Fantasia Festival 2017: Bushwick (2017)

Bushwick (2017)

bushwick

Director: Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott

Cast: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Angelic Zambrana, Christian Navarro, Arturo Castro

When a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive. – IMDB

Bushwick sets in an intriguing scenario if the southern states would be persuaded by Texas to join in to overturn the government. Their plan is to use insurgence to forcefully takeover unwilling cities. Their next target to get the Northern states was to make a small city of Bushwick located in New York. As the insurgence starts, we fall on scene with Lucy, played by Brittany Snow on her way to her grandmother’s house to introduce her boyfriend. It doesn’t take long before they head out and realize that something is very wrong and separated from her boyfriend almost immediately from the start, she has to avert danger. Luckily, circumstances lead her to meet Stupe, an ex-Marine who knows everything she doesn’t about survival and has a few guns to protect as well and who reluctantly agrees to take her to her destination, while trying to figure out what actually is going on.

Bushwick is a tight and tense ride. While the subtext is the insurgence from the private military force which terrifies the city itself and is the centre of all the danger, the best part of it all is truly the unlikely team in Lucy and Stupe. Together, the character development here and how they bond together throughout the film which is really only set over a few hours was compelling and engaging. One of the best parts of Bushwick is how they chose to film it. It has somewhat of a found footage way even though it isn’t. The start of the film is the best example as they choose to begin using the angle of the helicopters scanning the city from above. However, the best parts is how it chooses to follow the characters. We never seem to follow them directly in back but in fact, it chooses to go watch their feet as they scurry from location to location. It creates a sense of suspense as the camera plays with what we can see and in turn allowing us to be shocked just as the character by the unknown situations ahead.

Lucy and Stupe are two very different people. In fact, the story focuses on their story while not making it too dramatic and keeping it with the action. In fact, it focuses more on the situation at hand and how they work together to get themselves out. Because of this, there may be a difference in tone throughout the movie. While it may seem to make us wonder how serious to take Bushwick, it is well-timed and particularly makes Lucy’s character more believable when she makes some silly decisions in the beginning that may end up having serious consequences. As the movie moves along, their character growth and the value of their team is what will keep it intriguing as they see what this insurgence has caused the people around them especially the reason why a small town like Bushwick was targetted. Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista pull out some of their best acting in this one and delivers two great performances.

Talking about the reason of why Bushwick is chosen make this film seems like an obvious social commentary of sorts. It reflects perhaps the disagreements and wars about the values and beliefs of Northern and Southern states in America. However, the more prominent one is the fact that Bushwick represents a lower class multicultural community which seems like they are disjointed because of that and make them an easier target. However, surprisingly the film takes a turn of how the city’s different groups each may react differently to the insurgence but still survival may just bring everyone together. Going deeper into the message this may convey will enter spoiler territory so we’ll refrain.

To be honest, Bushwick is an interesting premise and it does take the path of some contrived moments. There may even be some predictable happenings that are meant to shock however, it also succeeds in creating an engaging experience by delivering characters such as Lucy and Stupe that make us want to cheer for them to get out of this ordeal. There are quiet and dramatic moments to help see a deeper side of the characters as well as endearing bonding moments, added in with a few comedic moments to slice through the tension a little. All of these moments tie in very well together. There is no doubt in the end that this is meant to be taken with a serious tone and for the most part everything fits together for an action and suspenseful watch through Bushwick. Its not so much about the politics of it all as it is about survival. Just for the performances and the premise and setting, Bushwick is worth a watch.

