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Period/Historical

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Given its movie-epic flair, “Queen of the Desert” is pretty enough to be watchable for its sweeping desert landscapes, picturesque British countryside, glorious 20th-century architecture, and classy period costumes. However, the story’s structure ultimately fails. Much of the problem comes from the acting, which is clearly a hit or miss, often the latter, and the episodic pacing that almost never engrosses the audience, even during the supposedly very emotional moments.

Based on the true story of the life of British explorer and adventurer Gertrude Bell, this underwhelming piece of cinema, surprisingly helmed by the respectable Werner Herzog, chronicles a journey through love, loss, and coping up in the eyes of a curious and adventurous woman way ahead of her time.

Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell doesn’t look desert-hardened despite the character she portrays. Her joys and pains remain quite difficult to understand even by the film’s end. There is barely any persuasive emotional depth invested on her character. While her maturity as an actress comes into place at certain times, the disappointing storytelling structure lacks both the sweep and psychological complexity the story desperately needs. The narrative remains passionless and devoid of layers that should have come from the trailblazing archaeologist and politician Bell’s many extraordinary adventures in the 1920s Middle East.

The conflicts of love and tragedy lets down as any death that comes in the story is not in any way impactful for the audience. Viewers are unable to get that crucial emotional attachment to root for the characters and their plight. All details that unfold come as they are without emotional investment of any kind for the audience to keep up with.

Robert Pattison as T.E. Lawrence is completely disappointing, rendering no depth to his persona to impose himself as Lawrence of Arabia. The emptiness in his character becomes the most dominant element in his role, especially whenever he utters his lines. Peter O’Toole could have probably cringed if he’s still alive and saw this unfortunate portrayal of his iconic character.

James Franco as Henry Cadogan adds a bit of spice to the bland sketches of male roles presented throughout the tale, but the film’s storytelling betrays his fate in the narrative that he is still unable to garner any form of convincing impact in the story.


‘Queen of the Desert’ Film Review: Beautifully Empty
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Adventureland movie review

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“Adventureland” is a sweet, insightful, and heartfelt coming-of-age tale with loads of sensitivity and a genuine heart. It is a smart and perceptive tale about college kids in their so-called crappy jobs and how they struggle to learn more about life and love.

This motion picture presents the hearts of teens and young adults with that fluttering up and down motion, which is kind of similar to riding a roller-coaster. This refreshing retro drama-comedy explores the joyride of the young adults’ present angst and their preparations for their future.

The film’s strength lies in the power of its well-delivered performances, beautifully written script, and carefully crafted characters — each of whom is sincerely flawed yet purely compelling. The characters are genuinely tarnished and appealing as they seize those uncertain feelings teens get as young adults. Full of humor and nostalgia as a period story resonating with a universal touch on sex talks, drugs, awkward situations, goofs, intrigues, and humor, it does a pretty good job in capturing the teens and their times. From the way kids generally behave in their 80’s American culture to the ups-and-downs of late ’80s rock, it provides a sort of noteworthy melancholy of a classic young adult novel made for the big screen. Its heart and soul are deeply invested in its shaky, awkward, sweet, funny, and tender drama with an indie-art touch. It manages a certain combination of the maturity, absurdity, and anguish of young adulthood; thus, crafting a refreshing take on “the teen turmoil issues” where the uncertainty and inherent fear of an idealist become intensely charged with personal feelings, doubts, and dreams.

“Adventureland” is the sort of film that seems like a derivative of countless teen-oriented coming-of-age offerings. But what makes it stand out is its thorough exploration of the familiar territory with an effectively loose and scruffy appeal. Director Greg Mottola puts plenty of heart to this tale. The narrative clearly puts that feeling of “already seen and heard before,” and makes it genuinely integral to the story. This movie prove that rehashed stories with predictable structure simply need authentic touches to be mounted well.

The heart of the film lies on the emotional microcosm of the local amusement park, a place happily rambling along with its share of laughs and lust. Set in 1987 Pittsburgh, the recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a nowhere job at the nearby park Adventureland, where summer vacation leads to summer jobs, and possibly, summer love. Surprisingly, this very place becomes a perfect course to get the young adults prepared for the real world outside the realms of childhood and teenage life.

Filled with likable actors and 1980’s pop songs, this cinematic piece entertains without pretending to be more than a tribute to doing odd jobs, meeting unlikely friends, trying anything fun, wild and exciting, and hanging out without the concern for adult responsibilities. It becomes a sweet and irreverent tale about characters with real hearts under goofy shirts.

