Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jurassic Park ★★★★

    "Jurassic Park" is a 1993 film that defies logic to create one of the most entertaining adventures in cinema history. Dinosaurs have always been an intriguing subject for children and adults alike while cementing their place among history's most fascinating and mysterious past.

    This is a film that brings these remarkable creatures to life in a breath taking fashion. With an incredible array of visually stunning dinosaurs and a plethora of outstanding characterizations, "Jurassic Park" is a timeless classic that shuns the 65 million year gap to bring humans and prehistoric animals together for the very first time.

    Walt Disney was a man intent on bringing happiness to children worldwide with his ingenious brand of cartoon characters and film adaptions of renown children's stories. The fictional John Hammond is of similar makeup, but instead of creating animated mice, Hammond has birthed something of a different genetic order--dinosaurs. On a small island near Costa Rica, a biological preserve has been produced to display some of God's most riveting creations.

    However, a minor accident claims the life of one employee and places the park's grand opening on hold. Investors would not be pleased that their financial backing would become the foundation of an experiment showcasing killer animals, who may devour the tourists. This leads Hammond to recruit the top experts in the park's respected fields to survey the blueprint and label this venture a success.

    Alan Grant, a leading paleontologist, and Ellie Sattler, a paleobotanist, are extracted from their most recent dig in Montana to become the most important opinions on this preview tour. Along with a mathematician who is obsessed with chaos theory in Ian Malcolm, our characters will find themselves in a world surrounded by beauty, excitement, and peril.

    Based upon a novel written by Michael Crichton, the characters in "Jurassic Park" are a rich dosage of stereotypes, including the money hungry lawyer and womanizing playboy who moonlights as a mathematician. Additionally, John Hammond is a prime example of caricature and leitmotif, as he sputters around with a cane and repeatedly states, "spared no expense." Although these portrayals are essentially overshadowed by their prehistoric counterparts, they are an integral component that brings the human element to the forefront.

    Undoubtedly, the stars of this production have to be the intricately detailed animatronic dinosaurs (provided by the wonderful mind of Stan Winston) that overrun this island of imagination. These creatures come alive on the silver screen like none before them and very few since. They provide heartwarming moments and instances of sheer terror. (Alan Grant's admiration for a sick Triceratops and the feeding of a Brachiosaurus among the treetops are some of the most charming scenes in the film.)

    The most impressive of the lot are the Velociraptors, for their cunning intelligence and swift movements, and the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the king of all dinosaurs in stature and intimidation. These carnivores are the center of numerous tension filled scenes, including a run in with the Tyrannosaurus and a game of chess with a pack of Velociraptors in the park's kitchen. Without these menacing hunters, this picture would simply become a trip to the local zoo.

    What Steven Spielberg has created is a film that performs as a non-stop flow of action and wonderment. His direction is impeccable and flawlessly places each object in a position to succeed. Considering this film's central concern is the plot, these qualities should never be overlooked. Spielberg's natural talent to sweep us off of our feet and immerse us in an escapist atmosphere is something to behold. He has created a picture filled with memorable scenes of allure and enchantment.

    And who could forget the contribution of John Williams. His composition for this film is a quintessential blend of merriment and fright. In a career that has seen numerous collaborations with quality film making, Williams yet again surpasses the bar set for this performance. The score only adds to an ambiance that pervades this very distinct experience.

    There is something quite irresistible about this film that lingers in the memory of cinema history. One of the most endearing scenes involves a baby Velociraptor, hatching from its genetically created egg, and the notion that "life will find a way," provided by our resident cynical mathematician. If there is one bulletproof theory of human nature, it is the fact that life will most certainly find a way to adapt, overcome, and survive.

    When an audience enters into the darkness enshrouded theater to enjoy themselves, it is pictures of this magnitude that never seem to fail. The simplistic act of relating the characters to everyday personas contributes to this overwhelming sensation of enlightenment. The euphoric feeling that you are along for the ride and cannot escape the actions of the events, much like the characters cannot escape their fates on screen, is one of a kind. "Jurassic Park" is the reason why I love movies.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 ★★★★

Image result for how to train your dragon 2

    Quality animated films in this era are far and few between. Much too often the emphasis is directed at creating an aesthetically pleasing film, with little to no substance instilled into the characters or plot. (Of course, children aren't the most intellectually driven audience.) Dreamworks, who has brought moviegoers worldwide the captivating atmosphere of "Shrek," have created another series of films that evoke a comparison to some of the best animation produced.

