Sunday, November 27, 2011

Arthur Christmas - Movie Review.

Here's yet another movie where the trailer made this look cheesy, almost to the point where I didn't want to see it.  I was actually kind of swayed by the fact that I thought this was a Pixar film.  It's actually produced by British animation studio Ardman Studios, which has put out movies like Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit.  However, this could have passed for a Pixar movie as far as the quality goes, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

Arthur Christmas is (obviously) about Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent), and his two sons, Steve and Arthur.  In the opening sequence you are shown how Santa and the Elves have moved into the modern age as they deliver their gifts on Christmas Eve.  This sequence is really cool, both in just how well it's animated, but in how the action plays out.  You then see that Santa's oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), is essentially overseeing the delivery from mission control at the North Pole.

Steve is the strong, confident, older son that is next in line to become Santa.  Everyone is expecting Steve to take over for his father after this year's delivery.  Arthur (James McAvoy), as you might have guessed, is the clumsy but sweet, younger son that's kept behind the scenes so he's not in the way.

After the Christmas delivery is over, it is found that one gift did not get delivered.  While Santa and Steve don't think this is that big of a deal, Arthur thinks this must immediately be corrected as to not ruin Christmas.  He sets out on his own, with the help of his Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), who was the previous Santa, to deliver that last gift.  That's pretty much the premise of the story without getting into specifics.

The first thing that struck me was how subtle the humor was.  In the opening sequence alone there are all kind of subtle jokes and visual gags that you may not even notice the first time and many people might not even get.  There's so much going on that it's likely going to take you a few viewings to notice them all.  Fortunately, Arthur Christmas is a movie that you could watch many times.

It was just a few minutes into the movie and I was totally into the film.  I could tell this was not going to be a typical family film.  Arthur Christmas has a little something for everyone.  I heard kids laughing out loud at parts, and then adults laughing out loud at other things.  There was one part at the end where a kid in the audience let out a big gasp, which got a nice chuckle out of the rest of the audience.  Some of the humor is actually kind of adult in the few parts, but it will be over the head of young kids.

It's an all-star, British voice cast.  Normally, when studios, like Dreamworks, boast an all-star cast for an animated film, it seems like it's done just to get people interested in the film. It's not like their voices lend anything special to the story, and I think sometimes actually detract from it.  It's kind of distracting when you watch an animated film and you're trying to figure out who each voice is, or when you hear a voice and go, 'Oh, well, that's just Jack Black.'.  With Arthur Christmas, all of the voices are used well and make the characters feel more like real people.  I was never distracted by trying to figure out who a character was voice by.  I was actually more surprised by the fact that I didn't recognize many of the voices in the movie.

The animation is great!  It's a very colorful film.  I didn't see this in 3D, but I don't think that would be the worst thing.  I don't recall seeing things being thrown at the screen for cheap effect, so I would imagine the 3D would be more immersive.

Arthur Christmas was directed and co-written by Sarah Smith, who doesn't appear to have a lot of work to her name, but give her more projects like this to work on.  It was co-written by Peter Baynham, who surprisingly has written things like Borat, Bruno and Arthur.  That isn't exactly the best track record and not something that you think would be responsible for writing a sweet Christmas film, but that's what he did here.  However, this could be why there was so much subtle, and adult, humor in the film.

This is one of the best Christmas films I've seen in a long time.  It reminded me of older Christmas cartoons I watched as a kid and made my very nostalgic for when I was younger.  In fact, there was one shot of a Christmas tree that immediately made me think of Chirstmas' past back when we used to get huge trees filled with tons of super bright lights.  Things have toned down as I've gotten older.  This film really captures the spirit of Christmas.

Maybe someone's been sneaking soy protein into my food, but this is another movie that nearly had me a little choked up at the end.  I wasn't the only one either.  I heard many sniffles in the audience towards the end.

However, one warning:  Before the movie begins you are treated to an awful Justin Bieber video of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'.  It's so bad, it almost put me in a bad mood as the movie started.  I can't believe they even threw this in there.  I'd rant about this more, but I don't want to go there right now.

What can I say, I LOVED Arthur Christmas!  I think it's a great, sweet, nostalgic Christmas film that the whole family can enjoy.  I can see me watching this movie every year.  I'm going to buy this movie as soon as it comes out on Blu-Ray.  I recommend anyone that wants to see a great, family Christmas film to go check it out.  You can see it full price or matinee and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Hugo - Movie Review

Anytime you see Martin Scorsese's name on a movie, you have to just kind of assume it's going to at least be a good film.  However, I was a little surprised to see he was making what appears to be a kids film.  Scorsese's movies usually involve lots of violence, craziness and death.  I went into this a little skeptical.

Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.  From what I hear, the movie is very faithful to the book, which is kind of odd based on how it all plays out.  I'll get to that later.

As the movie revolves around a mystery, there's only so much I'm going to be able to talk about without ruining it for you.

The story follows a boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who's living in a train station with his uncle.  Hugo's father, played Jude Law in what I could only call a cameo, died in a museum fire some time ago.  Hugo's uncle is a drunk and is having him take care of all of the clocks in the train station.  Hugo's entire family appeared to be watchmakers or clockmakers.

The only thing Hugo has remaining from his father is an automaton, which is basically a mechanical man that is built to perform a single function.  Hugo has been trying to repair this automaton using his father's notebook.  He hopes that once he fixes it is, it will give him some kind of message from his father.  Hugo has to steal various parts from around the train station, so he's always avoiding the station's security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen).

Eventually he's caught by a toy maker that works at the train station (Ben Kingsley), who takes Hugo's notebook.  Hugo tries desperately to get his notebook back and befriends his goddaughter (Chloe Moretz).  Together they work together to get the notebook back and try to fix the automaton.

Around the halfway point though, Hugo completely shifts into a different kind of movie.  Again, I can't say too much without spoiling the mystery and what happens.  Basically, the second half of the film becomes a love letter to old movies and the history of cinema.  It's done very lovingly and I actually found this part of the movie more interesting than the first half.

At the same time though, this is where I think the movie may lose some people.  Hugo seems to be marketed towards kids, but I don't think kids will really enjoy the second half of the film all that much.  Also, the pacing of this movie really slows in the middle, and again, I don't think it's something that many kids, or even adults, might have the attention span for.

You can kind of blame the pacing on having too many unrelated subplots.  While I didn't mind the subplots and the actors (Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer), I don't think it added all that much to the overall story.  It broke up the middle of the movie too much, where I felt like they just should have skipped all that and got on with it.  There's enough to keep track of with the main characters and the mystery they are trying to unravel.  You don't need more thrown in there to keep it interesting.    

The cinematography is beautiful and I would actually recommend seeing this in 3D.  This is one of best uses of 3D I've seen in any movie.  It really pops out at you, but not in the cheesy sense where they are just throwing things at the screen.

The performances across the board are all great.  Asa Butterfield has only been in a handful of movies, but I think he's done really well so far and I think he showed good emotional range.  Ben Kingsley is great as he always is.  There are parts in this movie where he's going to break your heart a little.  Sacha Baron Cohen is predictably the comic relief in the film, but he does a good job.  Chloe Moretz continues to be one of my favorite young actresses.  She does such a great accent in this movie, that I had to question where she was from originally.

