Life and 100 Films: Charlie’s Review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

catwspHello everyone! It’s been far too long since we last talked. I apologize, my life has been super hectic but I have finally fulfilled my dream of working in the entertainment industry, hence why I have been away. With all that being said, I’m back to tell you about one of my favorite films of 2014, which just so happens to be a part of one of my most favorite things in the world, the  Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Without further ado, I give you Captain America: The Winter Soldier, sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. Obviously this film is based on the Marvel Comics character, Captain America. It’s produced by Marvel Studios, and is considered the ninth installment in the MCU. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and stars an amazing cast including Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, and last but not least, Samuel L. Jackson.

As a huge comics and Marvel fan, I knew quite a bit of what to expect from this film. However if you are just a casual fan, I only want to give you a gist of what the film is about, because if I told you everything there would be spoilers out the wazoo! The trailers may give a little away if you are observant, but boy are you all in for a treat! So, we pick up with Steve Rogers aka the Capt. right where we left off with the Avengers. He, along with the Black Widow and new buddy Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon), join forces to uncover a conspiracy within the beloved S.H.I.E.L.D., while also dealing with the mysterious assassin, the Winter Soldier (WHO IS HE?!?!?).

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I’m assuming that if you are going to see this movie, you are familiar with most of the characters as they have been in numerous MCU movies before this. So, I’ll comment on the acting instead. Chris and Scarlett are perfect in their roles, as is Samuel L., who has a HUGE part in this film. Robert Redford and Emily VanCamp are great attentions to the canon as well! Everyone involved in this film is great!

All in all, I think this is my favorite Marvel movie ever made, and if you know me that is a big deal! Right now the MCU really is dominating Hollywood, and they really can’t do wrong. I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon, as they have everything mapped out until 2026! Everyone else is just playing catch-up. Also, if you watch ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this movie is going to change it forever! GO SEE THIS MOVIE if you haven’t already, and if you have, go see it again! It really has something for everyone, and is a throwback to old school spy thrillers. As always with any Marvel film, stay through the end of the credits!

HAIL HYDRA…NEXT UP, Guardians of the Galaxy!!!

6 out of 5 Stars

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Marvel Studios
PG-13, 136 Minutes

Life and 100 Films: Charlie’s Review of Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_PosterThe moment I heard Disney was making Oz the Great and Powerful, I was ecstatic. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big movie geek, especially with anything made by Disney, so this was a GREAT match made in heaven.  I’ll leave it to Wikipedia for the plot:

The film is directed by Sam Raimi and stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda. The Great and Powerful serves as a prequel to Baum’s 1900 introductory novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and an homage to the 1939 MGM Classic, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of both sources, Oscar Diggs arrives in the Land of Oz where he discovers three witches; Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda. Oscar is then inclined to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.

One of the great things I really loved about the film was its continuity. Just as in the original film, the opening sequence is presented in black-and-white, and then transitions into color when the protagonist arrives in Oz. We are also treated to some new changes as well: the aspect ratios and sound effects are different (don’t worry, Glinda still travels in a giant bubble), and the Emerald City looks better than ever. Not too many changes have taken place, however, as we still have the iconic Wicked Witch of the West and her sister Glinda, the Good Witch. Several actors who play Oz characters make cameos in the Kansas scenes as well! I don’t want to spoil everything for you, so if you haven’t seen it, look out for these homages, and comment below on what you think they are! While there are some differences from the books and the original film, Mr. Raimi has done a great job colliding all these worlds together to make a great piece of art for fans of old and new!

If you are a fan of Oz, I don’t see how you won’t enjoy this movie. Is it a masterpiece? No, however I think that it served its purpose perfectly and will allow generations of people to enjoy the works of Baum in new ways. If you didn’t know, Disney plans to turn this into a new franchise of their own, especially after it dominated at the box office. I know there are some fans that are mad about this: the fact that the film got the Disney treatment, James Franco’s acting, etc. In my opinion, they need to just shut up and live a little! Even though I may be biased as a massive Disney fan, I think they did great by this franchise, and I love James Franco in the role. Would I have liked Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp better as they were the original picks? Maybe, but I think James did a great job for what it’s worth. To be honest the person I was a little disappointed in was Mila Kunis (something just didn’t seem right), while on the other hand, Michelle Williams was made for her role. I was also happy to see Zach Braff back in the game, as I have missed him on the screen.