    There is something quite enticing about a world filled with Vikings and dragons.

    "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is the highly anticipated sequel to the original film, adapted from a series of children's books. With a younger audience already in tow, this film provides adult viewers with an excellent story to accompany a variety of intriguing characters. A splendor of vibrant animation and dramatic tension fuels this sequel to elite status.

    The story picks up five years after the original and never loses a step. Vikings and dragons have now become inseparable. Hiccup, our lovable teenage Viking protagonist, has now become a young man. At twenty years old, he is the most popular Viking on the island of Berk and still a master of the art of training dragons. With the community of Berk no longer an obstacle to tranquility, Hiccup must explore the far reaches of the Earth to find a conflict fitting for our tastes.

    Thus, while investigating uncharted waters with his delightful dragon Toothless, Hiccup stumbles across a pack of inept dragon hunters who provide the identity of a new opposition. Drago Bludvist is a walking embodiment of wickedness. His ambition to enslave as many dragons that can be found and storm the island of Berk will lead Hiccup and his group of misfits on a perilous journey that throws caution to the wind. An adventure filled with peril, excitement, and a few unforeseen surprises.

    There is a definable complication when creating a sequel to a commercially successful film. Not only does there have to be that logical next step in the timeline, which in turn will create a conceivable mood, but a growth of character must be stressed.

    This is where "How to Train Your Dragon 2" excels. Hiccup's maturation is believable and rather relatable to most young adults, who are finding their way in the world that seems much too vast at the time.

    The young males of the clan are brimming with hormonal instinct, as well as one of the girls, Ruffnut, who is the center of various humor involving her adolescent feelings toward the leading dragon hunter. Even Toothless becomes more animated in his mannerisms and activity on the screen. We are ultimately left with a heartwarming tale that features an exquisite utilization of name typing. Hiccup, a portrait of modesty, and Drago Bludvist, a name that oozes treachery.

    Accordingly, the "How to Train Your Dragon" series of films has become a success simply because of its entertaining premise and the attraction of the prominent Toothless. A brilliant marketing ploy to make one dragon endearing, while the other mythological creatures can warrant only a mother's love. Spawning an animated television show, as well as an array of merchandise, this franchise is built to last.

    With the success of this franchise, a question comes to attention. When will Disney pick up the slack and return to the pinnacle of animation glory?

    Everything considered: This is a film that will provide a memorable experience for younger and older viewers alike. This coming of age theme fits our hero in Hiccup to perfection. We watch as the frail Hiccup struggles to find his place in a village overwhelming with masculinity. Now it is time for Hiccup to find himself and shed the inner awkwardness that powered the first film. Although he may not be the most courageous or confident hero, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind ★★★★

Image result for nausicaa of the valley of the wind stills

    One of the most important aspects of an animated picture is the ability to create an atmosphere that provides feasibility and can simultaneously be aesthetically pleasing. Hayao Miyazaki is arguably the most skilled producer of these two facets in the animated genre of film. With lush environments and the artistic semblance of truth burning ever so brightly, Miyazaki's films have become universally recognized as the leader in the Japanese animation community and a staple among fans here in the United States.

    "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" is Miyazaki's second directorial ambition and the first picture in which he spreads the wings of his ingenious and imaginative prowess. A flawless amalgam of story and animation that breathes life into a film like no other of this era; the first masterpiece in a career that quite often pits human nature against the ever virtuous Mother Nature in a clash of ideals and understanding. With a magnificent score to accompany the brilliant flow of purity, "Nausicaä" is simply a joy to experience time after time.

    Our story settles in the distant future, in a world that has been ravaged by destruction. A ruination that has consequently birthed a toxic jungle, which extends to all corners of the land. Human civilization has been reduced to small kingdoms where the effects of the jungle are limited. And here rests our protagonist in one of these provinces aptly named the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaä is the princess of this land that is spared from toxins due to the wind that cleanses the air.

    She is angelic and caring for all living things, whether deemed good or evil. A manifestation of compassion and benevolence. We first witness the embodiment of these qualities as Nausicaä saves Lord Yupa, the resident master swordsman, from impending doom after he unintentionally angers an Ohm, a large armored insect that overruns the treacherous jungle.

