Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Movie Checkin

I realize that I had a long-winded tirade regarding Jurassic World, however, I wanted to write a quick review for the movies I have seen so far this summer with some reasoning. Inside/Out This movie plus Up proves that Pete Docter is the most talented director at Pixar. Docter has shown that he is okay over and over again to evoke real emotions, good ones and sad ones to propel his story with a depth that rivals some of the darker more adult 80's kids films. His movies never feel like fluff and in Inside/Out he does it again and provides a reason why he does so by validating the need to be sad. The fun and imagination on display in this film is fantastic. While Joy's journey isn't the most interesting to me, the over all care and craft of the film places this in the upper echelon of Pixar films and as a rival to Up. Every kid should see this film and I'm sure tons of therapists will use this film as a way to help struggling kids to understand their own feelings. 5 out of 5. Avengers: Age of Ultron Joss Whedon is very intelligent and one of my favorite dialogue writers. His banter is fantastic. I loved his run on Astonishing X-Men. The first Avengers film is well crafted and fun. However, for round 2 things feel a bit more by numbers and more bland. I approve of the death of the character I will not mention. I wish there were more. I also agree that this movie shines when it slows down such as at Hawkeye's house. While the characters and actors are here doing their thing and Black Widow is still awesome with a little back story. However, the constant action propels the audience over the more glaring poor decisions and plot holes. The new guys (Vision, Piotr, Scarlet Witch, Ultron) are all adequately represented. Piotr is great. Scarlet Witch is ok. Vision is also fantastic. However, the best and worst parts of the film revolve around Ultron. You hire James Spader to voice Ultron and then you have Ultron primarily do a bunch of monologueing. I mean Spader is Spader. He is a creepy guy and he could sleepwalk through that. But excessive monologueing? I know Whedon knows better. Also, the whole Thor cave of visions things feels hacked in half, like we aren't getting everything. Actually, many characters never get a good moment to shine. Thankfully Black Widow and Hawkeye do since they don't have their own films. Unfortunately this means that as a cast it doesn't feel as balanced. It doesn't have to be if the film focuses on one or two characters, but then there is all that A-list actor ego and demands that would fight that because they want to be seen as equal to so and so. I read an interview where Joss discusses his issues on this one with the studio, and I don't hold him responsible for the mediocreness of this. I just feel there were one or two places where he could have strengthened it if he hadn't been so burned out. Now go make Dr. Horrible 2 already. I need more songs to sing. Three out of Five Spy Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig are quickly becoming synonymous in my mind. I am not a fan of McCarthy as I tend to find her a little to in your face with her brashness. However, her better movies all seem to stem from this director. Thankfully, Spy is a movie that hits on all cylinders. The story is well done. I love the actors and the chemistry in the film. Melissa McCarthy is a big personality but they manage to find ways to help her make the lines more character driven and fit in this ridiculous movie. A spy spoof? Love it! From a feminist angle? About time! While most of the great lines go to McCarthy, she does have some stiff and hilarious competition from Rose Byrne and Jason Statham. I now need a sequel so that I can see more Statham in a comedy. Funny scenarios, hilarious lines, and the crazy random swedish bodyguard all make me love this movie. It has raised my skeptical hopes for Feig's next movie, Ghostbusters. Four and half out of 5 San Andreas Brad Peyton. Ok who? Dwayne Johnson. The Rock? Yes, The Rock. What you need to know. This is stereotypical world will end type stuff with a family angle and random just met you romance thrown in. The only thing that makes this movie special, is it has the Rock and the inventiveness of how California will be destroyed is very insightful and thought through in a fun cinematic way. If you like The Rock, you will like this movie. He even acts. Although he does seem to meet his limit at one point when he is unable to avail himself of tears. Me, I love fun blockbusters like these and The Rock has always been dynamic. Paul Giamatti delivers a perfectly fine performance for a script to which his whole role is to be the guy who says California is about to be destroyed and lets us get an idea of how bad the next quake will be. Level 2? Level 6? Try eleven! Thanks Hollywood for that cheese. While the script is nothing to write home about and I feel bad for Giamatti, the time taken in planning and shooting the epic quality of the film and The Rock as a lead actor places this film right below a good end of days Roland Emmerich film, but probably above Michael Bay which is praise for Mr. Peyton since I do love me some nonsensical spinning explodey carnage. 3.5 out of 5 Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Banks takes over as director for the first time with this film. Interestingly, her debut might go unnoticed as she fails to bring her own real stamp to the process. It feels how a sequel should feel and it is a relatively low risk as a debut given the success of the first on the characters. The script for this feels a little forced but the jokes are still great, it progresses while maintaining much of the charm of the original, even though it is a mission film. I say that as in movies like Dirty Dozen where the team all gel and have to accomplish some big goal for the group which takes up the entire focus of the movie. While that can work, part of the greatness of the first was the balance between the main group story and Anna Kendrick's story. Don't get me wrong, if you like the first, then you will like the second, but the jokes are a litte less funny, the chemistry feels a little less heartfelt, and the best music belongs to the Germans. Good for a popcorn experience, but easily forgettable. Here's hoping when they make the 3rd, they try to get back to the heart and good music of the original while having better group jokes and less Fat Amy "I'm fat and gross" style jokes. 3 out of 5 Mad Max Fury Road Best action movie I have seen in a long time. Never really watched the Mad Max Trilogy. Just watched the first one the other day. I enjoy Mel Gibson and I like Tom Hardy so this seemed like it could be good. However, I was scared after a lot of ok reboots in the last few years of taking older series and trying to bring them back. Terminator, Tron, etc. However, Mad Max knows what it is and gives its fans a taste of something new, feminism. Everything critics have said about the film is true. It changes the landscape of action movies in several ways by having a legitimate badass in Theron's character and by going oldschool with lives stunts. I heard they went and did 300 live action stunt shoots in the desert and no one was seriously injured. That is amazing even by the old standards when live action stunts were the norm. The thing that impressed me the most besides the absolute bonkers imagining of road warfare (seriously cool and well thought out, reminded me of old time naval battles) was the reserved approach of George Miller to the material. The movie reeks of adrenaline, action, gruesome deaths, but there is very little on screen gore. Miller consciously chooses to keep more of the gruesome stuff off the screen, right beyond the lens, where you can feel the impact, but not have to see it. Multiple times throughout the movie he gives this approach and it helps by keeping us focused on the action or what is happening instead of trying to wonder how they were able to show someone's face being ripped off. I also approach that Miller reserves his exploitation of women which makes it feel like more of a conscious decision to focus on the equality of women. Most of the movie has several hot models in white flowy sheets. It would have been really easy for many directors or producers to just be like, in this scene you run under a waterfall while escaping and get soaked. But Miller never attempts to manipulate the characters into showing more than they should. The only time a woman is truly naked is when she is using her body as a trap to catch travelers, and even then it is hard to get a glimpse of her naked body due to how it is cut and edited. While Miller's choices are very easy to spot while watching, the overall package and message of the film is fantastic and left me feeling like a madman driving all the way home. 5 out of 5

