Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Wrap Up

O.K. so it’s been a while again. I have been busy, but I thought it would be good to post something before the year was out and since every magazine and website out there is doing it, a best and worst list seemed like the best way to go since it would give me an opportunity to do a quickie review of a couple of the more noteworthy flicks this year. Bear in mind that I have not seen everything out this year. This is based only on the few movies that I have seen.
The Best
Scott Pilgrim v.s The World
Let Me In
Kick Ass
The Town
True Grit
The Social Network
The Crazies
Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
Honorable Mention
The Karate Kid
Secret of Kells
Iron man 2
The Wolfman
The A-Team
The Worst
The Last Airbender
Clash of The Titans
Jonah Hex
The Losers
District 13 Ultimatum

Best Remake or Adaptation

This is actually a close one. So it takes a little explaining.
Let me in, Kick-Ass, The Crazies and Scott Pilgrim are all in the best list with Wolfman and The Karate Kid in the honorable mention category. I admit that Wolfman had its flaws but I’m just such a fan that it seems to have made the list based solely on my bias for the awesomeness of werewolves. But the rest definitely deserve to be there.

First, Let me in: I’m a huge fan of the sweetish film and thought it might be the best vampire film ever. So when I enjoyed the American remake even more, I nearly crapped my pants with shock. Indeed i almost crapped down both legs with shock. It was not only a better looking movie visually but the characters were fleshed out in a much fuller and more compelling way. I felt like I knew them and really sympathized with all of them. PLUS it was actually scary (something I felt the Swedish version wasn’t).

The Crazies: The original 70’s film was actually pretty crappy in my opinion so it wasn’t to monumental a task to outdo it. However the filmmakers really outdid themselves altogether when making the updated version. I can’t think of a single flaw in the whole thing. The Crazies is a truly great horror movie.

Kick-Ass: I straight up didn’t believe this comic could be made into a movie at all. Not because of style. But the fact that watching a little girl kill people seems like it would be even worse on film than on paper. But they pulled it off. I just thought it was fun. I’m either sick and twisted or that was a good damn movie.

The Karate Kid: They took a cheesy 80’s movie starring a scrawny whiney 22 year old man as a high schooler in southern California and turned it into a martial arts epic actually set in Asia with a meaningful ‘fish out of water’ story, great characters and starring a cool kid, (an actual 10 year old kid mind you) and a martial arts legend. Well done.
So yeah, three way tie for first place and two fine runner ups.

Biggest Disappointment

To start, Clash of the Titans was BAD. I’ve covered that already in a review. But the award for this title actually goes to the Last Airbender, which believe it or not I hated much worse (and if you’ve read the Titans review, you know how much of a disappointment Airbender must have been). I didn’t write a review for that one at the time it was released because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it having loved the original animated series so much. It even beats the awful Losers and Jonah Hex movies based solely on the fact that they were mediocre comic books to begin with and the Last Airbender is one of the greatest television shows ever and definitely the best animated show ever. When you have such fine source material and you still make a shitty movie, you have screwed the pooch ROYALY. You broke my heart M. Knight Shamalan you dirty, dirty bastard.
Verdict: The Last Airbender
Biggest surprise

Scott Pilgrim. Thought that comic was unfilmable. Turns out I don’t know shit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review Scott - Pilgrim v.s The World

Short version: SEE IT! The most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer has arrived, that is all.

(Finally, were getting a few good movies this summer. After the past few god awful months I’m relieved that the season is wrapping up with a few payoffs.)

Grade A+

The Good: First, The world that this movie is set in is AWESOME. It is the world of a Nintendo game come to life. Scott Pilgrim is based on the ONI press comic book series of the same name by writer/illustrator Bryan Lee O'Malley. It is set in a world where doing battle, leveling up, and getting coins for victories is all a normal part of life and the gonzo sort of things that happen in Super Mario bros. are nothing out of the ordinary. The cast is the second component that brings the quality to this film. It stars Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick and just about every other young actor in the world as the friends of Scott Pilgrim or the evil exes of Ramona Flowers. Everyone involved turns in an awesomely hilarious performance. Almost every character is a scene stealer, (if that’s even possible). With the best parts coming mostly from Culkin and Brandon Routh. The story is quite endearing. It doesn’t tell us anything a thousand other movies haven’t already said, but it does it in the freshest way I’ve ever seen a movie tell me anything in years. It was a very new style of filmmaking and it was impossible to be bored. And this was the most original work Michael Cera has done in his entire career, (A good thing I think since people seem to be getting tired of him playing his arrested development character in every movie). The movie also hilariously scathes and loves on hipsters like I’ve never seen before. Subtly mocking indie bands, vegans, and the like. While also making them seem kind of cool in the process.

