Pixar Vs. Dreamworks Vs. Laika

Pixar Vs. Dreamworks Vs. Laika
Posted by on Jun 24, 2014

Pixar, Dreamworks, and Laika are three film studios that each have their own distinct style when it comes to childrens entertainment.  Each studio has a very distinct style which they specialize in.  I will outline each studios strengths as well as their weaknesses.  To clarify, this is not a declaration of the superior studio, merely outlining the characteristics that I have noticed in their movies.

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Pixar is easily considered one of the best studios out there.  They have had no major flops in terms of box office success and only one or two film that were critically received poorly.  Ever since their debut in 1995 with Toy Story, they have rolled out hit after hit continually pushing the boundaries of CGI.  All fueled by their stories.  That is what Pixar focuses on, the story.  To have a more in depth look at their process pick up Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull.  It details the history of Pixar as well as their movie making process.  What is truly unique about their process is how every person in Pixar is invested in crafting the story.  From the visual artists to the directors, all participate in work shopping sessions to continually improve the story and figure out its weakness.  This is what Pixar does well, they tell a great story.  Take for example the movie Up, in its original incarnation it was about a king who rules over a floating kingdom.  At one point, his two sons, who are constantly at odds, fall to the ground.  They then must work together to get back to their father while learning a few lessons on the way.  The differences between Up in its final incarnation and its original concept are many and obvious.  These changes were all due to these work shopping sessions.  They don’t focus on the world, in fact when you look at their films they often take place in worlds that are more familiar to us.  Not only that but those that take place in unfamiliar worlds don’t do all that well.  Look at Cars, and Cars 2.  Both take place in a world that is truly unfamiliar to us.  Sure it pretends what the world would be like if it was run by cars, but still completely different from ours.

Some might say they have had plenty of hit films about worlds unlike ours.  However, even those still had some overt human element and the world was still something we had seen before.  Wall-E, which didn’t even have humans enter the picture until about 30 or 45 minutes into the film was still a pretty recognizable sci-fi world.  Monster Inc. had a world that was parallel to ours and almost exactly the same.  A Bug’s Life also took place in the normal world, just on a smaller scale than we normally think about.  Toy Story takes place within our world as well, it just tells a story that happens outside of our view.  As you can see Pixar tells stories, that is what they’re good at.  Their best movies take place in familiar worlds and settings where they bring out the stories that are already there.

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Dreamworks on the other hand builds a great world.  They can tell a pretty good story but the worlds they build are truly fantastic and often original.  Even when you look at their older films, they wanted to transport the audience to a world that was different and new.  Now when you look at their entire filmography you will see some that would cross into the Pixar’s realm.  Antz is a perfect example, especially since it was very much a clone of A Bug’s Life.  However, as the years went on, Dreamworks starts to drift away from this story style of film making.  The best example is the Shrek series.  They built this fairy tale world and explored it in the subsequent films.  It often parodied ours while showing a different side to these conventional fairy tales.  This is what Dreamworks has done well.  Build a world that is enjoyable and kind of makes you want to stay.  Often their story tends to suffer, but they are slowly starting to figure out a good balance, all you have to do is look at the How to Train Your Dragon movies.  They don’t sacrifice the story in favor of the world but they focus on expanding on the world they have created, making you want to spend a little more time there.  Lets take the Shrek series for example.  The first two did a great job of balancing story and world exploration.  They set everything up in the first world with a great story that flips a lot of fairy tale tropes on their heads.  The second did the same thing, expanded the world while telling a story that poked fun at many fairy tale tropes.  The third one on the other hand focused too much on the world and not the story.  However, in the fourth film, they seemed to bring it back.  Again, the story wasn’t the best but they again introduced more fairy tale characters, expanding the world and flipping more conventions on their head.

So, while their story suffers often, they still make very enjoyable movies.  Sure they don’t normally have as many hits as Pixar, but they are better setup for sequels.  As long as they stick to exploring the stories in the world they have created, such as the How to Train Your Dragon films, then the quality of their movies will be better.