Nausicaä among the subtle beauty of the Toxic Jungle
    The conflict centers on an opposing kingdom, Tolmekia, who intends to impose their will and revive an ancient weapon to eradicate the toxic plague that never ceases to subside. It will take Nausicaä, accompanied by her jet-powered glider and furry sidekick Teto, and a new acquaintance from the kingdom of Pejite to overcome these relentless forces and bring peace back to all lands.

    This film is abundant in action sequences, which are highlighted by the use of Nausicaä's glider--an extension of her limitless ability to reach out to the surrounding environment. She is the peacemaker and the only individual who understands the delicacy of the bond between man and nature. A showcase of the reality of the modern world and how that bond has become frayed over time.

    Miyazaki has essentially created a film that underlines the frailty of this connection and how ignorant man has been in regard to keeping this fellowship protected. Nausicaä's purity and innocence prevailing in a world filled with war and greed. A notion that is lost among the politics of today's society.

    It is quite easy to be swept away in a world created by beautifully hand crafted animation. Unlike a live action film or an animated film that utilizes computer generated imaging, hand drawn animation has a distinct texture and style that cannot simply be replaced by a computer. It entails craftsmanship and contains an animator's passion and determination.

    "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" is a film that displays this texture proudly. Miyazaki is the only animator who has not made the transition and has not strayed from hand drawn films. For this, I must commend him. Thus, a man who will not abandon his morals, even if they do not stand the test of time. Which is perfectly suitable, considering his films have.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fargo ★★★★

     Amid the sunless winter of snow enveloped Minnesota rests a tale of greed, murder, and morality. "Fargo" is a 1996 drama, written and directed by one of Hollywood's most renowned brother duos, the Coens. They are known for divulging into subjects that evoke feelings of empathy and certainly creating films that leave us questioning the farthest corners of our mind, in hopes that we may begin to understand the dark undertones of their seemingly simplistic storytelling. 

    On the surface of things, "Fargo" is just about an ordinary car salesman, whose financial burdens have culminated to a place of desperation in his restless mind. It concerns a female police chief, as she trudges through everyday life as a pregnant mother while covering the routine procedures of a fresh homicide case; a depiction of two criminals who have a rather difficult experience executing a crime of elementary proportions. 

    However, the actions and subsequent events created by these eccentric individuals will provide a stark contrast to the blinding innocence furnished by the white backdrop of freshly laid snow. (A subtle indication that this film is more than meets the eye.) A rich tapestry sewed together with satire, drama, and symbolism to birth an isolated style, which, unfortunately, is lost on many of today's younger viewers. 

    Jerry Lundegaard is the aforementioned typical car salesman, who lives in Minnesota with a wife and son. We first meet Jerry as he drifts into Fargo, North Dakota, to discuss the broad intricacies of a plan to relieve his financial encumbrance. An agreement is settled with two crooks, who come highly recommended by one of his ex-con mechanics, to kidnap his wife and receive a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. 

    As the film progresses, it is difficult not to sympathize with Jerry, as he becomes the victim of his own ineptness. He heedlessly fabricates this scheme to solve his materialistic problems, but fails to give himself a realistic chance of succeeding. Case in point: When an opportunity presents itself to provide compensation, Jerry cannot even get in touch with the hired guns to call off the operation. 

    We watch as Jerry wallows in the pit of human indecency, attempting to swindle customers out of extra cash to pocket himself. Another failure to add to the list of non-fulfillment. Jerry has never been in control of a situation, not even a plan of his own volition. After Jerry's father-in-law takes control of the ransom situation, Jerry exclaims, "This is my deal." Jerry Lundegaard essentially becomes a classic portrayal of the struggle for human dignity--a dramatic foil of ineptitude. 

    This leads us to the inclusion of our unconventional protagonist in Marge Gunderson. Marge, played impeccably by the very talented Frances McDormand, becomes a constituent of this case by chance, as one of the two incompetent kidnappers leaves behind a trail of murders. Marge is highly intelligent and quite skilled at placing a particular crime in a distinct time and fashion. (This is discerned as Marge dominates a frozen crime scene, while another police official stands by dumbfounded.) 
    She is given moral support by a husband who spends his time creating portraits of mallards to become the face of the most expensive Federal Duck Stamp. Marge is sweet and innocently naive, as she even meets an old high school classmate, blinded to the fact that he wants to impose romantically inclined feelings upon her. All of these traits become accentuated by a thick Minnesotan accent that has since become one of the most memorable aspects of the film. 