Hugo is well made and well acted film.  I feel like it's only real flaw is the pacing in the middle.  However, it's kind of a hard movie to recommend, as it's going to mean different things to different people.  Again,  I don't think this is something that younger kids would enjoy.  Not in the theater anyway.  If you're someone that is fascinated by the history of film, then I think you really enjoy the second half of the film.

Overall, I'd say it's worth a matinee.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Muppets - Movie Review

This was an interesting movie experience for me, as I was able to take my nephews (6 and 4 to this)., so I'm going to have multiple perspectives this time out.

I'll warn up front that this review might be a little spoilery.  I did like the movie, but I'm not sure how I can talk about The Muppets without spoiling a few plot points that aren't shown in the trailer.  Keep in mind that I've only seen the trailer that disguises this movie as an awful looking romantic comedy and then slowly introduces the different Muppets as cast members.  That was one of the best surprise trailers I've seen in a long time!.

As The Muppets is now a Disney property, the movie opens with a Pixar short  featuring the Toy Story characters.  This was very entertaining though and a good way to start off.

The Muppets is a movie about two brothers, Walter and Gary (Jason Segel).  While it's apparent to you that Walter's a Muppet, this isn't something that seems to be noticed by anyone else.  It's like having a Muppet in your family is just a random occurrence that isn't a big deal at all.  I kind of wish they would have explored this aspect of the story more, like how does one have a Muppet as a brother, but it wasn't really what the movie was about.  Walter grew up idolizing the actual Muppets and watching them on TV, hoping one day he could meet them or become one of them.

Anyway, Gary is going on a vacation to LA with his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams).  As Gary is very close and protective of Walter, they bring him along. Since they are going to be in LA, they plan on visiting the old Muppet studios.  However, after arriving to the Muppet studios, they find it's run down and has been neglected for decades.  The Muppets will lose the studio to an evil business man (Chris Cooper) if they don't raise ten million dollars before a certain date.  I think you can kind of guess where this is going at this point.

I really liked The Muppets, but not just for the nostalgia.  It's very self-referential, or meta, with it's humor.  Everyone in the movie is keenly aware of the fact this is a movie, and there were previous ones.  I thought this aspect really worked for the film.  The musical numbers were also treated in the same vein.  Normally, I get a little annoyed when a musical number starts, as they can be really cheesy, but with The Muppets I was won over every time.  Either the lyrics are funny or the actions of the characters were cute.  All of the actors seemed to really commit to their musical numbers.

Jason Segel really can't sing or dance all that well, but he has such enthusiasm for the material and the Muppets that it's really hard not to like him.  Plus, he co-wrote the screenplay, and you can see the love he has for the Muppets himself.  Just watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall for another example of this.  In fact, when I heard they were making new Muppet movie, it was Segel's involvement in the project that encouraged me.

Amy Adams, who I've always joked is the living embodiment of a Disney character (just watch Enchanted to see what I mean), continues with that here.  She really puts a lot of energy into her dance numbers. It doesn't hurt that she has great legs either!  Seriously though, go watch Enchanted if you haven't seen it already.  It's great!

I heard a complaint about how some of the cameos in the movie were odd and that younger audiences might not recognize or identify with them, but I thought that was kind of the point.  One of the central themes of the movie is that the world at large has moved on from The Muppet Show and they aren't culturally relevant anymore.  In fact, one character outright tells them that nobody cares about them anymore.  The Muppets have always had odd cameos on their shows and films, haven't they?

Director James Bobin did a really good job here.  As a former writer and director for The Flight of the Conchords, I can see how his direction seems suited for musical comedy.  However, he was also a writer and director for Da Ali G Show, which kind of makes me wish at times that maybe they had made a more 'adult' version of this movie.  I'm not talking X-rated or anything like that, but there were more than a few times my mind would go to certain places when one of the characters would setup a joke.  As the audience for the original Muppet movies and shows have grown up, it might have been funny to see them go there.

My nephews seemed to really like this and they told me so after.  They laughed throughout the movie.  At times, they would laugh at some of the things that I thought were corny or silly.  There's a sequence where the chickens do a rendition of Cee Lo Green's "F-You".  It's the once scene that I really cringed through, but my nephew laughed the hardest at this part.  It makes it easier to watch something like that when you see kids enjoying it so much.

The Muppets is a movie that has a lot to offer to a wide array of people.  It was interesting to see that the audience was about 50/50 couples and then couples with kids.  Those of you that have kids should feel confident that they'll enjoy the film and if you're nostalgic for the Muppets, then you'll like it as well.  Then again, if you don't have kids or weren't already nostalgic for the Muppets, then why would you see this movie anyway.  Overall, it's a very sweet movie and I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself maybe a little teary-eyed at the end.

This movie is a pefect matinee with the kids, but if you paid full price, I don't think you'd feel like you wasted your money.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Descendants - Movie Review

You know how people say that 'trailers lie'?  Hell, I've said this many times over the past few months.  Normally, that's meant as a bad thing.  With The Descendants, it's a good thing.  All of the clips you see in the trailer are fleshed out into either more thoughtful or much funnier scenes.

I'm going to tip my hand right now, as I'm not going to talk about The Descendants as much as I could.  My normal 'spoiler rules' have fully kicked into effect, which means I really liked the the movie.  I want to talk about it more, but the rules dictate that I can't spoil it.

The basic premise is this:  Matt King (George Clooney) is some kind of lawyer that's trusted to handle a large, legacy land claim that his family is responsible for in Hawaii.  This claim has been passed down from his great, great Grandfather (I think it was his great, great Grandfather, anyway).  That's where 'The Descendants' comes from.

In the opening moments, it's also explained that King's wife had a boating accident and is now on life support.  As a result, he's forced to reconnect with his two daughters and take care of them. Fortunately, he's not a terrible father.  It's just that he hasn't always been 100% involved.  The trailer shows you that his oldest daughter is kind of a delinquent, but at the same time was aware of the fact that King's wife was cheating on him.  King was not aware of that, and now has to deal with that as well.

That's the premise and that's all I'm going to say about the plot.  From this point, you just watch it all play out. Fortunately, this is one of the funniest, most thoughtful and emotionally realistic films I've seen in a long time.  I laughed out loud consistently through The Descendants.  This movie kind of goes through the entire emotional scale.  There were times I was angry and other times I was almost brought to tears.  Non cyborgs (i.e. normal people) will likely get an even more emotional response from this movie.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing though.

Earlier in the week, I heard some hype about Shailene Woodley's performance as Clooney's older daughter, and I was ready to dismiss it as hype.  After seeing The Descendants, I'm ready to tell you that the hype is real!  I loved her in this movie.  I didn't like her in the fist few minutes, but that's intentional.  Once you get past that, she's just great!  I'd tell you more, but again, no spoilers!

I can only talk about the performances you see in the trailer, as there are a few people that pop up that you might be surprised by, but everyone is great.  Robert Forster and Beau Bridges are fantastic!  Clooney's youngest daughter, played by Amara Miller, is also an inspired casting.  Normally, I'm annoyed by child actors, but she and Woodley are just amazing as far as I'm concerned.  Miller has a scene in the movie that, again, nearly brought me to tears.  Even the doofus boyfriend (Nick Krause) ended up being a great choice.

