Exploring Film Criticism with my Newfound Perspective

As I am coming to the end of my semester filled with watching and analyzing films, I am, first off extremely thankful for such an amazing and eye opening opportunity to learn from someone with the amount of knowledge that Noel Manning has. This course has completely altered the way that I look at anything regarding media. Whether its films or tv, my brain has now been shifted into a mode of looking at the more technical aspects of things that I watch. Before this course, I simply just watched any and all film just simply for the entertainment purposes, and if I saw a film trailer that didn’t look good to me, odds are, I wasn’t going to go see that film. Now, even if the film trailer or film reviews do not interest me, I am more inclined to view the film and go into it with an open mind, not taking in any baggage, and sometimes I end up being surprised and enjoy the film.

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There are specific elements of film that have always stuck out to me when I am watching something, but now after learning all the information I have learned about film and all different aspects of it, these aspects that I have always been drawn towards are still the key things I am drawn towards, but I have a much deeper understanding and can analyze things better and enjoy the film even more for those reasons. These elements that stick out to me the most are cinematography layout, and editing of a film. Being a photographer/videographer, I am very articulate in my work, and I tend to look at films in theaters and analyze how the scenes are set up, or how the editing and cuts of clips are put together.

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Film has always had my appreciation, and I love to see different stories, but something that I have recently come to appreciate more than I used to, was just how much time goes into making films. Everything starts out with just a simple idea and someone’s head, and seeing scores of people come together to bring that little idea to life has really shocked me. From the cast, to the director and producers, to the camera people and crew, and even the people who simply bring food to set, it is astonishing to see how much everyone is able to put in to work towards a common goal and see a project through.

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This class has really been an eye opening experience, and it has given me a deeper appreciation for the success and evolution of the art form that we know and love as cinematography.It has encouraged me to make sure my work is the best it can be, and has allowed me to look at things from a different view, and bring that into my own life.

Who’s the boss baby?

The Boss Baby, directed by Tom McGrath, and staring Alec Baldwin is an animated film about family and the power that love plays into family. This film follows the story of Boss Baby, as he is sent on a mission, leaving his desk job behind at Baby Corp., the place where babies come from, and try and protect the company from the evil doings of Puppy Co. Little did boss baby know that his mission would turn into so much more when he met his family and his holder brother. This DreamWorks animated film provides a unique story as to where babies come from, and what their “jobs” are.

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My favorite scene of the movie was the scene of reuniting boss baby (Alec Baldwin) with the family he was assigned for his secret mission, all thanks to the help of his now older brother Tim Templeton (Miles Bakshi). Alec Baldwin, who played boss baby, easily gave the best performance of the film. This film is not the absolute most perfect film I’ve seen, but it certainly isn’t the worst film I’ve seen. This is my favorite film I have seen by Tom McGrath, seeing as it differs from his usual works such as the Madagascar films. This film involves human characters as the main characters of the film and show the struggles that both boss baby, and his brother Tim, go through as they get adjusted to life together.

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Writers Michael McCullers and Maria Frazee provided 3 interesting characters in this film. At the center of the film, you can look at the relationship between boss baby and his bother Tim. Their interaction and developing relationship really blossoms over the course of the film. Another interesting character to look at is the CEO of Puppy Co. Francis Francis as he plots to destroy Baby Corp. This film, although in a make believe world, left me feeling both sad at points, and filled with joy at other points. The voices felt real, and drew me into the story from the beginning. Narrated by Tobey Maguire, who plays the older Tim, this film drew me to the relationship of the siblings, and made me think back to when my younger sisters were born and the changes that took place as I went from an only child to having siblings. Alec Baldwin did an outstanding job going out of his normal, and portraying an animated baby.

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The funny dialogue, amazing animation style and crazy action scenes kept me entertained throughout the duration of this film, and I even caught onto some of the adult humor the writers threw in there which made the film even more enjoyable. I give this film an A.

What does family mean to you?

A Quiet Place follows actors John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as they, along with their children, try to survive after creatures from another planet invade. The only catch is, they must do it without speaking a single word. With little backstory, other than the scenes of old newspapers, all we know as the viewers is that these creatures are dangerous and attach literally anything and anyone that creates noise. While this film may appeal to most as a horror film filled with monsters and plenty of jump scares, the underlying storyline discovered throughout the film is a father who will do whatever it takes to protect his family from this global disaster and invasion, all while trying to live as normal of a life as possible. Based around family, this film is a small cast made up of only 6 cast members known as the Abbott family. The Abbotts truly go through their ups and downs in this film, and provide the message that family is the most important thing there is.

