Friday, December 17, 2010

True Grit: Not a great Cohen film, but a great Western

One thing people need to be careful of when watching remakes of movies is the nostalgia factor. That’s when a person has seen the original film a considerably long time ago, and over the years has built ups some sort of standard of the movie made from their memories. This standard they take into the theater when they go and see the remake, and because of nostalgia, incorrectly deem the new movie far worse or better than their memories of the original. There are two problems to this approach. The first is that any film should be judged on it’s own merit, let alone someone’s memories of a previous film. Secondly, usually people’s memories of a movie are wildly skewed. They take something they may have a fond memory of and put it on a pedestal. More often than not however, the original wasn’t that good to begin with. Take my experience with the original Clash of the Titans and the original Tron. I always remembered how awesome they were when I watched them as a kid, but seeing them more recently has proven that they do not age well and really weren’t that good to begin with. All that being said, anyone who actually goes down the path of making a ‘Remake’ consciously knows they are stepping into this nostalgia factor situation, and therefore I say all’s fair in the comparison department.

The original True Grit is not the cinematic masterpiece that everyone pretends to remember. It actually was quite an odd movie with John Wayne playing a colorful and unlikable fellow ‘Rooster’ Coburn. It was fraught with a lot of slow moments and wasn’t nearly as creative as some of the westerns of the time. The problem here as far as the nostalgia factor is concerned is that it was JOHN WAYNE! Luckily we have the Cohen brothers who are brave enough to attempt a remake starring the cinematic sacred cow of westerns. Here, the ‘Rooster character is played by Jeff bridges, with all the scraggly voice nonchalant-ness that screams more ‘The Dude’ from the Big Lebowski than a disgruntled US Marshall who is forced into being saddled next to comedic Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) and a little girl. It’s this Trio that carries the movie. Good thing since they are in every shot. No disrespect to Damon or Bridges…but its little Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross who steals every scene she’s in. A little fireball of resolute temper she is proper and cordial in all the wrong ways and beyond stubborn. For a lot of the film we forget she’s even a little girl, except that the filmmakers keep reminding us over and over.

What really surprised me is how much this film felt like a traditional western. “what did you think you were going to watch” you may ask? Well, the Cohen Brothers have never bee traditional anything. Look at any of their films and you will see the quirkiest examinations of characters and frank depiction of unrestrained violence as very signature to a particularly interesting style. After watching Oh Brother, Where art Thou and No Country for Old Men, one should rightfully assume that this would also pack a few surprises. But strait across the board this is a shoot-em-up, ride the trail kind of western with not much by way of surprises, introspection, off kilter characters or even black humor. This I would argue may be their most strait forward movie to date. Perhaps the; lack of style can be attributed to the fact that they try to span a lot of different genres. Comedy, action, drama, western, etc. are all on display here which doesn’t leave much room for experimentation or bucking conventional trends like so many of their other movies do.
The lack of the Cohen style is actually a good thing here. Rarely will you see a movie where you laugh about loud one minute only to be horrified by violence the next. Rarely is there a film where you are so engrossed in the characters that you forget their acting, and most importantly it’s a Cohen brother film that doesn’t draw attention to the fact that it’s a movie. Most of the films by these brethren have so many homages, quirks, tricks and scenes that take you out of the film; they become exercises in self-reflectivity and awareness. Here, the movie doesn’t mind being just a movie. It’s telling a story without all the normal minimalist embellishments which makes for a much more fulfilling experience, despite the fact that nothing feels new or clever like in their other movies.

The special effects could have been much better and I am sad that Josh Brolin only had a very small role. He was fun. Other than that, this is quite a worthy western. Maybe not John Wayne worthy (I’ll take the Searchers any day) but good enough to do the genres proud. Taking into consideration the nostalgia factor, I won’t be surprised that many people leave shaking their heads at how it wasn’t as good as the predecessor. Only time will truly tell, but right off the bat I believe the Cohen’s have done the Wayne classic proud. There’s plenty that the film tips its hat too, but it’s enough of an original on it’s own right to merit its own viewing, despite how much you love John Wayne. It may not have the charm of the original, but it’s a better movie.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Monday, December 06, 2010

Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: muddled and badly acted, but better than the first two

Some of my favorite books growing up as a child were the Chronicles of Narnia series. They were subversive, irreverent and wickedly silly, yet still had those good old Christian morals that made them ok to read by any parents standards. On the flip side, I have never really been a fan of the movie versions of the books. The first two were badly paced, horribly acted and were really awkward for some reason. The costuming and makeup were pretty lame and I honestly don’t recall what either was about (except what I remember from the books). So on this third go-round, I had high hopes. Not only is Voyage of the Dawn Treader my favorite of the Narnia books, but I had assumed the filmmakers had realized their mistakes and made some needed corrections to make this third installment a lot more enjoyable…well, not really.

Dawn Treader follows Lucy and Edmund (two of the original four world hoppers) on an adventure back to the land of Narnia. In tow is their cousin Eustace, and annoying dweeb who will do anything to try and get you to leave the theater. In returning to Narnia, they reunite with Prince Caspian who is onboard the Dawn Treader, the finest ship in the Narnian fleet. In the film its not quite explained as to why Prince Caspian is sailing around other than he wants to repay the seven Lords who swore allegiance to him. (yeah, read the book for clarification). Whilst abroad, they happen upon an evil green mists that eats people and decide to find out what it is and destroy it. Hijinx ensue, funny creatures are revealed and everyone acts so horribly morose you would think they were returning a ring to Mordor expecting death.

What I really want to do is spend an entire paragraph on the actor who plays Eustace (Will Poulter). There is a common phrase I reserve for actors who are so intolerably unwatchable that I can’t really come to terms with how ridiculously over the top bad they are. In this case it is entirely appropriate. I wanted to kick him in the throat! There, I said it. I know he is supposed to be an insufferable know-it-all from the books, but the thing couldn’t open his mouth without nails on the chalkboard type reaction from the audience. Lets just say I’m glad when he…well, I don’t want to ruin the movie, but all you book readers know what happens to Eustace and I welcomed his silence.

I would also like to comment on the other actors but I’m sure you’ve seen the other movies and therefore know how bad they really are. It seems that the filmmakers have taken some notes and removed the two of the four lead actors. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmond (Skandar Keynes) have not progressed much and poor price Caspian (Ben Barnes) has maybe 10 lines in the whole film. A shame since he was the best live action actor there. Of course, they are all outdone by the large Mouse Reepicheep (Simon Pegg) and of course Aslan (Liam Neeson). Despite minimal screen time for any one character in this movie, these animated characters do enough scenes salvaging to make the characters somewhat enjoyable.

The film of course is not all bad. I really and honestly enjoyed the special effects. They have certainly stepped it up a notch in terms of detail. I think what bothered me about the first two is that everyone wore such bright neon colors and nobody ever got dirty…even in battle. Luckily, I think due to the source material, the film is distinctly darker than the other two. Perhaps because the themes of pure evil and temptation are the plotlines that actually move the story along. The editing could be spruced up a bit as there were a lot of long awkward pauses as characters reacted to lines or looked at each other after a particularly witty line. The directing seemed adequate to get such a meandering story under control and the cinematographer should have realized that this was going to be a 3D movie…meaning that close up fight scenes are a no-no. The 3D was OK; a little nauseating at times which makes me think that it was post converted to 3D rather than filmed that way.

