The Bay (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 8:00 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10

THE BAY (2012) - Barry Levinson

Barry Levinson, Academy Award winning director of Rain Man, comes and presents a found footage movie? Intriguing enough, this is like a second version of Steven Soderbergh when he directed Contagion a year earlier. Come to think of it, The Bay is radically similar to Contagion.

The Bay follows Donna Thompson, a news reporter who recalls the events of a parasitic outbreak on the 4th of July. The film addresses the audience that all the footage is not meant to be seen without permission of the government. It revolves around Chesapeake Bay, where two researchers find a high level of toxicity in the water. Soon enough, a deadly plague is unleashed in the town's water supply, creating a mutant breed of the Cymothoa exigua, a tongue-eating louse.

When a film arrives during the glut of found footage movies, you are often forced to get creative, to be original and stand out. That is the main strength of The Bay -- it is not just composed of amateur camerawork, but also a combination of text messages, Skype video calls, surveillance cameras, and pure narration. In other words, the film takes the reality of the subject and turned it up a notch, making it even more real than ever. In a way, The Bay is a mix of fictional horror and documentary. Very interesting how a director of a drama can execute a hybrid of Contagion and Paranormal Activity.

The acting is not the most convincing, but it is clear that everyone is trying and everyone took the script seriously. Believe me, it helps the film, or else if the panic factor dies off as well, this would be most uninteresting. Despite Kristen Connolly doing a very minor role this time around, it is still great to see her on screen after she impressed me with her previous film, The Cabin in the Woods. I would not call The Bay a step up for her, but it keeps her positively noticeable. Unfortunately, the film does not emphasis on performance, but instead on scares. In a way, it hurts and helps.

The film is disturbing, without a doubt, but a good half of it comes from visual aids. If you are the type who can take blood and violence but cannot take disgusting images of disease symptoms, be warned: This is not a film for you. This is also where the problem of The Bay begins to slowly unfold.

The film may bring about the scare of a possible parasitic outbreak, but it gives no suggestion of what to do, it explores no themes, and it makes no points nor gives us a piece of its mind. Going back to Soderbergh, Contagion made a much longer imprint due to its bigger scale, its exploration of characters, and the impact of the outbreak, from disturbing to emotional. With all dimensions covered, the film just received another layer of gold over it, and it just feels one rank higher in realism compared to a simplistic film like The Bay. When the first disturbing visual came up, I felt uneasy. When the twentieth disturbing visual came up, I realized that this is all The Bay has to offer.

The Bay is undoubtedly scary and unsettling to some viewers, but it does not provide a striking core that can last through the years. It is a film that came and went, and that is probably the saddest element about Levinson's little movie. It could have been something much bigger, but instead it played safe. Too safe.

In conclusion, The Bay is a tense but unmemorable flick surprisingly well directed by a director we would have never predicted. If you are grading The Bay on a curve, it is one of the superior found footage films, where it combines amateur camerawork with Skype calls, texts, emails, and surveillance cameras. However, even when it is disturbing, it does not present any message whatsoever and has no lasting factor. Except you might stare at your glass of water for a few seconds before you drink it.

The Top Twenty Best Films of All Time


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Life of Pi (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:51 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

LIFE OF PI (2012) - Ang Lee

Meet Pi, who lives a prosperous lifestyle with his family, who starts to follow three religions as once as he desires to love God, whose father owns a sensational zoo. This was his life, and it is all about to change.

Due to political concerns in India, Pi's family decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada, embarking on a small Japanese boat carrying some of the animals. However, a strong storm capsizes the boat, leaving Pi stranded on a small lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger, a spotted hyena, an injured zebra, and an orangutan. This is where the Life of Pi takes the journey of a lifetime.

The film begins with an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) reminiscing about his childhood, exploring his character, letting us understand and learn who he is. The movie then takes its time here, immersing us into the world of the zoo, the world that Pi lives in, and his relationship with his family. This absorption covers three stages in Pi's life: Five years old to fourteen to sixteen (Suraj Sharma). We learn about his love for the animals, how it gives him a sense of animal psychology. We learn about how he was born a Hindu, but he is introduced to Christianity and Islam. We learn about his first love, sweet but abrupt due to the family's sudden departure from the country. In a way, the storytelling is similar to the storytelling of Jamal Malick from Slumdog Millionaire. This is Life of Pi's most unexpected choice, where it remains faithful to the novel and takes its time to let us come close to Pi, to relate to him, before the main story that the whole world knows even comes into play. Believe me, the film needed the introduction, otherwise Ang Lee would have been unable to overwhelm you with his visionary images and imagination.

The majority of Life of Pi takes place on the lifeboat and chronicles the 227-day experience Pi goes through with the animals, most notably the tiger, which the film reveals to be named Richard Parker. Here, it is a tale of survival, in a way parallel to Tom Hanks and his efforts made in Cast Away. Pi fights high tides, lightning storms, lack of food, and lack of water.

The visual effects were made by Rhythm & Hues Studios, most known for their Academy Award winning film The Golden Compass and the first film of the Narnia franchise. Without a doubt, Life of Pi will be nominated for Best Visual Effects, and I will not be surprised if it won. The animals on the boat were almost all computer generated, but I guarantee you, the tiger looks as realistic as you can possibly get it. As for the human interactions with the CGI animals, it does nothing but make the animals feel even more real. Even better, the human interactions are what hold the emotional impact of the film.

Every scene that involves Pi and Richard Parker are tremendously powerful. Whether the scene is them clashing towards each other or them more accepting towards each other, Life of Pi holds you at the heart. With a lack of music to enhance the realism, each moment will take your breath away. You might just find yourself with your mouth open, admiring the power, the emotion, and the passion of Sharma as an actor and Lee as a director. But once the imagination and visionary gems come in, you will inevitably find yourself jaw-dropped.