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The main conflict, which is quite clear, is that the Abbotts must remain quiet, in order to prevent an attack from these murderous monsters. Another conflict that we learn from very on, is that Mrs. Abbott, amidst the chaos of this crazy event, is with child. This brings forth a whole new level of tension and nervousness as she deals with the effects of being pregnant, SILENTLY. While mainly a silent movie with the first spoken words not coming in until nearly 40 minutes into the film, A Quiet Place takes a unique direction of using sign language as a form of communication. This really shed light on the film, while also casting Millicent Simmonds, a true deaf person, making it unlike any horror film that has been made. The films lighting and scenes fit perfectly with the intensity of each and every moment, and this film was an overall success.

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Written, directed and staring John Krasinski, this film focuses on the importance of family, and how to overcome obstacles unlike any other. With a rating of PG-13 for some bloody images and scenes for terror, this film is surly a film for a family with children of the appropriate age to enjoy. The message behind everything provides a great life lesson. I give this film an A.

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Mankind was born on Earth, but was it meant to die here?

“Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” This was the reoccurring quote that was said multiple times throughout this film as Cooper leads his team through the universe on an “Interstellar” journey to find a new home for their dying earth. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer during the decline of the earth, where all the crops are dying out forever, and dust is slowly taking over the world. Formerly a pilot, Cooper and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn) stumble upon a secret NASA base following a supernatural event they witness. Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Brand (Anne Hathaway) convince Cooper to leave his family and this world behind to travel throughout the universe to find a world that will be able to be inhabited by mankind. Along the way, Cooper and his team run into a variety of problems that could ultimately change the fate of the world for better or for worse.

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Director Christopher Nolan took this Travelers genre of Science Fiction, and added very scientific principles such as theories of time, gravity, and even the theory of relativity. This scientifically mathematically driven film drives the story as Cooper is essentially battling time to find a solution for the worlds problem and make it back home before the world ceases to exist. But the true question is, what is out there, and will it be able to save the human race? Cooper along with his team deal with a great amount of conflict throughout the duration of this film. The deal with the conflict against time, as they travel through a wormhole, time becomes relative, and an hour of their time could be as much as 7+ years back on Earth. Cooper also deals with man vs. man conflict as his team encounters another scientist who had previously set out on the same mission. This scientist Mann (Matt Damon), has been driven mad by being alone for so long, and would even go to the extent of killing Cooper and his crew or just marooning them on a baron planet. Now while all of this is happening, everything that is going on in space, affects life back on Earth. Murph, now a grown adult, never forgave her father for leaving, but one inciting moment in which she possibly discovers how to save the world and bring her father home, could change everything.

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This film succeeded greatly in box office for many different reasons. The visual effects of this film are outstanding, leading it to win best visual effects for 2014. The way it portrayed space and time was outstanding. The score, written by Hans Zimmer, propelled this film to great success, and the music only intensified every single moment, making the emotions that the actors were feeling even all more real. I give the success of this film to the score and the incorporation of it into the film, along with the outstanding visuals that made every scene breathtaking, and making the viewers stay glued to the screen. The film, while it entertained, had a deeper meaning of love, and how a few brave soles risked their lives to save the ones they loved and to save humanity. Being rated PG-13, I think this film is suitable for families, and for anyone who may be interested in a film of this magnitude. Interstellar was a Science-Fiction film unlike any other, and it was certainly out of this world and it has undoubtedly unearned an A+

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Ansel Elgort makes his mark in this high speed, car chasing love story.

Baby Driver” follows Baby (Ansel Elgort) as he leads cops on high speed chases through the city of Atlanta following his many encounters being the driver man for a ring of heist personnel. While on his many jobs, Baby has a run in with a beautiful girl who drives his motives to escape his life of crime. All of this driven into a single story, encompassed by a soundtrack that is played through earbuds that Baby listens to 24/7 to motivate him, makes for a wild film with some crazy car chases, some crazy music, and some crazy love.

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This film, while not seen to the world as a musical, is an “Atmospheric Musical”, driven by a soundtrack with a wide variety of songs that propel the story and add to the intensity and emotion. The impact of this film is monumental. The music is the film, and everything revolves around the music including timing of actions and other natural sound in the film, and even words from the song show up on screen hidden and unless you are looking for them, you are sure to miss them. Music has such an impact on the film, that Baby, at one point in the film, makes the other members of the heist wait to start the job for him to restart the song to match the moment.

