The 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: The 33 (2015)

This post is part of the Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central

The 33 (2015)

The 33

Director: Patricia Riggen

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Mario Casas, Jacob Vargas, Juan Pablo Raba, Oscar Nunez, Tenoch Huerta, Kate Del Castillo, Gabriel Byrne

Based on the real-life event, when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days. – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I tend to avoid biographical drama in general. For one, I tend to like my entertainment far from reality and second, I tend to like my entertainment more light and fluffy or something that requires me to suspend belief or whatnot. I do have to admit that I was intrigued by The 33 when it was first released despite the genre that it falls in. The usual idea in these movies especially one based on a traumatic event is the personal stories and the devastation of the situation. The line to draw here it to make it believable and not so manipulative, which for the most part, The 33 does quite well. The stories here do feel rather genuine and while there were 33 men trapped in the mine, the movie focused on a few of them only, while also alternating to the rescue efforts on the surface, showing their families and government and the different faces of who is also pulled into the situation. It is a smart move to make sure that the stories don’t get too shallow and gives at least some characters their own depth and development.

The 33

With that said, there are some familiar faces here. The obvious leader of the pack in the movie and the movie is Antonio Banderas who plays as Mario who naturally is the glue and the one the men trust and is entrusted with the key to the food to ration for everyone. Antonio Banderas does a great job here. While I can’t say that I’ve seen Antonio Banderas in a whole lot of films, this is one that stands out to me especially when I always saw him as the slick and charming man but here is, given the circumstance of the film setting, rugged and devastated. We only get a few men down there with a spotlight, like Mario Casas as Alex Vega who has a pregnant wife to get back to, or Juan Pablo Raba as Dario, a recovering alcholic who spent his life being mad at his sister Mario, played by Juliette Binoche, for abandoning him and trying to find out how to make it work. Then you throw in the Bolivian who adds a bit of a social conflict in the group. In the parts of the 33 men trapped there, its hard to not feel devastated with them especially in the beginning when they don’t know whether anyone is going to save them and going through the roller coaster of emotions of hope and being hopeless and eventually feeling like they can get out. 69 days is a long time and its an honest miracle. I think the downfall of this is that somehow the emotional trauma of these men were never fully explored. However, you can argue that it took away from the emotionally manipulative angle and tried to just keep it real.

On the other hand, the surface characters included names like Juliette Binoche that I mentioned before. It was quite a surprise to see her here as she is a French actress. However, she is her stellar self even in a role like this as a worried sister waiting for her brother to come back. The same goes to Kate Del Castillo that plays Mario’s wife. Its a lot of characters to go through so despite focusing on just a few families, the plot has a hard time focusing on what is important and that takes away from how much we actually get to know these characters because how can we not care because The 33 was an actual thing that happened. Even if we knew the outcome, it still has its significance. However, adding into the surface mix is Rodrigo Santoro, who I’ve seen in a lot of movies in supporting roles as the Minister of Mining. In many ways, it seems his character gets the most development as he proves that he isn’t just talk to particularly Maria. The trials and failures and eureka moments from the surface were almost more devastating than the men that were trapped down there, as I watched the film.

The 33

This is part of the Remembering James Horner Blogathon so its a must to look at the score and it does a fantastic job. James Horner scores the piece knowing exactly when to use the subtle music to accompany the scene but also knowing exactly when to create the tension, the danger and of course, emotion. He does a fine job at it and I do love the score quite a bit.

Overall, The 33 is a sufficient biographical drama. It reflected the dangerous situation that happened, highlighted  the social and political issues as well as the personal and emotional trauma that the whole thing brought up. There are some fantastic performances here that pulled at our heartstrings and it was properly devastating in some parts. The collapse at the beginning f the film was definitely the most effective part of the film as well as the revelation of how to learn from their mistakes. Its a pretty decent film even if its sheer indecision of what issue to focus on made it sometimes less poignant as it should have been.