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Laika is a much smaller and newer studio.  There two films to date, Coraline and Paranorman, were both incredibly successful.  Scoring well amongst critics as well as audience members.  Since they are still up and coming, they are still testing the waters in terms figuring out their style.  However, from what I have seen in Coraline and Paranorman, they could very easily become a cinema giant.  What it seems they go for is taking film genres and adapting them for children.  Coraline for instance would fall squarely in the horror genre while Paranorman is easily a zombie movie.  Obviously some elements are watered down, such as blood, gore, and violence.  However, before you write of these films as childish versions of established genres, watch Coraline and see how you feel afterwards.  What they also do in their films, is blend in very heavy themes and messages that normally would be incredibly hard to deliver in a childrens film.  Paranorman alone handles mob mentality, child murder, homosexuality, bullying, and the childhood struggles of fitting in.  Look at any other children’s film out their and you will be hard pressed to find another that addresses these issues as tactfully as Paranorman.  Since they are still young, only time will tell if this is the direction Laika will take.

That is what they do best.  Bend genres that might be reserved for more adult audiences for a younger audience while inserting incredibly important messages that would be hard cover in a normal conversation with your kid.

To summarize, Pixar is the king of story, Dreamworks is a master world-builder, and Laika is a superb genre bender.  Often times films are only judged by their story.  While story is important, it is unfair to try and reduce films to a single dimension.  Each studio here has a specialty and while they might not be received critically the same way, they all have a place.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Posted by on Jun 23, 2014

The world has gotten much bigger in five years.  Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has been busy, inventing new dragon riding equipment and exploring the world.  Discovering new lands and new dragons.  The rest of Berk has been busy integrating dragons into their everyday life.  Stoick (Gerard Butler) has officially declared Hiccup the next chief.  This of course causes Hiccup to run away and do what comforts him, fly.  During a talk with Astrid (America Ferrera) at a brand new archipelago, they spot burning patch of land.  They consequently come across a group of dragon trappers, led by Eret (Kit Harington) who informs them of the malevolent Drago (Djimon Hounsou) who has been forming an army of dragons.  After a few conflicts with his father, Hiccup discovers another dragon rider.  One that has created a sanctuary for dragons from Drago.  This mysterious rider turns out to be Hiccups mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett), who has been presumed dead for the past 20 or so years.  In an inevitable turn of events, the residents of Berk ally with Valka’s dragons to repel Drago and his army.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a great entry into Dreamworks pantheon.  It has plenty of heart, humor, and action.  Not to mention they aren’t afraid to add some real pain to the mix.  In a world where franchises are seen as easy cash cows, it is refreshing to see genuine effort put into another franchise entry.  Not to mention the great cast of characters surrounding the main protagonists.  While they don’t add much beyond some light-hearted humor, they are a nice tension relief during some of the more tense moments of the film.

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What this movie does the best, is expand upon the world that we were introduced in the first film.  They have truly created a world that is exciting and enjoyable.  Combining this whimsical world with improved visuals makes it all the more immersive.  Really, my one regret about seeing this movie is not seeing it in 3-D.  Not to mention the full on dragon war that occurs in the latter half of the film.  The design of the fight and flight scenes is absolutely perfect.  What is extremely interesting, however is this theme of dismemberment.  You have the heroes, Hiccup and Toothless, both missing a small piece of themselves.  What is important is that these injuries were essentially inflicted by each other.  To clarify, these injuries were not directly inflicted on them by each other.  However, these injuries were direct results from the others actions.  Regardless, these injuries go on to bond them to each other and shape their character.  This is put into contrast with the villains own dismemberment.  It is revealed that early on, Drago lost his arm to a dragon.  This turned him against the very idea that dragons could be anything more than mindless beasts.  Instead of choosing to grow from the incident, he chose to conquer his fears through domination.  Now this is all just my own musings since none of this is confirmed in the film.  However, it fairly easy to see when you observe how differently Hiccup and Drago approach dragons.  Hiccup always approaches new dragons with humility and calm.  Drago on the other hand approaches with rage and domination tactics.  Drago asserts himself over the dragons, demanding their obedience, while Hiccup earns their trust.  Honestly, I could write a whole paper Dreamworks representation of trauma and how it shapes.  That I will have to save for a rainy day.

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Now, all this to say How to Train Your Dragon 2 didn’t have its problems.  My main issue is how Dreamworks seems to rehash many of the same internal struggles.  We get it, Hiccup and his father don’t see eye to eye on things.  That was the last movie.  I can understand Hiccups struggle of entering adulthood and accepting more responsibility, but not in the way the represented.  Instead of focusing on that fear of growing up, they turned into more teenage angst about how his father doesn’t understand him.  It was really the exact same issue only with a different setting.  The peripheral characters were also very underwritten.  Taking Astrid for example, she really has no part in the movie.  Sure, she’s there but she offers very little substance to the film.  This goes for the rest of his childhood friends as well.  They do offer some excellent comedic timing but otherwise they seem over abundant and unnecessary.  It would have been nice to at least one of these characters at least add some kind of side conflict or telling Hiccup to just get over himself and take on some responsibility.

