Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Top Films: Days 271-365

I did it! A year of films, 365 in the bag, and now it’s time to recap the best of the best in the last three months. While this last quarter saw the most delays and was the most difficult to get through, I still managed to make up two weeks of films with a whole bunch of double-features and even two triple-features thrown in there for good measure. You’ll be seeing a bunch of other retrospective posts about this year (including a full year best-of list) and where I’ll be taking this marathon in the next year and beyond. For now though, here’s the best of the last three months. Jurassic Park: Throughout the film you’ll be swept along from scene to scene, drawn in by the music, maintained by the story and characters, and then wowed by the thrill and excitement from the action.Jurassic Park is a master arrangement and choreography of all things film. Steven Spielberg creates a quality piece of entertainment from start to finish. The 3D conversion was done extremely well for the rerelease and it was amazing to see such a great classic on the big screen. Dan in Real Life: From the characters to the premise and the characters, Dan in Real Life was not only funny but also very revealing - relationship and emotional wise - in the way that the dialogue is very astute and wise. One of the things Dan says in the film is, “So instead of asking our young people, ‘What do you plan to do with your life?’, maybe we should tell them this: ‘Plan to be surprised.’” I was surprised by this film in a very great way. It’s a funny, smart, and sweet film; one which I definitely recommend you see. Howl’s Moving Castle: Visually, this is clearly Miyazaki with an increase in three-dimensional objects and color. The 3D gives you a better feeling for the world in the film, more of a tangible quality than his previous works. In addition, the colors, while of similar quality as previous films, appear much more vivid; they’re much richer than before. Story-wise, Howl’s Moving Castle has just the right level of mystery and confusion. It instantly draws you in as you yearn to learn more about these characters and the world they live in. There was just enough explained to whet my appetite but leave me with some questions at the end. It left me with feelings of awe and amazement - a spectacle I had the pleasure of watching. Ponyo: This is yet another display of Miyazaki’s utter brilliance in a masterful combination of both visual animation style and a well-told, compelling, and astonishing story. For comparison, Ponyo had the spirit of the films like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service (read: more character-centered) while having the appeal and pull of Castle in the Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle. The Secret World of Arrietty: This is a great film technically, structurally, and entertainment-wise. Not a hair is out of place nor a leaf unturned. From beginning to end I was enraptured with what I saw and heard. The pacing was perfect - there was never a dull moment nor was it ever too fast where you couldn’t keep up. Each character got the appropriate amount of screen time and development necessary and the story wasn’t too dialogue heavy, relying instead on some of the best camera work I’ve seen in an animated film yet. Not a second went by where I thought of what else I could be watching; I just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed my time. Star Trek: First Contact: This has the “energy level” which I talked a lot about with all the Star Trek films. There was plenty of action and tension building scenes to keep me invested throughout the film. ButFirst Contact also has the amazing origin story of sorts detailing first contact between Earth and the Vulcan species. It isn’t boring, stays focused, and stayed true to the Trek spirit, unlike some of the previous Trek films. Star Trek: Not only does this film understand who the characters are and let them come to life, but it’s visuals and accompanying story are just mesmerizing. For old fans and newcomers alike, Star Trek is the film made for you. As someone who’s from the middle (not a die-hard fan but is familiar with the universe), this is the perfect Trek film because it explains just enough and pays homage to what was, while not being afraid to go in its own direction, and really, bring Star Trek back to its glory days. My Week with Marilyn: As far as biographical films go, I don’t think I’ve seen any that have covered such a short span of time - one week, although I think it was actually slightly longer than the title suggests. My Week with Marilyn strives to cover just a brief moment in history and in doing so accomplishes something miraculous: insight. It has great acting, it is a great biography, and can be very eye-opening and entertaining in many other ways. You don’t have to be familiar with Marilyn Monroe’s life to enjoy the film; you just have to watch it to learn everything you need to. Serpico: Most times with crime films you see the criminals point of view and the police are just there to get in the way. Here we see the reverse; what’s it like to be a police officer. And the danger or problem isn’t from the criminals, but from within - corruption that prevents honest, hard-working people from doing their jobs. This is a great and entertaining film all around, one that I’d recommend watching wether you like the crime genre, biographical stories, or more generally an underdog or good vs. bad drama. Whatever your fancy, Serpico delivers; there’s even a few laughs to be found. Lars and the Real Girl: The biggest strength of this film is how sincerely it’s made and what it can say about our own lives. Lars is someone cares and feels more than most do despite being lonely and in love with a doll. But it isn’t just a doll; the doll is Bianca to Lars. And to us. Ryan Gosling’s performance convinces us to go with the film and learn from his experiences. While it may have varying levels of impact on each viewer, one thing it will do for everyone is make you question things. The Kings of Summer: Many parts of this film are hilarious; many are also dramatic. There are even moments of intense fear and high tension. The Kings of Summer really delivers across all spectrums of film. From story to characters, cinematography to editing, everything about this film is beautifully crafted and presented to the viewers. A lot of my excitement towards this film may just be because it was great for me personally. But at the same time it was also highly entertaining and if the rest of the audience is any indication, I wasn’t the only one who liked it. While this is only in limited release, I highly recommend seeing this film if you can. This is, by far, the best new release I’ve seen this year. The Way Way Back: Much praise should be given to an extraordinary cast who, through their performances, make this film seem as if it is based off a true story. Steve Carell who plays a character unlike what he normally plays as well as Liam James and Sam Rockwell, both of whom make the perfect friendship. This great acting makes this film highly entertaining with laughs aplenty. But there’s also many serious moments that are equally as powerful and show how there can be bad with the good.The Way Way Back makes you laugh, feel, and think. There are many different things to like about this film and it will appeal to a wide variety. Mrs. Doubtfire: Euphegenia Doubtfire (Robin Williams) is the perfect mix of loving, handy, and strict, and for the viewers, amusing. This film succeeds because it plays with established roles and the reversal of them. It’s a drama masquerading as a comedy. There’s always a joke to lighten the mood, but as viewers we get the best of both worlds: we get to laugh at the joke while experiencing and think about what’s being said. Rudy: Of all the underdog films I’ve seen, none of them have anything on Rudy. None of them have characters that overcome as much as Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) does, are as determined as Rudy is, or are as genuinely supportive in the end as the cast of Rudy is. This isn’t hyperbole; it’s just how it is. You really get swept away by Rudy that any prior knowledge, any preconceptions about what the film might be like because it’s a sports film or an underdog film, goes right out the window. It’s an uplifting experience from beginning to end and no matter how much I try to say about it here won’t even compare to what it will be like actually watching the film yourself. Best Comedy: Dan in Real Life Best Drama: Star Trek Best Classic: Jurassic Park Best New Release: The Kings of Summer