It’s been a long time coming for the world of Oz to return to the big screen, especially with the technology we have today to really bring this world to life. Disney has been trying to do it for quite some time, and even though MGM may have been a bit of an annoyance since they seem to own the most random rights (like the ruby slippers from the original film), I think they did a fine job, especially with the ending! Some think it’s a ripoff of Wicked to some regard, but this film is actually loosely based on the original books (which I now want to read), whereas Wicked is completely made up. All in all, if you are a fan of Oz, fantasy, or just a plain good old-time at the movies, I suggest you go see this film, as I don’t think you will be disappointed.

4 out of 5 Stars

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Hobbit

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-movie-poster-1The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was one of my most anticipated films for this year. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big geek, and this is one of my holy grails! A film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit, it was in development for several years after the critical and financial success of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Peter Jackson was initially going to produce a two-film adaptation of The Hobbit, which was to be directed by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro left the project in May 2010 after about two years of working with Jackson and his production team, due to delays caused by the financial problems MGM was facing. To make a long story short, Peter Jackson finally came to his senses and took over the project as director, as it should have been all along because he is the rightful heir to the throne! Besides Tolkien, may he rest in peace, no one knows Middle-Earth like Peter!

The Hobbit films were produced back to back to back, just like The Lord of the Rings films. Yes, you read that right, I said back three times. At first it was only going to be two films, but now Jackson is turning The Hobbit into a film trilogy. When the credits started rolling after I saw the film, the guy behind me was like, “WTF, it’s only one book.” All I wanted to say was, “have you been living under a rock?” Before you say to yourself that I’m nuts and that The Hobbit is the shortest of all of Tolkien’s books, I’m quite certain that Jackson knows what he is doing. It’s not just to make more money, as I believe that he always has the end goal of making the best possible product on his mind at all times. Adapting The Hobbit to film was a very hard task to begin with, but now that he’s completed this Peter has allowed us to enjoy it to the max. He has added appendix material of Tolkien’s, including side stories happening off of the main page, and even added a few things of his own to make this into the epic trilogy that the story deserves. I will admit, some studios have been doing this as of late just to make more money, but this adaptation is for pure entertainment in my mind. Without an author like Tolkien, who I believe is the greatest of all time in his genre, we wouldn’t have many of the great stories we all know and love today.

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The series acts as a prequel to Jackson’s highly acclaimed Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Several actors reprise their roles from The Lord of the Rings in this new trilogy, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom. For those of you who don’t know, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set in the fictional world of Middle-Earth, and the films follow the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman [aka BILBO PERFECTION]), hired by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), to accompany 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbactch [aka a NEW GEEK GOD]). The next in the series is The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and There and Back Again (2014). I can’t be any more excited!

Now, even though the film is already awesome, what makes it even cooler is that it’s filmed at 48 fps (frames per second) instead of the normal 24 fps. This is the first time we will be seeing this on the big screen, and it will provide the most realistic 3D experience to date, as if you were actually with Bilbo in Middle-Earth. It’s getting mixed reviews, but I think that’s just because some people don’t like change. This is the future of film, and trust me, when you sit back, relax, and think about it, its pure awesomeness! I really couldn’t believe how crisp and quick the image was. I’m a technology nerd, so it made me love it even more.

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All in all, I loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It ended at such a great moment, and even at almost 3 hours running time, it was legit the fastest 3 hour movie I have ever seen, which is a great thing! I can’t wait for the next two! I think that one of the best things about this movie is that it’s told from the point of view of an older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), whom we all know and love from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The story is told as he is writing a book, which allows for us to see our old friend right from the beginning of the movie! One final note, this is defiantly a lighter tale, whereas the book was originally written for children, but it is awesome nonetheless, as they manage to include some darkness as well. To top it all off, it’s the 75th anniversary of the book, so if you haven’t read it already, be sure to READ it, and if you have already, READ it again! Peter Jackson has done it again!

