Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Andrew's Cinematic Adventures: Kingsman: The Secret Service Movie Review

I wasn't even planning on seeing Kingsman: The Secret Service. The only reason Abby and I saw it was because it was the only movie that looked halfway-decent in theaters that we hadn't already seen. Our other options were Seventh Son, Jupiter Ascending, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Nahh. Nope. And HARD PASS on Fifty Shades of Grey. So we went into Kingsman:The Secret Service hoping to be at least moderately entertained for an hour or so.

I was very, VERY surprised at the quality of this movie.

I have seen a lot of movies in the past year...most of them in theaters. And in all honesty, I don't think I enjoyed myself as much in any movie this year as I did while watching Kingsman. The film is absolutely fantastic from start to finish. Essentially about a secret British secret service filled with gentlemen who refer to themselves as the Kingsmen, it tackles it's subject matter with plenty of wit, the perfect amount of action...etc. Honestly, it's so much better than anything James Bond has attempted to do that I don't even know where to begin. Let's talk about why it worked so well.

1. For starters, the Kingsman doesn't take itself too seriously. It has iffy CGI, laughable dialogue, and an insane/unbelievable plot. But somehow it embraces those qualities and hits it out of the park. The movie has a distinct Quentin Tarantino feel...incredibly violent, very stylistic cinematography, and Samuel L. Jackson. Yes. Samuel L. Jackson. He's in the movie as the hilarious lisped villain. I loved his character because he takes the whole idea of villains having weird voices and completely mocks it to it's very core. Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp is about as funny as you could imagine.

2. The movie boasts a star-studded cast with Michael Caine, Samuel J., Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and Mark Hamill (yes, the original Luke Skyewalker is in this movie...I was shocked as well). I don't know if people understand how much I adore Colin Firth. He is up there in my top 5 favorite actors, mainly due to his incredible performance in the Kings Speech. This movie takes Colin Firth and turns him into a bonafide bad-ass action star. I'm avoiding spoilers, but there's a church fight scene in this movie that had me glued to the screen for the full 15 or so minutes it lasted. Holy frick it was incredible. This movie is the reason you go the movies. Simply pure entertainment at its finest. Walking out of the theater my face looked a lot like this:

3. Kingsman also gets the most out of it's newbie actors. The main protagonist is played by newcomer Taron Egerton. I have never seen him in anything else, but I'm pretty certain we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future, whether it be in more movies or more Kingsman movies. Taron plays Eggsy, the main boy recruited to join the Kingsmen and fight off Samuel L. Jackson's character. After seeing him in this role, I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job.

4. I'll just leave this picture here for you. Not much description is necessary. I don't think any spy movie has ever had a cooler bad guy/gal.

Was there anything about this film that I didn't like? The only gripe I can find is that there were a few underdeveloped characters. Kingsman did a great job showcasing Colin Firth, Taran Egerton, and Samuel L. Jackson but didn't do a good job making me care about Michael Caine's character or the main chick who's trying to join the Kingsmen. I would've enjoyed getting to know those characters a little bit more.

If you couldn't tell, I adored this movie. It's vaulted its way to the top of my 2015 movie list (I haven't seen many yet haha).I expect it to last till the end of the year in the top 10. I WILL buy it on BluRay and I already have recommended to numerous friends. Heck, I may even go watch it for a second time in theaters. I never do that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Andrew's Cinematic Adventures: Birdman Movie Review

BIRDMAN. The movie everyone was talking about but no one knew anything about. It's that random movie that shows up around Oscar time and steals the show...that movie that no one even knew was being made. Not only that, but it's that movie that strangely includes most people's preferred actors and actresses (Emma Stone, Edward Norton).

Essentially, Birdman is that movie that is tailor-made to receive ALL THE OSCARS.

And it will, for good reason.

I was wanting to see this movie since like early November and I FINALLY was able to catch a showtime a couple weeks ago, late at night.

What an incredible/weird/awkward/strange/amazing experience it was.

The movie follows the struggles of a washed-up actor named Riggan (played by Michael Keaton) who is having a hard time breaking away from his past success as a superhero named Birdman. The entire film depicts him trying to successfully re-launch his career via a Broadway play, while battling his fellow actors, his own personal ego, and the ever-present pressure of moving past the Birdman persona that has defined his life as an actor.

First of all, Michael Keaton puts in a slam-dunk performance. I was scarcely able to look away from the screen as Keaton struggled with his inner-Birdman-demon. It's tragic, it's hilarious, it's incredibly thought-provoking. The thing that struck me most about his performance is that it seemed to come from real-life experiences that Keaton may have had in his aftermath of playing Batman in real life. There was definitely a subtle layer of realism with Keaton playing Riggan. You can feel that Keaton understood this character he was playing on a much more deeper and real level than you even realize. This performance puts Keaton back on the map in Hollywood, which is weirdly the same thing that happens to Keaton's character in the actual movie. Ahhhhh. SOOO MANY LAYERS.