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jurassic World

"Jurassic World still too far away" I believe it is fair to say, that the original Jurassic Park is something of legend. It was one of the seminal moments in film history and helped seal Steven Speilberg's name as an all-time great. The man who brought us Jaws, E.T., Hook, Indiana Jones, and Close Encounters and then Jurassic Park in 1993 the same year he debuted a little known classic called Schindler's List, has created more seminal moments in film history over the last 50 years than any other director including Kubrick and Cameron. He is the man who invented the blockbuster. With that said, Jurassic Park is well known for its use of special effects blended with pragmatic animatronics to create the biggest spectacle ever seen at the time. Now fast forward through two sequels later, one by Spielberg based on Crichton's sequel and one by Joe Johnston who seems to only be able to shoot movies that feel old and slow (the Rocketeer and Captain America come to mind). We have the much hyped and touted Jurassic World being shepherded by Spielberg and being directed by a fairly new guy, Colin Trevorrow. Based on previous entries, the bare for the Jurassic series was lowered as Speilberg's sequel felt forced and slightly like a cash grab while Joe Johnston's take proved only that William H. Macy can never be bad in any movie. They were decently fun, but both fell far short of the amazement, wonder, and love and care of the first film. Having read several interviews with Trevorrow, I was interested for several reasons, he seemed eager, he seemed intelligent, and he harbored a great love and fondness for the original movie that I hoped would show in this film. And while Jurassic World is a fun ride with everything you expect from a Jurassic movie, it also falls exasperatingly short of the greatness of the first film. However, the reason why it falls short is due to the editing and dialogue which a slightly more experienced director and which the previous two films seemed to do a better job of fixing. THIS WILL BE FULL OF SPOILERS, IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN MOVIE, SEE AT OWN RISK. Comparison to the first: So, Trevorrow has stated that he liked the idea of man's folly of depending too much on the gadgets and gizmos around us that we have become numb to the power of nature. It is a sub theme in the first movie implied by everything and it is a great way to get into a new Jurassic park movie. It is played out well by not being over stated. Good job, well done! The theme park itself is brilliantly laid out and the introduction to the place makes me wish it really existed so I could visit, even if I might be in danger of a break out. It seems logical and well planned, just like any Disney park making billions of dollars every year would be after operating for 7 years. Except instead of imagineers coming up with new rides, it is scientists coming up with new dinosaurs. While the original movie shames man for having the balls to try and create new life from the dead, a very Frankenstein approach, this one has decided that man can adapt and learn from past mistakes, only to make them again and bigger than before. This time, we have decided to make new dinosaurs completely from scratch as we look for a perfect killing machine, similar to Robocop, Avatar, etc. If you can make the leap that someone in the military said, you know what? These raptors are perfect! They would be the best drone replacements imaginable if we could train them like giant killing attack dogs...However, if you have a brain and are like me, then that last statement seems implausible to the point of making you want to slap someone. However, that is essentially what Vincent D'Onofrio's character believes will happen as soon as he can show that you can train some raptors...yea. Bizarre and ridiculous idea that is only confirmed in the broad scene chewing strokes Onofrio uses to paint his character. He does what he can, but nuance is not in the script nor the performance and it is obvious from scene one that he is evil. At least Newman in the first movie we felt sympathetic for until he pretty much lost his damn marbles and let out the raptors. Other comparisons to the first movie, the first movie has two kids who we are supposed to connect with and follow as they explore and run from everything. This movie also has two kids we are supposed to connect with as an audience and root for. The difference? These kids have terrible lines, the family dynamic is underexplored and it is funnier sitting back and laughing at the ridiculous lines and attempts at connecting with an audience. It is almost as if the director didn't have his heart in it and realized it was necessary but decided to spend more time on awesome dinosaur thoughts and attacks. Also, in the first movie, we have a raptor expert who takes over for Sam Neill's character of being a dinosaur expert, and then you have the tough aunt