Gangster Squad (2013)

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Gangster Squad is set in Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) takes over and runs the show in this town. He reaps the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, the guns, the prostitutes and – if everything goes his way – every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does this all with not only the help of his own paid goons, but also with the police and politicians under his control. It’s enough to intimidate the bravest, most street-hardened cops around… except for the secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together and decide to stop at nothing to destroy Cohen. This movie is action-packed and full of beautiful scenes of a film noirish Los Angeles.

The atmosphere of the film – the cinematography was stupendous. The overall “film-noir-in-colour” theme was perfect. But what made the movie wasn’t just the cinematography and costumes and old school cars.

The plotline was filled with action, surprise, romance (between Jerry and Grace) -and the whole “good vs. evil” theme which was carried out perfectly at the story’s climax in the scene where Sgt. O’Mara and Mickey Cohen wrestle it out with their bare fists. No guns. (Interesting when considering the fact that the entire movie had gun shooting in every other scene). The transitional cuts and scenes are smooth and well done, making the movie flow perfectly. Clever, witty, and funny lines throughout the film keep the audience laughing and rooting for the kick-ass Gangster Squad cops.

Let’s move over to one of my personal favourite aspects of film watching. Observing the actors. Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and the extraordinary Sean Penn. These three right here, demonstrated what it really means to act. Josh Brolin plays the perfect hero cop, who would much rather burn down a pile of dirty money than pocket a dollar. He acts perfectly as the macho Sergeant. Ryan Gosling’s acting in this film was also really incredible – he was able to pull off a completely different character, complete with mannerisms and speaking ticks, beautifully.

But Holy F****** Shit. Sean Penn steals the god damn spotlight from everyone in this movie. He makes the audience feel intimidated, anxious, and uncomfortable every time he appears on screen with his droopy, uninterested, and condescending facial expressions. He forces the audience to absolutely and entirely loathe him. Penn doesn’t just have an angry face – he has the face of a cold-stone killer in this movie. He portrays an ultimately evil character, and he pulls it off brilliantly. And his bursts of angry violence are totally believable because they’re done so well.

In my opinion, the man deserves yet another Oscar. That’s just my opinion, sure, but watch the movie and we’ll see if you’ll see it differently.

Fantastic acting. Fantastic action. Fantastic plotline. Brilliant and truly entertaining movie.

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Hans Zimmer – Inception Music Analysis

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The movie Inception directed by Christopher Nolan, uses music almost throughout the entire film. There is not one scene where background music is not utilized to enhance the atmosphere or tone of the story. Hans Zimmer’s original scores in Inception are consistently adding to the feel of the film, in which without the music outlining the story, the movie would be lacking a powerful reaction from the audience.

Inception does not contain any long periods of absolutely no musical score. In every scene there is some sort of music in the background, whether it be soft and slow, or loud and fast, there is quite often music in the background while the characters are going about their actions and storyline. In the opening scene of the film, there is loud and unsettling music at the very beginning, but then as soon as the scene cuts to the waves on a beach, the music gets much softer, creating a more peaceful affect.

Another scene in which the music is utilized is in one of the beginning scenes, where Cobb and Mal are first shown speaking to one another on the balcony of a ship. As the viewer watches them, they receive no background information of the characters as of yet, or that this woman is Cobb’s deceased wife portrayed as a shadow in a dream. But the background music is present, hinting to the viewers – with a romantic slow and sad melody – that these two characters are past lovers.

Music is quite prevalent throughout the entirety of Inception. It is heard throughout every scene – while characters are talking about certain aspects of the “dream world,” throughout scenes where there is no dialogue, or while characters are doing the most simplest of actions such as walking urgently through a hallway with a gun in their hand (Cobb walking around with a gun seems small, but cue music and the viewer feels a sense of urgency in his strides now). Music is in the background often, which gives an “epic” feel to every small gesture. What may have appeared insignificant is enhanced and highlighted as very significant when the music comes on.

The music in Inception outlines the plot, and uses the mickey-mousing technique quite often. A great example of this in the movie is when Cobb has to escape from the men who are chasing after him with guns trying to kill him. The music is at first extremely fast, sounds very urgent, and the audience can feel the danger that might reach Cobb if he does not run fast enough. And then when Cobb finds a café to hide in, the music gets softer which suggests that Cobb is temporarily safe, but still with that sense of urgency with the fast playing strings suggesting that there is still danger in the men finding him. When the men find him, the music returns to being louder and faster. And then when he gets into the car with Saito and is finally safe from the enemies, the music completely dies down altogether.