You can check out my previous two years participation post for:

Once Upon a Forest
The Spiderwick Chronicles

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

As always, hitting the brink of the deadline, here is my entry for the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central. Last year, I took a look at Once Upon a Forest for this blogathon and it was a great one to revisit. You can check out the review here. This year, I decided to check out another family fantasy film adapted from a children’s book series that I haven’t read called The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m a huge fan of Freddie Highmore as a child star, even now in Bates Motel. I think he’s fantastic and for a while, I did take the time to catch up a lot of his movies a few years back and this was one of them. I’m excited to have a reason to revisit it and hope that the magic is still as charming as I remember.

Let’s check it out!

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)

spiderwick chronicles

Director: Mark Waters

Cast: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger, Andrew McCarthy, David Strathairn, Seth Rogen, Martin Short

Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures. – IMDB

The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun little fantasy adventure children’s movie featuring a double dose of Freddie Highmore as both Jared and Simon Grace who along with their sister, Mallory (played by Sarah Bolger) are taken to a home that their mother inherited from their great aunt while she goes through a separation. Jared takes this the hardest and after a fight realized that there is something in the walls. As he chases it down, he finds a secret room accessible by a dumbwaiter and there he finds a book that warns him to not open it. Being a child, of course, he does. Whether it was an act of rebellion or thoughtlessness or curiosity, this opens up a realm of fairies and other more dangerous creatures that have been seeking this field guide of the magical creatures to use it as a way to control the world. This one dangerous individual is a giant ogre, Mulgarath (voiced by Nick Nolte). Some of the gentler creatures who create quite the comedic relief is Hogsqueal who looks like a hog and is obsessed with birds (voiced by Seth Rogen) and the protector of the book, Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short). Its fun adventure with some pretty cool CGI effects and an all around entertaining story. While the start might show some over acting in Freddie Highmore, he soon settles quickly as they put away the family and sibling rivalry and jump fairly quickly into the meat of the fantasy world and its just a quick ride to the end.

Spiderwick Chronicles

As this is a blogathon for James Horner, its important to discuss the score. James Horner makes some of the best orchestral scores that help build the atmosphere. Here he carries mystery and suspense when the world is first discovered, then takes us on a musical journey that aids as the adventure picks up where these siblings bond together and truly find their courage as they plot their protection for their home. The score compliments and accentuates the adventure particularly. Adding onto a well-executed film to begin with, this makes it even more engaging to watch. Its hard to ignore the seamless score that James Horner puts together for Spiderwick Chronicles.

Sarah Bolger is a familiar face now. While I have yet to check out Into the Badlands, I’ve seen her as Princes Aurora in Once Upon a Time and especially in Emilie, a psychological thriller released last year that was very well put together. I can’t remember if I had actually written a review but its a great movie that truly showcases her acting skills and the potential she has. Her sister role as Mallory brings a sense of balance, not because she’s a girl but also because she’s very tough as she wield her fencing sword in all her fights. Its an impressive character.

Spiderwick Chronicles

In terms of the double Freddie Highmore, Jared and Simon have relatively different personalities and it gives them a more unique character and lets us see the difference other than how they dress. Freddie Highmore wasn’t great in the Jared role when he starts but it might just have to do with his difficult child act and once it was dropped, it was really fun to watch, even though Jared is more of the central character here.

 

In terms of voice actors, we have Nick Nolte as the baddie. For a children’s movie, it worked really well. I was pretty invested into the movie and the villain even if he didn’t really show up that much and there was one part where he was human and the transformation was pretty cool. Other than that, Thimbletack (Martin Short) and Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen) are really fun to watch in a silly way. Their creatures themselves are rather creative and in a somewhat adorable way, they are pretty appealing. I have to say that Hogsqueal could have had more screen time although as a non-Seth Rogen fan, I actually thought this was a great performance but it had to do with this silly character that added a lot of entertainment value.

Spiderwick Chronicles

Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure movie. It has great performances all around and a good balance of comedy and adventure, making it incredibly entertaining and engaging to watch. The CGI is done very well and not to mention, a well-executed story that is accentuated by a great score.

Have you seen The Spiderwick Chronicles? 

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Once Upon a Forest (1993)

This is my contributing post for the Remembering James Horner Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central!

