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The Croods (2013)
Surprisingly close to home...
I took my 4 year-old for his birthday, hoping it would be the first theatrical experience he would make it all the way through (previous attempts included Megamind, Madagascar 3). It was a success, and all three of our attending generations thought the movie was pretty darn good. Grug the patriarch reminded me of myself, so presumably there are many fathers out there who feel the same. Misery loves company I guess. I thought the casting was spot on, except Nicolas Cage as Grug. The voice just didn't quite fit. My only other issue was with the more fantastical nature of the prehistoric beasts. I imagine the producers wanted to separate this film from any Ice Age comparisons. And the crazy creatures were definitely well done and fun. But I don't agree with the choice to go that route. First off, people are gonna compare the two films regardless. Second, this one seems to be taking more inspiration from Avatar. Are these early humans on an otherwise alien world? I would've preferred they stick to our existing ideas of pre-history. That said, the criticism isn't enough to wreck an otherwise successful family movie. The animation and special fx have reached yet another level of quality beyond recent previous achievements. We watched the first Toy Story later that night, and it seemed amazingly primitive in comparison. And the story hits home for sure... Highly recommended!
Rodriguez is a true prodigy, BUT...
This one sucks. I generally like all RR's stuff, especially since he does most of it by himself. Most of his movies are entertaining at the very least. But I gotta say, Machete is one of the worst movies in recent memory, and by far the worst of RR's career. The over-the-top, intentionally cheesy touches that entertain in most of his films only manage to annoy in this one. What made Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn and even the Grindhouse flicks fun just went a little too far into B-land with Machete, and past the point of watchable. The few positive exceptions: Danny Trejo: solid as ever. Cheech: nuff said. DeNiro: much funnier than his tragic SNL appearances. Jeff Fahey: great role for him, he should be working more. Don Johnson: I generally hate this guy on screen, but this was his role. Michelle Rodriguez: hotter and more believable than ever -- who'd o' thunk it? The rest was garbage, wasted potential. Sorry. Everybody has an off-day. Machete was Robert Rodriguez's...
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Again, Marcus? Seriously???
Ladies & Gentlemen, presenting Marcus Nispel, the new master of close-but-no-cigar remakes/reboots/adaptations of cult classic horror/sci fi/fantasy flicks that didn't need to be remade..! Let's check the roster: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Pathfinder, finally Conan. Why Marcus? Why Hollywood? Why, why, why??? Okay, the guy has a good eye. Maybe he's more of an artist than a filmmaker. The flicks do look good, credit where it's due. Maybe he's less to blame than the writers, editors &/or execs. Whatever, the track record is disappointing: tons of potential, tons of cool ideas & visuals. He just hasn't quite been able to pull it off. For my money, Conan is the biggest disappointment of the bunch. Having read and enjoyed all the original Howard books, collected quite a few of the comics during the 70s & 80s, and even enjoyed the Arnold movies (in spite of their issues), I'm a fan/quasi-expert. That in mind, gotta say it, get your stone-throwing arms warmed up: Momoa makes a good Conan -- waaaayy better than Arnold! He could be a tad bigger to truly dominate his surroundings (several of his opponents are bigger than he in the new movie), but he nails the character. The swagger, facial expressions, grace, attitude are all right out of Howard's pages. And he doesn't cry out like he's pumping iron every time he takes a hit! Arnold was truly laughable in almost every way, more Zamoran buffoon than stoic Cimmerian. Entertaining, but no Conan. Momoa holds up his end, to the extent the script allows. (He even has the good taste to be with Lisa Bonet, post-Lenny!) My only other criticism is that Momoa went on record to say that Khal Drogo would kick Conan's ass. What are you, high??? Drogo made it (almost) through one book and an infected wound; Conan survived countless injuries worse than that one, and 12 original books. Get serious, Jason... The editing here is choppy, the plotting rushed and yet meandering, and the source material forgotten and forgettable. Please, newer fans help me out: Do the central characters and places even exist in the printed Hyborian world? Call me on my mistakes here, but I don't recall major villains named Khalar Zym or Martique, a heroine named Tamara, sidekicks named Artus or Ela-Shan, evil henchman named Akhun, Ukafa or Remo. I don't even recognize most of the place names in this flick. Am I just way out-of-date with the mythology of the comics? Or did the filmmakers really just come up with this stuff out of thin air, to make a whole new story? And if so, WHY??? There's not enough already written to choose from?? Per the featurettes, this movie drew on "eight decades of source material" to make the best Conan story ever. If that's so, why is it so unfamiliar to us? So disappointing to the fans? What happened to the idea of the climactic rivalry between Conan and Thoth-Amon the Stygian sorcerer (forget the laughable Toth-Amon from the second film)? A few name changes and they could've worked that angle here. What about the long lists of buddies and lovers with an actual history. What about the idea of making a classic labor of love project like LOTR, instead of pushing for yet another summer blockbuster that'll probably go bust (can you say John Carter)? Guess we may as well ask why all the Greeks in Alexander had Scottish accents, huh? Arnold vs. Momoa? Momoa. Conan vs. Sonja? Conan. Conan vs. Kull (Sorbo)? Conan. Sandahl vs. Brigitte vs. Rachel vs. Olivia? Olivia, no contest! Lang vs. Jones? Jones, but good try. McGowan vs. Carrere? Carrere, weak split decision. Barbarian vs. Destroyer? Barbarian. '82 vs. 2011? Hmmm... Visually stunning, decently performed, epic fail. Well what're you gonna do? That's Hollywood in the 21st century. Think I'll go back to reading Song of Ice & Fire... Save your money, folks..!