Friday, November 30, 2012

(Movie Review) Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians is an extremely well-produced movie, but I don’t know if it was worth the effort.

This is usually the time of year when Holiday movies roll out and people are bashed over the head with thoughts of good cheer and sugar plums dancing about. The problem with that is I can’t remember a GREAT Christmas movie coming out at this time of year since Elf (2003). Sure, there have been plenty of efforts, but usually they are box office disasters. Fred Claus (2007), Christmas with the Kranks (2004) and Arthur Christmas (2011) are examples of Holiday movies failing to meet expectations. So the people of at Dreamworks had an idea. If Santa Claus isn’t getting people in the theater seats, why not add every other mystical Holiday character too. What they ended up with is a very attractive movie that doesn't really fit in and fails to hit the Holiday sweet spot.

Storyline: North/Santa (Baldwin) notices a dark shadow looming over his globe of the world and immediately realizes that it is that of his old nemesis Pitch Black/The Boogieman (Law). He calls on the rest of the Guardians to help him investigate. This team consists of Tooth/The Tooth Fairy (Fisher), Bunny/The Easter Bunny (Jackman) and the always silent Sandy/The Sandman. The Man In The Moon informs them that the threat is too great and that a new addition to the Guardians must be called. Jack Frost (Pine) is summonsed to meet with the group and to be brought in to help fight the evil threat that is on a warpath to ruin the Holidays for every child. But Jack is at odds with himself and isn’t sure of his place in the group. If he is to succeed, and the group is to defeat Pitch, Jack Frost must become the Guardian that the world needs him to be.

As you can tell from the above description, the movie is a bit convoluted. Not only is it a movie about every major mythical childhood figure, but stuffing all of that into a single story would be a daunting task for anyone. Sure, the movie is cute, and the visuals are stunning, but with this movie being top heavy on characters it doesn't ever really seem to get it right. Within a very short period of time you have dreams, Christmas, Easter, and the belief in Fairies all threatened. Because of that, they sting a lot less that you would think that they should. It’s just a classic example of Hollywood overcompensating when it doesn't need to.

Worth the admission? Only for the kids. They will like it. But the movie falls short of being a Christmas movie. I don’t think that it will perform like the studio wants. I think that it will underwhelm and will be released in time for Easter. Also, I have to admit that the voice acting for Jack Frost and Bunny might be the worst I have seen in an animated film. The voices just don’t match and it is often very distracting. 

(Movie Review) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

I have a small and, often times, unaccommodating local movie theater that often will not get the majority of the films that I would actually like to see. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was on that list. It has a phenomenal cast and looked really interesting but I never had a chance to check it out. So on a boring chilly night we decided to rent it. In my humblest of humble was well worth the wait. 

Storyline: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan. - from

Thoughts? A really fun and interesting movie. I sure wouldn't call it a "dark comedy", but considering that it's a movie about the end of the world...what else could you call it? There is a surprisingly fun and somehow believable chemistry between Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. I, going in to it, would have only that a relationship between the two of them could be viewed as "friendly", but in the end you do begin to think of them as two people that actually care about each other. 

At the front of the movie they explain that the attempts to thwart the apocalypse have been failures, so you go into the movie knowing that the end of the world is upon us. I think that it adds a very fun albeit heartbreakingly sad element to the film.  

Check it out!

(Movie Review) ONCE (2006)

I love a good musical. It can be live or on TV and I will sit down and usually watch it. Especially when it is well written, well acted, and the music is actually something that I would listen even if it were not part of the movie. Across The Universe is a great example of this. Heck, Once More With Feeling (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is STILL on my iPod to this day. So to find something that not only works musically but also visually is a rare treat...and this movie works on all levels. 