Now, since this is the second installment in a possibly 4 movie franchise lets take a look at where the franchise could go.  The best thing for Dreamworks to do, would be to show Hiccup struggling with his new duties as chief.  This seems fairly obvious but the majority of his struggles should come from one of his friends resisting and even becoming an enemy.  This could be difficult but not impossible.  Plus, it would be a new and very interesting situation for Hiccup to deal with.  Beyond that, since Dreamworks has exhausted the dragon army idea, they would need to go into non-physical territory.  For instance, there is some new disease that is affecting both dragons and humans.  Hiccup takes it upon himself to find the cure or the cause.  Not only does this raise the stakes by putting his loved ones on the line, but it would naturally open up the world even more.

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Wherever Dreamworks decides to take Hiccup and his friends, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an excellent addition to the series.  It plays to Dreamworks strengths while still bringing in fresh and exciting story elements.

My Rating: 7/10

Frozen

Frozen
Posted by on Jun 22, 2014

Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the new queen of Arendelle after her parents death in a storm at sea.  During her coronation her childhood powers, which she has tried to hid her entire life, explode out of control.  It is up to her little sister, Anna (Kristen Bell) to stop her and turn end this eternal winter.  With the help of an ice farmer, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer, and a magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) they just might be able to save the kingdom.

Frozen is the latest animated film from the Disney giant and is a fantastic addition to the pantheon of Disney films.  It is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale called The Snow Queen.  The original fairy tale is very different from the movie, which is now surprise given Disney’s methods of updating these fairy tales for the modern world.  In the original tale, you have two little children, Kai and Gerda.  Kai, who has essentially fallen under a spell from the devil, only sees the bad aspects of people.  This turns him bitter and mean to those around them.  One day, Kai meets the Snow Queen who kisses him once to make him immune to the cold and a second time to make him forget those he loved, like his grandmother and Gerda.  The townsfolk believe Kai to have perished in the river, since that was where he was last seen.  Gerda on the other, motivated by her heartbreak, believes that Kai is still alive.  Thus in true fairy tale fashion, she goes off on an epic quest to save Kai.  She meets women and creature on her journey that help her along the way.  When she finally reaches Kai, her kiss breaks the enchantments placed on Kai and they live happily ever after.

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Frozen is vastly different than the original fairy tale.  Elsa is the snow queen who can’t control powers and Anna is her sister who sets out to rescue Elsa and save the kingdom.  There is no Kai or grandmother nor any of the original characters Gerda meets in the original tale.  However, the reindeer is re imagined as Kristoff’s pet and life long friend which is a nice touch.  Disney also took the liberty of adding a few extra characters that ultimately act as the villains of the story.  The Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) seeks to take of Arendelle or at the very least remove Elsa from the throne.  Hans (Santino Fontana) is prince from the Summer Isles who ultimately seeks to become king of Arendelle by first marrying Anna and then killing both sisters to ascend the throne.  These changes work out in Disney’s favor helping to add a little drama and progressive ideas into Frozen.

Alright, now to the meat and potatoes of Frozen.  What works really well with this movie is its focus on the female characters.  Neither are helpless nor do they pine away after some prince like many of their fellow Disney princesses.  In fact, in possibly the most meta critical moment, the song Love is an Open Door plays on many of the tropes that often accompanies the first meeting between prince and princess in Disney films.  This is made all the more poignant when Hans’ true colors are finally revealed and he attempts to kill Anna and Elsa.  For the record, props are in order since Disney basically brought in a character from Game of Thrones.  The amount Hans plays the characters off of each other to his gain is spectacularly brutal for a Disney movie.  Besides this song, Disney also shifts the focus on the love sisters have for each other instead of between a prince and princess.  In fact, the real love interest, Hans, doesn’t even make an effort until the end.  This focus is ultimately what made Frozen such a big deal.  Not to mention the popularity of Let It Go which has swept the world by storm.

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With the sister relationship taking center stage, the humor, music, and everything else simply acts as a pedestal to display this idea of true love.  Mainly, that love is not restricted to romantic relationships.  This is clearly displayed when Anna, who is slowly turning into ice due to being struck by Elsa’s ice, can only be saved by an act of true love.  Through out the movie, this act of true love is sold as true loves kiss.  However, in a series of twists, it is actually Anna saving Elsa from Hans’ sword that breaks the spell.  This act of true love is a refreshing change of pace from the power of true love’s kiss.

