Friday, January 25, 2013

(Movie Review) A Haunted House (2013)

A Haunted House is less of a parody and more of a let down.

I’m not a huge fan of the work that the Wayans family has produced. I usually find it to be the lowest form of low brow comedy. It is like an echo of a comedy. Almost what it should be but just a little less of what it could be. Most parody/spoof films do not try to be interesting or original, they only want to take a movie or franchise that has been popular and spin cheesy one liners and gross out comedy from it. Knowing that BEFORE you watch movies like this is always helpful. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised. I thought that Scary Movie 2 was actually really funny and was the only example of ANY of that franchise that I will watch if it is on tv. The odd thing about A Haunted House is that it actually has some really funny spots in it (enough for me to laugh out loud in the theater) but it is so uneven that you find yourself laughing one second and bored the next. The lack of consistency killed this movie for me.

Storyline: Malcolm (Wayans) is feeling very positive about moving into his dream home with Kisha (Atkins). But things quickly begin to take a turn for the paranormal and a variety of people come to aid in the investigation of the recent disturbances. A Priest, Psychic, and even a team of Ghost Hunters all lend their support. But when Kisha is possessed by the poltergeist that is haunting this home, and it is discovered that she has a much deeper connection to the spirit than anyone ever knew, the group may not be strong enough to save her…even with the help of Cousin Ray-Ray.

So, there are some good and bad things about this movie. First off, Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins are actually really really funny as Malcolm and Kisha. They work well together and are not only believable as a couple but they play off of each other great as a comedy team. That is a hard thing to pull off in some movies, especially movies like this that rely on chemistry more than story. So I would like to give them both credit for that. Also, this is probably my second favorite Marlon Wayans comedy performance (Senseless is #1) and almost makes me forget the horrible horrible excuse for a comedy that was White Chicks (2004).

The bad in this movie is every actor that was not Wayans or Atkins. Nick Swardson is awkwardly unfunny with almost every joke/bit falling flat, Cedric the Entertainer has a few laughs but not enough to include him in the movie at all, and David Koechner (who I usually love) completely underwhelms. It could have been so much better than it was. 

Worth the admission? For me? No. I was bored between joke setups. But if you are a fan of the Scary Movie franchise? Sure. You guys would love it. I just wish that Wayans would do more “real” comedy.  

(DVD Review) DREDD (2012)

Dredd is so tough that the DVD might destroy your player. Seriously.

Judge Dredd, for those that are not familiar with the character, originated in a 1970’s British comic series titled 2000 AD. The series was about an American law enforcement officer named Joseph Dredd that, along with other “Judges”, patrol the streets of Mega-City One (an overcrowded and violent view of a dystopian future) serving as not only police, but as judge, jury and sometimes executioner for those that break the law.
This character is what is considered an Anti-Hero. Yet when they first attempted a movie based off of this they created a bit of a “buddy cop” drama/comedy starring Sylvester Stalone and Rob Schneider called Judge Dredd (1995). It performed well at the Box Office but was panned by critics everywhere (and most viewers). Long have I waited for a more serious and darker toned version to be released and I was more than satisfied when I finally got to watch Dredd on DVD this weekend.

Storyline: Hundreds of millions of people make up the inhabitants of Mega-City One. Because of overpopulation, Judges hand out sentencing on site when criminals are caught. Of the Judges, no one does the job better than Dredd (Urban). He is teamed up with a new partner, Anderson (Thirlby), and is on a standard training exercise to investigate a new drug that has hit the streets called SLO-MO. When their searches take them to a 200 story slum that is operated by the SLO-MO creator named Ma-Ma (Headey) they are sealed inside and Ma-Ma’s thugs pursue them. The Judges must find a way to regain order and survive 200 stories of assaults and chaos.

Worth the rent? Is Judge Dredd the LAW? I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a “hard R” rating. There is an absurd amount of violence and bloodshed, but anyone that knows anything about the character or the comics is going to be expecting that. Carl Urban, who I never would have pictured as Judge Joseph Dredd, masterfully controls the screen with a low toned presence that I absolutely loved. Never showing much emotion, doing the job, and being completely ruthless in his efforts to bring in those that chose to break the law that he has sworn to uphold. You couldn’t ask for someone to pull off a better performance for this type of film.

Also worth mentioning is Olivia Thirlby (Judge Anderson) and Lena Headey (Ma-Ma). Both are fantastic in their roles. Headey, who I have never seen in a villainous role, plays the character of Ma-Ma with equal parts insanity and conviction. All in all, this movie is worth renting this weekend…as long as you aren’t too squeamish. 