The Bad: as glowing as this review is, there is one real down side. If you aren’t or never have been a Nintendo player, (or a Super Nintendo player) you won’t understand anything that’s happening at all. That means twenty to thirty year olds are the target audience. That’s not miniscule, but it is smaller than a family movie or a gritty thriller will attract. It really is a small demographic they have aimed for, and although the film is unquestionably high in quality, it is also a bit ‘inside’ for its own good. If you’re younger than twenty you should get it still, but most people older than forty will be totally lost.

I’m really impressed with director Edgar Wright, (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) for being able to adapt this material at all. I’ve read the graphic novels, (the finale was published about a week before the film’s release). And I was certain that putting all of this in one movie would be impossible to pull off. It is six freaking volumes long and crazy as hell. But here it is and I’ve given it an A+ rating. Shows what I know.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review - Inseption

Short Version: Best movie of the year. Go see it soon. If you don’t like this, you don’t like movies.

Grade: A+

Inception is a mind bender of a film. But I mean that in a good way. I don’t mean confusing; I just mean that it’s quite a ride. The concept is probably more original than anything that has come around in quite a while and the tone of the film is perfect for the kind ofAvant-garde sci-fi that it is. I say sci-fi but to put a label of genre on this film would be impossible. It is an amalgamation of JAMES BOND and THE MATRIX with a touch of HEAT thrown in for good measure. And on top of all of that it is a very compelling Character drama. We’ll call it an existential, sci-fi, art house, heist film.
The film opens with an excellent teaser that you could never predict before watching but that doesn’t seem out of the blue by the time you get to the end. All is explained but without unnecessary or dull expositional dialog and the movie folds and unfolds beautifully creating a very engaging and entertaining experience. It is the rare intelligent summer blockbuster. And it is especially welcome in a summer that has been quite sparse on quality this year.

The Bad: Nothing.

The Good: EVERYTHING! Seriously, I can’t remember the last movie I saw that was this good (perhaps Book of Eli). It had a very strong cast headed up by Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a personal favorite of mine), Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page. All of whom do brilliant work in the movie. The characters that have smaller parts, (Ken Watanabe, Michal Kane, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, and Pete Postlethwaite) are all great as well. The cinematography is beautiful. The effects and set pieces are of the highest quality and all handled so well that every bit seems like reality, which is something that serves the dreamscape setting of the film perfectly and gives the movie a necessarily eerie and trippy feel. There is a scene in the movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt getting into what can only be described as a tumbling zero-g fist fight. And it alone is reason enough to see this movie.
The whole film is just as much of an experience as James Cameron’s AVATAR without needing to be completely C.G.I.’ed and 3D’d up. Not that I consider those things to be bad, I’m just impressed that there are still those around who don’t feel a need to use those techniques in all of their movies and more impressed that they are right.
I had a hell of a time at the theater on this one. I was drawn into the movie so much that when it ended and I left the theatre I wasn’t sure where I was or which hallway to walk down in order to find the parking lot. I highly recommend that everyone see this movie and enjoy themselves, it could be a while before another one of these comes along.

Been A While

So, my computer broke a while ago and I had a few things to tend to before that, so I haven’t written anything in a while. But I’m back now with a new computer to get back to geeking out over flicks. Here we go.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review- Prince of Persia

Short version: It’s okay, maybe worth a rent if you love the Middle East or Jake Gyllenhaal. But not a very exiting or entertaining movie.