In all the film was very serviceable. I must admit that I enjoyed it more than the previous two even though I will probably have to rely on the books again if anyone asks me what its about. Of course, that is what the movies are about. Mindless entertainment can be fun, too bad there was little fun in this adaptation. It’s just a shame that all of the subtle relationships, adventures and connections that the book relates so simply, seem so muddled and incoherent here. It is quite enjoyable, but if you want any meaning or connection to the characters, read the book.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Hunger Games - Clip

So I've never read the Hunger Games books, nor do I know that much about them but they have been optioned by Hollywood and are eventually being made into 'Blockbuster' movies a-la Twilight. Well, my cousin John Lyde is quite the accomplished filmmaker (see his IMDB page here) and got together with some actors who wanted to audition for the film version of the books. They put together a scene from the book that I must say is quite impressive considering they did it in an afternoon with the cameras they had on hand. I guess it's another example that makes me question why Hollywood has to spend millions and millions of dollars on a movie, when a fan made film looks just as good. There are some overly-long sections here but as a whole, I am very impressed. Feel free to pass on the link and share the clip.... especially if you are a fan of the Hunger Games.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harry Potter 7: A slow, dazzling, dark experience indeed!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1 is an exercise in patience for a few different reasons. The first is that the name is so dang long; most people I know have shortened it to Harry Potter 7. Secondly, if you want to see this thing you’re going to have to wait in some pretty long and fanatical lines. Granted, my family went and saw it 5 days early, but we still had to line up at noon for a 7pm showing. My wife took on the difficult task with flying colors and had to weather the storm with three little children. The worst parts according to her was the rabid fans that tried butting in front of her stroller or push her out of line. Makes me wonder if these fans are actually fans of Harry Potter…or maybe just the Dark Lord. Thirdly, the film is a lot more slow and methodical than the previous 6 installments, and I’m here to tell you that this is a good thing.

I would usually go into a plot scenario here, but am willing to bet that people have either seen the previous movies or have read the books. Suffice to say that the film picks up with the trio of friends (Harry, Ron and Hermione) ditching everyone to search for the Horcruxes that keep Voldermorts soul alive. This decision to go rouge was brought on by the fact that Harry, by virtue of being alive, puts everyone around him at mortal risk (lots of injuries and dying in this one). What I was impressed with is the fact that the filmmakers and actors spend time to let relationships and personalities of the various characters emerge. This may seem to some that the film is rather slow and boring, but from someone who appreciates story, it was refreshing to see so many characters get some brief attention. On the peripherals, Luna Lovegood, her Dad, the Weasly twins, Dobby do an excellent job of making the most of their limited screen time. What’s truly amazing is how wonderfully invested we are in Dobby, the little house elf who is merely a computer animated character, but has one scene stealing line after another. Credit that to the writers.

Most of the film rests on the shoulders of the three leads. Watching them grow up on screen has been unprecedented in movie history and now we get to see them mature as actors. I must admit they have improved considerably since their over hammed days of deadpan Ron and fro-tastic Hermione! What seems spectacular from the screenplay and the actors is that none of them upstaged each other. They all seem to have equal importance and effect in the story, literally making the film about the friendship rather than just Harry Potter the chosen one. I was upset that Voldermort did not have a bigger part as Fines seems to relish the role of pure evil. In movies nowadays, everything is blurred somewhere gray and it refreshing to see someone who is purely evil just to be evil. No character flaws or internal turmoil. He is the closest thing modern society has to Dracula or any other fictitious monster.

I was very impressed with the special effects. The first few movies were horrible in that regard (remember the cringe worthy Quidditch matches), but now the filmmakers seem to have gone for a more grounded and realistic feel. The effects are used sparingly for story rather than just to dazzle the eye. In this regard they have become seamless into the Harry Potter experience, rather than the draw itself. The crème-de-la-crème is the story of the Deathly Hollows itself as narrated by Hermione. The animation here was extraordinary, stylized dark and intricate all at the same time. One of my favorite parts of the film. The directing was very good as well even though I felt a lot of the awkward glances and pauses could have been more tightly edited. Weather that is the directors fault in timing the actors or the editors for lingering too long I don’t know, and honestly don’t care. It was a minor annoyance.

Now, my grievances. You really have to know these3 books or movies to understand. You are thrown in without any introduction or explanation. Things you may want to catch up on are 1. Who is everyone? 2. How doe the death eaters keep finding harry when he doesn’t have a trace on him? 3. Who are the grabbers? 4. What age in the wizzarding world are things suddenly acceptable? Apparating, traveling etc. None of these questions or elements are explained and the movie assumes you already know, so if you don’t…get caught up. Also, while I appreciated the extra time the film took to grow the characters, it did slog at some points. The other films were filled with so much energy and adventure; it would be impossible to replicate that feeling with this lonely storyline. Everything seems dark and hopeless and scene after scene of the friends alone in a tent can get repetitive. (Spoiler) The unnecessary computer generated nudity/makeout vision was also dumb. I understand the feeling they were trying to go for in showing inner turmoil and the perception of betrayal, but it could have been done more tasteful and was not necessary.

Other than that I have little to complain about the film. It is much more mature and older than its predecessors which shows that the Harry Potter franchise had indeed grown up and begun to take itself seriously. All this without it loosing its edge of fantastical fun is a triumph indeed. Its not really a film for small children since the themes of love and death may be a little above their heads, especially when they have been waiting in line for tickets for hours. But that was just personal experience. Go, have a good time and enjoy one of the few quality cinematic experiences of the year. It will worth your time, or at least your nostalgia.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Megamind: A funny movie that is ultimately unsatisfying

To say that there has been a lot of superhero movies lately are an understatement. It seems as though 50% of everything released by Hollywood has in some way to do with comic books, superheroes or repurposed TV shows that centered on heroes fighting crime. Luckily there have been a few films that have successfully lampooned this trend in Hollywood cinema, or at least repurposed it to create telling takes on our social conscious. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, the Watchmen, The Incredibles are a few that take the Superhero formula and show us its all a bunch of show, or that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Megamind attempts to continue this trend in superhero subversion to somewhat likable results but it too heavy laden with cliché’s and honestly, some really unlikable characters to be put in any pantheon alongside some of its more successful predecessors. This is a shame considering that since it did come after, there was some sort of expectation that it might have a little more insight or at least a better way of making the whole superhero overdone theme a little more relevant.

Megamind is about, well, Megamind (Will Ferrell). As a small baby, he is sent to earth before his planet is destroyed (ala Superman). Unfortunately for him, another being was also jettisoned to our planet at the same time who becomes a superhero named Metro Man (Brad Pitt) creating and epic battle of who is really the best. Because of their upbringings and differing powers, there was really no way for Megamind to compete in the ‘superhero’ category, so instead he opted to become the evil nemesis. The movie then moves into a love triangle by introducing a reporter (Tina Fey), and also presents a problem when Metro Man is killed off (oh, sorry….spoiler alert). This is where the film gets a little interesting. What does a super villain do when his enemy is defeated? How does he react to his newfound power and influence and above all, does any of it really mean anything without someone to share it with.

Unfortunately, the script is not able to make good on any of the questions it proposes. It seems like a juicy premise to see what happens when there is nobody to stand up to the world’s greatest super villain, but when we actually see it, my reaction was…”huh, that’s it”? There is a lot of fun and funny banter between the characters, it just seems like the premise had a lot of potential but didn’t flesh out the plot. Characters also have a hard time winning our trust. Megamind is too much of a dufus to be really dangerous, and too good-natured to even feel that there is an existential crisis brewing in his huge blue skull about who he really is. Metro man is distinctly unlikable, so we’re not too bummed when he’s out of the picture, and the news reporter is a bit of a sarcastic downer, killing a lot of the joy and sight gags the movie throws in.

On the plus side, this movie is gorgeous. The visuals are top notch and the score isn’t too distracting. Textures and colors give the sense of a candy coated worlds of wonder, and that cartoony feel does a lot to tone down the expectations as far as characterization is concerned. However, story always trumps visuals so in this case it can’t keep up. The directing and comedic timing of the film lend for more than a few laughs and help refresh an otherwise mundane script. Voice talent does a great job, but the characters seem so irksome, its hard not to look past their written flaws.

