Tag Archives: film

My Thoughts on: Downfall (2004)

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I have always been intrigued by films that show World War II from the perspective of the enemy (that is, the Germans or the Japanese). Given that so many films on this subject show the Allies as the protagonists, its jarring to see a story featuring the losing side of the war. But it’s also interesting because these films (like Das Boot) remind us that, for all the atrocities committed, the enemy were human beings with human desires (though this does not excuse their actions in any way).

This is why I’ve been drawn to the 2004 film Downfall since I first saw it on Netflix several years ago. The bulk of the film is set in the last ten days of Adolf Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany (beginning with his 56th birthday on April 20th, 1945) and ending not long after his suicide. The film’s plot is drawn from several accounts of those days, primarily from the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary (archival footage of the real Junge, who died in 2002 appears at the beginning and end of the film), Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) and other eyewitness sources.

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The film broke a taboo in German cinema by featuring Hitler as one of the main characters (in years past if Hitler appeared at all it was in a cameo role often shot from behind so as to not show the face) in the story. Not only that, but according to what I read after first watching the film, it was one of the first (if not THE first) to have Hitler portrayed by a native German speaker (another taboo broken). Bruno Ganz’s performance as the infamous dictator is chilling and brilliant. The actor spent four months researching how to play Hitler, including studying a rare 11-minute recording of Hitler speaking in a normal tone of voice (the only recording of its kind), practicing an Austrian-accent and observing Parkinson’s patients to better mimic the symptoms Hitler showed toward the end of his life (it is now widely believed that Hitler was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which caused tremors in his hands and stooped his shoulders). Ganz’s performance is brilliant as I said, you have no trouble believing that he is one of the most evil men who ever lived.

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I also have to highlight Ulrich Matthes’ performance as propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The actor’s physical similarity to the real Goebbels is uncanny and his peformance will unnerve you to your core.

The film does humanize the Nazi leaders…to a point anyways. These aren’t evil, one-dimensional caricatures by any stretch. No, they’re all fully fleshed out, which really makes them even more terrifying because you see the depths of their twisted thoughts. Don’t worry about potentially feeling sympathy for them (except for the Goebbels children, they might be the only true innocents in the story), you won’t. The story really does bring home the horrors of the last days of the war in Berlin: everything is blasted to pieces, the streets are full of the dead and those left live in a panic bordered on hysteria. There are actually two scenes that show wild parties taking place. It seems that, in light of the Russians being days away, many in Berlin devolved into a “let us drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” sort of attitude. I’m not sure what’s worse, the characters who indulged in senseless parties knowing that all was lost, or the characters who stubbornly held onto their hope in “final victory” until the bitter end.

Downfall is definitely one of those films that you should see at least once before you die, though I warn you there are some pretty intense and graphic moments before the story ends. If you’ve seen Downfall, what did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Incredibles 2 (2018)

*warning, minor spoilers ahead for Incredibles 2

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Wow, Incredibles 2 is simply incredible! (pun intended!!) The long-long-LONG awaited sequel to The Incredibles was fourteen years in the making and I am happy to report that this story is completely worth the wait. Incredibles 2 beats the odds and is a sequel that is not only the equal of its predecessor, it might actually be just a little bit better.

As promised, the story picks up immediately after the first film with the coming of the Underminer. The Parr family (helped by Frozone) work to stop the devious criminal, but it proves to be very difficult and there is a lot of collateral damage. Unfortunately, despite everything, being a superhero is still illegal and the Parr’s aren’t sure what they’re going to do. But then a media tycoon, Winston Deavor and his sister Evelyn come forward with a proposition. Using the technology and resources of DevTech they want to use a series of publicity stunts to create good press for superheroes to create pressure to re-legalize superheroes. And the poster child for this endeavor will be…Elastigirl!!

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A major plot point in this story is Bob Parr adjusting to life as a stay-at-home dad taking care of three kids while his wife does hero work for DevTech. Bob’s heart is in the right place, though he’s initially frustrated by staying at home, he never tries to shirk his duty towards his children, but at the same time he is painfully unprepared for the amount of work it takes to take care of three kids. Complicating this task is the revelation to the family that Jack-Jack has superpowers (apparently they did not notice what happened when Syndrome had Jack-Jack at the end of the last film), as well as…complications with Violet’s social life.

