Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Debt - Movie Review

It's unusual to see a movie come out mid-week to not much hype or advertising, but has a strong cast backing it up. It's just as unusual when the movie is actually good. The Debt is one of these movies. It appears The Debt was pushed back from it's original December release, which would normally be a bad sign, but it appears the release was pushed back more for legal reasons.

The movie follows the story of a small, Israeli team that is trying to track down a Nazi doctor, who performed human experiments, capture him and bring him to justice. The story is told more in flashbacks, with it jumping between the younger versions of the team played by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas, and the older versions played by Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson.

I don't have that much more to say about the plot, as I don't want to spoil anything. I will say that there is an interesting dilemma the characters have to go through and there's a complex moral message as a result. The movie is tense, has some nice action sequences and is nicely paced. I never found myself checking my phone to see how much time the movie had left.

The performances are all good across the board, but with this strong of a cast, that shouldn't surprise anyone. Jessica Chastain is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses and I was surprised by Sam Worthington's performance. He normally is just kind of 'blah', but I felt like he was pretty strong here. The doctor, played by Jesper Christensen, is also very good.

This was an American remake of an Israeli film of the same name from 2007. The remake was directed by John Madden, who has retired from football to become a pretty good director. Just kidding, this is a different John Madden. This is the John Madden that has directed films like Shakespeare in Love and Killshot.

Matthew Vaughn co-wrote the screenplay and continues to show why he's one of my favorite writers and directors. It's interesting that this is the second film this summer he's been involved in that dealt with some kind of Nazi hunting. He seems to excel at this. I almost have to wonder if he took unused stuff from The Debt and threw it into X-Men: First Class.

Overall, The Debt is a good thriller with an interesting story and strong performances. This is a strong matinee recommendation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fright Night 3D - Movie Review

Here's another movie I was really looking forward to, but it just didn't meet my expectations. I read all the good reviews and was expecting a better movie.

I don't remember much about the original Fright Night. It's been years since I saw it. In a way, I think that might be a good thing, as I didn't spend my time watching the movie comparing it to the original. However, after watching Fright Night, I didn't feel like the remake was so well done that it was needed to be made.

The basic story pretty much is the same as what I remember about the original. Fright Night follows Charley, played by Anton Yelchin, as a high school student. Charley and his mother, played by Toni Collette, have a new neighbor. Neighbor Jerry is played by Colin Farrell. After Jerry moves in, Charley's friend, played by McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) notices that an increasing number of students are missing from school. McLovin initially tries to convince Charley that Jerry is a vampire, but Charley isn't buying it. However, once McLovin also goes missing, Charley investigates further and finds that Jerry is, in fact, a vampire. Charley isn't sure what to do, so he contacts a supposed expert on vampires, played by David Tennant in the original Peter Vincent role.

It's takes a while to set all of this up, probably a little too long, but once Charley figures out Jerry is a vampire, it pretty much launches into all action. At that point Fright Night is actually kind of entertaining. It's even funny in parts.

The performances are fine for the most part, but the real star of this is Colin Farrell. I used to not like Colin Farrell at all. I didn't think he was a very good actor and thought he was just the new 'it' guy. Recently, he's been in several, smaller movies that have shown that he actually can act and I've softened my opinion of the guy. You can tell he really enjoyed making Fright Night. He really sunk his teeth into the role. Ha! Get it! He's chewing up the scenery with his fake fangs and all. Farrell is easily the best thing about Fright Night and is what made it worth watching for me.

This was shot in 3D and I heard it was supposed to be a good use of it, but I thought the 3D sucked. The only times I could even tell it was in 3D was when something was on fire and you saw the embers flying around. Most of the time, it didn't do anything for the movie and when I'd take my glasses off, the movie didn't look any different.

Fright Night was directed by Craig Gillespie, who also directed Mr. Woodcock and Lars and the Real Girl, which are both movies I did not enjoy. I think this might have been a better movie in the hands of another director.

I say this a lot, but Fright Night isn't bad. However, outside of Colin Farrell's performance, there's not much to recommend about it. At least not as far as rushing out and seeing this in the theater. Save it for a rental and I think you'll enjoy it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Conan the Barbarian - Movie Review

Here's a good example of when you don't have very high expectations for a movie and it still manages to come up short. Conan the Gruntarian is simply a bad movie.