Do I even need to say that George Clooney was great in this?  Well, he is!  That's all I can say!  He's great, fantastic  etc.  Clooney is the man, period!  His acting and narration in the opening moments of this film instantly get you into the movie and get you to care about his character. For better or worse, you end up caring about everyone in The Descendants.

On a weird note, and someone might be able to help me with this, King's wife is played by Patricia Hastie and at an early point in the movie you see a picture of her that I swear I've seen before.  Hastie's IMDB shows she's been on Lost, so I think that's where I've seen the picture.  Any confirmation here would be helpful.  I know I've seen that picture somewhere before and it's bugging the hell out of me.

Even the pacing of the film is great.  There was never a point where I felt like they needed to speed up or just get on with it.  In fact, there were times were I was almost upset when I knew it was coming towards a conclusion.  I could have watched this for another 30 minutes.  I was just that engaged and enjoying it that much.

Anyway, The Descendants is almost a perfect movie as far as I'm concerned.  It has everything I could have expected.  I even loved the music, and that's not always something I usually notice.  The only time I notice the score is when it's either especially great or gets some kind of emotional response out of me.  That happened here.

The scenery is beautiful as well, but it's in Hawaii.  Can Hawaii be ugly?  Not from what I've seen.  You are treated to a few shots during the movie that even as a viewer, you might find yourself saying, "Hey, take a picture!"

This is Alexander Payne's most recent feature since Sideways and I think I like The Descendants more than that.  What am I saying?  I like The Descendants WAY more than Sideways (and I like Sideways).  I hope Payne isn't so selective in the future with his projects.

I'll just come right out and say it, The Descendants is one of the best films of the year!  I'm going to go so far as to go ahead and put it in my top five favorite films of the year.  There are three movies I've seen this year that have been able to keep a smile on my face throughout the movie.  They are Midnight in Paris, The Guard and now The Descendants

This is one of those movies that if you don't like it, then F-you!  I give The Descendants my highest recommendation!  See it local, in an art-house (where I saw it), or wherever you can see it.  I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this heavily mentioned at Oscar time.

Oh and here's a Black Friday link from Amazon.  If you're going to buy something this week for your holiday shopping, just click through my link and use Amazon as you normally would.:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene - Movie Review

Did you know there was younger Olsen sister?  Only this one can actually act.  It doesn't hurt that she's cuter, too.

Martha Marcy May Marlene, is psychological drama that tells the story of a girl that flees a cult and tries to re-connect with her family and adjust back to normal life.  Seems like it's been a theme with me lately, but this is another indie character-drama where there's not much to the story or even all that much that happens as far as plot.  This isn't always a bad thing, but it just seems like I'm on a recent streak of indie movies like this.

Anyway, the movie opens with Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) leaving the cult and hooking back up with her older sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy).  More is revealed as the story goes on that shows you her reasons for leaving the cult and subsequent damage.

The cult angle might turn some of you off, but they never really go into details about the cult itself.  I don't recall religion ever being brought up at any point.  I kind of wondered if this was more of a commune.  I'm fuzzy on the definition of these types of things.  I don't think about them all that much.

Again, I really don't need to tell you much more about the story.  Once you get past the basic premise, you're just watching how Martha adjusts back to life and reacts to things.  There are some real 'oh shit' moments as the movie goes on.  You might find yourself squirming or uncomfortable while watching it, but that's the general feeling I got.

A movie like this only works if the performances are great and Martha Marcy May Marlene delivers there.  Elizabeth Olsen has an impressive, debut performance.  She really gets your attention here and shows that she has the acting chops to break out from the shadow of her older sisters.  I think she has a long career ahead of her.  It's funny, because while you can definitely seem the family resemblance to the Olsen Twins, as the movie went on I actually thought she looked more like a younger version of Vera Farmiga.

John Hawkes is great as he always is.  He plays the leader of the cult and walks the line between being fatherly and creepy.  He seems to be tailor-made for roles like this.  I also liked Sarah Paulson as Martha's older sister, but until the credits rolled I thought she was Monica Potter.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a movie featuring a lot of firsts.  You have Olsen's performance, but you also have first time writer/director Sean Durkin.  I think he did a good job and once again, here's another guy I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll do next.

It's not a perfect film though.  While not a long movie, it's a little slowly paced.  It's also has an ambiguous ending that may irritate some viewers.  I sometimes like endings where things are kind of left up in the air, but this is also the kind of thing that makes some people hate independent films.  Again, it's a psychological drama that's character-driven, rather than plot-driven.  If you understand that going in, then it's a little easier to watch and accept these issues.

I think Martha Marcy May Marlene is a good film, but it's also a tough movie to recommend for the reasons given above.  It's not something I would tell anyone to rush out and see in your local art house theater, but if this sounds like your type of movie, then I don't think you'll be disappointed.  I think it's worth watching, but I think it's the type of thing you should rent.

This week in DVD - November 20th

The holidays are coming up. Remember to get an early jump on your shopping by heading over to Amazon.

This is a rare week in DVD where there's nothing I need to revisit.  I never got around to seeing these movies in the theater.

Larry Crowne

I don't recall this movie getting the greatest reviews, but I actually liked this.  I thought it was cute.  I did think Julia Roberts character was a little bitchy at first.  Tom Hanks is just too damn charming to dislike in anything.

The story is pretty simple.  Hanks plays a veteran who has a job a a Wal-Mart-type store.  One day, he's laid off, with the excuse being that it's because he doesn't have a formal college education.  At the suggestion of his neighbor, played Cedric the Entertainer, he decides to enroll in college.  He then proceeds to befriend just about everyone he comes across.

It's kind of like they went, 'Hey, it's Tom Hanks!  Shit just falls into his lap.'  As likable as he is, I had to just accept this movie as fantasy.  Hell, I went to colleges like this.  I didn't get to meet eclectic gropus of people that forced me to hang out with them and make my life for the better.  It's fun to watch as a movie, but at the same time, most people's experience's aren't like this.

This movie was criticised for being out of touch and I can see that.  I think the thing I liked about it that is wasn't realistic.  I've watched plenty of movies in the past year about people losing jobs where it's all been bleak and depressing.  This is the first movie in a while where a guy has lost his job and it actually had a happy ending.  While it might not be realistc, at least is positive.  Again, this might have been due to my current mood, but there you go.

Anyway, it's worth a rental just for Tom Hanks.

Batman: Year One

As the title states, this is a short cartoon film about Batman's first year as Batman.  That's pretty much all I need to say about it.

I really liked this, but it felt like it was more about Gordon than about Batman.  The good news is that Gordon is voice by Bryan Cranston, and he gives the character the voice and emotional weight that Gordon deserves.

I know I'm not saying much, but if you're at all into Batman, then this is a strong rental recommendation.

Pom Wonderful: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Here another Morgan Spurlock documentatary about advertising and product placement.  It's fairly entertaining, but I didn't find it particularly scathing or that it told me something I didn't already know.  It's more informative than entertaining.  That's pretty much what you should expect with Morgan Spurlock though.

It's worth a rental, but I don't think you aren't going to learn anything new.  If you aren't a fan of Spurlock documentaries, then this likely won't do anything to sway you otherwise.


Here's another independent film about 'nothing'.  I say 'nothing', because, like with many indie films, this is a chatacter driven narrative.  There's no real plot here.  You're just watching people and how they react to situations.

