Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mason's 2012 Favorite Movies

Mason's Best Movies of 2012
What a great year in movies. So many great ones and even so many that i just enjoyed more than i thought i would. I have blog entries with more details on many of these.

1. The Impossible
They way i recommend people to see Saving Private Ryan to get a better sense of war, i would do the same for this movie to better grasp what that Tsunami must have been like. Very well made. Could have been a "disaster" but focused in on the story of one family's survival. I was truly engrossed in the characters and believed i was watching the real thing. It moved me in so many ways and i come away feeling blessed and thankful for what i have. 

2. Life of Pi
I actually think this movie has themes similar to "The Impossible". Pi went through his own disaster and lost everything. He was able to see Gods hand of mercy at different moments in his life and that is what kept him hanging on. I love a movie that i can draw parallels to for my own life. This film allows the viewer to discover some deep meaning if you choose or just enjoy it for how amazingly stunning and beautiful it was. 

3. Anna Karenina
I had never read the book or seen any other adaptations but from the first minute of this film i knew i would fall in love. Clever, beautiful, well acted, interesting story of what is love and incredible music. I felt like i was watching art on a big screen. 

4. Les Miserables
Of all the movies in the past years, i was most excited to see this one. I loved it in so many ways. Its story, the music, the sets and acting. I was hoping it would take the spot next to my all time favorite movie The Shawshank Redemption but It didn't quite work in a couple of areas so down a few spots it went. Still very note worthy.

5. Silver Linings Playbook
What a surprise this movie was for me. A little bit quirky but deep and heartfelt too. A great take on a typical boy meets girl story. I love a good mental drama.

6. Argo
I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Stress and anxiety for sure. Wow, i'm blown away by this story from our history. Very well acted and directed. Ben the actor…meh. Ben the director…ah yeah!

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Go on a journey with Hushpuppy who lived with her daddy in the bathtub. Cute, different, and wow the little girl will melt your heart. I'm glad when movies like this are made. 

8. Pitch Perfect
Hahahaha. I'm still laughing at this movie. Fun, lively, and didn't take itself too seriously. This surprise hit took me by surprise and so it deserves to be on the top ten. I usually give more credit to depressing dramas but every once in a while a comedy will really surprise me by how well it works. 

9. Moonrise Kingdom
Imaginative, stylistic, funny and different. I have not been the biggest fan of Wes Anderson movies but this one nailed it for me. Great visuals and unique story telling really work here. I felt like i was part of these kids' play pretend. 

10. Zero Dark Thirty
As mentioned above with The Impossible, this movie helps us to get a better sense of what goes on while we go about our daily lives. Its a world i know very little about yet the film is never too complicated to follow. A film that gives us some insight into a man that has changed the way we live our lives. While i liked Hurt Locker better, this is very much worth seeing.

Honorable Mentions:
I have to give hollywood a nod of thanks for making so many movies this year with a fun halloween twist. I loved them all. The stop motion ParaNorman and Frankenweenie were highly artistic and creative and fun to watch. Laughed my head off at how clever and fast paced Hotel Transylvania was. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter in 3D was thrilling for me. It had scares and drama and fun visuals that left me completely entertained. Thank you to Hunger Games for making a decent movie from a young adult book. I look forward to seeing how you treat the sequels. Prometheus is my kind of sic-fi. A very developed alien world style with suspense and scares. The bonus to Prometheus is that there is some very interesting religious ties as well. And lastly, Chimpanzee. So stinking cute. I wanted a giant size poster of Oscar the chip from the movie. Very well made documentary. 

• Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
• Hotel Transylvania
• ParaNorman
• FrankenWeenie
• Chimpanzee
• Prometheus
• Hunger Games

Wow, these movies really disappointed me. 

• Lawless
What the…you were all over the place with your story telling. I had no invested interest in the characters or plot. 

• Brave
Sorry pixar but you only looked really cool in this movie. Beautiful animation but very dumb, simple and forgettable. I'd rather see all of the other pixars again before i see this again. Nothing memorable about it. 

• Dark Shadows
Split this movie in two. First half was pretty good. But the second half was bad and completely fell apart. 

• The Vow
Of all the terrible movies this year, The Vow gets me stirred up the most. I completely checked out of this movie while in the theater. I can like a chick flick as much as a teenage girl but this was just awful. I don't care if its a true story, that doesn't make it worth watching. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty - 4/5 stars

Let me begin by saying that I have no idea if any of this movie was very accurate or not. That didn't matter to me. While i'm sure the film makers tried to stay true to accurate accounts i'm sure the was some embellishing and things left out. That being said, it still gives me a better sense of that world that i truly am sheltered from. Movies like this and Hurt Locker by the same director are meaningful to me because they help open my eyes to the realities of war.