Now I’m not saying this is a bad movie by any means. As a matter of fact I explained to my wife that it was merely, ‘meh’. The most telling aspect of the film was the reaction of my 7-year-old son. A lover of movies himself, some seem to get engrained in his head and he can’t stop talking about them or something cool or funny he saw while watching them. With Megamind, he said he enjoyed it but after the movie, I never once heard him mention it again. Maybe the filmmakers need to realize that in order for something to appeal to children as well as adults, character is still your most important creation. Until then, re-watch the Incredibles for your animated superhero flicks.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RED: Movie Review

I honestly knew almost nothing about RED before I went and saw it, and maybe that was a good thing. I had seen a preview for it at some point a while back but it honestly seemed like the marketing was almost non-existent for this film. I knew that it had a lot of famous people in it and was something about retired assassins, but I almost wrote it off as another Expendables until I got the chance to see an early screening. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by this mildly funny, slick action pick. Of course it doesn’t have the testosterone of the expendables, but the lighter touch I think makes a winning combination when you are telling the story of a group of assassins.

The movie is about Bruce Willis (OK, I don’t know the characters names, but in a movie that is cast with all movie stars, I don’t think the filmmakers really care if you know the characters names) a retired CIA black-ops agent who goes throughout his mundane life before a team of assassins is sent to wipe him out. He then goes on the run with his never-met-before crush Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) to gather information and essentially reassemble a team of retired assassins including Morgan Freeman, John Malkovitch, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox. Their purpose according to the plot is to find out why they are being targeted for elimination after they have been retired, but in all actuality, it was just so they could all get together and make sly one-liners, banter about age and do some serious damage. It feels like w you are invited to a party where everyone seems to be friends and at the top of their game, and that makes it fun for the audience as well.

The supporting cast is almost as good as the principals, but their characters don’t have near enough fun and are inconsistent in their portrayals. Bane plays the heartless CIA assassin who’s tasked with hunting down and killing Willis, but come to find out he’s a family man? Richard Dreyfuss plays the bad guy and his job is to be a sniveling bad guy. Not much else for him to do. Besides the acting, there is not much here to laude. The script has some very inventive banter, but the directions, cinematography and sets…were all very Hollywood: Top notch, professional and devoid of any personality. Luckily the cast more than makes up for the deficit.

The pacing of the film, could improve. There are too many slow times interspersed by very surreal sped up action sequences that jar the viewing experience. A certain philosophy may hold that the slow times are needed to balance out the overdrive of action explosions. While I tend to agree on this point, I thought that may of the spaces, long pauses, drawn out glances and awkward silences were more of an editing gaffe than intentional timing by the director. All the same, some of these lulls do enable the cast to build relationships and flesh out their characters. Mary Louise-Parker goes through the biggest metamorphosis from harried cubicle dweller to adventure seeker while John Malkovitch’s weirdo lends most of the comedy and care free abandon one would only hope to have in your later years.

I am not one to promote mindless action films usually (see my Losers review) but in this case, I think this film deserves a lot of praise. It is way too much fun and self-aware to be dismissed as horrible filmmaking. As a matter of fact, I would go so far to say that despite the script or predictability, it’s a very good movie. I can’t believe I’m owning up to the fact that a cast can save a picture no matter how mundane the plot, direction or film itself may be. If Alfred Hitchcock is right, and actors are just cattle, then these cattle must be some seriously funny top quality solid gold Angus.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Social Network: Movie Review

It’s saying something about facebooks’ popularity when most people know the new film The Social Network as “The Facebook Movie.” It says even something more that the film uses restraint in telling the story of facebook without delving much into its popularity, functionality or even purpose. If one honestly had no clue what facebook is, they would probably still not know much about it after seeing this movie and honestly probably not care. In The Social Network, facebook itself serves as a sort of McGuffin, a term Hitchcock used to describe a major element of the plot that drove the story forward, yet was really insignificant in relation to the events of the film. Instead in The Social Network, we get characters who are weak, petty, indecisive, repulsive, sympathetic, excited, awkward, conceited and most importantly…all pretty clueless when it comes to dealing with the new fame and fortune that Facebook drops in their lap quite suddenly.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerburg…the co-founder and programmer of Facebook. Now, I honestly have no clue what mark Zuckerburg is like in real life, his speech cadences or manner of addressing his fellow human beings (outside his wooden delivery as a guest on The Simpsons) so I am not able to rightly say how much Eisenberg channels the persona of Zuckerburg. It is safe to say that I am a huge fan of how Eisenberg portrayed the lead protagonist. He is not a likeable character by any means, and has the knack for alienating and making an enemy out of everyone except his best friend played by future spidey Andrew Garfield. It is the relationship between Garfield’s Eduardo and Zuckerburg that is the heart of the story, and what a twisted, innocent, backstabbing heart it is.

Garfield has the least amount of work to do in this film since he seems like the only normal down to earth person at Harvard and the rest of the film for that matter. Is he honestly the only one that is able to reason logically when this whole Facebook thing exploded? Justin Timberlake plays the napster party guy Sean Parker who seems fun at first but morphs into the slime ball you love to hate. Both actors do a pretentious best that play identical twins Winklevossi (he he) who claim the Zuckerburg stole their idea and can’t bear the thought that anyone could be more popular than they are.

As a movie…the film is actually quite boring. It’s all dialogue, which in this case is a good thing. I was a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s short loved but brilliant show Studio 60 and this film proves he is a genius at quick banter, meaningful introspections and very revealing personal speaking which never comes across that way. I was also glad to see David Fincher move away from his more dark and violent material (yes you Se7en and Zodiac) and prove that you don’t need blood and murder to create compelling drama. There are flashes of brilliance in his style (amen rowing scene) and he somehow keeps the audience engaged through almost 2 hours of solid dialog and talking heads.

Did I actually use compelling and boring to describe the same movie? Yes, I did…because that is what this is. No twists, no big reveal just seriously flawed people trying to navigate themselves around each other with each trying to come out as the top dog. While that may seem trite and rather a downer, Fincher does a stupendous job of showing us that in such a dog-eat-dog world nobody is a winner. All the success and money in the world will never change who you are when you started out…so make sure that someone is a person you can live with, or you will be left friendless and lonely…no matter how many facebook friends you have.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!! (not for the special effects, but just to support good moviemaking)
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy A : Movie Review

Today I get to be on a soapbox. I know that critics are supposed to stick with their opinion of the movie and not go off on tangents but this film brought up some cliché’s that until now I have been able to stomach. First though, I’ll give you my review of Easy A as a movie…not a societal statement. Easy A follows Olive who is goaded into a lie about being promiscuous. While she doesn’t really do any of the things she is rumored to do, she uses her notoriety to help those that have image problems by letting it seem that they scored with the school tramp. Yeah, I dunno what prompted me to see it.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Easy A is a likable, funny and enjoyable film. Most of that credit goes to Emma Stone who’s sense of depreciating humor, raspy self awareness and wide eyed I Love Lucy sort of physical reactions bind her character to the audience. It is nice to see a young woman portrayed as confident, self assured and strong…except when she’s not. More on that later. Her parents played by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are at the peak of their heavenly married banter and seem to genuinely like each other’s company. Their grounded personalities and outrageous sense of humors match closely with their daughters’ dispositions.

As far as actors go however, I’m afraid that’s all who brought their game. Of course some may find Thomas Hayden Church’s wry teacher a great role but its pretty much the same role he has played since Sideways. I do credit the scriptwriting with some snappy dialogue and playful banter. The ever-dreaded high school movie voice over is cleverly masked as a video-cast that becomes essential to the plot of the film. Everything else serves it’s purpose hear, including come of the clichéd characters (if you’re religious, you must be a psychotic wench), token hip music videos and references to pop culture (there was actually a pretty moving tribute to John Hughes…well played filmmakers, except anyone still in high school would have no clue what most of those movies are).