Credible performances from the ensemble cast make effective use of music and moments to enrich their eclectic roles. Eisenberg has the ability to endearingly convey gawkiness and mortification, along with his quirky, intellectual, twenty-something virgin character, to deliver what makes the story come full circle — his sincerity, his high virtue and worst defect. His life experiences with a bunch of his kind at the amusement park find prime solace in Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart). Stewart shines in a raw and tender performance that bursts with charisma. Here, innocent fun, true friendship, and an added spark of love work for the story in which he and Stewart put deft touches of realism to the heartbreakingly genuine couple.

Mottola does quite a good job in weaving his characters to be unaffected by their already marked celebrity personalities — especially with the recent hype for Stewart’s Bella Swan role in “Twilight” and Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson/Deadpool role in “Wolverine.” Reynolds here as Mike Connell turns out very low key. He fits the tricky part he has to play, just like the rest of the cast members that generally work well in their specific roles — in a similar way the various jobs and people inside Adventureland work.

‘Adventureland’ Film Review: Roller-coastering towards adulthood
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[Total: 1    Average: 1/5]

Sherlock Holmes movie review 2009

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Average

“Sherlock Holmes” is a visually stylish rush of adrenaline. Irreverent yet true to the spirit of its source material, this movie is both fun and numb, enjoyable and exhausting.

With a modern slant, this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character personified on the big screen by Robert Downey Jr. should find favor with audiences eager for mere action and effects above everything else. While flawed, it is at least, overall, an entertaining romp. Thanks to the arresting sound and visuals, this new take on the classic story of the world-famous detective is such a popcorn flick.

This cinematic adaptation retains a number of significant details from its source; though the purists may cringe with some altered elements that keep up with director Guy Ritchie’s modern-style of reimagining the legendary sleuth’s adventures. Viewers willing to accept the cliches and predictability in exchange for the stylish and moody treatment may have some good time.

“Sherlock Holmes” is more adrenaline than brainpower. The story is simply another one in a long line of interpretations of the Detective Holmes and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) tales. This time, it is utilized as a swashbuckling romp with the tried-and-tested pop culture flourishes meant for those looking for action and thrill. The obvious millions pumped into the film’s CG effects, set design, star salaries, among other investments for the sake of production value, are very much apparent throughout.

Ritchie’s version of old London is moody and atmospheric. He brings the iconic character to a new generation of movie audience through the modernized makeover filled with slow- and fast-motion visuals, choppy editing, and ramping explosion scenes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. There are times that things just get way too much that there is no more breathing space on screen. There are moments of action, there are moments of frenzied and overlong smother.

Aside from its complete predictability, the mystery itself lacks intrigue and suspense that it merely relies on technical power and star wattage for a more palpable sense of excitement. So despite being overlong and losing much of its steam halfway through, the movie is still able to engage the audience between the cerebral character requirements and the spectacle of pop entertainment.

The acting performances of Downey and Law as the Holmes-and-Watson-duo help make up for the weak mystery. They seem to take much pleasure in portraying their roles. Downey’s inherent likeability is as quick-witted as the twists and opportunities that show off his character’s genius. His interpretation of the Holmes character does not completely deviate from the Doyle canon. With his uncanny skill at inventing his own spin to his role, he delivers a brainy and brawny detective with a slightly crazed superhero demeanor. He plays the brainiac detective like a steamed machine.

Law transforms Holmes’ stalwart partner Dr. Watson from the bumbling comic relief seen in most interpretations of the material into a cool, competent sidekick character for this adaptation. He is a rare Watson who manages to be as interesting and watchable as Holmes.

Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler manages to tweak Holmes’ classic adversary into a hot and feisty action heroine.

Cunning star power further uplifts this flick as supporting and minor characters including Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson, Kelly Reilly as Mary Morstan, and William Houston as Constable Clark make this movie offer the rollicking adventure that it is. a diverting enough night-out stint or DVD showcase, “Sherlock Holmes is a watchable and playable fare that entertainingly explores the cunning world of its lead character; however, it’s still forgettable. It’s actually a case of more adding up to less. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel will be better.

“Sherlock Holmes” is a watchable fare that entertainingly showcases the cunning world of its lead character. However, its story is still forgettable, as the sequences often turn out as a case of more adding up to less.

‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009) Film Review: Sherlock takes a modern slant
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Watchmen movie review

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Average

“Watchmen” is visually brilliant but flawed in certain ways. Nevertheless, this eye-poppingly faithful adaptation is a carefully crafted as a lavish cult movie. It spins a comic deemed unfilmable into a blockbuster epic for the specific admirers of the superhero genre and the fan base of the groundbreaking book from writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. Grappling with the graphic novel’s multi-layered storyline, this dystopian film utilizes a deeply dark heart unmasking the world’s harsh realities.