Now, for the parts that didn’t work in Frozen.  While I can appreciate unseen villain motif, I believe that Elsa would have made a great villain.  Comparing her whole story with any good villain origin story, you start to see more than a few similarities.  It seems a waste of a good villain setup but ultimately it doesn’t cripple the film.  On a more personal film, in the marketing leading up to the release of Frozen, it was often compared and presented as the next Lion King.  This just seems like setting up extremely high expectations seeing as The Lion King is possibly one of the most popular Disney movies.  Seriously, it is essentially the standard that people use to judge other Disney movies.  To come out and  throw down the gauntlet is just asking for trouble.  Regardless, while I do not believe it beat The Lion King, it doesn’t fall terribly short either.  The trolls were also a problem.  Now, I have not mentioned the trolls yet and that is for a reason.  The have been unmentioned so far mainly due to the fact that they are a largely unnecessary part of the film.  They are simply a plot device to move the story.  They are in the beginning so they can explain Elsa’s power and again to have a musical number that has little bearing on the actual relationships, other than pointing out Kristoff and Anna belong together.  They could have served the same function while being more relevant with the addition or change of a few scenes.  In the beginning when they are explaining Elsa’s powers, the simple addition of dialogue expressing that Elsa will always find help here is all that is needed for a setup.  A simple follow-up scene of a distraught Elsa running to the troll’s who then promptly leaves when she accidentally hurts one of them is all that is needed.  These two additions would have been all that is needed to make the troll’s more relevant.  There are a few other concerns, mainly with certain artistic choices that affect the overall message, but that is for another day.

Ultimately, blending positive messages of love, female empowerment, witty well-placed humor, and endearing characters.  Frozen is fun film for all ages and must see for any and all Disney fanatics.

My Rating: 8/10

Why You Should Be Excited For Guardians Of The Galaxy

Why You Should Be Excited For Guardians Of The Galaxy
Posted by on Jun 11, 2014

The Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) is the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  If you haven’t heard of it yet, well you’re welcome.  It is being hyped up as one the most original and different Marvel movie to date.  This movie has cause more than a little confusion among the general public since they are such an obscure property.  Don’t worry though, there are a couple of reason why you should be excited about GOTG

First, it has possibly one of the greatest casts in any Marvel movie.  Chris Pratt (Parks & Rec, Zero Dark Thirty, The Deliveryman) plays the teams leader, Peter Jason Quill.  Quill is pretty much a cross between Malcom Reynolds (Firefly) and Han Solo (Star Wars).  With Chris Pratt bringing this character to life we should be seeing the perfect mix of intense action star with goofball antics.  Zoe Saldana (The Losers, Avatar, Star Trek) is a proven action actress.  Her representation of Uhura is my personal favorite of her current roles.  She has the acting chops to add depth to a character that could very easily be limited to a pretty but deadly face.  Dave Bautista (The Man with Iron Fists, Riddick) has very recently just burst onto the acting scene from WWE platform.  While his acting skills may still be in question, his physicality is not.  The only one who might beat him at this would The Rock, but that’s a little unfair since The Rock is more of demi-god than human (See Hercules).  Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team, American Hustle) and Vin Diesel (The Fast & The Furious, Riddick, The Pacifier) play Rocket Raccoon and Groot respectively.  To put this in slightly simpler terms, Cooper is playing a talking raccoon while Diesel is playing a space ent that says three words “I am Groot”.  If that doesn’t get you on board than just know that they have the best bromance going on since J.D. and Turkleton.  Now these are just the heroes.  On the villains side of things you Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire, Pushing Daisies, The Hobbit) playing an alien warlord with a hammer that would make Thor weep.  Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Oculus) plays the step-sister to Zoe’s character who have both been trained at birth in constant competition to be assassins for the big MCU baddie Thanos.  Thanos himself is being played by Josh Brolin (Men In Black 3, Oldboy, Gangster Squad) another actor who is quickly rising in popularity.  Now these, are just a few of the main characters.  You also have Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, and John C. Reilly all portraying a vast array of characters.

