Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dead Poets Sociey (1989) Movie Review and the Importance of Indirect Characterization in Film and What Is Learning?

 

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Starring: Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Leonard, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen
Written By: Tom Schulman
Directed By: Peter Weir
Release Date: June 9, 1989
 Rating: 5/5
 
Summary: A group of boys in a preparatory high school who have really no direction have their eyes opened by their English teacher who inspires them through his unorthodox teaching methods involving poetry and "seizing the day" or Carpe Diem.

My Thoughts:
"I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself." 

This is a direct quote from the film from Robin Williams' character, Mr. Keating, and this quote stuck with me in particular because I have only recently begun to realize what education is. We go to school of 4 years in high school only to be filled with meaningless information that is for the most part, irreverent in more of our future endeavors, but I was thinking in such a black in white way and it was a very limiting kind of way to think. I'm not going to say that this movie changed the way I thought, but it opened my eyes to a newer, fresher way to think. Education isn't merely about stuffing vast amounts of information in children's heads as most people will think, it's about teaching children how to learn in many different ways. We're learning this information and the teachers are teaching us different ways to learn and understand not just what they're writing on the board, but in the outside world as well. We don't need quadratic equations out and about in the real world, but we do need hard, critical thinking methods that allow us to work numbers and maybe other things in and out of many other types of equations. Education isn't teaching us what to learn, it's how to learn and how to think freely for yourself once you're given the knowledge and the tools to do so and that's what Dead Poets Society is about and what's why I adore this film so much.

We have this group of boys in this strict school setting and they all really have no direction, more so our character, Neil (Robert Leonard), who's father (Kurtwood Smith) is overbearing to the point where it's just horrible. They don't really see life for what it is and just go through the motions of life without getting much out of it. Not only is this movie teaching these boys how to live, but it's asking us to think about and reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves if we're living up to our potential and seizing the day, but more importantly, are we being ourselves and being happy. We have these boys from all these different backgrounds involving all different ways in which they are limited. Knox is a boy who wants to be with the girl he loves even though she has boyfriend, Neil just wants to be an actor and Todd wants to find his voice and we have this man, this teacher try and not help them explicitly solve these problems, but really teach them how to go out and solve these problems for themselves. Robin Williams as the type of guy teaching these kids to do so is grand. He's typically a man of more comedic roles, so him blending his more humorous tone with the serious nature of this movie is something spectacular to watch. I was laughing, I was crying and more importantly, I was in awe and it's solely from the acting and the writing. Those two things are what drive this movie home because a lot of films rely on cool camera shots, pretty cinematography and so forth, but Dead Poets Society is really great because of the writing. The atmosphere like a pure adaptation of a novel, which, as an English major is something I can get behind. 

And besides the major themes involving the importance of self and education there's also one important thing that really goes unnoticed with this film. It's this really great literary technique of characterization, or creating characters. Film and literature go hand-in-hand at times and this film is a great example of why. I explained that this movie reads like a novel and one of the techniques used in novels is characterization. This film has no main protagonist and we're shown the lives of multiple young men and this English teacher and we're explained who they are and what they're like implicitly, or without direction, just as these characters are without. A lot of films direct you on what you're supposed to know about characters, but you follow what's going on in this film, you aren't explicitly told what's what by another character or an author, in the case of a novel. And characterization done implicitly in film is something I am very passionate about because it encourages free thinking. Being told what to know is helpful in drawing conclusions and impressions about a character, yes, but in my opinion, drawing ones own is more important. 

For example, we aren't given a "main protagonist", but most people tend to place that role in Todd's direction as he changes the most through the course of the film. He's shy and doesn't speak much, and even when he's introduced to the Dead Poets Society, he's a bystander and his fear lies behind his struggle with lining up a future with what he deems as his own potential. However, I do not deem any character a "main character" per-say in a film like this one because of the fact I have so many big ideas behind everyone, such as the fact that Neil's life was a giant act. Neil, another character people have deemed the "main character" in this film, acted for his friends as happy and complete, he acted like a rigorous student for his father, yet he was none of those things which drove him to do what he did and big ideas would be crushed if we were simply told things from the start and more so, people wouldn't even have the ability to deem characters "main characters" if we were given such information from the start, proving that indirect characterization is good. Indirect characterization is key. 

But, go see Dead Poets Society, whether you're an English major who adores poetry and literature, someone who hates anything involving literature, an alien coming to destroy our planet, I really don't care. Go see this film. This film is a lighthearted, tribute to the joys of learning and education and free thinking, which is something everyone can relate to and take something from. Plus, you get to see a young Ethan Hawke. What more can you want?




