Film Review : The Boxtrolls (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 75%
Metacritic Score – 61
Oscar Nominated for Best Animated Feature
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Starring – Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, and Simon Pegg

A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters’ by Alan Snow.

One of my best friends has seen this movie like five times. He likes movies but is so busy all the time that he doesn’t get a chance to see much. He saw this film FIVE TIMES. Seeing as The Boxtrolls has recently been released on Netflix, my excuses have run dry and it was time to see the film my friend calls one of his favorite movies.

I liked it. I can’t say I liked it nearly as much as he did, but I liked it.

The Boxtrolls tells the story of Eggs, a boy growing up in the sewers and aptly named after the box he wears as weird vest/shirt thing. The Boxtrolls spend their night rummaging through the garbage while the rest of the town sleeps. This garbage is taken down below and turned into crazy inventions. They’re like little elves except stinkier and not as cute. Archibald Snatcher is a lunatic that wants to eradicate the Boxtrolls from the town in order to obtain a white hat and attend cheese parties. Yes, this film is British.

Laika, the production company that makes stop motion films, made one of my favorite animated films of all time in Coraline. The film was like a dark Grimm fairy tale and the animation was fresh and alive. Their second film, Paranorman, was also dark and surprisingly very funny. The story didn’t grasp me as much as Coraline did, but I still enjoyed it. The Boxtrolls is a bit like Paranorman but less dark. These creatures aren’t scary at all. They have animalistic little voices and are generally kind spirited and fun. All the evil and darkness comes from Archibald Snatcher, voiced terrifically by Ben Kingsley. It’s a good versus evil story arch that has been done plenty of times before, but in this case a very unique and different world. That’s what made this movie work for me. The fact that it was also gorgeously shot and animated helped out a great deal too. Kids should be able to find some great lessons tucked away in the story of the film. Pride of your personality and where you came from are themes you can’t really miss. Frankly, I just enjoyed watching the way they animated this thing, and listening to the voice acting. There was some real talent on display behind the microphone here. The three henchmen played by Frost, Morgan, and Ayoade were perhaps my favorite part of the film.

It may be my least favorite Laika film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s unique, funny, and gorgeously shot and should provide for some rewatchability, but maybe not five times worth.

Also, now we know what happened to Bran Stark this season.

3.5/5




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Film Review : I Origins (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%
Metacritic Score – 57/100

Directed By – Mike Cahill
Starring – Michael Pitt, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Steven Yeun, and Archie Panjabi

A molecular biologist and his laboratory partner uncover evidence that may fundamentally change society as we know it.

The fan made trailer above was include instead of the official trailer because it doesn’t give away the entire film like the official one did. I just wanted to point that out.

Wow. Emotions guys…lots of emotions right now.

You can just sign me up now to watch anything that involves Zal Batmanglij, Mike Cahill, or Brit Marling. Anything. I don’t care what it is. They make films with such an emotional punch to them that it doesn’t matter if there are some glaring scientific plot holes/inconsistencies. I’m not watching a Ted talk. I’m watching a movie. I can be a little hypocritical of this ideal sometimes however, especially when discussing zombie films. I guess what it comes down to is if there is a powerful story going on, I could give two shits if the science adds up. Cahill’s previous film Another Earth falls into this category. The likelihood of an identical Earth appearing in our solar system seems improbable but the story of Brit Marling’s character makes that film special.

This is why I loved I Origins.

Michael Pitt plays a scientist trying to create a human eye from scratch to prove that intelligent design is false. Brit Marling plays his lab partner. Honestly, this really doesn’t matter until the second half of the film, and I’m not going to spoil anything by describing why. The first half of this film is where the money is at. It’s what sets up the emotional gut punch that is delivered at the end. Pitt falls in love with Sofia, heartbreakingly played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey. Their relationship and where it takes them was masterfully written by Cahill. I cared for these characters. I cared for them a lot. Sofia is this free spirit who may not fall into one religion, but believes in the spirit and soul of human beings. She is the perfect contrast to the scientific ideals of Pitt’s character Ian. Cahill tells their story with passion and great attention to little details in relationships. It also helps that both Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey had wonderful chemistry and impressed me with their acting.

The second half of the film is more of a mystery that needs to be solved. The premise of the film, that our eyes can be scanned and used almost as fingerprints, doesn’t really get explained too much which is where it probably threw a lot of people off. I didn’t need explanation. It was just enough to get me on board emotionally.