Now begins my Rant. Turn this review off if you prefer the women in your movies being seen as sexual marks, or really do think all guys are slimy jerks, or that religion is the poison of society. This film could have been Mean Girls or Clueless great if it weren’t so dang preachy. I am glad that the Main protagonist seemed so strong…but then why would she hide behind such a heinous lie? Not only that but don’t you think someone with that much wit and knowledge could have come up with something better. Yeah, Yeah…I know that this was the plot and that people make mistakes…I just hated to see the scriptwriters assume that everything in High School is about sex and therefore had to make her issues all about that. Was she really that one-dimensional? The girls I knew in High school were sweet, complicated and yeah, sometimes made fools of themselves. The difference here is that their lives didn’t revolve around the perception of sexual conquest.

Don’t even get me started about the guys or the rest of the school for that matter. I agree, Parts of high c\school and the pressure there is totally horrible. I did feel judged and had problems fitting in. But the film portrays every single person in this school as out for blood, willing to destroy anyone. Everyone was so selfish, hurtful and bigoted that nothing seemed fun at all. Sorry, but the majority of the people I knew in High School were good natures, well intentioned and very friendly. Granted…there was the gossip mill but it was never strong enough to ruin anyone and most people let it slide quite quickly. I inherently believe people assume the best of others, not the other way around.

And finally, religion. The enemy…and I mean proverbial horrid witch with a B played by Amanda Bynes was a Jesus freak. A complete nutzoid in my book. I understand that the Harlot in the story had to have a nemesis…but from what I can recall, it was Jesus who befriended and forgave the Harlots. Here, those who profess his love drag Olive through proverbial Hell. Yes, I know there are those fanatics about (here’s looking at you clinic bombers) but to lump anyone whose sense of spirituality leans towards Christianity as conniving, vindictive, manipulative, damaging, shallow, vile and hypocritical is alienating those who would never espouse that. Good thing Emma Stone is almost good enough to make you forget all that.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Scott Pilgrim is a different sort of movie…and that is a good thing. It’s hard to find uniquely original movie going fare in this day and age outside of cool developments in special effects for action films. Maybe that’s why I like Scott Pilgrim so much, it’s an indie comedy love story (think (500) Days of Summer) mixed with the martial arts and action of Hero. Now, I just realized that description was pretty horrible. Who would want to see a film like that? What works is that the filmmakers, cast and crew all wear the clichés that come with romance and action flicks on their sleeve, and there is a lot going for a film that a) doesn’t take itself too seriously and b) everyone’s in on the same joke.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is about…you guessed it Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera). He’s a loafer nerd (can he play anything else) who for some reason gets a lot of interesting girls interested in him despite the fact that he’s not very interesting. He falls head over heals with his ‘dream girl’ and spends the rest of the film wooing her by having to defeat her seven evil exes who happen to all know martial arts and be way above Scott in terms of success and looks. Its kind of hard to imagine that alternative nymphet Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) would actually want anything to do with Scott, but I guess that’s part of the charm, maybe all she wants is a normal relationship without all the expectations that come from so overly possessive significant others.

The real story behind this whole movie is how Scott deals with dating Ramona and breaking up with his old High School age girlfriend Knives Chow (played by the iridescent Ellen Wong). Here is where the writing is at its best and that is a real compliment since the films strength is based on the script. It explores the angst, turmoil and puppy love we have all felt at some point in our life regarding exes and lovers and everyone else that comes in between. The banter between Knives and Scott is beyond adorable except when it is sickening and no matter how hard you try…there is always going to be someone hurt in a breakup. How you deal with it is another matter. Knives loyalty and spontaneous enthusiasm ignite an otherwise Dull Cera.

The casting I must say was sheer Genius. It’s not every day that the lead actors are upstaged so dramatically by everyone else in the film. The Exes go a little over the top, but look for Kieran Culkin and Anna Kendrick (she may redeem herself from Twilight) to drop some choice one-liners and zany advice. The special effects are 80’s Atari tacky, which bodes well for its Indy cred and somewhat lean the gamer audience towards a bygone era. These are the fight games that I remember from Sega and Atari, not your Xbox 360 type shenanigans, and that is just fine with me.

I read an article that talks about why nobody goes and sees different movies anymore, and yet sit and complain about all the bile that Hollywood spews forth. Well, here is your chance to do something about it even though I have a feeling that this film may not even be in theaters anymore. I guess that goes to prove that what makes little gems valuable is how rare they truly are.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie Comparison: Dinner for Schmucks vs. The Other Guys

Its not often I get to do a comparison piece, but I found these two movies to be too eerily similar and seeing them just a week apart from each other gave me a great opportunity to scrutinize them as sort of a competition. It seems that all “blockbuster” comedies are the slapstick buddy comedies (or some derivative of guys asserting their masculinity in some awkward way). Cases in point Tommy Boy, Caddyshack, Dumb & Dumber…the list goes on and on. Both Dinner for Schmucks and The Other Guys unabashedly follow this genre rule to a clichéd degree, but luckily, both know it and wear it out in the open despite the risk of appearing as been there, done that films.

In comparison, both are pretty outlandish. There are characters and situation so implausible that you laughing at the sheer audacity of the movie before the punch lines are spewed. Both have a love/hate relationship between the two leads that for better or worse makes the movie all the more cringe inducing. Both feature a kaleidoscope of characters that come passing through with more and more crazy stunts and quirks to drive home the laughs. I can honestly say that both made me laugh out loud, both had great audience reaction and both were brash, fun and a little on the edge.

In the case of these two films then, the winner was the one that showed a little more restraint. The one that knew which punches to hold back and the one that honestly developed its characters beyond the annoying weirdo and the annoyed shlub that has to put up with him. Dinner for Schmucks has a heap of Physical Comedy. Steve Carell just cemented himself in my pantheon of greatness with his turn in Dinner for schmucks. There are a few choice scenes that will have you laughing with queasy delight.

However, Dinner goes a little too far with its comedy. There are times I felt it was a little out of control, like each joke was trying to top the previous and the end result was a lot of crude humor and sexual innuendos. Don’t get me wrong, a well-placed zinger can say a lot about societies reservation and even make some commentary on our culture in general. Unfortunately, Dinner for Schmucks failed to capitalize on this when it was the film with the plot that shouted for satire. A dinner is held by bigwigs in a firm monthly to make fun of the biggest idiot. Before he is promoted Tim (Paul Rudd) is asked to come to the dinner with one Barry (Carell) putting Rudd as the identifiable character in the film. Unfortunately, we never identify with him because the premise is so dang mean and there was really no reversal or appraisal of the dinner organizers as the schmucks. There is a lesson about dreaming and moving on in there somewhere, but without the character buildup. There isn’t much payoff.

The Other Guys however shows Farrell at his best. I know some argue that Ricky Bobby or Anchorman are untouchable, but in those he played a straight up SNL character, in this film he actually plays a flawed person. Mark Wahlberg is passable as Terry his police partner, both who are absolutely going nowhere. Before going into these pics I was more excited see the Rudd/Carell pairing but who knew a Farrell/Wahlberg would have so much more chemistry. The mismatched pair stumbles upon a crime that may be bigger than they can handle. Wahlberg’s character is itching for a chance while Farrells Allen is content to push paper. What we come to realize is he is hiding some demons that he is afraid might make him revert to a version of himself he has repressed for so long.

As the hijinks ensue, Farrell lets loose with the one-liners and the bickering awkward cadence of dialogue that results in some seriously funny reasoning (who would win between a lion and a tuna). Allen’s obliviousness to the beauty of his wife (Eva Mendez) irks Terry so much it completely throws him off his game. In the end though, the bond these two develop in trying to repress what makes them the happiest sends more of a message than Schmucks ever could. Not that comedy is about message, but it sure helps to have some emotional clout behind those one-liners, and some investment in the characters that are saying them.