Storyline: A (unnamed) Guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer-songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. A (unnamed) Girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets Girl, and they get to know each other as the Girl helps the Guy to put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the Guy and the Girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs. - Written by

This movie turned out to be an absolutely fantastic film. The music was great! I loved that 
there are no names mentioned from the stars and that the man and woman in the movie 
aren't even "real" actors...they are musicians. So the music never feels overproduced or like 
they are singing along with a CD it just sounds like we are watching the meeting of two very 
talented musicians that are also trying to navigate through their personal lives. Just a great 
little movie. 

Thoughts? It's a movie that you can't go wrong with. The only draw backs are the accents 
are a liiiiiiittle hard to understand from time to time AND there is a bit of a "downer" that is 
associated with the film that I really wasn't expecting but I actually prefered it to the idea 
than everything would completely work out for everyone involved. 

All in all, a great movie and a great soundtrack!  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

(Movie Review) Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is proof that bad acting, bad effects, and lying to your audience will make your franchise a success…as long as the cast is pretty enough.

It has never been a secret that I am not a fan of the Twilight film franchise. Most fans will protest that statement with “you should read the books” or “you just don’t get it”. They are correct. I haven’t read the books and I don’t get it. Because last night I was robbed. Not only of my ticket price but also of the experience of actually getting on board with this last installment. More specifically, I was sold a bill of goods that this movie yanked out from under me. For that, I plan to crush them.

Storyline: Newly turned Vampire Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) are elated at the birth of their newborn daughter Renesmee. But when Renesmee proves to be special and her age increases at an alarmingly rapid rate the family begins to worry. Word soon makes its way back to the Volturi and they, worried that this child could expose Vampires or that she may challenge their power one day, decides to confront the Cullen Clan and take her by force.

So. This is where it is going to be hard to describe why I hated this movie so much and why it, surprisingly, is my least favorite of the franchise. Keep in mind that I have to do this without spoiling the movie for you. This movie sells you a lie. I went in to the film knowing not to expect much. Luckily for me this franchise knows exactly how to deliver that. Horrible CGI is used throughout the film. From the action scenes to the CGI baby. It is shockingly noticeable. But I overlooked it because there was a significant event that takes place at the end of this movie that, for a brief and shining moment, made me like the movie. I, for about 10 minutes, thought that FINALLY the “kid gloves” had come off and we were going to get to experience something worthy of the BILLIONS of dollars that people have spent on Twilight. But by the end of the film it is proven to be a lie. Nothing but window dressing to make you feel something for the characters and then wipes the slate clean so everyone wins. It was the ultimate writers cop out and felt like a slap in the face to me. Because of that, because in a world with Werewolves and Vampires the only way to make the audience experience loss in any way is to LIE to them, this movie will forever be considered the worst of the franchise to me and is BANNED from my home. This is not a joke. I hate it that much.

Worth the admission? No. That’s all I can say. 

SPOILERS:  Below is some of my "beef" with the movie. 

So you read this review and probably think that I am an overly cynical person, but I wanted to tell you where I was coming from.

I have hated these movie. Truly hated them. Even this movie was a lame duck for the majority of the film. Nothing really happened. It was just a bunch of waiting to see when the Volturi would show up. All we did was see Renesmee grow up a bit (and that CGI was trash. A CGI baby and the way they CGIed the kids face while she was growing up?) and watch the Cullens meet people. That was pretty much it. Then came the one thing that actually changed my opinion. The battle. Seeing Carlisle beheaded made it all very "real" and for the first time in the franchise I thought "oh hell. These folks CAN actually die". And die they did. You have a few fan favorites that are dropping like flies. Carlisle and Jasper specifically. Then the tides shift and the Volturi start getting wasted. Marcus and Alec were awesome to see. The look of fear on Jane's face after Alec is taken out and how she gets taken out was awesome. Then Aro, dear Aro, lost his head and got fire put to him. But wait...not really. 