This is why I love films like this. They take a science fiction idea, which more often than not creates a unique environment, and then on comes the feels. Upstream Colour hit me the same way. There will always be room on my film collection for films like this. Like most films I love, I can’t really explain much more than I already have. I Origins is a science fiction film that goes light on the science fiction and really heavy on the ol’ heartstrings. The exploration of humanity and the mysteries that go along with that are what really made me love the film. I highly recommend it.

4.5/5



Quick Reviews! Calvary, Headhunters, Suicide Kings, and Tusk

Yeah, That’s a lot of reviews that didn’t get full write ups. I know. I’ve been busy actually. I’d love to do full write ups on all these films but you know what? That’s not what this site is for. I’m not Roger Ebert. I’m a film hobbyist. The main goal of this blog is to hightlight and expose films that you may not want/have the chance to see. I think these small posts get the job done. Like always, films I see in the theater will be given full reviews. Films I see at home however will not always get a full write up. Honestly, they should. They’re just as important as the theater screenings. Maybe once things settle down I’ll get back down to giving each film my full attention. Not today though. Order up!

Calvary
Directed By – John Michael McDonagh

If any film I’ve seen over the last two weeks deserves its own write up, it’s this one. One problem…I HAVE to see the film again and I already sent it back to Netflix. Brenden Gleeson is a priest who is told by one of his flock during confession that he will be killed in a week, not because he’s an evil man but rather because he is a good man. Right off the bat this is a story I can get into. The fact that it stars one of my favorite actors in Gleeson is only a bonus. I saw The Guard. I liked The Guard. I didn’t love The Guard. I loved this film. It hit me emotionally towards the end of the film like nothing I’ve seen in a few months. The film has a group of great character actors in their natural state hamming up a few scenes here and there. Chris O’Dowd is particularly good in this. The scenery is beautiful and once again, Gleeson is magnificent. Only goes to prove that the McDonagh brothers are some of the best writers working today. I wish they would team up and make a film like the Coen brothers do. They could change film.

5/5

Headhunters
Directed By – Morten Tyldum

I had no idea who Morten Tyldum was when he was nominated for Best Director at this years Oscars. When I looked up his previous work I realized he directed this film, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue for oh, let’s say, four fucking years. That’s what happens when you are continually adding films to a queue. Films get buried. I pulled the trigger last night and was glad I did. The film has holes…HUGE holes…but that doesn’t take away the fact that it was entertaining as hell. There were many “holy shit” moments throughout its entirety. I hated the ending but understood that it was needed to cover up the gigantic plot holes that littered the film. Usually this would turn me off the film but I actually liked it a lot. Hell, any film that has Jamie Lannister kicking ass is good in my book.

3.5/5

Suicide Kings
Directed by – Peter O’Fallon

This one sucked. I’m sorry. I know it’s a cult favorite but I didn’t like the film at all. Actually I take that back. I liked any time Christopher Walken or Dennis Leary was on the screen. Anything other than those two people was atrocious. The plot lingered for what seemed to be forever. The characters were annoying and most couldn’t act. I’m looking at you Henry Thomas. It also has one of the cheesiest love scenes I’ve ever seen…ever. Skip this one unless you like Walken hamming it up or Dennis Leary ad-libbing his entire dialogue.

1.5/5

Tusk
Directed By – Kevin Smith

One of the most ridiculous and bizarre films I’ve ever seen. It surfs on this monumental wave of garbage yet still is one of the more fun times I’ve had at home by myself watching a movie. I had two phone calls during the movie and in both calls I had to stop them and tell them to go watch this movie. The thing that really interests me is reading that the entire plot of teh film was thought up on Kevin Smiths podcast and put to a vote by the listeners. They played audio from it at the end of the film. They literally made a movie from a conversation. That is impressive and awesome. Not to mention the fact that Justin Long and Michael Parks dance this crazy ballet of lunacy during the entire movie. I love Michael Parks. The BEST part though, I mean the absolute best, is Guy Lapointe. I won’t say who plays him as it should be a surprise but my god, the guy needs his own film. WATCH THIS MOVIE. IT’S SO BAD IT’S AWESOME.

4/5

Quick Review : Love is Strange (2014)

IMDB Score –
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Ira Sachs
Starring – John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marissa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, and Chrstina Kirk

After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.

Today is Easter, and while I’m waiting for a succulent ham to enter my mouth, I’ve got a few words to say about this cute little movie. That’s right, it’s cute. I don’t care.

Love Is Strange is a little indie film from last year from writer/director Ira Sachs. The film features Lithgow and Molina as longtime partners who get married and immediately have their lives uprooted after the marriage. Molina works at a church as a music instructor and gets fired after the church finds out about the marriage, even though they knew of the relationship. This cause them to lose their apartment and have to spend time apart as they stay at their respected family members houses. The distance apart, and the drama at their temporary places of residence tests their love for each other in different ways.