 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)

New DEADPOOL Poster 
Deadpool (2016)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Release Date: Feb 12, 2016
Directed By: Tim Miller
Written By: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Rating: 4.6/5

Summary: Ex-special forces agent, Ryan Reyonlds, Wade Wilson, gets put in an experiment that leaves him with the insane super power of regeneration, leading him to create his alter ego, Deadpool.

My Thoughts:  I don't usually like action flicks, but must I say this one surpassed every expectation I had for it completely. Knowing little to nothing about the comic book world of Deadpool or just about any mutant or superhero besides Batman ever, I am glad to say that wasn't a problem when watching this movie because in 2016, there are superhero/villian movie trailers dropping left and right and I'm truly afraid to go into them blind like I did with this one because I won't know anything and I'm very afraid of that lack of knowledge ruining the film. However, that wasn't the case for Deadpool as there was tons of background information in flashbacks and whatnot and I was impressed by the way it was handled because a lot of action films that do the whole flashback and flashforward thing too much and it becomes more of an annoyance than an aid in that case, but Deadpool didn't let me down.

Deadpool starts right off with action and not quickly paced, annoying kind of action, but visually pleasing, somewhat insane and unbelivable (which is acceptable for a superhero movie) and almost orchestra-like action. The pacing of it was beautiful and for someone who doesn't like action that much, it was something I could get into. But not only was there action, but there were also a lot of dirty jokes, which was another thing I was scared for with this film because in the trailers and whatnot, the jokes and action felt forced and unnatural to the point that it made me quite uncomfortable especially with all of these things coming from Ryan Reynolds because I'm quite back and forth on how I feel about his acting abilities. But, alas, Ryan Renolds impressed me a lot with his ability to not take everything over the top because this movie could've just gotten real sloppy and Disaster Movie-esque real quick, but it didn't, which I so appreciate beacause, again, from watching the trailers, I thought it was headed in that direction.

And so, we have Deadpool. For a girl that doesn't do action flicks, this kind of film is something I can get into because going into the film, we're presented with a lot of things that could be misconstrued as problems, but the movie handles them so well that they actually benefit it, so hat's off to you, Deadpool. I had the most fun in a while watching this film, so I hope you do, too. 

 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Movie Review: Hail, Cesear! (2016)

 
 
Hail, Caesar!

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Aldren Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2016
 Rating: 2.3/5

Summary: Set in 50's, a Hollywood studio fixer sets off to find a lead actor for a movie called Hail, Caesar after he gets kidnapped.

My Thought: I really wanted to like this movie. God, I did. I just didn't though. There's a great cast and great subplots which I didn't expect from it, but what else was there? Nothing much. Okay, I'm very much familiar with the Coen Brothers' work, but with more of their serious work like A Serious Man or Inside Lleywn Davis, rather than their comedic work and I'm a Cinema major, so I appreciated the tributes to all of old Hollywood such as Channing Tatum's whole sailor dance scene in reference to Gene Kelly or Scarlett Johansson's mermaid water scene in reference to Esther Williams' stuff. This movie was literally everything I learned in my Film History class all mashed together in a film and I picked up on that, so I feel like if you enjoy film and understand the background of the time period it's set in, in relation to film, of course, then you will probably get a lot more from this movie. If you don't, you'll just be like, Okay? And then the movie just becoming another movie, not the giant tribute to the 50's that it is.

And that's the thing, I didn't hate the movie, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it. Sure, I picked up at the things they were trying to say about Hollywood in the 50's, but other than that there wasn't much substance there. All these subplots and characters we're eventually introduced while the main plot is developing kind of mean nothing in relation to the film as a whole. It was funny and the rapid fire dialogue between a lot of the characters was funny and constantly snappy. I loved that aspect of it, but what they were going on about really didn't develop into anything else and I wish it had. It probably would've made the movie better, in my opinion, but we're stuck with lots of big names being in the movie roughly about 5 to 7 minutes each, never to be seen or heard from again afterwards, which sucks because their characters could've had more to them and brought something else to the table. 

And so, filled with reference after reference, Hail Ceasar! is a film that celebrates old Hollywood and it does that well. Everything else, not so much. It's not for everyone and that's what brings the movie down and even so, those who do get the references like myself, may find it lacking in any substance whatsoever.
 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Movie Review: The Worst Year of My Life (2015)

 Image result for the worst year of my life poster

The Worst Year of My Life (2015)
*Streaming on Amazon Prime as of Dec 17, 2015*

Starring: Trevor St. John David, Amy Vorpahl, Cate Beehan, Nicholas Tucci
Directed By: Johnathan Smith
Released: February 13, 2015
Rating: 2/5

Summary: A man gets finds out his girlfriends been cheating on him and goes on a misson...to do what? I don't actually know.

