Reviews: Hobbit, Wolf of Wall Street, Catching Fire and More


Long time no see! Reviews have been irregular lately but I wanted to start 2014 with an easy round up to get back on track. I’ve seen a lot of movies over the past few months and I wanted to write down a few quick thoughts on each one. Moving forward the review schedule will be a lot more lax than it used to be but I’m aiming to get back to writing more than I have these last four months. Somewhere along the way I felt like these reviews became very mechanical and emotionless which got away from what I really loved. I want to dial it back and focus less on formality and more on writing about films I enjoy. Anyway, here we go. First up, Ender’s Game.

Ender’s Game

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Ender’s Game was a major disappoint for me. The two weeks leading up to the film’s release I read the novel and was instantly hooked. I fell in love with the characters and was immersed in the constant struggles Ender faced. The movie does away with a lot of this struggle and instead focuses more on flashy action scenes. The battle room, which served as a major chunk of the novel, is skimmed over rather quickly along with all the relationships Ender cultivated with his time there. I never got the sense of Ender becoming the respected leader he was in the books. Also the dynamic between Bonzo and Ender is completely ruined due to a rather unfortunate casting choice that causes far more unintentional humor than it should. Simply put, the film hits the high points that were in the book but without the proper time to breathe it felt like a waste of time amounting to nothing more than popcorn fluff. I wish I could remember the Reddit user to give them proper credit but they summed it up perfectly. The Ender’s Game movie is as good an adaptation as watching someone’s vacation slideshow is a good vacation.

Thor: The Dark World

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Thor: The Dark World was satisfyingly entertaining, far more so than Iron Man 3. It was nice to get a deeper look at Asgard and how that side of the universe lives. The movie started off a little slow for me but it definitely picked up once Thor and Loki partnered up. My only concern is the film’s understandable love affair with Loki. Despite their dynamic stealing the show and being the source of the film’s fun, I felt like the film dropped all other aspects of the story to showcase them. I like Loki enough that I don’t want his character to outstay his welcome. For what it is though, Thor: The Dark World is a solid action film. I was a little surprised how much the early parts of the film reminded me of the Star Wars Prequels, in a good way of course.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I was caught off guard with how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games when it first released in 2012. It was a decent film and covered enough of the books for me to be happy with it. Although my interest in the film didn’t make it through all the books, specifically the third entry, my interest was still piqued for the films. Catching Fire is an incredible follow up to The Hunger Games and delivers on intense action guided by strong performances. I was impressed with Catching Fire’s ability to incite so much anxiety within me, particularly in a scene involving a swarm of Jabber Jays that did a wonderful job of conveying great panic.

One of my complaints with the first film is the way it got away with a lot of the violence by quick cutting before a character died. It was somewhat of an understandable distraction but it was still off-putting nonetheless. Catching Fire’s strength this time around is the fact that the dangers Katniss faces is more elemental based than combat based allowing for the film to be more lenient with its violence and action. It was a much more immersive experience for me this time around it made the film a lot more enjoyable. Doubt it’ll convert any new fans but it’s definitely worth the time for those who already bought in the first go around.

Frozen

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Frozen was far more enjoyable than I expected and I happily ate crow for all my previous doubts. It’s a great throwback to traditional Disney musicals and features an impressive track of catchy songs, some of which I may or may not have had on repeat in my car for days after. The story plays wonderfully on old Disney princess tropes and provides a nice message for young audiences. It’s a simple story but the execution is charming enough to be entertaining for all ages. The animation itself is wonderfully done and features incredibly beautiful scenery. I wasn’t completely sold on the character models themselves, which at times felt too clean like they were something straight out of a direct to DVD Barbie movie. However this could have been a creative choice, as the character models feel more natural as the movie progresses further into its adventures outside the fairy tale setting. If you’re a fan of animation, especially old Disney films, than this film is a must see film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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I’ve been conflicted on my feelings for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for quite a while. The same old song and dance is that the decision to split this simple story into three films would be too much of a good thing. The Jackson Lord of the Rings fan boy in me was thrilled for a new trilogy but it’s never been more evident than with Desolation of Smaug that this may not have been the right choice after all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with Desolation of Smaug but it’s far from a film I would recommend to anyone. It feels like a series of inside jokes or stories that fans will enjoy but for everyone else it feels like it spends a lot of time accomplishing nothing.

The biggest crime the film commits is the gradual shift in focus from Bilbo to the dwarves almost completely. It’s somewhat understandable given that the Dwarves’ quest translates more to exciting cinema than Bilbo’s story but it’s only frustrating when the film decides to spend it’s screen time on superfluous subplots instead. The Legolas, Kili, and Tauriel love triangle is completely unnecessary, especially given the fact that we’re rushed through great moments from the book like Beorn’s House, Mirkwood, and the Wood Elves prison. It’s just a shame that for a movie called The Hobbit, the time we spend with the hobbit has slowly diminished. Overall it’s a narrative mess that feels like it’s obviously been spread way to thin.  Despite these troubling decisions, the film more than makes up for it with the outstanding River Barrel scene and it’s wonderful depiction of Smaug.