Grade: C

The only real issue with this film is that it is flat; however, this is also a huge problem here. When you have charismatic actors throughout the film coupled with spectacular effects and twirling action sequences and you still can’t make anyone exited about the events taking place then you’ve failed pretty miserably to make a good adventure film. Director by Mike Newell the movie has all of the ingredients and money it needs but still fails to achieve any thrills and feels like a road trip through Death Valley.

It’s unfortunate because it had a good chance to be amazing and to prove that you can make a good movie from a good video game but perhaps that hope is in vein. Having said that it is still probably the best video game movie ever made, which says how bad the rest are.

What I liked: the cast. You’ve got Ben Kingsley, Toby Kebbell, Gemma Arterton(who seems to be popping up in everything lately) Alfred Molina and Gyllenhaal all bringing considerable talent to the film. The problem is that they are all stuck with nothing to do. The script is predictable and somewhat pointless with no real heart and it becomes somewhat unengaging.

What I hated: nothing. Nevertheless, everything I didn’t like was still just mediocre. So even though I didn’t hate any of it, that still counts as a mark against it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review - The Wolfman

UPDATE: I have recently viewed the extended DVD and it is better. The tone is more as I had expected and there is just the slightest improvement in pacing and character. Most of the differences are subtle but I felt a big result and noticeable improvement, (witch I am stoked about because now the fact that I love the movie feels justified). Based on the extended version I would give it an A-.

Grade: B+, extended version A-

Short version: The Wolfman is a good remake with a few flaws but a generally enjoyable movie. If you like creature features, give it a look. If not, you probably won’t like it much.

I am a huge fan of werewolves. In addition, I’m a huge an of the original Wolfman movie. I have never been big on vampires nor do I understand the vampire craze that has come about from shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries or Twilight, (a story in which I maintain no actual vampires or werewolves appear) but werewolves have always seemed cool to me. Since childhood, I have been waiting for a good remake of the classic Universal Studios movie. The closest we’ve come to this is probably American Werewolf in London, or as strange as it might sound, Monster Squad. Therefore, when I heard this film was happening I was out of my mind with excitement.

First, what the movie gets right.

The Visuals- By far the movies greatest strength. This is one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in years. The locations are gorgeous and the cinematography is top notch. The mood is perfectly set by the foggy English landscapes and the Victorian setting adding necessarily creepy backdrops for the whole affair. Putting the movie in Victorian England was by far the best change made to the story. On top of all this is the best damned make up I've ever seen. Rick Baker really knoked it out of the park on this one. The Wolfman looks amazing.

The Cast- Benicio Del Toro was born to play Lawrence Talbot. He even looks like Lon Chaney Jr. and makes you feel for the guy when things get ugly. Anthony Hopkins is enjoyable even though he is chewing the scenery through the whole movie and Emily blunt is beautiful and adds a lot to the otherwise grim story just by being on screen and I found it refreshing that she wasn’t a typical damsel in distress in this role. Moreover, what movie isn’t made better by the involvement of Hugo Weaving? Overall, I thought it was perfectly cast and that is one of the things that got me most exited about the movie.

The Gore- This movie is bloody. It’s not exactly Apocalypto or 30 days of night bloody, but it has enough violence to cut any cheese factor down by about 60%. There are beheadings, disembowelments, severed limbs, spurting arteries and an impaling. And the gore isn’t limited to the Wolfman clawing and biting; one guy even gets run over by a steam car.

What they got wrong.

The Tone- when I saw the preview I was expecting the most intense and badass monster movie ever but the film never really delivers that intensity. It takes a more artsy approach to the story, which is fine, but it just wasn’t what I expected it to be. It’s still good, but not the kind of good I was hoping for.

The Plot- While the plot is relatively simple, and they added an interesting back-story to most of the characters, the plot itself feels like its missing a few pieces. I’m not sure if it was over edited or what, but something was clearly missing.