And speaking of Jack-Jack, that adorable baby steals just about every scene he’s in. One that I can’t resist highlighting is a hysterical scene that takes place between Jack-Jack and a raccoon. The baby sees the raccoon (with his “mask”) and confuses the critter with a bank robber and decides to go attack it. The poor raccoon is subsequently thrown around and terrified as Jack-Jack displays a wide variety of powers.

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And on top of all this, there’s the mysterious villain Screenslaver, a mysterious figure that has taken to hijacking the airwaves to cause mayhem (and has a thing against superheroes). Anytime Screenslaver shows up things get weird in a creepy way. Syndrome from the first film was scary in a cartoony sort of way. By contrast, Screenslaver is scary in a genuinely dark and twisted sort of way. And as for the identity of this villain…I had my theories going in but the truth surprised me.

The scene with Bob, Jack-Jack and Edna Mode is everything we’ve ever dreamed of and more. The fashion designer is back in all of her glory and you will not be disappointed.

I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Honey, Frozone’s wife. Hopefully if/when there’s an Incredibles 3 we’ll get to see this character in person.

In conclusion, Incredibles 2 is a great film, possibly the best of the summer and I highly recommend it.

What did you think of Incredibles 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Animated Film Reviews

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My thoughts on: Hotel Artemis (2018)

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There’s a saying among film bloggers: never trust the trailer.for a movie. Hollywood designs trailers to run like mini-movies and show off the best parts of a film, which also serves to hide any flaws (though sometimes a film is so bad even a trailer can’t disguise its issues, just look at Pixels (2015)).

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make: I trusted the trailers for Hotel Artemis and it came back to bite me. The concept of a secret hospital for criminals is a sound one and it features a quality cast: Jodie Foster (in her first film in five years), Jeff Goldblum, Sofia Boutella, Zachary Quinto, Dava Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, and so on. With this level of talent and an intriguing premise, Hotel Artemis had the potential to be amazing. But at the end of the day…it isn’t.

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The biggest flaw in this story that I can see is that it tries to tell too many stories at once. It starts off simply enough: It’s the year 2028 and Los Angeles is embroiled in the largest riot in its history because a private company has shut off the water supply to most of the city. During the chaos, a bank robbery goes south and Sherman (Sterling K. Brown) takes his wounded brother to the Hotel Artemis to get treated by the Nurse (Jodie Foster). Once inside, patients are referred to by the room they’re staying in.

Current residents:

-Nice (Sofia Boutella): an assassin being treated for a gunshot wound

-Acapulco (Charlie Day): a smart-mouth arms dealer recovering from an assault

-Waikiki and Honolulu: Sherman and his brother

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So far so simple right? The story quickly expands to include sub-plots involving Nice and an assassination job she must pull off; a wounded police officer seeking entry to the Hotel who happens to know the Nurse from way back; the sudden arrival of “the Wolf King” (a crime lord who “owns most of LA”) and his son (Zachary Quinto) who also owns the Hotel, the mystery behind how the Nurse’s son Bo died AND the revelation that Sherman’s brother unwittingly stole some diamonds from the Wolf King’s organization. It’s far too many elements to keep track of or care about and the film is a disjointed mess as a result.

It pains me to say this but Jeff Goldbum was completely wasted.in this story. He has barely any screen time and he’s out of the picture before you know it. Zachary Quinto is also criminally wasted. In fact, it feels like a large chunk of his character’s backstory is missing. Presented as the son of Goldblum’s Wolf King, he comes across as a whiny younger son with issues, however there’s not enough backstory given to explain why he’s acting this way.

There’s really not much more to say. Jodie Foster turns in a good performance, but it isn’t enough to save Hotel Artemis from being a mess.

What did you think of Hotel Artemis? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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The 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon starts in 2 weeks!

It’s hard to believe but we’re only two weeks away from the start of the 3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon which pays tribute to the memory of the film composer extraordinaire.

There’s still time to sign up if you’d like to participate, just follow the link below and enter your information. Be advised though, there is a delay between when you enter the information and when it appears on the list.

Can’t wait to get this blogathon started in two weeks!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon Info and Sign-up

Film Music Central is on Patreon!