Terri, is an overwight, high school kid who's picked on and misunderstood by his classmates.  He shows up to school in pajamas and they give him shit.  The principal of the school, played by John C. Reilly (the best part of the movie) is basically his best friend.

It's just a series of scenes of watching Terri either deal with his friends, talkign to the pricinpal or trying to get the hot chick at school to like him.

It's not a bad film, but it's just one of those indie films that I think will only appeal to fans of indie films or if you're in the right mood for it.  I might be swayed by the fact that I was kind of sick when I watched it and just wasn't in the mood for something slow.  This has gotten really good reviews, so you might be able to chalk this one up to my mood.

Rent or stream it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1: Movie Review

You can't say I didn't give it a try.  Before any of you even start, I've seen all of the previous Twilight films.  Some of them even more than once.  Unfortunately, my repeat viewings were on dates that ended with about as much sex as the previous Twilight films contained.
Yeah, none.

Oh, and don't any of you point out the book explained more.  I'm reviewing a movie.  A movie should stand on it's own.  There's plenty of movies based off books that were able to tell a story that didn't make you constantly go, 'what?'

This review is likely to be spoiler heavy.  It's also going to be a little more of a rant than normal, so be warned...

Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is a total cash grab.  They ripped off what Harry Potter did and said let's make more money and stretch out the finale into two movies.  There's a huge difference though:  Harry Potter was a much longer series of books and movies where more needed to be wrapped up and resolved in the finale.  If they had tried to pull it all int a single movie, it would have been 4+ hours long. With Twilight: Breaking Dawn- Part 1, you have a two hour movie that could have easily, and I mean easily, been edited down to 45 minutes.

Here's a simple example:

  • Number of seconds into the movie until Taylor Lautner takes his shirt off for no reason: 30
  • Number of minutes into the movie where anything related to the plot happens: 70

The movie starts with a good hour of wedding preparation and then the actual wedding.  It felt like actually being at a wedding you wanted to leave hours ago.  It looked nice and all, but it felt like a boring wedding where there was no open bar.  I will say there are a few funny parts here.  Billy Burke gives a somewhat funny speech reminding everyone that he's Bella's father and a cop.  I was somehow reminded of the fact that he played the pervy guy that told Kim Bauer on 24 that she had a nice body (she does).  I think Jack Bauer would approve of his shift in roles.  Anna Kendrick shows up to remind everyone that she's better than Bella (and better than Kristen Stewart at the same time).  You have to wonder if they really wish they could go back and swap those roles in the first movie, but oh well.  You even get a little bit of Kellan Lutz being a dumbass and I'm not sure if he was even acting.  I couldn't figure out if he's supposed to be the jock/enforcer vampire, or he's just stupid and therefore his physicality is all he's good for.  Anyway...

Breaking Dawn is needlessly stretched out.  Throughout the movie you are treated to music video montages where nothing happens.  After the excruciatingly long wedding sequence, you're shown a music montage of Bella nervously getting ready for sexy time.  You get to see her brush her teeth, wash her hands and shave her legs.  All the things you don't need to see before sex!  Could you imagine being on a date, getting back to her place and then her disappearing for ten minutes, "Oh ,I'm just going to freshen up."  I don't need to know the details and I sure as shit don't need to see them!

The first hour and a half of this movie felt like it was in real time.  They continually show you stuff that doesn't need to be seen at all.  There's a saying that every scene in a movie, regardless of the dialog, should advance the plot somehow.  I fail to see how endless montagues of people doing mundane things tell a story.  It's just filler.  You should be insulted by this.  Scenes like this don't need to be in movies, and they certainly aren't in good ones.  You don't need to show things that are implicit.  Could you imagine a movie where they showed you scene after scene of people eating meals, but with no conversation?  That's what this movie is!

So after one night of sexy time, Bella is pregnant.  Everyone is shocked by this because I guess it's impossible for a vampire to get a human pregnant or something.  Also, earlier in the movie, Bella joking asks Edward (Robert Pattinson) if he's virgin, but he doesn't actually answer the question!  I'm left to wonder if he understands how sex works.  If only he had a doctor in the family that could have explained this to him and he could have used protection.  Oh wait, isn't Daddy Cullen (Peter Facinelli) a doctor?  Maybe Alice (Ashley Greene, who is freaking HOT), who's sole power seems to be to see into Bella's future, might have been able to give them some kind of warning.

Other than the lame explanation of that she doesn't want to be in pain on her wedding night, I don't understand why they didn't turn Bella into a vampire.  You know, like maybe a few days before the wedding or something?  Call it a vampire bridal shower and have some fun with it!

After Bella realizes she's pregnant, you get a scene of her and Edward just sitting in the back seat of a car saying nothing to each other.  What's the point?.  Then, they get to the airport and you see Edward shake hands with a pilot.  Why?  We know you're going home.  We don't actually need to see ten minutes of you doing it.  Why not show us you getting patted down by security while you're at it?  Just edit the movie to the point where you're back at home.  I think everyone will figure out what happened in between.  It's not that difficult.  Shit!

This movie is full of unintentional humor.  The main causes are the bad dialog and cheesy special effects.  I even heard Twi-hards laughing at some of these sequences.  When they make Bella drink blood out of a soda cup and straw, the entire audience laughed and squirmed.  When you're treated to a scene of fake-ass looking werewolves speaking telepathically more laughter followed.  This appeared to be a important scene, but how can you take it seriously when it's a bunch of dogs looking at each other with echo-y dialog you can barely understand?  When you're shown the scene of how they arrived at the baby's name, more laughter followed.  This scene is the one time where I've seen Taylor Lautner act realistically.  That is to say that even he had a look on his face that said, 'Seriously?  That's the name you're going with?'

Later, when you actually see werewolves and vampires fighting, it's all in the dark and you can hardly tell what's going on.  Didn't this movie have a decent budget?  They know it's going to make money, so why not put a little money into it.  Again, I think this is just contempt for the audience.

I will say the effects they used to make Bella look anorexic were pretty good.  She's skinny enough as it is, but they made her look awful (I mean that in a good way).  It's like they dumped the effects budget into that and everything else took a back seat.

It's just a train wreck of a story.  The dialog and story are just awful.  There's nothing logical about anything that happens.  I hate to be insulting to the audience, but I can see why this appeals to 13-year-olds.  They are too young to know any better.

We are also treated to one of the worst soundtracks I've heard in ages.  Even the soundtrack is melodramatic. It sounds like something from a bad show on the Lifetime network.

How'd they get Bill Condon to direct this?  He's won an Oscar for frak's sake!  He proves that you can't polish a turd.  He can't over come the bad dialog, story and weakness of the characters.  He also shows that if you drive a truckload of cash to an 'artists' house, they'll do anything. At the same time, I can't believe that a director of his quality didn't try to trim this movie down at any point.  Unless Condon is more of a hack than we realized, I have to assume there was studio interference here.

The Twilight series isn't for people that like good acting or dialog.  In fact, I would have to wonder if the lack of dialog was intentional to cover for the lack of good actors.  It's like using shitty players in a limited capacity to minimize their weaknesses.

If you're a guy that thinks taking a girl to a Twilight film might get you laid, consider the message given in this film:  Sex, just a single time, will result in a painful pregnancy that will make you totally unattractive to your boyfriend/husband.