I really liked this. Like I said before, it’s cute. That isn’t to say it’s a bunch of roses and happy endings. The film deals heavily on family, personal art and dreams, and age. Lithgow and Molina at first don’t have much chemistry, but as the film continues, their bond is very apparent. Both actors portray their characters with class and realism instead of stereotypical mannerisms that an older gay man may posses. Think the opposite of Christopher Plummer’s character in “Beginners”. I liked this better. It’s a subtle film that doesn’t put too much on the fact that they are gay, even though it’s basically the whole reason the film exists. The background story dealing with the family of Marissa Tomei’s character was a bit frustrating. The mother, played by Tomei, is a self centered bitch that farts out nice toasts about her uncle, played by Lithgow, and then seems to be annoyed by his existence when he has to stay at their place. The father is always absent or a ghost when present, and the son is a little shit, but young enough to get away with it. Their story is almost as important as the relationship between the two leads. It just pissed me off how much I hated them, especially the mother.

The film is well shot. I’ve been trying to find a still of one of the last scenes of the film were Ben and George are leaving a bar late at night. The streets are empty in what I presume to be the east village in NYC. They live on opposite ends of the city so at an intersection, one goes one way and the other another. The shot is stagnant and pretty as hell. I’ll try to find it and stick in in here. That being said, it’s a wonderfully made film.

It’s totally worth your attention. It’s a small, subtle, and ultimately heartbreaking film about love and what it all entails. Molina and Lithgow are fantastic in it and it’s pretty to look at.

4/5



Quick Reviews! : The Imitation Game, Housebound, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Old Joy

I’ve been busy getting ready for a move so I wasn’t able to give these films a dedicated full review. Here are some quick thoughts on each film.

If I didn’t see Selma this year, Benedict Cumberbatch would have been my lead performance of the year. He’s that good in it. You can tell how dedicated he is in portraying Alan Turing as graciously as he can and it showed. Sure Turing was a bit frustrating to work with, but the man was a genius and didn’t deserve to endure some of the hardships during the end of his life. Graham Moore, who charmed us all with his Oscar speech, deserved his moment in the spotlight after crafting an airtight and seemingly flawless screenplay. From the start to the finish the film runs effortlessly like one of Turing’s machine, turning and spinning on a heartbeat like rhythm. I can see why Morten Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar. This film is just so well put together. The score, the acting, the cinematography, and the writing are all free flowing and synchronized. The film reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind, both in subject matter and in storytelling. I didn’t really understand the Keira Knightley praise but it’s always nice to see Matthew Goode in stuff. I love watching him act. Good show.

4.5/5

New to Netflix, this New Zealand film from director Gerard Johnstone actually surprised me. I expected a serious horror film but what the film really excelled at was the sort of horror/humor that guys like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson gave us early in their careers. The film centers around a brat of a woman who gets in trouble trying to steal an ATM and has to be under house arrest for nine months in the house she grew up in. Stuff starts to happen that you would normally find in a movie like this but then the film takes a sharp right turn. The result is funny, original, fun, and occasionally disgusting. Give it a try if you like movies like Dead Alive of Evil Dead.

3/5

This Studio Ghibli film was recently nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this years Oscars. This is for good reason. The film is gorgeous. What seems to be colored pencil from time to time, Princess Kaguya’s beautifully animated story tells the tale of a girl born from a bamboo stalk that grows as fast as the plants she grew out of. Obviously there is some magical realism here, but that nuance is why I love Studio Ghibli films. This one was directed by Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata, and features his best animation to date. Every scene leaps off the page in a colorful albeit very subtle display of animation. The simple story didn’t wow me as much as Ghibi’s other films, but its the kind of story that you can just sit back on a rainy day, like I did, and just take it all in. The music was also fantastic.

3.5/5

This was a bit of a slow watch. I’m a fan of Kelly Reichardt. I thought “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meeks Cutoff” were wonderful examples of what you can do with still images and slow burn story telling. Night Moves was a bit of a disappointment but after seeing that Old Joy was on Netflix, I decided to check it out. I didn’t realize a movie that has a run length of only 73 minutes could drag so long. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the film. It was just the opposite of entertaining. Instead, it was a film that featured two friends going on a camping trip where their past and present only ever so slightly hits the surface of what we can see. There is a lot going on in the background of their lives that we aren’t directly told. I enjoyed it for what it was but I don’t think everybody will like it. It’s literally a car ride and a camping trip. Nice to see NJ natives Yo La Tengo doing the film score though. That helped.

2.5/5