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Tuesday: Amadeus

For those who haven't seen Amadeus, I highly recommend you rent it as soon as possible.

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Released in 1984, Amadeus received a lot of attention by both critics and moviegoers. It was nominated for more than fifty awards and won eight Academy Awards. However, there are some flicks that don't seem to age as well as others. When I speak about an older movie here, I'm not speaking of visuals being outdated. Some flicks simply aren't as relevant to the current time period and have difficulty appealing to modern audiences. Sometimes what was once found humorous is now seen as tacky. Other times a serious scene in a movie can come across as cheesy and very dated. Sure, a movie can be great for the time it came out but what does that mean for modern audiences? Unfortunately, these are the motion pictures that we remember seeing as children, and even teenagers for others, and once we rematch them now that we're more mature, we remember it being so much better at the time we originally saw it. This occurs quite often when films don't age very well. Amadeus aged just like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music, which is timeless.

Antonio Selieri was a mediocre composer whose churlish young rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, wins immortality with his musical genius. Not happy to see his talent eclipsed, Salieri dons a disguise and deviously plots revenge, obsessed with muffling Mozart's maddening laughter. I generally don't pay a lot of attention to some movies that win the Best Picture award at the Oscars due to the fact that the Academy eats up historical films. However, there's so much more placed into Amadeus. This is a character study of envy and jealousy. The screenplay is absolutely marvelous. There's depth around every corner, filled with sub-plots that allows no filler for the film to contain. The story is told from Selieri's perspective, looking back at his life as he's now an old man. The audience witnesses the behavior of the musical legend, Mozart, through Selieri's eyes. All of the characters are so well-shaped that it kept me engrossed from start to finish. There's a lot beneath the surface of both Mozart and Salieri as both men are led to ruin. The dialogue is truly fantastic and really feels as if we're watching this story unfold during the 18th and 19th century. The screenplay certainly deserved its Oscar-win for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The cast is just as phenomenal as the script. The leads are both fantastic. However, even a supporting role, delivered by Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart is pretty incredible. F. Murray Abraham rightfully won the Academy Award for performing as Antonio Salieri. He's very convincing and does well playing off of the energy given by other actors, as well as his moments where he goes solo. His dialogue is delivered to perfection, just as Tom Hulce playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He's very accurate playing the immature, yet brilliant composer. Both Hulce and Abraham were in the same category in the Oscar race, which Abraham clearly won. However, both performances are believable to the point where it doesn't feel like we're watching actors. Elizabeth Berridge is great as Mozart's wife. She's a more underrated actress in this film that didn't get as much attention as she deserved. By the time the end of the film rolls around, her delivery is almost heartbreaking as her portrayal of Constanze Mozart feels all too real. Every actor in Amadeus is excellent, however the leads create the magic that has touched audiences around the world.

This isn't an action flick, so don't expect any explosions, chases, or gun fights. However, there are times where it becomes equally as intense. Mozart's music is utilized quite well to create the tension that's in place. Yet another Oscar win goes for the Best Costume Design. The costumes shown here are everything you would imagine they would be and more. The visuals used in Amadeus truly makes this film feel as if Director Milos Forman went back in time to capture what occurred. The time period is beautifully replicated. The audio quality is solid. Every note of music presents itself wonderfully through the speakers. Fans of classical music will be extremely satisfied with the results.

For those who haven't seen Amadeus, I highly recommend you rent it as soon as possible. Place your other movie rentals you're interested in aside and check this out instead. It's near-perfection on every level, from the screenplay to the acting to the visuals. There isn't really anything major to complain about here. Amadeus has aged marvelously as its just as relevant today as it was during its release in 1984. Even those who aren't a fan of classical music will highly enjoy this one. It's a beautifully executed piece of filmmaking that is sure to capture your attention from the moment it starts until the ending credits are rolling. Amadeus is highly recommended, all audiences should check this out as soon as they can.

My Rating = Five Stars

Next movie: The Hunger Games

Thursday: The Hunger Games

The film definitely has its share of flaws, but it's an overall solid motion picture.