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Fantasia Festival 2017: A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story 2017

Director and Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. – IMDB

Perhaps one of the first things to start off is that A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It shouldn’t be expected to be one as it is a fantasy drama. David Lowery crafts up a passion project that brings to life an old perception of a ghost covered in a bedsheet who lingers for their loved one in the background. This character may seem like a goofy concept and the movie may have its quirky moment however it isn’t meant to be funny. A Ghost Story is a slow burn movie, more than possibly anything else you will encounter. It has lingering shots before it switches, teasing the audience perhaps to expect something to happen that often doesn’t. It has almost no dialogue but focuses heavily on its soundtrack and its subtle noises in the surroundings. It doesn’t give the characters any names which creates a world where we see only this ghost, a ghost of a husband who has come back to console his wife however not making contact but stirs up memories throughout. A Ghost Story is for those extremely patient because this movie may make you wait for things that won’t happen and answers that you might not get. It seeks to dig a little deeper and expands farther than its star-studded main characters, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Whether the slow-burn works for you or not, this is an odd but unique experience. One that makes you question where the line falls for the audience between tedium and depth.

A Ghost Story is shot in an almost square aspect ratio. Its something that native moviegoers may notice right away. However, what the movie lacks in dialogue is greatly made up by the perfect cuts and transitions between scenes. The ghost moves at a slow pace and frequently shots are taken from his slow movement as he enters a new room or observes something different. He may simply turn and the scene will change. All this is done slowly and seamlessly. The first part of the film focuses on the husband and wife relationship and the love and loss as well as the moving forward and holding on in two people. Despite the silence, we feel the connection between these two characters in the pieces scattered as the time moves on after C (played by Casey Affleck) dies in a sudden accident. There is a great use of time moving forward particularly in the fluidity of creating a scene where M (played by Rooney Mara) goes day by day, carrying on with life.

This fluidity of transition shifts through time as the story turns to a second act of various future tenants. While the technical scenes work well, the second act moves forward and we can only wonder how David Lowery will wrap this story up and how do you end something as random as the scenes he has linked together. This question will lead the audience straight to the final act which unfolds what can only be described as a masterful story writing that somehow does lead this story to giving us a lot of the answers that we’ve been wondering with the bits and pieces.

A Ghost Story is not the conventional way to make a movie. In the final Q&A session of this movie, its apparent that this project turned out as he would like. The slow pace, the sound design and the voiceless and nameless man under the bedsheet all serves its purposes. However, this is an incredibly experimental piece that is definitely not for everyone. Its for those with incredible patience, especially when this movie requires a few minutes watching someone eat pie, as well as attaching to a bedsheet ghost, that will oddly seem to start feeling like they are emoting by just standing there and the camera angles.

For what this movie accomplished, it is one that gets better the more you think about it. It is also one that best seen with as little knowledge as possible. The best movies create discussion and it certainly feels like this one will have that kind of impact.

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Finally back to the theatres! It has been a while.

With work taking up a ton of time and then my general lack of desire to write long form reviews, I’ve been shying away from the theatres. However, I promised my friend that I’d go see Transformers: The Last Knight with him so during my week of staycation, we went on Tuesday evening. I really need to go back and review the entire franchise. As of now,  I only have Age of Extinction reviewed here. I’m on record to enjoy this franchise for the most part, although 2 and 3 are slightly blurry and I can’t decide which I liked less. The Last Knight’s trailers looked really fantastic and it had me hyped up to see it again. Honestly, I don’t expect much for these movies. Its very mindless entertainment with explosions and robots and action-packed thrills. If it checks all those boxes, I’ll be pretty happy.

Let’s check it out!

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Transformers: The Last Knight

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Isabela Moner, Santiago Cabrera

Autobots and Decepticons are at war, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. – IMDB

I feel like reviewing Transformers franchise is like talking about the Fast and Furious franchise or Resident Evil franchise, you either are on board or not with the style and tone. However, I’d like to say that Transformers: The Last Knight’s trailer did feel a lot more epic than the previous movies. While others had issues with Age of Extinction, I personally couldn’t hate on it because I had a really fun time at the theatres watching it. You can read the review HERE.