Like I said at the beginning, I tried.  I watched this with about as open of a mind as I possibly could.  This is yet another terrible movie in a series of terrible movies.  Fans of the series will see this regardless of anything I, or any other critic, has to say about it.  This will make hundreds of millions of dollars and there's nothing anyone can do about it.  I think you already know what my recommendation is.  If you're not a fan, there's no reason to see this.  Objectively, this is one of the worst films of the year.  However, I imagine the Rifftrax for this will be pretty great!

You know what, let me treat you to some Rifftrax now:

Friday, November 18, 2011

J. Edgar - Movie Review

Sometimes you see a movie coming out that you just think is going to be a homerun, only to walk out just going, 'meh'.  J. Edgar is one of those movies.

J. Edgar is the story of two gay men forced to live in a straight world.  They must keep their sexual tension and passion bottled up for decades, because J. Edgar's Mom would disapprove. That doesn't stop them from having fun though.  They shop for clothes together, have daily lunch and dinner dates and take vacations together to watch horse racing.  They keep secrets and gossip about their coworkers.  It's all in good fun.

They sometimes hang out with their best gal-pal, Helen, played by Naomi Watts.  Helen states at the beginning of the film that she doesn't really have time for men.

J.Edgar shows you that ulitmately their love could not be denied! They grow old together and eventually become kind of depressing and an unfunny version of Grumpy Old Men.

Oh, and they worked for the FBI and fought crime sometimes, too.  Hated it!

Woah!  I just felt like I channeled 'Men on Film' from In Living Color a little bit.

Seriously though, J. Edgar is a biopic that follows J. Edgar Hoover's (Leonardo DiCaprio) career in the FBI, the innovations he made into forensics and some of his high profile arrests.  The film is told in flashbacks, so it does jump around in time a bit.  At times it can be a little confusing as characters seem to swap out randomly.  Hoover seemed to fire people on a whim, so every time it would flash to the present, there'd be yet another new guy he was telling his story to.

As I joked about above, the movie does explore his sexuality.  It specifically focuses on his 'relationship' with his second in command, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).  I really liked Hammer's performance.  He has kind of a Jon Hamm look and feel about him.  It made me think he might have made a good Superman if they hadn't gone with Henry Cavill.  Anyway, the whole subtext of J. Edgar seemed to be about his sexuality.  It never comes right out and says it though.  It's all speculation.

The problem is with J. Edgar is that outside of his sexuality, it just doesn't have any real focus. It plods along, which is a shame because it starts with a bang...literally!  At the beginning you see the FBI going after gangsters, but then it quickly shifts to other areas.  If the movie had focused on that more, it might have been more intesesting.  It's almost like they went, "Oh, you already know about that stuff, so we decided to show you stuff you might not care about as much."  I can see their point though in the sense that some of the more notable stuff that happened you've already seen covered in many other films.

J. Edgar felt like something would have been better suited as a mini-series on TV.  That way they could have spent more time on different topics.  This guy had a 50-year-career as director of the FBI.  That's a lot of time to cover in a two hour movie.  Just when I found myself getting into a particular sequence, it would jump to something else.  It's not even that I found it boring, but there's not a lot of energy to keep it going and it does kind of drag on.  Plus, with all of the jumping around, there were a few times where I thought the movie might be ending, only to have it continue.

I'm not sure if this is the fault of Clint Eastwood's direction, bad editing or that Dustin Black's screenplay focused on the wrong things.  I'm not sure they all knew exactly what he wanted to do with the film.  Oh wait a second, Black also write Milk (and a few other related movies).  I think I have a better idea of what he was trying to do at least.

One thing that kind took me out of the film was the 'old makeup' they used to age the actors.  I actually thought Naomi Watts' was good and Leo's was convincing, but Armie Hammer's looked like one of those creepy old masks you've seen around lately.  I found it hard to take seriously.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard people laughing randomly at the makeup at times.

The performances are great though.  DiCaprio gives an almost predictably powerhouse performance.  I can't even think of anything in the last few years where he wasn't good.  It's funny because I hated him after Titanic, but now he's one of my favorite actors and I look forward to seeing anything he's in.  Anyway, it's kind of clear this is an Oscar-bait movie for Leo, but I worry that the reception of the film might hurt his chances a bit.

As mentioned earlier, I thought Armie Hammer was good, as was Judi Dench, who played Hoover's mother.  Naomi Watts was fine, but the story really didn't demand all that much from her.  You also get smaller roles from guys like Josh Lucas, Stephen Root and Dermot Mulroney.

I really wish I would have liked this more. On paper, it has everything going for it: a good cast, great performances, Clint Eastwood directing, etc.  It ulitmately left me feeling a little empty and unsatisfied.  It can be summed up into this: Leo's performance: Good!  J. Edgar the movie: Not so good.

This is better suited as a a rental.  I wouldn't make an effort to see this in the theater.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Immortals - Movie Review

Here's a time where I admit to coming into this one with a bias.  Immortals was directed by Tarsem Singh, who I really like.  Tarsem Singh directed The Cell, The Fall (which I loved!), and the upcoming Mirror, Mirror.  The stories may not be the greatest, but they are always a visual treat.  Immortals, for better or worse, follows a similar pattern.

The story in Immortals is pretty basic.  Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has basically declared war on everyone and is searching for a weapon called the Epirus Bow, which he needs to release the Titans in order to overthrow the Gods as well.

You then have Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant who initially is just trying to get his mother and friends to safety, but when his mother is killed by Hyperion, he then sets out to stop Hyperion.

Without getting into details, that's pretty much all there is to the story.  It's a pretty basic fantasy epic.  There aren't any twists and I can't say that they do anything particularly interesting with the story.  For that reason, it's actually kind of boring.  Immortals is under two hours long, but they really could have tightened this up by a good 15 minutes and you wouldn't have lost anything as far as storytelling.

When there isn't any fighting going on, Immortals really drags.  However, when there is fighting, this movie was awesome!  Here's where Singh's visual style really came into play.  It's hyper-violent and bloody and you'll likely compare this to 300 and Zack Snyder.  I think Singh takes it up a notch though.  The action scenes are the types where you'll be going 'ohhh!' or 'damn!' in the middle of it.  If you were watching this at home, you'll hit rewind a few times and watch them again.

Again, this is where the pacing of the movie was really a shame.  If they had cut the run time a few minutes and maybe had one more action sequence in there somewhere, it would have been so much more entertaining.  The action is easily the best part of the film and a little more of it would have been a good thing.  As you'd expect with a Tarsem Singh movie, the visual style of the movie is great.  It's very colorful and the effects were used well.

One reason why I'm glad I watched Immortals was that I got a chance to Henry Cavill in something recent.  As many of you know, he will be Superman in Zack Snyder's upcoming Man of Steel.  If Cavill can nail an American accent, and there's no reason why to think he couldn't, then I think they cast Superman well.  He showed in Immortals that he had the right look, can lead a film, and can be convincing in action scenes.  Hopefully Zack Snyder doesn't pull a Sucker Punch and blow it, but I'm much more optimistic now.

It's funny to see that Mickey Rourke basically said Immortals was not a 'Marvel piece of crap.'  I guess he doesn't look too fondly on his experience with Iron Man 2, but the irony is that I would say Immortals is worse than a 'Marvel piece of crap.'  Immortals doesn't have any of the heart or humor of the Marvel offerings we got this year.