My Thoughts: This movie was entertaining. It was funny, it was engaging, it just made no damn sense! It was a telling of a break-up, obviously, but it was trying to take the non-linear story-telling aspect to a place that it just looses the person watching the damned thing. The acting was the only thing keeping me watching and it was something else. For an indie flick, I was impressed. It wasn't anything phenomenal by any means, but it felt real. However, I just...I couldn't follow it with all the jumping around it does because instead of explaining what's going on and what part in the relationship you're at, it takes you out of the movie and what part you're in and places you there in that part without much explanation at all and that's my main problem with this film. 

But it's an interesting take on a relationship as you follow him around with a therapist who's trying to help him and explain why things didn't work out. This could've been better, but it wasn't. You can sit around all day, watch this movie and you can sit an analyze it, but you won't get it because there's nothing really to get and that's that.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Movie Review: Sleeping With Other People (2015)

Image result for sleeping with other people poster 

Sleeping With Other People (2015)

Starring: Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, Adam Brody
Written By: Leslye Headland
Directed By: Leslye Headland
Release Date: August 12, 2015
Rating: 3/5
 
Summary: Two people who have obvious relationship issues, one being a sex addict(?) and the other being a cheater, begin a platonic relationship, but it soon leads to more, but how will they act on it when they both are so messed up.

My Thoughts: I've been waiting for this movie for forever and after seeing it, I'm glad to say it did not disappoint. This is not a giant career leaper for either of our leads (Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie) but seeing these two as romantic interests was something else. One. Because this is the first time I've seen Jason Sudekis in this kind of role and Two. Because this is the first time I've seen Alison Brie in anything decent because I was not a fan of Get Hard.

Their chemistry was perfect as just two, everyday messed up people who are just trying to live their lives and even though the film falls into the typical rom-com trap with the whole 'Will they or won't they get together?' thing, you don't care. You just want them to be together and you're so tied up in this fun little story, you don't care if you've seen it time and time again. But what's new is that you have the two leads being terrible people when it comes to relationships is something I haven't seen and you don't really notice this at first because you're supposed to root for these people, but they kind of suck. They constantly are cheating on their partners and that's not okay, but you overlook it with these two because they're so damn charming. 

 And finally, we're dealt the same old age question that comes time and time again: Can men and women be just friends? It's When Harry Met Sally with a funner, sexier twist and I noticed it right off the bat with the meeting several years later and the constant banter between the two regardless. However, unlike When Harry Met Sally, the mutual attraction is silently mentioned between looks and glances and not mentioned until the very end. They know the problem, but wait until it's good and ready to try and solve it and while the problem is the two are in love with each other, you are okay with them being friends for the time being because you know what's going to happen at the end. You just know it, but it doesn't stop you from enjoying the hell out out it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Movie Review: The Revenant (2015)

Image result for the revenant poster 
The Revenant (2015)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson,
Written By: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Directed By:  Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Release Date: December 25, 2015
Rating: 4.6/5

Summary: Frontiersman, Hugh Glass, goes adventuring on with his crew until he gets mauled by a bear and left for dead in the woods and now he must survive on his own.

My Thoughts: I kept telling myself that this wasn't going to Leo's year because of the other movies I'd seen this year and boy, was I wrong. That was before I saw this movie. This movie is great and Leo deserves that Oscar because he acted the hell out of this movie, which is weird because I don't typically enjoy these kinds of movies, but this one was different. It was entertaining and a lot of scenes left me on the edge of my seat, but was I entertained throughout the whole thing? No.

The Revenant is melancholy. Very, very melancholy, but also very beautiful. And while it didn't make me sad, it made me feel very empty, just as I feel out main character was left feeling after everything he'd endured. While is movie is tells a great deal about revenge, it is not a revenge flick, it's more about the humanity of man, survival and loyalty. It's about what one man would do for to save himself and try to get revenge for being felt for dead by his supposed caretakers, which of one stabs his son to death and while most of his journey involves him trying to get said revenge, there's a lot of other underlying messages than just revenge because revenge is just dirty. There's nothing to it except more hurt and that's what I saw in this movie. Tom Hardy's character even says it which is wonderful because he sucks! He was supposed to be an ass and we were supposed to hate him, but I understood him and the fact he says this very fines makes me understand his choices even more. He was trying to be rational and while no one likes what he did, he was being real, something you don't see often from an antagonist in a film.

Another great addition to the film was Domhnall Gleeson who definitely impressed me. While I adored him in Ex Machina and Brooklyn, I was stunned to see him in uber-masculine, tough kind of role. At first I doubted him and didn't really believe him as the captain of this crew, but once as the film went on, he settled and held his own amongst the likes of Leo, Will and Tom who definitely make this movie the greatness that it is, but if I'm going to be honest the meaning of the film was better than the substance and action in it. There were a couple of scenes here and there they kept me watching, but other than that nothing much happened in the middle of the film and that was kind of shitty, but we can't have it all, can we?