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Baby, in this film is a hero, who finds love and sets out to let his love, a girl named Deborah (Lily James), who shares his love for music, and the two spark up an instant connection. But with every love story, there is always something that comes to ruin the love. In this case, the people Baby work with, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), Bats (Jamie Foxx) and Doc (Kevin Spacey), find out of his connection with Deborah and threaten to harm her if he doesn’t comply and do as they tell him. This drives the story, which is very much a character who goes through struggles with himself internally, as well as external struggles with other people, and his struggle with love. Baby struggles with himself, trying to figure out how to get out of his line of work, while making sure the girl he cares about, doesn’t get hurt. This sparks conflict with Bats, who kills anyone and everyone he doesn’t like, and Baby must figure out how to deal with Bats while making sure he keeps Deborah safe.

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The director of the film, Edgar Wright, did an outstanding job at directing such a unique film and making sure that the music, or score for the film, was the centerpiece and what literally and figuratively drove the film. The lighting was great, and I loved the unique style of cinematography used. There were some very neat angles that made for some very dramatic scenes and added to the hype of the film. In my opinion, this film was a huge success. This was a unique idea and an original, not coming from any book or TV show or anything, and it held its own, made a name for itself, and succeeded both on screen and in the box office. It was a great entertainment piece, giving both action and love, rated R, I do not suggest this film for families with young children, but I do think it is a great film for many people to enjoy. With all this being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am driven to give it an A+.

Adaptations/Biopics film review: Spider-Man (2002)

For this week’s film review, I decided to review the first film for my semester project: Spider-Man from 2002 directed by Sam Raimi. Not only is this film merely a superhero movie, it is also a love story. This film follows a high school senior by the name of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). Parker has always been seen as the nerd of the school, being big into science, and being a photographer for the school newspaper. Parker is bitten by a lab grown spider that ultimately gives him the superpowers that a spider has. After watching his uncle Ben die after being shot by a thief that Parker had just recently helped, he knew that he was destined for so much more. He took on the role of Spider-Man, swinging around NYC stopping crimes. It wasn’t until the Green Goblin came into the picture that Parker realized that he was the cities only hope in stopping this villain. Green Goblin, or Norman Osborn, played by William Dafoe, is the outcome of a lab experiment gone wrong. Osborn, fueled by his anger, seeks to take out all the people that caused him all his pain and anger.

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Now on the topic of the love story aspect of the film, Peter has always been in love with Mary Jane Watson played by Kirsten Dunst. She ends up dating Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, and best friend of Peter. After Spider-Man saves her life on numerous occasions, Mary Jane and Spider-Man spark up a mystery love relationship with MJ not knowing her loves true identity. Tying this into the action, the inciting moment is when Green Goblin discovers Spider-Man’s true identity and discovers his love for MJ and seeks to bring down the hero by attempting to kill everyone he loves. This causes a man vs man conflict as Spider-Man throws down against Green Goblin to save the one he loves, and protect the city. While he isn’t successful, this motive provides true meaning for Spider-Man to do what his is doing.

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This film, while the first in a trilogy, originated from the Spider-Man comics written by Stan Lee, who writes all of the marvel comics. This film, while it may be not a perfect comparison to the original comics, is a very good adaptation and provides many of they key aspects in the origin story. Without a doubt, this film is an action packed love story, and I think the movie speaks for itself when I say that this is very clear after watching the film. It is a very character focused film, following Peter as he evolves into the superhero he is.

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Cinematography for this film is incredible, and for the year it was released, achieved things way beyond its time with its quick cuts, dramatic angles, advanced CGI, and a use of the color orange to portray a feeling of warmth, but also apocalyptic with all the troubles seen. The acting in this film is great for being released in 2002, and being a great entertainment film with all its action, it succeeded greatly by being the first of its kind, grossing over $821 million since its release. This film, in my opinion, sparked the rise in popularity for superhero films that we all love today. It also succeeded by being a family friendly film with the rating of PG-13 that all can enjoy. I distinctly remember growing up watching this film on VHS after school on a weekly basis, and I have always loved it. I give this film an A+.