Final Consensus: Dinner for Scmucks
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t BotherShare

Final Consensus: The Other Guys
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t BotherShare

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Inception: Movie Review


Movies as a general rule are a visual and audible experience. There have been attempts to add smells and or movement gags in old cinemas that never amounted to anything that stuck permanently. For this reason, Films in general are a passive experience where the most physically interactive you may get is laughter or an increased heart rate. Rarely have I had a physical experience with a film. I can remember gripping my hand rests so hard in Jurassic Park that they hurt later and that All my muscled were tense afterward.

Inception gave me a rare physical experience where after the movie I realized four things. One, I had been crying. Two, I was exhausted and needed to calm myself down. Third, I had been sweating from some physical exertion and the third is that I never realized I was going through these physical responses while the film was going…It was that engrossing. This film starts off full speed an never lets up through almost the full 2 and a half hours of screen time. It’s a huge summer spectacle with giant set pieces and action scenes that rival the matrix. On the other hand it is a tender love story, a Greek tragedy and a catharsis tale layered on top of one another. Just for good measure, writer/director Christopher Nolan throws in the most intellectual and thought provoking plots I’ve seen since artsy film school.

The big question however is does this all work. At first, I thought it was wonderful but still did not enjoy it as much as some of the lighter fare of the summer like How to Train Your Dragon. But then I realized a few hours after, and into the next day that it still had a hold of my brain, forcing me to try an figure out plot points, looking for holes or merely exclaiming in my thought... ”How did they do that?” This is a movie that will stick with you for a long time and a few minutes after seeing it, you will want to go back and watch it again. That is if you weren’t so exhausted after the first screening.

Inception centers around Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who works with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as an extractor, someone who enters your mind through subconscious dreams to steal its secrets. Cobb has personal issues that interfere with his job in the subconscious dream state and that he must resolve to ever be reunited with his family. The main problem with this line of work though is it becomes very difficult to know if you are physically present or in some sort of dream…or dream within a dream etc. Of course this premise gives the filmmakers excuse to do anything they want…cause it’s a dream right. Hence the visuals are incredible. I give credit to the set designers and special effects crew who relied on creating and destroying physical spaces as well as using real stunts to create the scenes rather than rely on computer graphics. When the computer is used however it fits seamlessly into the story so you don’t even notice how visually ‘cool’ they really are.

Christopher Nolan has established himself here as a truly great auteur. His unblemished record…Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight have led the way to Inceptions capstone of brilliance. Here’s a director who is concerned more with the reason people do things. About ordinary men going through extraordinary challenges to get out of harrowing situations. Films where moral ambiguity is pushed aside for the protagonist to stake his claim on choosing the right path and becoming more than a regular man. These are the kinds of films Alfred Hitchcock would be making had he lived long enough to see special effects and film budgets to bloom within reach of his imagination. What both do so well is to make these grand spectacles seem very personal and human, both toughing and epic in their attempt to present a story that effects your heart and body as much as it sears into your eyes and brain. I am just glad there is someone there with enough blockbuster clout and macabre brainpower to take on the task. This is by no means a perfect movie or as much fun as some other popcorn flicks this summer, but it is a worthy and wonderful headtrip that is well worth the admission price...or two.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Killers: Movie Review

I should never write a movie review on an empty stomach, which is exactly what I’m doing now. Too bad because Killers didn’t have enough filler for me to even remotely feel satisfied. I should have taken it as a bad omen that the studio refused to screen it for critics before its release but they cleverly stated that they wanted word of mouth and online buzz to push the ticket sales rather than reviews or standard advertising. Man, that advertising machine duped me. Killers is a completely forgettable experience that made me long for the smart snappy dialogue and chemistry of Carey Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief. Instead we are left with tepid performances by Ashton “I look so good I don’t have to act” Kutcher and Katherine “How did I get famous again” Heigl in a film that couldn’t decide if it was a slapstick, dark comedy or drama.

Katherine plays a stunning and smart woman Jen who has recently been dumped by her ugly looking nerd boyfriend and goes on vacation to France for the heck of it with her parents (sounds believable). Ashton plays a covert assassin Spencer on a mission in the same hotel. For some reason they find time to talk and get acquainted for what seems like months (I want that vacation) before getting married. Jen’s dad played by Tom Selek is skeptical of the union while her mom Catherine O’Hara just lets life go by with a scotch in both hands. Thank goodness for O’Hara who seems like the only one having fun in a comedy. Obviously this is her turf and Ashton, Katherine and Tom are all trying to fit in. Unfortunately they don’t.

There is no chemistry in Killers, and did I mention that for a comedy…there’s really none of that. I only laughed out loud at some parts with the mom; otherwise I sat visually perplexed. I even left the theater to go to the bathroom, get a drink and talk to some of the theater staff in the middle of the movie, and when I returned…I don’t think I missed anything. OK, so I may be a little hard on the movie. There are some pretty cool fight scenes, and some of the married couple banter between Heigl and Ashton seems funnier when killing is involved (is that possible?) The scenes in France are gorgeous and everything technically is very professionally done.

Which leads me to my biggest question. How can a film that looks great with great actors in a pretty funny set-up in a gorgeous location end up being so mundane and, well…bad? I have to blame the director on this one. The editing, script, lighting, acting in general was all very sustainable but nothing gelled. None of the parts or characters in Killers seemed cohesive, believable, developed or for that matter relatable and that job falls distinctly on the director. I won’t name him here, but if you do want an undercover crime romance set in France to watch…see To Catch a Thief with a director who knew how to get things right named Hitchcock!

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!

Don’t Bother

Share

Monday, May 31, 2010

Prince of Persia: Movie Review

SPOILER ALERT!!

There are stories here and there that use what we could call the ‘cop-out’. You know the ones. The protagonist suddenly wakes up in his bed to realize the whole thing is a dream. The kids finally get rid of the killer but he’s really not dead. You know. These are the films and stories I honestly believe one of two things happened. The original writer was fired and the finished the movie without a script, or the original writer died and a studio executive finished it for them. In either case, no self-respecting writer would ever do that to his or her own book, script, and screenplay what-have-you…until recently. I have seen way too many movies this year that ruin a perfectly enjoyable experience at the theater by killing the ending. They set it up for another sequel, they wrap it up to quickly or, as in the case of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time…they just pretend it never happened.

OK, sorry, now that I’ve ruined the movie for you…feel free to sit back and enjoy a movie that is actually a lot of fun and really light popcorn fare. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character that was plucked as a homeless beggar from the streets to become an adopted son of the king. All grown up, he and his brothers are on conquest and make a fateful decision to attack a holy city who’s princess is charged with protecting a certain dagger. Of course by now you know the price falls for the princess and there is some backstabbing along the way. Believe you me; it is definitely not the plot that makes this movie enjoyable. Rather, it is the cast that seems to have a blast and we just go right along with it.

Jake Gyllenhaal has always been a conundrum to me playing in quirky 'indies' as well as spectacle pictures. But rarely has he seemed so alive and confident in this picture. And Gemma Arterton can actually act if she is given something other to do than be eye candy like in Clash of the Titans or Quantum of Solace. The real scene-stealer in the movie is Alfred Molina as the thief Nizam who throws himself with reckless abandon into the con artist ostrich-loving quasi bad-guy. Everyone else in the film is serviceable being led by Ben Kingsley doing his best Ben Kingsly impersonation and a slew of other characters that takes their roles a little to seriously for a movie based on an old Nintendo game.

The special effects could be amped up a bit, but it didn’t bother me too much since the best parts of the film had little or no effects in them. It’s a good thing the film is called Sands of Time because there is a lot of sand…I mean a LOT. So much so I started getting itchy thinking about how much sand poor Jake had to roll around in. Of course this movie is in no way a great film. I bet there are a few of you who would argue that this is an adequate film at best, but compared to some of the really agonizing stupidity that has come out this past year, Prince of Persia dares to be all out and does so with a healthy dose of tongue in cheek. Now if only we could get Hollywood to stop firing or killing of any descent writer, we might have a winning combination sooner or later.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t BotherShare

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Robin Hood: Movie Review

Word of mouth (or of finger) has the ability to make or break a movie after its released. Take for instance How to Train Your Dragon (still my #1 of 2010), which kept doing well in the theaters week after week because people told other people how good it was. On the other hand you have Clash of the Titans, which did menial box office despite it being one of the studios larger releases of the summer. Another caveat to the word of mouth phenomenon is the critics’ score. As regular people we like to think we don’t care about what all those hoity-toity critics write, but believe me, we are all eventually influence by them. And that was the very reason I was apprehensive about seeing Robin Hood. The critics trashed it so much, I didn’t even go see it opening weekend.