Smaug in particular is truly a great spectacle and is the series greatest animated character since Gollum. The dragon is emanating with power and ferocity that commands your attention every second he’s on screen. The dialogue between Bilbo and Smaug is wonderfully playful and conveys such a great sense of power Smaug holds over Bilbo. The film (surprise surprise) takes liberties with the Lonely Mountain scenes but by that point I was more than willing to forgive it and enjoy the ride. As enjoyable as these films are, in the end I can’t help but wish for a tighter film that focuses more on adapting The Hobbit than being inspired by it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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The Wolf of Wall Street is vile, unapologetic, and downright immoral, but I loved every second of it. It’s definitely not a film for the faint of heart but if you’re willing to join the ride it’s an incredibly bizarre trip. Sex, drugs and alcohol dominates the life of Jordan Belfort and watching the slow descent into depravity and madness is a train wreck that you can’t look away from. The film’s humor is definitely dark and often reaches such ridiculous levels that you can’t help but burst out laughing. American greed through the eyes of Scorsese is extremely uncomfortable and brutally savage. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an absolutely remarkable performance that blurs the line of insanity and absurdity, undeniably making Jordan Belfort DiCaprio’s craziest character yet. Jonah Hill also delivers a wonderful performance that shows the actors incredible range of talent. Hill and DiCaprio share a wonderful on screen dynamic that is the heart of the film’s humor.

The thing I loved the most about this film is the way it’s able to bring the audience crashing down to reality no matter how bizarre the rampant drug fueled escapades ran out of control. There’s such a stark contrast between the seemingly invincible wolves of Wall Street and the real world people that they’re affecting as well as the real danger that they’re putting themselves through. It’s these brief reminders throughout the film that provides a quick realistic glimpse of the self-centered protagonist that the film seemingly shines a glamorous light on. It’s a subtle touch but it’s the point of the film that there is no moral compass here. We’re supposed to be upset and bothered by the film.

I’ll concede the movie isn’t for everyone though. Much like Jordan Belfort, the movie doesn’t know when to quit. I felt like the film could be trimmed down to make a tighter movie, and the excessive narration can feel a little spoon-fed at times. The Wolf of Wall Street may end up being my guilty pleasure, but it’s a film that more than deserves your time at least once. Oh, and trust me when I say this film earns it’s hard R rating.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at ThinkCinematicReviews@gmail.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @TreyRSolis
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

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Movie Monday Update Week of April 8th


Hello and Happy Monday TC readers! Not a lot of big releases this week for both retail and the theaters but there are quite a few exciting trailers to check out. Don’t forget to check out my Community review on Herstory of Dance (4.08) here! You can also check out my review on Evil Dead (2013) right here if you haven’t done so! Let’s go ahead and get started!

In Case You Missed It:

Grown Ups 2 Wide

A trailer for the movie Grown Ups 2 released last week and you can check it out right here! Lenny moves his family back to his hometown! The comedy cast returns with a few fresh faces! Grown Ups 2 stars, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Adam Sandler. The movie is set to hit theaters on July 12, 2013!

Purge Wide

A trailer for the movie The Purge hit the web last week and you can check it out right here! America is facing a time of growth and stability due to the fact that one night a year all crime is legal. When one family finds themselves taking in an extra member they’re faced with the difficult task of letting him stay or giving him up to the people hunting him down. The Purge stars Lena Headey, Adelaid Kane, Max Burkholder, and Ethan Hawke. The movie is set to hit theaters on May 31st, 2013!

The Great Gatsby Wide

A new trailer for the movie The Great Gatsby hit the web last week and you can check it out here! The trailer shows off some additional footage as well as plot points! The Great Gatsby stars Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, and Leonardo DiCaprio! The film is set to release on May 10th, 2013!

Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters wide

A trailer for the movie Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters hit the web last week and you can check it out here. When their last safe haven is threatened by the foretold return of Chronos Percy and his friends head out into the sea of monsters to retrieve the golden fleece. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters stars Scott Alexander, and Marc Guggenheim and is set to release on August 16th, 2013!

Carrie WIde

A new full length trailer for the remake Carrie hit the web last week and you can check it out here! Carrie stars, Chloe Grace Moretez, and Julianne Moore, and Judy Greer. Carrie is set to hit theaters on October 18th, 2013!

