The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Posted by on Aug 27, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey  starts with the story of a family from India who are forced to flee after their restaurant is attacked by political extremists.  They flee to London where they aren’t exactly impressed with the culinary options.  So, they continue their journey to France where they decide to start a new restaurant, right across the street from one of the most famous restaurants in all of France.  Their traditional Indian cuisine and style clashes with the other owners classic French style with hilarity and drama ensuing.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey is all in all an average film.  It’s not awful but it isn’t fantastic either, it is simply a strong film that rides the middle ground pretty well.  The best part of the film by far is Helen Mirren’s performance which isn’t all that surprising since it’s Helen Mirren.  Seriously, she plays a stuck up french woman who is constantly trying to find a reason to close down her new competition.  However, in a completely “unseen” turn of events she eventually comes around to the family.  What makes her performances so fantastic is the subtlety of emotion.  Whether it be joy or sadness, she is able to express complete and pointed emotions with extreme subtlety.  My favorite example of this is a moment where the rival head chef’s hands have been badly burned due to some overzealous employees from her own restaurant.  Her recognition of what the damage of his hands means in every metaphorical and literal sense is purely heartbreaking.  Regardless, beside Helen doing her thing there isn’t much else to this film.

The two main characters, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bron do a solid job but due to the fairly predictable plot, it seems they lose the chance to really strut their stuff.  The rest of the cast do well enough to provide drama and humor where needed.  Outside of that they are easily replaceable.

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As said before the plot is predictable.  Partly because of the trailers leading to the film tell all that there is to the film and partly because it is a run of the mill romance/drama flick.  It has all the tropes from the shy pretty girl that doesn’t think she is pretty, the conflict that forces our two love-birds a part, even the whole two old people bickering who eventually fall in love shtick made it in.  While still well written in terms of dialogue, it still suffers from plot issues.

The best way to describe this film is a safe-bet.  It seems Steven Spielberg and Oprah, the two executive producers, set out to make a film that would return on investment.  They succeeded since this film has already made more than it cost.  Again, while not a terrible movie it still isn’t a good one.  If you are in the mood for a film that will leave you a little happier afterwards without giving you too much grief getting there than hunker down with your favorite snacks.

My Rating: 5/10

The Power of Nostalgia

The Power of Nostalgia
Posted by on Aug 22, 2014

Nostalgia is a powerful force.  It can cause people to pay exorbant amounts of money on toys from their childhood and burst out into song when one of their childhood pop songs starts on the radio.  However, more and more nostalgia has played a much more vital role within Hollywood. This has mainly occurred in three different ways, reboots, references, and long-term sequels (I tried really hard to find a third R word).

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To start off, we have reboots.  I am sure you have seen a reboot, whether it be a reimaginning (Dracula Untold) or the adaptation of a childhood favorite (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers).  Anything that is directly based off of a previous intellectual property (IP) could be considered a reboot.  The most current example is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  What is important about this particular IP is that these totally tubular turtles made their first appearance in 1984 in the first issue of their self-titled comic.  From there, countless versions have spawned often with a much more kid friendly vibe each and every time.  This means that adults who are now 30 grew up with these turtles from the beginning and who are now at an age where they are self-sufficient and are even raising their own families.  For Hollywood, this is the perfect combination for a target audience.  An audience with their own income as well as the power to bring others to the film which will of course translate to more ticket sales.  This whole 80’s reboot we have been seeing with popular IP’s is no mistake.  This is partly because of the audience and also because of the directors today grew up with these IP’s and now have the pull to bring them to the big screen.  All of this creates the perfect nostalgia storm.  People who want to make these and people who want to see them.  This is also why we get movies such as Transformers 4, movies that are truly awful but still make all of the money.  Now, there is the whole global box office factor that helps move these films along since films can be a flop in America but be hits across the globe.  Since we are talking about nostalgia though we aren’t going to go into that too much.  Think of it this way nostalgia gets things going while the global box office keeps the ball rolling.  Nostalgia helps to bring people into the theaters regardless of the quality of the film.  Depending on how much you like the IP, you won’t mind the quality as much.

