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One of the Biggest Disappointments of the Year
At first glance, it's hard to imagine Transcendence being anything but a great film. It has a great cast, an intriguing plot, and it's produced by Christopher Nolan and directed by his long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister. Unfortunately, this is one of the most disappointing and underwhelming viewing experiences I've had all year.
The main problem with Transcendence is that any interesting elements that our introduced in the film are quickly abandoned by a weak script that offers us absolutely nothing that we haven't seen before in Sci-fi films. The film gets off to a decent start setting up the plot and keeping us intrigued to see where it goes. Once the first act is over, it quickly starts to go downhill. As previously mentioned, there are several interesting ideas that our introduced throughout the film that the film never builds upon and quickly abandons them. This makes it a very frustrating viewing experience as it makes it appear hopeful that the film is finally picking up, only to once again be letdown. A lot of the flaws with the film come from it's weak script. In addition to never building on any interesting ideas it introduces, the characters are too one dimensional to connect with them on any emotional level and the story offers nothing we haven't seen before in other Sci-fi films of this type. Johnny Depp who normally is great in even his weakest films, appears to be sleep walking through the entire film appearing to be bored. Rebecca Hall did a decent job playing Depp's wife, but nothing spectacular. The only actor who really shines is Paul Bettany who delivers a great performance despite the weak material that he is given to work with. Morgan Freeman is completely wasted and given absolutely nothing to do. His character could have been completely cut out of the film and it wouldn't have altered anything in the story. Wally Pfister is also in part to blame for the films flaws. This is his directorial debut and it's very blatant and obvious that he struggled to put everything together considering the films lack of energy and dullness. A project of this caliber should not have been put in the hands of a first time director. There is also an anti-technology stance the film takes, yet only suggest and never actually shows the damage that Depp's character is doing in his new form which I found to be very annoying.
Now while Transcendence is far from a good movie, I can't quite call it terrible. I never really found myself bored during the film and was for the majority involved with the story throughout since it's told at a very straightforward pace. Pfister also shows that while his directional skills might be weak, his cinematography is nevertheless great and the visuals are impressive.
Overall, Transcendence isn't quite terrible, but it's convoluted and weak script plus direction make it a frustrating viewing experience that offers almost nothing. Despite the film being released in April, 2014 may have already found it's title for the most disappointing film of the year.
2014's The Dark Knight
If there would be one film to compare Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to, it would have to be The Dark Knight, in which it is a sequel to a fantastic film that manages to out-do the film it was proceeded by.
As far as Summer Blockbusters go, this is one of the best I've seen in the last decade. It has the epic action set pieces and incredible CGI that we've come to expect, But also a great story, fantastic performances, and emotional depth that many of these Summer films are missing. A majority of the dialogue between the Apes are translated in English subtitles as they communicate with Sign-Language, which was a very ambitious move by the filmmakers as that element alone could easily turn-off some audiences. While there is no doubt the technical aspect of the film is highly impressive, it also succeeds outside of it as well in telling a survival story between the Apes and remaining Humans on earth. The film doesn't take any sides between the two species portraying them equally both having their protagonists and antagonists. We don't find ourselves rooting for either side, but rather sympathizing with both of them. Their some beautiful and incredibly touching moments of the Apes and Humans connecting with each other throughout the film, creating a great sense of dread and intensity considering the dramatic irony of the events to come later in the film. Despite these moments being the more quiet and peaceful in this extremely dark film, it makes them all the more tough to watch. The human characters in the film are portrayed very well. While the relationship between Ceaser and Jason Clarke's character isn't quite as strong as his and James Franco's character in the previous film, it doesn't hurt the connection between the two's relationship at all still hitting an emotional chord among the viewer. The action sequences are absolute breathtaking including a great battle sequence and fist-fight between two Ape characters during the climax.
It's only a little over halfway through the year, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best film I've seen so far this year. It's an intense, emotional, and thought-provoking films that is not only impressive on a technical level, but in film making generally.
Live Freaky Die Freaky (2006)
Doesn't Live, Just Dies!