This is the End Wide

A second trailer for the movie This is the End hit the web last week and you can check it out here. While at James Franco’s party a group of celebrities must band together and survie the apocalypse. This is the End stars Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and James Franco. The movie is set to hit theaters on June 14th, 2013!

That does it for a glimpse of last week’s trailers. Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know! Let’s go ahead and move on into home releases.

Coming to Blu-ray/DVD:

December 9th:

Coming to Theaters:

See anything that’s missing? Comment and let us know!

That does it for this week! Be sure to keep coming back every Monday and Saturday for new Thinking Cinematic content!

As always, I want to end with this. Thinking Cinematic is looking for more writers. Feel like sending in a guest post? Want to be apart of the Thinking Cinematic team? Send your emails to: ThinkCinematicReviews@Gmail.com

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic 

Movie Monday Update Week of December 31st


Hello and Happy Monday TC readers! It’s finally here, the last day of 2012 and with it the last Movie Monday Update for the year. It’s been a wonderful year for Thinking Cinematic! I’m extremely proud of the amount of success that I’ve had with this project! You can check out the statistical achievements of Thinking Cinematic right here with our annual report! I’m looking forward to another exciting year of movies as well as movie trailers! Don’t forget to check out my latest review on Django Unchained if you haven’t already! Hope you all have a safe and wonderful new years!

In case you missed it:


Check out the trailer for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone! A story of dueling magicians as they compete for the Las Vegas spotlight! The Incredible Burt Wonderstone stars, Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, and James Gandolfini and is set to release on March 15th, 2013!


I missed a few trailers from last week due to the holidays so these next two have been out for a while. Here is the latest trailer for The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carrey Mulligan and is set to release on May 10th, 2013!


Here’s another trailer for The Place Beyond the Pines starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Ray Liota, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, and Dane Dehaan! After a motorcycle stuntman discovers that he is a father he turns to crime in order to provide for his new family. The Place Beyond the Pines is set to release on March 29, 2013!

That does it for a glimpse of the latest movie trailers. Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let us know! Let’s go ahead and move on into home releases.

Coming to Blu-ray/DVD this week we have:

December 31st:

January 1st:

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the theaters!

January 4th Wide Releases:

See anything that’s missing? Comment and let us know!

That does it for this week! Be sure to keep coming back every Monday and Saturday for new Thinking Cinematic content!

Thinking Cinematic is looking for more writers. Feel like sending in a guest post? Want to be apart of the Thinking Cinematic team? Send your emails to: Rrsolis@me.com

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic 

Django Unchained


Django Unchained is a fun and bloody ride through a dark era in our history. It doesn’t hold any punches which may offend some. The film succeeds thanks to the wonderful cast and their performances of characters who show a lot of symbolic depth. The film’s length can feel taxing at times but the film has more than enough satisfying punches and dark humor to make up for the parts that drag.

Before we begin I want to say a few things. This will be my last review of 2012 and I wanted to thank the routine readers of Thinking Cinematic as well as those that stumble across my reviews from time to time. Just this month alone I have crossed a thousand views, something that took me seven months to do the first time. Given my current pace I will also finish the year just shy of four thousand views, a number that just blows my mind. Thank you all for the continued support of Thinking Cinematic. I look forward to another year of movie reviews!

The first Quentin Tarantino movie that I was able to catch in theaters was Inglorious Bastards and I fell in love. I’ve been slowly working my way through his impressive catalogue and it is safe to say that I have become a fan like so many before me. I’ve been looking forward to Django Unchained for quiet a while, and finally got a chance to catch it this weekend.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained is about a bounty hunter named, Dr. King Shultz, enlisting the help of a slave named, Django, in order to help Shultz identify wanted men. Together the two form a bounty hunting team under the promise that Dr. Shultz will help Django find and free his wife.

Tarantino brings the bloody violence that we’ve come to love and expect in his movies. The movie’s many fights are quick but pack an extremely brutal punch. The movie reaches dark places, particularly when it comes to whipping and torture scenes, but it still maintains a sense of humor throughout the movie to help keep the movie fun. Although the movie’s violence likes to flaunt its way across screen with buckets of blood, the more intimate battles of wit were the most entertaining for me. These are due large in part to the wonderful acting of the main stars, starting with Christoph Waltz.

I still find myself in awe of the performance given by Waltz in Inglorious Bastards. His portrayal of the vile and menacing Col. Hans Landa was as dark as it was entertaining. This time around Waltz is on the flip side of the story, and plays the role of Dr. King Shultz, who functions as the movies moral compass. Shultz is a German bounty hunter disguised as a dentist in an area where southern accents fill the air. It goes without saying that Shultz stands out from everyone else in both appearance and personality. Never without a hopeful spark in his voice Shultz handles even the most dangerous of situations with a polite manner. It was interesting to watch his character struggle with his disapproval of slavery in an era where it was at its height. Watching Shultz verbally disarm and abuse his opposition with wit was the highlight of the movie for me. I have a hard time thinking of anyone else who could have done the character as much justice as Christoph Waltz.