Leave it to Jason Momoa to make Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a good actor. Okay, that's maybe a little harsh, but Momoa just isn't that good. Physically, he's fine, but as far as his acting, he didn't bring anything interesting to Conan. It felt like he grunted all of his dialog and then scowled at the camera. I don't have HBO to know how this compares to his performance on Game of Thrones, but I've heard he's pretty much doing the same act. I'm one of the people that really can't see anyone else playing Conan besides Arnold though, so I might be harder on Momoa than others are. I just can't get past that.

The story is just a run-of-the-mill action movie and the dialog is pretty bad, even for a movie like this. So what is the story? It's basically Conan chasing around the bad guy from Avatar (Steven Lang). Why is he bad? He's after some weird mask thing, which I'm really not all that clear on what it does. I guess it's powerful. Anyway, I never really felt like they showed why this guy is so terrible outside of him killing Conan's Dad (played by Ron Perlman) at the beginning of the movie. Conan's basically after him for revenge, not necessarily because stopping him is the right thing to do. You just aren't given any reason to care one way or another. It's all very generic and a lot of what happens felt forced.

I guess this movie is supposed to follow the Conan story more accurately, but whatever. I preferred the more epic Milius/Schwarzenegger version of Conan. It was a better movie as far as the fantasy goes.

There's lots of blood and violence, and I liked the brutality. However, at times it felt kind of fake and cartoony. I think they used a little too much CG. The CG and effects aren't awful, but outside of a sequence or two, I didn't think they were anything special.

I thought the ending was pretty terrible and sloppy as well. My friend also commented on the weakness of the ending as we were leaving.

As it's appropriate for a Conan movie:

Number of rapes: 0
Number of murders: Countless!
Number of boobs: Tons. However, they are mostly from extras. There's a love scene with Rachel Nichols' character and Conan towards the end, but Nichols and Momoa have both confirmed that a body double was used. It's a shame. I also found it kind of pointless, because it's not like Nichols brought all that much to the movie as far as her performance, so I don't see why they didn't just cast someone else in the role and then not had to bother with a body double. Look I don't think a girl should have to take her clothes off, but you read the script before you took the role right? If you're an actress, don't take a role if you aren't willing to do things the script calls for. It's not like needing a stunt double to do something dangerous. It's just being topless on camera for a few seconds.

I do like looking at Rachel Nichols though. She just does it for me. Speaking of hot chicks, I didn't even realize Rose McGowan was in this. I didn't recognize her through all the makeup. I didn't really think her performance was all that special either. I didn't think anyone was all that great in this.

Conan was directed by Marcus Nispel, who's also been responsible for other atrocities like Pathfinder and the Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes. I guess he likes gore, but isn't really into story or dialog. It shows with Conan.

I will add that I did see Conan on the D-BOX, which was very cool. You feel every hit and movement and it helps you get into the action. However, if it weren't for the D-BOX, I think I would have been bored. It was also in 3D, which again, wasn't very good. Many times, I took my glasses off because it wasn't doing anything for me.

At the end of the day, there's not a lot to get excited about or recommend about Conan the Barbarian. Skip it in the theater. I think if you rent this, you'll be entertained as far as the action, but it's a stretch to go to the theater to see this. In fact, for now you're better off just renting the original Conan. I highly recommend watching the original Conan with the Milius and Schwarzenegger commentary track. You'll laugh your ass off!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Attack the Block - Movie Review

This was an interesting movie. There's a lot of hype about this, which may have affected my review as I went in with really high expectations. I did enjoy Attack the Block, but came away feeling like it didn't quite live up to the hype. However, the more I think about Attack the Block, the more I liked it, especially now that I've had a few days to think about it.

The movie centers around a group of young teen thugs that mug a girl named Sam, played by Jodie Whittaker. While the mugging occurs, they are attacked by a creature that they track down and kill. After the killing, more creatures show up and it becomes clear to them that this is some kind of alien invasion. Rather than sit back and do nothing, they take the fight back to the streets. However they soon find out that they are over their heads.

Once the action gets started, they are running from the aliens, running from the police, and running from a local drug dealer all at once. There's a lot of running in this.

The story primarily follows the character Moses, played by newcomer John Boyega, and his friends. Boyega's actually pretty good here and is able to convey a lot without necessarily saying anything. There's a lot of comparisons to Goonies and I can see that a little bit, but the difference is that in the Goonies, the kids were more likable up front. In Attack, the kids start out as thugs and then they fight back because they are too stubborn, or stupid, to know otherwise. In Goonies, you have a goofy bunch of kids on a quest together to save from having to move from their home. There are parallels, but I didn't come away from this thinking I had just watched the next Goonies.

