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Thor: The Dark World (2013)
A Welcome Addition to "Phase 2" to the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Last summer's "Iron Man 3" turned out to be very disappointing, but "Thor: The Dark World" does a much better job of kicking off this second phase of Marvel movies. I did enjoy the first "Thor", but this movie does a much better job of exploring some of the other worlds and raising the stakes.
The original cast returns for this second film and they are great! Chris Hemsworth is still a great Thor and Tom Hiddleston really gets a chance to shine as Loki. Natalie Portman is still hot and plays a good Jane Foster. The rest of the original cast is good, also, though I really wish that Kat Dennings was not in these movies because she's annoying and pretty pointless. Christopher Eccleston is Malekith, the new villain for the film. He's a bit boring and is honestly pretty forgettable, which is a shame because Eccleston really is a good actor.
The story for this movie is very fun. No, it doesn't always make sense, but like other successful Marvel movies, it keeps you entertained and wanting more. The film also does a much better job at foreshadowing "Avengers 2" than "Iron Man 3" did, so that's an added bonus that all fans should look forward to.
The effects are sort of hit and miss. Asgard and the other realms that are shown look spectacular. The action sequences are well choreographed and make for an exciting time. But some of the costumes look a bit silly and fake.
Final verdict: "Thor: The Dark World" is exactly what it is meant to be. It is an entertaining thrill ride from start to finish, with good characters and great, action packed scenes. It is not a great Marvel movie like "Iron Man" or "The Avengers", but it is a worthy entry that will leave you entertained and wanting to see it again.
Great fun, but again, I ask: WHY DOES IT NEED TO BE SO LONG?!
"The Lord of the Rings" are not just some of the best fantasy films of all time, but three of the greatest films of all time. Period. Jackson's return to Middle-Earth in "An Unexpected Journey" was an enjoyable time, but suffered because of its length, pacing, and effects. Now we have "The Desolation of Smaug", Jackson's second installment in his new "Hobbit" trilogy.
There's much improvement in this film from "Journey", especially in terms of pacing. "Journey" took a little too long to get going, but in "Desolation" you are launched immediately into the action. This film is also a bit darker from the first, with the threat of war beginning to reveal itself.
The casting is still top notch. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and Richard Armitage do a great job in their respective roles, as they did in the first film. Jackson also does a lot better with identifying the other 12 dwarfs in this film, though some of them still aren't quite too developed. And the newest additions to the cast are great, as well, particularly Benedict Cumberbatch as the dragon, Smaug, and the Necromancer.
The problems with this film are still ones that arise from the first film. Why does "The Hobbit" need to be split into 3 movies, each with a 2 1/2 to 3 hour length? If you want to make it a trilogy, by all means, do it. But they don't need to be that long! You can justify that sort of length in "The Lord of the Rings" because they are suppose to be these huge, epic movies. But "The Hobbit" was meant to be a children's story.
The effects in this movie have improved slightly over the first film. The crowning achievement in the movie is definitely the dragon. But the orcs still look really fake in this movie and there's a couple of scenes that you can tell they use too much green screen. This is a huge disappointment, especially considering that "The Lord of the Rings" had so many practical effects that made it look great.
Final verdict: "The Desolation of Smaug" does a much better job of telling the story of "The Hobbit" than its predecessor. It's fun, exciting, and makes for a good time in the theater. But the problems that plagued the first film sadly follow into this second installment, which prevents it from becoming a truly great fantasy film like "The Lord of the Rings".
Jackson's Return to Middle-Earth is a Glorious, Albeit Lengthy, Trip
Anyone who knows my taste in movies knows that I usually favor the fantasy genre. Heck, I even gave a positive review to this summer's "Snow White and the Huntsman". But, and I know many out there agree with me, the crowning achievement in the fantasy genre is Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings". Each film was superbly crafted, with practical effects and great casting that will make it stand the test of time, much like Lucas' original "Star Wars" movies.
So, like many people, I was pretty excited for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". I didn't like the fact that a 300 paged book was being split into three movies, because I knew that a lot of things were going to be stretched out far beyond their natural length to ensure a 2 hour and 45 minute length. And there in lies my biggest problem with the movie; why does it need to be this long? "The Hobbit" is a completely separate entity from "The Lord of the Rings", both tonally and scripturally.
The casting is solid, with Martin Freeman playing an excellent, energized Bilbo Baggins. The dwarfs, while funny, were sort of forgettable, though I expect we will get more development from them in the next two movies. And even some of the characters from "The Lord of the Rings" appear, whether they are minor cameos or are involved more intricately with the plot.
As I said before, I was very impressed with the practical effects in the previous trilogy, so I expected more of that in this movie. And while some of it is practical and effective, too much of it is CGI. And that just looks out of place, especially in a Middle-Earth that is so fresh in everyone's mind.
Final verdict: The movie is too long and too overindulgent to be a great movie like "The Lord of the Rings", but it is a good movie. I didn't get the chance to see it in 48fps, so I can't judge the film on that basis. I just hope that Jackson can either better utilize the length and pacing in the next two movies or just make them an hour and a half, because the length is really the biggest problem with this movie. Still, it's a good movie that should be experienced in a movie theater.
The Best of the Twilight Movies, But Still Riddled with Problems
Finally; let's put a stake in this terrible franchise by review the final chapter of the Twilight movies (no, I will not call it a "Saga").
You know, even though these movies aren't technically that great (actually, they're pretty awful) I will not deny that, much like movies like Dungeons and Dragons or Commando, these movies are a lot of fun to watch. In terms of comedy, I really enjoy the first four Twilight movies. They're stupid, nonsensical, and make very little sense, but they're a good time.
One major problem with this movie is, of course, the story, but for very different reasons. The first four movies are very paper-thin when it comes to the plot, so I can't help but think that the director of this film overcompensates with this final installment by throwing a lot of new ideas and characters at you. This makes the film really hard to follow a lot of the time.
The three main actors are just as bland as you remember them. They show hardly any emotions at all, which make it very hard to connect with them. But, for the weaknesses of our three main characters, the film makes up for it with the supporting cast. The Cullens family is very likable and the Volturi, lead by an astonishingly over-the-top Michael Sheen, ride that fine line of being very menacing and very goofy.
The cinematography is awful and the special effects, most notably in the final battle, look like they have the budget of a sci-fi special. I honestly do not understand how these movies have such poor effects when they rake in millions of dollars per movie.
Okay, this is where I'm going to get into spoilers a bit. The final battle confrontation with the Volturi is exactly what you'd come to expect from a Twilight movie: the effects are bad, the dialogue is lame, and the acting is sterile. But the film takes a very interesting turn when the actual fighting starts: people start dying left and right. Seriously, it's kind of awesome. And, if this is the ending the filmmakers had stuck with, I actually would have considered giving this movie a 5 or 6.
But no, the film pulls the ultimate cop out in any movie: it was all in someone's head. I won't divulge how since the reason makes very little sense, but that ending is really unsatisfying. They probably wanted to stick closer to the books this way (which I haven't read), but if that's the case, why even have a battle at all?