Another example of the mickey-mousing technique being utilized is in the scene where Arthur is explaining to Ariadne all the tricks to building a dream, and in particular when he is describing the paradoxical staircase. In this specific moment the music creates a sense of wonderment and leaves the audience with a sense of awe. Then, as Arthur is telling Ariadne that Cobb’s wife is dead, the music slows down almost to a complete stop, which in a way outlines Ariadne’s shock.

Later on in the film, when Ariadne is prying into Cobb’s dream, the music is slow and quiet, and almost romantic as she watches Mal and Cobb talking and caressing each other. As soon as Mall realizes Ariadne is invading the dream, and Mal abruptly turns her head, the music reveals an incredibly sudden, loud and dissonant screech – this gives the audience the exact feelings of being caught that Ariadne experiences in this moment.

Music is also used in the film to create a certain feel or to manipulate a particular emotion within the audience. In the scene near the ending of the film where the dream is collapsing, Cobb and Mal are shown lying on the ground, as Mal was shot and dying, caressing each other. As they speak, the music is extremely soft, slow, and altogether romantic. But this cue insinuates sad less as Cobb repeats, “I have to let you go” over and over. The music also suggests an evolution or change within the character, and encourages a sense of dynamic in Cobb, as if he is finally waking up from his dream.

Another use of music within Inception is for the creation of suspense. You can feel when the characters are fearful or hesitant through the music, just like when Mal threatens to kill Arthur. There are many other instances where the music creates suspense. Take, for instance, when Cobb recognizes the bridge Ariadne conjures up, and the music comes on and it creates an eerie yet urgent feeling, which hints that something is wrong. Or when the antagonist, Robert, realizes he is in a dream, and Cobb realizes he has been caught, the music comes on and it creates an eerie feeling or tone, which invokes a feeling of suspense. The music always gets faster or increases in dynamics which makes it more “epic” sounding as the urgency becomes heightened and the dream starts collapsing on them, leaving the audience in suspense, as they do not know what will happen.

In the final scene, when Cobb finally wakes up from the dream, he is back in the plane and the music starts off slow, as if expressing he has come to the realization that he is finally awake, and survived the dream successfully, having accomplished the work of inception. As he approaches customs at the airport, the music falls almost completely silent, and it is so soft that it creates suspense for the viewers, as they do not know whether or not customs will let Cobb through. When the man working at customs finally says, “Welcome home Mr. Cobb,” the music adds in strings to symbolize success, not only in passing through customs, but for reaching the climax of his journey. This is the climax of the film because Cobb’s entire motive for attempting the impossible tasks of inception was so that Saito would help him get through customs so he could finally go back home to his children. So the music adds a sense of excitement for the audience.

As Cobb walks on, the music increases in dynamics, creating an epic tone to the scene, which adds in even more suspense than ever. When he spins his totem to see if he is dreaming and finally sets his eyes on his kids, the music becomes extremely soft and slow. The music here shows the tenderness of this moment. Then the music gets extremely suspenseful just as the camera is moving in on the totem and cuts off right before we see if the totem has fallen or not. The music here creates a sense of wonderment, as the audience is left pondering about whether or not the whole scene was just a dream.

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Atonement (2007)

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Atonement is a story about a young girl named Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) who sees something that she thinks she understands but she doesn’t, and because of this she causes the ruin of Robbie Turner’s (James McAvoy) life. This ultimately leads to the separation of his epic love with Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley). The film follows Briony as she grows older, and we see that she tries everything to restore her wrong doing, but ends up not being able to, which causes her to grow up with an everlasting guilty conscience. This is the story of a girl who could never make atonement.

This film, directed by the wonderful Joe Wright, was well-recieved, receiving an Oscar for the Best Original Score at the 80TH Academy Awards, and was nominated for six others, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Saoirse Ronan). At the 61st British Academy Awards it won Best Film and Production Design awards.

The acting was impeccable. Saoirse Ronan was a brilliant actress at such a young age, able to portray a certain aura of naivety while also expressing a sense of maturity and independence as a young child character. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were great at invoking emotion, and making the audience believe in their epic romance.

The cinematography was breathless. With great scenery, and delicate attention to detail – the beautiful landscapes, the horizons, the fog, clouds, skies, sun rays, silhouettes of soldiers, and much more – the film was a pleasant vision.

What a clever, ambitious, compassionate picture it is; what a success for Joe Wright and for Ronan, Knightley and McAvoy.

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Jack Reacher (2012)

Jack Reacher was filed under the action genre. That must have been a mistake because most audiences were laughing the entire way through, and I think people can agree it would be better off categorized as comedy. And even THEN it would have been a terrible comedy.

The idea was there. The story had potential. Too much was unbearably predictable, however, and too much was uncomfortable to watch. I blame it partly on the acting. The actors were horrible to watch, but I guess it was because the context in which they were acting was awkward.