There's a lot to be said about Live Freaky! Die Freaky!. First off it's hands down one of the most bizarre films I've ever viewed in my life combining stop-motion, sci-fi, music, dark humor, and the Manson murders all into one strange little film. The concept itself is undeniably creative and original and unlike anything I've seen before. Unfortunately, the opportunity to do anything even halfway passable with this film is completely wasted in a mess of trying too hard to push the envelope just for shock-value and forgetting to add any substance to the absurdity.
The cast consist of almost entirely of musicians including the members of Green Day, Rancid, Blink-182, and more. Billie Joe Armstrong who voices the Charles Manson type character actually does an alright job, but the rest of the cast comes off completely flat and just dull in their voice acting.
The acting is the least of this films problems though. As previously mentioned, the entire films seems to be trying to only accomplish offending and shocking the viewer by whatever means necessary. If this film was to be submitted by the MPAA, it would no doubt receive an NC-17 . This is is not a film for the faint of heart as it contains incredibly explicit puppet sex scenes including full frontal nudity, graphic animated violence, drug use, and near constant profanity. This may all sound shocking, but after the first puppet sex scene which is roughly around 10 minutes into the film, it immediately grows tiresome and repetitive and results in a surprisingly boring film despite the chaos that is presented.
The film is ultimately a dark-comedy/musical with social commentary on the media and how the Manson murders were handled by them, but it fails in all of these areas thanks to the abysmal writing. It's hard to believe that the script was written by anyone but a 13 year-old boy with the most embarrassingly juvenile sense of humor who just discovered the most vulgar words in the English dictionary. There are a few chuckles to be found here, particularly some sight gags in relation to the medias handling of the Manson murders, but the majority of the humor relies on tiresome jokes which involve the constant use of expletives and the most lowbrow sexual jokes imaginable. These jokes are made even worse that they are dragged out for close to 5 minutes on several occasions. I was hoping that the music would be the saving grace here considering the talent involved, but the songs are almost as awful. The lyrics are complete garbage and the songs are anything but catchy. The film seems to be making an obvious attempt to satirize and make a statement about the way the media portrays celebrities, but it's doesn't appear to be saying anything beyond "Oh, the media glamorizes celebrities and Manson wasn't given a fair trial". The portraying of celebrities is nothing to be shocked by and Manson is a wacko that deserves to be locked up.
There's not doubt there is an audience for this out there who will enjoy it simply for it's shock-value and absurdity, but most will probably see for what it truly is. A wasted opportunity for something that could have been unique and original.
Scary Movie 3 (2003)
More of the Same
As far as spoof comedies go, Scary Movie 3 isn't terrible, but it certainly isn't good either. It's a huge improvement over the awful second film in the franchise, but it fails to deliver enough laughs to be able to recommend it.
The film delivers a few laughs here and there thanks to a few surprisingly clever jokes and slapstick bit, but it feels like the writers went for too many cheap jokes and slapstick humor. The two main parodies are Signs and The Ring which the film does an alright job of poking fun at, but there is a lot of wasted opportunity in poking fun of these films as well. One of the problems with the last film as that it parodied films that weren't even part of the horror genre and these moments felt rather forced and out of place than funny. This film suffers from that problem as well parodying 8 Mile and The Matrix. Neither of these moments are funny nor clever and feel like a cheap attempt to parody other recent films that were popular at the time of release. This wouldn't be a problem if the film was not suppose to be a spoof of horror films and these moments weren't taking away screen time that could have been used to poke fun at the films part of the actual genre it's suppose to be spoofing. Anna Faris was alright in the lead, but I was really disappointed by how underused Charlie Sheen was.
Scary Movie 3 isn't terrible compared to a lot of other spoof movies out there. It does have a couple of funny moments, but the laughs are far in-between a great deal of cheap jokes and tired slapstick humor to be able to recommend it.
The Medallion (2003)
Jackie Chan Sells Out!
If there was ever a film that would fit the term "Americanized", it would easily be The Medallion. This Jackie Chan outing easily ranks as one of the worst films of his career. The film starts off with potential, but quickly throws it all out the window as it indulges with painfully unfunny attempts at humor, awful cgi, and weak fight scenes. The best martial arts films in history are the ones were the actors are actually performing the martial arts themselves which are what makes it so impressive. When the fight scenes are obviously cgi (and very poorly) it destroys exactly what made Jackie Chan's previous films good. On top of that, the film tries way too hard to be a comedy as well with weak Michael Bay type humor that will have the audience rolling their eyes.