Final verdict: This is the best Twilight movie, but it is by no means a good movie. If you're a fan of the books or like to make fun of the movies (like me), then chances are you've already seen it. If not, you're money would be better off spent on Skyfall.
The Best, and Only, James Bond Movie I've Ever Seen!
You read correctly, folks: This is the first James Bond movie that I've seen, at least all the way through. I guess that's not technically true; I guess I have seen one or two on television, but to be one hundred percent honest, they were pretty forgettable. However, if every Bond movie was like "Skyfall", then I'd go out and buy the entire collection.
Honestly, I had no intention of seeing this movie. I saw the trailers, which looked pretty cool and also had the fortune of having Javier Bardem in them, but they didn't really impress me to such a degree that I'd actually go ahead and see the movie. But, as it turns out, I received an invitation from a friend to go and see it. And I came out of the theater satisfied.
Director Sam Mendes said in an interview that "The Dark Knight" was a huge influence on this new installment in the Bond franchise and it really does show. This movie has deep emotional layers to it, alway staying a step ahead of its audience without entirely alienating them. The camera angles are very unique and really add something to the film.
The nice thing about James Bond is that he's a staple of pop culture to such a degree that I already knew the character before I entered the theater. He's very suave and elegant, but also very hardcore and awesome. And Daniel Craig plays the part very well.
Since I mentioned him when talking about the trailer, you could probably guess that I am a Javier Bardem fan. And he plays a villain that is so intimidating and so confident in how awesome he is, that he literally blows all other villains out of the water. There's a scene in a jail cell between him and M (played masterfully by Judi Dench) where he is so scary that it might as well have been Hannibal Lecter standing in that cell.
Final verdict: I have no complaints about this film. Yeah, there's definitely some stuff to nitpick, but seeing as I'm not that type of person, Skyfall, to me, is a modern day masterpiece. The only reason it gets a 9 instead of a 10 is because I only score movies a 10 if it's one of my favorite movies. Still, if you're a fan of James Bond, I don't know how I could give this a proper recommendation since I haven't seen the other movies. But if you're looking for a great action movie that's a little deeper then you have been lead to believe, Skyfall is the film for you. It's one of the best movies of the year.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
A "Roger Rabbit" for the Gaming Generation
So I was not the biggest fan of the trailers for Wreck-It Ralph. Even though I liked the small appearances from classic video game characters, I wasn't riding the train of "this movie will be awesome" because I'm not a John C. Reilly fan and definitely not a Sarah Silverman fan. But after finally seeing it, I thought it was really good.
The best part of Wreck-It Ralph is the first half of the movie. In fact, it's flawless. The writing, characters, and animation is all perfect. I found myself laughing quite a few times (which I rarely do in a kid's movie) and having a lot of fun!
One of the best elements of the movie is the character if Ralph, which is weird, because I don't really care for John C. Reilly. But he was a really good and likable guy. And the filmmakers know that, despite the fact that this is a movie filled with video game characters that everyone knows and loves, they need to keep the focus on him.
These video game characters are more like cameos. They work very similarly to how the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit worked; they definitely have some of the best laughs in the movie and are a lot of fun, but they never pull focus from the story or the main character.
Okay, so I've praised this movie so much that you're probably wondering why it has an 8 instead of a 10. Well, the movie sort of loses gravity as soon as Ralph enters a game called Sugar Rush. He meets a little glitch named Vanellope, played by Sarah Silverman, who dreams of becoming a racer. But King Candy, played by the very charismatic Alan Tudyk, forbids her from racing because she is a glitch in the game. Everyone taunts her, but despite all of this, Ralph and Vanellope form an unusual bond.
And you can pretty much guess the rest of the movie from there. They race, defeat the bad guy, and Vanellope is crowned a princess. But, if that wasn't predictable enough, there are more plot points going on involving bugs, a jealous video game character, and a silly, but hilarious, romance between two side characters. All of these elements work, I guess, but it becomes just a little too complicated along the ride. It's not horrible, in fact it's not even that bad, it's just not handled as well as the first half was.
Final verdict: I would recommend anyone, young or old, gamer or not, to see Wreck It Ralph. It has wonderful animation, great characters, and some great laughs. Yeah, I wish the second half was a bit more polished, but this movie was still a lot of fun. In fact, I think this is the most fun I've had in a theater since The Avengers in May, which is saying a lot.
Taken 2 (2012)
If You Enjoyed This Movie, I Will Look For You...I Will Find You...And I Will Kill You
I love the first Taken. To me, it is a fine example of an action movie with solid build up, top notch acting, and, well, memorable action sequences. In this day and age, how often does that come along? And when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I knew it wasn't going to be as great as the first one. Still, I figured it'd be a good time at the theater. Was I right? Well...no.
Let's get the good stuff out of the way first. You will never hear me say anything bad about Liam Neeson. The man is one of the few actors today that just demands respect and awe when he enters the room. A perfect example was in Battleship; the movie was awful, but Liam Neeson was one of the few things about that film that worked. And there's no exception here. They did things with the character of Bryan Mills that I didn't agree with, but Neeson is having fun with the part, so I got to respect that.
I was also glad to see more of Famke Janssen in the movie. With so little screen time in the first movie, I was looking forward to seeing more of her in the sequel. And, whether you love her or hate her, Maggie Grace did a fine job as Neeson's daughter. I actually like her character; sort of a spoiled girl who must be...well, competent in order to survive.
Also, the first twenty minutes began to feel like a solid follow up to the first movie. You see the relationship with the family, how Bryan is dealing with his daughter having a boyfriend. There are some pretty funny jokes you can get out of that scenario and they take advantage of the majority of them.
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about the bad stuff. The action in this movie is some of the worst I've ever seen, which is a shame because the action in the first movie was very slick and nicely choreographed. Here, the editing is so choppy and abrupt that you can hardly see what's going on. I haven't seen anything else done by this director, but I hear that his action movies are all this way.
Also the story is sort of a mess. I could follow it fine in the beginning, but as soon as the family arrives in Istanbul, things take a turn for the worse. The pacing suffers tremendously here and there's just too much suspension of disbelief going for me to have bought what was happening. Yeah, there was a lot of that going on in the first movie, but because the action was so great and the pacing was so quick, you didn't question it.
Final verdict: This is a disappointing, unsatisfactory sequel to a phenomenal movie. Basically everything that made the first movie great is the opposite here. It's not horrendous, but there are plenty of other action movies that deserve your time and money. I really don't know who to recommend this movie to, especially if you're a fan of the first movie like I am.
The Dark Knight (2008)
My Favorite Movie Of All Time. Period.
After the success of "Batman Begins", when I heard that Christopher Nolan was making another Batman movie, I didn't think it could surpass the first movie. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. "The Dark Knight" truly is Nolan's masterpiece. I know that a lot of people didn't enjoy "Batman Begins" because, even though it took a more realistic approach, it still felt a little bit like a comic book movie. That is not the case with "The Dark Knight". It works as many different types of movie. Whether it be viewed as an action movie, a thriller, or even a romance, I think that it's safe to say that any viewer can find something that they like about "The Dark Knight".