Life of Pi must win the Academy Award for Best Director, hands down. Lee's creative power and his resourcefulness to put originality in the tiniest things drives the visual aspect of the film. To give an example of the "tiniest things," the film takes the idea of a boat floating in the ocean and turns it into a majestic image that only an artist and a poet can imagine. It is not where the image is created by having the sea with the boat and the sky. It is an image where all three elements combine into one single piece, where the boat blends into the sky and the ocean does not look like water but like glass. Time magazine called the film "the next Avatar. A visual miracle," and after viewing Life of Pi, I cannot agree more. It is the most beautiful film of 2012, if not one of the most beautiful in years. 

Surprisingly, this film and its New Age-like appeal demands to be seen not only on the big screen, but also in 3D. In agreeing with the Denver Post, you need to "shelve your dislike of 3D glasses." You need to "quiet your nattering criticism of CGI. Because Lee and his able crew wield those tools like wands." The reason why this use of 3D must be experienced is because Ang Lee never used the film for visual surprises, but to enhance the sense of places and the spectacular events that occur in the film, similar but even better than Martin Scorsese's approach to 3D in Hugo. As a result, Life of Pi is probably the greatest 3D movie ever, even better than AvatarLife of Pi, similar to Cloud Atlas, is not just a film. It is an experience, a visual spectacle that makes you believe why Pi would believe in God, how He is the "tester of souls and the creator of beauty."

The very heart of Life of Pi is that it achieves the impossible -- providing the most amazing visual experience while being a marvelous achievement of filmmaking and storytelling. As mentioned before, the crux of the film is the sea journey. This very journey not only provides the jewels of God's creations, but it demonstrates that man can think with great innovation and that animals can learn. The film does its job of a cinematic movie, where it tells its story, but it also combines elements of religion and appreciation for the world, becoming one single marriage of life. For Ang Lee, he never lets go of this magic, but he enforces it so strongly, wishing the audience to share the magic with him.

In conclusion, Life of Pi is a masterpiece. Just like it shows the jewels of the earth, the film itself is a precious jewel in the art of filmmaking. Demanding of a win on Best Director, Life of Pi is an experience that will sparkle the minds, please the eyes, and touch the hearts, an amazing spectacle to behold that can only be truly fulfilled if viewed in 3D. Ang Lee performs the film with great lyricism, the talent of an artist and a poet combined. What it comes down to is that Life of Pi is the most aesthetically pleasing treatment of life itself, stylish, decorative, elegant and exquisite, and it allows the audience to give off their own beliefs about life and the journey life can bring to man. But I know what I believe. I believe I have seen a miracle on the big screen.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:02 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012) - Wes Anderson

The transformation of childhood to adolescence is a significant one. It is a phase where we go from narrow worries and love for the mysteries of life to the vision of plain routine days of work, frustrations, and formula. If an idyllic world designed by adults is suddenly broken by the power of child innocence, what might that entail?

As Moonrise Kingdom opens, the cinematography is flat and straightforward, locked on a grid, with clean movements. It is the perfect visionary assistant to the ideal world of 1965 New Penzance. Every action is routine. The Scout Master (Edward Norton) wakes up, calls the scout boys for breakfast. Yet, the first rebellious contrast unfolds itself, an empty chair, a missing boy. From this point on, the plot already took off, and we already know what is going on.

Moonrise Kingdom revolves around a twelve-year old orphan named Sam (Jared Gilman) and a depressed girl named Suzy (Kara Hayward), who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness, causing all of the authorities to try to hunt them down. These authorities include Suzy's father (Bill Murray) and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis).

Moonrise Kingdom is a "painting" of a film, where the screen is almost always filled with vibrant colors. There is a wide scope of green because of the trees and the grass, yet Anderson adds enough red in the picture to even out the appearance in its entirety. To agree with Roger Ebert, "It is a comfortable canvas to look at, so pretty that it helps establish the feeling of magical realism." As mentioned before, the cinematography is unique and truly enhances the experience of the story. The very movement of the camera fits the tone and atmosphere of the narrative, and the editing also comes in connected like two puzzle pieces bonded together.

The movie has the pure taste of an independent film. It is driven with bizarre energy, where everything technical is presented in an unorthodox way, from the way scenes transition to the way people read letters. It has a narrator who breaks the fourth wall almost every single time he appears. In terms of the acting, every single character is beautiful to watch, whether you agree with them or not. In fact, it is really refreshing to see Bruce Willis do something less intense and more relaxing. In fact, I want up to five more movies with Bruce Willis playing this kind of character. As for Bill Murray, he excels in his role ever since the first time he stood in a Wes Anderson film.

The two leads are really what carries the movie's heart. Although not the best, they both bear an intriguing chemistry as they slowly progress to their dream runaway location. As they approach the passage of childhood innocence, they also explore maturity. Once again, this bizarre take on a child duo will have you raising your eyebrows once in a while, but in the end, it is the source of an artistic piece.

This is a film about themes and direction. Wes Anderson explores the most heart-driven subjects, subjects like childhood love, the child's need to escape, and as mentioned before, the battle between childhood and adolescence. The most interesting part of Moonrise Kingdom is that every single person you see who is living on the island has not truly "lived." It is not until the unconventional impact of the two kids missing that ignites a transformation for every citizen.

In conclusion, Moonrise Kingdom is a precious film, one of the greatest independent films I have seen. It is an enchanting tale about the extraordinary unfolding in the world of the ordinary. Better, it drives nostalgia for young love and the glories of childhood. Weird and mischievous but innocent and sincere, Moonrise Kingdom flourishes with rhythm, crafty cinematography, and storytelling.

