Archive for August, 2012

Film Review: Detachment (2011)

August 6, 2012

The only other film that I, and most likely the majority of other people, are familiar with by director Tony Kaye is the intense racial drama starring Edward Norton as former neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard, American History X. Judging by Kaye’s past experience, he is comfortable with handling controversial, gritty material, and that is exactly what his latest film starring Adrien Brody is all about: realism.

Detachment is a serious and poetic film about the nature of today’s public education system told from the viewpoint of a substitute teacher named Henry Barthes (Brody). It is obvious from the start of the film that Henry, although wise beyond his years, is a loner and a troubled man. He is surrounded by incompetent and damaged people, having to take care of both his senile grandfather and later, after a confrontation with a young street hooker named Erica, her as well.

Henry manages to get by in his day to day life by keeping everything and everyone at arm’s length, a defense mechanism shielding him from making any real commitments in his life or taking on any real responsibility. He is well-read and creative, but lacks any motivation to do anything besides the bare minimum to get by, and teaching seems to come natural to him, almost as if he’s the wiser older brother to all of the troubled teenagers in his classroom.

Brody truly shines in this movie, as he’s given a lot of intense emotional material to chew on, and it’s honestly a shame that he didn’t receive more credit for his performance. The supporting cast consists of an ensemble of other great veteran actors primarily playing other teachers and faculty members in Henry’s currently assigned school, including Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, James Caan, Tim Blake Nelson, and William Petersen.

Detachment contains many elements of an art film, meaning it’s not your typical linear drama. It’s part character study, part stageplay, with instances of animated illustrations as well as asides (narrated monologues by Brody) that function to further the underlying narrative of the film, asking the audience: Have we failed as adults in creating a healthy environment for our children? Is detaching from all emotion the only way to survive in a world devoid of hope for a brighter future?

Kaye asks a lot of these hard questions, and he leaves the audience with the feeling that, while everything may not be perfect, there is always a chance as long as we as individuals find the courage within ourselves to persevere and be compassionate toward one another.

The Verdict: If you’re a teacher or a mature fan of film and theater interested in a gritty, realistic drama with a side of arthouse flair, Detachment is a film for you.

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Film Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

August 5, 2012

After seeing the trailer and checking out a few reviews of The Hunger Games movie based on Suzanne Collins’s book, my interest level wasn’t too high, since most of the reviews claimed that the film was a step down from the book and left out a lot of the social commentary, but now that I’ve seen the film, I can only say that I was pleasantly surprised with its quality.

It was marketed toward teenagers, but honestly it’s just as worthwhile for adults. In other words, if you enjoyed something like Harry Potter, you’ll like this too. I have not read the book, so I can’t comment on how close the story stayed to the source material, but for what it’s worth, I feel I grasped the essence of the book well enough in the film to be able to recommend it at least as a stand-alone adaptation.

My only complaint with the film is that the shaky cam is used too frequently during chaotic scenes, pulling punches from the violent parts of the film. It’s not that I’m so eager to see teenagers get ravaged, it’s that the shaky cam can be nauseating and feels like a cheap way out of getting an R rating and showing everything that’s going on in the scene.

With that said, the other aspects of the film are highly enjoyable, and Jennifer Lawrence carries the film on her shoulders flawlessly from start to finish as the homely protagonist Katniss Everdeen. I first saw Lawrence in X-Men: First Class as Mystique, and later in Winter’s Bone, and she has proven that she is a fine young actress that is worthy of recognition.

The supporting cast includes an ensemble of veteran actors such as Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland, and all of the young actors do a fine job amidst some physically and emotionally demanding scenes.

The dystopian setting is well-crafted, the emotion between the leads feels real and palpable, and the story flows effortlessly without any hitches or confusion. The make-up and costumes are also worth noting, as the citizens of the city dress in a unique and eccentric style reminiscent of a lot of other futuristic films, one in particular that comes to mind is The Fifth Element.

The Verdict: For anyone interested in films with dystopian settings, survivalist combat, or an emotional story, The Hunger Games is a worthy production that is entertaining throughout its entire running time.

Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

August 4, 2012

When I first heard Joss Whedon was the man tasked with directing the Avengers movie, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I knew that he was the creative mind behind such cult TV series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but I was never a fan of either of those shows, as the concepts never really appealed to me.

Then one day a friend of mine suggested I check out another Joss Whedon production, Firefly, and it was love at first sight.

Firefly was easily one of the most original and charming series I had ever seen, with characters that were fully embodied by the actors and storylines that were exciting, dramatic, and humorous all at once, culminating into a thoroughly enjoyable experience throughout its entire duration, despite being cut short after only one season.

Upon finishing Firefly and its follow-up film Serenity, I was fully on board with Whedon’s creative abilities and ready to see what he’d come up with for the monumental task of featuring all of Marvel’s superheroes together in one film, and I can heartily say that I was not disappointed.

While The Avengers is not groundbreaking in the sense of storytelling, acting, or other production values, it is certainly a cohesive and well-paced production that manages to handle a full ensemble cast of top performers while maintaining a healthy balance of both drama and humor.

Undoubtedly, the film is highly overrated, currently boasting an 8.7 on IMDb, but it is definitely a lot of fun, and the film flows effortlessly throughout its entire 143-minute duration.

It’s hard to argue that Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is the most entertaining presence on the screen, although I also particularly enjoyed Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the menacing Loki, and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

The Verdict: If you’re into comic book heroes and action films, The Avengers is not a film to be missed.

Quick Update Regarding Content

August 3, 2012

Hello everyone, I just want to quickly address that all of my gnostic writings will now be featured exclusively on the Freedom Earth blog. I’ve been posting my Earth Journal entries both here and at freedomearth.org, and I think it makes more sense to keep that work dedicated to one location and shift my focus here to more personal and creative content, as it was always my intention for this blog to be about what’s going in my life, as well as my personal interests and hobbies, rather than my work.

So what is coming in the future? I have several fiction and non-fiction stories that I’d like to share with you, and I would also like to start posting reviews for films and other media products that I’m interested in. I’m also working on redesigning my site to give it a more customized and personal feel, so stay tuned for changes down the line, and thank you for staying with me throughout this journey!

Skyler