Christian Bale is back as the Batman, and he's still got it. I hear some gripes about his growling voice, but I still stand by what I said about him in "Batman Begins": this guy knows how to portray the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne. He's methodical, intense, and courageous, like all aspiring heroes, but he's not perfect. In the movie, when something happens to a certain character, you see his vulnerable side. Sure, he's learned how to control his fear and prey on criminal's weaknesses, but he's still young and has a lot to learn. I like that about Bale's Batman; it makes him seems so much more relatable.
The supporting cast from "Batman Begins" return, along with a few new faces. Maggie Gyllenhaal replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. I didn't mind Katie Holmes in the first movie, but Gyllenhaal plays her with much more confidence and fire. Aaron Eckhart plays the D.A.- turned-psychopath Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Eckhart undeniably plays a great Harvey Dent, but this is really illustrated when he has to flip it 180 and become the psychotic Two-Face. All his ideals are replaced with anarchy and misery, making him just as evil as The Joker. And then you've got all the other supporting characters from the first movie, who are excellent.
But the performance that everyone raves about is Heath Ledger's Joker. In the 1989 "Batman", Joker was played by Jack Nicholson, who, at first, planned to make Gotham City kneel before him. But, about 30 minutes into the movie, Jack's Joker falls in love with Vicki Vale. This made Jack's Joker look really materialistic and envious, which is not the case with Ledger's Joker. The Joker here acts very much like an unstoppable hurricane that came into Gotham City at the worst possible time for the heroes. He's like a demon that can't be destroyed, but the most disturbing part is that he acts like her shouldn't be destroyed because it's part of the bigger picture. This is also attributed to his dark reality and twisted nature. Needless to say, this was a great performance.
Even the minor gripes I expressed in "Batman Begins" are fixed in "The Dark Knight". The action is a lot bigger and edgier, but it abandons the shaky cam that was so distracting in the first movie. The bat suit looks a lot slimmer and easier to move around in.
Final Verdict: "The Dark Knight" is undeniably my favorite movie of all time. Not only does it work as a comic book movie, but as a film in general. the underlying themes and Gothic setting are fantastic, the performances are stellar, and the story is flawlessly told. It embodies everything I love about cinema and much, much more. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it on the highest quality T.V. you can find; I promise you that it won't disappoint.
Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan Has Given CPR to a Supposedly Dead Franchise
The original "Batman" was released in 1989, under the direction of then-newcomer, Tim Burton. It was one of the first comic book movies to give itself a dark tone. It made for a pretty entertaining, albeit flawed, superhero movie, though this was mostly due to a fantastic performance from Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Burton's second Batman movie, "Batman Returns", was too dark and too stupid, so for the third movie, Burton handed the reigns of this franchise to Joel Schumacher. This is where things took a turn for the worst.
Schumacher's first attempt at the Batman franchise resulted in "Batman Forever". This one was definitely more kid-friendly and manipulative, and even though it wasn't as well received as the first two movies, it was a huge hit at the box office. Because of this, Schumacher was brought on to direct the fourth, and final, Batman movie called "Batman & Robin", which is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time.
1 out of 4 just isn't good enough, unfortunately, so Warner Bros. shut down the idea for a fifth movie and left this franchise. However, in 2005, Christopher Nolan, who was riding the success of the critically acclaimed "Memento" and "Insomnia", rebooted this franchise. And, from both a Batman fan boy standpoint, as well as an avid movie goer standpoint, I couldn't have been more surprised.
Christopher Nolan has taken the character of Batman to a whole new heights with this movie. He takes more of a realistic and prudent approach to the lore of Batman. Because Batman, like all the other superheroes out there, can be phenomenally goof sometimes. Here, Nolan makes you believe that a vigilante could dress up like a bat and fight crime, which, let's face it, could not have been an easy task.
From a casting standpoint, everyone brings their A game. Christian Bale brings more duality to the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Bruce Wayne, he acts the part of the drunken billionaire without a care in the world. As Batman, he it more intimidating and stealthy. He preys on criminal's fear, and the best part of the movie is seeing him develop this strategy.
Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman are all some of my favorite actors, and, naturally, they all give great performance. Because of the direction and tone of the movie, they act not like they're in a comic book movie, but more like they're in an Oscar nominated film. They each flesh out their characters brilliantly and effectively.
The movie is shot very nicely. Nolan is a master of scenery here; there are just so many moments where he lets you soak up the atmosphere, allowing you to take in the sheer scope of everything that is Batman.
Final verdict: This really is a smartly handled movie. This is the Batman movie that I wanted to see, but never thought I would. It's superior to the Burton/Schumacher era, but the next one takes it to an entirely new level of greatness. But, that's another review for another time.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Amazing? Not Really. A Solid Comic Book Movie? Yes!
I've always been a huge fan of Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy (yes, even the third one), but after watching them again, they aren't exactly the great movies I remember them being. True, they are a lot of fun and did address the dilemmas of being a superhero, but, face facts, folks: they are very corny and very silly. And this re-boot, though I think it came out a little too soon, manages to capture that spirit and energy that the first trilogy had, as well as improve upon the mistakes of the previous movies.
Even though I liked the earlier movies, I never liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. As Parker, he certainly played up the part of being socially awkward, but, even after he got bit by the spider, he still stayed in that phase of acting. There was no variation, no passion in him that made me want to get invested in him. Andrew Garfield is very much the superior performance here. There are some aspects in his acting that seem very Haden Christensen- esque, but he is very likable and very funny. I found myself rooting for this Spidey more in this single movie than I did at all in the previous trilogy!
The supporting cast is much better as well, for the most part. Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone is very cute but wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty. In the original trilogy, I always got tired of Kirsten Dunst's Mary-Jane screaming and hollering until Spidey came to the rescue. Here, Gwen Stacy still needed to be saved, but she was quite capable of defending herself when she needed to. We also have Denis Leary as the tough, no-nonsense Cpt. Stacy and Martin Sheen and Sally Field being very likable and supportive in their respective roles.
Now a common complaint from a lot of people is the villain, Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard. I have to disagree, but not for the reasons you may think. I think Rhys Ifans did a great job as Connors, making him very likable and complex, which makes you all the more heartbroken when this travesty befalls him. I'm also glad that The Lizard did talk instead just being a huge, grunting, CGI mess. But, like everyone, I'm not a fan of his design and he doest hold a candle to the villains from the first two movies.
There are also some problems with the movie. In the trailers, we were promised answers to "The Untold Story"; we were meant to know what happened to Peter's parents. And what do we learn from this plot point? Nothing! I guess that means that they'll save the answers for a sequel, but they could of at least given us some clues as to what's to unfold.
The action scenes, while good, seem much less cinematic and sweeping than the first trilogy. There was this sense of wonder and atmosphere that they captured and, try as I might, I just didn't get that from this movie. Still, the action is decent.
Final verdict: Anyone who's fresh off "The Avengers" and is still awaiting "The Dark Knight Rises" should definitely check out this flick. Die-hard fans of the Raimi movies probably won't enjoy it, but if you're a comic book geek or an action movie fan, this should definitely quench your summer movie season thirst.