The supporting actors also put in some fantastic performances. I loved Edward Norton as the dooshy actor alongside Keaton in the Broadway play. Seriously, Norton was an actor handmade by God for Indie movies like this (or anything directed by Wes Anderson). He was one of the better parts of the movie, playing a stuck-up actor that also conveys a lost-boy vibe at the same time. He hits his performance out of the park.

At the same time, you can't forget about Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Zach Galifanakis. Each was a perfect choice for their respective roles in the movie.

I also can't end this blog without mentioning the cinematography and camera-work of Birdman. It is absolutely one-of-a-kind. Since I'm not very smart with film stuff like that, I won't try to explain it in vivid detail. Essentially, the movie appears to be shot in one long extended camera shot. It's incredible how the director pulls it off. It sounds weird if you haven't seen it, but honestly it works. Just go see it. I can't imagine this movie being filmed any other way.

BIRDMAN. OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE (That's the tagline with the title that nobody realizes is there). Go see it.  I give it a 10 out of 10. The best movie of the year, one that will become a cult classic, and will be studied in film classes for decades to come.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Andrew's Cinematic Adventures: The Imitation Game Movie Review

2014 has been an incredible year for movies. I know it's 2015 and technically I've seen both Theory of Everything AND The Imitation Game this month, but I still consider them movies from 2014. The Academy must think so as well, since both movies are being nominated for a bunch of different Oscars.

The Imitation Game is the latest addition to the short and impressive filmography of one handsome, slightly-anonymous Brit named Benedict Cumberbatch. The man picks his roles well and has yet to disappoint me in any movie he's been in. We can go ahead and count the Imitation Game up there with some of his best work as well as one of the best movies that 2014 had to offer.

The movie takes place in the early 1940s and World War II is all the rage. Cumberbatch plays the role of Alan Turing, a brilliant man with slight problems connecting with his fellow humans. That doesn't stop the British government from recruiting him to help crack the Enigma machine, which was the machine used to send and receive Nazi messages during WWII. Alan Turing is tasked with heading a team of the most brilliant minds in the world to crack the code and bring the war to a quick end.

Fascinating plot, right? Absolutely but not the only story this movie successfully tells. On its surface, yes, it is about the Engima machine and WWII, Beneath the surface, this film portrays the story of a complex (another one, I know) man living during a time when people like him weren't necessarily welcomed into society with open arms. I'm not going to reveal the exact basis behind what I'm talking about (no spoilers), but Benedict takes the role of Alan Turing and hits an epic home run with the material. The entire portrayal is tragic, fascinating, and thought-provoking, one of his best roles, and a complete masterpiece in the world of character study. Seriously. Go see it because there's not much more I could say about the performance without spoiling major plot points.

Conversely, I HAVE noticed that Cumberbatch seems to play the same type of character in most everything I've seen him in (not including Smaug, come on guys obviously I'm not talking about that). He may realize this himself and is banking on what he knows he's good at doing. Regardless, I would be interested in seeing him play a non-Sherlock type character. Every time I've watched, he's played some form of the genius...the guy who struggles connecting with those around him...that guy who has little patience with any lowly peon who just happens to be less smart than he is. We know he can play that role. He's been doing it for years on BBC's Sherlock. Come on Benedict. Try on a different outfit.*

*PS. I'm not saying he's not a good character. I'm not saying he's bad at any of these roles. I'm merely saying that I would love to see him in a different role...something completely opposite of what we are all accustomed to. Here's a flattering picture of Cumberbatch as proof that I adore the guy.... ;)

A couple of other points on this movie:

1. Keira Knightley....goddess much?

2. Every time they mentioned MI6 in this movie, I turned to Abby and whispered something about James Bond. Seriously, I was half-expecting 007 himself to show up and help with their top-secret mission saying something like, "Miss Moneypenny sent me. I got this."

 He would then proceed to completely forget what the exact mission entailed and concern himself with the wooing of Keira Knightley's character. I'd watch that movie.

3. I absolutely loved seeing Allen Leech in this movie. The Irish babes knows knows how to a suit and I can say that openly. Downton Abbey sighting! Seriously, look at this guy in a suit:

He's a suit-wearing fiend.

I haven't yet come up with a rating system for this blog, but I WILL say this. The Imitation Game is one of the best movies of the year and I've decided it's even better than the Theory of Everything. Go see it. Buy it on Blu-Ray. Do whatever you do with movies that you fall in love with. You won't be disappointed.

PS. If any of y'all have any pointers on a rating system for movies...leave a comment. I haven't yet settled on something specific or concrete.