5 out of 5 stars

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Lincoln

lincolnLincoln was a film I had anticipated for a long, long time. In the mid to late 2000’s it was said that Steven Spielberg was working on a film about Abraham Lincoln, with Liam Neeson playing the titular character. That just sounded like pure gold to me. After numerous delays, script changes, actor departures, etc., we are finally seeing this movie.

In my opinion, it’s the best possible version we could have asked for, so it was well worth the wait. The best thing about it (besides the fact that Spielberg was obviously still directing despite all the changes), is that Neeson dropped out and the one and only Daniel Day-Lewis took his place. He may just be the greatest actor of his generation, as everything he touches is perfection. He is extremely particular in the roles he plays, as he has only been in five films, including Lincoln, in the new Millennium. So far, he has been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards two times, and Lincoln will undoubtedly be his third. He is so good, especially as Lincoln, that you have no doubt in your mind that what you are watching is real footage, and that he is actually the real Honest Abe in the flesh. He may have been put on this Earth to specifically play this role.  Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Radical Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and James Spader as Republican Party operative William N. Bilbo all give outstanding performances as the ensemble cast.

Lincoln_One of the great things about this film, which at first I wasn’t sure about, is that it’s only based on a certain period of Lincoln’s life. It’s actually based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of his life. It focuses on Lincoln’s efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Even though we all know the outcome, the movie still has you on the edge of your seat wondering who is going to vote which way. There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is going to bring home some gold men at the Oscars, and in my eyes, Daniel Day-Lewis is a guaranteed lock!

YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. Everything about it is brilliant, and it’s definitely on my list of top films of 2012! It may be a little slow for some, but if you enjoy history, want to learn a little more about the greatest president to ever live, or just see a great film that everyone is talking about, go check it out. It’s some of Spielberg’s best work, and unlike anything he has done before. You mark my words: the success of this film is going to open up many doors for other films about Lincoln. Not only do I recommend the film, but I highly recommend checking out the book as well.  Both offer great insight into the fascinating life of Lincoln.

5 out of 5 Stars

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Perks of Being A Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a dramedy film adaptation of the novel of the same name. It stars Logan Lerman (from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame), and Ezra Miller. The film was directed by the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky.

Wallflower was one of the films that I highly anticipated seeing this year, and it delivered on every level. It provided everything we look for in entertainment, which shockingly isn’t easy to come by these days. The film follows a freshman named Charlie who is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world. Although the story may seem basic at first glance, it may be the most believable and relatable of its genre.

One of the coolest things about this film adaptation is that the author of the book is the director! I mean, it doesn’t get better for fans of the book than that, right?. Book fans will appreciate the way its been wonderfully translated to film.  The cast in this film is superb as well. You will recognize a lot of the actors portraying the supporting characters, but the primary trio of actors is what really brings this film to the next level. They all deliver outstanding performances with my girl Emma is leading the pack. In her first major role after the Potter series, you totally forget that she even played Hermione Granger! She is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the film world. She portrays a perfect flirtatious teenage girl, but also an insecure free spirit (and she even has an American accent in this one!). Ezra Miller is such a great character as well, and his character really makes the story come full circle on an emotional level. I hope we see him in more films to come. Last, but not least, Logan Lerman is great as the main protagonist, Charlie (pretty awesome name, isn’t it?) As the central character of the story, you really take the journey with him through high school. You feel for him, especially as his story unravels through all of its ups and downs and twists and turns. It’s extremely nostalgic for not only my generation, but many others as well. Finally, Chbosky’s direction is also top-notch, and he really looks like a pro with what he’s done with his source material. Throw in the PERFECT soundtrack and AMAZING dialogue….and I can’t praise this film anymore than that!