 

Transformers: The Last Knight brings us into a world that is in shambles as Transformers keep dropping in and wreaking havoc. Mark Wahlberg continues his path in this franchise as Cade Yaeger as he takes care of the Autobots still remaining as Optimus Prime is no longer with them. No one really knows whats going on but the Decepticons attacking Earth has broken many families. While the Transformers, regardless of Autobots or Decepticons, have been classified as dangerous and a special unit has been put together to keep them under control. One of the reasons why Cade Yaeger needs to be in hiding with his robotic friends when they have a fourteen year old girl orphaned from one of the attacks , Izabella (played by Isabela Moner) ends up joining them. Before all this starts, the movie starts in an odd fashion as the Transformers are brought into the Knights of the Roundtable and King Arthur and Merlin all get brought into the story as the origins of where the first time Transformers were part of human history. Now how does those events link to the current situation? That is what the movie is focused on. A rather simple and pretty disjointed story that gets made into a three hour movie, however, the characters are pretty fun as they have some of the normal banter exchanges, an expected (yet unexpected) romance and of course, lots of explosions and action-packed moments. Add in the Dinobots from the last movie and some baby dinobots and this movie pretty much made it into my heart.

Transformers

Perhaps that is what I love about Transformers in general, the cool cars and the whole transforming thing. The action is sometimes a little odd and there was a part where it did kind of feel a little dragged out, which is normal for a three hour movie, however, I do like Mark Wahlberg in this franchise. I actually enjoy his presence quite a bit. It was also great to see Anthony Hopkins also enter here as the Earl of Folger and talk a little more about the back story and how Sam Witwicky from the first three movies got pulled into this as well. A nice link, maybe unnecessary, but I thought it added a little more to the story. We also saw the return of Josh Duhamel in the army.  I do like him as well. There are some extreme suspension of imagination but then, Transformers are something of a fantasy/alien so I guess it could happen. I mean, Cade Yaeger walks in the midair, hopping from drone to drone in one part of the escape, like it was some easy stepping stones on a river or stream or something. It doesn’t get more entertaining to watch than that. However, it is also this stuff that I eat up.  They add in a lovely lady who pretty much gets kidnapped and clueless about the whole Transformers thing called Vivian, played by Laura Haddock.

Transformers: The Last Knight

What is pretty cool is that the scale of the movie has truly grown in this one. As they truly embrace the sea, sky and land aspects of the action and fighting. There are alien planets making appearance and the mastermind deceiver, Quintessa who shows up in space as she pulls some tricks to put Optimus Prime under her spell. That part doesn’t get fleshed out as much as it should, however, I don’t know how much more all the ideas they have can get fleshed out because the movie is already over three hours and that is incredibly lengthy. On that note, I love the Transformers design and the cars they get to morph into and stuff. Its really fantastic. I was totally on board with Dinobots and then I loved the baby dinobots but man, a dragon – bot or whatever you call it. That is incredibly epic.

Transformers: The Last Knight

Overall, Transformers: The Last Knight won’t be hard to follow if you just hopped in right now because the story is pretty thin. You just really need a very basic knowledge. But then, I’d like to know if anyone would just jump in to watch this one. This one has a pretty thin storyline as well however, it does try to give it more of a backstory so that we get why the world has been plagued with the Transformers dropping in on them non-stop. The story may be a little disjointed and nothing really gets the attention it needs as we flip from the army to Cade Yaeger to Vivian to Anthony Hopkins to Megatron and Quintessa. There isn’t really a moment to digest everything and piece it together. However, something about The Last Knight grabbing a piece of history and putting it together with the Transformers and why this is all happening along with the new and old Autobots and Dinobots and dragonbots all are so fun to watch. The action sequences are thrilling and entertaining and the characters and their banters are also a lot of fun. Sure, its not going to win any awards but this was a fun, mindless fun at the theatres. To be honest, if I had to compare this one and Age of Extinction, I actually think this one did was better than the last one.

 

As a closing note, if movie makers do read this (and I doubt it), could you please stop making long movies that end with water or underwater scenes? Just please. I try to ration my hydration levels but man, it gets tough after 2.5 hours to control my desire to go to the washroom when there is some long drippy underwater scene. I keep thinking that a ton of long movies do that, and I just wanted to add it in while I remembered to. Just a random thought.