How as Rourke, by the way?  He was okay.  I felt like he just kind of plodded his way through the movie and I didn't really care about him one way or another.  The rest of the cast, while not bad, I also felt the same about.  I could have taken or left anyone in the cast.  I liked Luke Evans and Zeus, John Hurt as the old mentor and Freida Pinto as the virgin oracle.  Even Stephen Dorff wasn't bad.  I just don't think they were given enough to do, but I blame this more on the writing/dialog though.

Immortals was written by Charley and Vlad Parlapanides and I think this is where it really came up short.  It's only loosely based on Greek mythology, so if you're expecting something that's more accurate to the original myths, then look somewhere else.  I don't mind people doing a different take or doing their own thing with them, but it needs to be done well.  It's just not a very good story.

Oh, as the genre of the movie applies, I get to bring back the boob/rape/murder counter:

Boobs:  At least two pairs.
Rapes:  None seen, but one is mentioned.
Murders (by beheading):  I lost count!

Lastly, I saw Immortals it in 3D and it worked well in parts, but it's not necessary to see it in 3D.

I didn't think Immortals was bad.  I definitely enjoyed the look of the film and the action sequences.  I just wish the quality of the story matched that of the visuals.  I'd put this as better than Clash of the Titans, but not quite as entertaining as 300.  If this is your genre, then I think you'd enjoy it enough as a matinee.  Anyone else, I'd say to save it for rental.

This week in DVD - November 13th

The Change-Up

Here's the original review.  I don't have much more to add about this one.  I didn't really like this.  I thought it was poorly written and relied too much on cheap humor.  I probably would have liked this more if I had rented it instead of seeing it in the theater.  If you really like Jason Bateman or Ryan Reynolds, then you'll probably enjoy it as a rental, but I don't think it's a good film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

My pointless origial review here.  I say 'pointless' because this movie is critic proof.  If you're a fan, you've already seen it or there's nothing I can say to sway your desire to see it or opinion about the movie.  If you aren't a fan, then you aren't going to have any interest in it.

The good news is now that this is out, I can finally start to search for deals on buying the entire series box set on Blu-Ray.  Keep an eye out on Black Friday.  That might be a good time to pick it up.

Cars 2

I wasn't a huge fan of the first Cars movie.  I've always thought it was the weakest of all of the Pixar films...until now.  I liked Cars 2 even less than the first one.  There are too many bad puns and way too much 'Larry the Cable Guy'.  The animation is great though and it's about the only thing that kept me watching it.  The story in Cars 2 was broken up too much and as I mentioned before focused too much on Mater.  Even if he hadn't been voiced by 'Larry the Cable Guy', it's just not a very funny or interesting character to base a movie on.

It's a pass for anyone over the age of ten.

We Are the Night

German film about female, lesbian vampires.  Do not even attempt to watch it with the English dub.  It was so bad that I turned it off after two minutes and went with the original German audio track and subtitles.

It's about a lesbian vampire that turns other females into vampires when she thinks they are 'the one'.  The one main problem with her process is that she keeps turning vampires that are into dudes or they don't love her back.  You'd think an vampire hundreds of years old would have figured this out by now.

Anyway, We Are the Night was a missed opportunity  They had some interesting ideas here with the vampires and some of the tricks they did, but it was just poorly written.  Like one cool aspect is that they imply that only certain people can be changed, like it's a trait or gift.  However, they don't explore that or explain it at all.  It's just kind of mentioned in passing.  Early in the movie you see them kill someone when they realize she can't be turned.  It felt like a missed opportunity to do something different with vampire lore.

The movie was a little slow as well.  When there was action, they used an artificial sped up effect, even when it was just humans.  It was really hard to follow.  The vampires are being pursued by a cop who has one of the funniest runs I've seen in a while.  It's pretty close to Steven Segal's run as far as looking silly.

Another thing that felt screwed up was when they mention there are no male vampires.  The females killed all the male vampires off and vow to not make anymore.  When asked why, they said they were killed off because they were loud, arrogant and stupid.  They then proceed to do a bunch of things that are loud, arrogant and stupid.  The kid of stupid that makes you go, 'How have you not been caught your killed yourself by now?' One of the characters even remarks something along the lines of, 'we've never been good about cleaning up our messes after our kills.'  So they admit to being careless and sloppy, just like the writing in the movie.

If it had been written better or had a better English dub, I might be able to recommend it, but I really can't.

African Cats

Here's one for fans of Discovery Channel and Nature programs.  It's basically a nature documentary following a few different groups of lions and cheetahs.  That's pretty much all there is to say about it.  You're just watching what happens and Samuel L. Jackson narrates.  I will say there are parts of this that have more tension than any thriller I've seen in a while.  Then again, the stakes are higher here.  They do show animals getting killed by other animals though.  While it's not bloody, you might want to take care in showing this to young kids.

The movie is very beautiful.  This is the definition of a movie that should be watched on Blu-Ray with a nice HDTV.

Anyway, this is a strong rental recommendation.

That's it for this week.  If you need get a jump on your holiday shopping through, please support me by clicking on my link below and then using Amazon like you normally would.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Melancholia - Movie Review

Melancholia is the new Lars von Trier (written and directed) film.  His films can be really tough to watch and I haven't liked all of them (I reviewed a few in a recent DVD post), but I was actually really looking forward to this.

For better or worse, von Trier is a controversial and polarizing filmmaker.  When he showed Melancholia at Cannes he caused a stir when he said he had some sympathy for Hitler and joked that he was a Nazi.  He's since apologized for saying that, but that's the kind of stuff that wasn't necessarily surprising to people familiar with von Trier.

Another criticism of Lars von Trier has been that he hates America and he's a misogynist.  After watching Melancholia, I think is issue is that he just hates everyone.

In the past, von Trier films have made me borderline depressed, but that's kind of the central theme of this film.  "Melancholia", which is a mental disorder characterized by depression, also doubles as the name of a rogue, super-earth sized planet that is doing a fly-by of Earth.  This is the opening sequence of the movie.

Melancholia opens with a long, dialog-free sequence giving you a metaphoric preview of the story you are about to see.  The sequence ends with a giant planet colliding with Earth.  This sequence is very colorful and beautiful and it reminded me a great deal of the early sequence of Tree of Life.

Obviously, there isn't much suspense to the movie, as the opening sequence pretty much tells you how this is going to end up.  From that point, the movie is a character study and is broken up into two parts.

Part one is called "Justine".  Justine is played by Kirsten Dunst and this sequence follows the events of her wedding day to 'Eric Northman' from True Blood (Alexander Skarsgard).   You meet members of her family, most notably her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and her husband, John (Keifer Sutherland).  The wedding is largely a disaster and it's painful to watch in parts.  Maybe I'm sick person, but I found myself laughing at the events more than a few times.  If this wasn't a von Trier movie, I might have thought this was going to be a dark comedy.  However, in true von Trier form, it continues to get worse.  At one point, John says to to Claire, "Is everyone in your family stark raving mad?"

Again, despite the depressing nature of the part one, I thought there were some funny parts here.  Keifer Sutherland made me laugh a few times.  Maybe I was happy just to see him play a different role than Jack Bauer for a change.  Udo Kier also provides some comic relief as the wedding planner.

