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Watchable, but with some overarching flaws in direction.
I am a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and I love comedy-horror as a genre, so this film was a must-see for me. I can't say it met all my expectations, but it could've been worse.
I thought the film should have been funnier. The premise is so absurd- yet the film refuses to admit the inherent joke. For me, this was constantly a source of frustration. I couldn't tell if the over-seriousness of the film was a conscious decision by the director, or due to his lack of finesse.
Giving up on the direction itself being funny, Matt Smith is amazing, and for me made the film worth watching. He is hilarious. And naturally, Jane Austin's novel has tons of wit to begin with, so some of that humor survives here, as well.
The acting is pretty good, and satisfied my desire to see the authentic Pride and Prejudice characters in a zombie apocalypse. Although Mrs. Bennet was too nice, it still worked.
The action was fairly run-of-the-mill. None of the fight scenes are too memorable, but it's definitely awesome to see these Victorian ladies and lads kick-ass against zombies anyway.
I'd say proceed with caution on this one; only for fans of Jane Austin who have a sick sense of humor. Might be a safe date movie come Halloween.
A film about a very important topic- though rushed.
I'm glad I saw this movie, there's much to like in it: Bryan Cranston is wonderful. Again he creates a very unique character that's both interesting and believable. I mean, it's based on a real person, so he didn't "invent" the character, but it's still very good.
John Goodman is much like his role in Argo- a necessary comedic element in an otherwise somber film. He's great.
The other supporting actors are all good, some better than others, but they all suffer from underdeveloped character arcs.
The story itself is compelling. The film does a good job of creating an atmosphere of intolerance and fear-mongering. You feel like it's all really happening.
Being set in Hollywood's silver age, it's hard not to get excited when now-famous films and actors are mentioned or shown on screen.
That said, there's much in the movie I didn't like.
The pacing was just rushed. Sure, the film has many years worth of story to tell, but it moves from one era to the next so abruptly that we start to lose our tension/focus. Besides making a longer film or choosing a shorter period of time to focus on, not sure how they could've fixed this.
Most of the supporting characters are underdeveloped. We meet characters that you're sure the film is going to make you love, and they don't quite get you there. There are many missed opportunities to create meaningful characters and relationships, it ends up being frustrating they alluded to them at all.
The dialogue feels forced at times. Many scenes are so short that they rely on "on the nose" dialogue way too much. The actors do a good job with what they have, but some of the lines are way too direct.
I don't mean to pick on Michael Stuhlbarg, but I think he was terribly miscast as Edward G Robinson. I just couldn't see him being the iconic actor we all love from the gangster pictures.
So in summary, it's a mixed bag. Unlike most mixed bags, however, there's no glaring flaws in this film. It's proximity to greatness is shot down only by a rushed script that tries to do too much in two hours. Shame, since some of the dialogues and scenes are great, and I only wished I cared more about them. I'll still recommend it to film and history buffs, but casual moviegoers might not be so impressed.
Project Almanac (2015)
"Primer" for tweens.
So I had low expectations going into this movie, and I was pleasantly surprised!...
...then I wasn't.
So basically, the movie starts out great! We meet David and his friends, and they're all average but believable (and likable) characters. "Plot" happens and "time machine!" blah blah blah. The point is, we actually want them to succeed, and we're excited for them. So the movie gets a solid commendation for that.
Then, for some reason, everything has to get complicated and dark. They follow all the time travel clichés, and they do a pretty good job of showing them all, but said clichés seldom mean "a happy third act." If you have seen Butterfly Effect and Chronicle, you can see how this film is going to end pretty early in ('nuff said).
Getting dark isn't a bad thing, but unfortunately the film completely stops developing the supporting characters in Act II. Which really sucks, because we were *just* starting to like and care about them. But they get so bogged down with their own plot that it's all the film can do to even resolve the bullet points with just the main character.
Another quick complaint, I didn't think the "love interest" added anything to the story (other than a plot device), and I'm so sick and tired of the "found footage" style of film-making! That said, this does found-footage very well, so I can't complain too much about that.
In summary, it's a promising little film that has just enough fun in the first half to make you feel like you enjoyed yourself. A more interesting third act would have made this a solid recommendation, but sadly it fades into obscurity really quickly. "Rent before you buy."
Into the Woods (2014)
So close to greatness, yet so maddening. (spoilers)
I saw this movie, and everything was *awesome!*...
...until Act I ends.
Before I get to negatives, let me say the music is very faithfully reproduced here. The singing is good (in some cases great), the acting is good, the costumes and "sets" are also often good. Everything was in place to make this the definitive version of Into The Woods...
...and then they threw Act II out the window.
People unfamiliar with the musical might not notice or care about the changes to Act II (or technically Act III), but fans of the musical should be warned that this show is completely drained of all gravitas and pathos. Also, several wonderful songs have been cut- it will tick you off.
So if you've seen the musical, you know how Act II goes. More importantly, you know the great songs there. Well for some reason (PG rating, perhaps), Disney has cut everything about Act II that gives the entire show meaning.
