Break (Otryv) (2019)

Break (Otryv) (2019)

Break 2019 posterDirected by: Tigran Sahakyan. Starring: Irina Antonenko, Denis Kosyakov, Andrey Nazimov. Runtime: 1h 25 min. Released: December 3, 2019 (DVD & Digital premiere).

Break is a Russian survival thriller starring five twenty-somethings celebrating New Years Eve on top of a mountain. Instead, they get stuck in a gondola lift on their way up to the mountain and make the best of it by partying hundreds of feet in the air over a mountainside. When the booze is gone, hangovers and misguided survival instincts take over.

I’m a fan of these one-location thrillers and the premise is what made me want to watch this. I noticed the 4.3 IMDb rating but I don’t go into a film expecting to dislike. I should have skipped this because it seems it was released for North American audiences in a terrible English dub instead of the Russian dialogue. This film is exactly why I can’t watch English dub-overs because it makes this honestly unwatchable.

It makes it harder to judge the acting. There are zero points where anyone can showcase good acting, other than a goodbye message like The Blair Witch Project. What I saw from the trailer on YouTube in its original Russian dialogue, Irina Antonenko seems totally okay as the star, Katya. I’ll generally never judge a performance based on a trailer, but I have to here because the terrible, flat English dub takes all the life out of the performances.

It’s just a bizarre thing that this film is so Americanized, with bad copyright free indie music to boot. It’s a little movie no one would widely see anyway, so an option to watch this with the original Russian dialogue would have been great. The rest of the film isn’t amazing, anyway. The character work’s one-note.

Break, articleKatya wants to break up with her boyfriend Kirill (Andrey Nazimov), and the reason why isn’t really explained. There’s no chemistry either as their storyline is developed separately. Kirill decides not to get on the gondola because he’s missing his bag; and Katya’s insistent on staying on.

Kirill serves as more of a story device than person because he’s the only who knows they’re on the gondola. The reason why they’re stuck on the gondola is stronger than an irresponsible worker just leaving, but it’s a little cartoonish. The reason why they’re on the gondola so long is weak, and it’s because the mountain employees just use the other chairlift instead because the workers are too lazy to see why this gondola is stuck on its tracks. It’s lazy writing.

The character dynamics are boring, too. Denis (Denis Kosyakov) and Vika (Ingrid Olerinskaya) are a dull boyfriend-girlfriend couple on the gondola. The worst character is the single Roma (Mikhail Fillipov), at first appearing to be the comic relief but he turns into a cartoonish villain when his survival instincts kick in. I don’t mind when characters show their true colours and become villains because there’s a reason for it, but he just turns into a massive jerk for conflict.

As for the reason I watched this film, its premise, the execution of it is weak as it’s just a boring film. The ideas the characters think of to try get out of their situation are weak and most of the conflict comes from the horribly written Roma. When nothing about the film is interesting, it’s hard to create any tension in this situation. The effects don’t make it look like they’re convincingly suspended so high in the air. Director Tigran Sahakyan does a poor job of giving scale to their situation. My palms usually sweat easily in movies like this when because of the height or tension, but my hands were dry as a bone. If you want a film with a similar premise, Adam Green’s Frozen, about a trio of skiers stranded on a chairlift, is a superior film in every way.

Score: 25/100

Frozen 2 (2019)

Frozen 2 (2019)

Frozen II posterDirected by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad. Runtime: 1h 43 min. Released: November 22, 2019.

I’m a big fan of the original Frozen and six years later, it’s fun to revisit the characters but it doesn’t work nearly as well. When Elsa (Idina Menzel) starts hearing a mysterious siren voice, she inadvertently awakens an enchanted forest by singing the Oscar-nominated song “Into the Unknown” to it.

Soon, Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad) leave the comfort of Arendelle to travel to the autumn-bound enchanted forest and set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.

The heart of the film is Elsa trying to find herself and her origins, and that is well-written. She’s only ever wanted answers for who she is and her journey of self-discovery rings true. The overall plot only works when it’s focused on Elsa.

Idina Menzel’s the star here. Her song “Into the Unknown” is great but “Show Yourself” is the real hidden gem of this film. It’s the most memorable emotional moment in the film and it’s an honest show-stopper, and if I ever re-watch this film, it will be for this sequence alone.

Frozen II idina
Idina Menzel in Frozen 2. (IMDb)

Josh Gad still works well as Olaf and his Samantha bit is hilarious. His one solo song “When I Am Older” is fine. The songs are still adequately catchy – you’ll hum a couple of them, if anything – but they aren’t that memorable. Jennifer Lee’s writing is also so concerned with Elsa, Anna gets a boring storyline.