The kids all had distinct personalities and seemed like they were really friends, instead of being scripted as friends. If it weren't for the thug angle, you would have liked them a little more at first. Despite they are thugs, they do establish that they have a code.

There is an evolution to these kids through the movie as they start us just a bunch of thugs and then start to do heroic things. You go from not liking them, to cheering for them. It's an interesting story of character development. Moses, in particular, you start just thinking he's a punk, but by the end you do sympathize with him. In fact, there's a nice scene towards the end of the movie where Sam starts to learn more about Moses and you get the feeling she feels bad for him.

There are real consequences in this, which I liked. I won't spoil who, but characters actually die in this movie and you actually care based on the character development and personalities.

Jodie Whittaker kind of reminds me of Emily Mortimer. I felt like she was the voice of the viewer through the movie. I actually don't know what I meant by that. Maybe more like the voice of reason.

The creature design was interesting. More in the sense that these felt like something out of a nightmare, more than an actual creature. What were they? You never really get a good look at them and I think that's what helped sell this. I believe the creatures are mostly practical effects, too, instead of just some CG creature.

One warning though. This is a British film, so at times you have may have difficulty understanding what's being said due to the thick accents.

Attack was produced by Edgar Wright of Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead fame. Nick Frost pops up in this in a small, supporting role. This was written and directed by Joe Cornish, so you have to credit him for writing an interesting story with characters you end up caring about. He also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming The Adventures of Tintin, so that makes me look forward to that movie a little bit more.

As per request:

Number or rapes: 0
Number of boobs: 0
Number of murders: Lots!

Overall, it's pretty entertaining and it's nicely paced. There's a good amount of tension and action, mixed with humor. Granted, there are some parts where you'll feel like you need a translator. This isn't a movie for kids despite it staring a bunch of teens. This actually felt like the movie that Super 8 should have been.

I highly recommend checking it out. It's in limited release, but you might be able to find a theater in your area that has it. If you live in the Bay Area, it was playing at both The Metreon in SF and at the Hacienda in Dublin last time I checked, but with very limited show times.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

30 Minutes or Less - Movie Review

Sometimes there's a movie that despite all the things you've heard about it, all the bad reviews, you like it anyway. This is that movie for me.

Yeah, I heard about how this movie takes from a (tragic) real life case and the writers have been writing this off to coincidence, but after watching the movie, I can't say that they meant any malice with this. Honestly, I didn't even care one way or another. It just didn't seem like it drew any parallels to anything that's really happened.

In short, Danny McBride plays the stupid and spoiled son of a former military guy, played by a perfect Fred Ward. His father won the lottery a few years back and now Danny McBride decides the best way to cash in it to kill his father. However, the hitman wants $100k to do the hit, so McBride and his buddy, played by Nick Swardson, decide the best way to get the $100k is to strap a bomb to a pizza delivery guy, played by Jessie Eisenberg, and tell him to rob a bank. They give him nine hours to rob a bank and get the money back to him. Eisenberg's character is a bit of a loser himself, so he tries to get help from his best friend, played by Aziz Ansari.

If the plot sounds stupid, is. But the movie isn't really about the plot, it's all about the chemistry. The movie really feeds of the friendships of Danny McBride's and Nick Swardson's characters and also with Eisenberg's and Ansari's. I felt like when the movie focused on either of those pairings, it was really funny.

Danny McBride is basically playing an offshoot of his Kenny Powers character from Eastbound & Down, but when isn't he? If you like that about him, then you'll think he's funny here. It's just more of the same.

Michael Pena gives an off-beat and funny performance as the hitman. He's doing an unusual voice, similar to the voice he used in Observe and Report. I don't know what it is about this guy, but I thought he was hilarious. I still laugh when I think about his role in Fifty Pills. He seems to excel in these smaller roles.

The movie is very fast paced. It doesn't waste any time getting going and then before you know it, the credits are running. Even I was like, "Woah, it's over already?" The movie is listed at only 83 minutes, which normally would bug me, but here I think it helped. If it had been much longer, I think it might have started to drag and the flaws of the movie might have stood out more.