who will do anything to save her nephews she hasn't seen in years and whom she spends a good portion of the movie blowing off to replace Laura Dern's awesome paleotologist. Difference? Well Chris Pratt oozes charisma and is a certifiable badass and pulls off his role well. Bryce Dallas Howard does the best she can with the role, mocks the look of Laura Dern at one point, and is passable and hot for once. They become the couple that everyone knew they would...however, in reality she should probably be called up in court on charges for the slaughter that happened and he should distance himself from everything since he worked on only saving one person. Their relationship with that of the kids is supposed to be the forged together family dynamic, and while it is amusing, the comedic lines used only amp up Pratt's badassness and help the laughability of Howard's character being able to handle herself. They don't feel like a family, they feel like victims in shock at the tragedy around them who might talk for a while until they realize the only thing holding them together is shared tragedy and then move on with their lives. Falls far short of the great family dynamic in the first movie. Crazy head billionaires! I mean seriously? How many are there in the world and why won't one of them endorse me and my nutso plans to start a playground that is only for adults to go to during work? Where they can rock climb like American Ninja style over a lake and play chicken in bumper cars that can actually fit their legs? Anyhow, in the first film the character of John Hammond was an eccentric billionaire with a dream to play God and use dinosaurs like marionettes for people's amusement. In Jurassic World, Mr. Masrani is more of a zen thrill taking billionaire whose purpose is to A. fulfill John's dream B. give people some humility by displaying the greatness of dinosaurs compared to our frailty, C. make money by creating fun monsters to ogle D. I have no idea because the movie can't seem to settle on one motivation. If you answer D, you are correct. Despite this, he is the most amusing character since he does show some morality and his zen everything will be alright attitude is infectious and uplifting. Sadly, like Hammond, he also must pass on as his own optimism proves to be his downfall. How convenient he is also a pilot... The scares. Trevorrow once mentioned that one of the best scenes in Jurassic Park is the palpable fear it produces because of how great a job Spielberg does of turning the raptors into a slasher movie style. Lots of hide and seek. As if being hunted by Predator. The problem is that whil Trevorrow tries to replicate this concept, he fails badly mostly due to the script and previous movies. Nothing new is brought to the table. We still have the same old giant eyeball looking at us, the raptors destroying people with lighting quickness, blood dripping down on the next victim, and general havok. The scariest part is honestly a very tame scene where O'nofrio is in the middle of explaining his villainous schemes when a raptor just walks in the room. While the character of Indominus Rex is a pretty cool thought and is used decently well, the scenes of Indominus stalking never works. Why? Because early on they state that like a snake he can sense body heat profiles...this means that hiding does jack squat since it has the equivalent of infrared goggles on. IT WILL NOT MISS YOU. The last thing it does like the original besides similar story beats, is the ridiculous number of homages to the first film from Mr. DNA to the actual banner and welcome center of the first movie. The movie will never leave you doubting for a second that they love the first film. There are all sorts of easter eggs that you can see from the first movie including the banner that falls down wher T-rex destroys the welcome center. These things are nice and are enjoyable as a fan of the original. However, sometimes you can homage too much. I was left with a very weird sensation of why in the world would this 7 year old theme park have never touched the original welcome center and just left it and all of its supplies out in the woods to rot away? It detracts from being able to focus on the plot of this movie when so many plot holes are left gaping. Also, too much familiarity means that most of the scenes feel too familiar to have any impact. If you continue to do the same thing to an audience, the audience will adapt and know what to expect. Now, since I am through making comparisons to the original, I would like to state the rest of my gripes regarding this film in bullets as paragraphs would make this a 3 page essay. *Who the hell would hire and retain the jackass in the computer lab with the vintage shirt? Any boss I know would have fired him long ago. *Why have a zoom in closeup of the kids staring out the monorail as if they see something awesome like dinosaurs or maybe the Indominus feasting on something only to reveal they are staring at 2 cars driving on a