James Horner has an impressive list of movies that he has scored the music. As I was deciding what to do a post on, it dawned on me that before a lot of the animated films I’ve seen and loved now, there was Once Upon a Forest. According to my knowledge, it seems this movie isn’t quite widely seen as some other much more popular titles. Plus, its been quite a while since I’ve revisited it. Its been long enough that the last time I saw this, it wasn’t about reviews or looking at in-depth aspects of it. Once Upon a Forest started as just the spontaneous movie that my dad and I picked up randomly at the video store and decided to watch. It ended impressing me quite a bit from what I remember. Right now, I can still remember some specific scenes. This blogathon was the perfect reason to revisit it.

Once Upon a Forest (1993)

Once Upon a Forest

Director: Charles Grosvenor

Voice cast: Michael Crawford, Ben Vereen, Ellen Blain, Benji Gregory, Paige Gosney, Elisabeth Moss, Will Estes

A young mouse, mole and hedgehog risk their lives to find a cure for their badger friend, who’s been poisoned by men.-IMDB

 If I remember correctly, Once Upon a Forest comes out around the same time frame as Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. I can’t remember exactly when it was. Maybe a year before or something. I think its the reason of why it didn’t get as much exposure. Also, that a lot of people apparently didn’t quite like this as much. Personally, I’d sit through Once Upon a Forest a thousand times instead of Fern Gully. Fern Gully just didn’t impress me much. There was one great thing about it that made it alright and it was voice work by Robin Williams and Tim Curry. You can find the brief review HERE for that. However, we aren’t here for that.

Once Upon a Forest is really a similar story. where a truck accident causes a poison gas leak to kill the meadow that these young animals: a mouse Abigail, a mole Edgar and a hedgehog Russell. They have to step up when their friend, a young badger Michelle runs unexpectedly into her house looking for her parents and gets poisoned. Their mentor and also uncle of Michelle, Cornelius can’t go with them because he needed to take care of Michelle. These three who have never known anything about the human world has to step up and find the herbs in another meadow within two days to save their friend. To me, that is a compelling story. It touches on themes such as environmental care, friendship and teamwork.

Once Upon a Forest

The characters of Once Upon a Time are done very well. The three create a balance that we know will help them in the end when they put their priorities ahead of them. Their shared importance of the friendship of Michelle and determination will be the winning factor here. As they go from learning what “yellow dragons” are and working together to help others in need, they realize their strength in numbers. Actually, these three are relatable as kids because they want to have fun and they want to go off and do their own things and experiment. I think a huge part of childhood is doing that. Abigail is the gutsy one, Edgar is the brain even if not brave and Russell is the one that is somewhere in the middle that keeps the goals in mind. They are charming characters. While not in huge roles, they do cross paths with a preacher crow and that segment and that character was so much fun and possibly one of the scenes that has stuck with me for the longest. It gives it a little change in pace.

Once upon a Forest

Another notable aspect in Once Upon a Forest is the animation. For sure, we aren’t comparing to the detail we have now but even in the year between Fern Gully and this, you can see a notable difference. Once Upon a Forest has some nice detail. Its appealing and captures the atmosphere of the adventure these three are on.

On that note, we can’t get through this review without talking about the music, hence, James Horner. I love talking about music. Adventure movies rely heavily on music. Once Upon a Forest also has a slight musical factor where they do have some songs which are all (maybe except one) that is scored by James Horner. He manages to capture the peace of the meadow, then the danger and the height is fueling the highs and lows of the adventure with fun music. At times, it just sweeps subtly in the background to build the atmosphere.

Once upon a Forest

Once Upon a Forest however is still an animation, possibly geared mostly towards younger kids. There definitely was nostalgia mixed into my current enthusiasm for the movie. Watching it again older, there are obvious flaws to the logic of the characters like even the simple fact of poison gas not having just a boundary of expansion or that it dissipates so fast. However, it is still a simple movie that manages to get their point through in a rather effective, adventurous and fun manner in a run time that never overstays its welcome. Its worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Have you seen Once Upon a Forest? Do you like it?