The Hunger Games
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After the dreadful Twilight films were released, the tweens became obsessed with not only the story, but the main characters. To be quite honest, the series is awful, yet it received a lot of popularity and a large amount of money. The Hunger Games also originated from a book and is now being adapted into a feature film. I haven't read any of the books, but the fact it was being adapted certainly had me skeptical. Some audiences have been already calling this the next Twilight. This definitely had me rolling my eyes. The last thing the movie industry needs is another piece of garbage series to ruin a sub-genre. However, as more information regarding the cast and whatnot were released, it sparked my interest a little bit. Putting the cast aside, the story is extremely familiar. Those who enjoy these type of survival flicks will know very well what movie I am talking about. It's a Japanese film called Battle Royale. It's a brutal flick that is finally getting some recognition in America, however The Hunger Games has a lot of similar notes. Does it live up to the hype that it has been receiving or is it just another unfortunate tween craze?

In a distopian future ruled by a totalitarian regime, resourceful Katniss and her partner Peeta represent their district in the lethal Hunger Games. This is a televised survival competition in which teenage contestants hunt each other to the death. Only one can survive the match. Sounds extremely close to Battle Royale. While it borrows a lot of material, The Hunger Games brings plenty to the table. The beginning of the film is utilized to introduce the characters and constantly inform us of The Hunger Games and what the significance of it all is. After all of this backstory is put aside, we're left with a large amount of action and the film doesn't let up much until the ending. I was also doubtful about this motion picture because it possesses a PG-13 rating. If I'm watching a story of people fighting to the death, how can the camera capture very much of the action? The Hunger Games is surprisingly brutal for a PG-13 movie. It's not extremely violent, but there are a few deaths that I'm surprised the MPAA didn't tackle the movie for. The brutality is placed tastefully though, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem for younger audiences. When it comes to the dialogue, the movie is solid. Katniss is definitely a character I was able to root for and her dialogue shapes the role. You know all of those crazy action flicks where the hero is always invincible and never really appears to be in danger? Where people are shooting at them and they manage to dodge every bullet? Toss those expectations out the window. The Hunger Games provides us with a more believable central character that is very mortal and actually gets injured. I found myself caring a lot about her character and genuinely wanting her to pull through. The tension increases when a character people enjoy is in actual danger. To be honest, I'm surprised that there's an actual decent script here. The running time is a bit long, but I never felt bored or that it was being stretched to fill that time frame. The Hunger Games flows from start to finish and is surprisingly exciting along the way.

As mentioned in my introduction, one of the main reasons I wanted to check this movie out is the cast. When I say the cast, I primarily am talking about the main actress. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence has proven that she can play a variety of characters that are completely different from each other. She has pulled it off yet again in the character of Katniss. She's very convincing in this role, whether she's having a heartfelt moment with her sister or is running around the battlefield trying to survive. Lawrence delivers dialogue very naturally and has genuinely aided in bringing a role to life that the audience will be able to get behind and root for. Josh Hutcherson performs as the other person chosen from Katniss's district, Peeta Mellark. While he shine as bright as Jennifer Lawrence, he delivers an alright performance. He fits the character and provides enough believability in Peeta's moral standing on the situation. Elizabeth Banks is almost unrecognizable as Effie Trinket. Banks is decent in the role, although she doesn't receive very much screen time. However, her character has a few moments of comic relief, which she pulls of marvelously. There aren't any Oscar-winning performances here, but the entire cast has created a enjoyable set of characters. Jennifer Lawrence shines in the role of Katniss Everdeen and I'm sure this film will do nothing but boost her popularity. She's finally receiving the attention from Hollywood and moviegoers that she has deserved for quite some time now.

One of the biggest reasons why I was surprised by The Hunger Games is that it actually is able to create some tension. It's highly entertaining with actual substance behind it. Despite the fact that this isn't a pure blooded action flick, it blends the genres of action and drama well. All of the special effects and make-up work is very well done. Unfortunately, the handheld camera didn't always work. There are a few sequences where it's difficult to even see what's going on due to how shaky some scenes become. Fortunately, this doesn't occur too often, but it happens a couple times and is all too noticeable. This only occurs a couple times because the picture takes a different approach than just fight scenes. That would become stale all too quickly. Instead, there are a lot more strategic ways some of these tributes battle. It makes for a more interesting and tense feature. In order to receive the full experience, I recommend audiences to go to a theater with a strong sound system. The bass and the surrounds are very well-mixed and is the cherry on top in immersing the viewers into the world of The Hunger Games.