road... *THE RIDICULOUS DIALOGUE. Ex - 2 kids find themselves in the ruins of the old park looking at night vision helmets, and 2 broken down old jalopies. After looking around for a few seconds, the older one says, hey remember that one time ten years ago when we fixed dads malibu? Cut to them driving away shortly afterwards. First, no one remembers them fixing anything because unless you show it on screen or it makes sense as backstory (hence a nurse might have seen some surgical procedures) then it looks like a half-assed line. I would like to believe it was just one, but this happens so often especially for the kids that it automatically decreases the status of the film. *The unnecesary scenes like the one where the kids go into the old center, find the old banner, wrap it up to make a torch from matches that they for some reason carry around with them (my bet is on the little guy being the secret smoker with the parents divorce setting him over the edge since it also came almost out of nowhere) just to have them turn a corner and then no longer have the torch in the next scene. SO why have the scene? Why to show off the cool stuff from Jurassic Park of course! *Animal honor. Seriously, the scene at the end where T-Rex and Blue, the raptor finish off Indominus and then they stare at each other, I swear I see a little head nod like "Thanks bro" and then they turn and go their separate ways, neither of them attacking the completely undisguised humans. *During the Rex fight when Howard tells the people to hide over here, with here being the middle of the open area behind a medium sized rock... *Who is actually in charge? Masrani at first, but then the crazy Doctor is sure of himself and the InGen company doesn't bat an eye when their main guy in charge bites the bullet. Just cast him aside, save the crazy doc and tools that keep killing everything, and approve insane military guy to let loose raptors. Maybe this is on purpose, if so, then they need a real good reason to appear in a future installment. *The badassness of the pig catcher as he releases the same animals that almost ate him earlier that week. *The stupidity of sending out a non-lethal army against the most lethal creature in the park that you could just RECREATE. Sure, money is important, but life is bigger. I have a feeling if Disney had a pride of lions outbreak in one of their hotels, and they send in 15 guys with tasers, I guarantee their sanity and values will be destroyed in a court. *The ridiculous reason that is kinda held for the next movie as to why they don't tell the handlers what the dinosaurs are made of. *The lack of recognition of the previous sequels. Come on, they weren't great but they happened. I am beginning to hate it when franchises just ignore the "bad" installments. *too predictable story beats Things they did well: *Great job on the layout and functionality of the park. It feels alive and amazing. I want a dinosaur tycoon game. *Love the use of the gyroscope ball thingy. It's just cool. Nice touch adding Jimmy Fallon. *the throwback to the final scene with the flare and T-rex. *Raptor training - seriously, this could have gone incredibly wrong. It might have been the stupidest thing ever, however, the level of detail and the actual decent science of it with actual trainers makes it believable and it is awesome. *THe indominus Rex - I was really worried when they decided to do a hybrid dinosaur. It could have been ridiculous. However, while the reason for making it is a little ridiculous for government contracts, the actual animal and its intellect and the semi explanation of how it can do things is pretty cool. Fastest learning self aware creature ever maybe, but still pretty cool how it interplays with everything except for how they hide. *Chris Pratt - A+ casting, Masrani - A+ casting, still love Life of Pi. Howard - B+ casting. Team badass leaders to be killed quickly by dinosaurs - A+. Kids - C. *The innocent fun references to Jurassic Park like Mr. DNA, the holographic dinosaur that distracts the raptor, the goat scene, etc. *The smashing dinosaur fights. Seriously, it's like Rick Baker's clay mation monsters came to life and fought like how I imagine dinosaurs would be. *cool pteradon attack *acknowledgement of the difference between the Jurassic dinosaurs and what real dinosaurs would have been like. It was a nice touch filling in the gaps of the original. *Dinosaur soccer. You know what I mean. *Fun helicopter pilot *fun ambulance escape *Seaworld dinosaur exhibit. All in all, the movie has a love of the original it wears on its sleeves and excels in the interplay of dinosaurs. Characters and relationships are shoddily developed but actors work with what they got to get the most. It's fun and probably on par with The Lost World in terms of quality. However, it angers me because with some more attention to editing and dialogue in scriptwriting this could have been as equally great as the original. Three stars out of Five. All in all