But there is a silver lining to such advice. Every now and then you are pleasantly surprised because your expectations are so low. I was really expecting this movie to suck…and here’s the kicker, it doesn’t. Could it be the critics are wrong? Heaven forbid! But in this case, I can honestly say they were. Robin Hood is an adventure movie pure and simple. It has your requisite corny lines, bad guy, good guy, love interest, totally unbelievable plot points and I though it was great. What dooms the movie however is that its lead actor/director tandem don’t live up to anywhere close to their previous Gladiator. Russell Crowe as Robin Hood is just as gloomy in this film as in Gladiator, but he really doesn’t have a reason to be. And poor Ridley Scott can’t seem to decide if he wants to be the man who directed Matchstick Men or the one directing Alien.

That aside, the movie is an escapist period piece that serves for very passable entertainment. We follow Robin Longstride as he assumes another’s identity to make it in a post-war England where he has no family. His antics win him the admiration of The Loxley patriarch played by a superb Max von Sydow and the ire of the widowed wife Maid Marion (Cate Blanchet). Of course throw in the merry men and Friar Tuck and we have a good time. This plot only brings us up to the moment where Robin becomes the outlaw…and doesn’t really delve into the legend. This irked me, as it seemed the ending of the movie was quickly wrapped up, re-edited and closed down for the sole purpose of making a sequel. It was done in such a rushed way that the pace totally threw me off.

Scott is at his best filming the fight scenes here. Reminiscent of Gladiator, they none-the less pull a few punches to keep the PG-13 rating. There are great action scenes but none that rival the wow factor of the adrenaline pumping 300 or Gladiator. What Robin Hood does try to do is present the story of the man with all the requisite entertainment required. In one aspect I do agree with the critics, it does take itself too seriously at times, but it’s nowhere near as brow-furrowed as Clash of the Titans. This is by no means a great movie, but I am very glad the critics were so off on this to lead me into enjoying it so much; and after Blade Runner..I have to forgive Scott of everything.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t BotherShare

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shrek Forever After: Movie Review

My wife is constantly amazed that I seem to know plot points or at least memorable sequences to almost every movie I have ever seen. This has served me well, especially when categorizing my favorite films or deciding if I want to watch one film over another. Sometimes a movie comes along that I don’t really remember. Such is the case with the Shrek films. Whenever I remember anything about the Shrek movies, for some reason it always comes from the first one. Other than that, the rest all kind of run together and there is nothing really special or memorable about any of them. Unfortunately such is the case with Shrek Forever After. After a whole week has gone by, there is very little I remember about the film at all.

According to my notes, this Shrek finds our title hero giving up a day in his life so he can be an Ogre again. I know that this is a made up animated movie, but I can’t for the life of me remember or figure out how this worked or what the reason was behind it. Shrek supposedly wanted to be mean again, but I never remember him being all that scary to begin with. Anyway, Rumplestilskin is the guy who performs this deed and gives him a day, but something-something happens and Shrek has to do something before the day is through or he’ll never go back to the way it was. Now its never hard to suspend disbelief in a Shek movie, but even my fantastical suspension couldn’t get over this horrid plot which is basically It’s a Wonderful Life, with ogres.

There were some great parts for the kids. I went with my son who laughed out loud at some parts and even repeated some lines. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember chuckling that much. That was kind of a let down considering Shrek has always been good at eliciting laughs. I really wanted to see a comedy. What did happen though was totally unexpected. The movie was actually fairly moving. I wasn’t expecting to feel so proud of being a dad or so lucky to have the family I do. Granted, It’s a Wonderful Life does a much better job of this, but when it sneaks out of know where, it kind of gets you.

As far as the animation goes…. it’s adequate. It looks exactly the same as the first Shrek, which came out almost 10 years ago. I’m glad they kept the look consistent but c’mon guys; there is a decades worth of technological advances you could have used here. We did see this version in 3-D and other than a few gimmicks, I’m not sure it actually added anything to the visual experience for me. The Voices were adequate as well and the directing…well, adequate. I guess that is the best way to describe Shrek Forever After, adequate. Unfortunately, adequate won’t pull you out of the forgetful hole that Shrek 2 and 3 sunk into. Luckily, there is a little bit of emotion to go with this one.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Friday, May 07, 2010

Iron Man 2: Movie Review

For some reason we Americans love rooting for the big brash super hero, aka cowboy, aka chosen one in our entertainment (and I guess political) choices. If the said hero is also a narcissistic smart mouth we seem to love him even more. If this indeed hold true then you will have a blast with Iron Man 2. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns as Iron Man but unlike most superhero movies and cliché’s we’re used too, he doesn’t have an alter ego and isn’t in hiding. On the contary contrary, as a matter of fact, Tony Stark is louder, more childish, more irresponsible (for good reason) than ever and we love him for it. I’m not saying that these are redeeming qualities, but is nice to see a superhero with some actual character flaws beyond just a tortured past.

The film does a wonderful job pleasing both the fan-boy and the regular theater-go'er alike. As for me, I’m an avowed comic book nerd, so to see parts or at least homage paid to War Machine, Whiplash, Black Widow, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., Hammer, Captain America, The Avengers and Thor sure tickled my nerdy-bone. But for all you people who have not a clue what those things are…no worries. Less than two of them are actually named and the character development shows you how each superhero/villain came to be…or at least how they are tied in with Iron Man. I actually find that a rare feat to please both the comic nerds and the general audience.

A lot of that pleasing comes from the acting. Robert Downy Jr. steals the show of course as stark, but Sam Rockwell as Hammer does an equally dis-likable and smarmy arms dealing nemesis Hammer. Vanko is the real villain here; creating electric whips to take down Tony Stark after previous injustices he perceives Stark enterprises put his family through. Unfortunately, Mickey Rourke seems like a Shakespearean actor stuck in a freewheeling roller coaster ride. Maybe it was just that I couldn’t get over his horrible Russian (I couldn’t understand what he was saying…thank goodness for subtitles) or the fact that a man who lives for revenge, never gets angry.

Other actors did adequate. If it weren’t for the Oceans movies, I would have thought that Don Cheadle (Rhodes) hasn’t a funny bone in his body. I’ve never been one to like Scarlett Johansson’s inability to act, but she did OK as Natasha, Stark's new assistant, mainly because she is supposed to be full of mystery and psychologically unreadable. Perfect for an actress with the emotional range of toast. Don’t worry everyone; Gwyneth Paltro (Pepper Pots) is still on Tony’s radar, even though she has a new position that misses some of the senior/jr. employee love interest dynamic. The love triangle story is about as anemic as the first one, but does have some excellent tension and a sizable payoff…with whom, I won’t say.

Now the real question, was the movie as good as the first. The truthful answer is, yes…but the actual answer may be different to different viewers. There’s not anything totally amazing that we did not see in the first film. The requisite explosions, fast cars, cool special effects and bad guy suits but I couldn’t help but think this movie wasn’t as spectacular as the first. There are some slow parts to explain some things (a dude was snoring behind me in the theater at one point, honest to goodness), and even parts that were a little belabored (the audience figured out where the secret was before the master mind Tony Stark). But those didn’t affect the film. I think where the film suffers is in comparison to its fist incantation. When we all saw the first film, we enjoyed the humor, the over the top acting, the awesome special effects and the happy ending. The second has nothing new or different to share and so therefore doesn’t pack the same wow punch we all experienced when watching the first with fresh eyes. But I promise you; this will be no less enjoyable.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Date Night: Movie Review

Date Night is not the type of movie that you want to see as a single person by yourself in the theater for a few reasons.
1. It’s called Date Night – nuf’ said
2. It has some racy parts where people may think you’re a little bit twisted to be watching by yourself.
3. The jokes are funny enough that you laugh, but not funny enough that the entire crowd laughs together. Hence, you feel really awkward quelling your own chuckles down to nervous grunts.