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Now references are whole other animal.  Instead of recreating or bringing old IP’s to life, sometimes well placed references can be enough to heighten the quality of the film.  I of course would like to point you to the most recent Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you haven’t seen the film yet, do yourself a favor and please go see it.  You can read my review  to get an idea of what you have been missing.  Now, being as spoiler free as possible, what played a large part in GOTG’s success is its love of the 80’s.  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is taken into space in the late 1980’s when he is still a child.  This leaves him with a pop culture knowledge that ends in the 80’s.  Fast forward and you have a film that makes incredibly entertaining and well timed references that make no sense to anybody but Peter Quill and the audience.  These references encourage this nostalgic feeling in the audience and immediately bonds them to the film and these characters.  This is a hard idea to describe without seeing the film while not spoiling some of the greatest moments in the film.  Another great example is A Knight’s Tale which plays the nostalgia card through it’s music, which is something GOTG does very well also.  Hopefully that gives you an idea of what references can do in a film.  By bringing pop culture references in some form into a genre that would normally not have them, it allows for film to cross genres and appeal to a much wider audience.  It can be done improperly especially if that is the only thing that it relies on.

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The last form of nostalgia is the idea of long-term sequels.  I find the studio that does this the best is Pixar.  What I mean by this is that they create their own nostalgia and seemingly timed future sequels.  For instance, Toy Story was released in 1995.  Of course being a movie about toys coming to life I, like many others close to my age, instantly loved this movie and grew up with it.  Now, fast forward to Toy Story 3 which was released in 2010, the year I and many others my age were beginning the college part of their lives.  I mean, either some one at Pixar should be given a very substantial raise or this was an incredible coincidence.  By placing the stories focus on a young college bound student giving up his child hood toys and essentially growing makes the film incredibly poignant for the audience.  This is especially so since those my age were going through this very experience and could relate to it even more.  Seriously, the whole metaphor of them almost dying in the fire pit in the dump as a comparison of the death of one’s child hood was really a low blow by Pixar.  Regardless, you can start to see the potential that long-term sequels of films can have.  The same thing occurred with Monsters Inc. and Monsters University if you were born a little before 2001.  It seems Pixar likes to space their sequels out just enough to allow their audience to grow up a little and then target their story towards where they would be in their life.  I doubt Pixar is this diabolical especially since they place story over everything else in a film.  We will see if this trend continues with Finding Dory, which from the sound of it seems to be primed to carry a message of finding yourself and figuring out who you are.

Nostalgia in film is not a bad thing.  It is simply another tool film makers can use to increase the emotional investment in their projects.  From a marketing standpoint, it is one of the more powerful tools that can be used.

Marvel, Where to Next?

Marvel, Where to Next?
Posted by on Aug 14, 2014

If you haven’t heard, Guardians of the Galaxy is a complete success!  It broke box office records for August while nearly beating Captain America: The Winter Soldier in it’s opening weekend.  Something that is pretty impressive considering Peter Quill and his team of outlaws was largely unheard of until now.  However, you may be wondering where does Marvel go from here?  I am here to help you figure that out.  Now, my main focus is what hero should be introduced next and how.  If you want a more complete walkthrough of what to expect, check out Screenrant’s breakdown of the infinity gems and how they are a part of the Marvel universe.  You can also keep watch on my website for a complete breakdown of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so far as well as predictions as to where everything is going.

Now, the next two heroes officially set to join the MCU are Ant-Man and Dr. Strange.  Dr. Strange is still “unofficially” announced but it has been confirmed as a Phase 3 film.  This is important because between Avengers 2 and 3 there are 9 films, 5 of which we know of for sure.  These are Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Thor 3, Captain America 3, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.  This leaves 4 films still to be announced and decided upon.  There are a few rumors floating around as to what they may be, but only the all knowing Kevin Feige know’s the answer to that.  Now there are two heroes that I want to see make their debut one of which has been rumored more than a few times.

To start off with the rumored hero, Captain Marvel takes a little back story.  The original Captain Mar-Vell, was a Kree captain sent to spy on Earth and report back to the Kree empire if Earth was a threat or not.  He is eventually caught in an explosion with Carol Danvers who receives similar powers due to the explosion.  She assumes the mantel of Miss Marvel until recently when she took up the mantel of her predecessor, Captain Marvel.  So, here we have a hero tied very closely with the Kree empire, who made their first real appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Captain Marvel is primed for introduction since it could tie in to the Secret Invasion story arc within the Marvel Comic Universe.  Now, replace Skrull with the Kree and this story arc could help lead into a new direction beyond Thanos.  Not to mention that Captain Marvel has strong ties with both the Earth and Cosmic side of the Marvel Universe which would help bring these two sides together.  This is exactly what is needed to mix things up and to help ground some of the more obscure properties in the  Marvel Cosmic Universe.