Part two, titled "Claire", fast forwards a short time later and shows you that Justine has become extremely depressed.  This part also focuses on the impending fly-by of the planet Melancholia, which is general knowledge at this point and can be seen with the naked eye.  Without revealing too much, you see how each of the remaining characters are handling Justine's depression and their fears about Melancholia's fly-by.

For the guys, part two contains a special bonus: Kirsten Dunst nude!  If you've ever had a thing for her, this is the part of the movie you'll want to watch.  I don't mean to point that out in a way of diminishing her acting though.  Melancholia shows that she's finally matured as an actor and this is easily her best performance.  This is a completely different role for Dunst and I thought she was fantastic.  Based on the early part of her career, I wasn't sure she was ever going to be capable of something like this.

The performances across the board are all great, but this is a great cast and von Trier has always been able to get the most out of them.

I've heard complaints about the improbable physics and science of Melancholia, but I really don't consider this to be a Sci-Fi movie.  It might have the backdrop or underpinnings of one, but again, this is more of a character study about depression and people falling apart.  The science of it really isn't the point and von Trier's films have always been more on the experimental and artsy side.

As with other von Trier films, I kind of felt like crap after watching Melancholia.  However, the more I think about it, the more I get out of it and like it.  It's a hard movie to recommend though.  Despite the initial premise, it's not a Sci-Fi movie and fans of that genre will likely be put off by it.  For the average person, this movie is going to be too dark and depressing, as well.  I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to see this, not that many of you will even have access to a theater that's going to have it playing.  It should be On Demand this weekend though, so if you're ready to watch something dark like this then I'd recommend giving it a shot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas - Movie Review

Here's another movie I really wasn't planning on seeing, but there weren't a lot of new movies this weekend.  I don't have anything against the Harold & Kumar series though.  I don't think they are good movies, but I like raunchy comedies and these don't pretend to be anything other than that. I would normally call this a guilty pleasure.  Plus, these movies are critic proof anyway; they have their fans and they're going to see it regardless of what any critic has to say about it.

Anyway, after yet another 49ers victory, I found myself with nothing to do, so I figured I'd check it out.

First off, I'll give the movie credit for actually using the word "Christmas" in the title.  I'm tired of all of this "Happy Holidays" bullshit.  It's a Christmas movie.  Maybe that's politically incorrect these days, but then again this isn't a politically correct movie series.  I don't think people see a Harold & Kumar movie to get that kind of message out of it.

There's really isn't much of a need to talk about the story, as these movies never really have much of one.  You know the formula: it starts with a simple premise or goal and then a series of wacky events take these guys all over the place and they get in all kinds of trouble.

The basic premise this time is that Harold (John Cho) is now married, has a good job and has basically become an adult.  Kumar (Kal Penn) has pretty much let himself go and lives in a state of arrested development.  He got kicked out of school, his girlfriend dumped him and all he seems to care about is getting high.  Harold and Kumar have drifted apart and it doesn't appear that they've hung out for years.

Meanwhile, Harold is still trying to impress his wife's father, played by Danny Trejo.  Trejo takes Christmas very seriously, so when his prized Christmas tree is ruined by Kumar, Harold and Kumar frantically try to replace the tree before Trejo notices.  Hilarity and hi-jinx ensue.

Maybe I needed to be drunk for this, but I didn't think the latest Harold & Kumar offering was all that funny.  It has it's moments, but it seemed like it wouldn't have been funny even if I was high or drunk.  A lot of the humor, even the politically incorrect stuff, seemed easy.  It didn't feel like they were trying very hard.

I don't think it was just me either, as I saw this movie with a fairly young crowd, and I think I can count on a hand the number of times I heard a good laugh out of anyone in the theater.

The best part of the movie is Neil Patrick Harris and he's really only in one sequence of the film.  This needed more NPH.

It might be that the writers of this series, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, have run out of ideas.  They are also writing and directing the upcoming American Reunion movie, which doesn't look all that great from the trailer I've seen so far.  I think these guys might have hit their expiration date.

This was directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, who doesn't seem to have anything noteworthy to his name as far as directing goes.  I have to wonder if this would have been better if they had been able to bring back the director of Harold & Kumar Go o White Castle, Danny Leiner.  A better director, or one with more experience directing comedies, really would have helped this.

I did see this in 3D, as I didn't have a choice to see it in 2D, and it's nothing special.  They take a poke at the whole 3D thing and I think they at least tried to have a little fun with it, but it was all very gimmicky.  It started to get annoying about halfway through.

I don't think this is a bad movie for what it is, it's just not as funny as I was hoping for.  If you're an existing fan of the Harold & Kumar series, or just looking for a silly, raunchy comedy, then you'll probably get some laughs out of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.  You might find it funnier than I did.  However, I wouldn't recommend paying the money to see this in 3D, nor would I recommend seeing this in the theaters.  This seems like a better movie to rent and watch with a couple of friends (likely with some alcohol or some other 'party aids').  If this type of movie isn't normally your thing, there's nothing about it that's going to make you a fan.

Speaking of silly comedies, I will not be seeing Jack and Jill next weekend unless someone pays me to see it.  In fact, without even seeing it, here's my review:  It sucks!  Adam Sandler has completely gone off the deep end with this one and he clearly hates the very audience and fans that made him a millionaire.  It's especially puzzling that he made Jack and Jill when this was exactly the type of movie they poked fun at with his role in Funny People.  I just don't get it.  I really hope people don't go out and see this movie.  You're just encouraging him to make more of them.  I'd rather you see Tower Heist or Harold & Kumar if you're going to go to the theaters to see a comedy this weekend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

This week in DVD - November 6th

Hey Gang, I'm thinking of changing the title of the blog from "Tales of an AngryVader" to something a little more applicable like "AngryVader's Smart Ass Movie Reviews", "AngryVader's Movie Rants" or "AngryVader's Movie Blah (maybe spell it "Blaugh)".  I kind of like that last one.  The whole "Tales of" thing came out of a time where I used to post more of my training and I thought I was going to post more about my personal life and dating experiences, but as my training doesn't change all that much and my dating life is pretty much non-existent, that's really not the direction this blog is going.  This is pretty much a straight up movie blog at this point, don't you think?

I guess I could write more about my life and my training, but do you really want to hear about it?  I dunno...

Suggestions are welcome, so let me know what you think.

Oh yeah, click on my Amazon link.  The holidays are coming up.  If you plan on buying stuff through Amazon, please click on my link to get you there and that's all you need to do.  Use Amazon normally at that point.  You don't pay anything extra and I'm supposed to get a kickback.  Thanks!

Crazy, Stupid, Love

You can read the original review here.

This movie still kind of bums me out.  It really missed out on being something interesting, but it just had too many threads going and it really blew it with the ending.  I still want to see the Gosling/Carell buddy movie the trailer promised.

It's not a bad rental though.  If you didn't see it in the theater, this is the type of movie that you'll likely enjoy more because probably had your expectactions lowered by now.


Here's my original review.

This is still a strong rental recommendation.  It's one of the better films I've seen this year and a well-told story.  It's right on that cusp of being in my top ten lists, but likely getting edged out by movies I liked more.