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Dang, I have been gone for sometime now. With that being said, and putting aside my American College Football addiction aside, I should be back to my favorite topic, films. Over the past several years I have not had as much to say primarily because my time has been spent trying to live and catch up on television. I have seen a lot and can recommend many, but this has put a dent in my film reviewing. So in an effort to get back, I am watching more and look to post 4 reviews a month at least. On top of that, I am currently trying to figure out a film to screen in Birmingham, AL over the summer from the ones below. Please leave a comment if you would be willing to see one of these films in a theater and I will try and setup a screening for the one that has the most votes.

1. "Aah! Zombies!" directed by Matthew Kohnen in 2007.
Description: Turning the zombie film on its head, this film is an oddball comedy from the perspective of the brain munching monsters themselves.

2. "Birth of a Nation" directed by D.W. Griffith in 1915.
Description: Almost a century after its release, The Birth of a Nation remains one of the most controversial films ever made...a landmark achievement that continues to fascinate and enrage audiences.

3. "Metropolis: the 2010 version" directed by Fritz Lang in 1927.
Description: The Complete Metropolis, the most comprehensive restoration of Fritz Lang's classic with an additional 25 minutes of lost footage and the original Gottfried Huppertz score. In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

4. "Seven Samurai" directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1954.
Description: A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help defend themselves.