Inception (2010)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 8:12 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

INCEPTION (2010) - Christopher Nolan

"Your mind is the scene of the crime"

Originally an 80-page treatment written by Christopher Nolan before he even made Batman BeginsInception has been widely regarded as one of the greatest films of the decade, mostly due to its striking originality and creativity. Known as a combination of science fiction, heist film, and film noir, Inception is an exploration of reality and dreams, about the idea of people sharing dream space where people have the ability to access somebody else's unconscious mind.

Inception revolves around Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), a thief who commits corporate espionage by infiltrating the subconscious of his targets, also known as "extraction." He is then offered a chance to regain his old life as a payment for a task considered to be impossible. This task is known as "inception," the implantation of an idea into a target's subconscious. After building a team and executing the mission, Cobb finds himself constantly conflicted by his subconscious images of his deceased wife (Marion Cotillard).

Christopher Nolan is a very ambitious filmmaker, and Inception is undoubtedly an ambitious movie as well as a great work of filmmaking. This ambition is what gives the film its visionary power. However, it is also the film's very weakness. Inception is a great movie, but a movie with many problems.

The film is extremely demanding to immerse us into its universe. Due to the fact that it explores dreams and accessing the subconscious, there is a countless series of rules that the film needed to take time to explain. These rules range from how many layers dreams can have to how a subconscious can affect the world of the dream. Many critics will argue that there are simply way too many rules to follow, almost as if the film is strapping us to a classroom and giving us a lecture about how its world works, and I agree. At the same time, the professor of the lecture, Christopher Nolan himself, is always a few steps ahead of the audience. 

Despite the overabundance of rules, the film tries its best to explain it all using Ellen Page's character. In fact, Ellen Page's character basically symbolizes the audience in the first half of the movie. It wants to wrap around detailed concepts that takes too much time explaining that it detracts it from its storytelling. Therefore, the film gets extremely confusing that demands a second, even third, viewing. As much as I understand what happened in each layer of the dream, I have friends who still do not know what was going on. In terms of storytelling, Inception did not excel in it. As mentioned before, it spent too much time immersing us into its world that it forgot to engage us with a story. In simple words, the plot was too dense, and from the words of LA film critic Wade Major: "The film gets in its own way too much." Furthermore, Inception has a tad too many plot lines.

Underneath the heist plot where Cobb must implant an idea into the target's (Cillian Murphy) mind, the greatest conflict that Cobb must face is his quarrel with his wife. There is much emotion and meaning behind the chemistry between the couple, but the film never stressed on it enough for the audience to care. When looking at Inception as a whole, the main goal the audience wants accomplished is the idea to successfully get implanted. As for the romance storyline between DiCaprio and Cotillard, it is really difficult to feel for them.

Marion Cotillard is probably one of the best elements about Inception. She is the femme fatale of this movie, despite the fact that the film could have had more visual factors of film noir. Her character has much depth and it is completely understandable why she constantly gets in the way of her husband. However, the main flaw that keeps pulling me out of this specific subplot is Nolan's writing and DiCaprio's acting. DiCaprio is a great actor, but he really cannot act out the emotion here that requires depth and second-layered emotions. If you put him in a movie like Blood Diamond or Shutter Island, he can deliver. If you put him in a movie like Inception, he can deliver, but the complexity of the romance plot simply exposes his incapability of demonstrating those emotions out. The best thing he could pull off is the classic serious face he gives in every single movie that he is in, similar to the classic sad face that Tom Hanks gives in every one of his films. 

As for Nolan's writing, he should have either focused on the heist plot alone, or he should have focused on the Cobb/Mal plot alone. Putting the two together not only makes the film overly complex, but it also drains the potential of both. Instead of having a chance to have one great story, you are given two mediocre stories. If the heist plot alone is looked at, there are much better heist films. If the romance plot alone is looked at, there are much better romance films. When critiquing Inception on a storytelling factor, it is simply unorganized and it could have been pulled off much better, and this is because the film is too large scale for it to handle itself. This is due to Nolan's ambition, which is the strength and weakness of this movie. I respect Nolan and give him much credit for his ambition, however his execution could have been better.

All those flaws being said, Inception is still a thought-provoking movie with great intriguing set pieces, cinematography, and visual effects, although the technical element that I give the most credit to would be the editing. Seriously, if it was not for the skillful editing in this movie, it would have lost me halfway in when all the dream layers begin to kick in. The soundtrack is memorable, proof that Hans Zimmer is a very talented composer, and the visual effects are eye-popping, giving Inception the right atmosphere as well as the right look. Based on how it looks, Inception looks amazing, inevitably the best looking film of 2010. The real thing that makes Inception the "great movie" that everyone called it is its originality of dreams and realities. Without a doubt, it is fascinating and captivating, but it brings about many problems when Inception is looked at in terms of storytelling. 

As much as I credit the film for its creativity, my biggest respect for it is the literal fact that it was original. It is not just the idea itself that makes it prestigious, but the fact that this original idea came during the time of lame sequels, remakes, and franchises. Inception is living proof that creative ideas still exist, that Hollywood is not entirely plagued by formulaic junk. In other words, it gives me hope that future movies still have potential to have striking creativity. As for Christopher Nolan as a director, I agree with Roger Ebert once again, on the fact that Nolan reinvented Batman, but "this time he isn't reinventing anything."

In conclusion, Inception is an ambitious film that wants us to think, but it tries too hard and went too far in its process. This is a movie where it will get better the more times you rewatch it. However, it will only get better in the field of understanding the rules of the film's universe. The premise and content of the film is undoubtedly appealing, and the heist plot is somehow still compelling for the audience to follow, however not the best. To settle an argument, Inception is indeed one of the best films of 2010, but it is an extremely overrated movie. It deserves praise, but it is definitely not Nolan's best film, severely inferior to The Dark Knight and even The Prestige. Why all the hype about Inception then, one might ask. Perhaps because it arrived during the glut of horrible movies. Perhaps it was just refreshingly original. Is it entertaining? Yes. Did it deserve its $825 million box office? Yes. Did it deserve its four Oscar wins? Yes. Did it deserve to win Best Picture? Nowhere close. If it did, I would "kick" myself awake.