Most of the blame though, has to be on the writer. The script was absolutely terrible. I mean… I haven’t seen such a terribly written movie like this one in a long time. I could tell the movie was going to be a bad one as early on as the beginning scene… there was no dialogue, but not only that, I was already losing interest. If I hadn’t watched it in theatres, I would have abandoned that movie. There were too many awkward scenes, which made it uncomfortable to watch (like where the guy had to try to eat off his own fingers. But WHY? What was the point of that scene? Like the guy didn’t even end up biting it off anyway, so there was hardly any shock value.. it just made no sense and felt like such an amateur scene because it should have been removed). There was an absence of chemistry between the two characters, Jack and his “love interest”, and an absence of any emotional invocation for that matter.

This movie was awful, not even in the slightest entertaining, unless you’re the type to be able to extract yourself from the context of the film and look at it with some sense of humour. I guess some could just point and laugh, but I couldn’t. It was just such an empty movie. I feel like they made this movie just so they could drive around in nice cars.

 

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Django Unchained (2012)

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Set in the south 2 years before the civil war, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as Django, whose brutal history with his previous slaver lands him with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the murderous hunt for the Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him straight to them. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: the finding and rescuing of Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), his wife whom he lost in the slave trade long before. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of the infamous plantation called “Candyland.” Throughout the events that unfold, both Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave.

This incredible film is directed by the wonderful film visionary Quentin Tarantino. THE Quentin Tarantino. There is no other like him. Django Unchained contains great cinematography, a clever plot with great dialogue, and so many brilliant actors. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson all did their own thing, but they did it well. They all had unique characters and they shined portraying their different roles (I personally believe that Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson took the show though).

There’s a sensible reason why nobody ever wanted to be an Indian whenever we played Cowboys and Indians as kids. That’s because the white man was invariably the hero of the Westerns on which we’d been weaned, while the red man had always been presented as a wild savage dismissed by the dehumanizing affirmation that, “The only good Injun is a dead Injun.”

Hollywood has also promoted a set of stereotypes when it comes to the depictions of black-white race relations during slavery, with classics like The Birth of the Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) setting the tone. Consequently, most movies have by-and-large suggested that it was a benign institution under which docile African-Americans were well-treated by kindly masters, at least as long as they remained submissive and knew their place. – by film critic Kam Williams

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Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to put a fresh spin on the genre, just as he did in the World War II flick Inglourious Basterds (2009). This is the first film I’ve seen that truly tried to portray a revenge story for the slaves, in their POV, and did it INCREDIBLY well. Finally, the audience is encouraged to take a deeper look at the excruciating suffering and bullshit the slaves had to go through, and Django welcomed us to sympathize with them and root for them throughout the entire film. Ofcourse, we can’t forget the bonus gory scenes, where Tarantino just ultimately wanted to add shock value to his film, as always.

The soundtrack made the movie though. It added the final touch. Rap music in a western film? It just really felt like this movie was for the black people, and rap music is a huge part of their culture, so why not embrace it and add their music to the scenes where Jamie Foxx is kicking ass, right?

 
 

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Tarantino Has His New Masterpiece In The Form Of Django Unchained

Tarantino Has His New Masterpiece In The Form Of Django Unchained.

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This is 40 (2012)

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HILARIOUS.

Can that suffice as a movie review? That one word sums it up nicely, I’m just saying.

Went in with my friend to watch this comedy, not really expecting it to be much of a comedy at all but was clearly proven wrong. There are those movies that are “comedies” but only make you half-laugh at certain points. You know what I mean. Not this movie. This is 40 has the whole audience laughing out loud throughout the entire movie. There were many moments where you just couldn’t stop laughing and there were great instances where the jokes kept on coming, one after another.

In This is 40, writer/director Judd Apatow takes another look at the lives of Pete and Debbie, the conflicted married couple featured in his 2007 hit, Knocked Up. Now, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Deb (Leslie Mann) find themselves facing the full spectrum of middle-aged angst – which includes trying to set a good example for their two daughters; dealing with the demands of their professional lives; and even having to confront certain realities about their own parents and upbringing.

Like most of Judd Apatow’s movies, This is 40 is pretty much spot-on with its insights. The thing is, these insights will most likely only be appreciated by a very specific sector of the viewing audience. Also like other Apatow works, the film feels long and slightly unfocused in its progression, offering a pastiche of skit-like scenes that vary in their effectiveness.

The acting. The cast. This is 40 wouldn’t be half as funny without the actors. Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Melissa McCarthy were all incredibly hilarious. A standing ovation is due for these 3 comedy stars.

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