    Although it is true that the characters in this film identify with simple stereotypes, (the overbearing and well-to-do father in law, the weaselly and psychotic abductors) it is in these externally observable truths that make this film viable. Even Marge can be associated with a candid definition of characterization, the leitmotif, as she continually indulges in the ritual of eating. We are left with a satire of a credible magnitude simply because these personas can be found anywhere. 

    "Fargo" is not a film to be enjoyed once. It is meant to become a lasting image of everyday life when the thin line of morality is dwindled into oblivion. Although this picture doesn't display the finest example of the editing process, the Coens have excelled in creating a timeless atmosphere to counter the lewdness of its actions. An ambiance that permeates another film of this decade, "A Simple Plan," instituted on behalf of the advice of the Coen brothers. 

    There is a subtle moral implication presented by the trusting Marge Gunderson at the end of this film. The lengths to which each reprobate individual will go to gain prosperity is lost on her guileless consciousness. The internal truth of human nature descending upon these characters in the only discernible fashion. With a magnificent dialogue to boot, "Fargo" is a slice of life that shows just how fragile life can be and how humorous these situations may seem to an outside entity. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jack Reacher ★★

    The history of cinema has been littered with tough skinned and lawless individuals, who are familiar with the ladies and can dispatch an enemy with the use of their bare hands alone. Enter "Jack Reacher." This is a 2012 thriller adapted from the novel, One Shot, by the British writer under the pen name of Lee Child. Although this film stars one of Hollywood's biggest names in Tom Cruise, it fails to provide enough raw emotion to bring the black and white pages to life on the big screen.

    Who is Jack Reacher? We are introduced to this individual through cut scenes and dialogue provided by other characters. Reacher is an ex-military cop who enjoys a life of seclusion. He is the type of man who exchanges his outfit at the nearest Goodwill, only to pay for what he wore there and donate back on his way out--a less than intricate attempt to remain hidden from watchful eyes.

    If Jack Reacher is so intent on continuing this life of solitude, why would he ever reveal himself now?

    The city of Pittsburgh experiences a lethal shooting of five individuals by a sniper rifle. The suspected shooter, a former U.S. Army sniper, is taken in for questioning, only to request the assistance of Jack Reacher. After seeing this incident on the news, Reacher brings himself to Pittsburgh and becomes the lead investigator for defense attorney Helen Rodin.

    Of course, he is not set on proving the innocence of James Barr, the suspected gunman, but to condemn him after a similar experience in the Middle East saw Barr evade justice. Reacher will have to utilize his investigative prowess and tactical fighting skills to solve the concealed mystery that surrounds this case.

    Tom Cruise has taken numerous roles in his career that have become sure misfires; Jack Reacher is no exception. Cruise is an actor built on charisma. The character of Jack Reacher not only lacks this warranted quality in an action hero, but also dwells in the personification of impassiveness. Reacher is unable to conjure any type of emotion and is simply a walking deductive reasoning tool, who fights only when engaged.

    However, Cruise is not the only aspect of this film to feel out of place. Rosamund Pike provides a forgettable performance as the skeptical defense attorney, who is desperate to make a name for herself, for she is the daughter of a prestigious district attorney. Pike is limited to wide-eyed expressions and seems to just run through the motions, albeit in a rather lethargic fashion. A small performance by Robert Duvall as Cash, a shooting range owner, saves this film from complete incomprehension.

    "Jack Reacher" will provide a few fight scenes, a car chase, and a tedious ending in which the inept Reacher needs the help of the passive Cash to save the day. The most entertaining of these being a bar fight where our hero dispatches a group of auto parts employees, who moonlight as street toughs.

    The complication with this picture, which also plagues the Jack Ryan characterization, is the difficult task of transforming the pages of this work of fiction into a film that will provide substance. Sure our protagonist is a skillful fighter, knows how to shoot a weapon with expertise, and has an uncanny aura of investigative instincts, but what makes him engrossing?