Flight (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 3:06 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.7/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

FLIGHT (2012) - Robert Zemeckis

Before I begin, this is a deceptive title from notable filmmaker Robert Zemeckis. If you are walking into the theater expecting a movie about a plane crash, you will partially get it here. This film is built on the foundation of the crash, but it is not actually about the flight itself. Instead, it is a compelling character study, a unique film from Zemeckis and a refreshing performance from Denzel Washington.

Flight revolves around alcoholic Airline captain "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who miraculously crash-lands a plane, saving 96 out of 102 passengers. After the crash, Whip is hailed as a hero. However, as the investigation of the malfunction unfolds, troubling facts related to Whips alcoholism begin to rise as we start to question what was really at fault.

The film begins with a bang, the most intense first act I have recently seen from a movie. Whether it is the strong turbulence or the official nosedive, the malfunction of the airplane is the most breathtaking moment in the film's first act, even when the scene itself is considered to be rather short. It is short yet powerful, and despite the fact that it only takes up a third of the entire movie, it is a clever plot device that drives the final act at the end of the movie.

After the intense plane crash, Flight begins to start taking its time and buildup on the negativities of Whip's addiction. From this point on, Flight is no longer Zemeckis' film. It is now Washington's film. This is the new Cast Away and Forrest Gump, but it is now Denzel Washington instead of Tom Hanks. In its second act, Flight builds a relationship between Whip and Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a young woman recovering from a heroin overdose. However, this is where the film's narrative begins circling around the runway.The second act dragged and lost grip for a significant amount of time. In trying to keep us interested, the movie explores Reilly's character, as well as introducing three new characters portrayed by Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle, and John Goodman, all well-performed. Remember Goodman from The Big Lebowski? Welcome back.

Flight is really a second-layered movie. It is a character study on Washington's character about the curse of addiction. When its third act begins to kick in, this is where Flight finally stops circling the runway and commits to a landing. The film begins to accelerate so quickly that the narrative feels just as intense as the turbulence seen earlier. The stage is then set, and it becomes the ultimate showcase that proves to us that Denzel Washington is still one of the greatest actors in Hollywood today. His classic delivery of emotions is what forces countless amounts of emotions into our hearts and heads. He holds back his tears and chokes on his words. It is a "Washington" performance at its finest.

For years, Denzel Washington has been slightly misused by the movie industry. He has been playing the same type of character for countless films, just like Robert de Niro and even Jack Nicholson today. Three times, Washington played the same personality in a Tony Scott film -- the three films are Déjà VuThe Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and Unstoppable, despite the third film being great. What happened to the Washington we loved from Glory and Training Day? We want him back. Well, give your thanks to Robert Zemeckis, because he has brought the true Denzel Washington back.  To agree with the New Yorker, we are finally given an actor who can "show us the truth of something that may be far from [his life] but somehow [understands], intimately, all too well." For the fact that Washington was strong enough to break his chains and come forth as an original and compelling character, it is one of the most refreshing performances of this year, possibly worth an Academy Award nomination.

In conclusion, Flight is a magnetizing piece of filmmaking. After the plane crashes, the story and acting is just about to take flight, and once it does, boy does Denzel Washington soar. You may not like Captain Whip as an addict, but he is nonetheless a provocative character to study as the narrative progresses. Follow Zemeckis' directing, and the film might grab you where you least expect it. Undoubtedly, Flight is a shoo-in straightforward film about not just addiction, but also about redemption. It is indeed a triumphant return by Robert Zemeckis, and it is definitely a chance for Denzel Washington to take flight once again.

Lincoln (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:34 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

LINCOLN (2012) - Steven Spielberg

If you are reading this, then you know that the most common "connection" you have ever made to Abraham Lincoln was looking at his portraits, his face on the five dollar bill, and reading his speeches, most notably the Gettysburg Address. For years, we have all grown up writing essays and reading history books about what America has always called "the greatest president." Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be in his presence? Observe his towering height? His sense of humor? If you have, leave it to the phenomenal talent of Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Putting Spielberg back at the helm, Lincoln revolves around the 16th President's (Daniel Day-Lewis) final months in office, as he attempts to unite the country, pass the Thirteenth Amendment, and end the war, as he finds himself fighting a political war with his cabinet members.

The movie was astonishing to look at, one of the most refreshing films in recent years. Against the society of movies that are driven by visual effects and eye-candy, Steven Spielberg offers a virtual time machine, transferring us back to the 19th century, filled with sensational art direction, stimulating makeup, and inspiring acting. Yes, going back to the past is now more invigorating to look at compared to futuristic set designs. Lincoln does not just present a magnificent portrait of America's favorite president, but it also fully immerses us into the world of America when Lincoln was president.

Spielberg is truly one of the greatest directors of all time, mostly due to his power of being versatile and faithful to the art of filmmaking. As usual, he is extremely talented and pursues excellence when it comes to sharing his vision with the audience. When he made Schindler's List, you felt the horror of the Holocaust. When he made Saving Private Ryan, you felt the blood being spilled on the beach of Omaha. Here in Lincoln, Spielberg still has his capability to reach perfection. As a role of director, whose job is to adapt the material, Spielberg puts us into an exhausted America, already suffering from the Civil War, and invites us into the world of the politicians, who are still fighting their inner battle. However, this is where Spielberg's versatility comes in. Instead of showing what is going on outside, like he did in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, he chose to show us what is going on inside, making Lincoln one of the most performance-driven movies he has ever made.