What else is there really to say about this film other than the fact that it really is one of the worst Jackie Chan films. Don't waste your time as Chan has plenty of other films out there and much better ones.
The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)
Improves on the original by out-doing it in every single way possible
I won't lie, when I first saw The Raid I loved it, but honestly it found it to be a bit over-hyped. Maybe it was because I had heard so many great things about it that my expectations were a bit too high, but it was still the best action movie I had seen in a long time at it's release. However, The Raid 2 is one of those rare sequels that actually surpasses the first film in every way possible!
Despite being a sequel, you don't really need to see the first film to understand this one. Aside from the opening scenes and the main character returning, this has absolutely nothing to do with the first film. The story here while nothing original, is an entertaining crime thriller that will hold your attention and is nice to have after the first film was so thin on plot.
But story is not what will be getting audiences into the theater. Of course, it's the action and saying it delivers is an understatement. This film has hands down some of the greatest action sequences ever put on film with everything from hand-to-hand combat to quite possibly the greatest car chase sequence of all time. Even with the amazing action sequences in the first, this puts them to absolute shame. The film does not shy away from the brutality either and all the blood and gore an action fan could want is on display here. You will definitely find yourself cringing in the best way possible at more than a few of the fight scenes. Even at 2.5 hours which had me nervous for a film of this type, it never drags and actually feels about 45 minutes shorter than it actually is.
Believer the hype, The Raid 2 is one of the best action films ever made!
Delivers as an Action/Crime Thriller with one of Arnold's Best Performances To Date!
Don't listen to the critics! Go see this movie if you are an Arnold fan! Unlike The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head, this is a straight up dark gritty crime thriller with some great action sequences. While most of the team was unlikable, all of the cast gave good performances aside from Olivia Williams who's accent was pretty bad. The story was good and had enough twist and turns to keep me on the edge of my seat for the majority of the film. The action scenes were fantastic and the violence was incredibly brutal and gory! This is one of the most violent mainstream movies I've seen in a long time! Trust me when I say this movie earned it's R rating! I loved how David Ayer managed to combine the genres of action, crime drama, and western elements together while keeping the tone ultra dark and gritty. Arnolds performance here is also one of the best of his career in my opinion. If I had any complaints it's that it is true the characters are very unlikeable and while they are suppose to be, you do get tired of their crudeness pretty fast.
Very good movie and defiantly worth seeing on the big screen! Don't listen to the critics! If you are a fan of action/crime movies you will enjoy this!
Broadway Idiot (2013)
A Great Behind The Scenes Look at The Production of the Broadway Show
As a huge fan of Green Day and absolutely being in love with their album American Idiot after many years, I was actually really intrigued when I heard the album had been adapted into a Broadway show. I finally got the opportunity to see the touring production of the show a few weeks ago when it came to D.C. While I didn't find it to be anywhere as great as some of the fans had made it out to be, I would say for the most part I found it to be an enjoyable, if flawed show. After seeing it, I found this documentary and thought it would be an interesting watch.
Now the description for the film makes it sound as it's mainly going to be covering Billie Joe Armstrong's transition to Broadway when he performed the role of St. Jimmy back when the show was in New York City. While this is certainly there, I would say the description for the film is slightly inaccurate as most of this is seen towards the end of the film. The film runs for a short 80 minutes, but it still gives a great behind-the-scenes look at the production of the show featuring many interviews with Green Day themselves and the producers and cast of the show along with music from the band a show as well. It starts by taking a look back at the production and release of the original album itself along with the early steps that were being taken to adapt it into a Broadway show. It then goes on to show the production of the actual show and Green Day's involvement with it. We then get to see the success of the show as it goes to NYC and Armstrong's transformation to acting.
As a documentary, this provides for the most part exactly what viewers will want to see. The film consist of a great collection of interviews and footage of production and the actual show itself. It was nice to see the band get time to talk about the production of the original album and the production footage of the Broadway show is great and covers everything from the songs to the set design. It's also a real treat getting to see actual footage of Armstrong performing as St. Jimmy in the show.