Pixar's Official Apology for Cars 2.
I've been a big Pixar fan since the beginning. Sure, not all of their films were great. But, even at their lowest, their was always something good found in any Pixar movie. And then that fateful day came. June 24, 2011 saw the release of "Cars 2", a sequel that no one wanted to see. The first "Cars" was fine, but I think that it's universally accepted that it's definitely not a Pixar gem. That said, the sequel was awful. Sure, it continued the streak of opening #1 at the box office, but critics and audiences really ripped this sequel a new one.
The people at Pixar needed a movie to get audiences back in the theater seats and loving them again. And "Brave" is the first Pixar movie to indulge in what their corporate partner, Disney, has been doing in the majority of their animated films: a fairy tale.
So, is "Brave" good? There's some good things in it. Firstly, the animation is stellar, but I think that's the case with every Pixar movie. The backgrounds are so detailed and the colors are mesmerizing.
The characters are actually pretty good, too. Merida is the first female lead in a Pixar movie, played by Kelly Macdonald. At times she's a bit too whiny, but I have to admit that I have a soft spot for any defiant character in a movie. The mom and dad, played by Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly, are very likable and have a strong, some-what damaged relationship with their daughter. There's also a pair of triplets that almost make the movie. Their expressions are priceless and they provide the biggest laughs in the movie.
The rest of the supporting cast kind of falls flat. In the other Pixar movies, the supporting characters are given just as much personality and jokes as the main protagonists. A prime example is "Toy Story"; I remember Ham, Rex, and Mr. Potato Head just as much as I do Woody and Buzz. Here, we never get enough screen time with our supporting cast to really be invested in them.
A part of me really likes the fact that Pixar is doing their own take on a fairy tale. I guess I'm just kind of let down by the fact that they didn't bring anything new to the table. I admit that it's difficult to do new things to a formula that's been done to death, but I think Pixar could have done something really spectacular here. They were probably just playing it safe after the disaster that was "Cars 2".
Final verdict: Though definitely not Pixar's strongest film, "Brave" is still a delightful treat. The fact that's it's this good fills me with hope that Pixar will return to it's high form of storytelling and animation. It's a good idea to rush to your local cinema and give it a watch.
Rock of Ages (2012)
Destined for Greatness...as a Cult Classic.
There's really only one way to talk about this movie, and that's in two different ways. First, I'm going to talk about it as a movie; how it does in terms of pacing, script, and plot. And in that aspect, it fails. Miserably. This story has been done so many times; a revolution of hip, cool teens versus the political punks who try to bring them down. And it doesn't really help that the main characters are uninteresting. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) goes to L.A. in hopes of becoming a famous singer. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta) and, like in the Disney movies, they hit it off right away and, a few minutes later, they're in love.
And you know the drill from here: they profess their love for one another but, in a really forced manner, there's a misunderstanding between the two that forces them to go there separate ways. After they both realize that they're not complete without each other, they make their comeback in a huge, over-the-top dance number.
Fortunately, the movie doesn't entirely focus on the two of them, which leads me to shift gears a little bit and talk about this movie in terms of entertainment value. Tom Cruise plays Stacee Jax, a love-making, Satan-worshiping drunk who just happens to be the biggest rock star of all time. Cruise masterfully steals every scene he's in, which isn't hard because, as I said before, our leads suck.
And speaking of scene-stealers, the supporting cast is really fun, too. A gay club owner, Dennis (Alec Baldwin), and his right-hand man/partner, Lonny (Russell Brand), have the best lines in the movie, while Paul Giamatti plays his typical, sleazy douche.
The songs are all 80's classics, and I promise that you will be tapping your feet to the beat and fighting the urge not to sing along with the well mixed voices of the talented cast.
Final verdict: Since I wrote this review analyzing the film as two separate things, I think that it's fair to give it two separate ratings. In terms of filmmaking, it's a 3/10. It's too choppy, too predictable, and too contrived. However, in terms of how much I enjoyed myself, I award the movie a 9/10. This movie is a good time and, much like "Labyrinth", is an even better time if you can shut off your brain and enjoy yourself. Factoring all of that in, I award "Rock of Ages" a solid 6/10.
3 Stars for the 3rd Installment of this Awful Franchise!
As bad as they are, I've been pretty lenient on Dreamwork's "Madagascar" franchise, for the most part. The first one was pretty awful; it was tedious, unfunny, and tried to shove that "Move It, Move It" song down our throats. The second one I remember enjoying. The jokes did improve, even at the expense of the story, but for a kid's movie, it was sub-par. The third movie takes what made the second movie such fun and ruins it! We spend about five minutes of the movie in Africa where the second movie left off before the animals SWIM TO MONTE CARLO. How? Only the half-baked minds of the writers could answer that...
When they arrive in Monte Carlo, they find the penguins and the monkeys have disguised themselves as the Prince of Versailles so they can get away with playing poker. Since I doubt your six year old kids know who the Prince of Versailles is, they will be utterly confused while your busy asking yourself "Why the heck would the Prince of Versailles be playing poker in Monte Carlo? This is the worst disguise ever!"
But, as you might have guessed, the animals are discovered, so a security guard calls in Captain DuBois of animal control to take care of them. And this is where I actually start to sort of enjoy myself. Captain DuBois is the only character with a clear motive and a likable personality. The way she's animated is quite hilarious and she has the best lines of dialogue in the entire movie. And how sad is that when a psychotic, obsessive woman is the most identifiable character in the movie.
The animals get away on their plane but the plane crashes. The animals sneak aboard a circus train. Here, we're introduced to Vitaly the Russian Tiger, Gia the Jaguar, and Stefano the Sea Lion. And here, I'm sorry to inform you, is where I end the plot synopsis because I honestly have NO IDEA what goes on afterwards. From there until the end of the movie is a jumbled, incoherent mess.
Final verdict: I apologize that this isn't a complete review, but I just don't have a clue what to say about the rest of the movie. My guess is that if you want to keep your kids quiet for about ninety minutes, then this is okay. But there are much better movies for them that'll do just that. If your a fan of the first two, you'll probably like this okay.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Dark, Sadistic Take on the Classic Tale.
Something has happened recently that really doesn't happen all that often: I was wrong. Yes, let that sink in for a moment, because I realize that is so difficult to comprehend. When I saw the trailers for "Snow White and the Huntsman", the audience collectively rolled their eyes. I saw it as a fail safe for the next "Twilight" movie. But I was pleasantly surprised. "Snow White and the Huntsman" offers a relatively dark, twisted take on the classic tale of the princess Snow White. Sure, some of the elements are familiar, but it's based off of a Grimm Fairy Tale. It's not a movie that you'll see to understand some deeper meaning of life. But it's a very smart, handsome, and Gothic look at a beloved classic.
It's almost inevitable to compare this latest fairy tale rendition to March's "Mirror Mirror". While both movies look great, "SWatH" is not only more exciting than "Mirror Mirror", but it's vastly more complex and entertaining. Let's look at our heroines. Snow White in "Mirror Mirror" was played by Lily Collins who was very much a basic, generic protagonist.