Lincoln is a movie that is all about performance. Therefore, the cast is one of the most important factors in this film. Thankfully, the cast is the strongest element here. Backing Daniel Day-Lewis in this biographical drama is Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Arguably, Lincoln may have been difficult to understand due to the way people spoke back then. However, the dialogue is accurate for its time, and the movie indeed has a lot of names and a lot of political details. In a way, Lincoln is also a history lesson, and the supporting cast each enhanced the experience.

No matter how minor each role was in the film, each actor perfected his/her job. From Joseph Gordon-Levitt to James Spader. From David Strathairn to even Jackie Earle Haley. However, if one has to pay attention to the most renowned supporting performances, Lincoln is definitely a showcase for Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field. With several entertaining moments, Tommy Lee Jones offers a rich performance that might as well earn him his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the first being his portrayal as a US Marshal in The Fugitive. He was perfectly cast and the script is well aware of his acting talents. It offers him much room for his flair due to the dialogue being given. This is filmmaking assisting a skillful actor at its best.

Mary Todd Lincoln, during her White House years, was a very complex and fragile figure. She loyally supported her husband in his mission to save the Union, but at the same time suffered mood swings, outbursts, and depression. For an accurate and lively portrayal of one of the most complicated and colorful women in American history, there is no one else who could have pulled it off other than Sally Field. Spielberg once claimed that she has always been his first choice, and in this critic's opinion, Sally Field is the second greatest choice Spielberg has made in this movie, the first being Daniel Day-Lewis. Throughout the film, Field holds you right at the heart and lungs. She will take your breath away and break your heart countless times, with a performance so overwhelming and so earth-shattering that the Academy must recognize her once again, the last time back in 1984.

In summary, the ensemble cast here is truly amazing. To agree with notable critic Leonard Maltin: "The cast is overflowing with talent, and every actor gets at least one moment in the spotlight." In fact, I recommend the Academy to add a new category. Call it "Best Ensemble Cast," and you know what I will say next.

Although Lincoln heavily triumphed with its supporting cast, this is a movie about the man -- the man who was originally planned to be portrayed by Liam Neeson, who portrayed Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's Oscar-winner. If you are coming to see Lincoln expecting a narrative that tells the story of Lincoln, you are partially wrong. The movie performs more than that. In addition to learning about the fight that Lincoln had in the White House, you can almost tell everyone that you have met the 16th president himself, thanks to an actor who has not only fallen in love with his character, but has completely become his character.

Daniel Day-Lewis was not in this movie. He really was not. Spielberg has not only used his time machine to take us back to the 19th century, but he has truly transported our nation's 16th president onto the set in front of the camera. We see him with a rather soft and thin voice. We see him hunched over despite his height. We see that the presidency and Civil War has profoundly aged him, yet we see him standing in front of us fighting for the abolishment of slavery. On screen, we learn that Lincoln indeed lacked the education and knowledge of politics, but he was strongly driven by intelligence, patience, confidence, and heart for the people. Within the first fifteen minutes, I have already forgotten that the President was portrayed by an actor. Daniel Day-Lewis, you shall receive a standing ovation, just like you "technically" received before when you gave the Gettysburg Address. With the words "Oscar Winner" written all over him, Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most immersed actors of all time. To agree with the film's producer, Kathleen Kennedy: "You get the chills thinking that Lincoln is sitting there right in front of you." As for the screenplay, there are several scenes with a great load of dialogue, all showcases for Daniel Day-Lewis to revive the slavery-fighting President. Assisted by the cinematographer, who knew when to give long single takes for monologues, Lincoln provides the greatest realism ever imaginable.

Lincoln is classic filmmaking, and it reminds movie critics and filmmakers what gives a movie its cinematic value -- this ranges from lighting to the framing of a shot to the literal movement of the camera. In all honesty, the film goes back to the definitive time when movies were made by visionary directors, where the art direction and cinematography were all analyzed and carefully arranged, where the actors can leave their true images behind and become the characters they are portraying. Every little piece that constructs Lincoln together is complete "textbook." It will be screened in film schools about the technical procedures and craftsmanship to filmmaking. Frankly, it is really difficult to believe that a film like Lincoln is made in the year 2012, a decade where films have been candidly brought down by corporations and businessmen who have transformed movies into assembly line products. This masterpiece by Steven Spielberg is proof that cinema is still well alive, still holds up, and still keeps the exhilarating impact that traditional filmmaking makes to the audience. It deserves my greatest respect not only as a film on its own, but its allegiance to the world of filmmaking.

In conclusion, Lincoln is a history textbook brought alive by Steven Spielberg. The film not only teaches and informs, but it also entertains the audience, whether it is witty dialogue given by Tommy Lee Jones, or portraying the sense of humor that Abraham Lincoln had as a man. As mentioned before, if you are seeking a time machine that will take you back to the nineteenth century, back to Lincoln's presidency, then Spielberg's Lincoln is the closest you can ever go to. With a talented ensemble cast, this performance-driven movie exceeds all expectations of a biographical drama about Lincoln as well as a Spielberg film in general. If you ever wondered what it would have been like to be in Abraham Lincoln's presence, Daniel Day-Lewis has truly brought him to life on the screen. As for Spielberg's part, Lincoln goes back to classic filmmaking, with skillful art direction, makeup, cinematography, and set pieces, proving that cinematic masterpieces of the people, by the people, for the people, shall never perish from the earth.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:46 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 5.1/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10


I cannot believe this. I simply cannot believe this.

Finally, the time has come, and Bill Condon is back with Breaking Dawn Part 2, the epic finale that will live forever.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 revolves around Bella (Kristen Stewart), who begins her new life as a vampire newborn, wife of Edward (Robert Pattinson), and mother of their daughter Renesmee. However, after Renesmee was mistakenly thought to be an immortal child, a human infant transformed into a vampire, the Volturi sets out to destroy the Cullens. Knowing that Bella gave birth to Renesmee when she was still human, the Cullens begin to gather foreign vampire clans to stand together as witnesses against the Volturi. Assisting the vampires is the Wolf Pack and Bella's faithful friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner).

