Category Archives: movies

Oldboy, a film by Chan-wook Park

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for Oldboy, a film by Chan-wook Park, on Minimalist Reviews.

Unique, brilliant, the fantastic child of a truly artistic endeavor. A seemless marriage of script, camera and directing. Oldboy combines an intimate examination of human nature’s darkest facets with an entrancing story of revenge, love, and selfishness.

Stay tuned for the 2013 American of Oldboy, directed by Spike Lee and (according to rumors) starring Christian Bale and Rooney Mara.

Rating: 5 / 5

Cloverfield, a film by Matt Reeves

by James Gilmore

Cloverfield (2008) is like reliving a Godzilla movie from the ground and might be more aptly named “Godzilla Takes Manhattan.” Still, it is truly a B-movie concept with A-level execution.  Filmed in the style of minimalist cinéma vérité with the main action taking place over a 24-hour period, this tense adventure is delightfully immersive and filled with excitement at every twist and turn, although a satisfactory epilogue feels unfortunately absent.

Movie poster for Cloverfield, a film by Matt Reeves, on Minimalist Reviews.At times the first-person camera work will make the viewer ill, it eventually settles to the point where one no longer notices. There are annoying eruptions of chaos and some repetitive dialogue, but these are fairly superficial in comparison to the overall emotional and visual strength of the film. The character of Beth (played by Odette Annable) stands out as glaringly weak in comparison to the remainder of the robust cast, with the exception of “Hud” (played by T. J. Miller), whose character may rank among one of the most annoying in history—nearly on par with Jar Jar Binks.

The most blatant issue Cloverfield is that it feels comprised of two separate films intercut together. The opening of film accurately captures 21st century youth in its indigenous environment, complemented by enough relationships and life problems to carry the rest of the film without any monster at all.  While the monster portion of the film certainly connects the two parts of the story, they could have been separated into two equally-satisfying stories.

Cloverfield is also reminiscent of Quarantine (also 2008), only without the quarantine, or Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project (1999). 

Rating:  4 / 5

Date Night, a film by Shawn Levy

Movie poster for Date Night, a film by Shawn Levy, on Minimalist Reviews.by James Gilmore

Excellent chemistry between Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Good concept, decent execution, and an interesting cast. The comedy focuses on normal people in extraordinary circumstances with an outcome of constant awkwardness. Jokes are never too over the top or out of place in the story. Carell and Fey do an excellent job of grounding the comedy in the reality of the story. Comedy aside, the film is packed with a lot of heart, made surprisingly powerful by the director’s work and the commendable seriousness of Carell and Fey.

Rating: 4 / 5

I Love You, Man, a film John Hamburg

Movie poster for I Love You Man, a film by John Hamburg, on Minimalist Reviews.by James Gilmore

Too many shenanigans, not enough story (common problem in feature comedies). While Paul Rudd is extremely likeable, he does not have the presence or ability to carry the success of an entire feature on his back. Great concept, adequate execution, some funny bits, but otherwise not worth the time.

Rating: 2 / 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a film by David Yates

by James Gilmore

In what should have been one of the greatest climaxes of modern film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 falls very short of its mark. While Part 1 transforms the worst segment of the Potter novel series into the greatest film of the series, Part 2 manages to insult the best portion of the novel series with nearly the worst filmic experience in the series. The film is not without a few traces of remarkable moments, but nothing more than a trace.

It is perplexing how director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves managed to create such a remarkable Part 1 and a pathetically deflated Part 2Part 2’s story somehow lacks the robust emotional presence, subtle character, the visual acuity, and skillful storytelling of Part 1. The writing barely suffices to tell the plot of the story and proves completely insufficient to do anything more. It lack the thematic material warranted by such an epic series conclusion. Despite the intensely emotional situations involved in the story, every scene feels drained of emotional power, and is frequently absent altogether.

Movie poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, a film by David Yates, on Minimalist Reviews.The main characters are robbed of their greatest gems, especially Snape, Hermione and Ron, all of whom receive little to no actual development on screen although they are ever present in the background. Snape, for whom Part 2 is the apex of his character, is completely blunted as a character by the writing and direction to point that the incredible twist associated with his character is treated as a mere afterthought. The lovable secondary characters are used liked doilies, thrown into the story whenever required but serving little to no purpose except to have a few minutes of face time before they are again forgotten. The death of the Weasley brother, a moment of intense catharsis for the audience, is glossed over like the death of a background extra. Only Narcissa Malfoy and Neville Longbottom are given any character work worthy of remembering.

Quite deadly to the film is its ending, or lack thereof. Although there is a cute “years later” scene to conclude Part 2, the real conclusion which precedes it is barely a conclusion at all, consisting mostly of the main characters walking around with vacant stares.

Somehow, Daniel Radcliffe managed to break through the stunted storytelling to illustrate his grown maturity as an actor.

Overall, Part 2 feels unfinished, unsatisfactory and rushed, as if irreverently composed of mostly B-footage.

Rating: 3 / 5

The Kids Are All Right, a film by Lisa Cholodenko

by James Gilmore

The Kids Are All Right (but the parents are not)—the anti-hollywood movie; or, an advertisement for ultra-liberal living.

Movie poster for The Kids Are All Right, a film by Lisa Cholodenko, on Minimalist Reviews. Somehow Lisa Cholodenko has managed to turn slow pacing, low conflict, and a nearly directionless plot into a film that is oddly intoxicating, sucking the viewer into a strange microcosm of uber-liberal Californianism. Although laughs are unevenly distributed, the comedy is always natural and never forced or artificial as is seen in so many Hollywood films, but grows organically out of the emotional content of the scenes. Despite its ability to entrance, the ending is so poorly handled it begs the viewer to second guess the film’s anti-Hollywood nature and instead wonder whether the filmmakers simply didn’t know what they were doing.  The final sequence—the most crucial in any film—is not only unsatisfying, but is handled with complete ineptitude and lack of relevance to the story.

Also problematic with this character piece is, in fact, character. The story could use a little more diversity among the adults, who all feel like they are part of the same social circle from the start. And while the sex of the director should not interfere with the storytelling, somehow all the male characters in The Kids Are All Right receive unfair treatment. They fail to compare in dimension and emotional presence to any of the female characters. Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo), a principal character and the lynchpin which the entire plot of the story hinges upon, disappears after an ambiguous, noncommittal confrontation with Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and doesn’t even make it to the conclusion. Laser (Josh Hutcherson) lacks both character development and depth, being stereotyped as the typical “insensitive” male in a story unevenly weighted in favor of the females. Even the extraneous gardener character, also male, serves no appropriate purpose except an artificial construct to hinder (although he fails to do so) the developing physical relationship between Paul and Jules (Julianne Moore).

Finally, the acting gems of this film: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. Mark Ruffalo also delivers a commendable performance.

The Kids Are All Right could have been a 5 / 5 film but pitfalls in character and the ending of the story severely hamstring the film.

Rating: 3 / 5