Kristen Bell still brings her A-game but she doesn’t get much to do here. Her voice is pretty during “The Next Right Thing,” but she’s sidelined for most of the first half of the film it’s not that emotionally strong as it should be. She finally gets her chance to shine in the third act, but for the most part she’s limited to trying to tag along with Elsa to protect her, though Elsa needs to do this on her own.

The relationship between Anna and Kristoff is annoying. Kristoff spends the film trying to propose to Anna. He keeps saying the wrong thing, digging himself into a deeper hole, that sends Anna on tangents misunderstanding what he’s saying.

It’s played for comedy but it made me cringe. It’s annoying because it becomes apparent this bit will be the focus of their relationship, as Kristoff’s poor communication turns their story into a bad romantic comedy. Conflict caused by poor communication is a giant pet peeve of mine, and I expect to see it in romantic comedies, but not Frozen 2.

That’s what Kristoff is written as here, a walking miscommunication. At one point, he wanders off to plan an elaborate proposal as the others go on without him. This is where Kristoff sings his solo song “Lost in the Woods” as he fears Anna is leaving him behind. It’s a love ballad that’s filmed like it aired on MTV, a moment of self-parody that doesn’t really work here.

Frozen II article
Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Idina Menzel in Frozen II. (IMDb)

It’s unfortunate a lot of this doesn’t work because there’s a lot of good, even great, things about Frozen 2. The animation’s breathtaking. The visuals make this worth watching even if I don’t love the story, because some of the animation is what I’ll remember best about this. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee also do an awesome job directing the action scenes.

The enchanted forest as a setting is great and it answers questions from the first film in rewarding ways, and the tribe within this forest is very interesting. Also, the elements of nature are handled so creatively here. This whole aspect is smart and well-written, and the only great scenes in this film involve Elsa.

I wish I could have tunnel vision just for Elsa’s story, because everything about it is perfect. Alas, the peripherals and other aspects of the film border on weak, and, as a whole story, the same magic of the first film isn’t here.

Score: 63/100

Note: Apparently 19-year-old me loved the original Frozen (review here), so much I gave it a 97/100. I love the original but man, now that’s a high score.

Top 20 Films of 2013

This list is a lot late, but I still wanted to see a few more films before making my list. I still have a lot to go, but I’m pleased with the current Top 20 I have at the moment. I might do an article later in the year with an unofficial updated list, just to show how what films might have made the cut if I’d seen them before making the list. Without further ado, here’s my Top 20… I was going to have the whole list displayed in pictures, but the formatting was off for the first half so only the Top 10 are displayed with pictures.

20. Pain & Gain
19. The Kings of Summer
18. Spring Breakers
17. Dallas Buyers Club
16. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
15. The Place Beyond the Pines
14. Captain Phillips
13. Evil Dead
12. The Conjuring
11. The World’s End

10. The Way Way Back
10. The Way Way Back
9. 12 Years a Slave
9. 12 Years a Slave
8. This is the End
8. This is the End
7. Mud
7. Mud
6. The Hunger Games - Catching Fire
6. The Hunger Games – Catching Fire
5. Frozen
5. Frozen
4. Her
4. Her
3. About Time
3. About Time
2. Prisoners
2. Prisoners
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
1. The Wolf of Wall Street

 

Honourable mentions: Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, 42, Saving Mr. Banks and The Great Gatsby


 

Now this is my bottom 5 of 2013…

The Lords of Salem
The fifth worst film of 2013: The Lords of Salem
The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III
The fourth worst film: The Hangover Part III
Third worst: Movie 43
Third worst: Movie 43
Second worst: Grown Ups 2
Second worst: Grown Ups 2
The worst film of 2013 is... Scary Movie 5
The worst film of 2013 is… Scary Movie 5

 

Any thoughts on my thoughts? Sound off in the comments if you still want to do a bit of reminiscing of what 2013 had to offer! 🙂

 

Box Office Predictions: March 7-9

While “The Lego Movie” is still going strong, this weekend is seeing a release of some straight competition for it: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” It’s an animated time travel family comedy that looks like fun. Similar films open at $38.1 million, and I think this has potential to hit around there, probably not pass $40 million because of the competition from “LEGO” (now at about $213 million domestically), but hit around there nonetheless. My prediction is $35.3 million.