Not many men in this world can pull off this blue outfit and still appear as such a formidable badass. Jamie Foxx is the exception, and it speaks volumes for the amount of on screen swagger that he brings. Foxx’s performance is simply put, fun. His dialogue is extremely satisfying and his story is worth rooting for. The chemistry between Foxx and Waltz produces a wonderful partnership between Django and Shultz that left me wanting more. Every great hero has a great villain, and this fantastic duo is no exception.

Leonardo DiCaprio also gives an extremely strong performance as Calvin Candie. Candie is the owner of a large plantation that specializes in slave fighting and prostitution. Candie is repulsive, much like many of the slave owners in the film, but he still commands the attention on screen. His character is a seemingly calm and effervescent man, but through enraged outbursts his true nature is shown. Without giving away too much there is a scene with Candie as he discusses the human skull with Shultz and Django. This scene is terrifying and shows off the wonderful skill of DiCaprio.

Finally, and it goes without saying, Samuel L. Jackson is in top form and gives us an enjoyable performance. Jackson plays the role of Stephen who is the head slave in Candie’s plantation. Functioning as Candie’s right hand man, Stephen has a sense of loyalty to him and stays by his side, right or wrong. Jackson easily creates a loveably evil character that had the audience in laughter nearly every time he was on screen. The relationship between Candie and Stephen was a great contrast to Django and Shultz. The two duos played extremely well off of each other’s strengths and offered a lot of symbolic depth.

There are parts in the movie where I really felt myself checking the time. Django Unchained is a long movie that could have been a little tighter. However, it always seemed like there was something that would draw me right back in just as things started to drag on. The movie has its strong punches, dark humor (my favorite being a scene involving masks), and beautiful scenery to keep things worthwhile. I just wished it had balanced these elements a little better to keep the movie flowing in a more enjoyable fashion.

Django Unchained is a fun and bloody ride through a dark era in our history. It doesn’t hold any punches which may offend some. The film succeeds thanks to the wonderful cast and their performances of characters who show a lot of symbolic depth. The film’s length can feel taxing at times but the film has more than enough satisfying punches and dark humor to make up for the parts that drag.

Interested in writing reviews or news posts for Thinking Cinematic? Contact me at rrsolis@me.com! You can also send your guest reviews there too!

Connect with me at:
Twitter: @Treyrs20o9
Twitter: @Think_Cinematic
Email: Rrsolis@me.com

The Origins of Reality


Jude Harrington submits his second guest post for Thinking Cinematic where he discusses, Inception (2010).

 

While the 2010 summer blockbuster Inception dazzled the minds of many viewers as they tried to keep track of layers upon layers of reality, for one viewer it left him wanting more.  Inception attempts to play with the idea that “an idea” is a living, breathing entity and the best way for “an idea” to take hold is when it comes from the deepest level of our subconscious.  Also, what is crucial is our ownership of this idea; hence the reason Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) must arrive at the idea on his own.

What makes this a hard pill for me to swallow (yes, a reference to another “dream movie”) is that I don’t see reality in the same way this film asks the audience to see reality.  Inception is taking a look at reality from the perspective of Immanuel Kant’s transcendental idealism.  The link will give more details but in short Kant says that an object itself is unknowable and we only can know an object’s appearances.  For example, I cannot truly know my iPad because I only know how it appears to me based on my interactions with my iPad.  I use this example because the iPad can do far more than what I use it for so while the example may not be perfect I think it will suffice for the time being.

So, if we take a look at Inception the question Christopher Nolan asks the audience to ponder at the end of the film is, is what we saw a dream or reality?  Or, can we really know what really happened or is what happened just what we perceive it to be?  For me, I think that while we do act as perceiver in encountering an object we can actually know, if not all at least something, of the object itself.  (Big surprise I’m Aristotelian!)  In the context of Inception I think that we can or Cobb can know reality and not just his perception of it.  In another words, all of this to say that I was not impressed with the “twist” at the end since I believe that we can know something of reality itself, and the world around us, through our experiences.  If we couldn’t then we nor Cobb could be sure that when the totem did fall (or didn’t) it wasn’t just his projection or his perceived appearance of it rather than the object itself.

To wrap up my philosophical ramblings, I think that while the film was excellent from a technical perspective it prompted no feelings of awe and wonder or any since of confusion as to if it was real or not.  In the end it was a straightforward action film with very little deeper meaning because it didn’t tap into how I think most people believe they experience reality.

-Jude Harrington

 

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