    Even Jack Ryan has a love interest. Reacher seems anything but interested in emotional attachment. When adapting a novel from a series (in this particular instance book nine) there is an indefinable quality lost in the translation. Ultimately, when viewing this film we become inevitably detached, much like Jack Reacher is detached from any level of sentiment.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Raven ★★

    It is widely known that during his last days, Edgar Allen Poe could be seen wandering the dreary streets of 19th century, Baltimore, chanting words and phrases of a seemingly nonsensical fashion. A tragic life in itself, Poe was destined to live a short time, as the brightest lights always burn out the fastest. A man who should only be depicted in the most flattering manner, for he is and always will be one of the greatest writers of his era; the only man who can delve into lunacy and touch our hearts with the darker emotions of the human spirit.

    "The Raven" is a 2012 thriller that does not succeed in giving Poe the portrayal he deserves, as it tells the last days of his life through a fictional lens of inconceivability. Of course, there is something quite inviting about the concept of Poe solving murders in his last hours of this mortal life. However, this film does little to capture that allure and ultimately falls flat in many ways than one.

    The plot is rather simplistic and involves a solitary murderer, who begins to utilize Poe's classic short stories and poetry to set up his multiple killings. Poe is originally brought in under suspicion, and once deemed innocent, becomes a vital aspect of the investigative team. Poe, played by the respected John Cusack, must work in collaboration with Emmett Fields, Baltimore's most celebrated detective, to stop the slayings and save his beloved Emily from certain death.

    This eccentric genius and one of a kind personality are bogged down by a less than stellar script and a forgettable performance by Cusack. Although an impossible task to begin with, Cusack indulges in a role that isn't fit for his skill set. It seems as if he just goes through the motions, ignoring the magnetism of Poe and opting for a quirky, yet charming rendition of this oddity.

    There are scenes of bewilderment as Poe recites his famous "Annabel Lee" poem to his newfound love. A character whose only purpose is for plot development and for a display of cleavage from an untied garment. Emily is used as the enticement for Poe to become trapped in a game of wits. Isn't the fact that this madman is using his literary work for inspiration enough incentive? It is speculated that Poe indulged in female companionship shortly before his death; however, this unnecessary plot device would have best been left out.

    "The Raven" hinges on this game of cat and mouse; consequently, leading to various run-ins with the killer and would be apprehensions. There are numerous scenes filled with gore and gruesome images to bring some sort of emotional effect to an otherwise lifeless story. A convincing atmosphere is never committed to and Poe's legacy simply becomes the subject of a poor attempt to fictionalize the tragic conclusion to a tragic existence.

    Similar to the real life events, Poe is last seen sitting on a park bench in a delusional state of mind. His last spoken words are tied into the film, as he conjures the name of "Reynolds" from his last breaths of insanity. I am sure by this point in his life, Edgar Allen Poe was not in a position to help anyone, especially to solve murders, let alone help himself escape a downward spiral of depression. The dark romanticism this man brought to literature will most certainly never be seen again. A beauty birthed from darkness nevermore.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Non-Stop ★

    There is a universally recognized consensus that films whose central thematic concern is plot should only be enjoyed for their escapist mentality and tense excitement. However, it should not excuse the fact that films of this caliber should at least be constructed with a compelling storyline and built to pervade an ambiance of suspense.

    "Non-Stop" is a 2014 action film that does little to fabricate a convincing story and hinges on the star power of an aging lead actor in Liam Neeson--a man who has climbed the ladder of action film stars and has impressed audiences with his performances in the "Taken" series of films. Although Neeson is arguably one of the greatest actors of his era and has undoubtedly portrayed the most iconic character in film history (that being Oscar Schindler), his performance here cannot provide the adhesive that would ultimately fill the void in this banal picture.

    Bill Marks is a U.S. Air Marshal whose life seems to be at a standstill. He has taken up the infamous art of drinking and is essentially a shell of his former self. Once assigned to a nonstop flight from New York to London, Bill is under the impression that he can sit back and down a few drinks with no interruption.

    This all changes, however, when he is sent alarming text messages on the secure line of his cellular phone. With threats to kill a passenger every twenty minutes until an absurd amount of money is transferred into a bank account, Marks is thrown into a world of confusion and dismay as he attempts to reveal the identity of this devious individual and protect the innocent lives found on this flight.