The other new release this weekend is “300: Rise of an Empire,” the sequel to 2007’s smash hit that opened on the same weekend to the sound of $70 million. People love their war movies, but I wonder if people won’t dig this as much without the direction of Zack Snyder. This was supposed to be released in August of last year but was postponed to this weekend, so hopefully it’s worth the wait. (I really hope it’s good because I love the poster and it’d look awesome on my wall.) Similar films open at $32 million, a little less than half of 300‘s opening weekend. With the difference of seven years between this and the first film, it’s been able to muster quite the fanbase (it stands at a 7.8 on IMDb from over 450 thousand ratings), but this won’t have nearly as great as an opening weekend. An opening of $44.7 million sounds more likely.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:

1. 300: Rise of an Empire$44.7 million
2. Mr. Peabody and Sherman$35.3 million
3. Non-Stop$15.68 million
4. The Lego Movie$15.621 million
5. Son of God$14.081 million (review coming in the a.m.)
6. The Monuments Men$3.211 million
7. Frozen$3.094 million
8. RoboCop $2.254 million
9. 3 Days to Kill$2.252 million
10. Pompeii $2.001 million

January 31 to February 2 Box Office Predictions

The two films being released the last weekend of January is “Labor Day” and “That Awkward Moment.”

The idea of a film called Labor Day being released in January is a bit of a funny idea. At 2584 theatres, this is the widest initial release for any Jason Reitman film yet. Similar films debut at $9.7 million. I doubt this film will hit double digits this weekend – I saw it yesterday, and I wasn’t a big fan of it. My review will be posted late Friday or Saturday. This is starting the February romantic craze two weeks early before Valentine’s Day, but I wonder how many are in the romantic mood. Anyway, my prediction for this is $7.7 million.

But if people are in the romantic mood, I think “That Awkward Moment” might be a better date night choice. It looks funny and it’s about relationships where people are in that state where they ask “Where’s this going?” It seems like one of those “The do’s and do not’s of dating” sort-of flicks. I’m sold on the cast, practically, well three out of four of them – I like Efron, and Michael B. Jordan especially – I still have to see him in “Fruitvale Station”, though – and Imogen Poots is good, she’s one of the only things I liked about “All is By My Side.” I’m undecided about Miles Teller, but I’ve only seen him in “Project X” and “21 & Over,” and since I hated both of those – I’ve only seen Teller work with shitty material. I might have to wait to see “The Spectacular Now” to form a stronger opinion about him. Anyway, films similar to this open at $13.7 million. What I’m curious about is, will this open closer to “21 and Over’s” $8.7 million, or “Project X’s” $21 million? Since it has Zac Efron, I think it’ll open to $18.3 million.

As for as the first holdover for “I Frankenstein,” I think it’s likely it’ll drop at least 50%, probably more like 57% since when it grosses such a low number – at $8.6 million – it usually just shuffles out of theatres. It seems to me that it will be in its second-rate theatre run by February 7th, depending on how it does this weekend. But if you want to see it in theatres, I’d get on it!

Here’s how I see the Top 10:

1. “That Awkward Moment”: $17.3 million
2. “Ride Along”: $13.4 million
3. “The Nut Job”: $8.3
4. “Lone Survivor”: $8.2 million
5. “Labor Day”: $7.7 million
6. “Frozen“: $7.3 million
7. “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”: $6.3 million
8. “American Hustle“: $5.3 million
9. “I, Frankenstein”: $4.9 million
10. “The Wolf of Wall Street“: $4.5 million

Frozen (2013)

FrozenReleased: November 27, 2013. Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Starring (voices): Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel. Runtime: 1o2 min.

I heard that “Frozen” utilizes music to assist its narrative and to portray the character’s feelings, but I didn’t think there’d be a musical number right off the bat. There’s a cute reindeer and a cute little kid on the screen while working men are singing a working song while loading ice onto sleds. The catchy tune and the beautiful landscapes hooked me right away. I couldn’t help but wonder why the landscape looked green and wasn’t frozen? The story starts when the two princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), are children. The two sisters are best friends, until a near death-experience for Anna, when Elsa and her were playing, wipes her memory of Elsa’s true powers and makes their parents want to hide the two princesses from the kingdom in order to hide her powers.

When Elsa becomes the Queen of the Kingdom of Arendelle, she has to interact with the people. She is scared of what the people would think if her powers were exposed, while Anna could not be happier to be let out of the castle. Later on in the night, Elsa’s powers are exposed in a fit of impatience, and when she runs away, she puts unintentionally puts the kingdom in an eternal winter. Anna must set out on a perilous journey climbing snowy mountains accompanied by a worker bee Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a trusty snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).