“Watchmen” is no doubt a love letter to those who have been waiting for the film for the last two decades. The success of the acclaimed 1980’s graphic novel about moral relativity, the futility of life, the violent nature of man, and the deconstruction of the concepts of humanity and heroism have pushed this film into monumental anticipation. Director Zack Snyder brings the superhero-noir murder mystery to life through the aesthetic pleasure of reproducing the key scenes with storyboard-like fidelity. As a deconstructionist superhero flick, it generally works in making fans thrilled with its visual experimentation, radical mythology, psychologically rich idealism, and grand indulgence.

Overall, the mood and tone of the film is what most fans could hope for. As the cinematic version of one of the world’s most celebrated graphic novel, this sprawling motion picture stays faithful to the book. It trims and reshapes it to its prime essentials. It may not include every nuance in the graphic novel, but it gets to capture the basic requirements of the filmmaking medium. However, the overflowing technical energy leads to a power lost in terms of characterization and emotional engagement to the story. The technical brilliance upstages the other aspects of the film a bit too much.

The filmmakers lose sight of what could make a film effective more than just the faithful rendition and the audio-visual flair. The film lacks the emotional attachment for the audience to relate to the characters and the world they live in. While it is true that the fans who are clearly familiar with the characters and their alternate universe would find the film readily understood on screen, non-fans would find the non-superficial facets of the narrative a bit confusing. Indeed, this proves that a great source material, a respectful translation from graphic novel to film, a big budget, and an overflowing visual power are not enough to make a film live up to the greatest expectations for it.

Having such a complex narrative structure, it is quite understandable that this picture is weaved with less back stories and plotting compared to its book source. For cinematic purposes, significant changes are made in the script and what has actually worked out during the course of production. For some, especially to those who are not knowledgeable with the crucial details from the original material may find it a little difficult to get that same appeal the excited fans get. It could be a slightly different experience for anyone who does not know the book, especially since the interaction between the characters and their multi-layered sub-stories remain integral points to understanding the story. So, those who are not literally immersed in the 80’s era, the Cold War, and the book’s astonishing vision would find it a bit more difficult to get a full grasp of the story’s core.

Through impressive, computer-enhanced eye candy, the film’s pop-art fusion features its blood-stained smiley face well. Though it captures the look and feel of the novel, it still fails to totally engage its audience because its emotional center gets buried deep under its self-gratifying visual style. For all of the ferocious flashes of spectacular physicality, there are substantially-challenged parts that sometimes feel misapplied, overcranked, or too ramped up. Unable to measure up to the technical competence of the material, there is never enough time spent with moments of emotion and suspense to make the audience relate more with the characters’ undertakings.

“Watchmen” has moments of wonder. Not all of them work, but parts of them do. At some point, this cinematic piece feels artificially stylized — its soulless aspects hindering it from becoming great. It is bold and bloated, fascinating and flawed, stunning and scattered.

Amidst its flaws, the film is intense. It is backed up by the book’s fascinating and contemplative tale. Its philosophy and take on genre deconstruction keep up with its heavy, adult-themed plot. It has interesting social and political ideas in doing the ultimate sacrifice and making the world fall part, then putting things back together again with the Machiavellian ideology in mind. Indeed, it depicts itself as a self-styled parody of the world’s “true face” and the “big jokes” of the society.

Visually, this flick is a lavish and exciting screen translation reverential to Moore and Gibbons’ work. Filled with visceral action and powerful special effects, its dark world boasts of keen attention to physical details. The production design, art direction, and cinematography are gratifying. The rich and gorgeous palette and campy costumes are a sight to see. The original comics shines through Snyder’s approach to satisfy fans with a densely-packed motion picture experience. He puts a grimy and gritty, yet glossed pop culture feel to the picture. He tries to preserve other information by including a short “historical” opening title sequence, then he readily fills the screen with the visual treat he has become known for since he made the historical “300” in 2007. However, there is a disappointing part to it: he merely yields to his trademark shots in his Spartan opus without recreating his visionary style for an entirely new project — making them look like mere copies of his memorable “300” scenes. And so, the crucial scenes that merely feature copycat shots and elements never fully satisfy. But against considerable odds, the story’s dense and complex mythology remains.

Snyder’s direction clearly focuses on style and technique. The acting and thematic and emotional aspects of the storytelling suffer. The acting department is actually filled with talented performers. The billing for the “Watchmen” superheroes includes: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake/The Comedian; Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman; Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias; Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II; Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach; Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II; Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre; and Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason/Nite Owl. However, this talented bunch ends up rendering some wooden performances due to the story’s hollow and disjointed characterizations.