Kristen Stewart, whom I usually hate, offers a better take: she plays Snow White as a damaged, tragic heroine. She's lived her entire life locked up as a prisoner, mentally scarred by seeing how the evil queen drains youth from fair young maidens. If that isn't enough to make one crack, I don't know what is.
Now let's look at our villains. What I find very distracting in both "Mirror Mirror" and "SWatH" is that their directors seem to enjoy the villains vastly more than the heroes. Both Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron are given vast amounts of screen time. But Theron seems to use this to her advantage. While all of Roberts' scene were force and padded, Theron uses her extra screen time to develop her character and make her more identifiable. We've never sympathized with any rendition of the evil queen before, so I really enjoyed Theron in the role.
But, with that said, there's a problem I have with Theron: she either plays the role too calm and calculating or too loud and over-the-top. I guess I just would have liked to see some middle ground in her acting, but I'd just wave this off as nitpicking.
The side characters are fun in both versions, but as you might have guessed, "SWatH" characters are done better. The dwarfs have sort of a gritty feel to them; they can be charming and fun, but they can throw down when they need to. The dwarfs in "Mirror Mirror" were fun, but they were also kind of unlikable in some scenes. Still, at least the filmmakers in "Mirror Mirror" got actual midgets to play dwarfs instead of pretty terrible CGI.
The princes in both versions are okay, but what I like more about "SWatH" is that the prince and princess don't fall in love throughout the course of movie. They just redevelop a childhood friendship, which I thought seemed very mature for a fairy tale. The huntsman in "SWatH" is played by Chris Hemsworth, who has already proved himself a great actor. And he does good here as well.
I guess if I were to find another problem with "SWatH" it would be the pacing. At least "Mirror Mirror" flowed smoothly, where as "SWatH" gets a little too self indulgent. I understand that a film needs atmosphere and slow scenes to develop characters, but some just aren't needed. For example, there's a village full of women who scar themselves so that they can avoid being harvested for their youth by the evil queen. We spend a good twenty or so minutes with this plot line, but what does it add up to? Nothing! The same can also be said about the fairies and the (implied) incest between the queen and her brother.
Final verdict: Not only does "Snow White and the Huntsman" outshine "Mirror Mirror" in almost every way, but it works as it's own, unique creation. It's definitely not a children's movie, with its creepy imagery and subtle, suggestive themes, but it's a very intelligent movie. Check it out and see for yourself.
Men in Black 3 (2012)
A Rare Occasion in Which the Three-quel Surpasses the Original.
Yes, the title is a true statement; everything that was good about the original "Men In Black" is done better in "Men In Black 3", which is quite a surprise, considering that the third movie in a franchise is usually the weakest. Now, I've never been the biggest MIB fan; I enjoyed the first movie for what it was: a flawed, but nonetheless, entertaining sic-fi comedy. The second, although I don't hate it, failed to live up to the bar that was set so high by its predecessor.
And now we have the third, and best, installment. First, the bad things. I found the whole time travel plot, although it does have its fun moments, a bit too clumsily handled. It seems a bit too clunky and interfered too much with the laws of space-time-continuum that have been set by previous movies.
The first twenty minutes of the movie seems too reminiscent of what made the second movie a flop. It's self indulgent, full of lame one-liners, and it sort of prevented me from enjoying myself. I feared I just paid to watch another bad MIB movie.
But after Tommy Lee Jone's Agent K is erased from time, the movie really steps it up. First of all, the villain is really good. The villains from the first two movies were...well, I don't remember. So I know a villain lacks charisma when I can't remember a single thing about him/her. The villain from this one is a lot of fun. He looks bit like Randy Savage and sounds like Tim Curry. He's got some good one-liners and a couple of cool fight scenes with the heroes.
While we're on the subject, the action in this one is a lot better. This is sort of a weird thing to point out, but the first two MIB movies are ugly movies. They look gross and dirty, which I think is what the filmmakers are going for. But there's so much grime and muck that the audience can take, so it's nice to see a cleaner MIB movie.
No doubt you've heard how awesome Josh Brolin is as young Agent K. His control and surly attitude capture exactly what Tommy Lee Jones brought to the table, but there's hints of emotion to him as well. "Something hasn't happened to him yet", so Brolin's allowed to show some happiness with Agent K's former life.
Final verdict: With the exception of the first twenty minutes, it seems like the filmmakers were able to go back and get rid of all of the snarky stupidity of the second movie. They've found their roots with the first movie and managed to make an even better movie. It's a good summer action movie, plain and simple.
Transformers 4...not directed by Michael Bay?
There's really no point in hiding it from whomever is reading this review: This movie is crap. You can have a good time making all of the "Oh, what's next? A *insert board game title here* movie?" jokes or poke fun at how this plays out like a bad Michael Bay action movie (in which case, it does), but to actually see the movie would be quite unnecessary, for I'm about to thoroughly explain to you why you don't need to watch this movie.
First, let's go into why this movie was actually conceived...good question! The movie serves as an example that Hollywood is willing to dish out lazy, junk-food-like movies to young audiences around the world. Much like Bay's Transformers trilogy, there's no redeemable quality to this pig slop.
Taylor Kitsch plays a US Navy Tactical Action Officer who, to his credit, is a better character than Shia LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky. In the first ten minutes of the movie, he goes so out of his way to win a girl's heart by breaking into a store and stealing a burrito for her. Yes, a burrito! This convoluted sequence is the most entertaining part of the movie, so I'll give it that much. But, ironically enough, the movie goes downhill immediately as soon as our characters set foot on the Battleship.
From this point, the movie becomes a mess. Aliens come down to destroy the Earth because NASA transmitted a signal from a communications array in Hawaii to search for intelligent life on the alien planet. How does this warrant an invasion? Are the aliens that sensitive to their privacy that they'll go out of their way to destroy the planet?
And what follows is just a blur of awful, loud action sequences. Literally, for the next seventy minutes is all action. And even though I can tell the good guys apart from the bad guys unlike in the Transformers movies, I'm just not invested in what's going on. The bad guys lack motivation for their actions, and therefore, just don't come across as threatening. And the good guys have no defining character that I could really care less if the human race was subjugated by the alien race.
After out seventy-minute-extravaganza-of-stupidity, the movie has a five minute long scene that rewards our heroes. And, just like in the Transformers movies (are you sensing a pattern here), the movie just kind of ends. It's as if the filmmakers themselves thought to themselves "Well, the action is over now. These dialog scenes are quite dull..." and they just decided to stop filming.
So yeah, I've bashed on this movie so much that you might be wondering why this movie isn't getting a one star review like it probably deserves? Well...Liam Neeson. Seriously, like every movie he's in, Liam Neeson gives a stellar performance. This isn't his finest performance and the material he was given to work with was just awful, but somehow, Neeson still does great work.
Besides that, the positive elements in the movie are due to what isn't included in the movie. For example, there's no racist caricatures, no overly-complicated storyline, and no shots of John Turturro's jiggly, hairy crack. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to incorporate these Michael Bay clichés into their movie, but thankfully they didn't.