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If the above cast isn’t enough to get you excited than let me tell you about the source material.  The GOTG are a group of misfit heroes.  They were originally brought together when a race of sentient machines, think the Borg or Replicants, essentially capture an entire sector of the galaxy by putting it out of sync with reality (it’s comic book science, just go with it).  They were all prisoners brought together as a disposable unit that could be sent into battle with low tech weaponry to fight the robots.  Quill, Rocket, and Groot were the only members that were part of the original team that are also in the movie.  Gamora and Drax join later when they have to start fighting Thanos and safe the universe from a rip in the space-time continuum.  Obviously, the movie isn’t quite going with such a large scope.  Instead, the movie will focus on their conflict with Thanos and more importantly, with trying to keep one of the Infinity Gems from him.  This all ties into the overall plan with the MCU but I’ll talk more about that later.  Now, the original GOTG were actually in the 31st century and battled an evil race that was seeking to take over the universe.  They don’t have too much of a role in this movie, however they are bringing one or two of the original characters into this movie.  To summarize, take the A-Team, combine it with the Ocean’s team and you have GOTG.  If there is something in that sentence you don’t like well then lets talk about the director and his vision.

James Gunn is kind of the wild card when it come to GOTG.  With not much experience under his belt in terms of big blockbuster hits, everyone involved with the MCU from Joss Whedon to various Avengers all swear by James Gunn’s interpretation.  He has stated that instead of trying to normalize the GOTG so that the movie is easier to swallow for audiences, he is embracing the weirdness that is.  In fact, he has gone on record many times that Rocket Raccoon and Groot are the heart and soul of the movie.  This could mean a lot of things but what is really important is that James Gunn isn’t afraid to try something different.  Superhero movies have begun to grow stale often following the same formula regardless if they are Marvel or DC.  With GOTG, the genre will be shaken up.  It means Marvel is testing the waters to see how far off the path they can go and still produce hit after hit.  If all goes well, GOTG will open a new door for the genre allowing it to expand and grow beyond its standard formula.

The Guardians of the Galaxy comes out August 1st.

Stardust

Stardust
Posted by on Jun 10, 2014

 

Stardust is a love story, just not one you have heard about.  Tristan (Charlie Cox) is a young man who lives in the small country town of Wall.  The kind of town where nothing particularly spectacular happens.  He has hopelessly fallen for Victoria (Sienna Miller) who is currently being pursued by Humphrey (Henry Cavill), the town stud as it were.  One night, as Tristan is attempting to woo Victoria with a romantic candlelit picnic, a falling star happens to pass over them and as a statement of true love Tristan vows to retrieve this star to prove his love.  However, over the wall, which the town is named for, is a magical land known as Stormhold where the next king is being chosen.  In fact, it appears this star was brought down by the kings amulet and the last remaining son will become king.  Tristan will truly have to prove his love by fighting off power hunger princes, youth seeking witches, and attempting to reason with a star.

If there is one word to describe this movie, it would undoubtedly be whimsical.  Based on the book of the same name written by Neil Gaiman, it tells the story of what true love really is.  Our hero, like many, has fallen for someone who quite frankly isn’t quite deserving of our hero.  Of course, blinded by his love for Victoria, Tristan goes on this quest to bring back a fallen star.  In turn of events, this star is less of a rock and more of women  named Yvaine (Claire Daines).  Of course hi-jinks ensue as Tristan must protect Yvaine from princes and witches who wish to devour her heart to live forever.

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The strength of this movie beyond the story telling is in its cast.  First off, you have Ian McKellen as the narrator whose narration skills could probably only be surpassed by Morgan Freeman.  Not to mention Mark Strong as the villain, and a villain he plays.  Killing his brothers, innocent bystanders, and even at one point aids in killing the leader of the church or at least sort of.  Nowadays, it seems villains are the only characters Mark plays, but that’s mostly because he does it so well and this time is no exception.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays the other villain, the leader of three witches who are out to eat Yvaine’s heart to gain near immortality.  Michelle doesn’t let Mark steal the villain spotlight.  Where Mark’s villain bull rushes on, Michelle plays things coy and methodical.  Setting up traps and attempting to trick our protagonists to their death.  Her portrayal of the witch Lamia is an excellent balance to Mark’s Septimus.

The highlight of the film though comes in the form of Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Captain Shakespeare.  With Robert DeNiro is most well known for his tougher than nails characters often for humorous effect (The Family, Meet the Parents).  Stardust switches this dynamic where the character of Captain Shakespeare, a blood thirsty captain who pillages, plunders, and kills with out remorse is just that, a character.  The true Shakespeare is a man who abhors violence all together and prefers to spend his energy on cross dressing.  Yes, Robert DeNiro plays a homosexual pirate with a flair for the dramatic.  This film is worth seeing just for his performance since it is something that you won’t see everyday.

