Tag Archives: keira knightley

The Imitation Game – Review

9 Jan

While World War II raged on different battlefields around the world, a much quieter battle was going on behind the scenes. These battles, although quieter and nonviolent, were just as important as the battles going on on the front lines. This is where the story of The Imitation Game comes in, with the brilliant mind of Alan Turing working day and night to create a machine that could break the the Nazi enigma code. Churchill, himself, said Turing contributed the most to the war cause with his invention, which is a pretty huge deal I’d say. Still, The Imitation Game is also about Turing’s own personal war of acceptance which ultimately ended in tragedy.

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In 1939, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a genius mathematician and professor, finds his way to Bletchley Park to work with a group of England’s most brilliant minds in cracking the enigma code and save the lives of countless Allied troops. It soon becomes very clear that Turing doesn’t play well with others, and that in large part has to do with how he was bullied and tormented during the early years of his life. It also may have to do with the secrets about himself and his sexuality that he constantly hides in order to be able to keep up his work. He soon finds a friend in Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), a newly hired codebreaker who has troubles of her own being a woman working in a man’s environment. As the war rages on, Turing and his codebreakers struggle to find the answer, but this is hardly the end of Turing’s troubles.

This is a brilliant movie for a lot of reasons. For one thing, this film works on the level of a really good spy movie with people from MI-6 floating around, Soviet spies, and plenty of other government secrets thrown into the mix. That in and of itself is enough to make a really entertaining and engaging movie, especially since the story and characters are all based on truth. This movie also works really well on the level of a much more personal story of Alan Turing and the discrimination he faced for being a homosexual, even though he was one of the most brilliant minds of the time and was responsible for shortening the war and saving countless lives.

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Matthew Goode, who played codebreaker Hugh Alexander in the film said that the film is about “Turing’s life and how as a nation we celebrated him as being a hero by chemically castrating him because he was gay.” I feel like even with all of the espionage and war, this movie is mainly about being different from what’s expected of you. Not only was Turing a homosexual, he was also socially inept and brilliant beyond comparison. His being different was one of the main factors that helped the Allies win World War II, but he was still condemned for his own personal ways of living. This is a theme that can be seen in a lot of different movies, with A Beautiful Mind is the same family as The Imitation Game, but I was surprised to see that this was not a pretentious movie at all.

While this movie really is great, there are a few things in it that could have been executed a little better. For one thing, there were lines that seemed to be pulled from the cheesiest, most inspiring Disney movies you could find. This is a historical movie that doesn’t need to have cheesy inspirational dialogue in there. That’s not how people talk and it was weird. I also wish that this movie was longer because I feel that starting in the middle, the movie just starts skimming through things in order to get everything in. If the movie was a half an hour longer, I feel like I’d have a better grip on the relationship of the codebreakers and Turing but also just a better idea of how he built his enigma breaking machine.

The Imitation Game may not be the best movie of the year, but it’s certainly in the top 10 best. Benedict Cumberbatch gives the best performance of his career so far, and Keira Knightley does great work as Turing’s anchor to reality. The film works as a spy film, but I’d rather look at it as a lesson in how to treat people who may not fit in quite as well as everyone else. It’s a lesson for people of all ages and times, but if that doesn’t float your boat, it’s still a really entertaining movie of spies, Nazis, and codes. It’s one of the best of 2014 and shouldn’t be missed.

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The Jacket – Review

4 Apr

There are times when I put on a movie that I know nothing about, and I end up being blown away and wonder to myself why I haven’t watched or known about these movie before. Then there are times where I put on a movie of which I have no knowledge of and wonder why I even bothered watching it in the first place. I can’t say I really shouldn’t have bothered watching The Jacket, but I can’t say that it meets these two feelings halfway. This a movie that thinks it’s smarter than it actually is, but actually leans to the side of generic ludicrous.