Final verdict: I don't think there's much left to put here. In terms of those who'll enjoy it, if you're a fan of Michael Bay action movies (be they good or bad), there's a lot of those clichés found here. Anyone else probably won't like it. It's too long, too stuffed with plot holes, and too overindulgent.
Dark Shadows (2012)
Pick a Consistent Tone, TIm!
Tim Burton is a great director. And, with Johnny Depp in the lead role, Tim Burton can make a good movie. Examples of this are "Edwards Scissorhands", "Ed Wood", and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street". It is also my opinion, as well as the majority of people I've talked to, that Tim Burton is at his worst when he re-imagines things. Examples of this are "Planet of the Apes", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and "Alice in Wonderland". Factoring this in, I was convinced that "Dark Shadows" was going to be one of the worst movies of the year. Was I right? Eh...I guess?
While I don't think that the movie is terrible, it's no "Sweeney Todd". Let's get all the good in the movie out of the way first: Johnny Depp. Yes, I've yet to see a movie where I didn't enjoy the guy. He commits a lot to his roles, which really shows here. He had me laughing pretty hard. The supporting cast is fine, even if Eva Green does tend to overact a bit in a few scenes. Another plus to the movie is the scenery. Even the bad Tim Burton movies have this going for them. The cinematography and set pieces are grand and full of energy.
I am no fan of the "Dark Shadows" t.v. show; I haven't seen a single episode. Before I saw the film, I saw a lot of uproar about how it tries to cram too many of the main points of the show into an approx. 2 hour movie. And though I've never seen the show, even I could see that the movie felt too bloated and self indulgent.
Another big problem with the film is the tone. It seems to me that Burton was trying to make this one a comedy, and for awhile, I believed him. The jokes hit hard and were funny! But when you mix those scenes with Depp suddenly murdering a bunch of hippies around the campfire, that just clashes with the lighthearted goofiness that Burton is hoping to make with the movie.
Final verdict: I came home and was prepared to give the movie a solid 6 out of 10. Just slightly above average, just because I did have a good time with the flick. But a few hours later, I didn't remember too much of it. The movie is sort of like cinema hypnosis; you are having a pretty good time, but once you've left the theater, the spell is broken and you don't remember jack squat. And that's the movie's biggest crime: it's so forgettable. Even the bad Tim Burton movies I remember; I may not have enjoyed them, but they left some sort of impact on me. And this just didn't. Only the biggest devotes of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp should flock to the theaters for this one...or they should just see "The Avengers" again.
The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers Assemble for One Heck of a Summer Blockbuster!
After four years of anticipation, Joss Whedon's The Avengers hits theaters. And, of course, it is really good. There was no doubt in my mind that this movie wouldn't be good. And, if it disappointed, it'd still be looked back on as the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I think Whedon is the only one who is able to put a movie like this together. I'm not a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Hunter", "Firefly", or some of Whedon's other works, but he does have a knack for taking a bunch of different characters and making them all relevant. And he brings that trademark talent to this movie. Every hero is given just enough screen time. We see Captain America's struggle of pulling his team together, we see the regret Thor has for having to battle his brother, we see Hulk's desperate attempts to control "the other guy", and we see Tony Stark as the narcissistic playboy that's always equipped with a great one-liner.
One thing that sort of concerned me about "The Avengers" was Loki as the villain. I thought he was great in "Thor", but it seemed kind of weak to have all these great heroes teaming up against a re-used villain from a previous prequel. Fortunately, I was one hundred percent wrong; Loki is great as a villain. He's more intense and less whiny. Combine that with a lust for power and an army of aliens and you've got one of the greatest villains in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The effects are great, of course. You've seen the trailers for this, I'm sure, so you know that the movie's climax takes place in Manhattan. It was gripping, exciting, and even laced with a bit of comedy, with none of it being offensive or racist. The entire time I just kept thinking to myself that this is what "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" should have been. I can see who the heroes are and even identify with them, while the action is entertaining and not too long.
Final verdict: The summer movie season hasn't been kicked off this well since the first "Iron Man" movie. Ever since Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight", I've been waiting for another superhero movie to come along and do something new. And "The Avengers" has done just that. It takes a very basic, traditional story and amps it up. It's smartly handled, well made, and, most importantly, a lot of fun. I look forward to taking another trip to the theater to go and see it.
Competent Idea Turned Generic
This movie was a failure at the box office on its opening weekend, so if you never heard about this, don't fret. Heck, I hadn't even heard of it until some friends of mine told me about the following: In the tailer, an agent refers to the Guy Pearce characters as "A loose canon, but (he's) the best we've got". That line alone is so corny and so ridiculous, that even some of the cheesiest movies in existence fear to use it. So, naturally, I wanted to see it. Unfortunately, this line wasn't used at all in the movie. But trust me, that's the least of this movie's problems.
Man, I love Guy Pearce. He's a good actor, having recently starred in two Best Picture winners (The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech). So at what point did he go ahead and decide to star in this movie? And the character that Pearce plays is one that's been done so many times. He's a wisecracker, but determined. A loose canon, but the best there is. A sarcastic guy that eventually turns out to be the hero. Again, the character isn't horrible, it's just been seen too many times.
Speaking of uninspired characters, let's talk about our supporting cast. There's the girl who can't stand Guy Pearce, but of course falls for him in the end. There's the villain and his crazy, homicidal sidekick who enjoy killing their prisoners with no remorse. And finally, there's the agent who doesn't like Guy Pearce, but after he's saved the day, he reevaluates his flaws and decides to give him another chance.
The action is pretty good too...when you can tell what is going on! Yeah, if you thought there was a lot of shaky camera in "The Hunger Games", check out this piece of crap. Nearly every action scene made me look away because I just felt sick. Also, there's a plot point in the movie where a character is involved with some sort of espionage charge. They take up the first ten to fifteen minutes explaining this.
But once the characters arrive on the prison, the plot point disappears until the end of the movie. And when its so called "twist ending" is revealed, it's sort of a surprise, but since the entirety of this plot point was pointless, I just didn't give two cents about it.
Final verdict: This is one of those movies that I was watching and was pretty entertaining. But as I was driving home, I started to add things up and actually think about it. I guess if you're the type of person that won't let the overwhelming clichés bug you, then give the movie a watch. The movie isn't bad, there's nothing ethically wrong with it, anyways. It's just that the story and characters are so tired and so contrived. If the same stuff in this movie that annoyed me annoy you, I'd say this is a definite skip.
The Three Stooges (2012)
Speaking as a Non-Stooge Fan.
Before I begin reviewing this movie, I want to debunk a few reasons as to why it's good. Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulus have received acclaim for their accurate portrayals of Larry, Curly, and Moe. But, as I stated in the title, I'm not a fan of The Three Stooges original show. Even as a kid, I knew slapstick humor was not my kind of comedy. I respect people that appreciate it, but I never could. So I found the actors so over-the-top that, for a while, it was quite comical. But after the first third of the movie, the mugging to the camera and over-use of the wide angle lens just got grading that it just begins to look unpleasant.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember the original show ever having much of a constructive narrative. I remember the slapstick like everyone. And by making a movie of this requires the alcohol-influenced writers to come up with some needlessly complicated, half baked story that's neither relevant or interesting.