YOU NEED TO SEE THIS FILM. Everything about it is brilliant, and it’s definitely on my list of top films of 2012! Better yet, if you haven’t already, read the BOOK as well!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)
Summit Entertainment
PG-13,102 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a science fiction action drama film directed by Gary Ross and based on the WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It stars Jennifer Lawrence (LOVE HER) Josh Hutcherson (Finally is a household name), Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth (Thor’s lil bro and future father of Miley Cyrus’s kids), and Woody Harrelson. So yea, the cast is pretty awesome. Some fans at first were a little skeptical of some of the producer’s picks, especially Jennifer Lawrence as the beloved Katniss, but no one is complaining anymore.

Some people say the plot is unoriginal, and it’s been done, but I still think it’s awesome and original in its own right. The basics of the plot are that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic/future where people are distinguished by district and every year the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve different districts to fight to the death on live television for everyone to see.  The games are to set an example to remind the people who’s in charge. The story’s main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister’s place when she is selected to participate in the Hunger Games on her first year of availability.

There was no doubt in my mind that this movie was going to break records, and give the likes of Twilight and Harry Potter a run for their money. This is the first HUGE book series to come to the big screen after them, and it has major appeal. You all know I am a huge Potter fan, but the Hunger Games is a force to be reckoned with, and I feel has the broadest appeal out of them all.. When the film was released, it set records for opening day ($67.3 million) and opening weekend for a non-sequel. At the time of its release, the film’s opening weekend gross ($152.5 million) was the third largest of any movie in North America but now is fourth behind The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and The Dark Knight. I have a feeling the Dark Knight Rises is going to bump it down to fifth. It is also the first film since Avatar to remain in first place at the North American box office for four consecutive weekends.

For all you die-hard readers who aren’t always too keen on these types of adaptations, this is as faithful as they come. I may be going out on a limb saying this, but I think this is even better than the book. This series appeals to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, which is why it has been so successful. The demand for the second film in the series, Catching Fire, is ENORMOUS, and is only growing bigger by the day. This is a MUST SEE in my eyes, not only because it is just great, but it also is one of the more gorgeous films cinematography wise that I have seen recently.  It’s a little upsetting that Gary Ross will not be returning for the next installment, but Francis Lawrence, director of I Am Legend and Water For Elephants is on-board this time, so I think we are in good hands.

So one last time: make sure you check out The Hunger Games film, and jump on the AWESOME bandwagon. Stay tuned for the Blu-ray release on August 18 and for Catching Fire’s release on November 22, 2013.  You can bet I’ll be at the midnight showing.

MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR…

5 out of 5 Stars

The Hunger Games (2012)
Lionsgate
PG-13,142 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of This Means War

This Means War is a romantic comedy/action film directed by McG, best known for directing the Charlie’s Angels film series. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, and Chelsea Handler (who I NORMALLY DESPISE, but found she was tolerable in this movie). It also features Abigail Spencer, who I LOVE, especially in her role in Mad Men.

This film hasn’t gotten good reviews, but as far as romantic comedies go it was one of the most enjoyable that I have seen in years. It was very funny, and even delivered in the action department. Some people may initially think this is a chick flick, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes it has those elements at times, but trust me guys, if you want to have a night out at the movies with your “lady friend” this will not disappoint. You will be killing two birds with one stone.

The film has a very basic plot, but I feel that the spy aspect included in the film adds some originality. FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are not only lifelong best friends but they also work together as CIA agents. We are also introduced to Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), who is a working professional that hasn’t had much time or luck in getting back into the dating world after a very nasty breakup. On top of that, she is constantly pressured by her best friend (Chelsea Handler) to do so. To make a long story short, with a little help from the world of online dating, Tuck (the single dad looking for love) starts dating Lauren. FDR, the playboy, picks up Lauren in a movie store and after being denied at first wants her even more. The best friends realize they are dating the same girl and decide to proceed in a way that will not affect their friendship. Even so, there is an unspoken understanding that the best man will win. While Lauren is struggling with whom to choose, both FDR and Tuck are battling it out with the help of their CIA training to win her over. I will let you all watch it to find out the rest…