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After receiving a head wound in the Gulf War, Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) returns to America with severe amnesia. As luck would have it, Jack is inadvertently involved in the murder of a police officer and is sentenced to a mental institution after he can’t remember what happened or the level of his involvement. While at the institute, Jack becomes part of a sadistic psychological treatment created by Dr. Becker (Kris Kristofferson). The treatment has Jack getting put in a straightjacket, strapped to a table, injected with experimental drugs, and being locked in a morgue locker. While inside, he begins hallucinating and even travels 15 years into the future where he meets Jackie (Keira Knightley), who he met when she was young. During his trips through time, Jack learns that he will die in 4 days, which leads Jack and Jackie investigating the hospital and the legality of the treatment.

If you take a look at the poster that I put up here you’ll see that one of the taglines is “If you liked Vanilla Sky, Donnie Darko, and 12 Monkeys than you’ll love this film.” OK, lets think about this. I’ve never seen Vanilla Sky, but if you want to compare it to the two other films mentioned, you’ll see some major differences. Donnie Darko and 12 Monkeys are both really intelligent, mind bending science fiction films that really demand the viewer to watch them at least twice. The Jacket really thinks it’s smart, but it turns out to be really convoluted and more so just rehashes the style and certain ideas that were already used in these movies That’s what’s really unfortunate. There is so much room to play around with the plot of this movie, but it turns out to be completely misused.

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This film is the perfect example of a movie that fails almost solely because of the writing. Massy Tadjedin wrote a screenplay that is full of ideas that almost seem to be thrown away for drama that I really don’t care about because I don’t buy how the relationships of the characters form. At the risk of revealing a spoiler, for some reason that is completely beyond me, a romantic relationship forms literally out of nowhere between Jack and Jackie. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in movies. If there doesn’t need to be romance in a movie, don’t put romance in the movie! The relationship between Kristofferson and Jennifer Jason Leigh or Adrian Brody and Daniel Craig are much more interesting, but are practically thrown away.

I can’t fault the direction of John Maybury, any of the acting, nor the cinematography of Peter Deming. All of these people were on point with their jobs. The seedy, dirty look of the mental institution is awesome and Maybury gets good performances out of all of his actors, especially Brody, Leigh, and Craig. But let’s go back to the story. Because there isn’t enough focus on the mystery of the time traveling and treatment, nor the aftermath for Dr. Becker, I really can’t connect to the story. I just really can’t deal with the screenplay that Tadjedin has written. It’s really sloppy and I can’t believe George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh put their name on this as producers.

The Jacket is so disappointing because almost everything was in place for this to be a cool psychological science fiction thriller movie. Unfortunately, the screenplay is just so convoluted and often times generic that it all just turned into a bore. There was no attention payed to mystery or to leaving real hard questions for the viewers to answer. All we have is a weak ending that seems like it really wants to spark some debate. Ultimately, the ending and the entire movie is a lot less intelligent and original than it thinks it is.

Pirates of the Caribbean Series Review – At World’s End & On Stranger Tides

27 Dec

By this point, the Pirates of the Caribbean films have proved to be major box office successes. With all of this money, Disney and Jerry Brukheimer had no problem throwing in massive amounts of money for the third movie in the series. The result is the most expensive movie ever made, At World’s End, costing $300 million to make.

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Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is trapped in Davy Jones’ Locker, but Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), and Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally), and the rest of the Black Pearl’s crew are going in after him. Upon his release, the macrocosm of trouble is revealed. Will is willing to conspire with anyone to free is father Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) from Davy Jones’ (Bill Nighy) ship, The Flying Dutchman. Elizabeth Swann is made a Pirate Lord and must decide with Jack, Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), and the rest of the Pirate Brethren what to do about Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander) trying to control the ocean through the control of Davy Jones. All of this culminates in one climactic battle.

I never used to like this movie because I thought it was too confusing. If you thought there was a lot going on in Dead Man’s Chest, then multiply that by 10 and you have At World’s End. This is my third time watching the movie and I vowed to pay as much attention as I possibly could so that I could get everyone’s subplots and betrayals in order. Well, I finally understand exactly what’s going on in the movie and I have to say that this is my favorite installment in the series.

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The action in this one is stepped up in epic proportions. The final climax that takes place inside a maelstrom between The Black Pearl and The Flying Dutchman is one of the most badass things I’ve ever seen in a movie. That being said the effects are mind blowing and show the $300 million budget off beautifully. Davy Jones and his crew look as great as ever and the sets for the Pirates Brethren and the Singapore scenes look grimy and real. Finally, the locations chosen for the outdoor scenes are beautiful with the whitest sand and the bluest ocean. This movie feeds its audience just as much eye candy as your willing to take.