The movie also has a lot of plot points that just come and go as they please. What do I mean by this? Well, in the first ten minutes of the movie, they establish this characters to be diagnosed with some sort of unexplained, incurable disease. The next time we see her, not only is she completely cured, but the filmmakers didn't even come up with a reason as to how she was cured!
My biggest gripe with the movie comes at the very end. The directors, the Farrelly brothers, come out and explain that the slap stick is, of course, choreographed and unreal. This bothers me for a couple of reasons:
1.) Wouldn't it have made sense for the Farrelly brothers to include this caution before the movie and not after?
2.) I think this is slapping the audience in the face. Whenever I did watch the original t.v. show as a kid, I knew the slapstick was choreographed. I knew that you couldn't slug someone in the face with a hammer without causing serious injuries. I think kids are smarter than most people give them credit for; they know enough to separate what's real and what's unreal when it comes to cinema.
One other thought is this. In his review, Roger Ebert says, and I quote, "The Farrelly brothers have made probably the best Three Stooges movie it's possible to make in 2012". I thought that was true at first. But, upon further thought, I came to the conclusion that, while I'm sure the Farrelly brothers were trying, this movie is just unnecessary and not fit for our times. The original show is fine, I guess, and there's absolutely no need to make it this derivative.
Final verdict: Though I don't hate this movie, it's still pretty bad. If you are a Stooges fan, you could like this movie, though the constructive narrative could bug you, as it did me. Other than that, it may disappoint.
Mirror Mirror (2012)
Mirror Mirror, on the wall, what's the crappiest movie of them all...well, not this one.
I kind of don't know what to make of this movie. When I saw the trailer to this movie, I had the lowest expectations. It looked like it would be the "Spy Kids 4" of the year. But, to my shock, it wasn't awful. But, does that make it good?
Let's take a look at the good stuff. Tarsem is a very stylistic director; I'm not a fan of "The Cell", but the look and tone of that movie was unique. It's the same way with this movie. Tarsem and his team bring us really neat looking landscapes and breathtaking visuals. Also, the characters, while nothing great, were decent. Snow White and The Prince had their fun little banter and the Dwarfs, who got a little grading at times, delivered a good line once in a while. Julia Roberts as The Queen wasn't horrible like I thought she'd be in this movie, but she's still not very good.
With that being sad, let's get down to what I hated most about this movie. The idea behind this is that it's taking a new twist on the classic tale of Snow White. Problem with that is that this has been done so many times that it just comes off as predictable. We know that a woman can be just as capable as a man in a fight and that fun can be poked at all these fairy tale inconsistencies. Again, we've seen this in movies like "Enchanted", "Ella Enchanted", and "Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland"; these clichés were old when those movies did it.
On top of the plot being inconsistent, it's also really clunky. It constantly switches tone between comedic and cutesy to swashbuckling adventures. I wouldn't mind that so much except for the fact that this movie constantly does that. For example, there's a legitimate touching moment where Snow White and The Prince share True Loves Kiss (go figure). The music swells and the camera circles around them. I found myself invested in their romance and really liked how it played out, despite it being horribly predictable. But then, the dwarfs says something about poop, and I'm instantly sucked out of the moment. Now, imagine stuff like that littered throughout the ENTIRE MOVIE.
Final verdict: I'm sure that I being too nice to this movie because I'm just so utterly shocked that it wasn't terrible, but it still has it's problems and annoyances. There are a lot of better movies to show your kids like any of the Disney classics or the Don Bluth movies (from the 80's, not the 90's), but as is, this movie isn't terrible. It's a fun time strictly for families. Anyone else will probably hate it.
Wrath of the Titans (2012)
Wrath of the Filmmakers
I'm one of the 3% of the population of Americans that actually enjoyed the 2010 remake of "Clash of the Titans". It wasn't a masterpiece, in fact, I wouldn't even call it good. But there was a charming simplicity to it all. It involved generic characters getting from Point A to Point B in an hour and a half. Sure, it was plagued with problems, but for me, it's a serious guilty pleasure. But that's another review for another time.
The most glaring problem with "Wrath" is that it's essentially the same thing as the first one, with a few tweaks here and there. Sam Worthington plays Perseus. He's strong, powerful, and dull as a rock. It's just Worthington's generic, bland good guy. He's not a terrible role model, he's just not that particularly engaging. The only character that's more boring is Queen Andromeda, played by Rosamund Pike. These two characters share such an awful, contrived romance that it makes Anakin and Padme from the Star Wars prequels look like Romeo and Juliet.
But, as I said before, this sequel is merely a re-tread of the first movie. Sure, the first one was predictable, but at least it gave us a bit of time to know each of the characters. Here, there's no development because they just assumed you know these characters because you watch the first movie. That's a problem I find many sequels running into, and here, it really weakens it.
The special effects here are used in a way that makes me want to sterilize the people who came up with them. The filmmakers operate under the impression that if you throw a ton of special effects onto the screen, it will give your audience something to look at. The problem with that logic is that the factors of character development and motivation are canceled out by the pointless action sequences to such a degree that the audience becomes bored by these fight scenes. The special effects don't dazzle audience members like they did in the past when they're used in such a repetitive fashion.
With really bad movies like this, when all hope is lost, I try to focus on the positive aspects of the film. And there are a few good things found here. Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Bill Nighy are pretty entertaining as the gods of Mt. Olympus, and I do like that there is some, though not a lot, of development with these guys. The movie sort of touches on the messed up issues of family in Greek mythology, and it was interesting. Whenever I found myself watching Sam Worthington and his band of bland beatniks (try saying that five times fast), I was wishing that I could be watching Liam Neeson and the others, because they were interesting! Unfortunately, not even the awesome acting of Liam Neeson can save this stinker, kind of how Optimus Prime couldn't save the "Transformers" sequels.
Final verdict: If you're a fan of rich cinematic genius like Citizen Kane or 12 Angry Men, this is not your kind of movie. It's too long, too forced, and too choppily edited. I'll admit, there were people in the theater that watched it and seemed to get really invested, and if you think you can, go ahead and watch it. For me, there were just too many things that didn't add up for me to enjoy this one. I don't regret seeing it, but repeat viewings are not in my future.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Hollywood's New Teen Adventure Tent Pole Does Not Disappoint
Before we get on to the more gritty, action packed movies of 2012 (The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, etc.) let's talk about The Hunger Games. Based on the Suzanne Collin's book of the same name, The Hunger Games has had a lot of hype circulating it ever since the end of the Harry Potter franchise from last year. Does it live up to the high expectations of the uproarious fans?
One thing I'll state clearly before I get down to review this movie is that: 1.) I saw the midnight screening of this with a group of friends and family. I was awfully tired before the movie started, so once it began, I may have missed one or two details. I'll do my best to comment on as many things as I can.