    The underlying blueprint of this particular picture is eerily similar to that of "Flightplan,", which also sees a renown actress confined to the space of a commercial flight. Bill Marks is at odds, not only with his blackmailer, but with the surrounding passengers, as they question his sanity among other things. It will take his tactical instincts and help from a female passenger to overcome this disastrous circumstance and clear his name from defamation.

    There are shades of potential in this film, otherwise doomed by a mediocre script and poor execution of plot devices. (I never thought I would see the day when text messages were displayed boldly across the screen to spur plot development.) A notion of just how far technology has become an integral, if not controlling, aspect of our lives.

    If there is one thing this film attempts to succeed in, it would be the uncertainty created by the simple use of the camera to focus on specific individuals. Thus, an effect that will baffle the audience from discerning the true identity of our antagonist. An effect that is utterly compromised, like many films have done so heedlessly before, when the character is shown in an unnecessary scene in the expository acts of the film. Within five minutes, any experienced filmgoer (or anyone who has ever viewed an episode of  "Scooby Doo") should have an idea of this secreted identity, even if doubt ensues inevitably.

    This all leads to a conclusion of illogical proportions, as the events of September 11, 2001 and flight security are used as motivation for the conflict. Considering the outcome, this antagonist's statement was seemingly all for naught. There are notable appearances by Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong'o. Moore, an aging actress whose star power has all but dwindled, plays Jen Summers. Moore's character is nothing more than an underdeveloped love interest for Bill Marks and a plot device for downtempo periods. Nyong'o, a young and talented actress fresh off a brilliant performance in "12 Years a Slave," has quite a forgettable performance, as her minuscule dialogue and presence is virtually nonexistent.

    When will Hollywood forgo these attempts to pit a solitary star in a confined space, usually 30,000 feet above the ground, and call it an action film?

    To say that this film released at a time of year when audiences wanted to see vacuous entertainment would be blasphemous to the integrity of the medium of film. Some of the highest grossing movies of all time are nothing short of some of the worst films ever made. There should never be an ideal time to see pictures of this magnitude. Which leads to the notion that it's not about what audiences want  to view, but what they need  to view. Nevertheless, individuals should want to see a quality film, which "Non-Stop" simply isn't.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dinosaur ★★★

Image result for Dinosaur disney film title shot

    "Dinosaur" is a computer animated film, released by Disney, that combines computer generated imaging and on location filming to provide a realistic experience for young children, who revel in the delight of seeing their favorite prehistoric animals on the silver screen. Although this film suffers from a straightforward plot and relatively bland characters, "Dinosaur" will surely entertain and excite the young at heart.

    What this picture lacks in story and complexity, it delivers in an atmosphere brimming with enticement. The beginning of the film sets the tone with sensational aerial views and panoramic shots, as we follow the journey of a small dinosaur egg that has gotten separated from its mother. Of course, this is the young protagonist of our story, Aladar. This fateful day will see Aladar lose his birth mother and gain a family of the unlikeliest proportions; a family of lemurs.

    Years pass and the young Iguanodon, Aladar, has embraced his mysterious past and unusual siblings as his own. On the cusp of a mating ritual among lemurs, an unforeseen asteroid strikes the island in which they call home and forces Aladar and his immediate family to swim to the mainland. This will lead to a meeting with numerous breeds of dinosaurs as they make their journey to the "Nesting Grounds," a lavish environment with a bountiful assortment of vegetation.

    Aladar has difficulty fitting in and bonds with some of the older dinosaurs that cannot keep up with the herd. His voice for change captures the attention of another young Iguanodon, Neera, and her brother, Kron, who is the leader of the pack. Complications are conjured and conquered, which ultimately leads to a banal climax that leaves little substance for the intellectual viewer.

    It is hard to imagine a film that features these prehistoric creatures in a factually accurate depiction and "Dinosaur" is no exception. However, for all the imperfections that encompass this picture, there are several aspects it does extraordinarily well. Although this is a children's film, it does not place too much emphasis on tawdry humor, which seems to be a staple in pictures intended for younger viewers.

    In addition, it accomplishes the strenuous task of blending real-time imaging with computer animation to make an aesthetically pleasing background for its characters. In a time when special effects were starting to become more innovative and progressive, Disney reached into its budget and released "Dinosaur" as the most expensive film of the year 2000. Considering the financial gain from a worldwide release, this film is a success despite the fact that it does not relish in the formula that many classic films created by Disney have done in the past.