I thought this might have been a bit more like “Narnia” where the kingdom has been trapped in a winter for awhile because she didn’t know how to reverse it; not where the kingdom is trapped twenty or so minutes in. I didn’t mind, though. It’s interesting to see the way the citizens have to adapt to the sudden change of weather. The character designs look absolutely great; the princesses are really beautiful, and great additions to the Disney princesses line-up. There’s one character called Hans (Santino Fantana), who Anna falls for pretty quickly. Elsa is a realistic character who doesn’t think people should marry each other after knowing each other eight hours. Many might expect Kristoff to be the initial love interest, but it’s refreshing how that isn’t the case.

Anna is a great character because she is so full of wonder at everything, and you’d be, too, after being trapped in a castle after all those years. The isolation is reminiscent of other animated films, but it’s handled so well in this. Anna’s curiosity is entrancing, and it’s heartwarming how she wants to love her sister so badly even though she feels like she doesn’t know her anymore. It’s heartbreaking, too, because Elsa is afraid of hurting her sister again. It seems that Elsa is an antagonist to herself because she is scared of what her powers might do to others, but she still has a lot of love in her heart, even though she struggles with it. A lot of these emotions are portrayed through incredible original songs.

She’s not a villain, but an anti-hero who doesn’t mean to harm others unless endangered- or so it seems to me. She has a great sense of self-empowerment, really, as shown in “Let It Go” – a song that also shows she is accepting her true self. I love the bond of sisterhood portrayed here. One main antagonist is the Duke of Weaselton (Alan Tudyk), who sees Elsa as a sort-of Frankenstein. And there’s a giant snowman called Marshmallow that Elsa makes to protect her. Other than them, there’s not many antagonists, but a lot of conflict – and a whole lot of entertainment.

The music is one of the best parts about the film, and the voicework is memorable. The bonds between all of these characters are fascinating. I think the singing is just excellent. Jonathan Groff is pretty good, I liked him best when he was doing his voice for his reindeer Sven. His mannerisms are very funny, especially when his tongue hangs out. It’s also refreshing that the animal can’t talk. Yet, there’s a talking snowman. Olaf is hilarious, and a bulk of the comic relief, but other characters in the film are funny, too. This is just entertaining and remarkable. The animation is also outstanding, snow has never looked so beautiful in an animated film. The landscapes are just quite breathtaking.

I hope there are more films made that have stories based in Norway. It’s kinda cool. (I didn’t really realize it was a Nordic country until a scene featuring a character with a very Nordic accent.) What I think is really great about this movie, is that even though it has themes that Disney has used before – love, accepting oneself, sisterhood, all those great themes that help improve the narrative – it still has the ability to surprise and mesmerize, manage to solve conflicts in refreshing ways, and make classic themes feel original – and that’s quite an achievement.

Score97/100

The Grey (2012)

The Grey

Release Date: January 27, 2012

Director: Joe Carnahan

Stars: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

Runtime: 117 min

Tagline: Live or die on this day.

The Grey was a pleasant surprise.

After their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, six oil-workers are led to survival by a skilled huntsman (Neeson). What they soon find out is that they are being stalked by a pack of hungry wolves.

It’s actually a pretty great thrill ride, and I cannot think of any other survival film that I had a better time with than this. Liam Neeson delivers in this film, along with others who I was quite impressed by.

I liked how they did the casting in a fashion of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in the way that they had one central, well-known actor (in this case: Neeson; in Cuckoo’s Nest case: Jack Nicholson) and other moderately unknown (as I was hardly familiar with any of the other actors, with the exception of James Badge Dale as I had seen him in The Conspirator and the bad film adaptation of Lord of the Flies) actors. In this fashion, the audience takes more to the lead actor.

I was rather satisfied with the film, and the direction (as I didn’t like Carnahan’s project, Smokin’ Aces).

The thrills were grand, the plot execution was actually pretty impressive, and the character development was quite good. The only two complaints I have about the film is that at times, there was too much talking and not enough action – which, in turn, made for swell character development. It was also really quite anti-climactic; but just fast forward to after the end credits, there’s a really brief scene.

It was filled with thrills, pure entertainment, and quite a few sentimental moments.

And it has a really awesome poem that’s a nice theme of the film: “Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.”

The film is like an awesome mix between Frozen and the badass qualities of a really good Liam Neeson action flick.

If survival films, or Liam Neeson, or good movies in general are your thing, this is a film that is worth checking out. It offered nice thrills and good characters.

80/100