With either of these characters, the MCU would greatly benefit from their addition.  Regardless of Kevin Feige’s feelings towards time constraints in the MCU, it appears they have plenty of open slots with plenty of opportunity to introduce some fantastic characters.

Now, my favorite for the next hero is Quasar.  Her real name is Phyla-Vell, who as you may have guessed is the daughter of Mar-Vell.  Now it is a little more complicated than simply being his daughter but you can read that in the link above.  Why she is such a great candidate for the next Marvel hero is due to her connection with Thanos, Drax, and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  During her run as Quasar, she held the quantum bands which function similarly to a green lantern’s ring.  Basically, she can create anything she can imagine out of quantum energy.  Whoever holds the the quantum bands and the true mantle of Quasar is designated as the protector of the universe.  Carrying such a big title within the Cosmic side of the Marvel Universe brings her into the paths of such people as Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  She has confronted Thanos often, especially when he is out trying to destroy the universe with the infinity stones.  Now, she has much more personal connection with Drax since she is in love with her daughter.  This fact combined with her conflicts with Thanos makes her central to the Cosmic narrative and an excellent way to expand on the Cosmic side of things.

Now, what you will notice about both these heroes is that they are in fact heroines.  Introducing the first true female hero in her own title film is exactly what is needed to to shake up the super hero movie genre.  With an all male superhero cast, except for Black widow, things are starting to look a little testosterone heavy.  With Wonder Woman appearing in Dawn of Justice, that will be the closest to a headlining heroine.  With both these characters, they are still grounded enough and central enough to further tie the MCU closer together while still being different enough to shake up the MCU.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy
Posted by on Aug 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is the story of how five outlaws banned together to stop a religious fanatic on his conquest to destroy worlds.  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) are the only hope the galaxy has for survival.

Guardians of the Galaxy is by far the most unique Marvel film to date.  It takes the audience to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, far from earth and into a world with talking trees and raccoons.  At it’s heart and really what this movie does, is tell the story of five misfits who have nowhere else to fit it.  Peter Quill is an orphan who was abducted from earth when he was young boy in the eighties.  Drax is a killer whose family has been killed and has left him with nothing except the burning need to avenge their death.  Gamora is one of the deadliest assassins in the galaxy who became that way after Thanos killed her family in front of her and raised her as weapon.  Rocket Raccoon is a raccoon that has been experimented on until he gained sentience and intelligence beyond the average being.  Groot is in as few words as possible, a space ent whose vocabulary is limited to 3 words, “I Am Groot”.  This ragtag bunch of outlaws somehow winds up saving the galaxy by being at the right place at the wrong time.  What is great about this film is it seems James Gunn embraced this idea of misfits.  This is most easily seen with Peter Quill and his bevy of eighties references.  After all, he was abducted in 1988 when he was child and enamored with the pop culture of the time.  While the audience understands his references, those around him don’t and they often end up misinterpreting his metaphors in hilarious ways.  Without spoiling too much, this culture clash humor is takenand applied to each of the individual characters in their own way giving each one time in the spotlight.

With a cast that rivals The Avengers, this film has a strong talent base to rest on.  Surprisingly, no characters seem underdeveloped or pushed to the side.  Each character fulfills their role brilliantly which creates a narrative that flows very smoothly.  Now, one thing that I found this movie had trouble with was some of the dialogue.  At certain pints, the dialogue seems forced and awkward when it shouldn’t.  However, most of these moments occur in the beginning of the film, when these characters are still melding together into a cohesive team.  I could very easily see this as a ploy by James Gunn to enhance this idea that these characters are very much outcasts and misfits.  The only other part of this film that seemed to struggle was it pacing, it really was a roller-coaster of a film.  Still, this comes down to preference because after all roller-coasters are pretty fun.  What’s gonna happen is you will find that scenes have a certain emotional focus and then find the next scenes have taken a hard turn towards another focus altogether.  Again, this will come down to personal preference but it could very easily be found to be jarring.

In the end, this film might have a few flaws here and there but these flaws are vastly outweighed by the humor, wit, action, drama, and storytelling that you will have the pleasure of experiencing.  This film is a must see unless of course you’re not a fan of good cinema.

My Rating: 9/10