That is where I honestly could have thrown my damn drink at the screen. I came into this movie as a "hater" but by the end of it I was really starting to enjoy myself. Then I find out none of it happened? No one died. No one fought. Technically, if im not mistaken, there was only one death in this movie and that was Irina (Maggie Grace). The reason that it ticks me off so bad is because my whole problem with this movie franchise is that everyone is always safe. No one dies. You might think they are going to but no one ever does. The bad guys, sure, but no one else. And as a person that never read the books I thought that this movie had finally stepped up to the plate and was going to raise the stakes a bit. 

To me, it comes off as cheap. Having your audience go through all of the emotional stuff with the loss of characters and the satisfaction of watching the remaining characters defeat the bad guys and then, just so you wont make any of the fans mad, you wipe the slate clean and say "just kidding. Nobody died. Yaaaaaay!". The ultimate case of getting your cake and eating it too.

My second big complaint is the fact that the movie borderline supports/glorifies a pedopheliac relationship. Jacob and Renesmee is not something that they should have really gone into much detail on. And I will give them credit for avoiding it for the most part. But his being overly protective of her and then the joke of "so can I date your daughter" was in really poor taste and really creepy.

So, that it my gripe. 

(Movie Review) SKYFALL (2012)

I was never really that big of a James Bond fan as a kid. I, as you all probably know by now, was much more interested in Superheroes and things of that nature. Some blowhard, alcoholic, womanizing and fictional superspy was never going to steal that attention away from DC comics. When I was a teen I remember looking into the origin of Bond and finding that Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, actually took the attributes and skills of this protagonist from a hand full of soldiers that he knew during his time with the Naval Intelligence Division during WWII. For some reason knowing that these skills came from real people suddenly changed the character for me and I really began to appreciate the franchise. This was right around the time that GoldenEye came out (1995) and Pierce Brosnan played the title character. Since then I have watched most of the films from the franchise. The good and the really bad. As far as SKYFALL, I think that it deserves a place near the top of the list.

Storyline: After a mission goes bad Bond (Craig) disappears from the world of espionage with what appears to be no plans of coming back. But when MI6 is attacked, and a former operative named Raoul Silva (Bardem) is found to be responsible, Bond resurfaces to help take him down. Silva is determined to take down MI6 and “M” (Dench) for ruining his life…and only James Bond stands in his way.

Sam Mendes really knows how to make a movie look good. There are a few scenes in this movie that are not only breathtaking but rival any past films in the franchise. Iconic shots with brilliant background colors and vibrant scenery make this my favorite bond movie (visually). The negatives of the movie are few and far between. At 143 minutes the movie is a bit long, but I really can’t think of a scene that should have been cut to shave time off. It may not be the greatest Bond film, but it is a very solid one.

Worth the admission? Sure is. A lot of things that I have wanted to see in the past few bond movies, like “Q” and the return of a past favorite character that I won’t spoil, were really good payoffs in this movie. I have really liked Craig in the title role for the past few movies. It is such a different world than watching someone like Pierce Brosnan, who always seemed more like a playboy than a spy, on the big screen. Another great thing is that the villain in this movie isn’t overly maniacal, but is actually someone that you feel is just dangerous enough to carry out his plans. Bardem is fantastic in the role. Equal parts insane and carefree. All in all, this turned out to be a great Bond film. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

(Movie Review) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

I remember when I got my first console gaming system. It was a Coleco Vision and it allowed me to play “state of the art” games like Donkey Kong, Mouse Trap, and I believe that there was an E.T. game in there too. Then we moved on to Atari, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, etc. My Saturday mornings were always filled with equal parts video games and cartoons. So when I first heard of Wreck-It Ralph being in the works I was really excited to see it. Sometimes a movie just hits you right and the idea of it just “works”, and apparently the idea hit everyone right…because it now sits as Walt Disney’s Animation Studios largest debuting movie ever.