5. "Seventh Seal" directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1957.
Description: A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Movies

I have been meaning to come back for some time now and give some reviews of several TV shows, or movies I have seen recently. Goodness knows I still plan to try and do a review for the recent remake of Footloose. However, what motivated me to take the time to actually write is my love for great Christmas movies and Hollywood's inability to do them.

Growing up I got to watch great Christmas movies, Babes in Toyland, Its a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Jim Henson's Toy Story, the classic clay-mation stopmotion shows and Frosty the Snowman, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and I will argue Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Comparitively, I am concerned that many of today's youth will never understand what it means to have a true Christmas movie celebration. ABC's 28 Days of Christmas was built upon the constant reruns of classics such as Miracle on 34th Street and Its a Wonderful Life, until recently it has only shown modern Christmas films, maybe Christmas Story, and made several AWFUL movies that happen to have Christmas around. Santa Baby, some movie with Christina Millian, another movie with Melissa Joan Hart and the guy who hosts America's Best Dance Crew, Santa Baby 2? So TV is no longer supporting great Christmas films, it would rather produce cheap schlock that it can dredge up each year to try and win a couple of fans and make more money than having to pay rights to show a film that isn't theirs.

What about Hollywood? Surely they are doing a great job by putting out 1 or 2 Christmas movies each year, usually one will involve Vince Vaughn, right? I might be blasted for this, but I completely blame The Santa Clause. That's when I remember smiles getting cheesier, jokes becoming dumber for a more massive appeal for kids and parents, and when story took a back seat to somehow coopting the Santa myth. For some reason, everyone wants to tie their name to the santa brand. Whoever is Santa's agent won't have to worry about retirement since he can milk Santa's biography like no one's business. At least unlike the future movies concerning Santa's family/myth/waste of time, The Santa Clause understood to put the focus on the family in a way that was relatable. An overworked dad in a divorce and struggling through mid-life crisis causes chaos on son's psyche. But Four Christmases? Freddy Clause? Surviving Christmas? Santa Clause 2? Santa Clause 3? Elf??? No. I will give you that Elf had Bob Newhart who can make a tin can funny. But a feel good Christmas movie? No, Hollywood can't do that. Not even when they try to animate it and make it more inclusive by focusing it on another religion such as in Eight Crazy Nights.

Hollywood decided somewhere in the early 90's that making movies that moved people consistently was too hard and they would rather focus on the dramatic and action based game changers such as Terminator. To prove this, Bad Santa is a movie that was made to be the antithesis of Christmas movies with nothing going the way it should except it is around Christmas and deals with a reprobate. It's good for some laughs, but nothing is there to warm your cockles. And ever since then, everything has been focused on laughs instead of emotion.

Great Christmas movies weren't about the best actors, funny gags, or even necessarily Santa's family. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is easily one of the best Christmas time movies and it isn't tied to Santa at all. The Muppers A Christmas Carol is also not tied to Santa, although there are supernatural beings. What all of the great Christmas movies have besides a plot, is they have actors who don't put a wink in their eye, that don't try and steal scenes, that don't try and add crazy levels of depth to their characters. They simply play people who are dealing with everyday ordinary things and living their lives and are confronted by the oppressiveness or the injustice of the world at large. It is something instantly relatable. Politicians don't care and don't listen, so we have to make them = Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. CEOs are getting way too much money and privileges and seem to consider everyone else below them = Scrooged. How can you help people who don't want your help because they are hurting but need it? = A Christmas Carol. It is always a sad and relatable problem that sets up the audiences ride with the main character who must suffer at the hands of fate, only to have everything fixed or restored on Xmas by the sacrifice of the community, or by the love of someone or something close to the figure to drastically improve their outlook. With out this consistent fall and rise, based upon expected patterns of behavior from the society and acted by understated professionals, then what you wind up with is halfbaked ideas that seem funny on paper but could be done as well on screen by a baboon as Will Ferrell.

Hollywood: If you wanna make Christmas movies fashionable again, then here is where you go.
1. Make the characters more serious. You don't need 12 quirky characters and 1 smart quippy straight character for a film. Make them all realistic, you can have 1 or 2 different characters if you want as in Miracle on 34th Street, and have the lead be someone who is downtrodden and trying to live a good life but can't.