#1- Rapunzel does not die. This ruins the Witch's arc in Act II. No reprise of Children Don't Listen, and the witch leaves the movie rather abruptly in Last Midnight. And of course, Rapunzel is almost completely pointless to the story now, since nothing bad ever happens to her and her prince stays happily married to her, which brings me to...
#2- No second "Agony." This was my favorite song in the damn show, and they cut it. Of course, the cut everything building up to this too- We don't get to see the princes and their wives tire of married life, nor do the baker and his wife, which comes to...
#3- The Baker and his wife have no troubles in Act II. There's no fall from grace for these two- they never have to deal with a stressful marriage. The wife only kisses the prince (no sex), and the action leading up to that point is far from justified. Her lyrics about "And/Or/Both" are groundless here- it's still a fun song, but there's no reason for her to be singing it.
#4- No Narrator. He shows up as an apparition, but does not get to sing "no more," which is the other best song in the musical. This also hastens the Baker's journey- while he still hits the main points of his arc, we're denied any real struggle here.
#5- Arguably, the entire point of the musical is missing. The stage version breaks down "happily ever after" and teaches a real lesson about loss and how gray the world really is. The movie...does not.
So I can't really recommend this to fans of the musical, unless you can accept the loss of Act II. People unfamiliar with the musical might still enjoy it.
John Wick (2014)
What's all the fuss about?
I saw this movie- can't say I loved it or hated it. It was "passable." What baffles me is how many people seem to love this film. There are much better films out there that do the same story...why latch on to this one? Keanu is used wisely- meaning he doesn't say much. The supporting actors are all great, but they're not given much to do.
The choreography is "passable." It seemed to be that this was the only reason the movie exists, and in that case, I'd say it's a bit of let-down. It starts off great, but it doesn't really go anywhere...plateaus early.
The cinematography is very good, and the music is appropriate.
Like I said, a passable film, but I couldn't find anything that stands out here- Payback, Taken, and Borne Identity all do it better.
Saw it all at once- didn't quite win me over.
So first let me say that I'm a huge street fighter fan.
A lot of people seem to love this, but I was kind of left cold. Also, I didn't know this was a TV series- I saw it as a "movie" (all 180 minutes in one sitting). As you can imagine, I was constantly annoyed that this "movie" felt like a really drawn out TV show...so I'll try not to complain too much about pacing and call-backs, but I still have lots of positives and negatives to share: +The attention to visual details is awesome- especially in the choreography. The moves and poses the characters make could be taken directly from the game. This is the only street fighter movie/show I've ever seen that consistently keeps the choreography consistent with the game for every fight (for better or worse...).
+Ken. He is the best part of the show, and for the most part he's fun to watch (when he's given something to do).
+Acting (for most). Goki and Goken were very good, and Gotetsu was amazing. The show could have just focused on him.
+Imagery. Occasionally, the show has some great shots- but these are few and far between...
+True to canon. For the most part, this is what I thought the back story should be based on the video game.
So now what I didn't like: -Too limited! My major complaint is that the show feels too limited in scope. Seeing the same sets used for 180 minutes straight was very tiresome. I was dying to see them leave the damn dojo and go do something! Maybe this is because it was a low-budget thing? Even so, the writing didn't quite sparkle on its own either, which leads me to...
-Lackluster script. My second biggest complaint is that the script lacks heart. I didn't care about Ryu at all (and he's my favorite character!) and though the actor playing Ken was great, he was barely given lines to work with at all. Even the all-important back story with Goki and Goken was so abrupt and choppy that it felt completely unreal to me. Everything that was supposed to be important and emotional felt rushed and under-developed. The actors tried their best, but almost none of the lines gave them any personality or edge. The characters felt 2-dimensional (so to speak) and lifeless.
-Sterile action. I love the attention given the individual moves and imagery from the game, but there comes a point where you need to loosen up a bit and get gritty. The camera work is all so controlled and remote; it felt like the whole damn movie was one medium shot and one wide shot. I always felt aware of the camera, and the characters were always at a "safe distance." There is so much redundancy in the camera moves, the action, and the choreography that the whole thing really lost my interest (visually) after the first hour.
-Repetitive story structure. What bugged me the most about the "story" is that nothing happens or is motivated. Every "day" in the characters lives is the same; they're always sparring, or getting lectured, or standing still, and it gets old really fast. On top of that, their training is just plain dull. There's nothing at stake, and no reason for us to want them to succeed. There's ONE scene that takes place in the city, and it's the only time these characters even *remotely* feel like real people.
So that's pretty much it. Overall, I think it's a wonderful tribute to the game, but apart from a few good fight scenes and spot-on imagery, everything else in this productions feels sterile, limited, and unmotivated. Maybe it works better watching it 21-minutes at a time, but I find it hard to believe it would be much more intriguing that way.
Check out the anime series instead- Street Fighter 2 V. It's so much more satisfying and tells a much more interesting story.
The Judge (2014)
Competently made, but lacking character.
I only went to see this movie because I like Robert Downy Jr. and Robert Duvall. And for sure, they were only good things about it.
I can't say the movie was unwatchable, it wasn't. It definitely holds your interest and maintains flow as well as many TV shows, but the movie lacks any character or real heart.