Have you seen Transformers: The Last Knight? What do you think of the Transformers franchise?

Double Feature: A Stork’s Journey (2017) & The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

As I work through maintaining a little bit of everything every single week, here we are with the double feature of the week showcasing a free movie for a limited time on Google Play Store called A Stork’s Journey and 2016’s teenage coming of age favorite, The Edge of Seventeen. Going into both of these is completely fresh, for one, I just saw Storks and this is A Stork’s Journey, a movie I know nothing about, while on the other hand,  I don’t know much about The Edge of Seventeen, but Hailee Steinfeld has yet to convince me that she is a young actress to watch out for. Maybe this will be the one to do it.

Let’s check it out!

A Stork’s Journey (2017)

A Stork's Journey

Director: Toby Genkel & Reza Memari

Voice Cast: Drake Bell, iJustine, Jane Lynch

Even though everybody else thinks he’s a sparrow – Richard himself holds tight to the conviction that he is in fact a stork. – IMDB

A Stork’s Journey is a pretty generic story. While there is some fun acting and some cool use of characters and play with words as well as incorporating the modern terms, it still has moments where it does fall flat a little. What does it give an edge is perhaps Jane Lynch doing the voice of Olga, the Pygmy Owl. This is definitely a rag-tag aviary team as Richard sets off to prove that he is a stork by making it to Africa, and on the way meeting other birds which are different in their own way to their own type of bird, be it an oversized pygmy owl or an over the top parakeet that wants to be a singing star and the great amount of techie pigeons that divulge a lot of information. A Stork’s Journey is a simple and innocent journey that pretty much tells us to dream big and never downsize ourselves. We can be whatever we want to be but also accept that we are who we are, big or small, and have our purpose and excellence. Absolutely a family-friendly film and probably geared towards a younger audience.

I mean, I probably wouldn’t pay to see this but it was free on Google Play Store and might still be, if you know, then do leave a comment below. I can’t see the price because I own it now. Its a tad cliche as a bird adventure story which might remind you a little of Rio at parts, but the story that move along fast enough and the animation has some adorable bits and I personally love Jane Lynch and her voice for Olga was really cool. There are some clever word plays and I like those in anything. I’m kind of in the middle here. Its not exact a hit but not exactly a  miss either.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The Edge of Seventeen

Director (and writer): Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. – IMDB

At this point, I’ve watched The Edge of Seventeen once and then rewatched it two more times. I’ve seen The Edge of Seventeen be compared to Sixteen Candles and in some ways, I can see it particularly with an awkward main character who loathes the idea of high school and is really over it. Suffice to say that I like this one a whole lot. Part of it is that the story is written so well with enough awkward dialogue and awesome characters that really highlight the melodrama of being in high school. For Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), this means losing her only friend to her popular and hot (almost perfect) brother who already has everything and takes away her only spark of joy as well. Call this a blessing in disguise, while Nadine flips out in her odd ways and makes some stupid decisions (as you would expect), she ends up meeting Erwin (Hayden Szeto), a fellow classmate who reaches out to her unexpectedly in her time of need.

the edge of seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen is full of great characters. I’d have to say that the highlight is the equally awkward Erwin, played by Hayden Szeto. He took portrayed his awkwardness with silly joke and the dialogue between him and Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine was a lot of fun. All their scenes were quite fun and meaningful. On the other hand, the scenes with Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson was also really great as its mostly pretty hilarious with his unexpected brutal honesty. Woody Harrelson’s Mr. Bruner is somewhat of a odd support system, his straight forward answers or comments on her situation spoke a lot of the harsh truth and in many ways, as someone that is past the high school phase, it reminds me of why someone didn’t point those things out.

Honestly, its been a while that I’ve seen something so fun with coming of age elements and kind of at a point really tugged at my heartstrings. I’m starting to see that potential in Hailee Steinfeld although, I do believe the fantastic script and the great cast all around made this memorable. I totally recommend this movie!

Have you seen A Stork’s Journey and/or The Edge of Seventeen?