Earlier in the Summer I compared a movie to Pineapple Express. That comparison was inaccurate. This movie reminds me way more of Pineapple Express. If you liked that, you should probably enjoy 30 Minutes or Less on a similar level.

30 Minutes or Less is a stupid movie. However, it's really harmless and silly. I thought it was funny throughout the film and I laughed out loud many times. The crowd really seemed to be into it, too. I walked out of this not feeling like I wasted my time or my money. However, the many beers I had before seeing this movie might have made this movie funnier than it actually was.

I'd recommend this as a matinee. Go see it with a few friends, have a drink or two before and I think you'll have a good time.

Super - DVD Review

It's rare when I dedicate a review just to a DVD I've seen, but I feel like this deserves one.

Super was a movie that came out in a very limited run. In fact, it came out the weekend of WonderCon and I had fully intended on attending a screening that day, but due to circumstances out of my control (in short a 'friend' effed up) I didn't get to see it that day. After that weekend, I couldn't find a theater in the area that was playing it. Even the Art House theaters in the area didn't seem to have it. This was just one of those movies I just wasn't going to be able to see in the theater.

So what's Super about? It stars Rainn Wilson as kind of a schlubby loser. He's a short order cook and married to a woman, played by Liv Tyler, who is a recovering drug addict. He comes home one day to find that his wife has moved out without any real explanation. He's able to track her down and finds that she's hanging out with a drug dealer, played by a great Kevin Bacon.

After trying desperately to get his wife to come back to him, Wilson goes home and prays for a sign for what to go. Eventually, he is given a sign that he interprets that he needs to become a superhero and he comes up with the Crimson Bolt.

At this point, I'm sure you're thinking this is like Kick-Ass, and it is in a sense, only Super is much more real and brutal than Kick-Ass. The Crimson Bolt is the most brutal superhero you've ever seen on film. The movie is very real in it's depiction of the violence for the most part. The Crimson Bolt's weapon of choice is a simple pipe wrench and he beats the living hell out of people with it. In Super, the violence is very real. When he hits someone with his wrench, I'd say the results are pretty accurate.

It's pretty clear watching this that the Rainn Wilson's character isn't all there and is a sociopath. He's eventually joined by Ellen Page's character, who is even crazier and more sociopathic than he is. She's so bad that it actually brings Wilson's character back down to Earth a little bit.

While you might not like Wilson's character, his performance is great. He's very emotional and shows a range you aren't used to seeing from him on The Office.

The movie does take a bit to get going, but it has a short run time at about 98 minutes and once the superhero stuff starts, it's pretty much non-stop.

The performances are all great here. This is essentially a four person film: Wilson, Page, Bacon and Tyler. There's also a small role from Michael Rooker and a great cameo from Nathan Fillion as The Holy Avenger.

The movie was written and directed by James Gunn, who also made Slither, which was another film I liked a lot. This was also made on a very small budget (only about $2.5 million), but you can't tell. They really got a lot out of the money they spent.

I'll admit this movie might not be for everyone. If you don't like dark characters or comedy, then this won't be for you, nor if you don't like superhero films.

For everyone else though, I highly recommend renting this as soon as you can.

Recent DVD Reviews through August 13th.


This was a surprisingly good movie. However, it's about something that no parent should ever have to deal with. It'll make you squirm a bit. At the same time, I think it's important to watch. Basically the short version is that the movie is about a 13-year-old girl that's been chatting with a guy on line. He slowly continues to reveal to her that he's older than he's been letting on. This ultimately leads up to them meeting, and, well, I'll let you guess where it goes next.

The parents are played by Catherine Keener and Clive Owen. I thought Clive Owen was great! It was easily his most emotional performance. I would imagine any father acting just like him (I know I would have in the same situation). There's a moment where you think this is going to turn into more of a revenge-type movie, but fortunately, it doesn't happen. I think it would have been cheap if Trust had gone that route.

The daughter, played by newcomer Liana Liberato, gives a very convincing and emotional performance. She really goes through the full range of emotion in this and you go from thinking she's naive to feeling genuinely bad for her. You have to credit the director as well for pulling these kind of emotional performances out of his cast.

Wait what?! David Schwimmer directed this? Ross from Friends? Woah! Good job! Maybe he has a career in directing. Ben Affleck seems to have made a great transition from actor to director, maybe Schwimmer is next.