    Overall, "Dinosaur" is a film that does not pretend to be what it isn't. Its structure is simple, but never tedious. It provides a similar story to that of the beloved animated classic "The Land Before Time" and is surely a more enjoyable experience for children and parents alike than the 2013 film entitled "Walking With Dinosaurs." Every child at one point and time in their adolescence, including myself, has admired dinosaurs simply because they are a symbol of Earth's enigmatic past. A time capsule of nature at its finest moment.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Risky Business ★★★★

Image result for Risky Business movie title shot

    We've all experienced periods in our youth when reckless activities were pursued over responsibility. Decisions based on pure teenage hormonal instinct, instead of rational choices based in logic. Of course, this is the beauty of adolescence. Each individual journey taking us from childish daydreams into adulthood with the flicker of an eye.

    "Risky Business" is a film that captures this voyage in a comical, yet melancholic fashion. It follows the events of a suburban area teenage boy, as he develops his sense of individuality through sex, adventure, and exploration. This is a picture that delves into the mind of adolescent obscurity, all while entertaining us with a wonderful style of its own. Starring Tom Cruise, in a role that blossomed his career, "Risky Business" is a sensational depiction of youth in the most vital development stage.

     "My parents are going out of town."

    These are words that every teenage boy only dreams about. It lends the opportunity for underage drinking, parties, and the notorious borrowing of the parent's automobile. Joel Goodson is a high school senior in the city of Chicago. He lives in an upper-class neighborhood, surrounded by friends of the same upbringing. When our film begins, Joel is a rather uptight and reserved young man who dreams of being accepted into Princeton. He is left with stern instructions to not use his father's Porsche and to not tinker with the expensive stereo system.

    Thus, we are brought to a pivotal moment in the film and in Joel's life. A conversation with Miles, a seemingly intelligent friend of Joel's, will emerge three words that summarize the attitude of every rebellious teenager around the world. Sometimes you just have to say "what the fuck." To all intents and purposes, this phrase is not as crude as one might think. It is important in life to occasionally take a risk, for the unknown can be quite stimulating.

     Joel begins his rebellion with minuscule acts of defiance that include divulging into his parent's liquor cabinet and blasting the stereo system while dancing half naked around the house, culminating in one of the most memorable scenes of Tom Cruise's career. The Porsche is driven heedlessly and all that remains is the act of sexual gratification. After a miscommunication with an advertised call girl, Joel comes into contact with Lana, an irresistible blonde working girl, who will steal Joel's heart and become more trouble than he could ever imagine.

    Tom Cruise is unforgettable as the sexually incompetent and tense young man, who eventually finds himself through careless acts of mischievousness. There are times when it becomes obvious that some actors were born to play certain roles. Joel Goodson was the fateful performance that put Cruise on the map. After playing minor roles in films such as "The Outsiders," Cruise breaks free from his cocoon and becomes the actor he was meant to be.

    To provide us with the portrayal of the young and beautiful love interest of Joel is Rebecca De Mornay. In her first prominent role to date, De Mornay brims with seductiveness and carries herself with a sense of sophistication. Of course, this is not the most sought after role for any established actress; however, De Mornay gives off an air of guiltlessness, for a girl who is seemingly anything but.

    This is a picture that centers on the theme of growing awareness and the loss of innocence. We are subtlety revealed pictures of young Joel among the chaos of his precipitous actions to remind us of this fact. We essentially watch him overcome the insurmountable task of discovering himself while also battling the guilt associated with sex. This is discerned through a comical fashion, as Joel is caught in a precarious, yet fictitious scene with a babysitter.

    And who can forget the crystal egg belonging to Joel's mother. It is first seen mounted in a prestigious fashion, with no sense of imperfection--not even a fingerprint. Throughout the film, it is lost and is only recovered towards the end, much like Joel's self-awareness. Thus, it is easy to see that when Joel's mother notices a small crack on the inside, that it is a symbol of Joel's change acquired through his teenage revelations. A life altering transformation in a time when growth is inevitable.

    Regardless of whether or not you have experienced a turbulent time in your life such as this, it is safe to say that "Risky Business" is a film that will evoke the feeling that you wish you had. And what better way to enjoy this experience than the backdrop of 1980s Chicago.