2.) I have read the book that this movie's based on. It's a good read. Obviously it's not perfect, but it kept my interest. With that being said, I am not going to grade this movie solely on what was left out of it. I'm not a big enough fan of The Hunger Games series to speculate on every detail that didn't make it into the movie.
Okay, let's begin. I'll admit, much like the book, this movie is very good. It followed the book pretty closely, though again, if it didn't, I wouldn't have cared that much. The real treat with The Hunger Games is the cast. Many of them look and act the part. I've been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence ever since I saw X-Men: First Class last summer, and here, she doesn't disappoint. She portrays Katniss as an independent survivalist, much like how she was in the book.
The supporting cast is also good...for the most part. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne both show the intensity and maturity of their characters and, naturally, it's great to see. Haymitch and Effie are a lot of fun, and the other contenders in the game are competent enough as villains to make up for lack of any characterization.
Sadly, the two weakest characters are Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and Amandla Stenberg as Rue. Both characters left a tremendous impact on Katniss in the novel, while here, they're simply boiled down to bland, uninteresting supporting characters.
The violence is entertaining, though I think that's very much a personal preference. As I said before, Harry Potter devotees will come to this movie for the weekend entertainment, and that might present a problem. The action in Harry Potter is pretty tame; when you get down to it, it's just a ton of sparks and colored lights flying around the screen. Whereas this movie is much more intense and gritty. There's definitely some pretty disturbing scenes, so I suggest keeping the kiddies home for this one.
One more gripe I have with this movie is how it was presented. Much like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games is very self-contained. Essentially, if you haven't read the book, there'll be a lot of scenes where you might find yourself scratch your head in confusion. Maybe that's nitpicking, but with other movies based on books, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there was enough character and story to appeal to other audience members. And, as much as I liked this movie, it really didn't do this.
Final verdict: Is there any point of writing a final verdict? You're going to see this movie regardless of my opinion. It's going to be one of the highest grossing movies of the year, and deservedly so. It's a smart, action packed, sci-fi story. It's characters, though not the best, are still pretty enjoyable and the action scenes are intense and brutally realistic. There's also a lot of quiet moments where you're just allowed to soak in the atmosphere and tone of the film, something that I don't recall Harry Potter ever doing. If you're a fan of the books and above the age of ten, check it out and draw your own conclusions.
The Lorax (2012)
If you can look past the preachy environmental message, you'll find a good movie.
I was hesitant to go see this movie opening weekend. I heard some pretty negative stuff about it, so I basically avoided it. But today, I forked up $7.50 for a ticket to watch Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, and, of course, I left the theater surprised.
I guess I'll talk about the bad stuff first. And this is a problem with all of the movies based off of the books of Dr. Seuss: they are so padded out. I guess they're just trying to fill the hour- and-a-half mark, but really, they could do this by developing the characters a bit more. But instead they just throw a ton of cutesy-schmootsty bull crap at the screen. It honestly gets a bit tiring after a while.
As you are probably aware, this movie was made by the same team that brought us Despicable Me, and it really shows in this movie. Remember the Minions from that movie that met the halfway mark between cute and annoying? This movie has a similar cast of characters that do the exact same stick. It really distracts from the story when every fifteen minutes there's bears and fish singing in high, squeaky voices.
And, of course, the biggest issue with this movie is the preachy, drawn out environmental message. Many reviews that I've read say that this is what destroys this movie, but i don't think so. I think the message is important for kids, and arguably adults, to learn, but here it's really tiresome.
Okay, so those are my issues with this movie, so now here's the good stuff (because, honestly, there's a lot). Just like in Horton Hears A Who, the illustrations from Dr. Seuss' book transitions from the page to the big screen very nicely. The atmosphere, the colors, and the lighting in this movie just pop. I didn't see this one in 3-D, but I hear great things about it.
The characters in this movie are a lot of fun. Danny DeVito and Ed Helms are delightfully boated and over-the-top; they really make this movie for me. Zac Efron and Taylor Swift aren't as good as DeVito or Helms, but they're okay. Betty White gets a good pun every now and again, while the rest of the side characters are good as well.
The songs are actually really great. Heck, I didn't even know this was a musical until I heard about it from a friend. But seriously, these are friggin' awesome songs! They're catchy, bouncy, and energetic; what else do you need in a good family flick?
Final verdict: While I don't think this is as bad as critics are saying it is, I do understand why they don't like it. The problems I listed before are major, but I think the other stuff is just too dang good. If you're looking for a good family night out or if you're a fan of Despicable Me, check this out and see for yourself if it's good or not.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I finally have a legitimate excuse to review this movie. One of the great ones. One of the greatest animated masterpieces of all time. There's no real reason to hate on this movie; it really is a gem. It's been talked about to death that all I can hope to do is bring my own opinion to the table.
The story is still good. It's perfectly paced and excellently executed. The best scenes involve Belle and the Beast falling in love. One of the best elements in the movie is the romance. Unlike most Disney romances where the couple meets, falls in love, and gets married a few days later, Beauty and the Beast takes its time. You never know how long it takes the couple to fall in love; it could be weeks, maybe even months, so its open for debate and allows the viewer to draw his/her own conclusions.
The characters are still memorable. Belle is beautiful (duh, the title tells you that), but she never flaunts it. She is constantly taunted and mocked, but does she care? No. On top of that, she's smart, kind, and anything else you look for in a Disney princess. The Beast is drawn great and you do believe he's evolved throughout the course of the film. Gaston is one of the best villains of all time. I love how egocentric he is, and when he doesn't get his way, he becomes this vengeful, hateful person. His transformation is just as believable as the Beasts.
The side characters...do I need to say anything about these guys? You all remember the quick-witted Lumière, the snobby Cogsworth, the gentle Ms. Potts, and the hilariously stupid LeFou. They're all memorable and I don't need to say anymore about them.
I guess I'll talk about the things that I don't like about the film. The first thing is the design of the human version of the Beast, or as Disney so persistently calls him, Adam. It looks goofy and unlike Disney males of the past. Adam looks very out of place, but that's just nit-picking. The 3-D is another gripe I have with the movie. I did not want to see the movie in 3-D, not because it's not a good film, but because I own the movie. Why would I want to pay $13.50 for a ticket when I could pop it into my DVD player FOR FREE? But, after the 3-D Re-release of the Lion King, everyone began to praise the 3-D animation. So, I spent the money on the ticket, and within the first 5 minutes of the film, I regretted it.
The 3-D isn't a cheap conversion like The Last Airbender or Clash of the Titans, as I am told that Disney put a lot of money into re-releasing the movie in 3-D. But still, the movie is so clearly NOT shot in 3-D that it just doesn't look good. The opening shot in the forest looked great, but that's it.
Final verdict: Though I don't think the movie is worth seeing in 3-D, still take your kids to see it. The animation, the characters, the story, and the music is perfect. It's a better alternative than something like The Smurfs. Raise your children on stuff like this, parents of America. I hear some theaters show the 2-D version, and by all means, go see that. For the problems I have with the 3-D, I won't deny that it was great seeing this film on the big screen. Do yourself a favor this weekend and go.