Anyway, I do recommend renting this. I think it's worth watching.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

This stars Superman and Jimmy wait...wrong movie. Dylan Dog stars Brandon Routh and Sam Huntington.

This is just a mess of a movie. Routh plays a private investigator who used to be involved in the paranormal. He's contacted by a woman who's father was apparently just killed by a werewolf. Initially, he doesn't want to get involved, but when Jimmy Olson, um I mean Sam Huntington's characters, is killed apparently by a similar creature, Routh has no choice but to get back involved.

I actually think the premise wasn't bad. There are some interesting ideas here, but the overall story is just bad. There are just things that don't really make sense or aren't consistent with other parts of the movie. For example:

- Throughout the movie you're told that Routh is no longer involved the monster affairs, because his last true love was killed by vampires and then he kind of went ape shit for revenge. He has that whole, "I'll never love again", angst about it. He has zero chemistry or flirtation with the lead female, but then all of a sudden they just start to make out and there isn't even any build up to it.

- At the end, the lead female brings forth some demon that she supposedly controls. The demon takes exception to this and throws her across the room. However, just seconds later they are able to defeat the demon by just killing the girl that's controlling him. Okay, but then how come when the creature threw her across the room it didn't affect him at all. It doesn't make sense.

Dylan Dog has a very generic TV feel to it. In fact, this felt like something that should have been a TV pilot and probably would have worked better on TV. Plus, it seemed really low budget. Plus, it seems like this is a movie that should have been played for laughs and it wasn't funny at all. The wr

I feel bad for Brandon Routh. It seem like he wanted to be in this. It's just a phoned in performance. In general, this start a bunch of people that have been much better in other movies, but here their performances are either hammy or just plain bad.

You can safely pass on this one.

Chain Letter

This is basically a Final Destination movie with computers, but somehow much, much worse. In this movie, someone is sending out chain emails to groups of people, but if you don't forward the chain email, you're the next to DIE!

I usually don't expect much with straight-to-video slasher flicks, but this one is just stupid. There's nothing about the movie that makes any kind of sense and even the deaths are lame and consistent. For example, the first death in the movie is basically a guy getting brutally beaten and tortured, but then the rest of the deaths were just standard hack and slash. The killer had no real MO. Plus, he appeared to be deformed for some unexplained reason. And super strong. He did have a chain tattoo on his forearms though, so you know it's consistent and stuff.

The dialog is pretty awful and makes no sense. At one point the father of the first person killed is screaming at the detective that he better figure this out before more people get killed. But how would he know more people are going to get killed at this point. This was only the first death. If I was the detective, I would have put that guy at the top of my suspect list.

Eventually, you find these murders are being done by a group of people that hate technology. Wait, if they hate technology, then why is their method to find people to kill is to chain email them and then kill the people that break the chain. Shouldn't they be sparing the people that break the chain? Most people hate chain email and hate it forwarded to them. Isn't not forwarding chain email a good thing? That's like saying, I hate telemarketers, but I'm going to kill people that don't answer telemarketer calls. You better answer that telemarketer call and then forward the call to someone else. Not say, kill the telemarketer or the person that sends the chain email?

Another thing I hate is when movies about computers are somehow written by people that know nothing about computers. It's nothing on the level of that typing 'access the secret files' crap, but still. The way the emails were handled were more like a computer virus, than an email sent through a normal email application. It's annoying when you actually know stuff about computers.

Anyway, if you haven't guessed already pass on this. However, this movie borders on the it's so bad, it's good territory. It might be fun to rent a few movies like this with friends and drink a bunch and make fun of them, but if you watch this is a stand alone film, no way.


Todd Solondz sure likes to make effed up movies. Like, Happiness, it's a movie about bad or unlikeable people doing bad or uncomfortable things. Somehow these movie end up hilarious, but you feel awful for laughing. After watching Storytelling, I just dirty afterwards and felt like I needed a shower.

Storytelling is two shorter, but unrelated stories in one film. The first story stars Selma Blair as a college student in a writing class. The professor of the class has a reputation for having affairs with his students. I'll let you guess what happens here.

The second story star Paul Giamatti and John Goodman, where Giamatti is doing a documentary of a high school student who's debating going to college and then going through the application process.

I don't want to get into the details, because I'd be spoiling much of the plot and fun of this, but also some of it just isn't all that appropriate to write about.