Beginning right where Part 1 left off, Part 2 starts with Bella's experiences as a newborn vampire. She can see all the details in the world, no matter the size or distance. She can finally run with great speed. She later becomes the strongest member of the family, even stronger than Emmett. For Kristen Stewart, it seems like the film attempted to give her more scenes where she could be expressive. Sometimes, they seem contrived. Sometimes, they are tolerable, but the key here is that Stewart's interior-ness finally communicates through to the audience. Thus, in a way, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is Kristen Stewart's best performance out of the entire saga. In fact, it is extremely ironic that Stewart had to be "dead" in order to make her acting have a form of life.

After the impression of the trio made by Part 1, I hoped that the vampire couple and the werewolf will become some form of a screen trio that I actually have interest to follow. To my greatest surprise, the script pulled it off. Despite Jacob giving many cheesy lines throughout the film, they are not to the point of being labored. And guess what? You only see his six-pack once, and it is the only one in the whole movie. In summary, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is proof that the screenwriters are truly unskilled when it comes to dialogue in romantic conflicts. When Bella, Edward, and Jacob went from love triangle to friendship triangle where two of them make a couple, the script exposes less of its flaws. They might still be there, but it is much easier to let them pass by this time around.

Unlike all four predecessors, Breaking Dawn Part 2 has the strongest characterization, where it touches on several of the foreign vampire clans, each of their powers, and each of their personalities. After having all of these diverse vampires unite, the film uses this as an advantage to have us care for them as a large group. This is a group of rebels fighting back against the Volturi, the over-dominating coven. They are not just fighting for family, but they are fighting for who they are and who they want to be. This then transitions to another strength of Breaking Dawn Part 2.

The film efficiently builds the tension of the Volturi's imminent arrival. The running time is almost two hours long, and it spends a good half of the movie making this buildup. Everything that happens in the narrative was designed to lead to the climatic final battle. You will find yourself wondering when will the Volturi actually arrive, and the minute they march out of the fog, hearts will start pounding.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 is the finale of the series. So what does a finale of a series like Twilight need? A climatic final battle. If you liked the battle in Eclipse, this film will make Victoria's army battle look like a cat fight. The scale is inevitably larger, having all of the vampire clans gather as well as the Wolf Pack showing their teeth. The visual effects here are sometimes impressive, sometimes fake. However, I approve of the CGI looking fake at times. If they looked realistic, this might have gotten an R rating from the MPAA. All in all, the last thirty minutes of the movie is the most enjoyable. The best part about this as well as the entire movie is that you can actually notice some of Bill Condon's directing techniques in here. Yes, they actually took a cinematic approach to this. Even though the quality of the filmmaking is often pulled down by the humorous dialogue, the uneven editing, and the visuals, Breaking Dawn Part 2 efficiently delivers a solid conclusion, the best that the Twi-hards can ever ask for. Yes, there is a lot of substance in this film for fans to sink their teeth into.

Looking at the film as a whole, the core factor that made this work was the climax and the buildup towards the climax. It knows that it is the finale, and thus the filmmakers and screenwriters readjusted it away from the novel a bit, turning Breaking Dawn Part 2 into an ingenious showdown. For me, with my expectations set really low, especially from the impression Part 1 left me with, I was legitimately rewarded with a film that I always wanted the Twilight saga to go towards: A film that attempted true cinematic filmmaking.

In conclusion, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is indeed the finale that the filmmakers have promised, this time with Bill Condon able to show his talents as a director. It may have been tripped once in a while by cheesy dialogue or editing that needed tweaking, but the movie actually attempted the true cinematic approach, pulling off a conclusion that legitimately had me satisfied, making Breaking Dawn Part 2 undoubtedly the best film in the saga.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:44 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 2.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 2/10


When looking at the entire franchise of the Twilight saga, Bill Condon is arguably the most talented director out of all of them. Then would you believe me if I tell you that he somehow made the worst entry of the series? After the good path that Eclipse left us a year earlier? Well, what can you expect when Breaking Dawn is illogically split into two movies, mimicking what Warner Bros. did to Harry Potter? For Harry Potter, we understand why we need two movies. Hell, the studios originally planned to split each entry into two movies ever since Goblet of Fire. So here you have Breaking Dawn Part 1, the longest dragging entry of the Twilight saga.

Part 1 begins with Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward's (Robert Pattinson) wedding and follows them as they spend their honeymoon on the Cullens' private island. Yes, they make love. The plot soon unfolds as Bella discovers she is pregnant with a baby that is growing at a strangely fast rate.

Before I continue, let me ask a question: Does that plot sound like it should run for almost two hours? I don't think so.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 is melodrama at its worst. The acting has not improved. The dialogue has not improved. The awkward moments are surprisingly still here. Even worse, this time around the narrative is much slower. If you found Twilight or New Moon slow, this entry makes the previous episodes feel like vampires with their abnormally fast speed. Without a doubt, Breaking Dawn Part 1 feels like the longest movie in the franchise, despite the fact that its running time is actually the shortest of them all. The worst part about it is, even the directing could not save this film from its shallow substance. I don't blame Bill Condon. I blame the screenwriters, the actors, and the producers who took this film, which had much potential after Eclipse, and went as downhill as they could have possibly went.

However, this movie is indeed the funniest one out of the series so far. Funniest? Yes, funniest. But unintentionally funny. Unlike Eclipse, which had some form of awareness in its sense of humor, Breaking Dawn Part 1 acts as if the filmmakers behind it were all sharing ideas on how they can sporadically throw in some funny moments. Although I did legitimately laugh at times, I notice it and ask myself "Why is this movie making me laugh?" Well, it can make people laugh over how bad it is, possibly.