Seriously though, this movie’s about as confusing as any linear narrative can get. There’s more betrayals, shattered alliances, new alliances, and bargains in here than I’ve ever seen in one movie. It’s enough to make your head spin. If it’s your first time watching At World’s End, you might need to make a chart just to keep track of it all. Now that I fully understand everything, I appreciate it so much more. Critics said that the complex nature of the story is a huge step backwards, but I think it’s great. Of course it’s going to get complicated. They’re all pirates. The characters in this movie handled themselves just as they would in real life. Pirates may talk about code and honor, but they really want what’s best for themselves.

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I feel like the general consensus is that The Curse of the Black Pearl is most people’s favorite. I’d have to say that mine is At World’s End. There’s so much awesome action and adventure, deception, and plot that it can only be explained as organized chaos. It may take you a couple of times to completely wrap your head around the story, but once you do it may just become your favorite, too!

So that’s it, right? The story wraps up nicely at the end of the third one, so that must be it for Pirates. Well, it was a cool trilogy, so I’m glad… wait… there’s more? Oh no. Alright, well let’s talk about it then, the obligatory money grabber, On Stranger Tides.

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Captain Jack is still up to no good. His most recent adventure is to find the Fountain of Youth, because of his newfound fear of death. He’s not the only person who wants it though. Jack gets shanghaied by a former flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), to join Blackbeard’s (Ian McShane) crew. Hot on Blackbeard’s tale is Barbossa, now a member of the British Royal Navy, to exact revenge on Blackbeard for sinking the Black Pearl. These two parties are racing against the Spaniards, who also have an agenda of their own.

Take everything you love about the other films in this series, and pretty much get rid of all of them. The Black Pearl and its crew are pretty much not in this movie at all, the Pirate’s Code, Tortuga. Pretty much everything. All we have are Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Mr. Gibbs. This movie is kind of like going to a party held by your friend’s friend and only knowing a few people there. Everyone tries to be nice and cool with you, but you just miss your old friends and want to hang out with them instead.

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The only scene that really sticks out to me is the mermaid scene. It had this awesome supernatural/mythological feel to it that makes these movies so awesome. The scenes at the Fountain are also pretty cool, too. Everything else just falls flat, from the action to the other supernatural attempts to make this movie cooler than it actually is. Zombies? Really? Look how far this series has fallen. There used to be cursed crews because of stolen Aztec gold or because their captain failed to escort the dead to Davy Jones’ Locker. Now it’s zombies. Wow…

I love Jack Sparrow as much as the next person, but he having him lead an entire movie is a really bad idea. By the second and third movies, the films are pretty much ensemble pieces. Every character is just as important as the next. Jack’s never really the main character. In this one, he’s front and center and as silly as ever. He’s just not a good leading role. He does plenty of heroic things and has an alright head on his shoulders, but I get sick of him after a while. Luckily this is the shortest Pirates yet, clocking in at only two hours and fifteen minutes.

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If you haven’t guessed, I don’t like this movie. I was entertained in the very beginning, but slowly lost all interest in it. Blackbeard doesn’t stand up to the villains of the past and Jack isn’t a good lead character. The action is flat and the mythology stinks. Do yourself a favor, and pretend that the series ends after the third movie.

So that’s it. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is mostly a success with two great entries (The Curse of the Black Pearl and At World’s End), one pretty good entry (Dead Man’s Chest), and one awful one (On Stranger Tides). Any adventure fans should check these movies out, if by some chance you haven’t already. They’re good fun and remind me of adventure movies of old.

Pirates of the Caribbean Series Review – The Curse of the Black Pearl & Dead Man’s Chest

25 Dec

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are modern day Hollywood masterpieces that hearken back to an adventurous time of swashbuckling film making. One can not help but think of adventure classics like Sinbad, the Sailor when watching these movies. They’re a lot of fun, but the series itself can be labeled as uneven, so this series review will take a look at the ups and downs of this billion dollar franchise.