(Sorry for the later than expected post. I thought I had posted this up. Apparently, I forgot to schedule it…)

Double Feature: Speed 2:Cruise Control (1997) & Perhaps Love (2005)

I promised regular programming yesterday and here it is! A double feature! These are actually getting a little hard to put together because I’ve been watching TV series more than movies. Although there is The Edge of Seventeen, Miss Sloane, Macbeth and Southpaw sitting in my movie queue lately, so I need to work on those very soon. It helps that double features are a lot easier to put together and I like this new structure a lot.

Anyways, enough side tracking. One new watch and a repeat one in this double feature!

Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

speed 2

Director: Jan de Bont

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe

A computer hacker breaks into the computer system of the Seabourn Legend cruise liner and sets it speeding on a collision course into a gigantic oil tanker. – IMDB

I love Speed. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. A great team, perfect action and so very tense to watch. Even recently, when I revisited it, I still had tons of fun. Funnily, my love for the movie didn’t bring me to watch Speed 2: Cruise Control until recently. Its the bad reviews and lack of Keanu Reeves and really not seeing anything interesting about this one. Instincts are a great thing and I sometimes forget to trust it and that is how I end up watching Speed 2 in three sittings, almost giving up after halfway through the second one but deciding to tough it out. I had seen Jason Patric in a more recent film coincidentally for My Sister’s Keeper which I reviewed for Medicine in the Movies Blogathon.

Why didn’t I like this other than the fact that Keanu Reeves isn’t there? Well, when you bring back a sequel and use the lady of the previous movie, she should be more of a center. Now, if Sandra Bullock was doing all the action, maybe it would have worked better and more entertaining. Its hard to follow a character that really isn’t too compelling to watch, plus you have Willem Dafoe playing the villain with crazy eyes here. At the end of the day, when you look back at Speed 2, it takes the formula of Speed, puts it on a cruise ship, switches up the cast and setting and adds some even less probable and reasonable events and we get this.

To be absolutely honest, I did enjoy the final parts of the movie mostly because there was a ton of guilty pleasure action moments that worked for me. However, to have to sit through a good portion of the beginning to get there isn’t exactly something I plan on doing again.

Perhaps Love (2005)

Perhaps Love

Director: Peter Chan

Cast: Jacky Cheung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xun Zhou, Jin-hee Ji, Eric Tsang, Sandra Kwan Yue Ng

A love triangle develops during the making of a musical in mainland China. – IMDB

Perhaps Love is one of those movies that never really made it internationally however, within their own circles had its own merit. Chinese film industry at that point hadn’t really done a lot of modern musicals. I’m not talking any form of Cantonese or Peking Opera which are really live performances. I am talking about a theatrical musical and this one did that. It roped in a phenomenal singer from the 90s who still has the pipes, like Jacky Cheung in a supporting role who sings a whole bunch here and then adds a famous actor like Takeshi Kaneshiro who is in fact earned his fame in the Hong Kong film industry and then mixes in famous Chinese actress Xun Zhou. Along with smaller roles from Eric Tsang and Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, and the change between mandarin and cantonese dialogue, this musical has a lot of great elements although being influenced and feeling like some Hollywood musicals: Moulin Rouge and Singin’ in the Rain, mostly comes to mind, along with a scene that looks exactly like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Nine (the musical).

Regardless of whatever inspirations or influences to this film, Perhaps Love is a very solid entry. Sure, there are a few spots that get a little dramatic but also expected in a lot of romantic dramas. What is very cool is how they tackle this relationship and slip between the past and present but also give this fantastical feeling to it, meshing reality with what is going on in the movie that these characters are brought together for. It has this movie in a movie sort of thing and that works very well especially because the music is beautiful and the director does a great job at setting up his shots. The costumes are really nice and just everything is done really well.