Here's a mess of a film starring Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman.  I need to find a different word other than 'mess' to describe a movie.  I guess it's my favorite term, but I need to mix it up a little.  This isn't quite a 'disaster', so I'm going to stick with 'mess' this time.  Anyway, Trespass is a 'bottle film' involving a home invasion, where a bunch of dudes invade Nic Cage's house to steal diamonds and money.  The problem is that you're watching it and you don't care about anything that's going on.  There are too many 'twists' and misdirects.  It's all over the place.  Joel Schumacher slept-walked...I mean directed this mess.  He's been in a steady decline for a while and I think it's time for him to retire.

Here's an example of how stupid this is.  Nic Cage's character is a diamond dealer.  Wanna know what the password was to his security system?  I'll give you a guess:  "Diamond".  Are you effing serious?  Was his safe combination "12345"?  At least that would have been funny.

Don't watch this.  Pass.


Crazy-ass story that had a little bit of everything.  There's kidnapping, sex, bondgage, religion, dog attacks and dog CLONING!  Sounds like a weird sci-fi story right?  Nope, this is a frigging documentary.  You'll watch this and still not believe it's true.

I thought this was interesting and worth the watch.

Water for Elephants

It certainly looks nice and I didn't think it was uninteresting, but it's just kind of 'meh' in any of the scenes that don't involve the Elephant.  I did like how despite they have a circus full of wild animals, Christoph Waltz's character is the wildest of them all.

The Elephant is the best part of the movie though.  There no chemistry at all between Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.  I did like Witherspoon, but maybe they should have gone with someone a bit younger to work with Pattinson.  I don't want to hate on Pattinson, but I don't think he was good here.  He seems to have issues with making eye contact and I'm just not sure he's all that good of an actor.  Let's see what happens once this Twilight thing passes.

It's not the worse thing you can rent.  It's a little long, but you can kind of skip past parts and still get the general idea.

An Invisible Sign

Jessica Alba basically plays an insane person that makes herself OCD, because of her Dad.  Okay I'm oversimplifying.  This is pretty bad though.  The story just doesn't many any real sense, and the conclusion of this film did not feel earned based on what had happened.

If this was an attempt by Alba to break out, then she needs to pick better movies.  Her performance seems like that of a newcomer, not someone that you've been aware of for the better part of a decade.  It's a shame because this could have been a halfway decent movie if written and directed better..  Instead it's just a bunch of poorly formed ideas and characters.



Imagine someone making a worse version of Gamer starring Samuel L Jackon and master thespian Kellan Lutz and this is what you get.  Seriously, it's worse than Gamer.  What the hell kind of name is Kellan Lutz anyway?  It sounds like a name you'd make up when drunk and giving to a cop to avoid a citation.  Or something you pick up at the store, "Hey Honey, I'm going to go down to Lowe's and pick up a Kellan Lutz.  I should only about about 40 minutes."

Kellan Lutz is going to be in Immortals next weekend. I hope Immortals breaks the trend, because if you look at his Rotten Tomatoes, he's yet to star in a single movie out of 17 that has a positive rating.  That's not a very good track record.  Admittedly, that's not all his fault.  He is in the Twilight saga after all.

I'd like to take it easy on him this time, but he's just not an actor.  He growls and grunts through the movie and I would bet that's the upper limit on this guy's range.  This is an absolute disaster of a movie.  You should generally not expect much when watching a direct-to-video movie, but this was amazingly bad.  The first 30 minutes of this movie are so stupid I can't believe anyone watched this at any point during the process and didn't say, 'Hey guys, we should probably have this, you know, make sense.'.  I'd critize the writing, but that would imply this was written by anyone (Tony Giglio), nor does this movie seem like it was directly by anyone (Jonah Loop).


Green Lantern - Extended Cut

I finally watched the Extended Cut of Green Lantern, and I can't say it's all that much better.  You get a longer opening sequence about Hal Jordan's youth and Father, but it still doesn't address the myriad of issues with this movie.  As I feared, the deleted scenes on the disc were not integrated back into the movie.  Big mistake there.

It's still just a rental at best.

Tower Heist - Movie Review

This is going to be a fairly quick review, as I don't have a ton to say about this film and there isn't much more to this than what you see in the trailer.

Tower Heist was a movie that I initially wasn't even planning on seeing this weekend and really wasn't looking forward to all that much.  I didn't think the trailers looked particularly funny.  Actually, the first half of the trailer looked like more a good drama until Eddie Murphy showed up and then it devolved and I was like, 'Oh, it's going to be one of those movies'.

Like I said before, there really isn't all that much to the story.  Ben Stiller is a manager at an exclusive, high-end apartment complex in New York.  His staff is meant to be there to cater the owners and anticipate their needs.  Although, there are many other people that live in this complex, the 'main guy' is played by Alan Alda, who has lived in the complex for many years and actually had a good rapport with most of the staff.

One day, Alan Alda's character is arrested by the FBI and it is found that he has squandered the pension of the workers of the apartment complex, among other clients.  It is stated that the pension fund was actually his smallest client, so many others were screwed over as well.  I don't recall if it is explain exactly how the money is lost, but it's clear Alda's character is meant to represent some kind of Bernie Madoff-type.  What's not shown in the trailer is that Stiller asked Alda to invest the pension fund as favor, so now he feels responsible for losing his co-workers money.

The head of the FBI investigation, led by a still sexy Tea Leoni, mentions to Stiller that there's a good $20 million or so of Alda's money that's unaccounted for, and the most likely location of this money is his apartment.  Stiller decides that because of their inside knowledge of the apartment complex, that he and a few of his co-workers have the best chance of finding and stealing this money for themselves.  As they don't have much experience with criminal activity, Stiller recruits and old neighborhood friend, played guessed it...Eddie Murphy.

From this point it's mainly what you saw in the trailer.  This is a typical heist movie, with the usual twists and misdirects.  There's nothing new here or particularly smart about it.  What made it entertaining, was that it was actually funny in parts.  I chuckled more than a few times.  The audience I was with was really into it as well, probably even more than I was.

The cast is good and worked well together.  You pretty much like everyone.  It's nice to see Ben Stiller not playing the same schmuck he's been playing in most his recent movies.  The cast is rounded out by Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick, and Michael Pena (who seemingly has the ability to always make me laugh, especially when he plays characters like this).  You even get a small role from Judd Hirsch.

I know the trailers advertise this as an Eddie Murphy movie, but it didn't feel like he was in it all that much.  The scenes you see of him in the trailer are pretty much all of the times he's actually in the movie.  Maybe I just wanted to see more of him.  It felt like this was the 'old', fast-talking Eddie Murphy that we all fell in love with back in the 48 Hrs. and Beverly Hills Cop days.  His performance made me nostalgic for that and I wanted more of it.

Tower Heist was directed by Brett Ratner, who isn't a favorite director of mine.  I think most of his movies are silly, and I still haven't forgiven him for X-Men: The Last Stand.  However, his style worked well for this. The writers of this (Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin) have been behind movies like Ocean's Eleven, Matchstick Men and Catch Me if You Can.  You can really see the Ocean's Eleven influence on this.

Maybe it's because I had really low expectations, but I didn't think Tower Heist was all that bad.  It's not a particularly smart movie, but it's not dumb to the point of being insulting.  It's actually pretty fun and inoffensive for the most part.  If you saw this as a matinee, I don't think you'd feel like you got ripped off, but if you rented this, I bet you'd love it.