I recommend rending this, but be ready for some weird. If you've seen Happiness

Soul Surfer

If you already know the story of Bethany Hamilton, or are at least are aware of her, then much of this story is already known to you. I saw a thing about her on Shark Week a few years back, so when I saw that they were making a movie about this, I already knew what was going to happen.

I'm not really going to get into the story the trailers pretty much tell you everything you need to know. Hell, the DVD cover pretty much tells you what's going to happen.

You do have to feel bad for this girl though. She's jsut a 13-year-old that likes to surf and WHAM!! Shark bikes your arm off. That's horrible to hear to hear happening to anyone. It's hard not to find her story inspiring though. She barely skipped a beat on got right back out there. I didn't think they beat you over the head with the religious aspect of it either.

The performances were just okay. I've liked AnnaSophia Robb since Bridge to Terabithia and she's just okay here. It was nice to see Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt working, but they were just kind of there. It's weird that I thought Kevin Sorbo probably gave the best performance, but that's not saying much.

I will say the effects in this movie are pretty awful though. The shark looked like they just could have used a generic rubber shark and the effect's used for Bethany's arm were really inconsistent. It looked different from scene to scene.

I actually found Soul Surfer worth watching though. It's a little cheesy, but it's one of those true stories that I found worth watching despite knowing how it turned out and it didn't seem to take excessive liberties with the story.

I'd say it's worth a rental.


When I saw the cast and what the story was about, I was really looking forward to watching this. James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, etc. The trailer shows lots of fighting and sword play. I was sold. Did Ironclad measure up? Sadly, no.

The story is basically about a group of Knights that hold out for months defending Rochester Castle against King John's forces. That's it. That's the whole story.

It's is really bloody and violent, which I didn't mind. At the same time, it was almost like a slasher flick. At times the gore bordered on being ridiculous and it actually was kind of funny for being so over the top with it.

There's just not much of a story though. They really squandered a good cast. You just don't care about anything that's going on or any of the characters. When they aren't fighting it's just boring to sit through. It was directed by Jonathan English, who doesn't have a lot of directing credits to his name and with movies like this, you can see why.

This is one of those 'based on a true story' movies, but doesn't actually follow what really happened. However, they never actually say 'based on real events' during the movie, but it's implied that it was a real event. There was a siege at Rochester Castle, but the outcome was different, so again, it was loosely based on real events.

Anyway, I really have to say pass on this, but if was available on streaming, I would say to watch the fight scenes and skip the rest.


This got really good reviews, but I just couldn't get into it. There were parts that I just thought were corny and it all seemed really lazy to me. You know how generally the Pixar films feel smart and nuanced (I'm excluding the Cars series from this statement)? I didn't think Rio had that. I guess the critics liked this one, so I'm in the minority on this. I just didn't care for it.

Maybe I'll try renting this one again in a few weeks and see if I still feel the same way.

Beer Wars

If you appreciate beer, then this documentary is worth a watch. It basically goes into the rise of the big three beer manufacturers in the US and then follows the stories of a few smaller beer manufacturers trying to get their beers in bars and stores.

Unfortunately, there is infrastructure in place that makes it very difficult for these smaller beer manufacturers to survive and it argues that the big three really have a monopoly on the beer market in the US. It will really make you want to support smaller beer makers and microbreweries a lot more.

Also, it'll make you never want to give another dime to Budweiser or any Anheuser-Busch product again. That alone makes me give this a high rating.

It's funny as this features some clips from some of the guys from Stone Brewing and I'm drinking a Stone right now. They really make the best beers and you should support them if you like beer.

I highly recommend watching this if you like beer at all.

Mars Needs Moms

I really didn't like this at all. It's clear this is kids film and I'm not the target audience at all, but I was 20 minutes into Mars Needs Moms and I was already picking apart things in the plot and being generally annoyed by the behavior and dialog of the characters. Then, I have to calm down and realize remind myself it's a kids film.

The dialog is just so poorly written. You can have smart dialog in a kids movie. It's okay. Making a kids movie is no excuse for being lazy or dumb.

I'm not even going to get into the plot, because there just isn't much of one. At least not one worth talking about.

The animation is nice as far as the non-humans, but the human animation was off-putting. There was too much of that Uncanny Valley look to it. It doesn't make sense as this is strictly a kids movie, so there's no reason why they couldn't have gone with more of a cartoony look with them.