I could be being biased because I love Chris Pine (aka Captain Kirk) and Tom Hardy (of Inception fame, and soon to be Bane in The Dark Knight Rises),  but without them in the cast, I will be the first to admit I probably wouldn’t have been as interested in this movie, and would have probably just checked this out on blu-ray. However, since their combined star power was enough to make me see this film in theaters, I felt that they were the perfect combination (at least in my book) for these roles. Interestingly enough, Sam Worthington and Bradley Cooper were attached to star in this originally, but dropped out. This is a perfect example of why Pine and Hardy made the film for me because if it had starred Worthington and Cooper instead there would have been no chance that I would have seen this film. Seth Rogen also turned down the role (you can bet your bottom dollar though that I would have been in a seat if he was in this movie).  As for Reese Witherspoon, while I think she is an awesome actress, I would have liked to have seen a less talented, hotter actress in this role. Maybe Blake Lively?

With all that being said I highly suggest you check this film out. If you are looking for a fun and entertaining night at the movies, then this film will give that to you. If you’re looking for a masterpiece, skip this and go see The Artist.

3 out of 5 Stars

This Means War (2012)
20th Century Fox
R, 97 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Review of The Artist

The Artist is a 2011 French romantic drama directed by Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes (the most of any 2011 film), and won three: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score, and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Dujardin. It’s currently nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Hazanavicius, Best Actor for Dujardin, and Best Supporting Actress for Bejo. It has also been nominated for/won a slew of other awards, but there are just too many to name.

Many “casual moviegoers” are going to be (or already are) skeptical of this film. Why, you ask? It’s a silent black-and-white film, making it a love letter to the olden days of Hollywood. Taking place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, it focuses on silent film star George Valentin who was at the top of his career, but then fades into near oblivion as silent film falls out of the limelight and is replaced by talkies, which are emerging in popularity. Valentin is unable  to make the transition due to his stubbornness, which opens up Hollywood to new and fresh young talent, particularly for Peppy Miller, who idolized Valentin. Interestingly, it was Valentin who helped her get her big break. The Artist is a good ol’ rise and fall story, and is beautifully shown through the relationship between the two.

The performances in this film are OUTSTANDING. Jean Dujardin is a shoo-in to win the Oscar come Feb 26th. His ability to portray every kind of emotion humanly possible without saying a single word is AWESOME. It really makes you think about how much acting has changed over the years due to technology. Bérénice Bejo, who (fun fact) happens to be married to the director, Michel Hazanavicius (lucky!!), gives an amazing performance as well, and I will definitely be rooting for her at the Oscars. Did I mention she is stunningly beautiful? There are also many other great members of the cast who you will recognize, as the leads are the only relatively unknown actors in the film. Additionally as a side note, Uggie the dog is AMAZING as well!

As I mentioned earlier, this film may not sound appealing to the masses because not only is it in black-and-white, but it’s silent as well. Don’t let that fool you. This is a special piece of cinema that EVERYONE can enjoy. The beautiful music, dance numbers, and heartfelt performances will make you feel moved and keep your eyes glued to the screen. You will forget that there is no dialogue. As a major film fan, as much as I wanted to see this film I was afraid that it was going to be over-hyped, but boy was I wrong.

With all that being said I highly suggest you check this film out and see what it is all about. You have been warned though: the film is shot in black-and-white and it is silent. Some people have demanded refunds because they didn’t know this. (Are they living under a rock?) I am happy Michel Hazanavicius followed his dream to make this film. It is a true homage to old Hollywood, and I hope it inspires other storytellers to do the same thing. I know this is a bold statement, but this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Maybe because it’s something different, something original, and from an era I’ve never known, but everything about it spoke to me. I am by no means saying that I only want to see silent films from here on out (as you won’t find a bigger fan of big budget franchise films than me), but boy did I love this piece of film making. The title for this film truly is perfect, as this is “art” at its finest. Nothing will get in this film’s way from bringing home the little gold man!

