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth – is based on the novel of the same name, and is sure to continue the novel-versus-film debate.

The topic of ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and is a good story element that allows the audience to learn about the world they’re entering as the lead character does. This is only good if done right, but the film needs to also have character progression, and in a film like this, proper grasp of the ‘thriller’ genre.

Before I Go To Sleep follows Christine (Kidman), who awakens every morning with no memory of the last number of years. Her husband (Firth) dutifully tries to calm her, and explain to her about the accident that caused her injury. It is only when Christine begins to remember things contrary to her husband’s retelling, that she no longer knows who she can trust. Was she involved in an accident, or something more sinister? Is her doctor really there to help her? And is her husband the caring spouse he claims to be?

Sometimes you can quite easily classify a film as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But then there are times when it’s not so black and white, and instead a rather unsatisfactory shade of grey. Unfortunately, this is where this film sits.

Kidman and Firth have been in the film industry for many years, and have shown that they can handle the pressure of feature films. Both have also had their fair share of mixed reviews. For Firth, his characters are usually popular, charming, gentlemen who makes women’s knees weak. This role is quite interesting for him, and he manages to play it very well. Kidman is also doing well in this darker genre, as she was in The Others (2001).

There are some plot holes and character progression issues. These are all carried over from the novel, but still should have been fixed in the scripting process. In regards to the story, picking a topic like ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and this film then needs to be as good as those that have come before it. Memento (2000) was, and still remains, quite popular. Unfortunately, I don’t see Before I Go To Sleep as being as successful.

For the last few years, cinemas worldwide have been overrun by superhero films with out-of-this-world story lines, explosions, and extensive visual effects. It is good to see a genuine thriller film among the titles, and, however loosely, holding its own.

Critic reviews have also shown a mixed response, with the most common complaint being that the film’s action is too slow to be truly engaging.

This film had promise and good moments, but falls short in more ways. It is clear how these actors have progressed and will be interesting to see how they continue into the future.

3 out of 5 stars.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.


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Robin Williams, may he rest in peace, was a brilliant actor. He expertly played both comedic roles and serious roles, and everything in between. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn displays William’s ability to switch from silly to sentimental without missing a beat. Nevertheless, the finished product really let him down. Based on the Israeli film The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum (1997), it is not easy to rate the film at either ends of the spectrum, because while some aspects worked, others didn’t.

The film follows Henry Altmann (Robin Williams), the titled ‘Angriest Man in Brooklyn’. While some people have bad days, Altmann has one every day. He hates anything and everything, and as a result, he is not too popular himself. A car accident brings him to the doctor’s office, where Dr. Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) attends to him. Her day has not gone so smoothly either, and in a moment of weakness, she reveals he has a brain aneurysm – this is true – and that he has only 90 minutes left to live – this is false. The news hits Henry hard, and he rushes out of the office, desperate to find his loved ones and make amends, all within an hour-and-a-half. Of course, a lifetime of resentment is not so easily forgiven. Will Sharon reach him before the pressure overcomes him? Will Henry find a way to reconnect with all those he hurt? Or is it really too late to change the past?

As I said before, there are both equally good and bad aspects of this film that make it hard to give a definite rating.

Firstly, it is always a treat when we get to see both the serious and comedic talents of Robin Williams. Never again we will be witness to his brilliance, so any project he has been involved in automatically becomes a treasured product – whether it was successful or not.

Secondly, there is no doubt that the message of the movie is positive. No one knows exactly how much time he or she has left on Earth, and time spent fighting is time wasted.

Though the cast list boasts a lot of stars – Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, Peter DinklageJames Earl Jones, etc. – their talents were not put to use. The latter characters were merely cameos, though it did fit with the ‘rushed’ theme of the movie.

The dialogue and story were also quite cliché and in no way realistic. A doctor would never deceive a patient like Kunis’ character did; and if they did, they wouldn’t keep their job for long. While the film is not supposed to be a true story, this does detract from its overall believability.

Online reviews have not been the most positive, either, and most consider it not bad enough to be comical, just plain bad.

With so many mixed opinions, it is hard to say either way. So, either watch the movie, or just watch the trailer, because the trailer is basically the entire movie in two minutes.

3 out of 5 stars

Mum’s Night Out (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.


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When I first heard the name ‘Moms’ Night Out’, I feared it would be like Bridesmaids (2011) or The Hangover series (2009-2013), which are definitely not my type of movie. It only took watching the trailer to realise how wrong I was. This film has entertaining actors, comedy, and heart – which all adds up to a must-see family film.

Every mother, no matter where they are in the world, knows how amazing it is to be a mother. They also know how tiring and stressful it is. Allyson (Sarah Drew) is a mother of three, who gathers her two best friends, Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and Sondra (Patricia Heaton), and goes on a mums’ night out. Things go from bad to worse when a child is lost and the group search all over the city, getting into one adventure after another. This film is not about useless fathers or tired mothers, but about individual accountability and learning that no one is perfect.

No one is going to deny that the story of a stressed-out mother who needs to compensate for her unreliable husband is not a new idea. Of course it has been done before, but it is the ways in which this film makes it feel fresh and new that keep you watching.

The actors are not A-Listers like seen in Valentine’s Day (2010) or New Year’s Eve (2011), but they are ones that we love to watch and that know how to entertain an audience. Personally, my favourite is Patricia Heaton, who has definitely found her niche. She is best known for her role as Ray Romano’s wife in Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005), and has expertly taken on the lead role in the show The Middle (2009-). All of the actors showed how much they understood the characters and the genre, with many of the original lines being thrown-out and improvised by the actors – which even the writer loved!

Moms’ Night Out has been promoted as a ‘Christian-based comedy film’, and while that may turn some away, it made me more inclined to see it. It is proof that movies don’t need to be riddled with curse words and sex scenes to be entertaining.

Overall, this film has received generally unfavourable reviews. Comments on YouTube and reviews on online critic websites like Rotten Tomatoes, among other complaints, have labelled this movie ‘sexist’. This is so far from the truth that one questions whether they actually saw the movie. Upon watching the film, you will see that it is more about empowering women to understand that no one is perfect, and they aren’t expected to be. Yes, the men do sometimes behave in silly ways in the film, but so do the women.

Harsh online critics might be looking for something different (curse words, sex scenes, etc.) or they might just be reading a little too much into a fun story that has received a largely positive response from cinemagoers. Sometimes you have to ignore the critics and just watch the movie and see for yourself.

3 out of 5 stars