Storyline: Wreck-It Ralph (Reilly) is tired of being the “bad guy”. He is an underappreciated character in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix, Jr. While the rest of the people in his game love Felix (McBrayer) they treat Ralph like a villain and it soon begins to hurt Ralph’s feelings. On the 30th anniversary of their video game Ralph returns to find that the characters in his game are having a celebration and did not invite him. When he casually invites himself in, and then wrecks the party, the people make a point to tell him that he will never be a winner like Felix. So Ralph goes on a mission to prove them wrong. He leaves his video game and begins to game hop in the hopes of winning a gold medal to bring back to the people in his game and to prove that he can be a hero too.

I absolutely loved this movie. I giggled during the whole thing. It’s bright, really well made, funny, and the voice acting is perfect. For the first time in my life I can say that I loved something that Sarah Silverman (voice of Vanellope von Schweetz) has been in. Her character was beyond cute and really helped make the movie what it was.

One other thing that I loved was the inclusion of so many characters from past popular video games. Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., Pac Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Frogger, Mortal Kombat, and Q*bert all are represented at some point in this movie. I just thought that it was a really nice touch and that it gave the movie a Who Framed Roger Rabbit quality that I really was not expecting.

Worth the admission? Without a doubt! This movie hits the spot, especially after the last few weeks of sitting through disappointing films at the theater. It’s a very touching and well-made movie. Kudos to Disney’s Animation Studio. They have consistently put out film after film of the most imaginative animated movies in history. This movie, in my humble opinion, is the best one yet. Make sure to go see it!


Friday, November 2, 2012

(Movie Review) Silent Hill 2 (2012)

Silent Hill: Revelation tops my list as the worst movie of 2012

It’s getting a little colder outside and one of the best things for me to combat the chilly weather is Hot Chocolate. I love a good cup when it starts getting cold out. There is something so simple and comforting about it. So one day, a few years back, I was in New York for work on one of the coldest days of the year and decided that a nice cup of coco would hit the spot just right. I placed my order, waited, and was finally given this overly complicated monstrosity of a drink. It didn’t even have a top on it because it was so full. It had whipped cream, sprinkles, some kind of glaze and was topped with a cherry. After digging through the mess for a while, trying to just get a sip of coco, I finally threw it away because it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I can’t think of a better comparison for this movie. It took something that was simple and unique with Silent Hill (2006) and destroyed it with a contrived story, bad acting and poor effects...and a cherry on top.

Storyline: What do you do when you can’t trust the world around you? That is a question that is plaguing Heather Mason (Clemens). Her vivid dreams of a place called Silent Hill and the horrific monsters that she sees when alone make her question everything about her life. When her father (Bean) is taken in the night, and a strange message is left that tells her to go back to Silent Hill, she embarks on a journey to save him. But when she arrives at the town she is quickly confronted with the truth of who she really is and how she is connected with the town of Silent Hill.

What is going on with “scary movies” this year? Between this and Paranormal Activity 4 I actually had pretty high hopes for a few good Halloween scares. They just keep getting it wrong this year, and this movie is the worst offender.

Worth the admission? I wouldn’t even recommend renting this from RedBox when it comes out. This movie is HORRIBLE. They couldn’t have gotten this movie more wrong. The first movie was actually really good (considering what I was expecting) and the story could have continued on from that very easily, but this movie takes a hard left turn and crashes into the trees. Don’t even get me started on the acting. Redwoods are less wooden than the acting in this movie. I, honestly, made jokes during the whole thing because I was so bored. And no, me talking in the theater didn’t offend the other three people that came out to watch this horrible movie on its opening night. Please skip it. I hear that Sinister is a solid scary movie, so I would recommend you get your Halloween frights from it.

(Movie Review) Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

The only thing scary about Paranormal Activity 4 is the horrible story and lukewarm box office reception

The horror genre is full of classics. Think about how many of your favorite 80’s movies are now classic horror films/franchises. The 90’s turned out a good horror franchise or two (Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc.) that still maintained the spirit of the more classic horror franchises. They weren’t just gore and graphic sex. They were suspenseful. Unfortunately the 2000’s decided to take the horror genre and spin it into a gore fest that is lovingly called “Torture Porn”. Movies like Hostel, The Human Centipede, the Halloween remakes and, of course, the SAW franchise took all of the fun out of horror. Theaters were reduced large audiences of people watching the movies with their hands over their faces peaking between their fingers at the carnage on the screen. Movies like that defined how an entire generation perceived horror...and people like me felt sorry for those that missed out of classic suspenseful horror movies.