This account of the search for Bin Laden was truly gripping. We all know the outcome but i was glued to the screen and fascinated by what i did not know. Bin Laden has played an important role in all of our lives. Not only has he caused horrible deaths and crimes but he has changed the way our country functions day to day. You watch this movie with that sense of reality. I will always appreciate those that sacrifice for our freedoms.

The Impossible - 5/5 stars

The true story of a family's survival of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. I honestly can't talk about this movie without getting a little emotional. It struck a chord with me that has lasted ever since i saw it. And might i say that had i been alone while watching it, i would have audibly boo-hoo'd all the way through it. I literally had to focus on eating popcorn as to not lose control and sob. The film was so effective with portraying devastation, struggle to survive, loss, hope and love.

I feel like it had so many ways in which it could have failed and didn't. It could have felt manipulative with cheesy overacted scenes but Ewan Mcgregor and Naomi Watts were simply incredible. They engrossed me in their characters and they played them with such realness that i was putting myself in their shoes. And the kids...WOW! Cutest children ever! I couldn't help but picture my nieces or nephews in that situation or myself and my siblings. Horrible!

While this film is very terribly traggic and it does a great job of showing the actual Tsunami devastation, the heart of the film is the displays of compassion, courage, and simple kindness. It truly is very uplifting at times. You can't help but think why do bad things happen to good people. While that is always a question on our minds, i think that after seeing this film i can't let their lives and that disaster be in vain. I feel like i can do a better job at loving and caring for others and remembering that the most important thing in life is our love for others and not our material possessions.

While i am still formulating my top 10 movies of the year, this one is looking like it will get top honors. It truly moved me. Was shot beautifully and made me think deeper than my myself.

Phew! i made it through this post without crying...barely.

Les Misérables - 4.5/5 stars

Let me begin by saying that i'm a huge Les Misérables fan! I remember when i was a just a boy my parents saw in the paper that the broadway play was coming to Capitol Theater in SLC. They had all of us kids get up early on saturday morning and stand in the Smiths Tix line the day the tickets went on sale. Times have changed but i have loved the play ever since. And i've seen it many many times.

I, like most fans, was hesitant about some of the casting choices at first. I always pictured Jean Valjean to be a heavier set man. But once i saw the first trailer, i knew that i was sold on Anne Hathaway. Now having seen the movie twice i still have a few reservations but was blown away by others.

I LOVED the younger cast. Eddie Redmayne (Marius) was so excellent. He gave his whole heart and sole in his performance. Anne Hathaway (Fantine) brought a new life for me to that character. You truly got a sense of how destroyed she was.

Russell Crowe had to grow on me. I was more bugged by his take on Javert the first viewing but felt better about it the second time. Although the last half of "stars" just still isn't a great job. Sorry Russell, i'm a huge fan but it needed work. People are loving Hugh Jackman but i just thought he was okay. Very good at times, lacking at others. His voice always sounded strained to me. The big song "Bring him home" was not all that great. He didn't bring the sensitivity to it that the stage version had. And in this case i wish it was dubbed over so as to get it just right.

Which brings me to the point this being their actual No dubbing over. While this seemed to be a selling point to the movie before it was released, i think i've decided i'm not a fan. This in fact is probably the directing choice that most fans will have to adjust to the most. We are used to hearing these songs with great pronunciation, clarity, strength and power. The movie with live singing loses a lot of that but gains a sort of reality that the stage musical lacks. But "at the end of the day" i think i'd be happier if the movie was dubbed over.

Lets talk about the cinematography, set design and style of this film. Superb! I loved Tom Hoopers directing style in this. He has many extreme closeups of the actors which really shows their anguish and just how miserable they are. Plus many of the takes are the songs entire length without cutting. Wow! That must be so difficult as an actor to pull off. The film just looks like how you'd imagine it should. Grungy, dirty and depressed.

Regardless of the execution of this film version the story is what will always drive Les Misérables. Dreams, Hope, Redemption, Forgiveness, Mercy, Love and brotherhood are just some of the themes addressed. I've always said you don't have to be a fan of musicals to love Les Misérables. I feel like it breaks the mold of typical musicals. It has so much heart and depth and meaning to the story and characters.

While there are things that i had to adjust to going from stage to movie, this was a very well done film. Not perfect with some things but definitely nailed it with others. I think i need to get one more viewing in before it leaves theaters. Meant to be viewed big and loud and with popcorn and tissue in hand.