In addition, the character trio this time around is more bearable, due to the fact that Jacob has officially handed Bella over to Edward. However, this film did not focus on the trio, but rather the couple only. Hopefully Part 2 will stress on the three actors better.

As usual, the film looks cinematically great as an adaption of the novel, however the last twenty minutes are what saved this film from having the lowest rating. For once, Part 1 begins trying to build up the narrative into the finale. Remember, this is the penultimate film of the entire franchise. However, unlike Deathly Hallows Part 1, this took way too long to build itself up. It fell into the hole labeled "Cliche Flaws of the Twilight Franchise" and attempted to crawl back out in the last twenty minutes. This is where Breaking Dawn Part 1 annoys me the most, making it undoubtedly the worst Twilight film in the entire saga -- yes, even worse than New Moon. If you want to split a book into two movies, you need to do it correctly.

Going back to the Harry Potter series, the first part of Deathly Hallows is clearly an incomplete movie. It left us at the cliffhanger, with no ending, a complete buildup towards Part 2. The two movies were designed as puzzle pieces that were meant to come together as one. Part 1's full potential is not reached unless you watch Part 2 immediately afterwards. Part 2's full potential is not reached unless you watched Part 1 first. Not convinced yet? The Lord of the Rings trilogy did the exact same thing. Each film was made to connect with the next. Here, coming back to the Twilight saga, you can clearly name Breaking Dawn Part 1 something else. This does not need to be a two-part movie. Instead, this feels like a quintology. You can call this Breaking Dawn and the upcoming one something else.

In conclusion, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a terrible disappointment, the worst Twilight movie in the entire series. Turns out the filmmakers did not know what made Eclipse work better than its predecessors. For its goal as a movie, Part 1 is designed in the wrong direction once again, focusing on the couple and letting the audience holler at the screen. No attempt at cinematic approach was made here. For a film that does not demonstrate skillful filmmaking that Bill Condon is good at, a Twilight film that is slow, and a penultimate entry that barely does any buildup to the finale, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is going the wrong way at its worst.

Eclipse (2010)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:53 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 4.9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 5/10


By now, the world has been completely exposed to the uninspired world of the Twilight saga, while competing with the magical world of Harry Potter. For me, I do not need to describe the crux of the J.K. Rowling series: The entire series is simply about a boy wizard who is waiting for the prophetic battle between him and the evil Lord Voldemort. Now for the Twilight saga, with the love triangle, what is the crux here? It is basically a conflict between who is getting Bella in bed. Seriously, the burning question here in the franchise is: Is she going to end up sleeping with the sparkling vampire or is she going to end up sleeping with the werewolf with the six-pack?

Eclipse continues the love triangle between Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Jacob (Taylor Lautner). This time, the werewolf pack and the Cullen family find themselves joining forces to fight a new vampire army led by Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), who seeks revenge after the death of James in the first movie.

This movie, directed by David Slade (Hard Candy30 Days of Night), held the record for biggest midnight opening in the United States in box office history, until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 surpassed it a year later. Just wait, Breaking Dawn Part 2 might just sadly break this record.

The film, still visually faithful, is clearly better executed this time around. For the previous two films, the melodrama drives the franchise's bizarre factor, with uneven pacing, poor acting, and wooden acting. Here, it appears that Eclipse has slowly grasped the balance between the cheesy romance and the decent fantasy action sequences. Without a doubt, the film's grip is not tight, but it at least has found the right place to hold onto. It is there but not "quite there" yet, if that makes any sense.

Despite Kristen Stewart still portraying the definition of "cardboard", it is a little more persuading here due to the plot putting her in danger once again, unlike the previous film. Again, just like the first entry, the subplot in Eclipse is far more interesting than the main romance narrative. During the majority of its two-hour-long running time, to quote Roger Ebert, the film "listens to conversations between Bella and Edward, Bella and Jacob, Edward and Jacob, and [the three together]. This would play better if any of them were clever conversationalists." The problem here is that the acting is still barely tolerable and the dialogue is still uninspiring. However, when it gets to the rise of the vampire army and the clans coming together, Eclipse actually started to look like a real movie.

To summarize Eclipse, its flaws are still the same flaws that plagued the previous two films. However, to quote Mark Keizer, "[The flaws] are bad in the quality you expect them to be bad, but not in the quantity you expect them to be bad." I can indeed say that David Slade tried his best to bring the Twilight franchise to the right direction. Although he has not fully accomplished his goal, this film could have been a whole lot worse if Slade was not put at the helm. 

The most satisfying thing is that Eclipse finally had a sense of trying. It attempted to dispose of the eccentric moments and replace them with action sequences, something that Slade is more skillful at. It even has a sense of humor at times, giving off a line that I legitimately laughed at. To agree with the New York Post, it seems like "they're actually Twi-ing."

However, underneath all the improvements, the film is still infected by the fans' love for the actors. It is still a film for girls to holler at the screen when a male star appears. This is not a romance movie. It fails at being a romance movie. I understand that Stephanie Meyer made it a romance, but let's take a step back here. If we take the relationship of the trio here and turn it into the relationship of the trio from Harry Potter, then we will have the perfect film. The sparkling skin, the mediocre CGI, that would no longer matter, although I would appreciate it if the writing was still improved. But the general idea is this entire franchise has been executed the wrong way. Many viewers will disagree with me here, but this franchise demands a reboot, and this time, aim the films at a wide target audience who will actually compare them to the Harry Potter films based on cinematic value.