Let’s start with The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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The city of Port Royal gets flipped upside down once the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) arrives. After the mysterious Black Pearl attacks the city in search of a missing piece of cursed Aztec gold, the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is taken by the ship’s Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush). Swann’s love interest, blacksmith William Turner (Orlando Bloom) breaks Sparrow out of jail and the two of them set out to find this cursed crew and save Elizabeth, but as a pirate, Jack has an agenda of his own.

This is one of the most fun movies I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and it seems to get better every time I watch it. I watched it for the first time in a couple years for this review, and it was such a fun ride. The action and comedy play off each other so well with the help of an excellent cast and crew. Jack Sparrow has become one of the most famous characters of all time, thanks mostly to Depp’s fantastic performance. Rush is also a great villain and seems to love saying his ridiculously over the top pirate sayings. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom do just fine, but nothing within the realms of Depp and Rush.

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The effects are also really fantastic and was made in a very interesting way. Whenever the cursed crew of the Black Pearl enter the moon light, they become these decaying skeletons. In order to get that effect to match the actions of the actual people in the scenes, shots were filmed with the pirate actors and then without them so their skeletons could be digitally added for the final product. A lot of work to match facial features and movement was another challenge that had to be overcome in order to get the best looking animation. It’s a scientific art form that I can’t even begin to understand and it makes me respect this movie and the work that went into it so much more.

The entire tone is reminiscent of modern films like The Mummy. It’s action packed, but it’s light hearted and has good intentions. There are some pretty scary scenes on the Pearl but the movie in entirety is a great family adventure. Hollywood doesn’t produce classics like these all the time any more, at least, not like they used to. This is a fantastic effort by Disney and Bruckheimer Studios of making a big-budgeted classic that nearly everyone can enjoy. If you haven’t seen this by any chance, check it out. I guarantee your entertainment.

Of course, there has to be a sequel to something that makes loads of money at the box office, but this isn’t really a bad thing at all. In fact the sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, is a good movie. The bad news is that even though it is a top notch second entry, it’s plagued with a very big problem.

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Some time after the events of the first film, William Turner and Elizabeth Swann are finally to be married. That is, until Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander) arrests them both and sentences them to death unless Will can find Jack and bring his compass back to Port Royal. Will soon finds Jack, but gets caught up in Jack’s mission to kill Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and be free of a debt he made Jones years before. Add Elizabeth and the disgraced Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport) and you’ve got a mosh pit of motives that all clash and bring about an end to the solidity of alliances.

This is a very difficult movie to summarize in a paragraph. There are so many characters with different plots and subplots that, if you don’t watch out, you may lose track of. I wouldn’t call this movie confusing, but it is packed. There’s a lot that happens in the broad range of two and a half hours, and even that’s not enough time. This is really the only problem with this movie, but it weighs the movie down big time. Not enough time is spent on certain parts of the story because if it was, then the movie would stretch on for a very long time.

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I will say that everything else about Dead Man’s Chest surpasses its predecessor. This movie is a lot darker and adult friendly. Bill Nighy is absolutely menacing as Davy Jones and really brings the myth to life and more. The CGI and special effects in this movie add to this as well, and not just with Jones. The crew of the Flying Dutchman looks fantastic in their different stages of transformation into whatever it is they are becoming. Barnacles and shells make up most of their bodies giving them a look that I’ve never seen before.

Although I’ve complained about how the story is presented, it is a lot better and complicated than The Curse of the Black Pearl. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley have much more time to make their characters more than just the audience’s eyes and ears, and actually get to really be involved in the piracy of the other characters. Like I said before, alliances are shattered and some are strengthened, making this a movie you must pay attention during or you’ll lose who wants what and who is in league with who.

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While Dead Man’s Chest has the opportunity to be the superior movie, the presentation and pacing bear too much weight to surpass The Curse of the Black Pearl. It has a great story and a lot of characters that are getting more and more fleshed out, but it just becomes a mess. It’s certainly not a movie to be missed and is a good effort by Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer, but don’t expect the joy you had watching the first movie.

So we got a start to the series, but we still have two more. Look out for my review of At World’s End and On Stranger Tides.