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My main problem with this film is in its deus ex machina at the end.  Everything works out for the heroes where nearly nothing is lost.  I’m not against a happy ending, I just think with this particular movie it would have been made more meaningful if our heroes had to struggle more for it.  Most of the ground work is laid out for the big resolve in the film, it still feels very neat and tidy in a story that has had one twist after another.  However, this is hardly a reason to place Stardust on your do not watch list.  If you are looking for a fun film, one that would be perfect for a date night, than I strongly recommend Stardust.

My Rating: 8/10

Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway
Posted by on Jun 5, 2014

Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is  a loud, belligerent, drunk who is loyal to a fault.  After spending 12 years in prison because of this loyalty, Dom is ready for his thank you.  When a robbery goes south for our safe cracker, he decides to spend the 12 years for his boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), instead of turning on him.  After settling a few minor disputes, such as beating the man who slept with wife within an inch of his life, and celebrating his release, courtesy of Mr. Fontaine, he seeks the money he is owed.  With his best mate Dickie Black (Richard Grant) in tow, he visits Fontaine at his illustrious country estate for his reward.  After a few misunderstandings mostly caused by Dom himself, he eventually receive his reward and all three settle for a night of celebration that would rival the debauchery of Dionysus.  One thing leads to another and Dom finds himself down on his luck.  No money, a severe concussion, and collapsed on the doorstop of his estranged daughter, Evelyn (Emilia Clarke).  With a new sense of purpose, we find Dom on a mission to repair his relationship with his daughter.

Nowadays, Jude Law is most synonymous with his representation of Dr. John Watson alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock.  To see Law move from a refined English investigator to belligerent degenerate is quite a shock.  Richard Shepard, who wrote and directed, does not shy away from making Dom a less than upstanding individual.  With on opening monologue about how magnificent his member is while being, shall we say, serviced in prison is only the beginning.  From beatings, to insults, and cursing Dom is not afraid to speak his mind.  That is unless it comes to his daughter.  Evelyn is about as far as you can get from Dom.  Her demeanor and personality help to show just how rough Dom is when compared to her much more caring character.  That isn’t to say she accepts him with open arms.  After all, Dom chose to sacrifice 12 years of being JudeLawRichardEGrantDemianBichirDomHemingwaywith his family in order to stay in the good graces of Mr. Fontaine.  That kind of abandonment can cause some relationship issues.  This ultimately is what this film is about.  repairing that damaged relationship so Dom cannot only be in his daughters life, but his grandson’s as well.  With a pretty clear split, the first half of this film is entirely about defining the character of Dom Hemingway.  A crass individual that you wouldn’t trust with your money but ultimately has a heart of gold and loyal to a fault.  This first half focuses on his faults and ultimately how they lead him in a downward spiral.  In the second half, the focus is on his better attributes.  With his loyalty shifted toward his daughter and his friends, you begin to see why this Dom isn’t such a bad guy after all.

The strength of this film is definitely in its cast.  Every actor delivers an incredible performance highlighted by Jude Law’s personification of debauchery in Dom.  Emilia Clarke, who you might recognize as Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones, proves that she can move beyond her most significant role.  What might throw some audience members is the style of directing and writing this movie adopts.  It watches much like a play.  It has long uninterrupted monologues or conversations with little to no cuts.  Instead, it seems the director shows the film as a window that the audience only has one perspective look through.  Another director with a similar style is Quentin Tarantino.  He will have long segments of dialogue with very view dynamic camera changes.  He differs because he often follows those segments with scenes of explosive, almost cathartic violence.  Richard Shepard distinguishes himself by not including such a direct violent followup.  Instead, his film follows more gradual increases and decreases that go throughout the film and with a lot of build up and a lot of release.

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Unfortunately, this film has few story elements that seem out of place.  The best way to describe this is replacing subtle elements with more overt.  For instance, one character that acts as the catalyst of change for Dom is really obvious about it.  Spouting off remarks about balance and the universe.  Honestly, this could fit since this movie is often very loud and equally ridiculous.  In fact when this character first appears, they don’t seem all that out of place.  Unfortunately, this character returns and in quieter moments as well where they seem out of place.  Another scene where this idea occurs is the final one of the film, where Dom after just a having life changing experience with his daughter, seems to revert back to his old ways.  This could be the directors way of saying that Dom will never change, which kind of sucks out the meaning of the rest of the film.

Overall, Dom Hemingway is a fun and loud ride that tells the story of a man trying to find what he wants in life.

My Rating: 6.5/10