2. Up the ante, Smith fights for the kids against Washington, Scrooge fights for his soul, It's a Wonderful Life has a man who has to fight to exist! But don't make it ridiculous.

3. Hire actors who care about playing their parts and don't see it as a nice easy paycheck.

4. Write a script where pratfalls and speaking in weird accents aren't the key. Preferably aren't mentioned.

5. When the big ending comes, have it be actually heartfelt. Have the town or family save someone and the lead be unable to stop from breaking down in happiness. Most iconic image ever is Jimmy Stewart freaking out at the end of Its a Wonderful Life, shaking and smiling and crying all over his supposed children. It's masterful.

6. Give us a reason to care and want to celebrate again. Remind us of how good we as a people or a person can be. It's no coincidence that the amount of Xmas celebration has gone down over the years. It is beginning to be thought of as a Holiday for youngsters or maybe a holiday for the corporations where they can push their products and we have to buy them because it is expected as the social norms. If you can convince us to want to celebrate Christmas because it means more than just gifts, it will convince us to start believing again in Hollywood and looking forward to that Christmas season movie. And hopefully get Hollywood to look forward to a much colder Blockbuster season.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Other Guys

‘The Other Guys are the ones I would like to meet’

Let me begin by saying, I AM NOT A WILL FERREL FAN. In fact, I find the majority of his movies juvenile and ridiculous to a fault. Something about what he does doesn’t appear to me as comedy, but more as just one dimensional stupidity. However, his most watchable movies are always the ones directed by Adam McKay such as Talladega Nights and Anchorman. That and the amusing trailer with Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson driving into a bus and giving an awesome quote made me think that maybe this would be a good spoof of buddy cop movies. Thank God I was right.

I don’t know if it was the script or if the movie was just perfectly cast, but instead of being a Will Ferrel stupid comedy hour, it is an ensemble piece where everyone is just nuts enough to fit in and out of the storyline and take turns being the spotlight. Next to Will Ferrell, Michael Keaton and Mark Wahlberg shine like you haven’t seen in years. Who knew Marky Mark had such a gift for comedy? His casting was genius since Wahlberg’s best movie the Departed where he played a bad ass cop, now let’s have him play a slightly deranged angry cop with terrible animal metaphors. Also, his chemistry in this movie is legendary. Let’s have Michael Keaton play the captain of the police force and manager at Bath and Body Works who has a hard time with quoting the group TLC. Even Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson are hilarious as the ultimate alpha duo of the police force where it is made clear early on that they are put up with because the city needs heroes. Everything and everyone in the movie works. The part that at times seems sketchy are the scenes involving Eva Mendes. True, she is HOT. But there is something about mistreating women and speaking badly to them that is a little off-putting. Thankfully, Will Ferrell’s absurdity has a point and is so out there that it actually balances the terrible treatment. One of my favorite things about this movie is that it is soo bizarre and absurd and yet all the actors commit to it. It is as if you looked through the looking glass and found a bizarre Ferrell world where his brain created it and it was real. The only underutilized person would probably be Steve Coogan. He wasn’t bad, but he could have been anyone else and probably would have fit in fine. Not only was the acting excellent, but the visual gags were spot-on and amazing as well. I loved Wahlberg’s shark screen.

I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed this hard at the movies in a while and I have never laughed so much at Will Ferrell. This movie solidifies the idea that Will Ferrell needs Adam McKay. My question is, does McKay need Ferrell? McKay manages to bring back the awesomeness of Michael Keaton and Mark Wahlberg in the same film and still make Will Ferrell look hilarious. I am not sure if it is his casting, but it is apparent that he is the only director that seems to know how to correctly use Will Ferrell in leading roles and balance the rest of the cast and script. In the future, count me down for Adam McKay movies, whether they have Will Ferrell or not.