This visually striking “Watchmen” deserves credit for what a dozen of other directors have struggled to do — and never did — for the last 20 years.

‘Watchmen’ Film Review: Deconstructing the film in reference to the graphic novel
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[Total: 1    Average: 2/5]

Ring of Nibelungs movie review

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Average

Benefiting from the epic success of the “Lord of the Rings” in terms of theme and source material, “Ring of Nibelungs” offers a dose of swords, kingdom, ice, magic, and dragon amidst the conflicts of love and greed.

The film’s tone combines that of “LOTR” and “Asterix and Obelix,” primarily rendering a mythical and historical look that settles in the vastness of the cold countries of the north.

With the sight of the film’s poster, which quotes the movie as Tolkien’s inspiration for LOTR, it suggests that the story revolves around the character of Brunhild. However, in the film, Siegfried clearly has the most exposure.

In “LOTR,” the plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world towards destruction. In “Ring of the Nibelungs,” the plot revolves around the greed that blinds humans and leads them to their own destruction. Clearly capitalizing on the tested market of the former, this film’s narrative is still able to capture its market. Amidst the bulky material, the story’s focus remains strong. Amidst its huge scale and scope, it is able to turn the story into a generally entertaining mainstream fare.

The tale begins with a brief background about the Norse gods including Odin, the god of wisdom and war and the chief of the gods. After which, the narrative focuses more on the human characters from the legend. From here, the plot moves on to the story of Siegfried (Benno Furmann), a conquered kingdom’s heir who grew up with the blacksmith Eyvind (Max von Sydow). When a meteor crashes into the Earth, he goes his way for it. There, he falls in love with the Norse warrior queen Brunhild (Kristanna Loken). With the gods, they become destined to be reunited through their love. Siegfried uses the metal on the meteor site to forge his great sword. As he journeys his way towards Iceland to reunite with his Valkyrie love, he slays the dragon Fafnir for the Burgunds. Since then, he has been revered as the dragon slayer who is now invincible through the dragon’s blood (but similar to Achilles having a certain weak spot on his back).

Siegfried ignores the curse that lies on the treasure and the Ring of the Nibelungs, which was initially stolen from the Nibelungs by Fafnir. This later costs his life and his love for Brunhild. The treasure brought by Siegfried to Burgund leads to betrayal, deception, and greed: King Gunther (Samuel West) of Burgund envies the strength and heroic stance of Siegfried and he agrees to have him killed; Kriemhild (Alicia Witt), King Gunther’s sister, agrees to use magic to steal Siegfried’s heart for her own; Hagen (Julian Sands), King Gunther’s trusted advisor, kills Siegfried to get the treasure and its power solely for himself; and the other people of Burgund blind themselves to the lust for gold when Hagen promises them part of the treasure if they would go by his side. Upon avenging the death of Siegfried by Odin’s estranged daughter Brunhild, she reunites with Siegfried by killing herself beside his cold body.

For a film, it is not the happy ending people usually prefer to see — but it is a rather good and faithful ending for such a tragic-stricken material.

Looking into a broader perspective of how a woman in the character of Brunhild gets portrayed here, there is that irony on her great strength and warrior stance vis-a-vis her femininity, faith, intelligence, and love. The honeymoon scene of Brunhild and Gunther is such a comic scene, one of the rarest type of honeymoon that can probably be seen on screen: the seemingly unbeatable wife pinning down the husband like a mortal enemy ready to be killed.

Furmann’s facial features show great resemblance to Jennifer Lopez. On a more serious note, he is effective enough for the character of Siegfried. Only that, the young Siegfried child actor during the first few scenes of the movie leaves no much resemblance to the adult Siegfried. Loken looks great as the warrior queen of Iceland. West’s face looks too bulky at certain angles, but his acting for the King Gunther role generally works. Sands’ dark and gothic features offer a fine conviction for his dark and evil character.

Brunhild’s crown, braids, and fur coat and cape seem inspired by Freya, the goddess of love and war and the wife of Odin. The production design, especially with the jewels and costumes, promotes a visual feast of Nordic grandeur. However, the dragon Fafnir’s design looks unimpressive.

Although it becomes a bit of an issue that the epic musical score sounds very similar to that of “LOTR,” overall, the “Ring of the Nibelungs” soundtrack turns out effectively haunting and compliments most parts of the story well — except for the music at the end part that is not enthralling enough for the movie’s ending.

‘Ring of Nibelungs’ Film Review: Another ring tale
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