While this a very good documentary, I can't quite say it's great. The main problem is all the footage here is painting the show in a very positive light and doesn't show any of the difficulties or troubles of the production of the show. I find it hard to believe there weren't any and would've liked to see some of that stuff going on behind the scenes as a documentary should instead of just focusing on all the good stuff. I also will admit I got tired of hearing Michael Mayer after a while as he seemed a bit full of himself.
Despite my small complaints, Broadway Idiot is still a very good and entertaining documentary that in it's short running time gives just about everything fans of the show will want to see! Even if you weren't a fan of the show or have never even heard of it, you still might enjoy it as it provides plenty of great footage that will keep the viewer intrigued as any good documentary should!
And Just When You Think This Franchise Can't Get Any Worse...
Let's face it, the Paranormal Activity franchise is one of the worst out there. The whole franchise has been built on the over hyping of one film that led to billions of dollars in revenue and spawned a franchise of even less scary sequels. Now after 4 installments, the franchise has gotten it's first spin-off and it's just as awful as you'd imagine.
If there's anything positive that can be said about the film, it's not as bad as the last installment. This really isn't a positive though considering that the film is still garbage and the fourth installment is one of the laziest films I've ever seen. The Marked One's does add some elements that haven't been seen in the previous films, but they are things that you've seen done a million other times in different films and they aren't even particularity done well here. It's essentially just ripping off much better movies.
The acting here is by far the worst in the whole series and it doesn't help that the writing is as equally atrocious. The profane filled dialouge is embarrassing to the point where you will actually find yourself becoming annoying by the constant use of the F-word, and this is coming from someone who has a pretty filthy vocabulary.
Aside from elements from other films that have been rehashed into this entry, The Marked One's offers nothing you haven't seen in the other installments. It's slowly paced and features the same cheap scares that you've come to expect from the franchise and you've seen more than a dozen horror films, than you've seen everything that this film has to offer.
The worst part of all is that the ending for the film is downright insulting to the viewer. It's evident that the writers were trying hard to tie this one in with the rest of the franchise, but had no clue how to. They try to present to us a so-called "twist" that makes absolutely no sense and is only there so there is some sort of connection the previous films. I won't spoil it, but most of the audience left the screening pretty annoyed.
If you've somehow managed to enjoy this terrible franchise, you might find some enjoyment in The Marked Ones. But if you are a veteran horror viewer, you'll want to look elsewhere because there is nothing here worth wasting time on. Hopefully this franchise will come to an end soon and we can stop having to sit through these awful films every year. The only scary thing about this is that we've got to sit through another installment in October.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Another Masterpiece From Scorsese
Martin Scorsese has once again brought us another masterpiece with one of the most fun and entertaining viewing experiences I've ever had! An outrageous 3 hour drug and sex filled and darkly hilarious romp featuring the best performances I've seen all year.
Leonardo Di Caprio is one of my favorite actors and even knowing his talent, I was still shocked just by how fantastic he was as Jordan Belfort. Despite being a huge fan, I almost couldn't believe I was watching the same Di Cpario I'd been seeing for years as he carried the film with such charisma and energy! It's by far the performance of the career and it he should more than deservingly receive an Academy Award for Best Actor (although he will probably be snubbed). Leo is not the only one fantastic here, Jonah Hill also gives the performance of his career here as well and Matthew McConaughey also shines in the brief amount of the film he appears in.
Director Martin Scorsese who has directed some of the best films ever made brings his magic touch in telling this bizarre true story. Despite being 71 years old, he still knows how to have fun telling this story bring a wonderful visual style and fast pace at which the films 3 hour runtime fly's by. But it's not only Scorsese's directing that makes the film work so well, Terence Winter's writing just as equally plays a role in the films brilliance as well with his script filled with dark humor and excellent dialogue that will be quoted in years to come. On top of that, the two hold no bars on exploring Belfort's wild lifestyle refusing to shy away from the excessive amount of drugs and sex involved. This is one of the most graphic mainstream films I have seen in quite some time. But it's pervasiveness only favors the film making it all the more fun and entertaining.
Even though it's long length, graphic content, and dark humor will turn some off, The Wolf of Wall Street ranks up as the best film I've seen all year and one of Scorsese's best!