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Official Film Music Central Patreon

Hey everyone! I hope you are having an amazing day. Since there have been a lot of new followers as of late I thought I would share the details of Film Music Central’s Patreon page.

I actually started the Patreon page two years ago, but I’ve only been using it full time for about six months. Patreon is a platform that lets you directly contribute to a content creator (blogger, vlogger, etc.) whose work you like. In the case of Film Music Central, my Patreon operates to fund trips to the movie theater so I can afford to watch and review the newest films as they are released. Later this will expand to covering the expenses of paying for the website domain and later upgrading the site and possibly expanding into other media (video game reviews, book reviews) but that’s in the future for now.

There are three tiers of subscription: Film Friend, Film Lover and Film Maniac.

-Film Friend is the first tier and it’s $2/month. At this tier you receive access to all “patron-only” posts which consist of my reviews of movie trailers, recaps of what I’ve viewed in a given month, etc.

-Film Lover is the second tier and is $5/month. At this tier you have access to all “patron-only” posts as well as the ability to commission a blog article that covers a film or film soundtrack of your choice within reason. You’ll also get a shoutout on the Patreon page 🙂

-Film Maniac is the third and currently highest tier and is $10/month. At this tier you receive all of the above as well as the ability to commission a full-length (10-15 minute) YouTube video where I discuss a film, film soundtrack or film related topic of your choice.

For those who subscribe and become “patrons” of the blog, know that you can cancel at any time, there’s no binding commitment for a year or anything like that.

Any support that can be given means the world to me (please don’t feel like you HAVE to, there’s no obligation) and makes it that much easier to bring you the best film and soundtrack reviews possible.

To check out the page for yourself, click on the link at the top of the article. Thank you again for all the support you’ve given in the last 2 1/2 years and have a great day 🙂

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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My thoughts on: Jurassic World (2015)

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When Jurassic World was first announced, I had no intention of seeing it. However, as time went on and more previews were released, curiosity won out and I went with a friend to view the film. My conclusion? Jurassic World is good…sort of. The story hits many good notes but also falls flat in key places.

The film, which serves as a direct sequel to Jurassic Park (and ignores the events of The Lost World and Jurassic Park III), opens with a fully realized dinosaur park operating on Isla Nublar. The park brings in a fortune every year, but profits have been slowly declining and, in order to ‘spice things up’ a new dinosaur is genetically engineered (because that always ends well).

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This new dinosaur is dubbed Indominus Rex and it is a real piece of work. A complex hybrid, it has the ability to camouflage (though for some reason this is only demonstrated once), mask its heat signature and (among other things) communicate with raptors because of its raptor DNA. The Indominus is certainly terrifying (there’s a scene where you see the reflection of its teeth in a gyrosphere before you see it properly) but certain elements aren’t used consistently. As I said before, its ability to camouflage (which is downright terrifying if you think about it) is only seen once. If you really wanted to make this movie scary, shouldn’t it have been used as often as possible?

Of course the Indominus gets loose and the park eventually descends into chaos, which was okay to watch…for the most part. I found the scene where Claire’s assistant gets killed to be very disturbing. First she’s dragged off by a Pteranadon, then dropped several times into the Mosasaurus tank before finally being eaten by the aforementioned Mosasaurus. I really felt this moment went on way too long and should have ended with the Pteranadon just carrying her away.

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The plot point I enjoyed the most was Owen’s interaction with the raptor pack and the idea that he is their ‘alpha.’ I found the arrangement dubious at first, but as the story went on I truly believed that Owen was communicating with the raptors and they obeyed him. Which is why when it came out that the Indominus had raptor DNA and was communicating with them I had the biggest “Oh SH**” moments in the theater. Truly, that scene with the Indominus and the raptors is well done.

Another moment I liked is when the kids stumbled across the remains of the original Jurassic Park center from the first film. It had a huge nostalgia factor and I’m glad they included it. One thing I did not like about Jurassic World is it was painfully obvious that they were setting up for a sequel when we last see Dr. Wu getting hustled off the island by InGen. I don’t think anybody really doubted that a sequel was coming, but they didn’t have to be so blatant about it.