6 out of 5 Stars

The Artist (2011)
La Petite Reine
PG-13, 100 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Woman In Black

The Woman in Black is a horror-thriller directed by James Watkins and written by Jane Goldman.  It’s based on Susan Hill’s novel, which is something I definitely need to get my hands on.  The film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, and Liz White, who are all mainly British actors, some obviously more famous than others.  As a fun little fact (and nod to all the Potter fans out there), Ciarán Hinds starred in the last two Potter films as Aberforth Dumbledore.

This was a film that I’ve been highly anticipating for quite some time.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a HARDCORE Potter fan.  (This obviously means I love Daniel Radcliffe)  This is Radcliffe’s first major studio film since the Potter series concluded this past summer.  I am so happy for the world to see that he is a force to be reckoned with, and will not be known solely as “the boy who lived”.  I just recently saw him on Broadway as the starring role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was not only AWESOME but really sold me on his rare talent. It’s your turn to see his talent now!

The thing I loved about this film was that it was old-school British horror.  It is bringing the genre back to what it should be, providing genuine scares, not just the blood and guts showing of the current American horror film.  While this was enjoyable, I am not going to sit here and tell you that this is a horror masterpiece.  A lot of the scares were reliant on loud noise and camera angles, but at the same time there were a lot of great scenes that kept me immersed in this original story.

Speaking of the story, it revolves around a young lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), who is struggling in many aspects of life after having lost his wife four years back during childbirth.  He has been left to raise his son and pay for a nanny, and finds it difficult to find time for his son while he tries to provide for them at work.  In the midst of money troubles and not wanting to lose his job, he accepts a case to settle the legal affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow while leaving his son behind in London.  When he arrives to the “Eel Marsh” estate, it is obvious by its inhabitants that he is not welcome and they want him to return home to London.  Of course he does nothing of the sort, and begins to discover that there have been numerous unforeseen accidents/suicides taking the lives of the children in the town.  This leads the parents of the village to barricade their children indoors.  Arthur continues to go to the estate all alone to continue his work.  He starts to hear screams, sees “the children”, and finally discovers “The Woman in Black.”  According to local legend, whenever someone lays eyes on “The Woman in Black” another child dies.  It is her way to extract vengeance since her beloved son Nathaniel was taken from her many years ago in a carriage accident.  Without giving any more away, let’s just say Arthur’s son is coming to visit him at the end of the week.

As I stated earlier I love Daniel’s performance in this film, and it really shows he is here to stay!  My only problem with the casting is that I feel he is a little too young to be believed as someone who is a widow with a four-year-old son.  As he is the major draw for the film though, it seems to work well enough.  The other great performance is given by Ciarán Hinds, who plays a character that Arthur befriends on the way to the estate, and who assists him in getting to the bottom of everything.  He has been in some of my favorite films of all time including Road to Perdition, Munich, and There Will Be Blood, just to name a few.  He is also in one of my most anticipated movies of this year, John Carter, which will be hitting theaters in March. (He was even in a film version of one of Kim’s favorite novels, Jane Eyre, back on A&E in 1997, so he is kind of a big deal).

With all that being said, I highly suggest you check this film out if you are a “true” horror fan. It even offers up some good scares for you non-horror fans, and it is a film that can appeal to the masses in the genre.  I loved the legend of “The Woman in Black” within the story too.  I thought it was very original, and even though I feel that they could have played off of this plot point a little more, I was satisfied with the final product.  The cinematography was awesome, and it made me really want to go back to the Edwardian era especially because of the awesome clothes they wore back then.  I will leave you with this: the ending is one of the best parts of the film.  I had heard it was crazy before going into the film, so that had my mind racing leading up to the end to try and figure out what was up.  When the film finally ended, I am not going to say I saw it coming completely (I had additional different ideas in my mind), but what actually happened was something that I had considered.  So, when you all go see this movie be sure to leave comments as I would like to know what your thoughts are!