I actually think this would be good for kids, because it's bright and colorful and the whole 'be nice to your mom/love your mom' message is a good thing for kids, but I can't see much entertainment for anyone over the age of 10.

Rent this, plop your kids in front of the TV and that's about it.

Jumping the Broom

Okay, I'm getting tired, so this one is going to be short.

Jumping the Broom is not that bad, but there's just nothing special about it. It has a good cast, and I thought the performances were fine for what they were given. I just thought the writing and story were pretty cliched. In fact, it's so cliched that I found myself getting frustrated with the characters because many of them seemed so unrealistic and unlikeable to me. They just seemed like standard characters put in movie like this.

It had a few laughs, but it wasn't consistently funny.

It wouldn't be the worst rental, but don't expect much.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

Okay, remember what I just said about how sometimes you get a sleeper hit in August? Well, here it is! I was not expecting Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be any good. I was actually very critical of this after seeing the trailers and was kind of dreading having to watch this.

Rise is another movie where the trailer kind of lied, but here it's a good thing. The trailer really plays up on the ape uprising, but that's really only the last 15 minutes or so.

The movie itself starts with the story of James Franco as a scientist that's trying to discover a cure for Alzheimer's disease. You find that his motivation for doing this is because his father, played by a great John Lithgow, suffers from Alzheimer's and is pretty far gone.

Franco's character has developed a genetic virus and the company he works for has been experimenting the virus on apes. The virus was actually genetically mutating the apes to be smarter. This was actually something I initially had an issue with when I first saw the trailer. How would the apes continue to evolve if there's nothing being passed genetically to their descendants? Fortunately, they did a good job of explaining that in the context of the movie, so I no longer have an issue with that.

Anyway, one of the apes that had been showing increased intelligence goes nuts and they have to put her down. However they find that the reason she went nuts was that she had secretly just had a baby and was just being protective of it. Because of a cosmetic side effect of the virus, it's clear that something has been passed on to the baby. Franco's company orders all of the other apes to be put down, but instead he takes the baby home rather than kill it. They name the ape Caesar and raise it like a son.

The movie then flashes forward over the next 8 years or so showing the development of Caesar. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis (Gollum from Lord of the Rings) in another motion-capture role mixed with computer graphics. He's the go to guy for this type of role and I think he's brilliant here. I don't see how you could watch this and not call it acting. He really carries the film and gives Caesar an emotional weight that's impossible to ignore.

I'm going to stop talking about the plot at this point, as part of my normal policy about not spoiling the plots of movies I really like. I'll just bring up a few general points.

The CG is pretty great for the most part. There are a few parts here and there that look a little off, but for the most part it's pretty great. The budget of the movie was about $90 million, so they really got a lot out of that money considering I've seen many movies recently with much larger budgets that didn't look half as good.

I like James Franco, but he really seemed to be phoning it in. I'd have to say he's probably the weakest part of the movie at least from a performance standpoint. The rest of the cast is good for the most part. There's a small role played by Tom Felton, who was Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. It was funny to see him outside of a Harry Potter movie for a change.

You really get into the development of the characters. One of the reasons why I said the trailer lies is that this is heavily built up as an action film, but in reality this is much more of a character based, sci-fi drama. You get a lot of the relationship between the family of Caesar, James Franco and John Lithgow. If you saw Splice last Summer, it's actually all the things I wish Splice would have been.

I'm not hugely familiar with all of the movies in the Apes franchise, but I'm hearing this is closest to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I guess this is still both a little bit of a prequel and a reboot. I think it's a fresher take on the story that I feel is more in line with current science and where things could potentially be headed. It's a pretty smart sci-fi film as far as I'm concerned. I really have to credit the writing team and the direction of Rupert Wyatt for pulling this off.

Regardless of whether or not this a straight prequel or reboot, the movie actually works well as standalone film. It's kind of how I felt about X-Men: First Class where the movie worked so well, that I didn't really care about the liberties it took with the material or how it wasn't necessarily consistent with the other films.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a way better film than it had any right to be considering the marketing and it's release date. I was expecting a ridiculous action movie, but instead got a smart, character based drama that's probably one of the better sci-fi films I've seen in a while, and one of the best films of the Summer.

Anyway, I never thought I'd say this, but I recommend this highly.

The Change-Up - Movie Review

Sigh...for those of you that don't already know, August and early September are the months when the movie studios start dumping all their crap movies that they know weren't good enough to compete with the bigger releases. Every once in a while, you get a sleeper hit, but for most part, this is when the junk comes out.