That being said, two of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock and The Office seemed to have teamed up here in the forms of Tina Fey and Steve Carroll (sorry, I have no clue who their characters names are, the price you pay for fame). The only problem is they really haven’t teamed up. Fey does play a version of her self deprecating awkward humor she brings to Liz Lemon in 30 Rock, but Date Night asks us to believe that Steve Carroll is a normal boring dad and not a completely embarrassing, uncoordinated, awkward buffoon that we have come to love from The Office. The result is you expect him to be a lot funnier and zany. I guess that means that people who have never seen his TV show have the upper hand here.

The film does touch on some pretty touching stuff. Fey and Carroll play a married couple stuck in a rut and decide one night to spice things up. The originality here stems from a couple that truly love each other despite their seemingly dull lives. Borrowing a page from Hitchcock, they are mistaken for the wrong couple involved with the cities biggest crime boss and go on the lam looking to clear their names before the bad guys/cops can bring them in. Yes, it is a very boring premise. No, it is not a very boring movie, just predictable. I almost wish there was more outlandishness here to make it into a sort of Adventures in Babysitting. Instead, they director and writers try grounding the movie in too much reality making for some awkward and uncomfortable moments in scenes that could be completely crazy.

I am glad the film pulls a few punches. I’m not one for the gross out R rated comedies that have been popping up recently and this one flirts with some of that humor, but Fey and Carroll are able to carry the humor, conversation and yes, even the action through some pretty stupid scenes and horrible plot contrivances. I wish the director would have let them riff a little more and come up with their own stuff and keep that in the film rather than pack it into the end credits (funniest part of the movie) So, have fun with the movie, don’t expect too much and make sure you bring a date if you decide to watch it in the theater. Otherwise, watch Fey's and Carroll's TV shows instead.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Losers: Movie Review

It’s been a long time so I’ll be catching you up on a few movies I have seen recently over the past few weeks. I’ll start with the most recent which was not the best by any means.The Losers is a sort of film that you watch the trailer for and hope for one of two things. A: That it will be as awesome and funny as the trailer makes it out to be, or B: That it will be better than the annoying ‘I’m cooler than every other movie’ attitude the trailer shows. Of course, I fell into the latter category, since I thought the trailer was basically a raucous music video complete with bad slow-mo shots of guys in sunglasses and glorified violence.

Alas, the movie was exactly what the trailers showed it was going to be which bodes well for all you people who fall into category A. It also means that your probably a pre-teen boy that spends most of his time playing video games and/or can’t understand why your mother/girlfriend/wife thinks your immature and insensitive. If on the other hand you fall into category B, then know this…this is a noisy, over-edited, confusing (visually, not the plot; as a matter of fact I think my 4 year old son wrote this) sometimes funny and most of the time - chauvinistic film about explosions, guns, bad guys, guns, guns and oh yeah…guns.

The Losers follows a band of specialized soldiers (see a cast list) who refer to themselves as losers (…), who are framed for a horrendous crime they didn’t commit. Now the film goes over the top here. It’s as if the screenwriters thought of the worst crime a murderer could commit, then multiplied it by 25 and added a missile and a helicopter explosion for the sake of bad-awesomeness. Anyway, in a career misstep (that’s 1 miss Saldana) Zoe plays Aisha, a mysterious girl comes into their lives to help them take down the bad guy Max (Jason Patric) who frames them while dealing with double crossings, bombs and old frenemies.

That’s it. Sorry if I ruined the movie for you but that is literally all that happens. The ending is groan inducing as we see the entire script written to have a sequel…translation: Nothing is resolved. I guess they thought this would be a wildly popular movie; but after a tepid reception to a sparsely populated theater on a Friday night, it doesn’t look like the movie will be breaking any records, even with all the game playing pre-teen boys. Other things the film is guilty of besides the slow-mo ‘we’re cool’ shots are excessive use of the American flag, swooshing noise every time the camera shot changes, very loud guitar music throughout.

Its not that I hated the film, it’s just that it really annoyed me. There are a few bright spots. Chris Evans does great as a techie punk who is kinda a nerd. I still can’t picture him as the next Captain America though (how’s that for nerdy). The actors in general seem to be having a really good time and none of them do badly, it’s just that the directors and editors never allow us much time to see anything really develop emotionally, or the characters to interact on different levels. Instead, we are thrown right into the whirlwind music video with loud music and explosions pummeling our skulls, twisted flashing images searing our eyes and are expected to cheer the whole way, rather than blow chunks.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother
Share

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Movie Review

I love having a good time at the movies. In fact, I bet that’s the reason that most people go to the movies. That’s why action packed blockbusters seem to do really well in terms of tickets sold while art-house downers (I still love you Million Dollar Baby) tend not to do so well. So for the mass of humanity, a films 'likeability' factor can therefore be measured in receipts; correct? Well not really, or otherwise How to Train Your Dragon would have broken all kinds of box office records.

This is the best film of the year so far and not only because it’s a blast. DreamWorks has crafted one of the funnier, topical and downright stunning films since Kung Fu Panda. DreamWorks is not known for the high quality stories like Pixar, and recent hits like Monsters Vs. Aliens and Shrek 3 prove that there seems to be a lot lacking in their creative department. It seems they did something right here with a story that is actually poignant without being preachy and sentimental without being manipulative. As an added measure, they threw in some truly astounding visuals that literally elicit ahhs from the audience. Truly, this movie has the best use of 3D visuals since Avatar.

How to Train Your Dragon begins as a predictable fish out of water tale (covered excellently by Happy Feat) about Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) trying to prove himself to his Viking community and especially his father (Gerard Butler) by attempting to help in the centuries old fight against Dragons. While trying to prove his usefulness, Hiccup befriends a dragon thought to be the most dangerous of all. At this point the story starts to take on a few added flourishes that distinguish it above regular animated fare. What happens when you are the cause of someone’s misfortune? How should you treat the unknown? How do you heal a broken family and relationship with your father and most importantly, where does your loyalty lie…

Beyond the story there are the visuals. I cannot say enough about the amazing flying scenes through clouds, atmosphere and sunsets. It truly is a step ahead of the flying scenes from Avatar. The textures are amazing as well, hair is wiry or soft, and eyeballs have a distinct wetness and water hay as well have been real. The lighting is also perfected with large amounts of darks and atmosphere that usually animated pictures brighten up and pos. Here they are subdued and earthy. Trees, hills and backgrounds have depth and small candle lit spaces have intimate shadows.

Now I may be toting this movie too much, but what else can I do after I enjoy something so thoroughly. There are a few slow parts and an annoying story line about a girl. Also, Jay Baruchels voice is so freakin annoying. It sounds like he is whining the entire time but luckily; the story and visuals eventually take of the sting of his pinched nose. Those small gripes aside, go to this movie for the pure enjoyment of it. Use the Box office to show Hollywood they don’t have to sacrifice story for visuals. Bravo to the story for not making the ending a perfect solution and reminding us that although we may not be perfect, relying on our family and friends can somehow create a perfect match.


Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Monday, March 22, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Review

I shouldn't complain since I knew what I was getting myself into but Diary of a Wimpy Kid might be the only film where a piece of stinky mildewed cheese is the best part of the film. Honestly. While not completely horrible, the movie suffers from a lack of good directing, special effects, acting (other than the cheese) and well entertainment. I took my two sons to see the movie with me and didn’t mind that I had to leave the film on two occasions to take them to the bathroom. As a matter of fact, later on in the day they were talking about Astro Boy they had rented on DVD and seen earlier than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That’s the kind of impression it leaves on children I guess.