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Having the climax come down to the Indominus vs the T-Rex from the first film was really awesome, though I have major issues with how it ended. Not only did it seem anti-climactic that the Mosasaurus finished the Indominus off just like that, I still can’t see how the beast could have jumped up and grabbed it from where they were standing.

In conclusion, while I did enjoy Jurassic World for the most part (the homage to John Williams original theme was a very nice touch), I’ve never felt any desire to rewatch it in the three years since, though I am planning to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, if only so I can see what is up with this OTHER genetically engineered dinosaur that is somehow a hundred times more scary than the Indominus Rex.

What did you think of Jurassic World? Did it live up to the hype? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My thoughts on: Forbidden Planet (1956)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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If you’re looking for a list of influential science fiction films, one title that consistently turns up is Forbidden Planet. Considered one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, the film set the bar for many films to follow. The film follows the crew of the C-57D as it travels to the distant planet Altair IV to follow up on a mission that went there and disappeared 20 years previously.

The story can be considered a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play where sailors from a distant land encounter the sorcerer Prospero (who controls the spirit Ariel) and his beautiful daughter Miranda, who has never seen any man except for her father. In the film then, Prospero is Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of two survivors of a previous mission to Altair IV, Miranda is Morbius’ daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), Ariel is the ever helpful robot Robby and the sailors are Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew, though it could be argued that the commander is also an analogue to Ferdinand, the nobleman who ultimately marries Miranda.

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The film contains a number of firsts: its the first to depict humans traveling in a faster-than-light vessel; it was the first to take place entirely on another planet besides Earth (the story opens with the C-57D in deep space); most notably the film is the first to contain an entirely electronic film score (credited as ‘electronic tonalities’). The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

 

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From the start, you can tell there’s something fishy going on with Dr. Morbius. He’s way too eager for Commander Adams to be on his way back to Earth, and small wonder. It comes out that the first expedition discovered the ruins of an ancient civilization belonging to the Krell, an ancient super-race that accomplished everything you can imagine before mysteriously vanishing overnight. And that’s not all: there’s a giant machine 20 square miles in size located underground, introduced with a scene that almost boggles the imagination.

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Weird things begin happening back at the space ship: vital equipment is sabotaged, a crew member is violently killed (literally ripped limb from limb offscreen) and strange footprints from an invisible being (in one of my favorite scenes) are spotted. I remember the first time I watched this film it drove me crazy as to what was stalking the planet. For a while I was convinced that it must be a Krell, a lone survivor as it were, attacking outsiders. But the truth is so much more terrifying. It turns out that the mysterious beast is none other than Dr. Morbius himself, or at least it’s a part of him.

See, when Commander Adams and two of his men discover the Krell ruins, Morbius gave them a tour and showed them a strange machine that had the ability to dramatically increase intelligence. Morbius used it on himself and is now arguably the smartest human alive. But what the scientist fails to realize is that boosting his intelligence gave his subconscious mind access to the large underground machine. That huge machine was the Krell’s greatest accomplishment and their undoing. Having accomplished everything else, the Krell sought to make the final accomplishment: creation by mere thought, simply imagine it and it will appear. It’s not a bad idea, if the conscious mind were all there is. But the Krell had long since forgotten about the subconscious mind, known in psychology as the Id, the reservoir of all our deepest, most primal desires. When the machine was turned on, the Id of every Krell on the planet gained access to a machine with unlimited power. Though they consciously didn’t wish to destroy or kill, their subconscious acted out their secret desires and thus the whole race was wiped out.

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Morbius is unwittingly in the same predicament as the Krell, though he cannot consciously use the machine, his subconscious can and has before! Deep down, Morbius only wants to be left alone with his research and daughter, so his Id is acting on these desires and attempting to ‘eliminate’ the problem. It’s a horrifying moment, when the scientist realizes he is the monster. And speaking of the monster, the one glimpse you do get of the Id monster is the stuff of nightmares.

Robby the Robot provides several moments of humor throughout the story (he has a very dry wit), including a memorable exchange with Altaira:

Altaira: “Robby, I must have a new dress made right away!”

Robby: “Again?”

Forbidden Planet is definitely a must-see film for any fan of science fiction cinema and if you haven’t seen it before I hope you’re inspired to go check it out. If you have seen the film, what did you think about it and the revelation of the Id monster? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

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