The one exception to the rule is with comedies. Usually once every Summer, a pretty decent comedy gets released in August. So, when you see a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman coming out first week of August, you are cautiously optimistic.

The good part with The Change-Up is that you know what your getting into within the first five minutes. The bad part, is that it's not good. Once you see Jason Bateman get a stream of poop in the face, you know you aren't in for a smart comedy. This review is going to sound like a little bit of a rant, but the more I think about it, the more I'm irritated and disappointed by this movie.

The story in The Change-Up is pretty much exactly what you see in the trailer. It's yet another spin on the whole body swapping thing. The difference is here that they swapped Ryan Reynolds' single character with Jason Bateman's married with kids character. You aren't given a lot of information about these guys before the switch. Jason's character is envious of Ryan's single lifestyle, and for some reason Ryan is envious of Jason's. The switch happens shortly after.

One of the weak things about this movie, is that if Ryan was envious of the married with kids lifestyle, they never show a single scene of him liking it. Once he trades places, he seems to hate everything he's asked to do; sometimes outright refusing to help with the kids, forgetting his fatherly duties, being insensitive towards 'his' wife, etc. It seems like the only thing he was interested in was the possibility of having sex with his friend's wife. Classy...

There really isn't much to like about Ryan Reynolds' character. He's lazy, a man-child, has a poor relationship with his own father, and seems to be kind of a freak. His character is so over the top that you have to wonder why he's even friends with Jason Bateman's character, who is a serious, career-focused man. In fact, it's stated several times in the movie that Bateman's character is embarrassed for Reynolds' character. He's called out a few times in the movie for never sticking to anything or following through.

To be honest, while the movie seems to be more about Bateman's character, there's not a lot to like about him either. He's so career-focused that he neglects his wife and kids. At least they give a little bit of background for why this happens. After the switch happens, he doesn't really seize the opportunity to live Reynolds' single lifestyle.

The humor in the movie just crass and immature. I normally don't have an issue with language in a movie, but it's unnecessarily vulgar. There are lots of F-bombs thrown around at inappropriate times. A few here and there can be funny, but when it's F-this and mother effer that, it starts to get annoying. It really felt like every fifth word was the F-bomb.

The physical comedy is a lot of fake-poop and weird CG-baby nonsense that looked terrible. It wasn't funny and was more irritating than anything.

I never thought I'd see myself complaining about female nudity in a movie, but this way too much. There is a lot of bad nudity they attempted to use for comedic effect. The worse part is, it's all fake. All the nudity in the movie is either fake boobs or rubber suits. It looks awful and it was so unnecessary. There's even a scene where they had to CG a nipple on Olivia Wilde's boob. I just don't see the point.

Olivia Wilde is in this (she's in frigging everything lately and I couldn't tell you why) playing basically an adolescent male fantasy here. She drinks, likes sports and just offers up sex without having to work for it. It really felt like a kid wrote this just hoping this is how girls are when he gets older. Olivia looks great, but she doesn't do anything in this movie that any other young Hollywood starlet couldn't have done just as well.

It seemed like even the 'real' situations seemed more like fantasies of those things rather than how they really are. There are scenes where they are hanging out a sports bar and everyone is super into a baseball game. I just found the whole thing odd, because I've only see this kind of reaction in playoff games. If it's just a normal game, you don't see huge crowds in sports bars with everyone screaming throughout the game. It was more like how I see sports bars when watching football games, not baseball games. I don't know why that annoyed me so much.

Another thing is that I hate when characters are shown to be mostly unemployed or having difficulty keeping a job, but seem to have nice apartments and never have problems paying for things. Do these characters all have trust funds?

There actually are some sweet and real moments here, mainly involving Leslie Mann's character, but these parts of the movie felt like they were written by different people.

I did laugh out loud a few times, but not enough to overcome the overall silliness of The Change-Up. Again, it just felt like kids had written this or didn't expect much from their audience.

Part of the surprise for me is that it actually has a good cast and it's from writers of The Hangover. It was directed by David Dobkin, who directed Wedding Crashers, so I was just expecting a lot more out of this.

I'm just disappointed. The Change-Up is just lazy and uninspired, much like Ryan Reynolds character.

Save this one for rental. It's not worth seeing in the theater.