In October of 2009 I saw a glimpse of hope for this genre in the form of a little independent (and very cheaply made) suspenseful horror movie called Paranormal Activity. It finally seemed that film makers were steering away from the gory films and would start making movies that actually scared people instead of just making movies that grossed people out. The film was a HUGE success and garnered a sequel, which I think not only stands eye level with the original, but actually strengthens the story of the original. Then the obvious happened. They got greedy and tried to tie in a prequel as a third installment. Not a great idea. It made the franchise look weak and like it was grasping at straws for a story. As if that were not bad enough, they pushed forward with a complete train wreck of a fourth installment that not only diluted the entire series, but has the worst story and the worst “twists” of the entire franchise. Sometimes you should just quit while you are ahead.

Storyline: It’s been five years since Katie and Hunter have disappeared into the night after the events that took place on October 8th and 9th of 2006. But when a mysterious woman and a small child move in next door to the Nelson family, things began to happen. The woman claims to be ill and in need of someone to take care of her son while she is in the hospital and the Nelson’s agree to allow the young boy to stay with them. Fatal events that can’t be explained soon begin taking place.

Worth the admission? I’m going to say no, but that isn’t going to stop you from seeing it. It’s Halloween and you want a good scare, but trust me, you will not get it from this movie. It’s REALLY not up to snuff with the first two films and is obviously reaching for stories…even stories that aren’t worth reaching for. A boring and pointless addition to the franchise.

(Movie Review) Taken 2 (2012)

Taken 2 defeats the box office but kills the audience with boredom in the process

There was something special about Taken (2008). Maybe it was that it crept up on everyone. Kind of how Liam Neeson would creep up on his victims and take them down with a swift punch to the throat or a broken neck. It wasn’t something that people were expecting to do as well as it did. What made it a winner was positive word of mouth from everyone that happened to go in to see it.  It was a lower budget film with lots of action and the introduction of Liam Neeson as a legitimate action star. So what do you think that the logical thing to do next would be? If you guessed RUIN IT with a mediocre sequel you would be absolutely correct.

Storyline: Life is going much better for Bryan Mills (Neeson) these days. He is finally a functioning part of his daughters life, he and his ex-wife are more than friendly to each other, and he is enjoying retirement (with the exception of the occasional contract job). His family life is good. However, the family life of Murad Krasniqi (Serbedzija) is not so great. He was the father, uncle, brother and friend to many of those that were killed when Mills rescued his daughter Kim (Grace) from those that once abducted her….and Krasniqi is out for revenge. While on a family trip to Istanbul, Byran and his ex-wife Lenore (Janssen) are abducted and it is up to Kim to help free them. The entire family is at risk and it will take all of their efforts to get them safely out of Istanbul.

As you can see from the above film description the work load is somewhat shared in this movie. When the first movie came out, and it was about a father that would move Heaven and Earth to get his daughter back, it was very focused on one man and his mission. A tone was set. But this move bounces back and forth from Neeson and Grace pursuing the bad guys. So the way that one character approaches the situation, like an ex-government operative that isn’t scared of anything, is often interrupted by the actions of how a different character approaches the situation, like a scared teenage girl that has never been forced into a situation like this. It makes for a very uneven movie. The flow of it never seems to really live up to the first film.
Worth the admission? I am going to have to say no. I hate to do it. I loved the first movie and love Liam Neeson, but this movie just doesn’t come close to the original. The fights are REALLY choppy and the action is pretty tame. The two big “kills” in the movie are huge letdowns. It just came across as lazy and, I hate to say it, boring. Wait until it hits DVD or Netflix to watch it.