(Movie Review) Les Miserables (2013)

One thing that I am always very open about with people is that I am a geek. Always have been, always will be. But something that I am not so open about is that I love a good musical. Not sure why that is something that I keep a little bit hidden, but I always have. Maybe it’s because it is hard to look masculine while singing along to the soundtrack from Wicked…I just can’t pull it off. Still, there is something inherently beautiful and grand about musicals that I am just mesmerized by. But the process of transforming a well-known musical, such as Les Misérables, into a movie would be a daunting task for any director. Lucky for us Director Tom Hooper’s superpower just happens to be making fantastic movies. That and the ability to fly, but only one is applicable to this review.

Storyline: Jean Valjean (Jackman) has been hiding his identity from his pursuer, Javert (Crowe) for decades. Yet when Fantine (Hathaway), a former worker in Valjean’s factory, is on her death bed, Valjean vows to care for her daughter Cosette (Seyfried) as if she were his own. This is a decision that will change his life, and the lives of many others, in ways that he could have never imagined.

One of the things that I would think would be the most difficult, when bringing stage to screen, would be to figure out a way to insert dialog in to help move the story along. Musicals often include unsung dialog in their performances to help move the story from one number to the next. Films that come from musicals often do the same but normally extend the dialog so the viewer doesn’t get too restless with number after number. This movie refuses to do that. There may be a full paragraph of spoken words that are not to music. The story is not only progressed by the musical aspect but is enriched by it. Using the music to add depth to some already extremely deep performances. Where most stage to film transitions buckle, this movie excels.

Worth the admission? Will Thenardier rob you blind? Of course! This movie was extremely well done. I give a HUGE pat on the back to not only Jackman and Hathaway, both of which have gut wrenchingly beautiful numbers/scenes, but to the entire cast. Everyone was amazing! I have heard some complaints about Russell Crowe in this movie, but what I think that people fail to see is that these actors sang each scene. There was no studio. No lip synced performances. What you see is what you get. Real people that are singing their hearts out to convey the pain, the love, the hate and the dreams of their characters. I can’t remember a film that has been as brave.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

(Movie Review) Django Unchained (2013)

Django Unchained paints the screen red and the box office green

What do you call someone that isn’t a fan of a particular person but can’t help but to be a fan of that persons work? I’m very hard on myself for listening to Kanye West because I think that he is a horrible and ignorant person in real life. I openly make fun of Taylor Swift using relationship after relationship to not only gain fame but to profit from her “post break up” music, yet I tend to bob my head along with a lot of her music. That may make me a little bit of a hypocrite, but I tend to try my best to separate a person from their work. The same goes for Quentin Tarantino. I have seen him in plenty of interviews and have always thought of him as someone that considers himself much much more intelligent and important than he really is. He comes across as smug and with a false sense of superiority. But it can never be questioned that he is someone that will go down in history for his film making. Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Kill Bill (2003/2004) have all been films that transcend the normal path of films and stand out as classics that will stand up to decades of being reintroduced to generation after generation of new viewers.  This past weekend I watched the newest addition to that body of work and I admit that I believe this may be the most remembered of them all.

Storyline: Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) is on the hunt for a particular bounty. The only problem is that the bounty he is looking for has never been identified except by a slave named Django (Foxx). Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for his help. Django agrees to help him, but only if Schultz helps him find his wife and to free her from her current owner, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).

 I honestly have nothing negative to say about this movie. I was very uncomfortable when the film first started because there is a gratuitous use of a very offensive word used to describe African-Americans.  Yet, as many have pointed out, to assume that this word was not used as gratuitously during that time period would be untrue.  This movie deals with some extremely uncomfortable truths about our nation’s history that often make you feel very ill-at-ease…as it should. But the majority of the film is handled with a sharp edgy comedy to it that allowed everyone (regardless of race) to enjoy the film together. That is a rarity in most movies that deal with this subject matter.

Worth the admission? Is the “D” in Django silent? Absolutely! Every actor is at the top of their game. DiCaprio was so in character that at one point he slams his hand down on a table, cuts it badly, bleeds, uses the blood as a "prop" and completely sells you on the ***hole persona that he worked so hard to sell during this movie. During that scene I looked at my cousin and said "I think that was real". He was so in the zone that he kept the scene going and never slacked up. 

Speaking of actors that were truly on point in this movie, Foxx and Waltz both deserve gobs and gobs of praise for not only their fine acting, but also for their character interactions with one another. Amazing stuff.