*Spoiler Warning*
The Ending- Throughout the movie some great tension between two of the main characters is building and building and when the confrontation between them comes at the end of the film it goes from what I imagine seemed awesome on paper to being somewhat weak and just a bit silly on film. (but still fun though)

There are other elements that I loved, (the subdued romance between Lawrence and his dead brothers fiancĂ©, the use of a Victorian insane asylum, and a Sikh warrior) and some that I didn’t, (the Sikh doesn’t actually end up doing much, feeling wasted)
*End of Spoilery Stuff*

The trouble I have with this move isn’t weather it is good or bad, But what they chose to do with it. Rather than simply update, the already great story with the proper grit and tone. They tried to pay and homage to the original. Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Hidalgo, and October Sky) is underrated in my opinion. He is well suited to the adventure movie and family movie crowds and this was his first R rated venture. However, I don’t think that was the problem it is my observation that every time Universal Studios tries to remake one of the original big five monster movies, (Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature From The Black Lagoon) they tend to turn the movie into an imitation of the way those movies were made in their day. Instead of a proper bone chiller, we get a movie that feels like a cheap imitation, (Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola) or that feels cheesy by today’s standards, (van Helsing, The Mummy with Brendan Frasier). The Wolfman is by far less of an offender in this way than any of the others but the bottom line is that it feels like a wasted opportunity to make a monster movie that is equally or less scary than its 1941 predecessor. It just doesn’t work very well.

I may just be bias in favor of Werewolf stories but I did enjoy the movie. So much so that when an annoying friend sitting next to me kept talking and nudging me, I hit him in the face, to get him to stop, (yes, he stopped after that). Physical violence for the sake of enjoying a movie is a first, even for an intense movie lover like me. Driving home from the movie I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t the movie I expected and made my complaint known to my friends, but then I recalled the punch to the face and realized how much fun I had watching the movie regardless. So this one is tough, I’m not sure if it’s genuinely good or if I’m just a sucker for Lycanthropy but I liked it and I get the feeling that any monster lover will.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review- Iron Man 2

Short version: Iron Man 2 is as good as the first and an excellent way to start the summer movie season. You should see it on the big screen.

Grade: A-

This move is the official start of the summer blockbuster season so I find it very satisfying that the movie is actually great. All of the most important pieces are still there. Robert Downy Jr.’s Tony Stark is still an enjoyably flamboyant smart ass; Gwyneth Paltrow is still an adorably uptight sourpuss; and Director John Favreau is behind the camera. The only change to the cast is that Terence Howard has been replaced by the equally capable Don Cheadle who, in my opinion, (nothing against Terrance Howard, I’m a big fan) is actually a better fit for the role. Along with that, we get an enjoyably weird and creepy performance from Mickey Rourke who plays the films new villain. Rourke is especially perfect to go head to head with Downy Jr., as is Sam Rockwell, both of whom make for colorful characters in their own ways to play against our eccentric hero. Both of the villains are also intriguing parallels to the main character himself. Rourke’s being that of the criminal version of Iron Man, and Rockwell being a Tony Stark without any true wit making it quite enjoyable to see how they come together to be a threat to Iron Man. In addition, there is another parallel in the form of Don Cheadle’s much anticipated character of “War Machine” in this movie, which would seem to be Iron Man if he were in the military.

The action sequences and special effects are fantastic with the tail end of the movie being especially entertaining. The story moves at a fast and steady pace with enough humor to keep you engaged when the action takes a back seat to the plot and character development. The story also feels like a natural step toward the planned Avengers movie due out in 2012. The plot focuses on Tony Stark’s realization that the protection of the world and taking care himself at the same time are not a job he can do alone, a perfect setup for where the movies sequels will surely take the character. The surprise hit of the movie for me was Scarlett Johanssen as the Black Widow. She steals the scenes she is in throughout the movie and has some impressive fight scenes at the end of the film.

The wit of the movie remains completely in tact and true to the comic books on which the movie is based. There is a great bunch of scenes featuring Gary Shandling as a U.S. Senator. That provides for some superbly comical moments. The effects are top notch and add a certain level of artistic narrative to many scenes in the movie, specifically the interactive hologram effects. They make even the scientific and mechanical work that Tony dose in his basement feel like art instead of an episode of orange county choppers. They also make the movie’s A.I. version of Jarvis the butler a thousand times cooler than the old man version in the comics, whom the A.I. has replaced.

Overall, I think Iron Man 2 is better than the first film and pretty much a perfect popcorn flick. It is worth your hard-earned dollar and I highly recommend the movie to anyone and suggest seeing it soon to kick the summer off properly.