My Family Video Experience

Hey everyone! Drew Peden here,

I had an experience the other day that I have not experienced in at least 5 years. I made a trip down to the Family Video store in Shelby, NC. Now you may ask yourself how is this even still a thing with Netflix and online streaming services taking over the world? Well here in the town of Shelby, there is still a walk in movie rental store, much like Blockbuster, in which you drive to the store, walk around and look at tons of different movies and rent the one you want to watch and then you return it to the store when you’re done watching it. Usually stores like this give you a few days to watch it and return it in case you are saving it for a date or even just wanting to watch it multiple times. There is a Family Video in my home town of Spartanburg, SC so I was not shocked when I went into this one, it looks pretty much the same.

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This experience of actually entering a store and having a physical copy of the movie or movies in your hand, is way better satisfying to me. Not only are there more options to choose from than the streaming services, but there are also newly released movies that find their way into the Family Video store weeks or even months before it is possibly released on Netflix. The majority of the movies that come out now are hardly put on Netflix, and if they are, it takes months on end for it to actually happen. I truly feel like physical video stores like Family Video still survive due to multiple reasons. Yes, this is a day and age of technology and online streaming, but there is still a large population of poor people in this country and on this earth who cant afford a streaming service, so for them, going to a video store and getting things to watch is their only means of seeing films. Also, there is a population myself included, who is very into the retro aspect of things, including a video store. I feel as if people born before 2000 understand this, and realize that growing up as a kid, nothing was more fun than going into a video store picking out a few movies or even video games at some stores, maybe grabbing a few snacks like popcorn or candy, taking it home, and having a movie night with your family or friends. In my opinion, video stores like this are still relevant and sometimes the only means of options, and I stated the consumer base film stores like this might reach. I really enjoy the “old school” way of walking into a store not knowing what ill find, and possibly even picking out a movie or 2 that you’ve either never heard of, or that you wouldn’t normally watch or even be able to find on a streaming service. Overall, I enjoyed my time visiting Family Video, and I will most likely be returning to pick out a few films to watch on a date.

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Story Evaluation: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Hey guys Drew Peden here with another movie review. This time, I had a wide variety of films to pick from in the group labeled as “History & Hollywood”. Now while there was a huge variety of films to pick from, I have never actually seen any of the films on the list until now. The film I chose to watch and review was none other than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” directed by Stephen Spielberg. This film, released in 1977 follows Roy Neary as he has a close encounter with what turn out to be aliens from space. Neary is driven crazy after his close encounter at the beginning of the film, and it drives him crazy as he sees visions of a mountain that he can not figure out. His insanity drives him and his family apart as he beings to as his family sees it “lose his mind”, and ultimately you see him finding the location in which he has been having visions of, and he sets out on a quest to find what his vision has shown him. Now along the same story line, Jillian Guiler has these same visions following a string of events caused by her son Barry. Barry is a young boy who at the beginning of the film has the first encounter with the aliens, and  chases the aliens all through town in the middle of the night. His mother ultimately brings him home and feels as if he is safe, only to have him actually abducted by the aliens and taken away. This drives Guiler crazy and she along with Neary, who share the same vision of the mountain, set out to find what their visions have told them. Their visions lead them to a location known as Devils Tower in Wyoming, where they run into each other again, as well as run into another group of people who have all had the same visions and traveled across the world to find this place. The two of them evade the military who is trying to keep them from going to the tower, and once they reach the far side of the mountain, they witness a large group of government officials bringing the extraterrestrials to the base, and communicating with them. Ultimately the aliens release Barry, along with countless other people they had abducted over the period of many years. The last scene of the movie involves Neary along with a group of other people being lined up, and a group of small aliens come out and pick him out of the group, and take him into their UFO and then fly off into space.

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The inciting incident of the film that really got me hooked was when Barry, the little boy was taken, and I was hooked to see if they ever got him back. The story question to me was, what do the aliens want, why are they abducting random people, and what is making both Roy Neary and Jillian Guiler have these similar visions that drive them mad and lead them to the location. I see this film as a Science Fiction Adventure. Science Fiction, because of the aliens or “the Third Kind” as the title portrays, adventure because of the quest that Neary sets out on throughout the film to find out what his vision is and why it is driving him crazy, also because of the risks that both Neary and Guiler take to reach the other side of the mountain to see what they have been having visions of. This film is defiantly a film to entertain the viewers and give them an escape to the paranormal. In my opinion, this film did follow the Freytag Pyramid Story Structure as all events that started the film off, built up to the climax where the aliens finally show up and the humans have an up close encounter with them. This film fits in Blake Snyder’s “Dude with a Problem” category when a sudden event occurs, causing the protagonist, Roy Neary, to act out and follow his visions and not let anything get in his way. Neary, to me, is an accidental hero. He never planned to have such a close encounter, but once he did, he rose to the occasion, and ultimately led Jillian Guiler back to her son.