4 out of 5 Stars

The Woman in Black (2011)
Hammer Film Productions
PG-13, 95 Minutes

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a dramatic film adaptation of the  New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer (Foer is also the author of Everything Is Illuminated).  The film is directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader), and written by Academy Award winner Eric Roth (Best Adapted Screenplay for Forrest Gump).  It stars Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis (nominated this year for her performance in The Help), John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, and Zoe Caldwell.

For those who don’t know, the film revolves around the events of September 11th.  It amazes me that it has already been 10 years since that horrific day, and that kids are now learning about it in history class along with the Civil War, WWII, etc.  The subject matter may be rough for some, but that is something I will get into later on.  In describing the plot, Warner Brothers writes:

The film is the story of a young boy named Oskar (Thomas Horn) who is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city.  Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet.  His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him.

The original plan for the film was to release it around the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but it didn’t quite happen.  The film had a limited release beginning on Christmas, and a month later it went into wide release.  Despite  some mixed reviews from critics, which I will get into later as well, the film has been nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Max von Sydow.  I think these were two of the biggest shocks on the morning of nominations.

This all-star cast does an amazing job in bringing the pages of the novel to life.  The real stand outs however are Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow.  This was Horn’s first acting job, as he was discovered by the film’s producer when he won on Jeopardy during Kids Week.  He was subsequently offered an audition for the role of Oskar Schell, which he obviously won.  The subject matter he is given and they way he is able to deliver on that emotion is splendid.  In my eyes he delivered one of the best child performances I have seen in a long time, and I was very moved.  He allowed those close to the material to really feel as though they were in his shoes, and I felt a connection.  His scenes with Tom Hanks were so great and they reminded me of the relationship I have with my dad.  The game that they play together (WHICH IS AWESOME) is the reason for the name of the film’s AMAZING title.  (I’m going to hold out on what the game is in the hopes that it will be another reason for you to see the film).  As for Max von Sydow, he delivers a great performance, but it’s one that  I don’t want to give away any spoilers about.  I found the “mystery” to be quite obvious, but maybe that is because I am a screenwriting genius!  His character has taken a vow of silence due to traumatic experiences he has suffered during his childhood so he strictly acts through body language and emotion, which seems to be something the Academy is digging this year.

As I stated earlier, this film has been getting mixed reviews, and I really just don’t know why.  I will go as far as saying it is one of my favorite films of 2011 and 2012 so far.  Maybe some people are turned off by the subject matter or think that the subject matter is just something that is simply easy for them to get emotional about.  Personally, I think that is crazy.   I am from New Jersey, so this event holds a very special place in my heart.  I remember exactly where I was when it happened, as I had just recently started my first year of high school.  I was in shock when I heard what happened as I watched the news that was instantly put on the televisions in our classrooms.  I was then called out of class that day and was taken home by a friend’s mother.  I was in tears as my father worked in the city at the time and was in a meeting right by the attacks.  I remember thinking that if anything happened to my Dad, I wouldn’t know how life would go on, just as Oskar did.  Thankfully he was unharmed and made it home safely by the end of the night.  Unfortunately I know many people who were not as lucky and I don’t like to think about it too often.  There are so many stories where people I personally knew were supposed to be in the World Trade Center that day but weren’t because their meeting got cancelled or they were running late.  All I have to say to that is thank you God.

With all that being said, I will leave you with this: I highly suggest you check this film out.  I loved it so much that I will definitely be reading the book (and I don’t say this too often).  As I stated earlier, the film’s material can be very intense, and it portrays some of the more realistic emotional scenes I have seen in quite some time, so consider yourself warned.  I am not afraid to admit it, I HAVE NEVER cried so hard in a film in my whole life.  I was crying numerous times throughout the film.  While they were mostly tears of sadness and some of joy at times, I did leave the theater all choked up and my eyes may have even been swollen.  The ending left me with such promise and in such a great mood even though I was riding an emotional rollercoaster throughout.  I may be biased, but everything about this film I fell in love with and I can’t wait to watch it again!

5 out of 5 Stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Paramount Pictures
PG-13, 129 Minutes

 I would like to dedicate this review to all of those who lost a loved one during the 9/11 attacks.