8.5 out of 10

Dinner for Schmucks

'Schmucks goes for too many yuck-yucks'

Dinner for Schmucks seems like a brilliant concept. A wonderful exploration of schadenfreude, or harm to others. Everyone has done it. We have all laughed at the kid who tripped over his own feet, or the one who has the ridiculously convoluted true story that somehow involves G.I. Joes, a turtle, and a cactus. The best part is that, on the outset, the movie seems to have everything going for it. Hilarious one-liners in trailers, Steve Carell doing his version of early Jim Carrey and being goofy and silly, people laughing in the movie at the other people, and the director of Meet the Parents which is perhaps the best example of schadenfreude comedy in the last 20 years outside of Something About Mary. Heck, The Hangover was an entire film of terrible events happening that are hilarious and look how well it did. However, the movie becomes a painful lesson in what could go wrong with such a delicate style of comedy that seems on the outside a hilarious setup but always ends with someone in pain.

One flaw with the film is the trailer. We know from the trailers that Carell is essentially a one-man wrecking crew. Therefore, going into the film we expect for him to do terrible things that mess up Paul Rudd’s life, goofy ridiculous things which according to movies are always misunderstandings and people being too nosey and ridiculous. This creates a problem with executing the desire to laugh at the terrible things that happen. As an audience member I can see the bad things happening a mile away. The nuance is simply not there. The absurdity of the surprise terrible things that only makes sense upon reflection do not occur because the absurdity is given to Carell’s character in terms of how ridiculous he is and not to what he is doing. There is no reflection and no surprise because we see it coming a mile away. Therefore, in a film meant to be about schadenfreude with a twist at the end to make the audience feel bad about having laughed at these people throughout the film, there is no feeling sorry or bad. Why? Because through most of the film instead of laughing at the horrible things that have happened to Paul Rudd, we have been hiding our heads, ashamed and embarrassed for him. Therefore the movie becomes an exercise in empathy pain for the characters instead of learning or reproaching ourselves.

The acting: Well, it is safe to say that the actors were a little too over the top. Instead of dialing it down a notch, it feels as if they were told to go with it. Carell’s character goes far too far a majority of the time and doesn’t seem even plausibly real. I feel afraid to be laughing at a mental patient. Because he is Carell, he does receive some laughs for his great timing, but it should be noted that even the script should have been doctored to show him as an idiot in one field. At least Carell’s acting was given an excellent spotlight and his moments of hurt and vulnerability are exquisitely Paul Rudd’s character is the guy that people can sympathize with. Everyone wants to be promoted and get the good life. Everyone wants the girl. However, it is hard to sympathize with someone who so quickly lies to his girlfriend consistently, promises not to lie, and then continues on his crazy quest to achieve power by essentially setting someone else up. While Rudd can play an everyman in this, this movie feels a little bit dialed in on his part. A certain straight man angst is missing. He seems to expect these horrible things constantly which takes away from his surprise and ours. His feelings for Carell’s private woes are well done but otherwise he comes across a little too typical, a little too ehhh about his woes, and little too driven at times for what he wants. Sure, he becomes a good boy in the end, but he spends a majority of the movie treating others as beneath him and there were several times when he could end the whole mess by doing the right thing instead of going along with ridiculous ideas that come from Carell’s head. Perhaps the best part about the movie is the blind swordsman and Zach Galifianakis (I hope I spelled that correct). Zach’s part is ridiculously stupid yet somehow believable and he does an excellent job of lending his jackassery toward creating feelings for Carell’s character. He is absurd and yet somehow slightly believable. Congratulations to him since I am not naturally a fan of his. Oh yea, and the painting guy is just weird and at times amusing.

Sadly, the directing in the movie feels off. The person I admired the most by the end of the film is whoever the real guy was who created all of those wonderful mouse paintings and dioramas that were quite skillful. Roach did things much better when he had Stiller playing the screw up because Stiller plays it completely straight and normal and the ridiculous things that happen occur without warning or foreshadowing and he reacts honestly as does the family and De Niro. While I did look forward to the film and it did have some hilarious moments, in the end it goes from being a sophisticated film dealing in a delicate style of comedy to being a schlapstick adult film that is as goofy as a cartoon and not as kid friendly. Better luck on Little Fockers.

Verdict: 3 out of 10