I have a read a little of the actual books with my kids and enjoy the wry observational humor that the main protagonist Greg (Zachary Gordon) narrates as he goes through his first year of Junior High School. Unfortunately, the film turns him into a smug know-it-all whose only concern is to become popular at all costs, alienating his friends, family and the entire school with his mean spirited antics and pranks. Unfortunately, the audience is left alienated too as we have to sit through minute after excruciating minute of what felt like a 3 hour movie. My son (4) put it best…”the movie kept going and going and going.”

There are a few bright spots. Of course with any made for kiddie fare, there has to be a moral to the story and this one was pretty good, even though I feel that ‘Be Yourself’ might have been a better moral to hang your plot on rather than ‘Don’t rat out your friends’. But then again, who am I to judge? I haven’t been in Jr. High for so many years maybe that’s what the main concern is nowadays, even though I must agree with Greg that Jr. High should just be discarded and skipped over. His best friend Rowley played by Robert Capron was also a breath of fresh air. The plump kid couldn’t act to save his diet, but the part was so likable you couldn’t help but root for him.

In all, the movie suffices as a glorified after school Disney special complete with zany sound effects, super saturated colors and dumb booger jokes. I guess this passes for entertainment in most executives minds when they think of children’s entertainment but as far as my kids are concerned, they would much rather watch Star Trek and Wall-E to get their imaginations going. Leave this cheese bomb alone…literally.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Share

Friday, March 12, 2010

'Remember Me' - Movie Review

I was going to write an entire treatise about how films, despite how good or bad they may be are mainly judged by the ending of the film. This holds especially true of those films who decide to change the tone or the plot near the end to elicit some reaction or emotion. Sometime, and rarely a bad film can be totally redeemed by the filmmakers choices at the end. More often however, good films are ruined by stupid endings tacked on by studio executives who ran it through too many test groups. Unfortunately, If you were to judge Remember Me by the last 10 minutes of the movie…it would be the most exploitative and tasteless movie in recent memory. It takes a lot of narcissism to take such a collective emotional experience and use it for a films surprise ending like it was a tacked on plot point that was so movie worthy. News flash to the writer…we’re not ready.

Now I know you have no clue what I am talking about here and that is the fine line I walk as I try to review entertainment where I cannot divulge the most important part of what I’m reviewing…the storytelling. So what you get are some veiled references about aspects of the movie that tend to stick out in my mind. In general, I was really impressed with this film. There was some solid movie-making going on here. The story was approachable, the camera work was subtle and smart and the actors are adorable.

News flash, Robert Pattinson can act! Seriously. I know you may think I’m off my rocker but after the uncomfortable performance as Cedrick Diggory in Harry Potter and perfectly awkward stone performances of the Twilight nausea, he goes and does something like this and completely redeems himself. Now, I am heaping way too much praise on the guy I’m sure of it. In truth his acting was merely mediocre. But after the soul sucking performances of his previous films, it’s nice to know there is someone alive behind his brooding pursed lips.

Bravo to Emilie de Ravin for her turn as the girl who falls for Pattison’s Tyler even though they’re not supposed to be together. Her part was actually real, smart, funny and unique despite the fact that her Australian accent peaked its head through a few times. And what do ya know; James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) can act, even if it is just distancing himself from his onscreen son. It’s funny that a movie about an American family is completely portrayed by foreigners. Are we really that ugly and bad at acting? (don’t answer that) The real find in the film is the little sister played by Ruby Jerins. It’s nice to see young actors that really know what their doing, but it’s even more refreshing to see someone who completely inhabits that part. From her dry wit to her shy smiles, the real emotion of the story lies behind the girl and her relationship with the different members of her family. It should have revolved around her.

It may seem weird that I am praising and lambasting this movie in the same review but such is the nature of the beast. Think of the worst possible ending to any film that takes itself seriously and I promise you they cross the line on this one. Its not like we’re not given warnings. I scribbled random notes throughout my darkened screening exclaiming, “Why are they telling us this” and “Oh they better not go there”. Way too much foreboding and foretelling and not enough joy, promise and resolve. This could have been a surprise hit but instead they turn it into a conflicted film whose greatness and heinousness cancel each other out.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

My Oscar Predictions

Im calling an audible and changing my best picture choice because I feel the Hurt Locker should win. But the academy has proven me wrong plenty of times before. So here it is, the cuttoff is now. My Academy Award selections for this year. May the best woman or man win!
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Diretcting: Katherine Bigelow
Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges
Lead Actress: Sandra Bullock
Supporting Actor: Chritopher Waltz
Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Animated Feature: Up
Animated Short: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: Avatar
Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Doc. Feature: The Cove
Doc. Short: China's Unnatural Disaster
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Foreign Language: The White Ribbon
Makeup: Star Trek
Original Score: Up
Original Song: The Weary Kind
Live Short: The Door
Sound Editing: Avatar
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Visual Effects: Avatar
Original Screenplay: Inglorious Basterds
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

Friday, March 05, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: Movie Review

I have never read the original Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass and all of my knowledge regarding the tale of Alice as she goes down the rabbit hole comes from the Disney animated movie and the caterpillar ride at Disneyland. I thought this would suffice for a midnight screening of the new Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, but alas…I felt a little left in the dark. Too many references to names an places I never really new distracted me from a better experience. Everyone will have a good time, don’t get me wrong. Tim Burton has always been a master at macabre wit and fantastic set design, but here, you’ll just have to settle for the set design.

Of course this movie will be wildly popular and everyone will go see it. My midnight screening was packed. Mainly by high schoolers whom use the excuse of a midnight screening in Utah to show their rebellious side. It was weird sitting in that meat-market setting with everyone talking to everyone else, yelling at the previews, making jokes etc. But when the movie got into full swing, a hush fell over the audience as they allowed themselves to be sucked into the fantastically twisted world that Alice believes she had dreamed up for herself.

Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska holds her own as the title character but suffers the same fate as poor Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. The really have not much to do. Alice does scowl a lot and focus really intently on getting her accent right and the Queen seems to have had her arms frozen up in the air and always talks to nobody in particular like a bad version of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter films. Its easy to see who are Tim Burtons favorite characters in this tale and that would be the Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp and the Red Queen played by Helena Bonham Carter. Both relish their parts and give all out nutty performances. You really could have a lot of fun with the two except the film never allows them to grow as characters. There is so much going on with this film; you never really feel the camaraderie of any of the characters.

That hardly matters though when you’ve got a world like Wonderland. Keep in mind this is not Pandora (nerdy Avatar reference), but it is indeed a dark and dreary place that is fits the story, but not the fun that should be Alice. It’s a lot of fun to watch things emerge in 3D and the depth and color off all the weirdness going on up on the screen. However, it’s as if little 3D gimmicks were thrown in just for the kids. Kids? I know this has a PG rating but ripping out eyeballs and moats filled with floating severed heads hardly qualify as children’s entertainment (unless you have an equally morbid son like mine). And herein lies the main problem with the film. It can’t decide if it’s a kid’s film or an adult. There is no middle ground here. The over explanation, awkward dancing, silly music score and funny characters all point to a film geared towards kids 8 and under. But the dark story, visceral visuals, twisted humor and star power all seem to model and Adult film. In general, this is a very beautiful, awkward, disjointed movie.

So, I’m really torn with this movie. The Visuals alone are worth the price of admission to the theater (especially in 3D), but the content makes me want to recommend renting it. I’ll let you decide, but if patched up endings, horrible editing and befuddled story lines bother you, I would stay away. If you love incredible imaginations, gruesome creatures and weird not-really-makes-sense randomness, then you’ll like the film. Your call.


Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother


Share