If New Moon was an ugly cake that tastes horrendous, then Eclipse is a mediocre cake that looks lukewarm. Yes, it will win the hearts of the fans, but it will definitely not receive any new converts, despite its substance being slightly improved. From a girl's perspective, Eclipse would be a masterpiece. It would be a combination of the romance of Gone With the Wind with the fantasy of vampires and werewolves. The thing is, the protagonist is a girl who is slowly discovering her sexuality while being pursued by two immortal men who are somehow "handsome." The horrible dialogue and the cardboard cutout characters will no longer exist in the minds of the female audience. For the people who are actually paying attention, Eclipse is indeed the lesser of two evils, unquestionably better than New Moon, which almost had no story at all.

In conclusion, Eclipse is a good move made by the franchise, thanks to the director. It is a large improvement over its predecessor, and dumps almost all the lovey dovey moments that pulled the previous two episodes down into cheesy goo. In spite of its superiority, it still lacks the potential of being an adrenaline-charged fantasy thriller, and still suffers from the same flaws. Fortunately, those flaws did not fully kill off Eclipse, making it an entry of the franchise that slid by with less hate. Now with an even more talented director, Bill Condon (Dreamgirls), it seems like the Twilight franchise is finally having a chance to score a home run, like all those home runs easily made by the Cullens in the first movie.

New Moon (2009)


Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:07 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 2.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 2/10

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON (2009) - Chris Weitz

The most important thing to a movie trailer is to give the audience a sense of what the movie is about. The oohs and ahs come second. Always. This has been the way movies were marketed and promoted. Give the world a little teaser of what they are going to get in a few months. For the Twilight saga, apparently, this little teaser has no connection to the story whatsoever. Remember Jacob Black from the first movie? Bring him back. Take his shirt off. Show his six-pack. End the trailer. Show the movie title: New Moon. Most illogical.

After viewing Twilight, I knew that the film's success will bring about the entire book series to be adapted onto the big screen. In my thoughts, the first film was more of an experimentation, where the filmmakers see what worked and what did not work -- call it a little "trial and error," if you will. The movie left many holes that can be filled in, and gave the franchise a chance to truly stand up. However, the direction New Moon took was the very direction that I feared it would take, and the teaser trailer itself already exposed its grand imminent demise.

New Moon begins with the Cullen family celebrating Bella's (Kristen Stewart) 18th birthday. During the party, she gets a paper cut, which triggers Edward's younger brother, Jasper, to attack her. Realizing that he and his family still pose as dangerous to Bella, Edward (Robert Pattinson) decides to end their relationship and leaves the town with the rest of the Cullens. As Bella gets more and more depressed, she slowly connects with Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who is later revealed to be a werewolf from a werewolf clan. Yes, the movie begins to lean into a love triangle, the three being a human, a vampire, and a werewolf. I cannot help but ask this question: Can Bella ever fall in love with a normal human being for once?

For all the Robert Pattinson fans, New Moon trailed away from him a bit and focused more on Lautner this time around, so if you are expecting anything significant from the vampire, not much will please you. This time, it's Team Jacob.

Unlike the sparkling vampire, the werewolf boy appeals better on screen, however his acting once again is unable to coat appearances. In the predecessor, Edward Cullen defines the word "awkward" when delivering lines. However, in a certain way, it is forgiven because he is a vampire. He bears a gothic tone. Maybe he's supposed to be weird like this. Here, for a werewolf, there is no reason to be awkward. Here, Lautner's performance does nothing but tell the audience that he has not worked on his acting as much as his body. Despite the film having impressive visual effects for the werewolves, New Moon poorly defines the very meaning of the word. In Harry Potter, there is a difference between a werewolf (Lupin) and an animagus (Sirius). In New Moon, Lautner is purely acting out as an animagus, yet he calls himself a werewolf. Well, if vampires sparkle under the sun, then I guess werewolves do not look humanoid.

In Twilight, the relationship between Bella and Edward is undoubtedly rushed. In New Moon, the relationship is rushed once again, but this time between Bella and Jacob. This is Twilight: The Werewolf Version. However, the film takes a turn for the worse when it comes to characterization.

As much as Ashley Greene's portrayal of Alice still lifts the screen, Kristen Stewart's monotonous performance drags the film down once again. I mentioned before that she looked like she had the mother of all migraines. Here, with dialogue that has not improved but possibly went worse, the one who had the migraine was me. Nothing romantic nor emotional exists in this movie. It is just a string of scenes that go from one to the next, with barely any legit transitions nor a core that holds the narrative together. Worse, it is not just scene to scene. It is awkward moment to awkward moment, and for a running time over two hours, the film feels even longer. The slow pacing of the narrative, the vacant atmosphere, the lack of substance and life -- All of these elements prove that New Moon has nothing to shine.

However, New Moon took the worst path of all, a decision that threw the entire franchise down a muddy pit. Looking back at Twilight, in spite of its acting and script being lukewarm, it was at least an attempt at making a movie with a wide target audience. The problem was that society slowly began to view Twilight for the sole purpose of the actors' attractiveness. The importance of the story? Forgotten. The attempt at making an actual movie? Dumped. In other words, New Moon was made to aim itself at one target audience: the hardcore fans who liked the franchise for the wrong reason. It takes that direction, and what you are left with is a barren movie with a tedious story, colorless acting, and dreary life. To quote Roger Ebert, the film "[took] the tepid achievement of Twilight, [gutted] it, and [left] it for undead."

In conclusion, New Moon was a chance horribly missed. It had great potential to fill in the gaps left by its predecessor, which I do not fully blame. Twilight came as an experimental film, trying out things that worked and did not work. Now that the filmmakers knew how to make it better, New Moon was a chance to take the franchise to the right direction, to faithfully adapt the novels not just visually but also internally. Instead, it failed, went the opposite direction, and ignited its own undoing. With the movie's sluggish pacing, lack of action, and awkward scenes that wreak with bizarreness, you might find yourself slowly becoming a vampire, that is, slowly dying inside.