I’m not much for Chinese romance or dramas. I find that they sometimes get lost in the overdramatic phase but this one handles it all along with using it as a personal journey to overcome whatever these characters have to overcome and comes to terms with, making them each have their own layers. Rewatching now, and seeing all the inspirations, still makes me like this one a lot. Plus, Jacky Cheung is one of my favorite singers. Maybe not such a polished actor but he carries a lot of the great singing sequences here and it fits really well. While back in the early 2000s, Xun Zhou really had a good deal of fame and was offered lots of roles and in that phase, she grew on me as she picked up more complex roles in different genres. And well, Takeshi Kaneshiro is a great actor in general and its shows how much he’s grown since he has been in the acting business for a long time. Great cast, great set, beautiful music and this all pulls together into a must-see if you are into musicals and foreign films.

Have you seen Speed 2 or Perhaps Love? What did you think of it?

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Liar Liar (1997) by Rhyme and Reason

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Next entry for the Ultimate 90’s Blogathon is by S.G. Liput from Rhyme and Reason with his review of Liar Liar. Jim Carrey finally makes his entrance into our blogathon. If you haven’t visited Rhyme and Reason before, it is where “poetry meets film reviews”. Their tagline says it all.  Remember to head over there after you’ve read the review and show them some love!

Without further ado, let’s hear their thoughts!

Liar Liar (1997)

I cannot tell a lie, you see;
I tell the truth compulsively.
It’s gotten to the point that I
Clammed up till home to make reply,
So now that I am home at last,
I’ll answer every question asked.

First off, you’re not my type at all;
Your mouth’s too big, your ears too small.
Why won’t I answer what you said?
So you won’t hear what’s in my head.
I don’t much care to stay and chat,
And yes, that dress makes you look fat.

And boss, I love to cause delays;
I was not sick the last two days.
I’ve no excuse, and off the books,
I take the pens when no one looks.
I hate your guts, if you can’t tell,
And think your tie came straight from hell.

Last, I can’t volunteer with you;
I’ve less important things to do.
Like watching TV like a log
And hoping someone reads my blog.
The truth will set you free, they say,
Right now I don’t quite feel that way.

The characters and incidents portrayed in this poem are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased) is intended or should be inferred.

_____________________

liar-liar-poster

MPAA rating: PG-13

In trying to think of a unique angle for this 90’s blogathon, there was one actor I thought of whose reputation was made and mostly played out in that decade: Jim Carrey. Those were the years of Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber, when his name became synonymous with over-the-top goofiness and that snappy smile, and by the end of the decade, he’d ventured into more acclaimed dramatic roles, like The Truman Show and Man in the Moon. I decided to pick a film that fell in the middle of these phases and exemplifies both his comedic and semi-dramatic talent: Liar Liar.

Carrey plays a liar, I mean, lawyer named Fletcher Reede, who has a surprisingly nuanced relationship with his son Max (Justin Cooper) and ex-wife Audrey (Maura Tierney). He’s not the typical standoffish jerk that one might expect from his character, but actually seems like a good and fun father when he plays with Max, a fact even Audrey acknowledges. Where he fails, though, is in the frequency of broken promises and flawed priorities, always willing to put his job ahead of his son. When he’s on the job, the title is more well-deserved, since he’s a master at both ingratiating white lies and wildly rewritten facts that make him such a strong legal case-winner. When Max has at last had enough of his dad’s dishonesty, he makes a birthday wish that causes Fletcher to tell the truth, no matter what.

It’s easy to recognize that the plot is a mere framework for Carrey’s trademark silliness, in this case the exaggerated spasms he goes into as he tries to eke out even the smallest untruth, and of course what’s a lawyer if he can’t lie? It’s the kind of concept that would work well as a comedy skit, but it’s surprising just how many variations of inconvenient truths were devised to fill a feature film, from the real reason we don’t always give money to homeless people to the worst possible thing you could admit to a traffic cop. And Carrey just chews the scenery up, sometimes almost literally, with ever more hilarious convulsions and vocalizations. I especially enjoyed his inescapable bluntness and his attempts at being truthful enough to get by, such as even beating himself up for the sake of “truthfulness.” Even one of his costars accuses him of overacting during the credit bloopers, but he does do it well.