The script is actually quite poor- the "funny" parts are hit or miss, and most of them only work because Robert Downy is awesome. The "dramatic" parts are all quite safe...like a "PG" rating for intensity. And the Characters are all fairly stereotyped. You can write everything you learn about these characters on a post-it note. There are times where you'll scratch your head and ask "...really?" Basically, it's the lowest quality script you can run with and still make a watchable movie (so yes, it's still watchable, just not that satisfying). The only positive part of the script is the dialogue given Robert Downy's character. He's a smart character and does have a way of saying exactly what we want him to.
Even then, the whole thing has a very "just out of film school" feel to it- some really obvious editing, and blatant music cues (that try to make you think you're feeling more emotion than you are) also add to the amateur feel.
So in conclusion, I wouldn't really recommend this unless you love Robert Downy and Robert Duvall and don't mind an otherwise mediocre 2.5 hour film. There's nothing special going on here.
I wanted to like this movie...I really did.
I saw the trailer, and even though I knew the "science" behind it was all wrong, I thought it could still be fun.
Well, it was a little fun, sure, but frankly it was a poorly made film with a terrible script and hackneyed ideas.
Have you seen Limitless? They did the same plot better. Have you seen The Avengers? Better use of Scarlett Johansson. Even The Lawnmower Man has the advantage of not being so pretentious over this film.
The script is probably my biggest complaint- nothing is natural. Every line is "on-the-nose," and clearly just there to move the story forward, without giving us any reason to care about the characters or to believe what's happening is real. Who is Lucy? We never really know, she's been instructed to act like a robot the whole movie. There's one scene where she talks about her past, but it's so unnatural and sudden that I couldn't care about it. The supporting characters also have terrible lines...Why are they after Lucy? It doesn't even matter, they're only in the movie to give Lucy and excuse to fight them.
The editing and "symbolism" of the movie is also amateurish. There is no subtlety in this film- everything hits you on top of the head with a lead mallet. For example, the film starts off by juxtaposing images of animals with people...which was a little cheesy but I was willing to forgive it if the film kept up the motif. Nope. Just some random images of animals in the first 10 minutes and then never again. Why even bother? It's like the film is trying to impress some "film school" teacher. Random shots and juxtapositions happen for no other reason than "because it makes the film look smart." It's not, though- it's just obvious and cheesy.
There were also no clever ideas or insights to the human condition here...just clichéd messages about life that you can get from any 9th grade biology book.
OK, so before you say I'm taking it too seriously, and this is just supposed to be a popcorn action flick, I will admit some of the action scenes are awesome. However, they're the same scenes we saw in the trailer, or we've simply seen them done before in other films, but better.
I would not recommend this film, at least not in the theater. Rent it or stream it or whatever, but this isn't a film to pay good money for. There are much better films out there about the same idea.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Fear not, it's better than X3 and the Wolverine movies.
It's hard to review this movie without spoilers, but here it goes:
It's a very "epic" X-men movie...probably the most epic yet. For better or worse, there's a lot going on in this movie- future and past time-lines and characters...if I have one complaint, it's that there's so much to the story that some scenes happen too quickly just because they need to.
There are also some head-scratching lines of dialogue and plot elements (don't even get me started on how the time-line is supposed to work with the previous movies).
But that's all being technical, the movie succeeds where it needs to: the story is interesting, the acting is good, the action is pretty awesome (though we don't get as much as I wanted), and the effects are the best yet.
A lot of people are raving about this movie, and I hate to say I don't really know why- it was good, but not great. I wouldn't say it's the best X-men movie, but it's a welcomed addition.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Better than the first one, but seriously flawed.
I'll be positive here- the movie did a very good job whenever spider-man was in the suit, doing his thing.
It maintains (and expands) the humor of spider-man (which the Rami films really lacked), and the choreography is the best yet- Spider-man finally moves like you think he should from the comics (or video games).
The villains are over-the-top (again), but for me that's part of the fun. The movie knows it's predictable, and I respect it for just kinda going with it. The acting overall is pretty on target, except from Garfield himself, who doesn't seem to know what to do during the serious scenes.
The ending actually kinda surprised me. You might see it coming, but I wasn't sure...I'll give them props for that.
Some of the scenes also just look really good- the CGI is *almost* to the point where it can seamlessly integrate into real footage...almost.
The music was also pretty good. Not as melodic as Elfman's score, but still a fun addition to the action.
Now to get all the negatives out in one paragraph: the dialogue is clichéd at best (lazy or aimless at worst), the tone of the movie is all over the place (is it campy? Is it serious? It tries to do both). The pacing is a bit off- starts with a promising sub-plot that gets a very rushed conclusion. Many characters are seemingly introduced for no reason, other than "they're in the comic, so we'll mention them here too." The plot over-relies on forced actions (meaning we see people change from good to bad or vice versa in the course of one scene). There's also just tons of little stupid things that are funny but unintentionally so (cinemasins will have a field day with this one).
So overall...I'd recommend it if you love spider-man and just want to see some fun spider-man action, and are willing to put up with a pretty terrible script and awkward pacing. On the other hand, if you hated the "first" one this one might not be enough of an improvement.