After all my trash talk, I will happily eat my words on what I have said over the past few months regarding The Hunger Games. It's a good movie that immerses its audience and doesn't let go until the credits are rolling. Fortunately, this is a film that both males and females will enjoy. There's something here for everybody. I haven't read the books, so I cannot speak about how strong of adaptation it is, so I'm only speaking on the quality of what's on the screen. The Hunger Games takes a lot from Battle Royale, although this is a much more tame version with a bunch of story alterations. Calling this movie similar to Twilight is an absolute insult to The Hunger Games. This movie actually respects its audience and provides us with a decent script, solid acting, and great visual effects. Even though this movie runs a little long for this type of motion picture, it's still extremely entertaining. The Hunger Games turned out much better than I thought it would. The film definitely has its share of flaws, but it's an overall solid motion picture. I'm actually looking forward to the sequel, but I can only hope that it will be as gripping as the first.

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: Rio

Saturday: Rio

Rio is recommended only for younger audiences.

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Animated motion pictures have proven to be for a larger audience than just children. Just because animation is used, doesn't mean that it's necessarily made just for kids. Pixar has proven this with their assortment of titles that have been created for all ages. With the high popularity and amount of money to be made in animation, a lot of big-name actors have been interested in voice acting. Rio scored Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Will i Am, and other well-known people. Especially with Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway voicing the leads, one would imagine Rio would have a very well-written screenplay with a charming story. Unfortunately, Rio isn't quite what I was hoping for. I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, but such names in the industry should be able to pick and choose what scripts they feel are actually something well-crafted and not just workable. Rio isn't the only movie to fall prey to this as a lot of movies with a-list actors have been ending up being a bit disappointing, although this is a film that many people have been calling 'charming.'

When a cooped-up macaw named Blu leaves the confines of his birdcage behind for the tropical climes of Rio de Janiero, he's forced to wing it and re-examine everything he knows about life and being a bird. Sound familiar? Whether or not you watch a lot of animated features, it should sound extremely familiar. This is essentially the same recycled story that we've seen numerous times, but with different animals and in a different setting. If you're looking for anything original, you aren't going to find that here. However, what Rio does correctly is remain light for the entire movie. This is most certainly an animated movie for primarily children. I don't see very many older audiences getting very much out of this one. The comedy isn't nearly as quick or witty as the competition from other studios' animation departments. I can imagine younger viewers enjoying the breezy comedy, but I found this to actually be a bit dull at times. I never laughed during this, I suppose it's because the comedy isn't aimed towards my age demographic. The film references a lot to the relationship between Rio and his owner, Linda. I would have liked if the filmmakers explored the relationship between them a little bit more. From beginning to end, Rio uses material in a bunch of other animated movies and it never feels like it's able to stand on its own. I simply never found myself attached to any of the characters on screen and didn't care very much for the plot to begin with. I'm sure that young children will enjoy Rio for what it's worth, but the screenplay isn't going to keep older viewers hooked. The cast is definitely impressive with a large amount of big-named actors. The voice acting from everybody is solid.

No matter how many animated feature films I see, the visuals will never stop surprising me. Rio has impressive digital work. The detail seen in the background, the landscapes, and the birds are impeccable. There are times that with these animated films that I forget I'm even watching an animated movie. Rio flows with perfect animation as it never misses a beat when it comes to the technical side of the motion picture. The audio quality is exceptional, as well. The surround sounds are constantly active, whether they're giving atmospheric effects or sounds from offscreen action. The dialogue is never difficult to hear as it's always loud and clear. Rio boasts a beautiful visual department. It's just a shame that the entire movie couldn't be as bright and colorful as the digital work.

The biggest issue that I have with Rio is the fact that the story isn't very interesting as it has been told too many times before. It doesn't try too hard to put a spin on anything to make it stand above the rest. Instead, it simply blends in with every single other animated feature with this plot. Even the impressive cast couldn't save the ultimately disappointing screenplay. I found the overall movie to be a bit boring as I didn't care for any of the characters and wasn't very amused by any of the humor. However, the technical portion of this film is truly perfection. Perhaps the filmmakers should have been more concerned with the script and a little less worried about the visual department. Rio is recommended for younger audiences, but older audiences should look elsewhere for his or her fill on animated features.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: Dark Tide