On top of all the silliness of Liar Liar, there’s a worthwhile moral at its heart: honesty is the best policy, obviously. But watching Fletcher’s inability to lie actually emphasizes just how widespread lying is, even if it’s something small meant to save us some trouble. It proves that some lies are indeed necessary for, well, civilization itself to survive, but lies don’t always have to be big and absurd to start a slippery slope.

As I said before, the characterization of Liar Liar isn’t as clear-cut as redemption stories like this usually are (think of the unmistakable jerks in Ghost Town or A Christmas Carol). Fletcher does have good points, most notably his chemistry with his son, and by the end, his truth-telling ordeal feels like a believable revelation rather than a complete 180° for his personality. Likewise, his ex-wife’s boyfriend (Cary Elwes) isn’t a jerk either and seems like a legitimately nice guy trying to bond with Max, but he’s just not the same as Fletcher. Nuances like that aren’t what I’d expect from a film full of Jim Carrey’s eccentric hamminess, but it turns what might have been mere silliness into a rather heart-warming amusement.

Best line: (Max) “My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.”   (Fletcher) “That’s just something ugly people say.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2017 S.G. Liput
451 Followers and Counting

Thanks to Rhyme and Reason for this awesome review (and poetry piece) for Liar Liar!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews for tomorrow’s Ultimate 90’s Blogathon entry!

Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Batman Returns (1992) by DB Movies Blog

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Next up is DB from DB Movies Blog with a sequel of the 1989 Batman by Tim Burton, Batman Returns! One of my personal faves because it has the fantastic Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. DB Movies Blog has a range of film-related posts from reviews to trailer to lists and awards recap, etc. Lots of great material to check out! Without further ado, let’s pass it over to her to talk about her choice!

batman returns

Batman Returns (1992)

Three years after directing “Batman” (1989), Tim Burton came up with yet another Batman film “Batman Returns”. Visually stunning and well thought-out, the film is about the rise to power of Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito), who has been hidden away and shunned by society for 33 years in the city of Gotham. In his quest to become the mayor of Gotham, Penguin is unwillingly helped by a dishonest businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) as the Penguin’s freaky followers intermittently wreck havoc on Gotham to discredit the present mayor and eventually make it look like the Penguin is fighting crime. Meanwhile, Shreck’s shy secretary, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer), finds out too much about Shreck’s illegal activities, causing Shreck to try to get rid of her, and the result of his efforts is Selina’s transformation into a Catwoman. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) is also not indifferent to the crimes orchestrated by the Penguin and is determined to stop the Penguin and his gang while having a love-hate relationship with Selina/Catwoman.

From the very first scenes of the film, we are intrigued. We are confronted with a Dracula-inspired-setting and gothic surroundings as we see a couple who gives birth to a deformed baby, and then some time later, on a cold Christmas night, rushes across a Gotham park to throw their newborn baby into a river crossing the park. The eerie wintry landscape and the menacing soundtrack by Danny Elfman complete this picture as we then see a crib of a baby-monster floating down the sewer of the city.

Prior to “Batman Returns”, Burton also directed “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), already establishing himself as the director for shooting the themes of supernatural, odd, unknown and dark. In that vein, Burton makes “Batman Returns” his very own. With Burton’s flair for presenting a Gothic fantasy, “Batman Returns”’s cinematography is moody and grim, now reminding of “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) or “Sweeney Todd” (2007), but with a comical twist, a freaks-show setting and more stand-alone odd characters. Burton transforms the city of Gotham into a lavish wintry high-buildings landscape populated by mysterious pale-faced personalities, odd freaks and brave anti-heroes. In his prior and forthcoming work, Burton relied heavily on the old German expressionist cinematography and “Batman Returns” is no exception. From the very first scenes, the film is all about sharp dark edges, futurism, and the macabre, similar to “The Cabinet of DrCaligari” (1920). We also see the skyline of the Gotham City, and the tall buildings, grim atmosphere and fog reminds of “Metropolis” (1927). The elaborate sculpture work of the Gotham Zoo and the camerawork are also similar to the camerawork and the town scale model found in Burton’s “Beetlejuice”.