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This film had a focus on the plot, seeing as most of the film revolved around there mysterious lights that nobody could catch, and everyone realized that they were aliens, and only a few people were actually brave to search for them and ultimately have an up close and personal encounter. The film conveys a feeling of suspense as you’re on the edge of your seat wanting to figure out what the aliens are up to and what they will do next. There is also somewhat of a focus on character, as for the most of the film, you’re seeing it through the perspective of Roy Neary and his transformation and his quest. There is also a focus on the other main character, Jillian Guiler and her struggles to find her young son Barry again. There was a great deal of struggle in this film, for example Roy Neary having an internal conflict with himself as he was haunted by these visions and seemed to drive him mad. Both Neary and Guiler had conflict with other people as they struggled to evade military personnel who were hired to keep people away from the epicenter of the big event with the aliens. There was also a man vs. man conflict as all the humans were scared of the encounters with the aliens.

To me, the weakest part of the film was the poor acting that arose in specific scenes. It was very clear that everything was very scripted, and the actors sometimes did not do such a good job at trying to truly act out the emotions of a scene. This film was a great success for being produced in 1977, seeing as it made me very curious and left me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what was going to happen next. I thought overall, the film was a good watch. I had always heard of the film and that it was a “classic” as my parents put it, and I enjoyed it. I’m giving this film an A-.

50+ Years old interview

Hey guys! Drew Peden here,

For my assignment I interviewed my father. My father is Thomas Edward Peden (Eddie for short), and he is 56 years old. My father has lived in the Upstate of South Carolina his entire life, and for as long as I’ve been alive, multiple times a year, my father would take my entire family to see new movies coming out! My father loves movies of all sort, and while I wouldn’t classify him as a film junkie, he has collected over 500 DVDs over the years that I’m pretty sure we have all watched together at some point. My dad is very old school, and my family still owns a VHS player with a collection of about 80 VHS tapes from the years. I decided to sit down with my dad over the weekend and ask him a few of the questions that were listed for use. So with that, ill jump right into our interview about his experience with movies.

1)What was one of the first films you remember watching in theatre?

The very first movie I watched was when I was around 6 years old. I remember my mother and grandmother taking me to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I saw it at the drive in theatre In my moms mustang. We had to crack our window and have a sound box hanging on our window as we watched the movie and ate popcorn!

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2) What do you remember about those early film experiences?

I always looked forward to watching movies at both the drive in and movie theatre. My family didn’t get to go all that often, but when we did, I loved being able to go sit and watch comedies or any movie my mom would take me to see. The food was typical as all movie theatres, with popcorn and soda, and if I was good enough that week, I may have even gotten to get some sort of candy. The theatre we went to the most was the local one down the street from my house and I felt like I was in a different planet sitting in those chairs watching and laughing and having a good time.

3) Did you ever go to Drive-In Movies when you were younger? What do you remember about those?

Drive-Ins were the first kind of movie I ever went to. Those were always my favorite movie experiences because it meant I got to stay out late, and I got to eat lots of popcorn and I never had to leave to comfort of my mother’s car.

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4) How often do you go to theatres now to see films? How different is it now than when you first experienced films in theaters? What do you attribute the changes to?

Well now that I am an adult, working full time, I don’t get to go to movies as much as I used to in my high school days when I was able to drive on my own and not work. Now, I try and take my family to the movies at least 10 times a year. We mainly go on big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we do try and go their times just so we can get out and go see something new! We go see movies a lot more than I used to growing up, but not as much as I used to as a teen. This is because of our crazy schedule and me being at work most of the time.

5) Any other comments about your movie experience/history that you think is important, or that you’d like to share?

The movie going scene, while at its base hasn’t changed all that much, theatres have gotten a lot more modern and high tech with better quality movies and even 3D. The only real thing that has changed dramatically is the prices. Never in my life would I have ever thought a single movie ticket would cost me as much as $12 dollars, sometimes more. I miss drive-in movies and I wish there were more of them around. I know the one I used to go to in Greenwood is still in business and is actually doing relatively good. It is called 25 Drive In. Movies have always been one of my favorite activity, and I can’t wait until the next time I get to go!

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