Action-wise, “Batman Returns” is also great. From the firebombing of Shreck’s department store to a faulty Batman car racing, the action is fast-paced with great visual effects. Add to this a rich animal symbolism, distinctively-gloomy, but deliciously macabre cinematography and a thought-provoking ending and it is safe to say that Burton has probably crafted the best Batman movie ever.

Having said that, “Batman Returns” is, primarily, a character-driven film. Michael Keaton reprises his role of the Batman, but the spotlight is not on him and he has to give way to “more interesting” and “crazier” characters. Keaton’s performance is unimaginative and unenthusiastic, though he is a very dignified and “intellectual” Batman; that kind of a Batman who will snug in on a weekend in front of a fireplace with a book rather than practise his combat moves in front of a mirror.

Every imaginable Hollywood actress was considered for the role of the Catwoman: from Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster to Cher and Meryl Streep. In the end, Annette Bening was cast, but was replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer is perfectly cast and gives a very convincing, almost iconic performance. She is good as a sexually-frustrated shy secretary Selina and as a confident and blood-thirsty Catwoman. Selina’s duality and her transformation into a Catwoman are particularly well-presented. We see something close to the nowadays “Black Swan” transformation, because Selina is first surrounded by her pink soft toys and immaculate kitchen and then goes berserk and lusts for a dark and mysterious side of life. Her chemistry with Bruce Wayne is also very good, and it is interesting to watch how the pair is mentally trying to figure out each other’s true identities and thoughts.

The real revelations in the film are Danny DeVito in the role of the Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot and Christopher Walken in the role of Max Shreck. DeVito’s Penguin is very memorable: he is hideous, totally demented and power-hungry. Walken’s Shreck is also a show-stealer. Cool, strange and menacing, Walken as Max Shreck makes the atmosphere very uncomfortable, and it is a pity that the Shreck’s energy aspirations idea is left underdeveloped in the film.

It is true, however, that “Batman Returns” is not a perfect movie. We hardly get to know anything about the title character and his personal development (a hero’s journey) is questionable. The reason why Batman as a character is so neglected in this film is maybe because Burton/Waters/Strick is not really interested in him. In fact, Burton agreed to do “Batman Returns” only on condition that the studio gives him more creative control over the material and that Daniel Waters, a screenwriter known for his black-comedy “Heathers” (1988), comes on board. The influence of both is evident in the final product.

Another weakness of the film is that it has too many villains which form surprising partnerships, but the biggest criticism at the time of its release was that Burton’s version of a Batman movie was too gloomy and grotesque, sexually too suggestive (e.g. the Catwoman finds herself often on top of the Batman) and violent (e.g. child-kidnapping takes place on a regular basis). There are valid points, but should be seen in a perspective. Unlike the Superman and even the Spiderman series, the Batman series is all about the dark nature of humanity, mysterious personal duality, masks and camouflage, the colour black, unclear freaky characters’ origins, underlying childhood trauma and gloomy settings. Taking this into account, Burton’s gothic, macabre and dark take fits the Batman adaptation perfectly.

Batman Returns” may not be the film to immediately spring to mind when you think “the films of 1990s”, but its unusually presented-superhero theme, advanced computer-generated special effects and the director’s distinctive influence on the style and plot of the film are the features which later came to define films shot in 1990s (wasn’t it the decade of the rise of independent cinema after all?). “Batman Returns” is a Tim Burton film through-and-through. Rich in visuals, it is grim, dark, fantastical and strangely enticing. It also a film which is very entertaining: it has an interesting plot, perfect casting, great soundtrack and a very memorable presentation of such oddball characters as the Penguin and Catwoman.

8/10

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Thanks to DB for a fantastic review of Batman Returns. Definitely a great title (with its flaws) from the 90s!
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews on Monday for the next entry!